Significant redistricting action occurred in the following eight states during the first business week of the new year:
CONNECTICUT (current delegation: 5D) – The Connecticut court-appointed special master has released his draft congressional map and, as the state Supreme Court ordered him to create, it is a “least change” plan. All five districts will basically remain the same as constructed on the current map, except for population equalization adjustments. This plan will likely be adopted and all five seats will be favored to remain in Democratic hands.
FLORIDA (current delegation: 19R-6D; gains two seats) – The Florida Senate Committee on Reapportionment passed a congressional map during the past week. The full Senate will likely take action in a few days. The state House is also moving a bill. A plan will move to Gov. Rick Scott (R) shortly. The real battle over this most crucial congressional plan, however, will ultimately be decided in the state courts. Conflicting issues between the state-passed voter initiative that added criteria to map construction and the federal Voting Rights Act have put the Florida process on a legal collision course. Regardless of the resulting legalities, the final plan will almost certainly yield many more competitive districts than under the current set of district lines. The Sunshine State clearly features the best Republican map in the country.
KENTUCKY (current delegation: 4R-2D) – The state House of Representatives passed a congressional map that strengthens both of the state’s Democratic members, Reps. John Yarmuth (D-KY-3) and Ben Chandler (D-KY-6). The Republican Senate appears headed upon a different course meaning this situation may move to the judiciary for final resolution. The Kentucky primary is May 22, with candidate filing scheduled for a fast-approaching January 31st. This is the critical week in the Kentucky redistricting process.
MISSOURI (current delegation: 6R-3D; loses one seat) – Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-MO-3) has an active lawsuit before the courts, objecting to the draw in the eastern part of the state that collapses his current district. While the court didn’t comment upon his original claim, they did express concern over a certain part of Rep. Emanuel Cleaver’s (D) 5th District, anchored in Kansas City. Though no action has yet been taken, it is possible that the Missouri map will have to be adjusted.
NORTH CAROLINA (current delegation: 7D-6R) – The state three-judge panel has scheduled oral arguments for the consolidated redistricting lawsuits regarding the legislatively enacted congressional, state Senate, and House maps for this Friday, Jan. 20. It is likely that the North Carolina Supreme Court will eventually be referred the matter in order to render a final verdict on the maps. This will have to happen relatively quickly since the Tar Heel State primary is scheduled for May 8, with a fast-approaching candidate filing deadline of Feb. 29. Though the plaintiffs have raised approximately 70 causes of action, the most important is their racial gerrymandering claim about some African-American districts.
TENNESSEE (current delegation: 7R-2D) – Both houses of the legislature have now passed the new Tennessee congressional map. The legislation goes to Gov. Bill Haslam (R) for his signature. The Republican legislature drew a map that attempts to keep the seven seats just won in the GOP column, but also makes freshman Rep. Scott DesJarlais highly vulnerable in the Republican primary. A member of the State & Local Government Committee that has jurisdiction over redistricting, Sen. Bill Ketron, ensured that Rutherford County was placed in the new 4th, thereby making plausible his intra-party challenge to the new incumbent.
VIRGINIA (current delegation: 8R-3D) – A new status quo 8R-3D congressional map passed the Virginia House of Delegates last week. The plan now goes to the Senate where the measure is expected to quickly pass. Once that occurs, Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) will sign the map into law. A full analysis will be provided upon completion of the legislative process.
WEST VIRGINIA (current delegation: 2R-1D) – The three-judge federal panel that struck down the West Virginia congressional plan for population equality reasons has back-tracked on their requirement that the legislature produce a new map by Jan. 17. With no pending deadline, the legislature has more time to arrive at a solution. The governor and legislative leaders originally responded by asking the US Supreme Court to step in, following Texas’ lead in their own case. The problems here are solvable and the “least change” goal of the new West Virginia map will still likely prevail.