Now that redistricting has been virtually completed in 37 of the 43 multi-congressional district states, the action tide has waned. However, during the past week significant action occurred in Florida, New York and Texas.
FLORIDA (current delegation: 19R-6D; gains two seats) – The Florida Supreme Court began hearing oral arguments on the congressional, state Senate and House redistricting plans. Their principal task is to determine if the maps are legally consistent with the Fair Districts initiative that voters passed in 2010. The US Justice Department will review the plans at the end of the state process in order to grant pre-clearance. The Florida legal questions are the most difficult in the nation because the Fair Districts law and the Voting Rights Act seem to conflict on certain fundamental points.
The Supreme Court must approve or disapprove the redistricting legislation by March 9. If they reject, Gov. Rick Scott (R) has five days to call the legislators into special session for purposes of reconciling the maps with the high court’s ruling. March 9 is adjournment day for the Florida legislature, hence the necessity for a special session if the legislature is required to act.
NEW YORK (current delegation: 21D-8R; loses two seats) – The newly assembled three-judge panel accepted public submission maps through last Friday. The legislature continues to move forward in the process, but has failed to even produce a draft congressional map. The new candidate filing deadline is March 24, since a federal court judge moved the New York primary to June 26 in order to comply with the federal MOVE Act. This law requires that overseas voters have a specified amount of notice prior to every election day, meaning that states with certain late September primaries, like New York, must change their schedule. Obviously, maps will have to be produced very soon in order to comply with the new electoral time frame.
TEXAS (current delegation: 23R-9D; gains four seats) – The San Antonio three-judge panel finally brought forth the congressional and legislative maps, issued a belated court order after their public release, and set the political calendar. But the process is still not quite over.
The three-judge panel ruled that the candidate filing deadline would be extended to March 9 and the state primary would be held May 29th, with the run-off election for candidates in races where no majority was achieved on July 31. The US Court of Appeals, DC Circuit, still has before it the original congressional and state legislative submission from the state of Texas. They are still expected to rule in the relatively near future. Any decision this court makes would trump the three-judge panel. It is also possible they could delay the ruling and allow the just-approved map to serve as interim lines for 2012.
Though the entire process is not completed yet, we are closer to having a map and election schedule for at least the 2012 campaign. If the San Antonio map does take effect, Republicans will clearly win the majority of Texas congressional seats, but just how large will be their margin?
Once the DC Court of Appeals takes action, the last piece of the Texas redistricting puzzle will finally be played. The odds seem strong, however, that the San Antonio panel’s draw will soon be formally installed as the map for at least the 2012 election.