Category Archives: Reapportionment

Colorado Redistricting Map:
Congressional Version 3

The Colorado Independent Redistricting Commission members released for public input the third congressional map — and second staff offering. (Click on map to see bigger map, more detail)

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 20, 2021 — The Colorado Independent Redistricting Commission (congressional) members are on a tight time schedule so they are moving fast. The third congressional map, and second staff offering, was released for public input late last week.

Under the commission parameters, the members produced the first map and the staff constructed the second after completing public hearings. Once both maps were publicized, further comments were recorded. Responding again, the staff amended their draw and released the newest iteration.

The ballot initiative that created the commission process mandates that the members agree upon a map by Sept. 28. A super majority of eight of the 12 members is required to approve a final plan. If the commission members are unable to agree upon a map in such a ratio, the staff would then directly submit a version to the state Supreme Court. The high court must confirm the new congressional plan by Dec. 15. Therefore, it is reasonable to argue that the commission staff possesses more power than the members.

Clearly there were objections, likely from both parties, to the original staff map. Based upon public input, they claimed, a seat that occupied most of the state’s southern quadrant was placed into District 3, historically known as the “western slope” seat. It has traditionally stretched from the Rocky Mountains west of Denver all the way to the Utah border and from Wyoming to New Mexico.

The original staff map changed the 3rd District’s direction, eliminating its northern sector. This had the effect of pairing Reps. Joe Neguse (D-Boulder) and freshman Lauren Boebert (R-Silt) technically into one seat. The heart of District 3 largely remained intact under this map, so even though Boebert’s home was placed in District 2, she still had a place to run. Therefore, the potential incumbent pairing, a political set-up that would have greatly favored Rep. Neguse, is likely alleviated.

Drawing the southern seat had the effect of taking Neguse’s 2nd District from Boulder County all the way to Utah and significantly changing his district, as well. Though it would remain a solid Democratic seat, many conservative western slope voters would have been introduced into a new CD that also included liberal Boulder.

It is highly likely that neither Boebert nor Neguse liked that particular draw, and many leaders of both parties also probably lobbied the commission members and staff to change the map. If so, the persuasion worked.

The new staff map restores the western slope district to its previous formation, meaning encompassing Colorado’s western quadrant from Wyoming to New Mexico along the Utah border. It does include Democratic Pueblo County, which brings some competition to the district. According to the commission’s political statistical package, a historical eight-race averaging of significant electoral contests, the 3rd District would become relatively safe for Rep. Boebert with an R+9 political performance.

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First Indiana Map Published

Indiana Congressional Districts Draft Map (click on map to see larger file size details)

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 17, 2021 — The Indiana House Republican majority caucus released the state’s first 2021 congressional redistricting map, and it appears to strengthen the party’s 7-2 grip on the Hoosier State federal delegation.

Political data is not readily accessible, but the geographic outline and reaction from at least one former Democratic congressional candidate suggests the biggest change comes in the state’s 5th District. IN-5 is the geographically central seat that had been trending away from being the safe Republican CD we saw during the previous decade’s early period.

Former state representative and 2016 lieutenant governor nominee Christina Hale (D), who lost to freshman Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-Noblesville) by a relatively close open seat 50-46 percent count last November, claims the House Republicans “kneecapped” any Democrat wanting to run in this district for the foreseeable future.

Though the official political data is not available, the Daily Kos Elections team calculated that former President Trump would have carried this new version of the 5th District with a 57-41 percent margin. His victory totals in the present 5th from 2020 and 2016 were 50-48 and 53-41 percent, respectively.

The current 5th District encompasses all or part of eight central Indiana counties including just over 180,000 people from Marion County in the northern Indianapolis suburbs. These are the precincts making the 5th more competitive as they now lean Democratic.

The proposed CD-5, and this released map, are a long way from being adopted through the legislative process; it would see a jettisoning of all of its Marion County population. Instead, the new district would occupy five whole counties north of Indianapolis and the Marion County line in addition to annexing almost all of Howard County.

The district coming into Marion County to replace the residents shed from the 5th is Rep. Greg Pence’s (R-Columbus) 6th District. Instead of moving in a north south direction along the Ohio border as is the current configuration, the proposed IN-6 would move from the Ohio border and enjoin counties to the west all the way into Marion County. The 6th, however, would assume the necessary Marion County population in the southern portion of the Indianapolis metropolitan area instead of the northern territory.

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The New Mexico Ploy

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 15, 2021 — During the last week reports were surfacing that suggested the New Mexico State Democratic leadership was considering ways to turn the current 2D-1R congressional map into a 3D-0R plan. This might be easier said than done, however.

New Mexico is one of the Democrats’ 15 “trifecta states,” meaning the party controls all three legs of the redistricting stool: the state Senate, state House, and governor’s mansion. Republicans have 23 trifectas. Therefore, if the Democrats are to minimize the redistricting damage, or even possibly come out slightly ahead, they must fully use their political leverage in the states they control.

Of the Democrats’ 15 trifectas, however, five of the states handle redistricting through a commission, and in another five the party already controls all the congressional seats. Therefore, if they are to make a national redistricting play they must take maximum advantage in Illinois, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, and Oregon. The lay of the land, however, makes it very difficult to expand their fortunes in Nevada and possibly Oregon, which is why trying to take an extra seat from New Mexico makes some sense from a national Democratic perspective.

New Mexico has three congressional seats, all of which a freshman represents. The 1st (Rep. Melanie Stansbury; D-Albuquerque) and 3rd Districts (Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez; D-Santa Fe) in the northern part of the state are safely Democratic.

