Tag Archives: gerrymandering

The Pre-Redistricting Wars

redistricting-2018By Jim Ellis

Jan. 23, 2018 — Though we are in the fourth election cycle of the decade, the 2011 redistricting fights are still continuing. The US Supreme Court has been dealing with redistricting cases from five states, but it all could come to a head soon.

The lawsuits first break down into the familiar racial gerrymandering claims, which have been in the courts in some fashion or another since the Voting Rights Act was created in 1965. Currently, the topic of political gerrymandering is hot as both parties are pursuing live complaints against their opponents for drawing congressional and state legislative boundaries to maximize the political standing of one party to the unfair detriment of the other.

The major political gerrymandering case comes from Wisconsin and will likely set the tone for other such suits in Michigan, North Carolina, Texas, and possibly Maryland. Democrats are bringing the action in the first four states, while Republicans are challenging Maryland’s 6th Congressional District.

Obviously, the high court is getting involved to craft a new set of rulings relating to both racial and political gerrymandering before the entire country goes into a 50-state redistricting round upon completion of the 2020 census. Therefore, election results in 2018 and 2020 to establish incumbency both in the House of Representatives and the state legislatures become critically important.

Last week, the US Supreme Court stayed the most recent North Carolina lower court redistricting ruling. The three-judge panel invalidated the maps, determining that majority Republicans engaged in political gerrymandering. In the last election cycle the Tar Heel State boundaries were also re-drawn to remedy what the panel cited as racial gerrymandering reasons, but the Democrats were unable to make a dent in the Republicans’ 10R-3D delegation advantage.

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Texas Redistricting Recap

texas-congressional-districts-27-35By Jim Ellis

Jan. 16, 2018 — Late last week, the US Supreme Court agreed to hear the Texas Republicans’ appeal of a San Antonio three-judge panel’s ruling that declared two of the state’s districts: TX-27 (Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi) and TX-35 (Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin) unconstitutional for racial gerrymandering reasons.

Though we have now entered the decade’s fourth election cycle, we see four separate gerrymandering cases from the 2011 redistricting cycle still before the nation’s high court. It’s possible the top judicial panel has agreed to hear these cases, two brought by Republicans and two by Democrats, in order to make clear redistricting statements before the 2020 census sends us into the next full national redistricting cycle, a 50-state procedure that will consume most of 2021.

The major lawsuit that the court has already heard but has not yet announced a ruling, is the Wisconsin political gerrymandering case. There, Democrats claimed majority Republicans discriminated against them when the lines were drawn for partisan political reasons. The Supreme Court has never before ruled that political gerrymandering is unconstitutional. It is unknown exactly when the court’s ruling will be announced, but it is a virtual certainty that the release date will come before the current term ends at the end of June.

For the second time in two consecutive election cycles, the North Carolina lines have been invalidated. The congressional boundaries were re-drawn before the 2016 election for racial gerrymandering reasons. Now, the Democrats are returning with their political gerrymandering case. In the last re-draw, the state’s 10R-3D congressional delegation partisan ratio remained in tact.

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Pennsylvania’s Importance

Pennsylvania Congressional Districts Map (click on image to enlarge to see detail)

Pennsylvania Congressional Districts Map (click on image to enlarge to see detail)

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 6, 2017 — In every election, it seems one or two states become that cycle’s political focal point and we can already identify which places might serve in such a role for 2018. Along with California for House races, political fortunes in the Keystone State of Pennsylvania could well influence national Senate and House outcomes, while strongly contributing to the national redistricting outlook when the state’s competitive governor’s race is ultimately decided.

Gov. Tom Wolf (D) seeks re-election with improving favorability ratings and will be in a targeted 2018 campaign. Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D) is running for a third term and drawing considerable opposition, particularly from US Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Hazelton). US House competition is projected for as many as 11 of the state’s 18 congressional districts, some of which coming in primaries, and a live political gerrymandering lawsuit before the state court system could potentially radically change Pennsylvania’s redistricting maps prior to the next election. Therefore, we see a state teeming with political activity in each of its four corners.

Gov. Wolf came from nowhere in 2014 as a successful York business owner to capture the Democratic nomination, and then proved to become the only member of his party to unseat a Republican governor in what was otherwise a Republican wave election year. He will face his own highly competitive re-election battle next year, as the GOP must re-capture this statehouse to protect its congressional and state legislative gains as a new redistricting cycle will begin during this next governor’s term.

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