Category Archives: Redistricting

Succeeding Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona

The special election to replace resigned Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D) took form last night with party nomination votes. Democrats had only one choice for the special election, Giffords’ district aide Ron Barber, who was shot with the congresswoman during the highly publicized January 2011 ambush attack. Republicans again turned to former Iraq War veteran Jesse Kelly, who came within two points of defeating Ms. Giffords in 2010. Kelly claimed the Republican nomination with 36 percent of the vote, topping Gulf War veteran Martha McSally’s 25 percent.

Barber was the consensus nominee last night because all the strong Democrats deferred to him for the special election campaign. The winner of the June 12 special general fills the unexpired portion of Giffords’ term. Barber does not have a free ride for the regular term, however, when the candidates will square off in the new 2nd District Democratic primary in August regardless of who wins the special election in current District 8.

Due to reapportionment and redistricting, the district numbers were changed throughout the state. The current 8th/new 2nd remains a marginal seat that both parties can win. Originally, Barber was planning only to serve the unexpired term but changed his mind about running for the regular term after the others withdrew from the special. Even as a short-term incumbent, Mr. Barber will have a strong advantage, at the very least in the regular Democratic primary, should he secure the seat in June.

The current 8th District went for favorite son John McCain in the 2008 presidential campaign by a 52-46 percent margin. Prior to Ms. Giffords winning here for the Democrats in 2008, the district had been in Republican hands in the person of moderate GOP Rep. Jim Kolbe, originally elected in 1984 and retiring in 2006. The new 2nd CD is of similar configuration, though slightly smaller because Arizona’s substantial growth rate brings the state a new 9th District. Prior to reapportionment, the 8th was over-populated by 44,076 people.

The special general election will be competitive, meaning the regular election will be, too. A new small sample poll from National Research, Inc. (April 12; 300 registered AZ-8 voters) gives Kelly a 49-45 percent lead over Barber in a hypothetical ballot test.

The closeness of the data suggests that the regular election campaign will be a free-for-all regardless of whether Barber or Kelly wins the June special election. Along with the highly competitive campaigns in the 1st (open seat), 5th (open seat), 6th (Republican incumbent pairing) and 9th (new seat), Arizona is becoming a hotbed of congressional political activity. Rate the new 2nd as a toss-up all the way through the November election.

Weekly Redistricting Update

With no significant redistricting action to report this week, we will concentrate on the new and more refined political numbers that are now in the public domain for the 27 New York districts:

NEW YORK (current delegation: 21D-8R; loses two seats) – The two collapsed seats belong to Reps. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY-22) and Bob Turner (R-NY-9). Mr. Hinchey, announcing that he would not run prior to the map being released made his upstate seat an obvious elimination target. Freshman Turner, who won an upset special election victory after scandal-ridden Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY-9) resigned, has no chance to return to the House in the new district configuration, so he is engaged in an equally long-shot US Senate race against Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D). The just-announced retirement of Rep. Ed Towns (D-NY-10), who was placed in the new 8th District, will not affect the state’s partisan division but will host a very competitive Democratic primary.

Republicans need to hold their eight New York seats to meet their national majority mark. The new redistricting map gives them a good chance of doing that, but it is likely to be a different complexion of eight seats than we currently see.

The most endangered member is Rep. Kathy Hochul (D-NY-26), who will run in new District 27. Like Turner, Rep. Hochul converted her decidedly Republican seat in a special election. Her new district is now the most Republican district in New York, and she becomes highly endangered. And Rep. Louise Slaughter finds herself in a new 25th district with less of her old seat (38 percent) than any other NY incumbent. Rep. Tim Bishop (D-NY-1) has the highest district retention factor (97 percent).

Weekly Redistricting Roundup

Little in the way of redistricting action occurred during the past week. We see updates in only three states: Florida, New Hampshire and Ohio.

FLORIDA (current delegation: 19R-6D; gains two seats) – Attorney General Pam Bondi (R) referred, as is her duty, the new state Senate map to the Florida Supreme Court for its approval. The court struck down the original plan, so this new version is designed to address the legal problems as defined in the previous ruling. The eventual high court action regarding the state Senate map could, in some ways, be a precursor to what happens when the congressional map makes its way to the state Supreme Court from the district courts. Under Florida redistricting law, the state legislative maps automatically are referred to the state Supreme Court for legal review prior to being sent to the US Department of Justice for pre-clearance, but the congressional map must follow the normal course of legal complaint. Litigation is underway on the new 27-district Florida congressional map in response to a citizens lawsuit. A Leon County District court is hearing the case. We can undoubtedly expect an appeal to the higher courts irrespective of what is contained in the eventual Leon County ruling. The Florida primary is scheduled for Aug. 14. A final decision relating to the congressional map will likely occur just prior to the state’s June 8 candidate filing deadline.

