Category Archives: Redistricting

Action Breaking in Texas

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 24, 2017
— Early last week, the three-judge federal panel considering the Texas redistricting lawsuit issued a ruling, one that contained a rather major surprise.

It was expected that Reps. Blake Farenthold (R-Corpus Christi) and Lloyd Doggett’s (D-Austin) districts would certainly be ordered re-drawn for racial gerrymandering reasons, but it was assumed that Rep. Will Hurd’s (R-San Antonio) 23rd District would also be in the same predicament. In a ruling that certainly caught the Democratic plaintiffs off guard, the court allowed the current 23rd to stand while striking down the other two. The panel also left north Texas in tact, another region the Democrats wanted re-configured.

Now with some certainty that the district will remain intact – though it could tangentially change as a result of re-crafting Doggett’s nearby 35th District – candidates already are starting to make their moves regarding challenging vulnerable two-term incumbent Hurd.

Rep. Will Hurd (R-San Antonio)

Congressman Hurd was first elected to represent his sprawling central-west Texas district, a seat that stretches more than 550 miles from San Antonio to El Paso, in 2014 when he upset then-Rep. Pete Gallego (D-Alpine), 50-48 percent, yielding a margin of just over 2,400 votes. This past November, Rep. Hurd again beat Gallego, this time 48-47 percent, a spread of just over 3,000 votes. Knowing that the turnout would literally double in the presidential year from the previous mid-term, many observers expected Gallego to re-claim the seat and were again surprised when the re-match evolved into a rerun.

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The Texas Re-Draw

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 21, 2017 — The special three-judge panel considering Texas redistricting, which long ago declared the state’s 35th Congressional District as a racial gerrymander, issued a ruling earlier this week that contains re-drawing deadlines.

Early in the decade the panel declared District 35, a seat containing parts of both Austin and San Antonio connected by a thin strip traveling south on Interstate 35 between the two cities and represented by veteran Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin), as violating parts of the Voting Rights Act. The ruling cited the intent of map creators to draw the seat using race as a primary basis. The evidence for such a decision consisted of emails among Republican staff members in the state legislature and Congress that proclaimed such a desire.

At the heart of the current issue is then-Attorney General Greg Abbott’s (R) decision to adopt the court’s temporary correction map as the state’s official plan. Once the legislature and governor agreed with his idea, the temporary map became permanent, which theoretically ended the process. The flaw in Abbott’s strategy, however, is the court declared at the time of issuance that the fixes were temporary and all of the problems were not corrected, meaning the plan was designed only to get through the 2014 election after which time the legislature was to create a permanent map.

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The First Midterm: A Deeper Story

By Jim Ellis

July 18, 2017 — Much has been made about a new president’s party failing in the midterm directly after his initial national election, but the statistics aren’t quite what they seem. In the House, the average loss for the new president’s party is 26 seats in first midterm during the modern political era, in addition to dropping two Senate seats. But these numbers are misleading.

Many media stories portray the Democrats on the brink of wresting the House majority away from Republicans, and one factor supporting such a claim is the first midterm historical trend. The stories underscore that the Democrats need a net gain of 24 seats to depose the Republicans, two seats less than the average “out party” gain in similar elections.

The research stops short, however, and omits a very key point. Since President Harry S. Truman assumed office in 1945 and stood for election in his own right in 1948, 11 presidents, inclusive, have seen his party lose House seats in first midterm election. President Gerald Ford, because he was never elected to the office, is not included for purposes of this statistical exercise.

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Texas Redistricting – The Redux

By Jim Ellis

March 16, 2017 — After the 2003 Texas redistricting saga became synonymous with internal partisan political strife, a three-judge federal panel appears to have ordered the state to again become engulfed in another such battle.

The special panel ordered a re-draw of three districts, and the after-effects of reconstituting the seats will change several more adjoining CDs. The 35th District of Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin), which contains parts of Bexar (San Antonio), Caldwell, Comal, Guadalupe, Hays, and Travis (Austin) counties, was actually declared illegal back in 2011. The Supreme Court remanded that ruling back to the panel, and instructed them to take action. Now, after three elections cycles have already passed, the court has decided to move forward.

