Significant redistricting action occurred in the following nine states during the past week: Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Mississippi, New Mexico, Rhode Island and Texas.
ARIZONA (current delegation: 5R-3D; gains one seat) – Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission chair Colleen Mathis’s impeachment saga continues, but it appears to be finally ending. Gov. Jan Brewer (R) still wants to take further action in order to remove Mathis from her position, but the state Supreme Court is issuing clear signals that they will again stop the process. The high court issued a letter indicating that the “substance” of the charges and not the “format of the letter” is an inadequate basis for removing the chairwoman from office. The signal likely means that Mathis will continue to serve and that a congressional map will soon be passed into law. Expect a revised draft map that featured four Republican seats, two Democratic, and three marginal seats likely to trend toward the Democrats to be the final plan.
CONNECTICUT (current delegation: 5D) – The special panel charged with redistricting responsibility is fast approaching its Nov. 30 deadline to release maps. Gov. Dan Malloy (D), who appointed the members, said it would be a “gigantic failure” if the committee again fails to meet the imposed deadline. The target date was previously moved to the 30th from September. Concrete action will be occurring here very shortly.
FLORIDA (current delegation: 19R-6D; gains two seats) – Facing the most difficult redistricting task in the nation, the Florida state Senate unveiled the first congressional map of the legislative session. The new map would basically keep the current footprint intact while adding a new Republican district in central Florida, the 26th, that includes Lake and Citrus Counties and parts of Marion and Lake. The plan also adds a Democratic district, the 27th, anchored in Osceola County, and including parts of Orange and Polk. There are no political numbers yet released with this map, but it appears to be a 20R-7D cut. The map likely adheres to the Voting Rights Act, but largely ignores the new provisions of the redistricting initiative voters passed in 2010. Rep. Corinne Brown’s current 3rd District, featuring a craggy, meandering draw touching Jacksonville, Gainesville, and the Orlando metropolitan area – which prompted the ballot initiative to draw more compact seats – is again presented in a similar configuration. The state Senate map is simply a proposal. Expect the most difficult legal process in the country to ensue before a final map is put in place for the 2012 elections. Should such a map as proposed by the Senate actually prevail, it would be a huge boon to the Republicans.
ILLINOIS (current delegation: 11R-8D; loses one seat) – The judge hearing the Republican redistricting legal challenge has postponed the candidate filing deadline from Dec. 5 to Dec. 27. The court also allowed itself leeway to change the deadline again, saying that if the case is still unresolved by Dec. 21, the date could subsequently be moved once more. The Illinois primary is March 20.
KANSAS (current delegation: 4R) – State legislative leaders have again postponed redistricting action. They now have a target deadline of May 10 to vote on new political maps. The Kansas primary is Aug. 7.
MISSISSIPPI (current delegation: 3R-1D) – The three-judge federal panel holding Mississippi redistricting responsibilities is indicating that it may impose a new congressional map prior to the new legislature taking office. With the Republican sweep of the 2011 elections, the GOP now controls the entire redistricting process. Since the candidate filing deadline is Jan. 13, however, and the new legislature convenes Jan. 3, little time is available to pass a map. The fast judicial action would be unusual, particularly since a court-imposed map normally only has interim status. It is presumed, based upon legal precedence, that the legislative product would constitute the state’s final action.
NEW MEXICO (current delegation: 2D-1R) – Apparently both sides are close to agreeing on jointly proposing a compromise, “no-change” map to the court with redistricting responsibility. Such a plan would likely keep the lines basically as they are, once adjusted for population change. The 2nd District of Rep. Steve Pearce (R) is the most out of balance. It needs to gain just 22,437 people, however. Even if the Democrats and Republicans agree to a map, the court is not bound to accept the offering. Still, it appears the New Mexico redistricting situation is close to resolution.
RHODE ISLAND (current delegation: 2D) – The redistricting legislative panel released its new two-district plan that, if adopted, will easily keep the Ocean State’s pair of seats in Democratic hands. District 1 needs to gain only 7,263 people from District 2, so the changes from the current map are minimal.
TEXAS (current delegation: 23R-9D; gains four seats) – The newly-released Texas congressional district court plan has been vetted, and the Democrats will make gains in the Lone Star State in comparison to the now-defunct legislative plan. The original law, struck down by the courts, would likely have returned 26 Republicans and 10 Democrats. The new map will send three of the four new seats to the Democratic column, but still does not put a Hispanic seat in the Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex. It does add a new Democratic seat in Tarrant County, however, but one that probably won’t elect a Hispanic. Apparently not paying much heed to the US Supreme Court directives in the Bartlett v. Strickland case that better defined minority district drawing criteria, the three-judge panel again favored more minority coalition districts, and these generally produce victories for white Democrats. The court made major changes in the center of the state, from DFW south through Austin and into San Antonio. They basically left east and west Texas in relatively unchanged position, with the exception of Districts 8 (Rep. Kevin Brady), 14, 34, and 36, but the partisan make-up should be the same with the possible exception of Rep. Ron Paul’s (R) open 14th District.
The big winners in the plan are the 20 Republican incumbents who receive safe seats, and the Democrats who should see their nine-seat delegation rise to between 12 and 14, depending upon the 2012 election results.
GOP incumbents who will have more competitive districts are Reps. Joe Barton (R-TX-6), Michael McCaul (R-TX-10), and Quico Canseco (R-TX-23).
It is likely that the court-drawn map will be in place for the 2012 elections, since candidate filing is already underway and the congressional primary is set for Super Tuesday, March 6. The District of Columbia Court of Appeals, considering the state’s lawsuit, could issue a different map or directive, but it is unlikely that any course of action will derail the three-judge panel’s map from enactment at least for this one election. The state attorney general reportedly will ask the US Supreme Court to stay the judicial panel’s congressional map. He has already done so for the state House and Senate maps. It is unlikely that the high court will act, however. The legislature could change or replace the plan when it next convenes, as it did in 2003 and was ruled to have such authority by a US Supreme Court vote of 9-0.