Category Archives: Redistricting

Redistricting in Iowa, Indiana, Arkansas & Maryland

The Census Bureau is sending four more states their block data this week and soon Iowa, Indiana, Arkansas, and Maryland will begin their redistricting processes.

Iowa: The Hawkeye State — which draws its lines through a special legislative committee and does not add the incumbents’ home addresses to their data pull, thereby ensuring that districts are built only around population figures and not politics — will be the most interesting of this bunch. Iowa will lose a seat, and it’s still unclear which two members will be paired. Prior to the actual census data being released, it was estimated that Iowa had two of the 20 lowest populated districts. The current delegation stands at three Democrats and two Republicans, so statistically the Democrats have a greater chance of having at least one of their districts in a pairing. On the Republican side, Rep. Tom Latham’s 4th district, the more interior seat, has a greater chance of being paired than the western-most 5th district of Rep. Steve King. The final four-seat plan could assume one of many diverse variations, but it’s simply too soon to tell what may happen here. We do know for sure, however, that at least one current sitting incumbent will not return in the next Congress.

Indiana: The new Indiana Republican delegation approaches redistricting in strong position. The delegation is divided 6R-3D, after the GOP gained two seats in the 2010 election. All six Republicans can expect to gain safe seats from the GOP-controlled state legislature and Gov. Mitch Daniels (R). Expect the southern Indiana seats, districts 8 and 9, to be strengthened with more Republicans, thus reconfiguring to some extent the safe 4th (Rep. Todd Rokita) and 6th districts (Rep. Mike Pence; likely an open seat). The aforementioned central state seats will all remain heavily Republican, including the 5th district of Rep. Dan Burton, but they will likely contain some different territory. The big Indiana question is whether the Republicans will try to weaken Rep. Joe Donnelly’s (D) 2nd district. He barely secured a third term last November with a very tight 48-47% victory over state Rep. Jackie Walorski (R).

Arkansas: The Republicans gained two seats in the Arkansas delegation, flipping the 3D-1R advantage into a 3:1 split in the GOP’s favor. With Democrats in control of the redistricting pen, will they draw a map that protects all incumbents to the detriment of their own party? Today, that’s difficult to say. The wild card in the picture is Rep. Mike Ross’ (D-AR-4) open desire to run for governor in 2014, since Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe will be term-limited. Ross wants to ensure the safest congressional seat possible for himself to build a strong base for the statewide contest. The more Democratic Ross’ district becomes, the greater the chance all three Republicans survive.

Maryland: This is a state where the Democrats must be concerned about over-reaching. Currently ensconced with a solid 6D-2R delegation split, some Ds want to see the Eastern Shore seat strengthened to give a legitimate shot a unseating freshman Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD-1). Geography favors Harris, as the Eastern Shore is unlikely to be split. If the region has grown, this will help Harris, too. The Congressman hails from the mainland of the state, and his strength on the Eastern Shore may be weaker than most incumbents, but he has a full term in which to personalize his seat. The only Maryland question to resolve is how far will the Democrats go? Will they secure a strong 6D-2R map, or stretch to 7D-1R?
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The Redistricting Bell Sounds

The Census Bureau delivered the individual block data to four states at the end of last week, and scheduled an additional quartet for this week, thus officially opening the deci-annual national redistricting process. Since New Jersey, Mississippi, Louisiana and Virginia all have odd-numbered year elections and operate within the tightest timeline to complete their state and local redistricting processes, it has become traditional for them to receive their vital population statistics ahead of all others. The four states scheduled for this week are Iowa, Indiana, Arkansas, and Maryland. Expect Illinois and Texas to be done soon, too, as both states have early March 2012 primary elections and each has a different number of congressional districts in the new national apportionment.

New Jersey: In the first group of four states now equipped to begin the re-mapping process, each has some hurdles to clear before a final congressional map can be completed. New Jersey, which draws their districts via special commission, loses a seat, and will be reduced from 13 to 12. All 13 current districts are under-populated, hence the underlying reason for reducing the Garden State’s level of representation. The population shift trends reveal the most significant inhabitant drain in the middle of the state. Actually, the majority minority seat in northern New Jersey, CD 10 in Newark, must gain about 100,000 new residents but will not be collapsed. It will be reconstructed for purposes of protecting the large African-American voting base.

Districts 8 (Rep. Bill Pascrell; Paterson, West Orange) and 9 (Rep. Steve Rothman; Hackensack, Ft. Lee) have to gain more than 70,000 people apiece, suggesting that it might be easiest to eliminate one of these two. Districts 5 (Rep. Scott Garrett; Paramus, part of Bergen County) and 6 (Rep. Frank Pallone; Plainfield, New Brunswick) each must gain more than 60,000, so these too could be candidates for removal. Rep. Rob Andrews’ 1st district (Camden) also must gain more than 60,000 people, but the geography and political characteristics affecting this seat point to preservation.

