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October 30, 2014

Rick Hasen's preview of Alabama redistricting cases in Supreme Court

Rick Hasen writes on SCOTUSblog: The Supreme Court has long ignored Justice Felix Frankfurter's warning to stay out of the political thicket. It regularly hears challenges to redistricting cases (not to mention lots of other types of election cases), raising issues from the one-person, one-vote rule to vote dilution under the Voting Rights Act, to racial and partisan gerrymandering claims. The Court's decision to hear a part of a challenge to Alabama's state legislative redistricting plan enacted after the 2010 census (in Alabama Legislative Black Caucus v. Alabama and Alabama Democratic Conference v. Alabama, set for argument on November 12) brings all of these issues together in a seemingly technical but high-stakes case, showing the artificiality of separating issues of race and party in redistricting, featuring a bold role reversal in political parties' use of racial gerrymandering claims, and offering a surprising new threat to the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act. - Argument preview: Racial gerrymandering, partisan politics, and the future of the Voting Rights Act : SCOTUSblog

Disclosure: I am one of the counsel for ALBC.

June 29, 2014

Captive constituents

The Anniston Star reports: When Talladega City Councilman Joseph Ballow goes up for re-election, he can be sure that more than a quarter of the residents in his ward won't show up at the polls -- because they're behind bars.

One of five councilmen in this city of approximately 16,000, Ballow represents a 3,121-person ward that includes Talladega Federal Correctional Institution, a prison with 939 inmates. ...

That phenomenon has been a matter of growing concern for some prison reform advocates, who see the potential for "prison gerrymandering" -- the use of prisoners to beef up the numbers when political districts are redrawn.

"We think of one person, one vote as the rule, " said Aleks Kajstura, legal director for the Prison Policy Initiative, a nonprofit group that advocates for a new way of districting prisons. "But when you pad out the population with inmates, you're giving people in some parts of the country more political power than others." -- Captive constituents: Prison population beefs up some Alabama districts - The Anniston Star: News

June 3, 2014

U.S. Supreme Court will hear challenge to Alabama redistricting plan

AP reports: The Supreme Court said Monday it will consider a challenge from Alabama Democrats who say a Republican-drawn legislative map intentionally packs black Democrats into a few voting districts, giving them too little influence in the Legislature.

The justices agreed to hear a pair of appeals from the Alabama Legislative Black Caucus and other Democratic lawmakers who contend the new map created in 2012 illegally limits black voting strength and makes it harder to elect Democrats outside the majority-black districts.

A panel of three federal judges had ruled 2-1 last year that the new districts were not discriminatory and did not violate the Voting Rights Act or the Constitution.

The Legislature had to redraw political boundaries to reflect population shifts in the 2010 Census. Alabama Republican Attorney General Luther Strange has said the new legislative districts are consistent with federal law. -- U.S. Supreme Court to hear Alabama redistricting challenge; black Democrats argue plan designed to limit their influence | AL.com

Disclosure: I am one of the counsel for the Alabama Legislative Black Caucus.

Related stories:

  • If challenge succeeds: New map, maybe not new elections
  • Could redistricting challenge before U.S. Supreme Court affect Alabama 2014 elections? There's a precedent for a do-over

  • February 14, 2013

    Jefferson County Commission to hold hearing on redistricting plans

    AL.com reports: Jefferson County Commissioners will view two redistricting maps, and possibly a third, during a public hearing today at the County Courthouse.

    The two completed maps have drawn considerable interest because of changes that moved some precincts in Districts 1 and 2 and the possible impact those moves could have on the Jefferson County Commission election in 21 months.

    Commissioner George Bowman has said he will present a third map, but that was not available late Wednesday afternoon.

    Proposed plan 1 places the City of Midfield in District 1 and moves Legion Field and the Jefferson County Courthouse precinct to District 2. Proposed plan 2 places Midfield back in District 2 and Legion Field and Jefferson County courthouse in District 1. -- Read the whole story --> Jefferson County to hold public hearing today on voting maps | al.com

    January 20, 2013

    Midfield mayor questions motive of removing city from Brown's district

    AL.com reports: Midfield Mayor Gary Richardson, a former candidate for the Jefferson County Commission, said today that a redrawn district map appears to be an effort to keep him from running against one of the sitting commissioners.

    Under a proposed voting map being considered by the commission, Midfield moves from Sandra Little Brown's District 2 into George Bowman's District 1.

    Brown defeated Richardson in a runoff election in 2010. The next county commission election is 22 months away. ...

    Richardson said it was disingenuous to remove his city from District 2 when Brown was trying to "gain" population. -- Read the whole story --> Midfield mayor wonders whether Jefferson County commissioner views him as a threat | al.com

    January 18, 2013

    Jefferson County Commission to consider new districting plan

    AL.com reports: The Jefferson County Commission today set a Feb. 14 public hearing to consider a resolution that could determine who gets a seat on the commission when elections are held in 22 months.

    The proposed plan to alter the boundaries of commission districts has already split two members of the board.

    Commissioner Sandra Little Brown and Commissioner George Bowman are divided over which of the two will have the Legion Field box in their district. The Legion Field precinct in Smithfield is the largest in Birmingham and coveted because it's the polling place of influential clergy and elected officials. It has been moved from Bowman's district to Brown's under the proposed map.

    The new map also moves the City of Midfield from Brown's district into Bowman's. -- Read the whole story --> Proposed election map splits two on Jefferson County Commission | al.com

    January 10, 2013

    Mobile city councilor asks for DOJ objection to city's new plan

    AL.com reports: A Mobile city council member is requesting the U.S. Department of Justice investigate the city's proposed redistricting plan that outlines the council's political districts for the next 10 years.

    Councilman Fred Richardson, in letters to Attorney General Eric Holder and Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez, said he opposes the reapportionment plan that he and the rest of the City Council voted in favor for on Nov. 6.

    The first letter, dated Nov. 14 and sent to Perez, requests the federal government investigate the plan to make sure "equal representation" is provided to "all citizens" in Mobile. ...

    He cited U.S. Census figures showing that of Mobile's 195,111 residents, 45 percent are white while 50.6 percent are black. He also noted that of the council's seven elected districts, three are a majority black while four are white. -- Read the whole story --> Mobile city councilman opposing redistricting map, saying plan is unjust to blacks | al.com

    December 14, 2012

    ADC files suit against legislative redistricting

    The Gadsden Times reports: The predominantly black Alabama Democratic Conference and others filed a federal lawsuit Thursday challenging state House and Senate districts that were redrawn earlier this year by the Legislature.

    The lawsuit filed Thursday claims legislators drew the districts in a way that caps the number of areas where black candidates have a realistic chance of winning legislative seats. The lawsuit says the districts adopted by the Republican-majority legislature violate the U.S. and Alabama constitutions and the federal Voting Rights Act.

    The redistricting plans "constitute racial gerrymandering" and will result in discrimination against minority voters, the lawsuit alleges.

    House Speaker Mike Hubbard defended the plans, which have been approved by the U.S. Justice Department. He said the plans were developed after lawmakers sought input from residents across the state. -- Read the whole story --> Lawsuit challenges new Ala. legislative districts | GadsdenTimes.com

    October 27, 2012

    Jefferson County Commission working on redistricting

    AL.com reports: Jefferson County Commissioners have been quietly redrawing their district lines in a move that could determine who gets a seat on the commission when elections are held in two years. ...

    Barry Stephenson, chairman of the county's Board of Registrars, said the census figures show the population in Birmingham's Districts 1 and 2 has fallen and the population in Districts 3,4,5 has increased over the past decade. ...

    Districts One and Two, mostly Democrat and made up primarily of Birmingham, have to gain several thousands in population and the districts represented by the Republicans have to lose populations. -- Read the whole story --> Jefferson County commissioners quietly meeting to redraw district lines | al.com

    August 13, 2012

    Alabama Black Legislatative Caucus sues over legislative redistricting

    The Birmingham News reports: The Legislative Black Caucus and other black Alabama office holders filed a lawsuit in federal court this morning to try to block implementation of new legislative redistricting plan.

    The lawsuit claims that the Alabama House of Representatives and Senate redistricting plans dilute minority voting strength, violate the principle of "one person, one vote" and unnecessarily and illegally split Alabama counties among multiple legislative district.

    "The lawsuits asks the federal court to declare these two plans unconstitutional and order the Legislature to start over," said James Blacksher, a lawyer representing plaintiffs.

    The lawsuit echoes complaints during the legislative session that the Republican majority was "stacking and packing" minority districts with more and more black voters and thereby reducing black voters' influence outside of minority districts. -- Read the whole story --> Alabama Legislative Black Caucus files lawsuit over redistricting plans (video) | al.com

    Disclosure: I am one of the counsel for plaintiffs.

    May 24, 2012

    Alabama redistricting plans await governor's signature

    The Birmingham News reports: The state House of Representatives this morning passed a Republican's plan to redraw Alabama's 35 Senate districts, though some Democrats said the plan would lessen the influence of black voters in some districts.

    As announced on the House floor, the House voted 65-36 for the plan, Senate Bill 25 by Sen. Gerald Dial, R-Lineville, which the Senate approved Tuesday night on a vote of 21-12.

    The plan will become law if Gov. Robert Bentley, a Republican, signs it. A Bentley aide earlier said he probably would. -- Read the whole story --> Alabama House passes Senate redistricting plans in early morning vote | al.com

    May 19, 2012

    Redistricting in Alabama -- the story so far

    The Republicans have introduced their legislative redistricting plan. See the proposed plans.

    The plan has been tweaked a bit and passed by the relevant committees in a special session. See Committee approves House redistricting plan and Senate panel gives its OK to plan to redraw Alabama Senate districts

    In the meanwhile, the Democrats are trying to throw the switch and get the GOP train onto a siding. Their suit claims that the Legislature waited too late to begin redistricting and that only a court can enact a plan. See Redistricting plan faces lawsuit, charges of 'racial gerrymandering'

    Judge Charles Price has said, in effect, "your case is too early." See Redistricting restraining order denied | al.com

    February 8, 2012

    Decatur redistricts 5 districts, even though referendum adopted 3-district plan

    The Decatur Daily editorializes: The Decatur City Council stepped into perilous territory Monday when it approved a redistricting plan that voters rejected in a 2010 referendum.

    The council approved a five-district plan that retains a full-time mayor and five district council members. The referendum mandated a three-district plan and a switch to a council-manager form of government.

    The city fluctuates between two theories to justify ignoring the referendum.
    One, city officials say the U.S. Department of Justice basically rejected the three-district plan in a letter dated Dec. 19. Two, they argue that even if the Justice Department has not already rejected the three-district plan as violative of the Voting Rights Act, it would have eventually.

    The Dec. 19 letter came in response to the city's initial application -- submitted in accordance with the referendum -- to change to three districts, none of which had a black majority. The letter from the Justice Department included the phrase, "the information sent is insufficient to enable us to determine that the proposed changes" comply with the Voting Rights Act. -- Read the whole editorial --> City rebuffs its voters - Decaturdaily.com

    January 26, 2012

    Etowah County redistricting plan precleared

    The Gadsden Times reports: Etowah County officials were notified by the Department of Justice that the redistricting plan submitted by the commission has been precleared.

    Commissioners in September approved the resolution to alter the county's district lines and sent the plan to the Department of Justice for approval. -- Read the whole story --> Etowah County redistricting plan precleared by Department of Justice | GadsdenTimes.com

    January 22, 2012

    Legislative redistricting may be late in the session

    The Montgomery Advertiser reports: The state Legislature may not take up reapportionment until close to the end of the 2012 regular session, Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh said Friday.

    The Legislature will have to address redistricting in the next regular session, set to be­gin Feb. 7, in a special session or in the 2013 regular session in order for legislative districts to be set for the 2014 legisla­tive elections.

