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More Redistricting Delays – Part II

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 20, 2021 — Yesterday, we covered the Census Bureau announcement that delivering new population data to the individual states will again be postponed, and what effect receiving numbers in October, if then, will have on the redistricting process.

Today, after previously analyzing the states that appear poised to gain seats, we look at those that will probably lose districts. At this point, estimates project that 10 seats will be transferred. This, however, is only a projection as the current published numbers do not include the final changes in the previous decade’s last year.

At this point, all of the succeeding states appear positioned to lose one seat. The individual state logistical data comes from a study that the Brennan Center for Justice just released.


Alabama

It appears that Alabama is on the cusp of losing a seat depending upon who is counted and where they reside. This specifically refers to college students and non-citizens. President Biden’s executive order countermanding President Trump’s directive not to count non-citizens may have an effect upon Alabama’s status. Officials there may sue over the apportionment if, in the final count, the state loses one of their seven districts.

It is likely that Alabama redistricting will be pushed into 2022 irrespective of the apportionment decision because the legislature will be out of session when the data is finally delivered. The state’s May 24 primary could conceivably be postponed.


California

For the first time in history, California is likely to lose a seat in apportionment. The 2010 apportionment cycle was the first in which the state did not gain representation. In the 1980 census, for example, California gained seven seats.

The Golden State has a redistricting commission, but the data postponement may force the process into a secondary mode since the redistricting completion deadline is Aug. 15. Unless the deadlines are changed, the state Supreme Court will appoint a special master to draw the map. California’s March 8, 2022 primary may have to be postponed, and almost assuredly their Dec. 10 candidate filing deadline will have to move.


Illinois

The state legislature has the redistricting pen, but Illinois also has a backup commission empowered in case the regular process is not completed. A March 15, 2022 primary and certainly a Nov. 29 candidate filing deadline, however, could and will face postponement.


Michigan

Voters previously adopted the institution of a 13-member commission to draw maps. The commissioners, now appointed, consist of four Democrats, four Republicans, and five unaffiliated voters.

With an April 1, 2022 candidate filing deadline and an Aug. 2 state primary, the Michigan system should have time to complete the redistricting process without changing their election cycle calendar.
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More Redistricting Delays

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 29, 2021 — The Census Bureau announced at mid-week yet another postponement in releasing the national apportionment figures, this time until April 30. Reapportionment should have been completed by Dec. 31, but the Bureau previously announced that March 6 would be the new release date due to COVID-related problems. Now, we see further delays.

Reapportionment is the process of creating a new census data algorithm in order to project the number of congressional seats each state will be awarded for the coming decade. It appears that 10-12 seats could change states, with the northeast and Midwest typically losing districts to southern and western states. This time, however, California, for the first time in history, is reversing their trend and appears headed for the losing list.

Once the apportionment numbers are known and the individual data dispersed, the states can begin the redistricting process. The Census Bureau further stated that individual states won’t be receiving their particular data necessary for redistricting until at least July 30. This will clearly set the redistricting cycle back significantly, which could cause major problems for the coming election cycle.

In the past, the Census Bureau has prioritized the states with early primaries to be first to receive their data. This meant that New Jersey and Virginia initially received their new population numbers ahead of the others because they have odd-numbered year state legislative elections. Texas and Illinois were next to receive since they traditionally schedule their regular primaries in March of the election year.

Knowing that the numbers would not be available for them in 2021, New Jersey and Virginia took preparatory action. Garden State officials placed a referendum on the November ballot asking voters for approval to postpone legislative redistricting until 2023. The measure passed.

The Old Dominion leaders decided they would run their 2021 state Delegate elections on the amended 2011 map but could conceivably call elections again for next year once they receive their updated data and can draw district boundaries. Virginia state senators do not stand for election until 2023, so it is unlikely the redistricting delay will affect those campaigns.

The data distribution and processing delay could place most legislatures in a conundrum. Most will be adjourned when the data is received, so special sessions will have to be called in most cases to complete the process prior to the 2022 candidate filing deadlines. This suggests that the states having redistricting commissions might prove to be in better position to complete the task because they won’t have to deal with legislative politics, priorities, or calendars, all of which result in a lengthy process.

Additionally, since almost every map is challenged in court, we could well see a plethora of lawsuits being filed late in the year that keep the redistricting process tied in figurative knots for months.

