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.