    Marsh, R-Anniston, said Fri­day the leadership could wait until May to bring the potenti­ally contentious issue before the Legislature. -- Read the whole story --> Legislative district changes could be late coming | The Montgomery Advertiser | montgomeryadvertiser.com

    January 7, 2012

    DOJ preclears Opelika districts

    The Opelika Auburn News reports: The United States Department of Justice has approved the redistricting plan for the Opelika City Council, according to a Justice Department official.

    The council approved the redistricting of its wards in October 2011. However, as a provision under the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Justice Department must grant Alabama and its municipalities preclearance before redistricting becomes official.

    The Opelika Planning Department was tasked with redrawing the council wards based on 2010 census data to ensure that all wards are roughly equal in population. Because of population changes from 2000 to 2010, certain wards were disproportionately represented after the 2010 census count.

    The planning department's ward redistricting brought about two changes to the current districts. -- Read the whole story --> Justice Department OKs Opelika council redistricting | oanow.com

    December 31, 2011

    DOJ preclears Madison County districts

    The Huntsville Times reports: The U.S. Justice Department has pre-cleared the Madison County Commission's redistricting plan.

    The commission in September adopted new district lines to make each commission district as equal as possible in population. The changes are required after each U.S. Census.

    The county's new district lines will be in effect for the March 13 party primary elections. -- Read the whole story and see the map --> Justice Department approves new Madison County Commission district plan | al.com

    December 29, 2011

    DOJ seeks more information on Huntsvile redistricting plan

    The Huntsville Times reports: The U.S. Justice Department is holding up approval of Huntsville's revised City Council and school board election lines.

    T. Christian Herren Jr., chief of the Justice Department's voting section, notified the city on Dec. 19 that his office needs more information to ensure that the proposed redistricting plan does not discriminate against minority voters.

    Herren asked City Attorney Peter Joffrion to submit a slew of additional data, including precinct-by-precinct vote totals from every city and county election since 2001 involving an African-American candidate, copies of all correspondence between the mayor and City Council about redistricting, and a detailed explanation of why the city's proposal will not cause a "retrogression" of minority voting strength.

    The U.S. Attorney General's office will then have 60 days to review Huntsville's plan.

    Some of the older information sought by the Justice Department "does not exist," Joffrion said Tuesday, while other data will have to be retrieved from various state agencies. -- Read the whole story --> Justice Department not ready to sign off on Huntsville redistricting plan | al.com

    December 20, 2011

    Gasden city council gets 3rd redistricting plan

    The Gadsden Times reports: The Gadsden City Council now has a third redistricting plan to consider -- this one developed by Councilman Deverick Williams with input from other council members. ...

    Williams said the latest plan follows existing district lines for the most part, but does create a third minority-majority district by making changes in Districts 1 through 5.

    He called it a "politically neutral" plan. ...

    Williams said his goal actually was to craft a third minority-majority district. Under the plan, District 1 would be 60.5 percent black and 30.2 white, District 2 would be 47.7 percent black and 45.3 percent white and District 3 would be 67 percent black and 27.8 percent white. -- Read the whole story --> Council gets third redistricting plan to consider | GadsdenTimes.com

    December 4, 2011

    Gadsden city council considering redistricting plan

    The Gadsden Times reports: Mayor Sherman Guyton said he has submitted his proposed redistricting plan to the Gadsden City Council, and it?s now up to the council to come up with a plan. ...

    Guyton's proposal stayed close to existing district lines, making about eight changes to bring the districts into numerical compliance with laws concerning sizes of districts and how much they can vary from the "ideal" population.

    Councilman Robert Avery proposed a very different plan, and Councilman Bill Stewart, whose district would change dramatically, didn't mince words about his opposition.

    "It?s unfair," Stewart said. "Our (Gadsden's) black population is about 37 percent, somewhere in that neighborhood. They should have three representatives (on the council)."

    He said a fourth black district should not be established, and that Avery drew the plan to have four predominately black districts. -- Read the whole story --> Stewart opposed to Avery's version of redistricting plan | GadsdenTimes.com

    November 21, 2011

    Alabama receives preclearance for congressional and State BOE plans

    The Department of Justice today precleared the State of Alabama's Congressional and state school board districts.

    Pre Clearance Letter for Congressional and SBOE

    November 2, 2011

    Auburn redistricts

    The Opelika-Auburn News reports: The Auburn City Council approved a redistricting plan and a request by residents along East Thach Avenue for a speed-limit reduction.

    At its regular meeting Tuesday, the council unanimously approved a redistricting plan for the city's eight wards after the body's only black member delayed the decision in October over concerns about a lack of a minority majority among voters in Ward 1.

    Councilman Arthur Dowdell said he was satisfied the plan was the best option after discussing it with the city staff ahead of the meeting.

    The proposal affects about 9,800 residents and attempts to create relatively equal populations among the wards while preserving the current majority-minority district in Ward 1. -- Read the whole story --> Auburn approves new council districts | oanow.com

    October 23, 2011

    Doing the redistrict shuffle

    The Montgomery Advertiser reports: Tens of thousands of people in this region will be in different leg­islative districts after state law­makers reshape them in 2012 in preparation for the 2014 election.

    Some Republican-leaning dis­tricts in Autauga, Elmore and Montgomery counties are very overpopulated while others, pre­dominantly those that lean Demo­cratic, need people added to them. Some of those predominantly black districts in Montgomery and in counties in the Black Belt need thousands of people to have the population of other districts in the state.

    A panel of state lawmakers just completed 21 public hearings throughout the state to hear from people about the 105 seats in the House of Representatives and the 35 state Senate seats that they plan to reshape in the 2012 legisla­tive session.

    Lawmakers must redraw dis­tricts every 10 years following the census.

    Alabama, according to the most recent census, has 4.8 million people so the ideal size for a state Senate district is 136,563 and the ideal size for a House district is 45,552 . -- Read the whole story --> Thousands of residents will be shifted during redistricting | The Montgomery Advertiser | montgomeryadvertiser.com

    October 19, 2011

    "Auburn councilman delays vote on redistricting"

    The Opelika-Auburn News reports: Citing concerns about the lack of a minority majority among voters in his ward, Auburn's only black councilman delayed a vote on a redistricting plan Tuesday.

    Ward 1 Councilman Arthur Dowdell denied unanimous consent for a vote to adopt the plan to reshape the city's council districts based on data from the 2010 U.S. Census. ...

    Dowdell said he wanted to review the plan further and was concerned that while the new Ward 1 map increased the overall minority majority to 52 percent, it did not create a minority majority among voting-age residents. Currently, the percentage of voting-age minorities in Ward 1 is approximately 40 percent. The plan would increase that population to 44 percent.

    City manager Charlie Duggan said Dowdell's plan may be too difficult to achieve. -- Read the whole story --> Auburn councilman delays vote on redistricting | oanow.com

    September 25, 2011

    Huntsville adopts redistricting plan

    The Huntsville Times reports: A divided Huntsville City Council on Thursday approved new council and school board election lines for 2012 and beyond.

    Council members Bill Kling, Will Culver and Richard Showers voted for the redistricting map drawn by the city's planning staff, but members Mark Russell and John Olshefski preferred the map submitted by Speakin' Out News columnist Jackie Reed.

    The city's plan shifts Reed's College Park neighborhood near Butler High School into Showers' District 1, complicating her quest to unseat Kling, the District 4 council representative.

    Reed proposed an alternate map that would have kept her home in Kling's district, along with about 330 other people living south of Holmes Avenue. -- Read the whole story --> New election map irks Huntsville City Council hopeful Jackie Reed | al.com

    Why not hold better redistricting hearings

    The Montgomery Advertiser reports: Since the public hearings earlier this year on re-
    drawing U.S. House and state school board seats were largely a charade, I hope the legisla­tive committee hosting them takes the new round of hear­ings seriously.

    On Oct. 3, a panel of 22 law­makers will begin holding pub­lic hearings throughout the state on proposed districts for 105 state House seats and 35 Senate seats.

    During the first round, there was little public notice or poor timing for some of the hear­ings, very few of the panel members attended the hear­ings, people were asked to make general comments about redistricting with no maps there for them to comment on, and people were told that the committee had not put together any maps yet.

    But almost immediately aft­er the hearings concluded, key lawmakers including one of the co-chairmen of the committee, Sen. Gerald Dial, pulled out maps they had been working on. Other lawmakers had been working on maps, too. And it became very clear, while aver­age interested voters did not have an opportunity to talk about those maps, that several of the members of Congress and school board members had been asked for their input. -- Read the whole story --> Redistricting process should be more open | The Montgomery Advertiser | montgomeryadvertiser.com

    September 20, 2011

    Mobile School System redistricts for 2012 election

    The Mobile Press-Register reports: The Mobile County school board today unanimously approved a plan to redraw its district lines, as it is required to do every 10 years.

    The biggest changes are in District 3, currently represented by Democrat Reginald Crenshaw. That district loses Saraland, which split from the county system in 2008. And it gains Chickasaw and areas of northwest Mobile, including Hillsdale and neighborhoods along Zeigler Boulevard. The district still includes Satsuma and Prichard.

    A map of the proposed new zones will be sent to the U.S. Justice Department for approval. If the federal government approves the zones in a process known as pre-clearance, the changes will take effect for the November 2012 election, when the school board seats for Districts 1 and 2 will be on the ballot.

    Chickasaw City Councilman Adam Bourne had raised concerns about his city, which has a heavy number of Republican voters, moving into a mostly Democratic district. Chickasaw and Satsuma city leaders are moving toward splitting from the county school district next August. -- Read the whole story --> Mobile County school board approves new districts | al.com

    September 18, 2011

    Alabama's unusual and expensive move for court preclearance of congressional redistricting

    The Birmingham News reports: The state of Alabama, which is on record opposing the continued monitoring of its elections by the U.S. Justice Department, bypassed the agency and instead sued in federal court to have its new congressional and school board district lines approved as non-discriminatory.

    Alabama's move is unusual because most state and local governments prefer the cheaper option of filing directly with the Justice Department for an administrative review rather than going to court.

    The Justice Department reports that more than 99 percent of voting changes are handled by the agency "no doubt because of the relative simplicity of the process, the significant cost savings over litigation, and the presence of specific deadlines governing the Attorney General's issuance of a determination letter." -- Read the whole article (including a quote from Ed Still) -->Alabama bypasses U.S. Justice Department in bid for approval of redistricting lines | al.com

    September 15, 2011

    Legislative redistricting hearings coming up

    The Montgomery Advertiser reports: State lawmakers redrew 15 districts during the past legisla­tive session, but now have the daunting task of redrawing dis­tricts for the 140 districts they represent.

    The legislators on a redistrict­ing committee will begin holding public hearings throughout the state Oct. 3 to allow input on the makeup of those districts.

    While there was some bicker­ing over the congressional and state school board redistricting, the debate over legislative dis­tricts will likely become more per­sonal as the legislators redraw the lines to the districts they repre­sent. -- Read the whole story and the schedule of hearings --> Hearings on legislative redistricting planned | The Montgomery Advertiser | montgomeryadvertiser.com

    September 14, 2011

    Alabama AG files suit for preclearance of legislative lines

    The AP reports:
    Attorney General Luther Strange has asked a federal court in Washington, D.C., to approve new lines for congressional districts and for the state school board rather than seeking approval from the U.S. Justice Department.

    The attorney general's office filed a complaint Friday asking a three-judge panel to approve the new political boundaries drawn earlier this year by the Alabama Legislature. -- Read the whole report --> Attorney General Strange asks court to OK redistricting plan | The Montgomery Advertiser | montgomeryadvertiser.com

    September 13, 2011

    Etowah County Commission approves redistricting

    The Gadsden Times reports: The Etowah County Commission on Monday in a called meeting approved a resolution to alter the county?s district lines. ...

