Category Archives: Redistricting

Maps to the Max

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 13, 2021 — We’re beginning to see preliminary congressional redistricting plans appear around the country, and it seems both parties are attempting to draw maps to their maximum political advantage where possible.

We’ve seen the Democrats attempt to draw a 5D-1R map in Oregon. It appears on the surface that they may have succeeded, but at the very least, Rep. Kurt Schrader’s (D-Canby/Salem) 5th District looks to be highly competitive in the general election, so such a party division outcome is not yet a given.

Speculation coming from New York, Illinois, and New Mexico, suggest the Democrats will attempt to stretch their advantage in those states, the only ones they fully control for redistricting, to a risky maximum. Sources in New York indicate the Democratic leadership is attempting to craft a map that would convert five of the Republicans’ current eight seats in the state delegation to the Democrats.

In Illinois, the potential plan suggests the Democratic leadership will attempt to take the Republicans down to just three seats in the delegation from their current five. Illinois lost a seat in reapportionment, meaning the Land of Lincoln delegation will return to Washington with 17 instead of 18 members.

In New Mexico, plans have surfaced to attempt to draw the state’s lone Republican 2nd District into the Democratic column. This requires bringing the 2nd into the Albuquerque metro area for the first time since becoming a three-seat state.

While the aforementioned draws are possible, doing so could create enough politically marginal districts that the plans backfire at least to a degree.

Republicans look to be retaliating in the states that they control outright, meaning places that have not created a redistricting commission or where they don’t already control the maximum number of seats.

The first North Carolina plan was just released, and if passed, the Republicans could net three seats, gaining two when compared to the current plan, while the Democrats lose one. North Carolina is another of the states that is gaining a congressional district from national reapportionment.

The proposed map looks to make major changes and takes advantage of Rep. Ted Budd (R-Advance) leaving the delegation to run statewide for the Senate. This allows the GOP to effectively draw two new seats instead of one. Though the Democrats control the governorship in the person of Roy Cooper, under North Carolina law the state chief executive has no role in redistricting. Therefore, if maps pass both houses of the state legislature, they are enacted. Republicans have significant majorities in both the state House and Senate.

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New Redistricting Numbers

Oregon 2022 Congressional Districts (Go to Daily Kos story on Oregon’s new House map)

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 12, 2021 — The Daily Kos Elections website’s statistical team has already published presidential election numbers for some of the states that have completed their redistricting process. Therefore, we have a bit more information about the new districts in Oregon and Maine, which allows us to better analyze the political landscape.

In Oregon, the Daily Kos team has published the Biden-Trump 2020 numbers for the new six Beaver State congressional districts, which makes comparing with previous data possible.

Rep. Suzanne Bonamici’s (D-Washington County) 1st District actually makes her previously safe northwestern Oregon seat even stronger. This new district gives her all of downtown Portland. President Biden posted a 68-29 percent margin in the new 1st, a net 10-point increase from his spread in the current district (63-34 percent).

The state’s lone Republican district, OR-2, also sees its percentages increasing for the incumbent’s benefit, who is freshman Rep. Cliff Bentz (R-Ontario/East Oregon). Instead of finding a 56-42 percent margin in former President Donald Trump’s favor, the new 2nd expands to 61-37 percent, a similar net 10-point improvement for the GOP as the Democrats saw in District 1.

Making the 2nd District so overwhelmingly Republican is reflective of the Democratic legislature’s plan to pack as many GOP voters as possible into the 2nd to facilitate achieving their goal of drawing a 5D-1R statewide map.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer’s (D-Portland) 3rd District, previously the Democrats’ safest Oregon seat, remains so, but with a slightly smaller margin. Under the newly adopted district lines, President Biden would have recorded a 73-25 percent victory as opposed to his 74-23 percent spread under the current map.

Perhaps the biggest change on the Oregon map, other than adding a new district, was making the Eugene-anchored 4th District safer for veteran representative and House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Springfield).

The Biden margin in the previous 4th was 51-47 percent, and the congressman only recorded 51.5 percent in his 2020 re-election victory, one of the smallest of his 18 electoral triumphs. In the new 4th, President Biden’s victory spread would have been 55-42 percent, a net Democratic gain of nine percentage points.

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The Trifecta States

By Jim Ellis

In the trifecta of political parties controlling the House, Senate and Executive branches in a state, how many will actually benefit from that power in the redistricting process?

Oct. 11, 2021 — As the redistricting cycle moves forward, predictions are being made as to which party will benefit most through the decennial district boundary drawing process. Most analyses favor the Republicans as the party best positioned to gain under 2021 redistricting largely because of the number of states they control outright, but this could be an over-statement.

When a state features one party in control of the governor’s mansion, state House, and state Senate, the horse racing term of “trifecta” is used to describe such a political situation. Since Republicans hold 23 trifectas and Democrats just 15, it appears on the surface that the GOP will be the big gainer in redistricting.

Let’s look a bit closer because the aggregate trifecta number doesn’t tell the whole story.

On the Republican side, though they control 23 states, their redistricting position is lessened when examining their ability to extract a net gain of congressional seats.