Mississippi: With a split state government and the Obama Justice Department holding map pre-clearance power over Mississippi, the Republicans will be very fortunate to protect their 3R-1D split in the Magnolia State congressional delegation. The Voting Rights Act-protected 2nd district (Rep. Bennie Thompson) needs to gain over 73,000 people, presenting the Democrats with a substantial stumbling block to fulfill their goal of creating two districts of their own. Their most likely target, Rep. Gregg Harper’s 3rd district (Jackson/Pearl; Starkville) has to shed 15,000 people, which makes it more difficult to make drastic changes.

Louisiana: Though the Republicans are now in total control of the Louisiana redistricting apparatus thanks to a party switch in the state Senate, their new status won’t force the Democrats to absorb the loss of a congressional seat. Largely because of post-Katrina population drain, Louisiana is one district down in reapportionment. The only Democratic position in the delegation, the New Orleans’ based 2nd district (Rep. Cedric Richmond), also is a VRA district and cannot be retrogressed. With the 2nd needing to gain an incredible 272,000 people and the 3rd district (Rep. Jeff Landry) directly to its south requiring an additional 118,000 inhabitants, it is very likely the 3rd will be eliminated and its people spread to neighboring districts.

Currently hosting a 6R-1D split in the congressional delegation, Louisiana will almost assuredly send five Republicans and one Democrat to Washington for the balance of the new decade.

Virginia: The Virginia map, which currently yields eight congressional Republicans and three Democrats, has significant areas of population loss and gain. Holding steady with eleven districts for the coming political decade, means that substantially re-shifting the seats’ population centers becomes a necessity. The Virginia Beach-Norfolk area is low, as both Reps. Scott Rigell and Bobby Scott must each gain significant population. The northern Virginia seat of Rep. Frank Wolf, CD 10, is over-populated to the tune of 142,000+ people. Thus, the overflow will have to be dispersed to other seats in the region, but the effect of such a population roll will change the complexion of the other seats, as well.

Since legislative elections will be conducted this year in Virginia, don’t expect the congressional map to be drawn until early 2012. With both parties striving to gain full control of the legislature, the power to re-construct the congressional map becomes a spoils for the victor in the 2011 election cycle. At the end of the process, Republicans will find themselves in very strong position if they are simply able to maintain the status quo 8R-3D split. Whether or not this occurs is yet to be decided.
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Is the DCCC Wasting its Money?

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is already on the attack, running radio ads this week against 19 Republican incumbents whom they believe will be vulnerable next year. According to the message in most of the spots, the member in question is being attacked for supporting the Republican spending cuts, which the Democrats’ say will tangentially stifle job creation.

The problem for the DCCC is that in nine of the 19 targeted districts, Republicans have full control of the redistricting pen, and to a person these members will be running in much stronger GOP districts in 2012. In only two of the 19 will the Democrats be able to change the districts to enhance their own party candidates (in Illinois — Reps. Bob Dold and Joe Walsh). In the remaining seats, the Ds and Rs have split control meaning that a redistricting commission or a court ultimately will decide how the final lines are constructed.

Until redistricting is complete, it is difficult to fully grasp how the new congressional districts will form. Therefore, the DCCC may be paying to educate large numbers of constituents who won’t even be eligible to vote against their particular target in the fall of 2012. Likely, the more cost-effective, short-term advertising strategy for both parties is to demonstrate patience.
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In Conn., Redistricting Could Make Things Very Interesting

Connecticut is already shaping up to be one of the more interesting political states for 2012. Redistricting adds a wild card to the picture that will likely favor the Democrats, but also provides the Republicans an opportunity to potentially take advantage of a majority party in transition. Watch for major action here.

Rep. Chris Murphy (D-CT-5), an announced candidate for Joe Lieberman’s open Senate seat, just released the results of an internal campaign poll but with data accumulated from a few weeks ago. Obviously anticipating Lieberman’s exit from the race, the Gotham Research Group, for the Murphy campaign, surveyed 502 registered Connecticut voters during the January 3-5 period. Not surprisingly, the results showed Rep. Murphy faring very well against the two most likely 2012 GOP entries, just-defeated Senatorial nominee Linda McMahon and former Rep. Rob Simmons (R-CT-2).

According to Gotham, Murphy would defeat McMahon 54-35%, while holding a smaller 46-34% advantage over Simmons. These are believable numbers since Connecticut performed well for the Democrats in the Republican year of 2010, and both McMahon and Simmons lost the Senate race. But it’s the Democratic primary numbers that are the most interesting factor in the released data. According to the study, Murphy leads former Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz 40-31% with 29% undecided.

The primary numbers are worth noting for a couple of reasons. First, the questions were asked of only 257 Democrats, a very small sample considering the number of such voters in the state, thus the error factor is high. Second, the poll did not include Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT-2) who is now seriously considering entering the Senate race in his own right. This poll should encourage Courtney because neither of his prospective opponents is close to 50%, and almost 1/3 of the voters describe themselves as undecided. Thus, a competitive race with a trio of credible candidates lasting until August of 2012 could formulate in many different ways. In this situation, a reasonable victory scenario can be crafted for each of the three candidates.