    The proposed changes include moving the Tillison Bend area from District 2 to District 1 and moving portions of Alford Bend and the city of Hokes Bluff from District 1 to District 2.

    An area of Gadsden near the Goodyear plant, as well as portions of Gadsden near Paden Road to Murray Drive in East Gadsden, would be moved from District 6 to District 5. A portion of Gadsden and Glencoe near Bums Parks Road and West Air Depot Road would be moved from District 1 to District 6.

    No changes were made to Districts 3 and 4. -- Read the whole story --> Etowah County Commission OKs resolution to change district lines | GadsdenTimes.com

    Montgomery County adopts modified redistricting plan

    The Montgomery Advertiser reports: Montgomery County Commissioner Ham Wilson has found himself at the center of the redistricting debate, but he objected to being called the "sacrificial lamb" at Monday's County Commission meeting. ...

    Under the initial proposal, Districts 1, 2 and 4 had black populations of 56 percent, 79 percent and 72 percent, respectively. Currently, District 1 has a black population of about 58 percent, which means it actually was reduced under the initial proposal.

    The commissioners agreed to modify the plan, giving Districts 1, 2 and 4 black populations of 58.9 percent, 76.5 percent and 71.6 percent, respectively.

    Chairman Elton Dean and Williams both voted in favor of another plan, which Williams proposed, that would have given Districts 1, 2 and 4 black populations of 69.4 percent, 74 percent and 65 percent, respectively. Commissioners Reed Ingram and Wilson voted against this proposal.
    -- Read the whole story --> Commissioners approve revised Montgomery County redistricting plan | The Montgomery Advertiser | montgomeryadvertiser.com

    September 7, 2011

    Gadsden mayor proposes small changes in current districts

    The Gadsden Times reports: The Gadsden City Council redistricting plan proposed by Mayor Sherman Guyton makes only small changes in the existing council districts to bring their respective populations into better balance after the 2010 Census.

    Guyton on Aug. 26 presented his proposal to council members. The council has six months to either accept his plan or draft a new one. If the council does not approve a redistricting plan, then Guyton's proposal will go into effect.

    Any plan also will have to be pre-cleared by the Justice Department before it goes into effect for the 2014 city elections. ...

    Guyton said he made as few changes as possible to existing districts in drafting the new districts. -- Read the whole story --> Proposed council redistricting plan makes small changes in districts | GadsdenTimes.com

    August 30, 2011

    Lee County Commission decides not to redistrict, based on faulty understanding of +/-5%

    The Opelika-Auburn News reports: The Lee County Commission discussed using the 2010 census data to change their respective district lines, but took no action during their regular meeting Monday.

    Lee County Commission Chairman Bill English provided census data showing the current districts. An average share of 20 percent of the county?s population is needed in each one of the five districts, but the law allows a plus or minus difference of 5 percent.

    Without changing the present district map, the data shows a difference in each district from the average of 20 percent and that they all fall within the 15 to 25 percent range:

    Commission District 1 has a 19 percent share;
    Commission District 2 has a 21.5 percent share;
    Commission District 3 has a 22.9 percent share;
    Commission District 4 has a 17.8 percent share; and
    Commission District 5 has an 18.8 percent share.
    -- Read the whole story --> Lee County Commission to keep current district lines | oanow.com

    August 25, 2011

    Tuscaloosa Co Commission approves redistricting plan

    The Tuscaloosa News reports: County Commissioner Reginald Murray said he would file a formal complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice opposing the redistricting plan adopted by the Tuscaloosa County Commission on Wednesday.

    Commissioners voted 3-1 to adopt a plan presented by County Planning Director Farrington Snipes. Murray cast the lone vote against it.

    Murray declined to say why he opposed the plan. ...

    Most of the changes in the districts occurred in the areas in and near Tuscaloosa and Northport. It was necessary to add voters to Murray's District 4 and take some out of Commissioner Bobby Miller's District 3 to equalize the district populations. -- Read the whole article --> Tuscaloosa County redistricting plan approved | TuscaloosaNews.com

    August 23, 2011

    Montgomery County considering redistricting plan

    The Montgomery Advertiser reports: Montgomery County commissioners have found themselves split along racial lines on a proposed reapportionment plan, with the black commissioners unwilling to approve a plan that does not leave three of the five districts with a strong black majority.

    Under the proposed plan, Districts 1, 2 and 4 would have black populations of 56 percent, 79 percent and 72 percent, respectively. Commission Chairman Elton Dean said he believes 56 percent is too low and 79 percent is too high for districts in the Montgomery County of today. ...

    Montgomery County is now about 55 percent black, about 40 percent white and about 5 percent of other races, according to the latest U.S. Census data. ...

    Under the proposed plan, District 1 would be 56 percent black in population but its voting-age population for black residents would be 39 percent. Currently, District 1 is about 58 percent black with about 41 percent of that population over the age of 18.

    Meanwhile, the white population would be 39 percent with about 33 percent of the population of voting age. Currently, District 1 is 38 percent white and 32 percent of its population of white residents are above the age of 18. -- Read the whole story --> County officials split over districts | The Montgomery Advertiser | montgomeryadvertiser.com

    August 20, 2011

    Montgomery mayor presents redistricting plan with 5 black-majority districts

    The Montgomery Advertiser reports: Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange presented his much-anticipated reapportionment plan Friday after­noon, even as the Alabama Democratic Conference brought forth a new argument on why Tuesday's city elections should be delayed until after reapportion­ment had taken place.

    The proposed reapportionment plan calls for five majority black districts, three majority white dis­tricts and one racially complex district. Under the mayor's proposal, District 8 would become the most racially diverse district in the city with the largest groups being blacks (49.8 percent), whites (42 per­cent) and Asians (5.6 percent).

    District 9 would have the largest population of Asians -- 7.6 percent -- but it would still clearly be a majority white district with 68 percent of the popula­tion being white. ...

    This change is due to dras­tic shifts in population over the past decade, with the city of Montgomery now 56.6 percent black. Montgomery is 37.3 percent white and 2.2 percent Asian. ...

    When the districts were reapportioned in 2000, four majority black districts were drawn. At the time District 7 was drawn with a 48.1 per­cent black population. Mont­gomery's population was 50 percent black, 47.7 percent white and 2.2 percent "other" in 2000.

    This reapportionment plan has not been approved and will not be used for the Tues­day election. The City Coun­cil has six months to act on the proposal. -- Read the whole story --> Mayor reveals redistricting proposal; ADC tries to delay city elections again | The Montgomery Advertiser | montgomeryadvertiser.com

    August 10, 2011

    Autauga Co. redistricting approved without controversy

    The Montgomery Advertiser reports: The Autauga County Commission unanimously approved, with little discussion and no public input, its proposed redistricting plan Monday night.

    Only 15 people attended a public hearing on the newly drawn commission and school board districts. All but two were elected or appointed officials who helped come up with the new districts, and the other two made no comments for or against the plan..

    Most of the hearing was taken up by Myles Mayberry of Alabama State University's Center for Leadership and Public Policy, the organization that drew and plotted the new county map for the commission and school board.

    Mayberry explained the reasoning behind establishment of the new voting boundaries and the effort that was made to maintain at least one district in which minority citizens were the majority. -- Read the whole story --> Autauga redistricting plan approved | The Montgomery Advertiser | montgomeryadvertiser.com

    August 9, 2011

    Are blacks "packed" into 2 Montgomery County districts?

    The Montgomery Advertiser reports: The black population in Montgomery County is significantly higher than it was 10 years ago, with blacks now the majority, and some are questioning why the county's swing district, District 1, still remains a swing district.

    Two organizations, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Alabama Democratic Conference, are arguing that this should no longer be the case. In their own way, the two said the same thing: The ACLU believes District 1 should have "an effective black majority" while the ADC wants it to be a "safe black (majority) district."

    The ACLU believes the commission is attempting to minimize the voice of black voters by creating two districts with a high population of black voters, two others with a high population of white voters and one that might have a black majority but could possibly keep white representation.

    Joe Reed, executive directive, put it more bluntly.

    Saying that the "the day of reckoning is here," Reed accused the commissioners of "packing the blacks" into two districts when they should be more evenly distributed among districts. -- Read the whole story --> Groups concerned about swing voting district in Montgomery County | The Montgomery Advertiser | montgomeryadvertiser.com

    July 27, 2011

    Birmingham redistricting will have to move some voters

    The Birmingham News reports: Some voters could find themselves in different council and school board districts once new boundary lines are completed.

    The City Council this afternoon set a public hearing and announced four community involvement meetings on proposed new lines for the nine districts. The hearing is Aug. 23.

    Federal law requires governments to reapportion the population after the census. City ordinance gives the council responsibility of approving new district lines. Each district must have a similar population, according to Birmingham law. School board lines follow the same boundaries as council districts. -- Read the whole story --> Birmingham redistricting could shuffle some city voters into new council, school board districts | al.com

    July 26, 2011

    Colbert County redistricting delayed

    The Times Daily reports: Colbert County Commissioners will ask the Northwest Alabama Council of Local Governments tweak their redistricting plan to see if they can increase the percentage of African-Americans in District 4, the county?s largest minority district.

    NACOLG also will try to clean up an issue where Commissioner Troy Woodis' District 2 meets Commissioner Roger Creekmore's District 5.

    The commission met in a special session Monday in hopes of approving the redistricting plan.

    Instead, they sent it back to NACOLG for additional work. -- Read the whole story --> Colbert voting districts delayed | TimesDaily.com | The Times Daily | Florence, AL

    July 14, 2011

    Montgomery election not halted by suit

    The Montgomery Advertiser reports: A federal judge has denied a request to immediately halt Montgomery's election process so the City Council districts can be redrawn using the 2010 U.S. Census data, but the city is still expected to respond to the assertion that the Aug. 23 elec­tion should be delayed.

    Two plaintiffs, Gregory Graves, a resident of District 1, and Darryl Sinkfield, a resident of District 8, filed the motions and a complaint in federal court Monday. The Alabama Democratic Conference, which is championing the case, ar­gues that holding the election before reapportioning the dis­tricts leaves minority residents underrepresented and their votes diluted.

    Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange said Wednesday that the city is merely following an ordinance, Act 6-18, that guides the city's general governance. -- Read the whole story --> Judge denies first motion in lawsuit to halt Montgomery municipal election | The Montgomery Advertiser | montgomeryadvertiser.com

    July 13, 2011

    Suit filed against Montgomery's lack of redistricting

    The Montgomery Advertiser reports: A statewide political organization wants a federal judge to delay the Montgomery municipal election so city officials can redraw the Montgomery City Council districts to reflect the 2010 U.S. Census data.

    Voters are slated to elect a mayor and members of the City Council on Aug. 23. Some months after the election, the mayor and City Council will officially reapportion the districts, meaning some residents will ultimately be represented by a councilperson who they did not have the option of voting for on election day.

    The plaintiffs for the lawsuit are Gregory Graves, a resident of District 1, and Darryl Sinkfield, a resident of District 8, but the two men appear to be agents of the Alabama Democratic Conference. The mayor, the city clerk and all the City Council members are listed as defendants.

    By not redrawing the lines before the election, the ADC contends the minority votes in some council districts are diluted and the minority residents are left underrepresented. And, as ADC Chairman Joe Reed said, "the evil goes on." -- Read the whole story --> Alabama Democratic Conference wants Montgomery municipal elections delayed | The Montgomery Advertiser | montgomeryadvertiser.com

    The complaint:
    Complaint Graves v. Montgomery

    July 2, 2011

    Huntsville mayor's revised redistricting plan gets better reception in council

    The Huntsville News reports: Huntsville City Council redistricting version 2.0 is off to a smoother start than the original.