In addition to the Doggett seat, the 23rd (Rep. Will Hurd, R-San Antonio), and 27th (Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi) CDs have also been declared unconstitutional, and will need to be re-drawn if the ruling is upheld.

The Democratic plaintiffs argued that the districts illegally pack Latino voters and were done so because of race. Emails emanating from Republican staff members participating in the process, and the messages contained in them, lent credence to the Democrats’ case thus culminating in this court decision.

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The State Picture

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 14, 2016 — While there were no significant weekend changes in the uncalled federal races — Michigan remains outstanding in the presidential race (Trump ahead 47.6 – 47.3 percent there), and and we still have two undecided California congressional campaigns (Rep. Ami Bera, D-CA-7, leads Sheriff Scott Jones 50.6 – 49.4 percent; Rep. Darrell Issa, R-CA-49, has a 51.0 – 49.0 percent advantage over retired Marine Colonel Doug Applegate) — we do have virtually complete state race results.

The legislatures and governors are an important influence at the federal level because in most instances these bodies and officials determine congressional redistricting. With live challenges in Alabama, North Carolina, and Virginia, and a possible re-draw of central Texas this coming year, it is not too early to monitor party strength in the newly elected state legislatures.

As we covered in the post-election report series, Republicans earned at least a net gain of two gubernatorial chairs. They converted governors’ mansions in Missouri (Eric Greitens), New Hampshire (Chris Sununu), and Vermont (Phil Scott), while potentially losing North Carolina (Attorney General Roy Cooper-D leading Gov. Pat McCrory-R, but the race is not officially called).

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Another Day, Another Primary Slate

By Jim Ellis

June 15, 2016 — A review of yesterday’s slate of primaries:

District of Columbia

Yesterday marked the final presidential primary as Democrats trudge to the polls in the District of Columbia. Forty-six Democratic delegates are at stake, 26 of whom are Super Delegates.

But the DC count wouldn’t and didn’t change anything. If Sen. Bernie Sanders had captured the entire slate, it wouldn’t change the final result. That didn’t come close to happening, however, as presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton destroyed Sanders with a 79-21 percent win from almost 100,000 votes cast. Clinton won with the balance of Super Delegates providing her the margin to exceed the 2,383 votes required to secure the party nomination.

Virginia

The Old Dominion’s unusual nomination system where the party leadership in each district can decide to hold a primary or convention culminated with voting in three CDs yesterday.

The most interesting was in the open Virginia Beach 2nd District where Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA-4) attempted to win re-nomination from a new CD. The court-ordered mid-decade redistricting turned Rep. Forbes’ previous domain into what should now become a decidedly Democratic seat. Rep. Scott Rigell (R-Virginia Beach) deciding to retire after three terms gave Forbes the opportunity to jump into an available political situation.

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VA GOP Challenge Rebuked

By Jim Ellis

May 25, 2016 — Monday, the US Supreme Court unanimously rejected the Virginia Republican congressional delegation’s lawsuit to overturn the new court-ordered federal district map. The high court ruled that the delegation did not have legal standing to bring the suit.

Since this was the final legal hurdle to making the new map permanent, it is now virtually assured that the Virginia map will remain intact for the remainder of the decade.

To review, back in mid-2015, a three-judge federal panel invalidated Rep. Bobby Scott’s (D-Newport News) 3rd District, thus forcing a re-draw of the Tidewater area. In 2011, when originally crafting the map, the Republican map drawers made a basic mistake that eventually forced this geographic segment to fail.

Under previous court orders and legal precedent, when a federal district crosses a body of water it must remain in “line of sight” in order to adhere to the contiguous district requirement. The original 3rd CD violated this condition because it connected disparate regions along the James River. The 2011 3rd District, like the one that was drawn in 2001, began in Richmond and traveled southeast to the Norfolk area to encompass that city, the city of Portsmouth, and other land area portions around the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay.

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