March 22, 2012
Welcome to the FELN Weekly Redistricting Update. After a brief hiatus, we are back to provide updates on pending redistricting maps and lawsuits. Below you will find news updates for many key states. If you have updates to share – on federal, state and local redistricting plans – please email us at email@example.com.
-The FELN Team
· In January, the state redistricting commission approved new maps of congressional and legislative districts. The two Democratic members of the commission and the chairwoman – an Independent – approved while the two Republican opposed the maps. The maps were sent to the U.S. Department of Justice for review to ensure they comply with the Voting Rights Act.
· The state redistricting commission has nearly spent its entire $3 million budget for this fiscal year because of unanticipated legal battles over Governor Brewer’s attempt to remove commission Chair Colleen Mathis. The commission is asking the legislature for a $1.1 million supplemental appropriation to continue operations as the Justice Department is still reviewing Arizona’s new maps. The state house passed $700,000 in additional funding on Monday and the commission expects full approval of the legislature this week.
· The Colorado Supreme Court ruled in favor of the new congressional map that was selected last year by a lower court that makes many of the congressional districts more competitive between both parties. The GOP had argued that it was more important to preserve the existing congressional boundaries.
· In February, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled in favor of the new congressional map, preferred by Democrats in the General Assembly. Republican proposals would have drastically changed the congressional map.
· The Florida Supreme Court rejected the state Senate redistricting maps drawn by the chamber but upheld the state House drawn maps. The court rejected the map based on the new constitutional amendment that is intended to curtail gerrymandering. Eight Senate districts were ruled as invalid. A special session 15-day session was called to redraw Senate maps. On Saturday, a new Senate map was unveiled. The Florida Senate Reapportionment Committee approved a new map on Wednesday. A full Senate vote is expected by the end of the week. The House is expected to vote on the new map next week. It will then return to the court for review. The Florida legislature filed a lawsuit on Monday in case the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) rejects its redistricting plan in order for the maps to be resolved by the June 8 candidate filing deadline. Florida’s maps are subject to review by the DOJ under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act because of past discriminatory practices in five Florida counties.
· On February 16, Governor Rick Scott signed into law Florida’s newly redrawn congressional maps. The Florida Democratic Party and voting rights groups filed a challenge to the maps under the Fair Districts amendment that passed in 2010 that prohibits districts drawn to give partisan advantage. U.S. Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis said Friday that a hearing over Florida’s congressional redistricting maps would be heard the week of April 16.
· The Illinois League of Women Voters is taking its case against Illinois’ newly redrawn maps to the U.S. Supreme Court. They are asking the court to rule that gerrymandering violates the First Amendment. Lower courts have ruled against the League. The court has allowed the state until April 2 to respond.
· The Kansas legislature is still debating over new congressional and legislative maps. The House is scheduled to debate 18 proposed congressional redistricting maps. The House has passed new maps for state House districts and is awaiting the Senate’s approval. A Senate redistricting committee approved a redistricting map on Monday. The full Senate began debate on the new map on Wednesday. Some lawmakers expect as many as five new maps to be offered on the Senate floor. Governor Sam Brownback sent a letter to the sent on Wednesday opposing the new map and urging Senators to come up with a new map.
· Governor Martin O’Malley’s map for Maryland’s legislative districts became law earlier this month after the Maryland legislature failed to enact its own plan.
· A challenge to Maryland’s new congressional maps was dismissed by U.S. District Judge William Quarles.
· A law passed by the legislature to undo new maps for Oakland County commission seats and reduce the number of commissioners from 25 to 21 is partially unconstitutional because it only applies to Oakland County and needs 2/3s of the legislature to pass. It also ruled that the county can draw its own districts but will have to wait until the next census. The map drawn last year will be in effect. The ruling was appealed to the Michigan Supreme Court. Arguments were heard in the case on Wednesday.
· Beginning on Monday through mid-April, the new redistricting maps will be on display for the public to give input and will hopefully have a finalized map in the next few weeks.
· The Missouri redistricting commission is hearing testimony over the redistricting maps it approved in February. The commission must accept public comments for 15 days before it can give final approval.
· Earlier this month the New Hampshire Senate redistricting plan was passed by the House. It now heads to the governor for his signature.
· There appears to be a stalemate between Reps. Frank Guinta and Charlie Bass over drawing the district line between their two congressional districts. The New Hampshire legislature has unofficially given the two the decision over how the map is drawn.
· In December, the New Jersey redistricting commission selected the congressional map drawn by Republicans. The new map puts Rep. Steve Rothman in the same district as Rep. Scott Garnett.
· State District Judge James Hall ordered a new redistricting map on February 27 following a ruling by the New Mexico Supreme Court to revamp a redistricting map Judge Hall drew a month earlier. His order can be appealed to the Supreme Court again and there's a pending request by Republicans for a panel of three federal judges to take over the job of drawing new district boundaries.
· New York legislators were unable to agree on new Congressional maps so a federal three-judge panel is now overseeing the redistricting process. They appointed magistrate judge, Roanne L. Mann of Federal District Court in Brooklyn, to propose a new Congressional map. The new map was approved by the panel on Monday.
· Originally pledging to veto legislative redistricting maps that clearly give one party an edge, Governor Cuomo signed into law a new House map that favors Democrats and a Senate map that favors Republicans in exchange for legislation that would task an independent commission to come up with redistricting maps in after the 2020 census.
· Republicans in the North Carolina legislature are being criticized for the amount of money spent on outside legal expenses during the redistricting battle. More legal expenses are expected as lawsuits are brought before a three judge panel against the plan approved by the legislature. The trial may not happen until September.
· A group known as Voter First Ohio is attempting to get a constitutional amendment on the November ballot that would create the Ohio Independent Redistricting Commission to draw up new districts, starting with the 2014 election.
· In February Senior U.S. District Judge R. Barclay Surrick ruled that Pennsylvania will use 2001 drawn maps for the November election after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court rejected newly drawn maps by the legislature. The Legislative Reapportionment Committee is considering new maps. The House floor leader is urging for a vote by the commission by this Wednesday but negotiations have broken down and no vote was held.
· The U.S. Department of Justice rejected proposed redistricting plans that would reduce the number of justices of the peace and constables - and precincts - in Galveston County, Texas, saying the county has not been able to prove that its intentions are not discriminatory.
· San Antonio federal court released its interim House, Senate, and Congressional maps on Feb. 28. The maps must be approved under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Groups suing over the original maps drawn by the Texas legislature are hoping the U.S. District Court in D.C. will rule in their favor that the maps drawn do not reflect the increase in minorities over the past decade. The D.C. court could rule this month. The interim maps create two additional Latino-majority congressional districts.
· At a hearing last month over the state’s redistricting plan, the panel of three federal judges presiding over the lawsuit brought by Voces de la Frontera asked the republican lawmakers if they would consider redrawing the maps, taking into consideration the challenges brought by the lawsuit. Republican lawmakers declined. Deliberations over the lawsuit wrapped up at the end of February. The judges ruled today that lawmakers will have to redraw two of Milwaukee Assembly districts because the map dilutes Latino voting power. They upheld all other legislative and congressional districts.