    On Thursday, Mayor Tommy Battle's modified plan for changing municipal election lines didn't generate a single negative comment from the council.

    It was a sharp contrast to a June 16 meeting that saw council members Will Culver, Mark Russell and Richard Showers object to Battle's first redistricting map.

    The latest proposal satisfies most of their concerns. -- Read the whole article --> Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, City Council 'getting much closer' on redistricting debate | al.com

    June 22, 2011

    Colbert County studying redistricting criteria

    The Times Daily reports: COLBERT COUNTY - Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to wait a couple of weeks before voting on a resolution that sets forth criteria that will be used to guide the county through the process of redrawing commission district boundaries based on the 2010 census.

    Nathan Willingham, the community planning director for the Northwest Alabama Council of Local Governments, said population changes will result in changes to the boundaries of three of the six districts.

    Willingham presented commissioners with a resolution. He said the resolution was not required to complete the redistricting process.

    According to the 2010 census, Colbert County?s population is 54,428, meaning each of the six districts should ideally have a population of 9,071, Willingham said. District populations can deviate by plus or minus 5 percent. -- Read the whole story --> Commission delays vote on redistricting | TimesDaily.com | The Times Daily | Florence, AL

    June 20, 2011

    Mobile city and county in different state school board distircts

    The Mobile Press Register reports: The city of Mobile, along with a long and narrow stretch of land to the north, will be lopped off its state school board district and transferred to another district that stretches as far as Macon County, under a plan approved by the Legislature.

    The finger-like protrusion of District 5 into District 1 ? and the carving up of Mobile County ? has generated surprise and criticism.

    Lawmakers who helped draw the lines said that they were complying with federal rules that mandate districts with a majority of black voters.

    "The rest of the state just didn?t have the minority population," said Rep. Randy Davis, a Daphne Republican and member of the Permanent Legislative Committee on Reapportionment. -- Read the whole story --> City of Mobile separated from county in Alabama school board redistricting | al.com

    June 18, 2011

    Huntsville: mayor's redistricting proposal has rough going

    The Huntsville Times reports: Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle may not have fond memories of his first redistricting attempt.

    During a public hearing Thursday, three City Council members -- Will Culver, Mark Russell and Richard Showers -- each expressed serious doubts about Battle's proposed changes to council and school board election lines.

    Culver, one of two African-Americans on the council, was upset that the mayor's plan would flip the demographics of his west Huntsville district from majority black to majority white.

    "I know we can do better," he said. -- Read the rest of the story --> Huntsville City Council not happy with mayor's redistricting plan | al.com

    June 12, 2011

    "Unprecedented" change for Tuscaloosa in redistricting

    The Tuscaloosa News reports: A good portion of Tuscaloosa County will be in a congressional district that stretches north and east, instead of south into the rural counties of the Black Belt, under a reapportionment plan passed by the Alabama Legislature earlier this month.

    Currently, Tuscaloosa County is divided between the 7th Congressional District, which includes much of the Black Belt and which remains little changed by lawmakers, and the compact 6th District, which includes the north part of Tuscaloosa County and all or most of vote-rich Jefferson and Shelby counties.

    But the portion of Tuscaloosa County that is now in the 6th District was moved into the 4th, a sprawling, 13-county district that stretches completely across the state from Lamar, Marion, Franklin and Colbert counties bordering Mississippi, to Dekalb County and part of Cherokee County on the Georgia border. It also includes Tennessee Valley counties including Marshall, Lawrence, and Colbert counties.

    Bill Stewart, professor emeritus at the University of Alabama and former head of the political science department there, said that to the best of his knowledge, including Tuscaloosa County in such a district is unprecedented. -- Read the whole article --> District changes called unprecendented | TuscaloosaNews.com

    June 8, 2011

    Alabama congressional redistricting map has "minor changes"

    The Birmingham News reports: The state's seven members of the U.S. House of Representatives appear likely to face the voters next year with new congressional districts that don't overtly threaten their re-election chances.

    The Alabama Legislature, after a bumpy process with a flurry of proposed maps, finally settled last week on a redrawn congressional map that makes mostly minor changes to the demographic makeup of the districts. ...

    While some of the boundary lines are significantly altered -- entire counties moved from one district to another, for example -- the net effect of the changes means that the six Republicans still will represent vastly white and largely rural populations, and the one Democrat still will have a district that is almost two-thirds black and even more urban than it had been. The new Census data also distinctly documents, for the first time, the Hispanic population of each district. ...

    In the Birmingham area, the 6th district seat now held by Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Vestavia Hills, will become less white and more black and Hispanic, with the loss of parts Tuscaloosa County, all of St. Clair County and the addition of most of Blount County and the eastern half of Coosa County. The 6th District goes from nearly 90 percent white after the 2000 census to about 81 percent; from almost 8 percent black to 13.5 percent; and to almost 5 percent Hispanic. During the last Census, the "other" racial category selected by residents accounted for about 1 percent in the district. -- Read the whole story (with a before & after map) --> New Alabama congressional map friendly to incumbents | al.com

    May 22, 2011

    Behind the scenes in the switch in Alabama redistricting plans

    The Times Daily reports: On the surface, the big loser was the Shoals and the big winner was Morgan County when the Legislative Reapportionment Committee recast its vote on redrawing congressional district lines last week.

    But the story behind the committee's decision Thursday to ditch a plan it tentatively approved Wednesday for a new version by Rep. Micky Hammon the next day may be more complicated.

    Jess Brown, Athens State University political scientist, and Bill Stewart, University of Alabama political science professor emeritus, said the decision to boot Rep. Gerald Allen's originally approved plan was to solidify Republican districts.

    Brown said Hammon's design also positions Republican rising star, Sen. Arthur Orr, of Decatur, in the middle of U.S. House District 5 race should he decide to seek the office. The plan also moves Decatur and Morgan County into the metro Huntsville area for future planning purposes. -- Read the whole story -->
    Redistricting plan ditched behind scenes | TimesDaily.com | The Times Daily | Florence, AL

    May 20, 2011

    Redistricting committee changes Alabama congressional plan

    The Huntsville Times reports: The Alabama Legislature's reapportionment committee Thursday approved a new plan for congressional districts that would divide the Shoals area and move Morgan County back into the 5th District.

    After getting public input, the committee dumped a plan it had approved on Wednesday and voted for a new one that would split Lauderdale and Colbert counties between Huntsville Republican Rep. Mo Brooks' 5th District and Haleyville Republican Robert Aderholt's 4th District. -- Read the whole story --> New plan for congressional districts would move Morgan back to 5th, divide Shoals | al.com

    Below is the map published by the Times:


    May 18, 2011

    Alabama congressional redistricting proposal from committee

    The Birmingham News reports: The Alabama Legislature's reapportionment committee on Wednesday approved a draft plan to redraw Alabama's seven congressional districts that would remove much of Tuscaloosa County and all of Bibb County from the current 6th District.

    Under the plan, the redrawn 6th District, currently represented by Rep. Spencer Bachus, would keep Shelby and Chilton counties and much of Jefferson County, get all of St. Clair and Coosa counties -- it now has parts of those counties -- and also pick up slices of south Blount County and southwest Talladega County.

    The plan also would add Lowndes County and northwest Montgomery County to the 7th District while removing southern Tuscaloosa County. That would keep much of west-central Alabama and a finger of southwest and central Jefferson County in the 7th District, including much of Birmingham. All of Tuscaloosa County would be moved to the 4th District, which would retain Walker, Cullman and several other counties.

    The redrawn 7th District, currently represented by Rep. Terri Sewell, would remain the state's only majority-black congressional district: 64.4 percent of its residents would be black, according to the 2010 U.S. Census. -- Read the whole story --> State panel adopts draft plans to redraw Alabama's 7 congressional, 8 Board of Education districts | al.com

    There is no map with the story -- at least in the version on al.com as I write this post. If you want to see what the new map will look like, go to the National Atlas, print yourself a map of the current Alabama districts, get out your colored pencils, and mark up the map.

    (Now, where are my colored pencils?)

    May 13, 2011

    Alabama: Joe Reed suggests a second black Congressional District

    The Birmingham News reports: A top-ranking Democrat on Thursday asked leaders of the Legislature's reapportionment committee to look into the possibility of creating a second majority-black congressional district in Alabama.

    "We need to take a look at that," Joe Reed, the state Democratic Party's vice chairman for minority affairs, said at a public hearing on how legislators should redraw Alabama's congressional and state Board of Education districts in time for next year's elections. ...

    Reed said he thinks a second majority-black district, linking Mobile and Montgomery, maybe could be drawn. "I'm not 100 percent certain that it's workable, but I think someone's got to look at it," Reed said in an interview after the hearing. ...

    But Dial and McClendon said they doubted two majority-black congressional districts could be drawn in Alabama, given the number of black residents and their dispersal across the state. The 2010 census said 26.2 percent of Alabama residents are black, almost exactly the same percentage shown by the 2000 census. -- Read the whole story --> Reed says second majority-black district might be possible for Alabama | al.com

    May 11, 2011

    Alabama: redistricting committee hears complaints

    The Birmingham News reports: Not many of the 100 or so people who showed up at the Sheraton Birmingham Hotel Tuesday for a public hearing on how legislators should redraw Alabama's congressional and state Board of Education districts made specific requests on map drawing.

    Instead, several told an attorney for the Legislature's reapportionment committee, Dorman Walker, and the two co-chairmen of the 22-member committee that the hearing should have been postponed because of the April 27 tornadoes. ...

    Others at the hearing questioned whether the reapportionment committee, with its 16 Republican and six Democratic members, could fairly redraw congressional and school board districts in time for next year's elections to reflect population changes shown by the 2010 census. -- Read the whole story --> Some say redistricting hearing poorly timed because of tornado recovery | al.com

    May 10, 2011

    Alabama: 1st day of congressional redistricting hearings

    The Huntsville Times reports: Colbert and Lauderdale counties want to stay together, and while Morgan County's business leaders want a reunion, its smaller-town mayors like where they are, a legislative committee on redistricting learned Monday night.

    In a meeting at the Von Braun Center that only featured public comments about redrawing Alabama's congressional map this year, most of the discussion focused on how it will affect Morgan County and the Muscle Shoals area.

    Morgan County is divided by two congressional districts, with most of Decatur and all of Hartselle in the 5th District of U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks and the remainder of its population is in U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt's 4th District.

    It was the first of six public hearings to be held by the Permanent Legislative Committee on Reapportionment in the next nine days. The committee wants to present a redrawn congressional map to the Alabama Legislature for consideration on May 24. The new map is supposed to be in effect for the 2012 congressional elections. -- Read the whole story --> Committee redrawing congressional map hears Shoals wants to stay together, Morgan County chamber wants 5th District | al.com

    May 7, 2011

    Alabama Legislature to hold redistricting hearings next week

    The Birmingham News reports: The Legislature's re­apportionment committee has adjusted its schedule of public hearings in which peo­ple will be able to say how they think new district lines should be drawn for Ala­bama's seven congressional districts and eight state Board of Education districts. -- Read the whole story --> Legislature adjusts schedule of public hearings on redistricting | al.com

    February 18, 2011

    Alabama: Census numbers due next week

    The Gadsden Times reports: The U.S. Census Bureau on Thursday said it will release Alabama?s 2010 population numbers next week, kicking off the legislative process to redraw federal and state election districts.

    Redistricting is one of the most political of events for lawmakers.

    With Republicans solidly in control of the House, Senate and governor?s office, the GOP has the opportunity to really shaft Democrats by shifting voters around to the party?s advantage.

    House Minority Leader Craig Ford, D-Gadsden, said he hopes that won?t be the case.

