Category Archives: Voting Rights

Alabama Map Ruling Stayed; Redistricting Update

By Jim Ellis

Alabama redistricting map (Click on the map above or go to DavesRedistricting.org to see interactive map)

Feb. 9, 2022 — On a 5-4 vote, the US Supreme Court voted to stay the lower court ruling that invalidated the new Alabama congressional map. A Republican three-judge panel had ruled that a second majority minority district could have been drawn among the state’s seven congressional districts, and thus disqualified the plan on Jan. 23.

Writing a concurring opinion, Justice Brett Kavanaugh stated that the lower court decision was made too close to the 2022 election, meaning that the judicial process would not have proper time to hear the appeal and make an educated ruling prior to the state’s scheduled primary election. The ruling does not mean the appeal was granted, but merely postpones hearing the case to a later date.

Analysts say the stay ensures that the original map will be in place for this year’s election. It does not mean, however, that the map won’t be altered for the 2024 election and beyond.

The new plan is virtually an extension of the current map, which elected six Republicans and one Democrat in the 2020 election. It was a curious original decision, not only because the judges that ruled against the GOP map drawers were appointed by former President Donald Trump (2) and the late President Ronald Reagan (1), but that the same map footprint stood unencumbered for the past 10 years.

The major change made from the current map to the new draw came in the 7th CD, which is the Voting Rights district. The legislature, however, had no choice but to make a substantial change. AL-7 was 53,143 people short of reaching the state’s congressional district population quota of 717,754 individuals.

The previous ruling also postponed the Jan. 28 candidate filing deadline for the Alabama US House candidates. Those running for all other offices have now already filed and been qualified for the respective party primary ballots. The congressional candidates will now file on Feb. 11.

Redistricting Notes

• Summarizing the legal action in other states, the North Carolina map has been disqualified and the legislature will now return to redraw the congressional and state legislative maps. As has been the case throughout the previous decade, the partisan Republican legislature and the partisan Democratic state Supreme Court continue to go back and forth over the issue of partisan gerrymandering.

• The lower court ruling in Michigan rejected the Detroit area Democratic current and former state legislators’ claim that the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission members violated the Voting Rights Act in drawing the city of Detroit’s congressional and state legislative maps. Unless an appeal is granted, the new Michigan maps will stand for this year’s elections.

• The Kansas legislature adjourned without voting to override Gov. Laura Kelly’s (D) veto of the state’s congressional map. The hasty adjournment move, however, allows the legislature to reconsider the veto override. Without a successful override vote, the map will go to the courts for a redrawing of the Kansas City metro area.

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Michigan House Action Wave

Michigan Congressional Redistricting Map. (Click on image to go to FiveThirtyEight.com to see interactive map.)

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 3, 2022 — Though the Michigan congressional lines are in litigation and filing time is still more than two months away in preparation for the state’s August 2nd primary election, Tuesday was a busy day on the Wolverine State’s US House front.

First, in the paired Republican incumbent 4th District where Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Holland) is seeking re-election and appears ready to face fellow Rep. Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph), a third candidate announced that he would not abandon his own Republican campaign despite seeing an unfavorable district draw.

State Rep. Steve Carra (R-Portage) said that he intends to remain in the new 4th Congressional District race despite potentially having to face two incumbents and not having any of his current state House District lying in the new 4th. His legislative district will now be fully contained in Rep. Tim Walberg’s (R-Tipton) new 5th CD that stretches the width of Michigan along the state’s southern border. Carra earned former President Trump’s endorsement in his pre-redistricting bid against Rep. Upton.

When queried about the difficulty of the paired nomination race for a non-incumbent such as himself, Carra said, “It doesn’t matter whether there’s one or two status quo Republicans in the race.”

For his part, Rep. Upton is not yet committing to run for a 19th term, saying he wants to further study the new district and see whether the courts disqualify the current map. A group of current and former Democratic state legislators have filed suit against the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission claiming the members violated the Voting Rights Act with their draw of the congressional and state legislative districts in Detroit and Wayne County.

The 4th District will be one of the most interesting primary campaigns in the state and possibly the nation if Huizenga and Upton ultimately face each other. With Carra coming to the race with the Trump endorsement and potentially testing just how much the ex-President’s support actually means, he becomes a wild card entry.

Another incumbent who did not fare well in the redistricting process is freshman Rep. Peter Meijer (R-Grand Rapids). His 3rd District moves from an R+9 to a D+3 seat according to the FiveThirtyEight statistical site. Dave’s Redistricting App scores the CD at 50.1 percent Democratic and 46.5 percent Republican. President Biden would have carried the new 3rd, 53-45 percent. Therefore, Rep. Meijer, along with potential primary problems because he, too, voted in favor of the Trump impeachment, has a difficult political road ahead.

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Rep. Jim Cooper to Retire;
Alabama Map Tossed

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 27, 2022 — The Tennessee state Senate passed the state House version of the new 9-District congressional map on Tuesday, which led to a political move. The redistricting plan now goes to Gov. Bill Lee (R), and he is expected to sign the legislation.

Retiring Tennessee Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Nashville)

Upon passage of the new map that would significantly change the Nashville area, veteran Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Nashville) quickly announced that he will not seek re-election later this year.

The map drawers divided Davidson County, which houses the Democratic city of Nashville, and split it among three districts: Cooper’s 5th, Rep. John Rose’s (R-Cookeville) 6th CD, and Rep. Mark Green’s (R-Clarksville) TN-7.

