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Early House Outlook – Part I

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 20, 2021 — With the presidential Inauguration dominating political attention this week, it is a good time to set the upcoming electoral stage for the US House on a 50-state basis. Today, a first of a four-part series, will begin to look at the 13 western states. During the rest of the week, we will move eastward.


• Alaska – 1 Seat (1R)
Rep. Don Young (R-Ft. Yukon), the Dean of the House, won his 25th term in November with a 54-45 percent victory in a competitive race. With Alaska being an at-large state, reapportionment and redistricting won’t change the political situation. The big question surrounding the 87-year-old congressional veteran is when will he retire?


• Arizona – 9 Seats (5D4R)
The Arizona population growth rate makes them a cinch to gain a 10th District in reapportionment. It is also clear that the new seat will be placed in the Phoenix metropolitan area. Arizona has a redistricting commission comprised of two Democrats, two Republicans, and one Independent. The latter member becomes the chairman. The membership has not yet been chosen.

The state’s marginal nature suggests that we will see a very competitive state once all 10 seats are in place. Currently, there are two districts where the winning House member received 52 percent of the vote or less. This means GOP Rep. David Schweikert (2020 winning percentage: 52.2) and Democratic incumbent Tom O’Halleran (2020 winning percentage: 51.6) will be looking to add more Republicans and Democrats to their seats, respectively.

An open governor’s race (Republican Gov. Doug Ducey ineligible to seek a third term) and what should be a competitive re-election for Sen. Mark Kelly (D) could cause open seats in the House delegation should any of the sitting members attempt to run statewide.


• California – 53 Seats (42D11R)
For the first time in history, the Golden State appears positioned to lose a seat in their US House delegation. With migration exiting the state exceeding those incoming, it appears the California growth rate did not keep up with the specified threshold in order to keep all of their 53 seats. The Los Angeles area is likely to absorb the loss of the seat, but which member will be paired with another is an open question.

California voters adopted an initiative before the 2010 census that established a citizens’ commission to administer redistricting under strict parameters that emphasizes keeping cities and counties whole when possible and irrespective of where any particular incumbent may reside. Therefore, with the mapping power removed from the legislature, it is possible that inside Democratic politics might play a lesser role in the redistricting process.

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More on Redistricting

By Jim Ellis

Winners & losers in the redistricting tug of wars

Nov. 19, 2020 — In yesterday’s Update, we ended with the paragraph, “Considering the states that are losing and gaining seats, party control, and changing political trends, the Republicans are still likely to lose a small net number of seats in the transfer process despite holding the most redistricting power.”

This statement generated some questions about why the Republicans could lose seats in the apportionment transfer when they hold the balance of power in more states. Today, we delve deeper.

At this point, and remembering these are only estimates that could change when the actual apportionment formula produces the official number of seats that each state will possess, it appears ten seats will move from one state to others. Therefore, it is projected that Texas (3), Florida (2), Arizona, Colorado, Montana, North Carolina, and Oregon will gain districts, while Alabama, California, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and West Virginia will lose a seat apiece. We will now explore each individually:


States That Lose

• Alabama – Even though Republicans have full control and a 6R-1D delegation, the Republicans will take the loss here. The Democratic district is a Voting Rights seat, so the loss will come from the GOP column even though they hold the redistricting pen.

• California – The lopsided California delegation, even with Republicans gaining one to three seats here when the votes are all finally counted, will likely yield the Democrats losing the district. California is a commission state that operates under strict guidelines. Therefore, the mathematics suggest, in what will potentially end as a 43D-10R delegation that the transfer seat loss will come from the Democratic column.

• Illinois – Though the state delegation features only five Republicans from a group of 18 members, the Democrats control the redistricting process here and 10 years ago produced the most lopsided of partisan gerrymanders. Expect them to figure a way for the Republicans to take the one seat loss.

• Michigan – The voters adopted a new redistricting commission, but the composition parameters look to favor the Democrats. Therefore, expect the 7D-7R delegation to recede by one Republican seat.

• Minnesota – This state features the only state legislature where each party controls one legislative chamber. Though this gives the Republicans a seat at the redistricting table, the population loss in the northern part of the state, where they have two seats, will likely result in the 4D-4R delegation lessening by one Republican seat.

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The Redistricting Prelude

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 18, 2020 — The Census Bureau continues to make progress in completing the decennial population count and it appears the national apportionment report, which details how many congressional seats each state’s population earns, will be delivered to Congress in early January. Because of COVID, the apportionment process has been slightly delayed since the report typically has a year-end deadline.

Once apportionment is known, states then begin receiving their updated data necessary for drawing new congressional and state legislative districts. The states with the earliest primaries are the first to receive their data so they have adequate time to prepare their new congressional and state legislative boundaries.

In terms of apportionment, it is expected that Texas may gain approximately three seats and Florida two. The other gaining states are likely to be Arizona, Colorado, Montana, North Carolina, and Oregon. Those losing seats appear to be Alabama, California (for the first time in history), Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and West Virginia. These estimates are not always completely correct, so this list could change when the actual apportionment is applied and publicly released.

A total of 34 states will draw their new districts solely through the legislative process. The remaining multi-member states operate through a type of commission, either an independent body or one under political control. Seven states are at-large meaning their congressional race is statewide. Rhode Island joins this group in 2021 as it will lose its second seat, while Montana will likely regain the district that was lost in the 1991 reapportionment.