Of their 23, in one, West Virginia, they are a sure bet to lose a seat. In this case, Republicans hold all three of the state’s CDs, but reapportionment reduces the Mountain State to two districts. Therefore, Republicans will unavoidably absorb the loss.

In two of their states, Arizona and Montana, a non-politician commission will draw the maps. In another dozen (Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming) the GOP is already at the max level of partisan members and can’t stretch the new plan further.

In Iowa and Texas, though Republicans have trifecta control, legislative rules lessen their complete power; hence, the redistricting outcome is affected.

Finally, the GOP only has effective redistricting control in six states, and in two of those, Oklahoma and Tennessee, it could arguably backfire if the party tries to expand their ratio further. Therefore, it is in really just four states, Florida, Georgia, New Hampshire, and Ohio where we could see Republican redistricting gains.

The Democrats find themselves in similar position. From their 15 trifectas, they only have redistricting control in five, possibly, and realistically, three states. In five of their 15 (California, Colorado, New Jersey, Virginia, and Washington) redistricting goes to a citizens’ commission.

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Colorado Map Under Fire

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

Oct. 7, 2021 — As we reported last week, the Colorado Independent Redistricting Commission, on an 11-1 vote, sent to the state Supreme Court an eight-district congressional map for legal approval. The commission members met the Sept. 28 deadline that the voter-passed initiatives mandated. Also under the measures, the high court has until Dec. 15 to approve the map.

Already, talk of legal challenges has begun. At least two organized groups according to the Colorado Sun news site, the Colorado Latino Leadership, Advocacy and Research Organization and the national Campaign Legal Center, are considering filing challenges to the map based upon its grouping of Hispanic voters. The latter group is an unofficial legal arm for the national Democratic Party.

Additionally, the Colorado Democratic Party is also considering a challenge based upon the competitive nature of the overall map, citing the language outlined in the two initiatives that created the new redistricting process, Amendments Y and Z from the 2018 election.

State Sen. Kerry Donovan (D-Wolcott), the Senate President Pro Tempore, who is actively challenging Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Silt) in the western slope 3rd District, is suspending her fundraising efforts until she sees what the court rules in relation to the congressional map, which she opposes. Concerning the entire map, but especially regarding the 3rd District, Sen. Donovan said the plan is, “an inexplicable change given that Colorado has grown significantly more Democratic since the last redistricting process 10 years ago.”

It’s interesting that the Democrats are beginning to object on a competitive argument. The commission plan favors them, though the new 8th District is clearly a swing seat. This, and the surrounding districts, comprise the heart of their argument regarding Hispanic voting power. The partisan arguments clearly concern the 3rd District, especially since their top priority is to unseat the conservative firebrand, Rep. Boebert.

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Texans Planning Moves

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 5, 2021 — The Texas congressional map was unveiled in the state Senate last week, and already many incumbents and challengers are making or announcing political plans based upon what they are seeing … but this congressional plan is a long way from enactment.

In the past few days we have seen Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (D-McAllen) concede that he would consider moving to run in the open 34th District, which is due east of his own 15th CD and anchored in the city of Brownsville. Rep. Filemon Vela (D-Brownsville) is not seeking re-election to a sixth term, and he reportedly is favorable toward Gonzalez coming into his district.

The 34th remains solidly Democratic under the Senate introduced congressional map, but the 15th, already trending more Republican than in past elections, would actually have favored former President Trump by three percentage points under the proposed boundaries. Thus, Republicans would have a strong chance of winning here in an open seat race.

The 2020 GOP nominee, Monica de la Cruz-Hernandez, who held Rep. Gonzalez to a 50-48 percent re-election victory while spending barely over $400,000, has announced she is running again and House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has already endorsed her for the 2022 race.

Gonzalez is not the only one working on his next political move. Wesley Hunt (R), who lost 51-47 percent to Rep. Lizzie Fletcher (D-Houston) in 2020, said months ago that he would run for the House again, but was mum on exactly where he would land in hopes that one of the new seats would fall into his area. Under this proposed map, the new 38th District does encompass part of the current Fletcher district, and it is highly favorable to an eventual Republican nominee.

For her part, Rep. Fletcher gets a much stronger Democratic district in southern Harris County and now into Ft. Bend County, which is one of the fastest growing regions in the state. Reports also suggest that Hunt has over $1 million in his campaign account at the reporting period ending Sept. 30 despite not previously declaring where he would run. He announced last week that he has chosen District 38 if this new map becomes law.

Late last week, Republican businessman and retired Air Force officer Steve Fowler announced his congressional candidacy in the 28th District, Rep. Henry Cuellar’s (D-Laredo) seat that begins in San Antonio and spans to the Mexican border. Earlier this year, Jessica Cisneros, who held Cuellar to a 52-48 percent Democratic primary win in 2020, announced she is returning for a re-match.

Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin) will also have a decision to make. The new 37th District is wholly contained within Travis County and safely Democratic. He could easily run in this seat, thus leaving his 35th CD that is co-anchored in Austin and San Antonio for a Hispanic Democrat to likely win.

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