The states in the most difficult situations will be those gaining and losing congressional representation. Because the number of districts these particular states will have differ from their current allotments, they do not have the option of reverting to the current map once 2021 apportionment becomes final.

In the case of gainers and losers not having completed maps, we may see at-large races for the House. This would be particularly difficult for the losing states because we may see all members in the affected places having to run at-large for seats in their House delegations.

Unofficially, the gaining states appear to be Texas (3 seats), Florida (2), Arizona, Colorado, Montana, North Carolina, and Oregon. The losers may be New York (possibly 2 seats), Alabama, California, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and West Virginia. Reports suggest that the closest developing situation concerns whether Alabama loses a seat or New York drops two.

President Biden’s executive order that mandates non-citizens be counted in the census will certainly affect the final data projections and may be another reason for this latest delay.

The only certainty about 2021 reapportionment and redistricting is the many moving parts in these various states will likely produce surprising political results.

Early House Outlook – Part III

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 22, 2021 — Continuing with our electoral preview for the US House, today we look at 13 states in the country’s northeastern region. Monday, we conclude in the south.


• Connecticut – 5 Seats (5D)

With all of the Nutmeg State’s five congressional districts venturing past the 700,000 resident mark, each of Connecticut’s CDs appear secure after the state lost a seat in 2010 reapportionment. With Democrats holding the redistricting pen, expect only perfunctory changes in the congressional delegation map with each incumbent being awarded a safe seat. All were re-elected in 2021 within a vote percentage range between 56 and 65.


• Illinois – 18 Seats (13D5R)

Democrats have a big advantage in the Illinois delegation and, with the party leaders in control of the redistricting pen, their edge is positioned to expand. Despite the Republicans holding less than half of the number of Democratic seats comprising the delegation, it is one of the Dem’s members who is likely to be paired with another incumbent.

The state has actually lost population (approximately 250,000 residents) when compared with the 2010 census, meaning Illinois will certainly lose one CD with the outside possibility of dropping two. Since the major population loss is coming from the downstate area, the Democrat map drawers will have little trouble taking the seat from the Republicans and can justify such a draw based upon the region losing so many people. This, even though Rep. Cheri Bustos’ (D-Moline) seat has the lowest population figure in the state.

The Chicago area gives the Democrats some redistricting challenges, however. Three of their metro incumbents, Reps. Marie Newman (D-La Grange), Sean Casten (D-Downers Grove), and Lauren Underwood (D-Naperville) scored re-election percentages of 56.4, 52.8, and 50.7 respectively, meaning all three will be lobbying to add more Democrats to their districts. Their lower win percentages are a clue that the metro districts are already stretched to the maximum from a Democratic perspective, so it’s possible such an over-reach could have backfire potential.


• Indiana – 9 Seats (2D7R)

The nine Hoosier State seats also appear secure from a population standpoint, so Indiana looks to be a sure bet to retain all of its nine congressional districts. One seat to watch from a competitive perspective is that of freshman Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-Noblesville), who won an Indianapolis suburban CD in a tight 50-46 percent margin. Democrats will target her in 2022. All of the veteran incumbents seeking re-election broke the 61 percent mark. Freshman Democrat Frank Mrvan (D-Highland/Gary) succeeded retiring Rep. Peter Visclosky (D) with a 57-40 percent victory margin.


• Maine – 2 Seats (2D)

The Pine Tree State again holds two districts with smaller base population figures for the coming decade, one from the north and the other south. Democrats hold both and will control the redistricting pen but with only approximately 30,000 people needing to move from the southern 1st District (Rep. Chellie Pingree-D) to the northern 2nd (Rep. Jared Golden-D), the map will only change marginally. The 2nd CD is the more competitive seat of the two and will again be contested but the state’s Ranked Choice Voting system tends to give the Democrats an added advantage.


• Massachusetts – 9 Seats (9D)

The Bay State, home to one of the Democrats’ most loyal constituencies in the entire country, will retain its nine districts after dropping a seat in the 2010 reapportionment. All nine Democratic incumbents are safe and will continue to be so. The victory percentage range fell between 58-74 percent for the nine current Democratic incumbents, all but one of whom was running for re-election.


• Michigan – 14 Seats (7D7R)

Michigan redistricting will be different in 2021 with the introduction of a voter-passed redistricting commission. The citizen members will be tasked with reducing the 14-member delegation to 13, and Republicans will likely find themselves on the short end. Rep. John Moolenaar’s (R-Midland) 4th CD looks to be the most vulnerable. The districts in the northern part of the state all must gain population, and with Rep. Moolenaar’s seat being surrounded by the rest, his is the most likely to be split in pieces order to feed the others.