    "If you look at the statewide election, 40 percent of the state is still Democrat and 60 percent is Republican," Ford said. "I believe Speaker Hubbard will keep his word and not be vindictive, and I believe President Marsh won?t, and we'll go to 1 percent deviation."
    -- Read the whole story --> Census information release will begin reapportionment | GadsdenTimes.com

    February 7, 2011

    "Drawing Democracy Fairly"

    In commemoration of the 46th Anniversary of "Bloody Sunday" and the enactment of the Voting Rights Act, please join us in Selma on Saturday, March 5th from 9:30-11:00 for an important panel, "Drawing Democracy Fairly: Minority Voting Rights On the Eve of Redistricting."

    Featuring civil rights legal guardian, John Doar, Former Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights from 1965-1967, this lively discussion will focus on what's at stake for African Americans and other communities of color in the next round of redistricting and the continuing need for the protections of the Voting Rights Act.

    An informational flyer about the panel is attached. The event is free and open to the public.

    September 26, 2010

    "How to Tilt and Election through Redistricting"

    The New York Times reports: It was a gerrymander too ambitious for its own good.

    When Pennsylvania lost two seats in Congress to the booming Sun Belt in 2000, the Republicans who controlled state government redrew the map of Congressional districts to pack Republican voters into as many districts as possible.

    At first, the strategy worked. In the next election, the state?s delegation shifted to 12 Republicans and 7 Democrats, from 11 Republicans and 10 Democrats. Furious Democrats challenged the new map but the Supreme Court upheld it.

    Instead of drawing, say, 11 Republican districts with comfortable margins of Republican voters, party strategists had tried to draw 12 or 13 Republican districts, but with slimmer margins. As it turned out, those margins were a bit too narrow, and, by 2006, Democrats had won those districts. The state now has 12 Democratic and just 7 Republican districts, the reverse of what the Republican gerrymander originally accomplished. "They took a risk, and it backfired," said Edward G. Rendell, Pennsylvania's Democratic governor. -- Read the whole article --> How to Tilt an Election Through Redistricting - NYTimes.com

    May 2, 2010

    Alabama: 2010 election will affect redistricting

    The Montgomery Advertiser reports: People elect legislators to serve in Montgomery and those lawmakers determine the policy and direction of the state for four years.

    But every 10 years, the state lawmakers elected to the House and Senate redraw lines for congressional districts and legislative districts, often drawing them to favor incumbents or to help elect a member of their party to that seat in the next election. ...

    A longtime Alabama political observer and top political party officials said redistricting makes the November election even more important.

    The legislators who win will address a possibly dire budget situation, bingo, education and other issues, but they will also have input into which district residents throughout Alabama will be voting in for the next decade. Read the whole story --> Redistricting adds layer of importance to Nov. elections | montgomeryadvertiser.com | Montgomery Advertiser

    October 9, 2009

    Marshall Turner: RIP

    Tim Storey writes at The Thicket: It is with deep sorrow that I report the passing of one of NCSL's great friends. Marshall Turner died yesterday in a Maryland hospital only a few short years after retiring from the U.S. Census Bureau. While at the Census Bureau, Marshall worked hand-in-hand with NCSL for nearly 30 years. He was instrumental in the development of the Bureau's redistricting data office and the implementation of the PL 94-171 law that governs census redistricting data. During his time at the Bureau, Marshall probably attended hundreds of NCSL meetings and conferences and was a constant source of information and wisdom. He must have given the "census 101" talk at least 50 times, yet he always cheerfully agreed to do it when called upon. Marshall was a leading authority on redistricting in the United States and was always available to legislators and legislative staff who had questions about the census or redistricting. And he never failed to look out for the interests of legislatures within the Bureau. -- Read Tim's whole post --> The Thicket at State Legislatures: NCSL loses a Friend

    I first met Marshall when I was going to NCSL meetings on redistricting. I came away from hearing him thinking that the Census Bureau was one of the friendliest federal agencies. We once had a long talk as we sat waiting for our delayed plane in an airport somewhere. We talked about work, our families, how we got into what we were doing, and so on. He was a great guy to sit and talk to.

    My condolences to his family and friends. But I am sure Marshall is already organizing the Great Census in the Sky.

    April 6, 2009

    Open Redistricting Project

    Travis Crum writes on Balkinization: The OpenRedistricting Project has two separate, but interdependent, components. The development of user-friendly, free redistricting software is a necessary step for bringing ordinary citizens into the process. Once that is completed, a social networking site dedicated to monitoring the 2010 redistricting cycle should be created. With these new platforms, the netroots will have a seat at the redistricting table.

    Redistricting software, which currently costs several thousand dollars, is prohibitively expensive for average citizens, leaving decision-making in the hands of political professionals. Admittedly, some people are already working to solve this problem (see here and here). But these programs seek mathematical solutions for partisan gerrymandering. While this goal may be well-intentioned, it limits citizen involvement.

    An ideal open source program would allow users to manipulate district lines using pre-programmed census data, demonstrating how simple shifts in boundaries can have profound impacts on a district's racial or partisan composition. Similar to for-profit programs, the open source software would use GIS technology, such as Google Earth, to display and compare proposals. For example, one could watch the South's transition from rotten boroughs in the 1960s to majority-minority districts in the 1980s and 1990s to coalition districts today. The program would permit users to experiment with their own preferences, as well as offer guidance in following redistricting requirements. Indeed, the Redistricting Game provides a useful -- albeit imaginary -- model. -- The OpenRedistricting Project -- Balkinization

    March 25, 2009

    Alabama: DOJ objects again to Calera redistricting

    The Birmingham News reports: U.S. Department of Justice officials said Tuesday that they will not accept Calera's 2008 redistricting plan, which means the municipal elections were no good. ...

    "Having reviewed these materials, I remain unable to conclude that the city of Calera has carried its burden of showing that the submitted changes have neither a discriminatory purpose nor a discriminatory effect," Loretta King, acting assistant attorney general, said in a letter Tuesday to the city's attorney, Frank "Butch" Ellis.

    City leaders learned the day before the Aug. 26 election that the Justice Department would not approve the new districts, which city officials said were created to correct population imbalances stemming from the fast growth the city has experienced in recent years. Ellis said city officials did not have the authority to call off that election or the Oct. 7 runoffs.

    During the August election, Ernest Montgomery, the black incumbent from District 2, lost his bid for re-election by two votes to Eric Snyder, who is white.

    Although city leaders have said that African-Americans have become a smaller percentage of the city's population over the years, voter registration and school data show otherwise, according to the letter sent Tuesday. -- U.S. Justice Department voids Calera, Alabama's redistricting plan, which throws out 2008 city elections - al.com

    March 9, 2009

    North Carolina: Scotus decides Bartlett v. Strickland

    The Supreme Court has decided Bartlett v. Strickland, No. 07-689. The Justices divided 3-2-4.

    The Three (Kennedy, C.J. Roberts, and Alito) "concluded that §2 does not require state officials to draw election-district lines to allow a racial minority that would make up less than 50 percent of the voting-age population in the redrawn district to join with crossover voters to elect the minority’s candidate of choice. ... This holding does not consider the permissibility of crossover districts as a matter of legislative choice or discretion. Section 2 allows States to choose their own method of complying with the Voting Rights Act, which may include drawing crossover districts. See Georgia v. Ashcroft, 539 U. S. 461, 480–482. Moreover, the holding shouldnot be interpreted to entrench majority-minority districts by statutory command, for that, too, could pose constitutional concerns. See, e.g., Miller v. Johnson, 515 U. S. 900. Such districts are only re-quired if all three Gingles factors are met and if §2 applies based onthe totality of the circumstances."

    The Two (Thomas and Scalia) said "the text of §2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 does notauthorize any vote dilution claim, regardless of the size of the minor-ity population in a given district."

    The Four (Souter, Stevens, Ginsburg, and Breyer) filed one dissent in which all joined and Justices Ginsburg and Breyer filed additional dissents. Justice Souter's opinion stated, "I would hold that ... a district may be a minority-opportunity district so long as a cohesive minority population is large enough to elect its chosen candidate when combined with a reliable number of crossover voters from an otherwise polarized majority."

    Justice Ginsburg said, "Today’s decision returns the ball to Congress’ court. The Legislature has just cause to clarify beyond debate the appropriate reading of §2." [Can the introduction of a Voting Rights Act of 2009 be far?]

    Justice Breyer's opinion asks, "Why not use a numerical gateway rule that looks more directly at the relevant question: Is the minority bloc large enough, is it cohesive enough, is the necessary majority crossover vote small enough, so that the minority (tending to vote cohesively) can likely vote its preferred candidate (rather than a consensus candidate) into office?" and proposes a a new test: "Suppose we pick a numeri-cal ratio that requires the minority voting age population to be twice as large as the percentage of majority crossovervotes needed to elect the minority’s preferred candidate.We would calculate the latter (the percentage of majoritycrossover votes the minority voters need) to take accountof both the percentage of minority voting age population in the district and the cohesiveness with which they vote."

    January 28, 2009

    Population shifts will add congressional seats to red states

    The Hill reports: As Republicans brace for a 2010 election cycle that begins their long road back to the majority, they do have one major weapon in their arsenal — redistricting. ...

    The 2010 census could add multiple House seats to red-leaning states — as many as four districts to Texas and two each to Arizona and Florida. And it could subtract seats from blue-trending states like Michigan, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

    Most of the states slated to gain seats in reapportionment next cycle feature Republican-controlled state legislatures and governor’s mansions — the powerhouses that decide how to allocate congressional districts.

    States expecting to lose seats are more of a mixed bag, with most facing split control in those branches of government, which generally results in compromise.

    Gerald Hebert, executive director of the Campaign Legal Center, said there will be a premium on total control of the redistricting process this time, since after the last round the Supreme Court showed reluctance to rein in extreme cases of gerrymandering. -- Redistricting is a hidden weapon for gloomy GOP

    January 9, 2009

    R.I.P.: Charles Morgan Jr.

    The Washington Post reports: Charles "Chuck" Morgan Jr., 78, a civil rights lawyer who challenged the racist society of his native South and won numerous landmark cases for equal rights before the U.S. Supreme Court, died Jan. 8 at his home in Destin, Fla. He had Alzheimer's disease.

    In a career full of significant cases, Mr. Morgan's most important might have been the "one-man, one-vote" ruling he won in 1964 from the Supreme Court. The case, Reynolds v. Sims, forced the Alabama legislature to create districts that were equal in population, giving black voters a better chance to elect candidates.

    He also forced Alabama to integrate its prisons, successfully challenged the Southern practice of barring women and blacks from jury duty, and represented Julian Bond when the Georgia General Assembly tried to prevent the newly elected legislator from taking his seat after he spoke out against the Vietnam War.

    "He was one of the most important people" in civil rights litigation, said Bond, now the chairman of the NAACP's national board. "He did in the South through the courts what Martin Luther King did in the streets."

    The Reynolds case "ended gerrymandering," said Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center. "It was one of the seminal cases in the march for voting rights in this country and was the death knell for voting discrimination in the South. Chuck's work in voting rights cases and jury discrimination cases changed the landscape of the South completely." -- Charles Morgan Jr.; Lawyer Championed Civil, Voting Rights - washingtonpost.com

    December 22, 2008

    Alabama: proposed Mobile redistricting messing up one candidate's plans

    The Mobile Press-Register reports: A proposed redistricting plan for the Mobile City Council would knock at least one potential contender out of next year's election before it even begins.

    The would-be candidate said he believes dirty politics are at play, but city officials said it was just a coincidence.

    Mobile Fire-Rescue Department Capt. Bryan Lee said he told Council President Reggie Copeland more than a year ago that he planned to run for Copeland's District 5 seat in the 2009 municipal elections.

