Author Archives: Jim Ellis

California’s Lost Seat

By Jim Ellis

July 7, 2021 — For the first time in history, California loses a congressional seat in reapportionment, and the public input session that was scheduled to begin yesterday continues the California Citizens Redistricting Commission’s Phase 2 process. This week, the commission members continue listening to testimony about how the districts should be drawn for the state’s congressional delegation and both houses of the Golden State’s legislature.

Sitting adjacent to each other are the following California congressional seats: CA-32 (Rep. Grace Napolitano; D-Norwalk), CA-38 (Rep. Linda Sanchez; D-Whittier), CA-40 (Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard; D-Downey), and CA-44 (Rep. Nanette Diaz-Barragan; D-San Pedro).

After California, along with the other 49 states, receives its census tract information after the Aug. 15 negotiated deadline, the five Democrats, five Republicans, and four non-affiliated CCRC members will study and organize the data until their Phase 3 line drawing process commences in September. The commission was created through a 2010 ballot proposition that removed redistricting power from the legislature and instituted a citizens panel to create the new post-census maps every 10 years. This is the body’s second redistricting cycle.

The commission timeline was crafted after the state of Ohio sued the Census Bureau to force a faster distribution of the state redistricting data. Originally, using COVID as their principal excuse, the Bureau leadership set Oct. 1 as their distribution deadline goal. In typical years, states would have received the census tract information months ago. The Ohio lawsuit was settled with the two sides agreeing on an Aug. 15 deadline that is now in effect for the whole country.

The commission members are now tasked with changing the state’s 53-member congressional delegation into a map that features only 52 seats. And now, the question of just which area will lose the district must be tackled.

Looking at the latest public district data, that through July 1, 2019, we see some patterns providing key clues. It is understood that the last year of the census is not included in these numbers, and reports suggest that the final 12 months of the 10-year cycle resulted in significant change for the state as the number of people leaving for other places substantially increased. In fact, for the first time, California actually has fewer people than it did in a preceding year.

The most significant loss appears to come in central Los Angeles County. Looking at the current 53 districts, the seat with the lowest population is Rep. Adam’s Schiff’s (D-Burbank) San Fernando Valley 28th CD. But the cluster of seats in the heart of Los Angeles suggests an area where two seats can easily be collapsed.

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SCOTUS Rules; Calif. Recall Scheduled

Current US Supreme Court

By Jim Ellis

July 6, 2021 — On their last day of the year’s early session last week, a Thursday, the Supreme Court of the United States issued rulings on the Arizona voting rights case and the California non-profit organization disclosure lawsuit.

In the Democratic National Committee v. Brnovich, the Supreme Court with Justice Samuel Alito writing for the 6-3 majority, ruled that the state of Arizona did not infringe upon minority voting rights or violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act in both prohibiting ballot harvesting with certain exceptions, and not counting provisional ballots cast from voters who do not reside in the particular precinct that the polling place covers.

The high court agreed with Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s (R) arguments that the laws are not racially motivated, nor do they intentionally discriminate against certain segments of the voting population, thus overturning the full 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling.

Originally in 2016, Brnovich won at the district court level and on the first appeal to a three-judge panel from the 9th Circuit. The DNC requested an en banc review of the original appellate ruling that agreed with Brnovich, and the entire 9th Circuit membership overturned the decision, siding with the plaintiff. At that point, AG Brnovich petitioned the Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case. (Hearing cases en banc allows the full circuit court to overturn a decision reached by a three–judge panel. Due to the decreasing probability of U.S. Supreme Court intervention, the circuit court is often the court of last resort in the ordinary life of a case, thereby amplifying the importance of en banc review.)

In his ruling, Justice Alito stated that “every voting rule imposes a burden of some sort,” and that “mere inconvenience cannot be enough to demonstrate a violation of Section 2.” He also cautioned that, “what are at bottom very small differences should not be artificially magnified.”

While agreeing that holding free and open elections is a “valid and important state interest,” he also addressed the voter fraud argument, clearly stating that attempting to prevent such abuses is also a “strong and entirely legitimate state interest.”