The southern 2nd District (Rep. Yvette Herrell; R-Alamogordo), which encompasses almost all of the territory south of Albuquerque, has performed as a Republican seat at the congressional level in 19 of the last 21 elections. Democrats picked up the district in their recent wave election years (2006; 2018) with open seat victories, but the voters favored the Republican challenger in both successive elections. This, despite NM-2 being a majority Hispanic district: 53.7 percent of the overall population according to the previous census data.

Additionally, the current seats are not widely out of population balance. The 1st District needs to gain just 11,264 people, while the 2nd must shed 8,181 individuals, and the 3rd must relinquish 3,082 residents. Therefore, a radical re-draw that results in a sweep of the three districts for one party when the population swings are so small would certainly draw a political gerrymandering lawsuit upon adoption of the new map. Whether such a lawsuit would succeed of course is a question that can only be answered when the final map is drawn and enacted.

Likely, the only way to draw a 3D-0R map in New Mexico would be to keep the northern 3rd District Democratic seat virtually intact, and then draw the Republican 2nd into Albuquerque. This would cause the city and Bernalillo County to be split resulting in the 1st and 2nd then appearing as southwestern and southeastern seats that divide Albuquerque, and subsequently stretch all the way to the Mexican border.

Even this draw might make it difficult to create three Democratic seats because the southeastern district would still have the potential of being Republican enough to make the party’s candidate, in this case Rep. Herrell, strong enough to have a chance of winning a general election.

New Mexico is a good example as how a largely internal state exercise can transform itself to help achieve a national partisan goal. It remains to be seen just how bold the New Mexico Democrats will be, as this small and sometimes obscure state steps into the national redistricting limelight.

The Tennessee Rumor

Tennessee Congressional Districts (click on image to see larger)

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 13, 2021 — Unconfirmed stories from Democratic sources are flying around the Internet suggesting that the Tennessee Republican state legislative leadership is in the process of drawing a new congressional map that would shred Rep. Jim Cooper’s (D-Nashville) seat and convert the current 7R-2D map into 8R-1D.

This may well be happening, but when looking at the population densities in each of the state’s nine congressional districts, drawing such a map may be unavoidable and not entirely partisanship-driven. The problem for Cooper and the Democrats is not the congressman’s Nashville-anchored 5th District. Rather, the Memphis seat of Rep. Steve Cohen (D) is the source of their difficulty. It is this 9th District, with a major population shortage and unfavorable geographic boundaries from a redistricting perspective, that could adversely affect Rep. Cooper.

Despite Tennessee ranking as the 17th fastest growing domain during the previous decade, the Volunteer State did not gain a new congressional seat in reapportionment. Additionally, and the fundamental problem for Rep. Cooper, middle Tennessee is experiencing explosive growth, while the east and the west are inhabitant deficient, at least from a congressional district equivalency perspective. Rep. Cohen’s Memphis anchored seat is the least populated of the nine CDs and must gain 77,122 people to meet the new Tennessee congressional district population requirement of 767,871 individuals.

As you know, Memphis sits in the far southwestern corner of Tennessee. Therefore, the Cohen district is bordered by Arkansas to the west and Mississippi to the south. Thus, the people needed to fill the 9th can only come from the north and east. To further complicate matters, the TN-9 is a Voting Rights majority minority district and must remain with relatively constant minority population numbers.

Additionally, the 8th District of Rep. David Kustoff (R-Georgetown), that stretches from Kentucky to Mississippi and the only place from where the 9th District can annex the people it needs, is also under-populated. To meet its own population requirements, the 8th CD must gain 51,524 inhabitants, hence having to stretch closer to the Nashville area districts, which is how Cooper’s Nashville seat factors into Memphis’ population swing problem. Combined, these issues making drawing western Tennessee difficult.

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Colorado’s Second Map

The Colorado Independent Redistricting Commission’s recently released second iteration of the state’s new eight-seat congressional map.

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 9, 2021 — After a round of public redistricting hearings, the staff for the Colorado Independent Redistricting Commission released the second iteration of the state’s new eight-seat congressional map. The Centennial State gained one seat in national reapportionment.

The second map differs significantly from the first commission draw, but the partisan outcome may be similar. The biggest differences affect Rep. Lauren Boebert’s (R-Silt) 3rd District, which becomes the contiguous southern seat for which many people were calling in the public hearings. Though her home would be placed in Rep. Joe Neguse’s (D-Boulder) 2nd District, all seven current incumbent members would have a place to run.

Rep. Neguse’s 2nd District has already drawn criticism for pairing the college town of Boulder with a rural western slope constituency that would stretch all the way to Utah. The traditional Colorado western slope rural district included all of the state’s western sector and stretched from Wyoming to New Mexico.

Despite the unusual draw, Rep. Neguse would have a safe Democratic seat. Rep. Boebert would have a district that would stretch beyond the Democratic city of Pueblo, which she currently represents, but this new 3rd District iteration would only be slightly more Democratic than her current domain.

According to the accompanying electoral statistical chart that the Commission supplied, all Republican candidates carried the 3rd in the chosen eight benchmark races from 2016, ’18, and ‘20. Curiously, the commission staff did not include the 2020 presidential contest among the considered races though they did include the landslide 2020 US Senate result.

The other member who would have a similar district to that of Rep. Boebert, but from a partisan Democratic perspective, is 7th District Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Arvada). Here, Perlmutter would find himself in a relatively competitive seat that in a bad year for his party could flip. The cumulative election result gives the Democrats a 5.2 percent margin, similar to Boebert’s 5.5 percent Republican tilt in her 3rd District. The party registration numbers, however, give the Democrats only a 1.3 percent advantage.

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