In the Nov. 3 election, Republicans saw a net gain in state legislative seats around the country. Only one state saw its legislative chambers flip, however, the New Hampshire House and Senate moving from Democrat to Republican. This means Republicans will control 61 legislative chambers as compared to the Democrats’ 37. The Nebraska unicameral legislature is elected on a non-partisan basis, but Republicans control that chamber as well.

Republicans will again have the advantage in the states where the legislatures and governors determine the new map boundaries. Democrats, largely under the National Democratic Redistricting Committee that former Attorney General Eric Holder leads, targeted 13 states to protect or gain legislative chambers. They failed in all, as Republicans kept their majorities in each state they previously controlled and flipped New Hampshire to their column.

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Sights on 2022: The 52 Percent Club

By Jim Ellis

Nov. 12, 2020 — The 2020 election isn’t officially even in the books yet, but we do have enough info to surmise who might be some of the most competitive early targets in the 2022 elections.

Looking at the non-incoming freshmen House members, we see 24 Democratic and four Republican districts where the incumbent recorded 52 percent of the vote and below. Such a re-election performance paints a target on these members in anticipation of the next campaign.

Redistricting, however, will be a wild card for many members and potential candidates, and some who found themselves locked in close 2020 contests could greatly benefit from a re-draw. Of the 24 Democrats in this category, 10 are located in states that are positioned to lose congressional representation, which could possibly make the affected districts even more vulnerable.

Conversely, three of these incumbents are in states projected to gain additional seats, thus likely making it easier for them to improve their political standing.

Only four veteran Republicans found themselves falling in the 52 percent or below group, and two of the four are from states that will lose congressional representation.

Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania are expected to lose seats while look to gain one apiece. Texas could add as many as three to its delegation.

Below are the affected members who would become potential early 2022 cycle political targets:


DEMOCRATS

STATE-DISTRICT WINNER PERCENT
AZ-1 Tom O’Halleran (D) 51.7
IA-3 Rep. Cindy Axne (D) 49.0
IL-14 Rep. Lauren Underwood (D) 50.4
IL-17 Rep. Cheri Bustos (D) 51.9
MI-11 Rep. Haley Stevens (D) 50.2
MI-8 Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D) 50.9
MN-2 Rep. Angie Craig (D) 48.2
NH-1 Rep. Chris Pappas (D) 51.4
NJ-7 Rep. Tom Malinowski (D) 51.5
NV-3 Rep. Susie Lee (D) 49.2
NV-4 Rep. Steven Horsford (D) 50.8
NY-19 Rep Antonio Delgado (D) 50.3
NY-4 Rep. Kathleen Rice (D) 52.0
OR-4 Rep. Peter DeFazio (D) 51.7
OR-5 Rep. Kurt Schrader (D) 52.0
PA-17 Rep. Conor Lamb (D) 51.1
PA-8 Rep. Matt Cartwright (D) 51.7
PA-7 Rep. Susan Wild (D) 51.8
TX-7 Rep. Lizzie Fletcher (D) 50.7
TX-32 Rep. Colin Allred (D) 51.9
VA-7 Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D) 51.0
VA-2 Rep. Elaine Luria (D) 51.6
WA-8 Rep. Kim Schrier (D) 51.8
WI-3 Rep. Ron Kind (D) 51.5

GOP

STATE-DISTRICT WINNER PERCENT
MN-1 Rep. Jim Hagedorn (R) 48.6
NE-2 Rep. Don Bacon (R) 50.9
OH-1 Rep. Steve Chabot (R) 51.9
MO-2 Rep. Ann Wagner (R) 52.0

Michigan Reverses Direction
On Mail-In Ballot Oversight

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 20, 2020 — The Michigan Court of Appeals on Friday reversed a lower court ruling that allowed a post-election ballot reception period that would have lasted until Nov. 17, and granted the process known as “ballot harvesting,” where another individual or individuals can deliver unspecified numbers of ballots for voters.

The three-judge high court unanimously overturned a ruling from Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Stephens who made the original directive in deciding an election lawsuit that the Michigan Alliance for Retired Americans, a union-funded organization, brought forth.

When the Michigan attorney general and secretary of state jointly decided not to appeal Judge Stephens’ ruling, the Republican controlled state House and Senate filed the motion and were granted standing. It is unclear now whether the Michigan Alliance will appeal to the state Supreme Court.

According to the Detroit News’s reporting, the original ruling contained the directive that the ballots must be postmarked by Nov. 3. That clerical distinction, however, will be difficult to enforce once we advance into the post-election counting and challenge stage.

The US Postal Service, themselves, according to their employee practices handbook, indicate that many mail pieces do not require postmarks. In most of the 21 states that are now allowing the post-election reception period, the ballots will fall into one of these categories thus making the postmark question moot, and that will invariably lead to further lawsuits and litigation. Below is the official language for the postmark directives:

“Postmarks are not required for mailings bearing a permit, meter, or precanceled stamp for postage, nor to pieces with an indicia applied by various postage evidencing systems.”

The Appellate Court ruling means, at least until if and when the state Supreme Court addresses the issue, that there will be no post-election ballot reception period in Michigan. Ballot harvesting pertaining to individuals who are not immediate family members of the person wanting to vote absentee or is not an election office clerk, will again be prohibited. Therefore, all ballots are required to be in the possession of election authorities throughout Michigan’s counties before the polls close on Election Day, Nov. 3.

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