NEW HAMPSHIRE (current delegation: 2R) – Little occurred this week in reference to passing the state’s two-district congressional map (the measure still awaits a vote before the state House), but New Hampshire officials did announce that the state is again applying for a “bail out” from the Voting Rights Act. In a quirk of the Voting Rights Act formula that requires states to be placed under its jurisdiction if voter turnout falls below certain levels, New Hampshire, despite having only a 6.1 percent minority population, is a Voting Rights-covered state because several of its localities fell under the turnout formula trigger during a particular election. New Hampshire has asked for the “bail out” – the legal process that allows states to escape VRA jurisdiction if they can show no voting rights transgressions for a 10-year period – before, but failed to see it granted.

OHIO (current delegation 13R-5D; loses two seats) – Organizers attempting to qualify a ballot referendum to institute a new 12-member citizens redistricting commission in order to divert the power away from state legislators, have obtained Ohio Ballot Board legal status and now can begin collecting petition signatures. To be placed on the November 2012 ballot, a measure must obtain just over 386,000 valid signatures from Ohio registered voters by July 4. Upon qualifying and receiving majority voter approval, the new Ohio Citizens Independent Redistricting Commission would assume control over the political re-drawing process in 2021.

Weekly Redistricting Update

Because most states have completed their redistricting laws and only two have major litigation currently occurring, the redistricting cycle is winding down. Only three states saw redistricting related action this week: Kansas, Maryland, and New Hampshire.

KANSAS (current delegation: 4R) – There is now a strong probability that the Republican-controlled legislature will not be able to produce a four-district congressional map. Major differences between moderate and conservative Republicans have broken down the process. The legislature now has recessed until the end of the month, and they still have not sent Gov. Sam Brownback (R) any version of a congressional map. A de novo court map is a realistic final solution.

MARYLAND (current delegation: 6D-2R) – In an 11th-hour move that won’t affect the 2012 elections, a group of Maryland Republicans have announced they are going to attempt to qualify a ballot referendum to nullify the congressional district plan. The group needs over 56,000 valid signatures by June 30 to qualify the measure for the November ballot. Even if they can secure the signatures, the effort appears doomed to defeat either at the hands of the voters or the legislature redrawing a map that the plaintiffs will likely find just as objectionable.

NEW HAMPSHIRE (current delegation: 2R) – The state Senate passed a two-district congressional plan that appears to be a compromise between GOP Reps. Frank Guinta (R-NH-1) and Charlie Bass (R-NH-2). Since both represent marginal districts, each wanted to increase their share of Republican voters, obviously a difficult task in a two-district state.

Weekly Redistricting Update

Now that almost all of the 43 multi-congressional district maps are legally in place, little is occurring on the redistricting front, meaning that the election year 2012 political playing field has basically been established. This notwithstanding, some action did occur in Florida, Kansas, Louisiana, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

FLORIDA (current delegation: 19R-6D; gains two seats) – The Florida Senate committee of jurisdiction passed a new state Senate map to replace the one the Florida Supreme Court recently struck down. Full Senate action is expected shortly. Expect the legal challenge to the congressional map to drag on until election timing forces a decision, a similar pattern to what has occurred in many other places. Regardless of how the lower courts rule, the congressional plan will eventually come before the Florida Supreme Court. The most difficult issue to resolve is whether the congressional map complies with the voter-enacted redistricting initiative and the measure’s inherent conflicts with the federal Voting Rights Act.

KANSAS (current delegation: 4R) – Looks like it’s back to the drawing board yet again. The state House, which previously approved the congressional map, now has voted it down, sending it back to committee for re-drawing. The state Senate and House are still miles apart on a four-district map, meaning the process could still find its way to court for a judicial draw. Kansas will likely be the last state to complete redistricting. The Sunflower State primary is Aug. 7.

LOUISIANA (current delegation: 6R-1D; loses one seat) – The US Supreme Court ruled that the state of Louisiana may not proceed with its reapportionment lawsuit this year. The state was arguing that the reapportionment formula should only be allowed to count legal residents. Louisiana lost one seat in 2010 reapportionment. The high court’s ruling means any eventual ruling on the merits of the state’s case will not affect the 2012 elections.

NEW HAMPSHIRE (current delegation: 2R) – The Granite State, with the easiest redistricting job in the country (the current lines are only 254 people out of balance) will soon pass a new congressional map, as its state legislative leaders indicated this past week. The final version will be a “least change” plan, since so little is required to bring the lines into reapportionment compliance. The approach is bad news for Rep. Charlie Bass (R-NH-2), whose western district is much more Democratic than its eastern counterpart. Bass is again being challenged by the woman he beat only 48-47 percent in 2010 – Ann McLane Kuster (D).

SOUTH CAROLINA (current delegation: 5R-1D; gains one seat) – After losing their legal challenge to the new South Carolina congressional map last week, the Democratic plaintiffs have decided to appeal the ruling to the United States Supreme Court. So far, the high court has postponed action on such lawsuits (e.g., the SCOTUS decision regarding the Louisiana and West Virginia lawsuits), thus keeping the legally processed maps intact for the current election cycle. It is reasonable to believe this appeal will be handled in a similar manner, and that the Palmetto State map will stand for at least the 2012 election.