Tag Archives: reapportionment

Re-Mapping Ohio

Ohio’s Congressional Districts


By Jim Ellis

July 21, 2021 — Thanks to the state of Ohio, the redistricting calendar has new life. The Buckeye State’s lawsuit against the Census Bureau and a negotiated out of court settlement led to an agreement that all 50 states will receive their redistricting census tract data on or around Aug. 15 instead of well into October or beyond.

Typically, states receive their individual data, mandatory for drawing federal congressional districts that must be drawn to a factor of plus or minus one person, during the early part of the year. The Census Bureau largely blames this year’s delays on COVID-19, though a great deal of the problem centers around the bureaucracy attempting to impose differential privacy on part of the data, meaning some of the key statistical information would not be released. The states not having full access would lead to the new districts being less statistically reliable.

Even the August data distribution agreement, however, creates a tenuous situation for the states to complete their redistricting work and still adhere to mandatory internal local deadlines. This is particularly true for the states like Ohio that are losing or gaining congressional representation.

Ohio grew at a percentage rate of just 2.3 through the decade, ranking 44th in the nation and just over a full percentage point below the national average. The 2020 census numbers add to the continuing trend for this state of failing to keep pace with national population growth. In the 1980 census, for example, Ohio held 21 congressional districts. It would lose two congressional seats in the 1990 apportionment, one more in 2000, and two more in 2010 to bring us to its current total of 16. The 2020 census reduces the delegation to 15 seats.

Currently, the Ohio US House delegation stands at a party division of 12R-4D. Since the count is so lopsided in the Republicans’ favor, it looks on paper that the GOP would be the party that loses one of its members.

Looking closely at the individual district population data, however, that may not be the case. Despite the Dems having only four seats, three of their four are among Ohio’s most under-populated CDs, while one, the 3rd District of Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Columbus), actually must shed the most population, some 34,000-plus residents according to the latest published figures (July 2019). Adding the last year of population statistics could change the situation, but at first glance the statewide and district totals suggest alterations will only be minor.
Continue reading

California’s Lost Seat

By Jim Ellis

July 7, 2021 — For the first time in history, California loses a congressional seat in reapportionment, and the public input session that was scheduled to begin yesterday continues the California Citizens Redistricting Commission’s Phase 2 process. This week, the commission members continue listening to testimony about how the districts should be drawn for the state’s congressional delegation and both houses of the Golden State’s legislature.

Sitting adjacent to each other are the following California congressional seats: CA-32 (Rep. Grace Napolitano; D-Norwalk), CA-38 (Rep. Linda Sanchez; D-Whittier), CA-40 (Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard; D-Downey), and CA-44 (Rep. Nanette Diaz-Barragan; D-San Pedro).

After California, along with the other 49 states, receives its census tract information after the Aug. 15 negotiated deadline, the five Democrats, five Republicans, and four non-affiliated CCRC members will study and organize the data until their Phase 3 line drawing process commences in September. The commission was created through a 2010 ballot proposition that removed redistricting power from the legislature and instituted a citizens panel to create the new post-census maps every 10 years. This is the body’s second redistricting cycle.

The commission timeline was crafted after the state of Ohio sued the Census Bureau to force a faster distribution of the state redistricting data. Originally, using COVID as their principal excuse, the Bureau leadership set Oct. 1 as their distribution deadline goal. In typical years, states would have received the census tract information months ago. The Ohio lawsuit was settled with the two sides agreeing on an Aug. 15 deadline that is now in effect for the whole country.

The commission members are now tasked with changing the state’s 53-member congressional delegation into a map that features only 52 seats. And now, the question of just which area will lose the district must be tackled.

Looking at the latest public district data, that through July 1, 2019, we see some patterns providing key clues. It is understood that the last year of the census is not included in these numbers, and reports suggest that the final 12 months of the 10-year cycle resulted in significant change for the state as the number of people leaving for other places substantially increased. In fact, for the first time, California actually has fewer people than it did in a preceding year.

The most significant loss appears to come in central Los Angeles County. Looking at the current 53 districts, the seat with the lowest population is Rep. Adam’s Schiff’s (D-Burbank) San Fernando Valley 28th CD. But the cluster of seats in the heart of Los Angeles suggests an area where two seats can easily be collapsed.

Continue reading

CO-3: Rep. Boebert Challenge Looming

By Jim Ellis

2nd Amendment activist, local restaurant owner and now US Rep. Loren Boebert represents Colorado’s 3rd CD.

Feb. 8, 2021 — Colorado freshman Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Silt), who first upset then-Rep. Scott Tipton in the 2020 Republican primary and later overcame more than $6 million in combined spending from her general election opponent and outside organizations, can count on seeing another tough campaign in 2022.

Already, candidates are lining up, and the most prominent one in the early going announced late last week. State Senate President Pro Tempore Kerry Donovan (D-Gunnison) released a video announcing that she will forego re-election to the state legislature in order to challenge Rep. Boebert in the next congressional campaign. Rancher Gregg Smith and former state House candidate Colin Wilhelm had previously declared their intentions to compete for the Democratic nomination.

