Category Archives: Redistricting

Democrats Cheer Virginia Redistricting Decision; VA-3 to be Redrawn

June 10, 2015 — Last October, an Eastern District of Virginia special three-judge panel declared VA District 3 (Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Richmond/ Norfolk) unconstitutional. According to the ruling, the draw packed African Americans, thereby diluting the black community’s influence in other districts even though the map was constructed to the dictates of the Voting Rights Act and previous court decisions.

The Republican appeal went to the US Supreme Court, which in turn sent the congressional plan back to the court of origination in order to determine the next course of action. The Supreme Court is using an Alabama state legislative case to chart new ground in relation to minority district redistricting and appears to be returning maps from cases before them back to the lower courts with instructions to add specifics.

The federal Virginia panel took action late last Friday and sent the map to the legislature with instructions to re-draw the 3rd District. As is the case with all redistricting, changes to one CD will affect at least two and possibly several districts. Most likely, Rep. Randy Forbes (R) will find his 4th District significantly changed, much to his chagrin.
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The Hidden Reason Why McCain is
Being Challenged in Arizona

May 28, 2015 — A surprising story broke in Arizona Tuesday. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ-1) announced that she will forego her re-election bid and instead challenge Sen. John McCain (R) next year. The congresswoman was included on most “possible candidate” lists, but was not viewed as someone overtly planning to make the jump into the statewide contest. Her move, however, may be a precursor to another decision that will soon enter the public domain.

With McCain’s approval numbers dropping into the dangerously low category (36:51 percent favorable to unfavorable according to Public Policy Polling), Kirkpatrick’s move is not without political reason. The latest PPP survey (May 1-3; 600 registered Arizona voters) finds her trailing the senator only 36-42 percent, certainly suggesting that such a general election pairing would yield a competitive contest.

But, the driving force behind Kirkpatrick may not be McCain’s perceived vulnerability. Rather, since the US Supreme Court is poised to soon render a decision on the Arizona redistricting challenge, it may be this issue that is actually motivating Kirkpatrick to move forward.

The Arizona Republicans are challenging the state’s congressional map on the grounds that the US Constitution only gives federal redistricting power to state legislatures. Before the 2000 reapportionment, voters adopted a ballot proposition that created a redistricting commission empowered to draw congressional and state legislative lines. The crux of the suit argues that a citizens’ commission has no authority to draw congressional lines.
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Developments in MS-1 Special,
Illinois Senate, Virginia Redistricting

April 1, 2015 — Candidate filing closed this past Friday for the MS-1 special election, which Rep. Alan Nunnelee’s (R) death made necessary. Twelve Republicans and one Democrat will be on the May 12 Mississippi jungle primary ballot. With so many candidates qualifying, a June 2 run-off between the top two finishers is a virtual certainty, since it would be very difficult for any one contender to attract a majority of the vote.

One prominent name missing from the list is former Rep. Travis Childers (D), who won the last special election held here, and then claimed a full term later in 2008. He was unseated in 2010, and then lost to Sen. Thad Cochran (R) last November in a statewide general election contest. Though it is always possible lightning could have again struck for him in a special election, the chance of Childers holding this strongly Republican northern Mississippi district for a long duration is an unlikely one, at best. Hence, his decision not to run.

The lone Democrat running is former Jackson mayoral aide Walter Zinn. His prospects of qualifying for the run-off are somewhat realistic because the Republican vote will be split literally a dozen ways. His prospects are thin, however, to capture the seat in the run-off. Aside from being a prohibitive underdog against a Republican in a one-on-one battle, Zinn’s Jackson political base is not even in the 1st District.
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The Democrats Have Problems Beyond Redistricting

The Democratic federal elected officials are gathered in Baltimore right now, discussing the future of their party and ways to recapture much of the political territory they lost in the 2014 elections. A clear theme settling around their US House predicament is redistricting, and how the Republican-drawn boundaries, they say, in what are typically Democratic states have unfairly cost them large numbers of seats.

North Carolina Rep. David Price (D-NC-4) spoke at length about redistricting and how it affects the party. According to an article on Yahoo News, Price said, “Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Virginia display the most egregious examples of gerrymandered districts for congressional and state legislative races.” His solution is to continue the process Democrats are using in several states, which is to sue over the current congressional boundaries contending that the district boundaries are “racially biased”. Except for Virginia, where a court has already declared the map unconstitutional for this reason, it will likely be difficult to make such a case in places where the minority districts have actually been maximized.

