Tag Archives: gerrymandering

Gerrymandering Wars Ignited

By Jim Ellis
Aug. 27, 2021 — In the past few days, Democratic leaders and news sources in two states, New York and Illinois, are suggesting that the party redistricting strategists will attempt to maximize Democratic US House gains. Republicans will then counter in similar states that they control.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D), on her first official day in office after replacing resigned Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), bluntly answered a reporter’s question to the affirmative when asked if she would use her newfound power to maximize Democratic congressional gains through the redistricting process.

Earlier this week, news sources were reporting that Illinois Democratic map drawers, though no preliminary congressional map has yet been released, are attempting to draw a new 14D-3R map that would likely collapse Reps. Adam Kinzinger (R-Channahon) and Rodney Davis (R-Taylorville) into a strong Democratic seat for the former and pairing for the latter with another downstate Republican.

Doing this would put added national pressure on Republicans in states such as Texas, Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, and Georgia – places where the GOP has full control of the redistricting process. Here, the states are either adding seats or in position to carve a sitting Democrat into unfriendly political territory.

With New York losing one seat, the prime district for elimination would appear obvious since Rep. Tom Reed (R-Corning) has already announced his retirement and his 23rd District is the lowest in population among all New York seats. Adjacent Rep. Claudia Tenney’s (R-New Hartford) 22nd CD is second lowest, so combining those two Upstate Republican districts into one appears to be a foregone conclusion. It remains to be seen if the Democratic leaders try to do more. The current delegation breaks 19D-8R but will reduce to 26 seats in the next Congress.

Of Illinois’ current 18 congressional districts, only one, that of Rep. Danny Davis (D-Chicago), is over-populated and only by 10,986 people. While the Kinzinger seat is 61,125 individuals short of the state quota of 753,677 for the new 17-district map, his is not even close to being the most under-populated. He, however, sits between two Democratic seats that the party needs to protect, those of retiring Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Moline), whose 17th CD is 79,907 residents under quota, and Rep. Lauren Underwood’s (D-Naperville) 14th, where she had a close call in 2020 but is only 482 people short of quota.

While the 14th does not need many more people, it does need significantly more Democrats and they can be found by dividing Kinzinger’s 16th CD into pieces.

Redistricting is always full of surprises, so this analysis is merely educated speculation. If, however, the Democrats come away with gaining a net three or four seats from New York and Illinois combined, then how do the Republicans retaliate?

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The Manchin Compromise

By Jim Ellis

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (D)

June 18, 2021 — West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (D) offered a detailed compromise Wednesday to the S.1/HR-1 package that will be debated and likely voted upon in the Senate next week.

The controversial legislation would nationalize voting procedures, and Sen. Manchin has said he would not support a final package unless Republican votes could be recruited to break a filibuster. According to news sources, no Republican is currently supportive.

Sen. Manchin released what he terms is a compromise measure, (Voting Legislation For the People Act Compromise), and presumably a substitute for S.1, or “For the People Act,” as it is formally entitled. His proposal includes 26 points in addition to five sub-points.

The chances of the Democratic leadership accepting the Manchin compromise on face value are virtually nil because his measure does not include some of the key planks found in the S.1 language.

For the purposes of this column, let’s look at a few of what could be the more controversial pieces of the Manchin offering both from a political and constitutional perspective.

• Point 3 states that the measure would “ban gerrymandering and use computer models” for redistricting. Accepting this would be difficult since there is no common definition of “gerrymandering.”

Additionally, though computer models are already used in every state to draw districts, Sen. Manchin may be referring to the Iowa process in which the legislature allows the committee staff to draw maps through a specific computer model without regard to an incumbent’s residence but based solely on geographic and some demographic characteristics.

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Unending North Carolina Redistricting

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 20, 2019 — If it seems like the North Carolina redistricting process has dragged on for the entire decade, then your senses are correct, because it has. After seeing a mid-decade re-draw before the 2016 elections, another set of lines will be in place for 2020, and then another plan for the ensuing electoral decade beginning in 2022 will be enacted during the regular decennial process. North Carolina is a sure bet to gain a new congressional seat in 2020 reapportionment.