Lauren Boebert is a Florida native who moved with her family to the Denver area when she was 12 years old. She then re-located to the Western Slope region in 2003 and, with her husband, opened their restaurant, Shooters Grill, in 2013.

Congresswoman Boebert has attracted much national attention so far with her insistence of carrying a firearm on the House floor. Such is nothing new since she has always holstered a side arm in her restaurant establishment and made defending the 2nd Amendment the cornerstone of her congressional campaign effort.

Despite being heavily outspent, Boebert carried the general election against former state representative and 2018 congressional nominee Diane Mitsch Bush (D) by a 51-45 percent margin, meaning a spread of 26,512 votes. Former President Trump, who recorded only 42 percent of the statewide vote, also carried the 3rd District in a similar 52-46 percent margin.

Continue reading

More Redistricting Delays

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 29, 2021 — The Census Bureau announced at mid-week yet another postponement in releasing the national apportionment figures, this time until April 30. Reapportionment should have been completed by Dec. 31, but the Bureau previously announced that March 6 would be the new release date due to COVID-related problems. Now, we see further delays.

Reapportionment is the process of creating a new census data algorithm in order to project the number of congressional seats each state will be awarded for the coming decade. It appears that 10-12 seats could change states, with the northeast and Midwest typically losing districts to southern and western states. This time, however, California, for the first time in history, is reversing their trend and appears headed for the losing list.

Once the apportionment numbers are known and the individual data dispersed, the states can begin the redistricting process. The Census Bureau further stated that individual states won’t be receiving their particular data necessary for redistricting until at least July 30. This will clearly set the redistricting cycle back significantly, which could cause major problems for the coming election cycle.

In the past, the Census Bureau has prioritized the states with early primaries to be first to receive their data. This meant that New Jersey and Virginia initially received their new population numbers ahead of the others because they have odd-numbered year state legislative elections. Texas and Illinois were next to receive since they traditionally schedule their regular primaries in March of the election year.

Knowing that the numbers would not be available for them in 2021, New Jersey and Virginia took preparatory action. Garden State officials placed a referendum on the November ballot asking voters for approval to postpone legislative redistricting until 2023. The measure passed.

The Old Dominion leaders decided they would run their 2021 state Delegate elections on the amended 2011 map but could conceivably call elections again for next year once they receive their updated data and can draw district boundaries. Virginia state senators do not stand for election until 2023, so it is unlikely the redistricting delay will affect those campaigns.

The data distribution and processing delay could place most legislatures in a conundrum. Most will be adjourned when the data is received, so special sessions will have to be called in most cases to complete the process prior to the 2022 candidate filing deadlines. This suggests that the states having redistricting commissions might prove to be in better position to complete the task because they won’t have to deal with legislative politics, priorities, or calendars, all of which result in a lengthy process.

Additionally, since almost every map is challenged in court, we could well see a plethora of lawsuits being filed late in the year that keep the redistricting process tied in figurative knots for months.

The states in the most difficult situations will be those gaining and losing congressional representation. Because the number of districts these particular states will have differ from their current allotments, they do not have the option of reverting to the current map once 2021 apportionment becomes final.

In the case of gainers and losers not having completed maps, we may see at-large races for the House. This would be particularly difficult for the losing states because we may see all members in the affected places having to run at-large for seats in their House delegations.

Unofficially, the gaining states appear to be Texas (3 seats), Florida (2), Arizona, Colorado, Montana, North Carolina, and Oregon. The losers may be New York (possibly 2 seats), Alabama, California, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and West Virginia. Reports suggest that the closest developing situation concerns whether Alabama loses a seat or New York drops two.

President Biden’s executive order that mandates non-citizens be counted in the census will certainly affect the final data projections and may be another reason for this latest delay.

The only certainty about 2021 reapportionment and redistricting is the many moving parts in these various states will likely produce surprising political results.

Another House Retirement

By Jim Ellis

Rep.-Luis-Gutierrez-D-ChicagoNov. 29, 2017 — Two years ago, US Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Chicago) announced that he would not seek re-election, only to eventually turn around and file for another term. On Monday, Gutierrez filed paperwork to secure a ballot spot, according to a Chicago Tribune report, but yesterday reversed course and announced for the second time that he would retire. “I’m going to leave Congress at the end of my term in 2019,” he said, “but I’m not retiring.” Once this Congress adjourns, he will have completed 13 full terms in the House.

This could be an example of Chicago machine politics at its best, however. With Gutierrez announcing that he won’t run just a week before the Dec. 4 candidate filing deadline after giving every indication he would seek re-election, it’s possible he could be setting up a designated successor. Already, Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (D) is reportedly circulating petitions to gather signatures for congressional race qualification. We can expect a great deal of political scrambling in the next day or two, since prospective candidates have little time to decide about their individual run for Congress, and then build and command enough of a political organization to meet the ballot qualification requirements.

Illinois’ 4th District is heavily Democratic (Clinton 82.1 percent; Obama ’12: 80.9 percent), so all of the political action will be settled in the March 20th party primary. The seat is 70.1 percent Hispanic, and the state’s only Hispanic majority district.

Continue reading