The effect creates a new 5th District that moves from a victory margin of 60-37 percent for President Biden to a seat that former President Trump would have carried 54-43 percent according to the Daily Kos Elections site statisticians. Both Reps. Rose and Green would continue to have solid Republican seats even with the Davidson County additions to their districts. Under the plan, the Tennessee delegation is expected to move from 7R-2D to 8R-1D.

Cooper is serving his 16th term in the House, winning his first election from the state’s east/southeastern 4th District in 1982, which he represented until he ran unsuccessfully for the US Senate in 1994. He returned to the House from the Nashville district in 2002 when then-Rep. Bob Clement (D-Nashville) left the seat to challenge then-Sen. Fred Thompson (R), the same man who defeated Cooper in his statewide bid.

During his second tour of duty in the House, Rep. Cooper was not seriously challenged for re-election. He is a member of the House Armed Services Committee where he chairs the Strategic Forces Subcommittee. He also is a member of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, and the House Budget panel. It appeared that Cooper was preparing for a Democratic primary challenge this year, but that is moot now that the new 5th District becomes decidedly Republican.

Rep. Cooper is the 29th Democrat not to seek re-election. Counting the Democratic and Republican retirements along with the new and created (through redistricting) open seats, the House will see a minimum of 50 new members coming into office at the beginning of 2023.
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Cherfilus-McCormick Easily Wins Special election in Florida’s FL-20 Congressional District

By Jim Ellis

Democrat Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick easily won Tuesday’s special election in Florida’s FL-20 Congressional District.

Jan. 13, 2022 — Democrat Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, as expected, easily defeated Republican Jason Mariner Tuesday in a district that gave President Biden a 77-22 percent majority in 2020. Cherfilus-McCormick scored a 79-20 percent victory with 55,457 people voting and will now serve the balance of the late Rep. Alcee Hastings’ (D-Delray Beach) final term.

After winning the special Democratic primary over Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness on Nov. 2 by just five votes, Rep-Elect Cherfilus-McCormick can now expect a highly competitive regular election Democratic primary challenge. Holness has already said he will oppose the new incumbent in the 2022 nomination election as he continues to pursue legal action in hopes of overturning the special primary results.

The Florida special congressional election was the nation’s eighth during this legislative session. Like the other seven, the candidate of the party originally holding the seat won the special vote. Five were Democrat seats, and three Republican. A ninth special election, that for resigned Rep. Devin Nunes’ (R) seat in California, has been scheduled for April 5 with a runoff on June 7 if none of the eventual contenders garner majority support in the first vote.

Though predictions of a coming wave Republican election appear to be rampant, the odd-year election pattern reveals no such precursor. As mentioned, 100 percent of the congressional special elections have remained true to the originating party, but that has almost also been true among special elections in state legislatures.

A total of 33 state special elections occurred in 2021. Republicans captured three Democratic seats in Connecticut, Iowa, and Texas, but Democrats turned the tables on Republicans in another three: New Hampshire, Maine, and Massachusetts. Therefore, a net conversion factor of zero resulted.

When the Democrats predicted their “blue wave” coming for the 2018 election, the commensurate election cycle saw much change in the special elections. In the 2017-18 cycle the Democrats flipped a net total of 19 seats that some believe was a prelude to the Democrats’ success in the regular ’18 election.

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Michigan’s Redistricting Complexities

One of the draft Congressional maps put forward by the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission for public review this week.

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 18, 2021 — In this redistricting cycle’s early going, one state appears to be adopting a unique map-drawing approach, and its design likely assures a long and challenging legal process to follow.

The 13-member Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission has drafted 10 maps of the congressional, state Senate, and state House maps and made them available for public testimony and comments at a series of upcoming public hearings. Within the series, four relate to the congressional boundaries with the remaining six being divided evenly between the state Senate and House.

The multiple congressional maps go in several different geographical directions and radically alter the state’s district layout to the point of even changing the entire numbering system.

It appears the basis could be in place for many lawsuits and possibly from people or organizations associated with both parties, since the final version will likely draw complaints from both Republicans and Democrats. This would be particularly true if the final map collapses a Voting Rights Act minority district as one version features.

While four draft maps were released, the congressional plan base outline seems to be in place. Remember that Michigan will lose one congressional seat, reducing the delegation size to 13 members, and we will inevitably see at least one pairing of incumbents. At this point, no sitting member has indicated that he or she will retire.

The map versions suggest several options for the Detroit metro area; for example, meaning Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit) Brenda Lawrence (D-Southfield), Andy Levin (D-Bloomfield Township), Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn), and Haley Stevens (D-Rochester Hills) could all find themselves in some type of a paired situation.

Looking at what little partisan political numbers are available, most of the maps point to the Democrats gaining a net of one seat, but some of the districts would be competitive to the degree of making the final outcome unclear.

Below is a synopsis of where each current member could land:

• District 1: Rep. Jack Bergman (R) – looks to receive a strongly Republican northern Michigan seat bordering Canada from the upper peninsula that will drop even further into the lower peninsula. Labeled District 12.

• District 2: Rep. Bill Huizenga (R) – could be in a paired situation with either Reps. Fred Upton (R) or John Moolenaar (R), as the commissioners take his current 2nd District to the southeast instead of due east or north as expected. The primary winner would get a safe Republican district. Labeled District 9, though Huizenga could run in a new District 13 in a potential pairing with Moolenaar.

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