Last week, the Republican legislature produced a new map per court order that will concede two more seats to the Democrats. This plan is not final, however, as the new map still has must clear the legal process and certainly the Democrats will challenge in an attempt to get more. Republicans will counter and attempt to move the process away from the state three-judge panel which has been favorable to the Democratic arguments, and into federal court where they feel their own points may be given a more sympathetic hearing.

Racial gerrymandering was the subject of the original challenges, but when those arguments led to a new map without a net gain of Democratic seats, the plaintiffs filed political gerrymandering lawsuits. With the Supreme Court basically returning the political gerrymandering arguments back to the state courts, the Democrats, at least in North Carolina, are in much better position to get a map that better reflects their intended outcome.

With the current split being 10R-3D, which of the current members are in the deepest trouble under the new map? Though the map looks fundamentally similar to the current plan, there are sizable differences in district configuration from a political context.

The Daily Kos Elections site ran a voting analysis of the new seats, and it appears a new Tar Heel State delegation under this map would feature eight Republicans and five Democrats, or a net gain of two seats for the latter party.

The two current incumbents who would not likely return under the plan are Reps. George Holding (R-Raleigh) and Mark Walker (R-Greensboro). Their districts go from being a plus-10 Trump district for Holding to a minus-14 CD, and for Walker an original plus-15 Trump to a minus-11.

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Gerrymandering Ruling in North Carolina Could Alter Majority

North Carolina Congressional Districts

North Carolina Congressional Districts


By Jim Ellis

Sept. 3, 2018 — Last week, the same three-judge panel that previously ruled the North Carolina congressional boundaries as unconstitutional did so again, well after the lines were re-drawn in 2016 to reflect one of their previous decisions.

Predictably, the two Democratic judges ruled to overturn the legislature’s map once again, with the lone Republican dissenting. This time, the ruling concerns political gerrymandering, after the panel originally tossed the map because of what they cited as “racial gerrymandering.” The North Carolina delegation has split 10R-3D since the original 2011 map was created after the 2010 census.

The latest action, coming at a time when the US Supreme Court has only eight members because Judge Brett Kavanaugh has not yet been confirmed to replace retired Justice Anthony Kennedy, could stand if the high court fails to halt or invalidate the ruling.

If the decision remains, it becomes very unclear as to how the election would proceed. If the lines are suddenly unconstitutional, a new map would have to be set in its place. At this point, it is probable that the court would usurp the state legislature’s constitutional power and force its own map into law.

What happens to the candidates who won the May primaries, or even lost, as in the case of Rep. Bob Pittenger (R-Charlotte), remains in flux. It is likely many lawsuits would be filed, likely from candidates who won primaries but were denied the chance of running in the subsequent general election, to voters who would be disenfranchised after voting for a candidate who, after being nominated, no longer appears on the ballot because the particular voter has been arbitrarily shifted to another district, and every argument in between.

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Wisconsin Gerrymandering Ruling;
Greitens Still Lingering

By Jim Ellis

Wisconsin Congressional Districts

Wisconsin Congressional Districts

June 20, 2018 — The United States Supreme Court issued their long-awaited ruling on the Wisconsin political gerrymandering case on Monday, and it basically sends the parties back to the drawing board. At one time it was thought that Wisconsin was the vehicle for the high court to issue a definitive ruling regarding political gerrymandering, which continues to be the subject of many live redistricting lawsuits. Instead, on a rare 9-0 vote, the Supreme Court ruled that the plaintiffs did not have the necessary standing to bring the action.

The plaintiffs came from four Wisconsin Assembly districts who claimed they were personally harmed by the state legislative boundaries the legislature and governor adopted back in 2011. The court ruled that such plaintiffs did not have adequate standing to bring a statewide lawsuit.

The court did issue some orders, however, that will make later political gerrymandering suits more difficult to bring because certain technical standards must now be met in future action. As part of the plaintiffs’ standing ruling, the justices vacated the lower court ruling that ordered the state assembly districts re-drawn. It is now likely that political boundaries around the country are finally set for the 2018 election.

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