Reps. Elissa Slotkin (D-Holly/Lansing) and Haley Stevens (D-Rochester Hills), with respective 2020 win percentages of 50.9 and 50.2, will be in need of more Democrats that may not be forthcoming. Therefore, we could see a more competitive Michigan congressional delegation at least in the early part of the new decade.
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More on Redistricting

By Jim Ellis

Winners & losers in the redistricting tug of wars

Nov. 19, 2020 — In yesterday’s Update, we ended with the paragraph, “Considering the states that are losing and gaining seats, party control, and changing political trends, the Republicans are still likely to lose a small net number of seats in the transfer process despite holding the most redistricting power.”

This statement generated some questions about why the Republicans could lose seats in the apportionment transfer when they hold the balance of power in more states. Today, we delve deeper.

At this point, and remembering these are only estimates that could change when the actual apportionment formula produces the official number of seats that each state will possess, it appears ten seats will move from one state to others. Therefore, it is projected that Texas (3), Florida (2), Arizona, Colorado, Montana, North Carolina, and Oregon will gain districts, while Alabama, California, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and West Virginia will lose a seat apiece. We will now explore each individually:


States That Lose

• Alabama – Even though Republicans have full control and a 6R-1D delegation, the Republicans will take the loss here. The Democratic district is a Voting Rights seat, so the loss will come from the GOP column even though they hold the redistricting pen.

• California – The lopsided California delegation, even with Republicans gaining one to three seats here when the votes are all finally counted, will likely yield the Democrats losing the district. California is a commission state that operates under strict guidelines. Therefore, the mathematics suggest, in what will potentially end as a 43D-10R delegation that the transfer seat loss will come from the Democratic column.

• Illinois – Though the state delegation features only five Republicans from a group of 18 members, the Democrats control the redistricting process here and 10 years ago produced the most lopsided of partisan gerrymanders. Expect them to figure a way for the Republicans to take the one seat loss.

• Michigan – The voters adopted a new redistricting commission, but the composition parameters look to favor the Democrats. Therefore, expect the 7D-7R delegation to recede by one Republican seat.

• Minnesota – This state features the only state legislature where each party controls one legislative chamber. Though this gives the Republicans a seat at the redistricting table, the population loss in the northern part of the state, where they have two seats, will likely result in the 4D-4R delegation lessening by one Republican seat.

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The Redistricting Prelude

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 18, 2020 — The Census Bureau continues to make progress in completing the decennial population count and it appears the national apportionment report, which details how many congressional seats each state’s population earns, will be delivered to Congress in early January. Because of COVID, the apportionment process has been slightly delayed since the report typically has a year-end deadline.

Once apportionment is known, states then begin receiving their updated data necessary for drawing new congressional and state legislative districts. The states with the earliest primaries are the first to receive their data so they have adequate time to prepare their new congressional and state legislative boundaries.

In terms of apportionment, it is expected that Texas may gain approximately three seats and Florida two. The other gaining states are likely to be Arizona, Colorado, Montana, North Carolina, and Oregon. Those losing seats appear to be Alabama, California (for the first time in history), Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and West Virginia. These estimates are not always completely correct, so this list could change when the actual apportionment is applied and publicly released.

A total of 34 states will draw their new districts solely through the legislative process. The remaining multi-member states operate through a type of commission, either an independent body or one under political control. Seven states are at-large meaning their congressional race is statewide. Rhode Island joins this group in 2021 as it will lose its second seat, while Montana will likely regain the district that was lost in the 1991 reapportionment.

In the Nov. 3 election, Republicans saw a net gain in state legislative seats around the country. Only one state saw its legislative chambers flip, however, the New Hampshire House and Senate moving from Democrat to Republican. This means Republicans will control 61 legislative chambers as compared to the Democrats’ 37. The Nebraska unicameral legislature is elected on a non-partisan basis, but Republicans control that chamber as well.

Republicans will again have the advantage in the states where the legislatures and governors determine the new map boundaries. Democrats, largely under the National Democratic Redistricting Committee that former Attorney General Eric Holder leads, targeted 13 states to protect or gain legislative chambers. They failed in all, as Republicans kept their majorities in each state they previously controlled and flipped New Hampshire to their column.

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