In her article discussing these rulings, Supreme Court expert Amy Howe, in her Howe on the Court article that was published on the SCOTUS blog, offered that the Brnovich ruling “will make it more difficult to contest election regulations under the Voting Rights Act,” and thus likely means fewer voting rights cases coming through the courts. She further categorized this decision as a “major ruling.”

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Oregon’s New Seat

Current Oregon US Congressional Districts Map


By Jim Ellis

July 2, 2021 — Oregon earned a sixth congressional seat in the 2021 apportionment, but exactly where that district will be placed on the Beaver State’s new map is not particularly obvious.

Like most states, Oregon handles redistricting through the legislative process and Democrats have firm control of all three legs of the legislative stool. In addition to Gov. Kate Brown (D), the party has a 18-11 margin in the state Senate with one Independent. Their majority in the state House of Representatives is similarly large, 37-22, with one vacancy. Yet, the partisan breakdown of the state might make drawing a solid 5D-1R map surprisingly somewhat difficult.

Currently, the five congressional districts are not obviously gerrymandered, as the seats are drawn in block form. Naturally, all but two cluster around the Portland metropolitan area, the state’s dominant population region.

The five incumbents are all senior, with Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Washington County) being the most junior with her original election coming in a special 2012 contest. The delegation dean is House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Springfield) who was first elected in 1986.

As you can see from the following chart, using 2019 population numbers since the Census Bureau will not be delivering census tract data to the states until after Aug. 15, the five districts are remarkably equivalent in relation to population size.

DISTRICT INCUMBENT 2020% POPULATION REG. VOTERS
1 BONAMICI 64.6% 858,875 570,186
2 BENTZ 59.9% 841,022 598,375
3 BLUMENAUER 73.0% 853,116 588,614
4 DeFAZIO 51.5% 820,504 588,508
5 SCHRADER 51.9% 844,220 578,609

The population figures suggest that each district will have to shed between 115,000 to 155,000 people in order to create six CDs with equal population, likely a number around 710,000 individuals for this state.

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Carey Claims Big Lead in OH-15

Graphic from Ohio Coal Association chairman and congressional candidate Mike Carey’s Facebook page.

By Jim Ellis

June 30, 2021 — Ohio Coal Association chairman Mike Carey (R) released his internal Fabrizio, Lee & Associates survey on Tuesday, which posts him to a big lead for the Aug. 3 special congressional primary in his state’s vacant 15th District. Carey’s advantage widely expands when the Republican primary electorate is aware that he is being endorsed by former president, Donald Trump.

According to the Fabrizio Lee poll (June 23-24; 400 likely OH-15 special Republican primary voters, live interviews), Carey would maintain a 44-10-9-8-5 percent advantage over state Rep. Jeff LaRe (R-Lancaster), former state Rep. Ron Hood, state Sen. Bob Peterson (R-Fayette County), and state Sen. Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard), respectively, among those claiming to be familiar with the campaign and candidates.

The original ballot test gave Carey a 20-9 percent lead over Rep. LaRe, who has the backing of resigned Rep. Steve Stivers (R) and is the beneficiary of the former congressman spending some of his substantial leftover campaign war chest as a support independent expenditure. Hood and Sen. Peterson trial with seven percent apiece, followed by Sen. Kunze’s six percent preference. The remaining six candidates individually garner three percent or less.

When all respondents are then informed that the former president has endorsed Carey, however, the candidate’s lead grows to a whopping 60-8-7-7-6 percent margin over Hood, LaRe, Peterson, and Kunze, respectively.

The initial ballot test also identified 44 percent of the respondents who said they are undecided about who to support in the special election. When informed of the Trump endorsement, the undecided segment then broke 46-3 percent for Carey over LaRe. Peterson and Kunze each gained one percent support, with the remainder divided among the minor candidates. This largely accounts for the big swing toward Carey when comparing the initial ballot test to the aided responses.

The poll was conducted during the buildup to Trump’s first public rally since he left the White House, an event held in rural Wellington, OH on Saturday about 40 miles due west of Akron that drew close to 20,000 people according to news estimates.

