Feb. 22, 2016 — Last week, the North Carolina state Senate passed a new congressional map, responding to a court-ordered directive to remedy what a three-judge federal panel determined to be an illegal draw in Districts 1 (Rep. G.K. Butterfield-D) and 12 (Rep. Alma Adams-D). The lines were struck down just 39 days before the state’s primary election.
The resulting map, constructed and passed within a 14-day period, is substantially different from the current map. It pairs one set of incumbents, likely causes two Republican House members to square-off in a primary election, eliminates an African-American district, makes several of the 10 Republican districts more competitive, and calls upon the Board of Elections to re-schedule the congressional primary election while nomination contests for all other offices proceed as scheduled on March 15.
Since the court in its ruling about the two original African-American majority districts declared there is no evidence of polarized voting in North Carolina, Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act does not apply. Therefore, the Republican map drawers took the opportunity to break up the famous “I-85 district” that traveled from Charlotte up Interstate 85 to capture predominately black precincts in Winston-Salem, Greensboro, and at one time, as far away as Durham. Greensboro’s Rep. Adams’ 12th District that the court invalidated is now eliminated. Adams will find herself in a new Republican-leaning 13th District, while the new 12th is fully contained within Mecklenburg County and will probably elect a white Democrat from Charlotte.
Feb. 10, 2016 — New Hampshire voters went to the polls yesterday for the long-anticipated New Hampshire presidential primary. A plethora of pre-primary political surveys suggested that Donald Trump and Sen. Bernie Sanders would win the respective Republican and Democratic primaries there. And they were right.
Though the media gives undue attention to this first-in-the-nation primary in relation to its size, long-term momentum is often built in the Granite State. For Republicans, New Hampshire possesses only 23 delegates (from a universe of 2,472), 20 of which are apportioned by today’s vote. On the Democratic side, this primary awards 32 delegates from an overall universe of 4,763.
With Trump placing first as the last 10 public polls all suggested –- in margins from nine to 21 points – he leads the pack of GOP candidates with a cumulative 18 total delegates even when combining his New Hampshire and Iowa totals. This still is less than two percent of the number that he, or any other contender, needs to clinch the nomination.
Feb. 9, 2016 — Late Friday afternoon a federal three-judge panel sitting in Raleigh invalidated two North Carolina congressional districts even after absentee ballots had been issued throughout the state and votes are being cast. The North Carolina state primary is being held concurrently with the presidential vote on March 15. The court has ordered the state legislature to redraw the map by Feb. 19 so that the primary can move forward as scheduled.
The court, in ruling on a case filed more than a year ago, has thrown the primary campaigns into chaos. Republicans will immediately file a motion to stay the ruling with the US Supreme Court, but the identical move in Virginia was rejected on Feb. 1 in a similar case. The Virginia primary, however, is not until June 14, and that state has the option of choosing nominees in a convention format.
The North Carolina panel ruled that Districts 1 (Rep. G.K. Butterworth, D-Wilson) and 12 (Rep. Alma Adams, D-Greensboro) are unconstitutional because of racial gerrymandering. The judges stated that the legislative map drawers did not “narrowly tailor” the districts as they sought to comply with the Voting Rights Act.
Jan. 19, 2016 — Rep. Scott Rigell’s (R-VA-2) announced retirement last week is surprising not just because it was unexpected. Since the Virginia redistricting situation that directly affects the southeastern part of the state is not fully decided, the political timing of such a declaration is precarious.
Clearly, Rigell’s decision not to seek a fourth term is being done for personal reasons and not political ones. His official statements suggest he has a “sense of accomplishment” regarding his service in Congress, and that “it’s time to come home.” If politics were involved, he would postpone a retirement announcement until the district lines are finalized, particularly because his 2nd District fares quite differently under the two redistricting plans.
The new court-ordered Virginia map would make Rep. Randy Forbes’ (R-VA-4) district virtually unwinnable for a Republican, but actually reinforces, from a GOP perspective, the Rigell seat and that of neighboring Rep. Robert Hurt (R-VA-5). Interestingly, Hurt, also after three terms, announced his retirement just before Christmas.
But Virginia redistricting is far from settled despite the lower court’s action to institute their map. Republican appellants are asking the US Supreme Court to stay the lower court decision until the high court, itself, hears arguments on the new plan and renders its own decision.
Jan. 14, 2016 — The Florida court-ordered redistricting saga continues with new developments regularly changing the political atmospherics. Back in early July, the Florida state Supreme Court struck down eight of the state’s congressional districts – four Republican-held; four Democratic – for reasons of “partisan gerrymandering.”
The map has been changed, enacted, and now fully reported. Since the exact boundaries have found their way into the public domain, we can now see that virtually the entire state has been affected. Mandating boundary alterations in eight districts translated into changing 24 of the state’s 27 CDs. The only three to remain intact are a trio of Republican seats: FL-1 (Rep. Jeff Miller-Pensacola; northwest Florida Panhandle); FL-8 (Rep. Bill Posey; Cape Canaveral to Vero Beach); and FL-19 (Rep. Curt Clawson; Ft. Myers-Cape Coral to Marco Island).
One, Rep. Patrick Murphy’s (D-Jupiter) 18th District (Ft. Pierce to West Palm Beach), saw less than a one percent change. The two districts altered the most are Rep. Corrine Brown’s (D-Jacksonville) 5th District and GOP Rep. Dan Webster’s 10th CD (Orlando).
The Brown seat that formerly stretched from Jacksonville to Orlando, touching Gainesville and Sanford along the way, now encompasses territory from Jacksonville to Tallahassee. It is still heavily African American, but the original region has been divided over six districts. The largest portion of the 2011-drawn seat, a 40.1 percent population segment, is actually in Orlando. Her Jacksonville anchor maintains just 38.2 percent of the former FL-5 constituency.