    But the proposed redistricting plan, which the council could approve Tuesday, would move Lee's home from District 5 to District 6. Lee said he will not run in District 6 because Connie Hudson, who represents that area, has been a strong supporter of the fire department and retired firefighters. -- Redistrict plan threatens candidacy - al.com

    October 28, 2008

    California: initiative would shift to redistricting commission

    The New York Times reports: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has spent more than $2 million from his campaign coffers to support a ballot proposition that could profoundly alter the composition, and perhaps the governing style, of the California Legislature. ...

    Under the proposal, the responsibility for drawing the new boundaries for legislative districts — in both the Senate and the Assembly — would shift from the Legislature to a new 14-member commission comprising five Democrats, five Republicans and four independent or minor-party voters who would draw new maps every 10 years, corresponding with the census cycle.

    California’s legislative districts, which resemble little oil spills when viewed on a map, are heavily gerrymandered. Not one of the 120 seats changed party hands in the last two elections, held two and four years ago.

    The initiative, which was largely written by Common Cause and the AARP, is supported by Mr. Schwarzenegger, various former state officials and the League of Women Voters. -- Plan on California Ballot for New Districting Panel - NYTimes.com

    July 30, 2008

    New group formed -- Americans for Redistricting Reform

    From a press release: Today, Americans for Redistricting Reform (ARR), a national nonpartisan umbrella organization committed to raising public awareness of redistricting abuses and promoting solutions that benefit voters and strengthen our democracy, announced its formation and launched a new website: www.americansforredistrictingreform.org.

    ARR is comprised of groups from across the political spectrum that recognize the critical need to reform our nation’s redistricting process. Advisory Committee member organizations in ARR include: Brennan Center for Justice, Campaign Legal Center, Committee for Economic Development, Common Cause, Council for Excellence in Government, Fair Vote, League of Women Voters, Reform Institute, Republican Main Street Partnership, and U.S. PIRG. A number of civil rights groups are also involved in this project and have offered helpful advice and information on redistricting reform.

    In conjunction with the web launch, numerous advisory committee member organizations sent a letter today to the House urging House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader John Boehner to hold hearings on pending redistricting reform legislation introduced in the first year of the 110th Congress (the full letter is below).

    The letter asks House Leadership to take action on reforming the redistricting process before the post-2010 census round of redistricting gets underway. The letter notes that redistricting reform will bring about more transparency and an expanded role in the process for our citizens, and will help ensure that competitiveness, accountability and fair representation remain healthy parts of our democratic process.

    July 17, 2008

    Alabama: Foley will not allow annexed residents to vote in city council election

    The Mobile Press-Register reports: This south Baldwin city will advance to the Aug. 26 municipal election using districts drawn in 2004, according to a vote by elected leaders this week.

    That means more than 1,000 residents who live within 74 areas that have been annexed into Foley since 2004 won't be able to vote in City Council races as the five council districts' borders were established before the properties were part of the city.

    Residents in those areas will, however, be able to vote in the mayoral race between incumbent John Konair and challenger James Wood.

    The City Council voted unanimously to move forward with that plan after Koniar told officials at a special 5:30 p.m. Tuesday meeting that as of that afternoon, the U.S. Department of Justice hadn't approved the proposed 2008 map. That left city leaders no choice but to use the already approved 2004 map, Konair said. -- Districts from 2004 to be used for voting- al.com

    June 24, 2008

    Florida: AG criticizes redistricting initiative

    Legal Newsline reports: Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum has voiced concern over a proposed constitutional amendment that would change how lawmakers draw legislative boundaries.

    In a letter to the state Supreme Court, the Republican attorney general said Friday that a proposed ballot summary fails to adequately explain the proposal would require that congressional districts be comprised of contiguous territory.

    That, he said, would outlaw the multi-member districts that are currently allowed. ...

    The ballot initiative is being pushed by FairDistrictsFlorida.org, which is co-chaired by former Democratic Gov. Bob Graham and former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno.

    The group is essentially seeking to place on the 2010 ballot a constitutional ban against gerrymandering, where legislative boundaries are drawn to give political advantage to one party over another. -- LegalNewsline | McCollum criticizes redistricting proposal

    June 23, 2008

    Pennsylvania: redistricting reform on the slow track

    PolitickerPA.com reports: One reliable source in the state house has confirmed any redistricting reform is unlikely to happen this year, and if it were to happen at all, next year would be the most likely scenario. The problem is, any redistrict reform that involved moving the decision from the legislature to an independent board requires a constitutional amendment. For the matter to be put on the ballot for the public to approve, the same bill must be passed by two consecutive sessions. That means for there to be a change before the next redistricting occurs; a bill must be passed this summer. -- Redistricting reform most likely to happen next year, if at all | PolitickerPA

    June 21, 2008

    Alabama: DOJ asks for more information on redistricting, city ponders how to hold elections without preclearance

    Baldwin County Now.com reports: A letter from the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division concerning Foley’s recently submitted redistricting plan has raised questions for now about the upcoming municipal election slated for Aug. 26.

    Indeed, who would run the city should a mayor and council be prevented by the Justice Department from taking office is one of the points now being researched, according to City Administrator Perry Wilbourne.

    Wilbourne, in comments made Thursday, said the city received a four-page, 11-point letter from the Justice Department on Monday afternoon, June 16, a letter he saw for the first time on Tuesday.

    “Each will require a response from us,” said Wilbourne of the 11 points.

    “This is where they’re questioning the (redistricting) plan, they’re then asking us to explain more of the methodolgies.” -- Municipal election up in air over redistricting - Baldwin County NOW - A Gulf Coast Information Source for South Alabama

    June 19, 2008

    Alabama makes the "Dirty Dozen" for gerrymandering

    George Skelton writes in the Los Angeles Times: Here's an indication of how rotten Democratic-led gerrymandering is in California:

    A national Democratic organization is branding us one of a "Dirty Dozen" states that has rigged elections and significantly suppressed voter participation. ...

    Nationally, almost 11 million votes were suppressed by gerrymandering, Dunkelman asserts. Of these, 9 million were in the "Dirty Dozen" states. Besides California, they're Alabama, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia. -- California is branded among a 'Dirty Dozen' on gerrymandering - Los Angeles Times

    Hat-tip to Rick Hasen for the link.

    June 2, 2008

    Texas: suit filed against at-large voting in Irving school district

    The Dallas Morning News reports: An unsuccessful school board candidate filed a federal lawsuit today alleging that the Irving school district’s system of at-large elections for trustees violates the law by denying representation to the school district’s Hispanic citizens.

    Manuel Benavidez, who twice ran unsuccessfully for a place on the Irving school board, is the named plaintiff in the lawsuit, which was filed by attorneys for the Dallas firm Bickel & Brewer. The named defendants are Irving ISD and its seven elected trustees. -- Voting lawsuit filed today against Irving school district | Denton Record-Chronicle | News for Denton County, Texas | Latest News

    Note: the case is not on Pacer yet. If anyone has the complaint, please email it to me for posting.

    May 27, 2008

    Arizona: Democrats appeal redistricting decision

    AP reports: Democrats challenging Arizona s legislative districts are appealing a court ruling that leaves the map in place and sets a high legal bar for challengers to clear.

    Lawyers for the challengers are asking the Arizona Supreme Court to review a state Court of Appeals decision overturning a trial judge s ruling and upholding the map drawn by a commission.

    The petition filed Thursday said the Supreme Court should hear the appeal because there are major conflicts between prior Court of Appeals rulings on how redistricting must be done by a state commission and that errors need to be corrected "once and for all" before redistricting begins again in 2010. ...

    The conflicts concern whether the commission must favor creating competitive districts or merely consider creating them, when it must do so in its process and whether it has powers and privileges of a legislative or an administrative body, the petition stated. -- State Democrats appeal legislative redistricting ruling

    May 12, 2008

    It's homogenization, not gerrymandering

    The New York Times reports: The buzz these days is that American politics may be entering a “postpartisan” era, as a new generation finds the old ideological quarrels among baby boomers to be increasingly irrelevant. In reality, matters are not so simple. Far from being postpartisan, today’s young adults are significantly more likely to identify as Democrats than were their predecessors. Along with colleagues at the Brookings and Hoover institutions, we recently completed a comprehensive study of the nation’s polarization. Our research concludes not only that the ideological differences between the political parties are growing but also that they have become embedded in American society itself. ...

    But polarization has proceeded even further than these shifts made necessary. The great majority of voters now fuse their party identification, ideology and decisions in the voting booth. The share of Democrats who could be called conservative has shrunk, and so has the share of liberal Republicans. The American National Election Studies asks voters a series of issues-based questions and then arrays respondents along a 15-point scale from -7 (the most liberal) to +7 (the most conservative). These data indicate that 41 percent of the voters in 1984 were located at or near the midpoint of the ideological spectrum, compared with only 28 percent in 2004. Meanwhile, the percentage of voters clustering toward the left and right tails of the spectrum rose from 10 to 23 percent. ...

    Our study shows that this geographical sorting worsens polarization in several ways. When counties become more homogeneous, it becomes harder to use redistricting to create more competitive Congressional districts. (Recent research indicates that gerrymandering accounts for, at the very most, one-third of noncompetitive districts in the House of Representatives.) When states become more homogeneous, presidential campaigns begin by conceding a large number of contests to the opposition, disheartening their supporters in those states and increasing the majority’s electoral advantage. Polarization feeds on itself. -- Vote Like Thy Neighbor

    April 11, 2008

    Arizona: appeals court upholds legislative districting plan

    The Arizona Republic reports: The boundaries of the state s legislative districts for this fall s elections will remain the same as they have been for the past three years.

    That s the immediate impact of a state Court of Appeals ruling handed down Thursday in a redistricting dispute.

    And it could spell the end of the seven-year legal battle, since any continued fight would only affect legislative elections in 2010. After that, a new census is taken and new lines are drawn.

    The court rejected an appeal from a coalition of Latinos and Democrats who claimed the map outlining Arizona s 30 legislative districts was drawn without consideration of the districts competitiveness. -- State s legislative-district boundaries to remain same

    The court's opinion is on its website, Arizona Minority Coalition v. Arizona IRC, CA-CV 07-0301.

    April 10, 2008

    Mississippi: blacks' suit wants students excluded from Hattiesburg district numbers

    The Hattiesburg American reports: A decision on whether Hattiesburg s City Council wards should be redrawn now rests with U.S. District Judge Keith Starrett.

    The trial of a 2006 lawsuit against the city ended Wednesday with the city s attorneys not calling any witnesses.

    Starrett did not provide a date for a decision but gave attorneys for both sides 30 days to submit written arguments. The plaintiffs attorney is Ellis Turnage; representing the city is Jerry Mills. ...

    The group of black residents who filed the lawsuit want Starrett to eliminate college students from the mix and redistrict the city in accordance with 2006 data that suggest blacks would comprise at least 55 percent of the total voting age population when transient students are excluded.

    The lawsuit says the City Council unfairly included more than 3,000 transient University of Southern Mississippi students in the equation used to draw Hattiesburg s 2002 redistricting plan.

    They argue that including the students in the city s voting age population dilutes the strength of black voters. -- Hattiesburg American - www.hattiesburgamerican.com - Hattiesburg, Miss.

    The complaint can be downloaded here.

    March 7, 2008

    Independent redistricting initiative getting GOP dollars

    Inside Bay Area reports: In a display of bipartisan unity, Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and former Controller Steve Westly, a Democrat, went from table to table at a local restaurant this week, beseeching diners to sign a petition supporting a new redistricting initiative.

    But where it counts — in campaign contributions — there is a more partisan tinge to the ballot drive than the image promoted by backers. Republicans, who would love to cut into the Democratic stranglehold on the Legislature, have been far more enthusiastic donors than Democrats.