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Where DeSantis Stands

By Jim Ellis

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R)

June 29, 2021 — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has been a hot political property of late, and no less than three political pollsters were in the field during late June to test his popularity in several scenarios.

Two of the firms, Echelon Insights and McLaughlin & Associates, tested Gov. DeSantis nationally in anticipation of a possible presidential run in 2024, while the Political Matrix/Listener Group surveyed the more timely Sunshine State 2022 governor’s race.

From the interactive voice response system poll released late last week, Political Matrix/Listener Group, on June 21, surveyed a total of 716 Florida likely voters who have a gubernatorial preference. They found DeSantis faring well against both announced Democratic gubernatorial candidates.

If US representative and former governor, Charlie Crist (D-St. Petersburg), were his 2022 general election Democratic opponent, Gov. DeSantis would hold a 55-45 percent advantage. Opposite state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried (D), Florida’s only Democratic statewide elected office holder, the DeSantis margin would expand to a huge 61-39 percent spread; this, in a state where Republicans consistently perform a few points better than polling numbers typically predict.

The other two survey research firms tested Gov. DeSantis against a large number of commonly viewed ’24 GOP presidential prospects. Echelon Insights (June 18-22; 1,001 registered US voters, online from representative sample of registered voters) finds the governor topping the field of 19 named potential candidates within the 386 Republican primary voters segment with a 21 percent support figure, which is seven points higher than the former vice president, Mike Pence.

Donald Trump, Jr. posted seven percent, one point ahead of ex-UN Ambassador and former South Carolina governor, Nikki Haley, and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) who both followed with six percent apiece. This group of five are the only potential contenders exceeding five percent preference. Former president, Donald Trump, was not included in the Echelon Republican nomination ballot test.

McLaughlin and Associates (June 16-20; 1,000 likely US voters, 444 GOP likely presidential primary voters) tested a two-tiered national GOP primary vote, one with former President Trump and one without.

If Trump does not run in 2024, McLaughlin, like Echelon, finds Gov. DeSantis to be the leading early candidate. In the field sans the ex-president, Gov. DeSantis places first with 24 percent followed by ex-VP Pence who attracts 19 percent, while Donald Trump, Jr. places third with 15 percent. Sen. Cruz (six percent) is the only other potential candidate who tops five percent of the vote.

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Colorado Releases First New Map


District 1 – Rep. Donna DeGette (D-Denver)
District 2 – Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Lafayette/Boulder)
District 3 – Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Silt/Western Slope)
District 4 – Rep. Ken Buck (R-Windsor/East Colorado)
District 5 – Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs)
District 6 – Rep. Jason Crow (D-Aurora)
District 7 – New Seat
District 8 – Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Arvada/Thornton)


By Jim Ellis

June 28, 2021 — The Colorado Independent Redistricting Commission, using only Census Bureau estimates because no state has yet received its census tract information and won’t until at least Aug. 15, released a preliminary new eight-district US House map late last week. Colorado is one of the states that gained a congressional seat under the 2020 national reapportionment.

The published commission map will not be the final version because population estimates and statistical sampling cannot be used for redistricting purposes per a 1999 US Supreme Court ruling (Department of Commerce v. US House of Representatives). Therefore, if this map is to become the basis for the actual plan, it will have to be adjusted after Colorado is presented with its census tract data.

This is the first redistricting cycle where Colorado has opted for the commission process. The new congressional map looks similar to the current seven-district design, in that the basic configurations of the seats and anchor population centers remain consistent with the notable exception of Rep. Ed Perlmutter’s (D-Arvada) current 7th District.

What appears designed as the new seat, District 8, takes a key population center from the 7th, the Arvada-Westminster-Thornton corridor, and makes it the new 8th CD anchor. This means the new 8th begins just north of Denver in Adams County and consumes about 85 percent of the local entity before moving slightly west to capture small Broomfield County and parts of Jefferson and Boulder counties. It then continues northeast to encompass a portion of Weld County.

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