Aside from a free-for-all Senatorial primary to potentially contend with, the Democrats might also be left in a precarious situation regarding the House races. With Murphy already vacating his seat and Courtney a possibility to do so, the Democrats would face some redistricting and political challenges necessary to keeping all five of the state’s congressional seats in the party’s column. Remember, Republicans won both the 2nd (Courtney) and 5th (Murphy) districts in their current configuration up until 2006.

Though they are highly Democratic seats (CT-2, Obama ’08: 59% – Bush ’04: 44%. CT-5, Obama ’08: 56% – Bush ’04: 49%.), Republicans proved they can win in both places. While Courtney had an easy re-election in 2010 (winning 59-39% against an opponent who spent less than $250,000), Murphy fought off a tough challenge from state Sen. Sam Caligiuri (R). Additionally, Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT-4) also had a tough battle in his first re-election, winning 53-47% in a race similar to Murphy’s.

Obviously, in open seat situations the 2nd and the 5th are going to be more competitive, thus the party may need to roll a few more Democratic voters to both the east (2nd) and west (5th), taking them from the 1st (Rep. John Larson – Hartford) and 3rd (Rep. Rosa DeLauro – New Haven) districts. The 4th, which elected Republican Chris Shays until 2008 and is located in the southwestern tail of the state that borders New York, also might need a slight increase in Democratic voters and that would drain a few more from the neighboring 3rd. Thus, we could find Dem redistricting specialists facing what could be a tricky task of rolling voters from their middle districts in both directions. This would certainly make the 1st and 3rd less Democratic, but would theoretically strengthen districts 2, 4, and 5.

The most positive end redistricting result would mean five Democratic seats that can be maintained throughout the decade. On the other hand, opening up all districts for significant change often brings unintended consequences, and this could help the Republicans.
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New Jersey Redistricting: Likely Up First

Because New Jersey, Virginia, and Mississippi all have 2011 legislative elections, they will soon receive the new block data from the US Census Bureau, and be the first to do so. Once revealed, the people charged with drawing the political maps can begin implementing their tasks.

New Jersey draws its districts by special commission. Five Democrats and five Republicans are chosen by various individuals and entities to serve. If the ten members deadlock, the State Supreme Court Chief Justice is charged with appointing a tie-breaking individual. Twenty years ago, the last time reapportionment reduced the Garden State’s congressional delegation (in 2012, the state will drop from 13 to 12 seats), the commission drew six Democratic districts, six Republican seats, and paired a Democrat and a Republican into a marginal district in the middle of the state. It’s possible a similar blueprint could be utilized again.

The Hill Newspaper ran a story yesterday suggesting that Reps. Jon Runyan (R-NJ-3) and Leonard Lance (R-NJ-7) may be the members on the cutting block because they have the least seniority in the delegation. Though nothing will be certain until the actual census block data is available, eliminating the Runyan district, in particular, may be easier said than done.

Redistricting is much different from normal politics, because member seniority and committee assignments matter far less than if a particular district is in a corner of the state or center, and whether or not its region is growing or contracting. Based upon the mid-decade Census reports, it appears that the area closer to New York is the part of New Jersey declining in population, not the southern portion of the state. Thus, a district like Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen’s 11th, bounded on all sides by other districts, and Rep. Scott Garrett’s boomerang-shaped 5th district at the top of the state might be tempting candidates for pairing with a neighboring member. Among Democrats, Reps. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ-8) and Frank Pallone’s (D-NJ-6) might be easier to collapse into a district with a Republican incumbent.

Looking at the southern portion of the state, assuming inhabitant numbers have kept pace, Reps. Rob Andrews (D-NJ-1) and Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ-2) appear to be in the best position. Andrews represents the Democratic stronghold of Camden, which is bordered on the west by Pennsylvania. This means the only choices in moving this district are to expand north, south, or east. Because the Camden-based district is already compact and contains a definable community of interest, it would be difficult to eliminate this particular seat. LoBiondo’s district borders the Atlantic Ocean on the east and Maryland to its south. To the west is the Andrews seat, so the only real option is to move District 2 north. This would take him into Runyan’s 3rd district, which is an east to west district that borders both Pennsylvania and the Atlantic Ocean. Rep. Chris Smith’s 4th district is to the north, thus completing NJ’s central-south sector. It is very likely that enough population will still exist to feed all four seats, thus keeping them all.

Though New Jersey is not a Voting Rights State, look for the commission to keep in tact Rep. Chris Smith’s (D-NJ-10) African American-based seat in the Newark metropolitan area. Like all New Jersey districts, the 10th will have to gain population. The nearby city of Paterson, which is more than 80% minority, might make sense to include in a new 10th. This would cause Pascrell’s 8th district to be radically redrawn, thus making it a collapse candidate.

It’s already clear that the northern seats will have to move south and the southern seats will come north. Thus, the members in the middle (Districts 6 (Pallone), 7 (Lance), 8 (Pascrell), and 12 (Holt) may have the highest risk of being paired.

Many configurations are possible and a potential radical re-draw can literally do almost anything, but the population drag suggests that geography and demographics will be more of a determining factor than seniority or stature within the House. Commissions and courts tend to be more sensitive to communities of interest and demographics than legislatures, but it is always difficult to tell what will eventually happen at the beginning of the process. Welcome to the world of congressional redistricting.