    Nearly all of the $542,500 raised so far by California Voters First has come from donors who typically give to Republican candidates and GOP causes, according to campaign finance reports.

    "If they don't fix that, they're in trouble," said Barbara O'Connor, director of the Institute for the Study of Politics and the Media at Sacramento State University who has served on the Voices of Reform board advocating redistricting reform. "If Democrats don't start contributing, people will say, 'Who's this helping and whose ox is being gored?'" -- Push to redistrict remains partisan - Inside Bay Area

    February 13, 2008

    Scotland: it's redistricting time

    The Herald reports: THE first proposals for constituency boundary changes since devolution sent MSPs scurrying to their back offices with advisers yesterday. Who might lose? Who might gain? Which comrades might be rivals for a combined seat? ...

    The secretary of the Boundary Commission for Scotland was much more sanguine. "MSPs' careers are really not my bag," explained Dr Hugh Buchanan, the calmest voice on the whole issue yesterday.

    The reason for Dr Buchanan's calm at the centre of the storm of speculation is that the commission works to statute and the statute is pretty tight.


    They work out what the average seat size should be, they try to fit these into local authority boundaries, then they deal with knock-ons from that until they have an overall plan they are prepared to put before the public. -- How The Flight To Suburbia Has Redrawn Scottish Political Map (from The Herald )

    South Dakota: DOJ objects to Charles Mix county plan

    The Rapid City Journal reports: The U.S. Justice Department has blocked Charles Mix County from putting in place a voter-passed redistricting plan that would have increased the commission from three to five members.

    A letter from the Justice Department said the blocked plan likely would have allowed Native Americans to elect one commissioner out of five instead of one out of three.

    The county failed to show that the redistricting plan, approved by voters in 2006, did not have a discriminatory purpose as defined in the federal Voting Rights Act.

    The county has not demonstrated that the change would not have hurt voting rights based on race, according to the letter written by acting assistant attorney general Race Chung Becker. -- Justice Department blocks Charles Mix redistricting plan » RapidCityJournal.com

    The ACLU's press release (including a copy of the DOJ objection letter) is here.

    January 30, 2008

    Virginia: bill to create independent redistricting commission approved in Senate committee

    The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports: Boosted by support from Democratic Gov. Timothy M. Kaine and Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, a bill to create an independent redistricting commission sailed through a Senate committee yesterday.

    Currently, the parties that control the state Senate and the House of Delegates after a 10-year census get to draw district lines.

    Supporters said a change in the redistricting method would increase competition seats, decrease partisan polarization and make government more accountable to the voters.

    Senate Bill 38, endorsed by the Privileges and Elections Committee, however, would leave a big loophole, giving the General Assembly the final say over the boundaries of congressional and legislative districts.

    Still, its outlook remains dim in the Republican-controlled House of Delegates, where leaders dismissed its chances. -- Redistricting bill advances - News - inRich.com

    January 25, 2008

    North Carolina: federal court hears GOP arguments to stop legislative primaries

    AP reports: Elections must be delayed in North Carolina because boundaries for dozens of state House and Senate voting districts are unconstitutional, a lawyer representing a group of Republican voters told federal judges Friday.

    The voters' lawsuit accuses state lawmakers of intentionally using incorrect population figures when they redrew district lines in 2003, and asks that the maps be corrected before elections are held for the General Assembly this year.

    The candidate filing season is supposed to begin Feb. 11. State attorneys supported the maps and said granting the voters' request would delay all the May 6 primary elections, which include races for governor, U.S. Senate and U.S. House, in addition to state legislative races.

    "There comes a point when it's that close to an election and you just cannot stop the train," Alexander Peters, a special deputy attorney general said during 2 1/2 hours of arguments at the New Bern federal courthouse. "It's too late to stop the election, even if (the maps) are ultimately found to be unconstitutional."

    The voters, who sued the state in November, said legislative leaders used incorrect census data when they knew updated data was available. The adjusted district boundaries have been used since the 2004 elections. -- FayObserver.com - AP Article Page

    January 23, 2008

    New York: Port Chester at-large system violates Voting Rights Act [updated: court docs attached]

    The Auburn Citizen reports: A suburban village has been violating the Voting Rights Act by using an election system that leaves its rapidly growing Hispanic population without representation, a federal judge said Tuesday.

    The decision against Port Chester, on the Connecticut border 25 miles from New York City, is expected to force a revision of the village's at-large election system, in which all voters cast ballots for each of the six trustee positions that run the village government.

    The likely alternative is a district system, in which each district would elect one trustee. One district would be drawn around Hispanic neighborhoods to increase the chances that a Hispanic-backed candidate would be elected.

    Judge Stephen Robinson, who held a trial last May when the village and the Justice Department could not settle the case, said the at-large system "prevents Hispanic voters from participating equally in the political process in the village."

    The government had alleged that the at-large system allowed candidates preferred by whites to win all the trustee elections because whites tended to vote in a bloc. No Hispanic has ever been elected trustee or mayor in Port Chester, although the population is almost half Hispanic. The white population votes in greater numbers. -- AuburnPub.com

    You may download the decision and order here.

    Thanks to Steve Pershing for noting my faux pas in calling Port Chester "Port Arthur." Maybe it is because there is a Port Arthur in Texas and I was just reading that case recently, or I was thinking of Chester A. Arthur.

    January 22, 2008

    North Carolina: NAACP protests GOP lawsuit to force legislative re-redistricting

    The Daily Tar Heel reports: The N.C. NAACP is protesting a lawsuit that seeks to make North Carolina comply with the Voting Rights Act of 1965, claiming the suit undermines the act's intent.

    The lawsuit, filed by a group of N.C. Republicans in November 2007, calls for the state's congressional [sic: legislative] districts to be redrawn before the 2008 elections are held.

    The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People claims that the redistricting would concentrate minority voters into fewer districts, leaving the rest of the state primarily white and Republican.

    Al McSurely, chairman for the legal redress committee for the N.C. NAACP, said the plaintiffs want to "black-pack" minority voters into one district, which would give them fewer opportunities to elect representatives. -- NAACP protests redistricting suit - State & National

    North Carolina: GOP sues for re-redistricting of legislative districts (court docs attached)

    AP reports: It's another election season and North Carolina voters could again be confused by a redistricting lawsuit that alleges state legislative boundaries drawn by the General Assembly are illegal.

    If a federal three-judge panel in New Bern sides this week with a group of Republican voters who sued after a state Supreme Court decision last year involving one state House district, the May 6 primary election could be delayed.

    And not just the legislative races _ state law requires that primaries for governor, Council of State races, U.S. Senate and U.S. House also would have to be rescheduled for the same date. And the presidential primaries also set for May 6 would be in jeopardy.

    Legislative redistricting litigation delayed two of the three previous even-numbered year primaries, in 2002 and 2004. -- Redistricting lawsuit threatens NC primary schedule again

    The case is Dean et al v. Leake et al, No. 2:07-cv-00051-FL-AD-RC (E.D. N.C.). The court docket sheet shows this order on 17 Dec. 2007:

    The instant dispute raises questions of federal and state law in the context of electoral apportionment in the North Carolina state elections process. A three judge court presides over the dispute as mandated by 28 U.S.C. section 2284. Section 2284 allows a "single judge [to] conduct all proceedings excepts the trial," with limited exceptions that do not apply here. The court conducted this conference at the United States Courthouse, New Bern, North Carolina, on 12/17/07, with plaintiffs appearing through counsel Robert N. Hunter, Jr., and defendants appearing through counsel Tiare Smiley & Alexander Peters. The court addressed a number of matters with the parties, and engaged in preliminary dialogue with Ms. Anita S. Earls, counsel for the proposed intervener, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People ("NAACP").The court memorializes the determinations madeat this conference below: 1. Request for hearing on the motion for preliminary injunction was allowed and hearing set for January 25, 2008 at the United States Courthouse at New Bern, North Carolina, pending final confirmation in the form of clerks office notice, confirming New Bern as the place for hearing and setting the specific time of hearing on January 25, 2008. and hearing set for January 25, 2008 at the United States Courthouse at New Bern, North Carolina, pending final confirmation in the form of clerks office notice, confirming New Bern as the place for hearing and setting the specific time of hearing on January 25, 2008.The court ordered today that any perceived need by the parties, particularly plaintiffs, for discovery or live witnesses which reasonably can be discerned upon the making of defendants' responsive pleading, due tomorrow, shall be presented to the court in telephonic format not later than Thursday, December 20, 2007. The court indicated in view of the expedited scheduleit dispenses with requirement for any written filing raising issues in discovery or the purported need for live witness testimony at hearing, and directed that the parties confer with it by the close of business Thursday through the offices of Ms. Rudd, the case manager. The court herein allows plaintiffs an additional fifteen (15) pages for the making of a consolidated reply not to exceed a total of twenty-five (25) pages except by leave of court. The parties will present to the court by Friday January 18, 2008, a joint report The parties will present to which shall roughly follow the form prescribed by Local Civil Rule 16.1, EDNC, for the making of proposed final pretrial orders. Signed by Chief Judge Louise Wood Flanagan on 12/17/2007.

    The complaint is here.

    November 19, 2007

    "Did GOP Gerrymander Itself Out of Power?"

    Runninonempty writes on Daily Kos about how the GOP may have screwed itself with its fancy "just enough Republicans to win" district-drawing strategy. Because the post has charts (including one animated one), it is best to view it in its original form. -- Daily Kos: Did GOP Gerrymander Itself Out of Power?

    November 14, 2007

    Alabama: re-redistricting unlikely as Speaker opposes

    The Birmingham News reports: The state House of Representatives won t redraw the boundaries of the 2nd congressional district in next year s regular session of the Legislature the House leader Speaker Seth Hammett predicted Tuesday. Hammett said he opposed redrawing the lines in the regular session which starts Feb. 5 and could last through May 19 because trying to do so would divide the House and waste time that could be better spent solving the everyday problems of the people of this state." The 2nd District incumbent U.S. Rep. Terry Everett R-Rehobeth announced in late September that he would not seek re-election next year sparking speculation at the State House that Democrats might try to redraw boundaries in a bid to make the district more Democratic. The position Hammett a Democrat from Andalusia is taking on the issue means the district boundaries almost certainly won t change before candidates run in the June primaries. The speaker has enormous power in the Alabama House to kill proposals he doesn t like. -- Alabama House Speaker Seth Hammett predicts House won t redraw boundaries of 2nd District in next regular legislative session- al.com

    November 12, 2007

    Alabama: storm warnings over a re-redistricting

    AP reports: In the upcoming session it could be the House that is embroiled in a bitter political fight if Democrats try to redraw the lines of Alabama s Congressional districts -- a move that might make it easier for Democrats to win an open election 2nd Congressional District seat. The district which stretches across central and southeast Alabama from Prattville to Dothan has been held by Republicans since 1964 and is being vacated by retiring U.S. Rep. Terry Everett R-Rehobeth.

    The Legislature will be required to redraw both legislative and Congressional districts after the 2010 U.S. Census but the buzz among Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature is that there might be an effort to redraw the Congressional districts before next year s elections.

    House Minority Leader Rep. Mike Hubbard R-Auburn said he has warned House Speaker Seth Hammett that Republicans will "lock everything down" if there is an attempt to adopt a redistricting plan. --

    October 24, 2007

    California: Goo-goos propose another independent redistricting commission

    The Los Angeles Times reports: The Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, California Common Cause and AARP proposed an initiative Tuesday that would change the way the state's legislative districts are drawn, taking the politically sensitive matter away from lawmakers.

    Leaders of the organizations, saying they are frustrated with the political gridlock on redistricting, filed the proposed measure with the state attorney general as the first step toward putting it on the November 2008 ballot; coalition organizers said they hoped to collect 1 million signatures if the Legislature does not agree to submit the measure to voters. ...