The 2014 electoral statistics cast a different light on the situation, however. Let’s take the case of freshman Rep. Gwen Graham (D-FL-2). She won a Republican-leaning seat in what was the worst of years for Democratic congressional candidates. The fact that she Continue reading >

Two Florida Congressional Districts Ruled as Illegal

A north Florida circuit court judge who briefly came to fame during the George W. Bush/Al Gore 2000 post-election counting process, has declared Florida congressional districts 5 (Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville) and 10 (Rep. Dan Webster, R-Orlando) illegal per the criteria adopted in the state’s 2010 redistricting ballot initiative. The Democratic legal challenge was launched soon after the lines were enacted in 2011, but technicalities pertaining to the plaintiff’s discovery motions here and in federal court delayed the process until now. Additionally, the US Supreme Court’s 2013 Shelby County decision changed the legal situation.

Democratic Judge Terry Lewis, who issued a pro-Bush presidential recount decision 14 years ago, ruled that the two districts fail the compactness criteria as outlined in the voter-passed proposition. Should the entire appellate process, including final review by the Florida State Supreme Court, uphold the Lewis decision districts 5 and 10 will be re-drawn. The tangential changes stemming from altering those boundaries could conceivably affect all of north and central Florida.

Judge Lewis ruled against the Democratic  Continue reading >

Impact of NC Redistricting Upheld

The special three-judge state panel hearing the redistricting challenge to the legislative and congressional maps unanimously, and with a mention that partisanship was left out of their decision, ruled in favor of the state of North Carolina. This means that the Republican-drawn maps will continue to stand.

The judicial panel was comprised of two Democrats and one Republican. The upheld maps sent nine Republicans and four Democrats to Washington from the congressional delegation; a state Senate consisting of 33 Republicans and 17 Democrats; and a state House comprised of 77 Republicans and just 43 Democrats. Prior to the 2010 elections and the subsequent redistricting, Democrats held an 8-5 advantage in the congressional delegation, a 30-20 margin in the state Senate, and commanded a 68-52 House majority.

The decision will undoubtedly be appealed to the state Supreme Court, but a panel with a Republican majority is unlikely to overturn a Democratic special court that found in the state’s favor.

There are two key practical effects from the ruling. First, as it relates to the US Supreme Court’s Shelby County v. Holder opinion, it is now highly unlikely that the maps will be redrawn prior to the next census. Thus, the Shelby County decision will not likely come into play here until 2021. Since North Carolina has live redistricting litigation ongoing, as does Florida, Arizona, and Kentucky, an overturn of the state’s map could have had a major effect upon any new court-mandated drawing.

Second, one of North Carolina’s remaining four Democratic seats, the 7th District of Rep. Mike McIntyre, saw the closest finish of any 2012 US House race. McIntyre was re-elected over former state Sen. David Rouzer with a mere 654-vote margin from more than 336,000 ballots cast. With Rouzer already running again and facing a mid-term turnout model without President Obama leading the Democratic ticket, it makes McIntyre the most endangered Democrat in Congress. A redraw would have greatly helped him. Now without such a boost, does McIntyre even run again? The coming weeks in the southeastern corner of  Continue reading >

What They’re Missing

The analyses and coverage of the Supreme Court’s decision this week that invalidated Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) is typically missing a very subtle but highly important point.

As mentioned in many articles and interviews, now that the official formula determining whether a jurisdiction must adhere to US Justice Department supervision is invalid, the laws previously stayed through the denial of pre-clearance procedure have taken effect. A representative sampling of recent laws that failed the pre-clearance test but are now fully enforceable are several polling place voter identification statutes from various states.

In terms of political district map drawing, there is now another crucial factor present in some places. Most states have what is commonly described as a “county line law.” The statute typically says that a county must be kept whole unless more population is needed to reach the proper district target figure. Often times counties are split between or among two or more districts for purposes of adding more minorities to a congressional or legislative district in order to protect that seat under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Now that the elimination of Section 4 effectively debilitates Section 5, the county line laws will presumably be stronger than the VRA, the reverse of what had, heretofore, been the usual practice.

Florida could be the state most quickly affected by the county line situation. In 2010, voters passed a ballot initiative that defined new and additional redistricting criteria. One of the included items is the county line provision. Currently, the state is embroiled in live redistricting litigation, and apparently headed for a January trial in Leon County (Tallahassee). The Supreme Court’s opinion this week will likely bear major influence upon the state judge’s ultimate decision, and it is probable that the tables have turned in the plaintiffs favor. If they do in fact win at the lower and upper court levels, new congressional and legislative maps will likely be mandated, and that could happen as early as the 2014 election cycle.

Florida is particularly vulnerable on the county line issue. The state has seven counties that are larger than a congressional district. Within those seven counties is enough population to complete 10 CDs. The  Continue reading >