    If approved by voters, the measure would create a 14-person redistricting commission made up of five Democrats, five Republicans and four others. The commissioners would be chosen through a public application process created by the state auditor. The review panel will narrow the pool of contenders to 60. After that, the four top legislative leaders would cut the pool to 36. Eight commissioners would be selected by random drawing from the 36 candidates, and those eight would select the other six commission members. ...

    "Incumbent residences may not be considered; districts may not be drawn to protect incumbents," according to the ballot measure. The final map would not go into effect unless approved by at least three Democrats, three Republicans and three other commissioners. -- Groups propose redistricting plan for state lawmakers - Los Angeles Times

    Thanks to Rick Hasen for the link to this story. Rick thinks this has a chance of being adopted. But I wonder if there will be a real change in the arrangement and balance of the districts if there has to be a tri-partisan agreement on the plan.

    July 24, 2007

    Florida: 11th Circuit holds (sort of) for plaintiffs in dilution case

    The 11th Circuit released its opinion in Thompson v. Glades County Board of Commissioners, No. 05-10669, today. Here are the opening and closing paragraphs:

    This is a vote dilution case. African American voters in Glades County, Florida, challenge the at-large method of electing members of the County Commission and School Board, claiming that it depreciates their right to vote on account of their race in violation of § 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, 42 U.S.C. § 1973, and the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. Following a bench trial, the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida denied relief. The Plaintiffs now appeal the court's judgment. We reverse and remand.
    ...
    The district court clearly erred in finding that District One of the Plaintiffs' illustrative plan constitutes an influence district. Thus, the court committed error in concluding that the Plaintiffs failed to establish a § 2 remedy. Furthermore, the court failed to explain with sufficient particularity that the totality of the circumstances weakens the Plaintiffs' vote dilution claim. In making those determinations, the court did not properly apply the relevant legal principles and grounded its findings in inaccurate perceptions of the law. We therefore reverse the district court's holding that the Plaintiffs' proposed remedial plan is insufficient under the first prong of the Gingles test and remand to the district court for reconsideration of the totality of the circumstances test.

    The opinion is available from the Court's website.

    July 5, 2007

    Northern Mariana Islands: court considers redistricting petition

    The Saipan Tribune: The CNMI Supreme Court yesterday heard the petition to reapportion legislative seats prior to the November 2007 midterm election and placed the matter under advisement.

    After listening to the arguments by parties involved in the petition, chief justice Miguel S. Demapan said the High Court recognizes that the issues presented are very critical to the Commonwealth, with a need to fast track the case.

    “You will be expecting our decision very soon,” said Demapan, who presided over the petition with associate justices Alexandro Castro and John A. Manglona.

    Sen. Maria Pangelinan and Tina Sablan filed the petition, asking the court to redistribute House seats based on the current number of eligible voters in the Commonwealth.

    The petitioners propose to exclude the nonresident population from the computation and thereby reduce the House membership from 18 to 14. -- Justices place redistricting petition under advisement

    July 3, 2007

    North Carolina: DOJ objects to 6-3 plan in Fayetteville

    The Fayetteville Observer reports: The U.S. Department of Justice has rejected Fayetteville voters’ bid to create at-large City Council seats, according to council members.

    The department called members of the council Monday afternoon to tell them a council with six single-member districts and three seats elected citywide — the 6-3 structure — was “not precleared.”

    The proposed change was adopted in a referendum in February. The vote was split along racial lines, with whites largely favoring the new format and black voters opposed to the change. -- 6-3 proposal denied by Justice Department

    The letter is here.

    June 25, 2007

    North Carolina: DOJ will decide today on fate of 6-3 city council plan

    A decision on changing the format of the Fayetteville City Council is expected today, city officials say.

    The U.S. Department of Justice has been reviewing the city’s request to change the council from nine single-member districts to one with six single-member districts and three members elected citywide. ...

    Voters asked for the change in a referendum in February.

    Supporters said a 6-3 format would have more council members looking out for the entire city. Opponents say the change would hurt minority representation.

    There are four blacks on the current nine-member council.

    Under the proposed system, black residents would be in the majority in three districts. -- Justice ruling on 6-3 city council expected

    June 14, 2007

    von Spakovsky defends his record

    The Washington Times reports: Hans von Spakovsky, an embattled Republican nominee to the Federal Election Commission (FEC), yesterday told a Senate panel that his support of laws requiring voters to show photo identification and other election safeguards are being misconstrued as plots to disenfranchise black Democratic voters.

    "I think voter ID is a good idea," he said at a Rules and Administration Committee hearing on his and three other nominations to the FEC. "I also believe very strongly that every eligible voter needs to be able to access the ballot box."

    Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, a member of the rules panel, praised Mr. von Spakovsky's sentiment but said it was "inconsistent" with his actions as counsel at the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division from 2003 through 2005.

    Mr. von Spakovsky, 48, who has been serving on the FEC board for 18 months as a recess appointment by President Bush, said he did not make final decisions on civil rights issues, such as the much-maligned decision supporting a Georgia photo-ID law that was criticized as disenfranchising black voters. -- FEC nominee defends support for voter IDs

    von Spakovsky opposed by former DOJ attorneys

    The Dallas Morning News reports: A nominee to the Federal Election Commission hit a wall over Texas redistricting during his confirmation hearing Wednesday.

    Democrats accused Hans von Spakovsky of injecting politics into the Justice Department's analysis of a 2003 Texas congressional redistricting map when he was a top lawyer at the department.

    Eight career lawyers and election law experts who served under Mr. Spakovsky in the civil rights division signed a letter urging senators to reject his nomination. They said he and other Bush political appointees had no good reason to overturn a unanimous staff recommendation to reject the Texas redistricting plan, which they said clearly violated minority voting rights in some districts – including the Dallas-based 24th District long held by Democrat Martin Frost.

    Mr. Frost was among the half-dozen Texas Democrats who lost House seats after the remap orchestrated in the Legislature by Tom DeLay, who was U.S. House majority leader at the time. --

    June 13, 2007

    von Spakovsky hearing preview

    NPR's Peter Overby reports: President Bush put Hans von Spakovsky on the Federal Election Commission via a recess appointment — no Senate hearings required — in January 2006. Now, von Spakovsky faces a confirmation hearing.

    Senators likely will be interested less in his election-law rulings than in his previous job, where he hunted for voter fraud and promoted state voter-ID laws as a political appointee in the Justice Department's civil rights section. -- Voter-Fraud Activist on Election Panel Faces Hearing

    June 11, 2007

    Mississippi: Tupelo may drop 2 at-large seats to settle voting rights suit

    The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal reports: If plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the city approve, Tupelo will keep its seven-ward system after the current term but will increase the minority voting-age population of two wards.

    The plan was approved Tuesday by City Council leaders and submitted Thursday to the plaintiff's attorney as an alternative to the current ward system, which a judge had found unfair.

    U.S. District Judge Michael Mills said the city's present system, which includes two at-large seats, violates the Voting Rights Act.

    Plaintiffs' attorney, Ellis Turnage, said his initial reaction to the city's new plan is unfavorable but that he must consult with his expert before issuing an official opinion.

    Under the new plan, the city's two at-large seats will be eliminated, and Wards 4 and 7 will gain black voters. -- Tupelo wards 4, 7 would get more minority voters

    May 29, 2007

    New York: a package of election reforms proposed by Gov. Spitzer

    The Gotham Gazette reports: Governor Eliot Spitzer has announced a package of reform proposals that could fundamentally change many aspects of elections in New York State. But despite its sweeping nature, the plan, coming in a flurry of activity in the closing days of April, received little if any fanfare.

    The election changes include proposals for Election Day voter registration, altering the state’s redistricting process, uniform poll site hours, less burdensome signature requirements for candidates seeking office, and reform of the system for selecting candidates for judgeships. In announcing reforms, Spitzer said, “This package will effectively end the gerrymandering that has led New York to the highest incumbency rate in the country and preserved a status quo that for years has been counterproductive to the public interest. It will break down the barriers to voter registration and employ simple and effective methods to improve voter turnout and access to the polls.” -- Election Reform: Big Changes, Little Notice

    April 26, 2007

    Massachusetts: Springfield council and school board bills amended

    The Springfield Republican reports: A home rule bill that proposes a system of ward representation for the City Council and School Committee returns for a council vote on May 7, amended as suggested by a state senator.

    City solicitor Edward M. Pikula said this week the bill still calls for changing the council from nine at-large seats, elected by citywide ballot, to a mix of eight ward seats and five at-large seats.

    However, it has been amended so that each of the four ward seats proposed on the School Committee will consist of geographically connected wards. In the initial proposal, some linked wards were not physically connected.

    The amendment was proposed by state Sen. Stephen J. Buoniconti, D-West Springfield, after the bill was forwarded to the Legislature for needed approval earlier this year. The School Committee will also have two at-large seats and the mayor will continue to serve as chairman, under the proposal. -- Ward representation bill changes

    April 25, 2007

    Florida: Osceola holds special election after lawsuit

    The Orlando Sentinel reports: Osceola voters elected the first Hispanic county commissioner in more than a decade Tuesday, choosing former state Rep. John Quinones to represent a new Hispanic-majority district in the first election since a federal judge ordered the end to countywide elections of commissioners.

    Quinones, a Republican, and political activist Armando Ramirez, a Democrat, squared off against two non-Hispanic candidates with no party affiliation in District 2 in a special election that was delayed for five months by a voting-rights lawsuit the U.S. Justice Department filed against Osceola County.

    Federal attorneys claimed that at-large elections effectively kept Hispanics from winning office in Osceola, where they make up about 38 percent of the county's population.

    Quinones cruised to victory in a district where Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly 2-to-1. He tallied 56 percent of the vote to 31 percent for Ramirez. Mark Cross received 10 percent and Joe Day 3 percent of the 3,385 votes cast. -- Osceola voters pick Quinones in new district - Orlando Sentinel : Osceola County News Osceola voters pick Quinones in new district - Orlando Sentinel : Osceola County News

    April 15, 2007

    A (sort of) argument for partisan gerrymandering

    Scott Keyes writes on Poltical Insider: Congressmen who hail from competitive districts are forced to run challenging reelection campaigns every two years, which in turn leaves them better prepared for the difficulties associated with a bid for higher office, right? That is, the closer a district's PVI is to zero, the better chance that congressman has of waging a successful bid for governor or senator because they must constantly win difficult elections and hone their campaigning skills in the process. Practice makes perfect.

    However, looking at data from all the election since the 2000 redistricting, this does not appear to be the case. Congressmen from competitive districts do not appear to have any more success in their bids for higher office than those from non-competitive districts. Since 2002, 36 sitting congressmen have ran for higher office, half of whom won. However, representatives from competitive districts - those with a PVI of between D 5 and R 5 - were considerably less successful, winning just five of their thirteen races. Even in those states that swing states that Kerry or Bush carried with less than 55% of the vote, representatives from competitive districts won just three races and lost six. ...

    Two possible reasons come to mind that would explain why representatives from competitive districts don't win their campaigns for higher office at a greater rate than other congressmen. First, if a representative must run a difficult race every two years, he or she has little opportunity to amass a large amount of money that would help in his or her bid for higher office. -- Political Insider: Competitive Districts Not a Stepping Stone for Higher Office

    March 26, 2007

    Utah: CRS says at-large district would be constitutional

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    The Congressional Research Services says: Among other provisions, H.R. 1433 (110th Cong.), the District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act of 2007, would expand the U.S. House of Representatives by two Members to a total of 437 Members. The first of these two new seats would be allocated to create a voting Member representing the District of Columbia, and the second seat would be assigned in accordance with 2000 census data and existing federal law, resulting in the addition of a fourth congressional seat in the state of Utah. This report is limited to discussing only the constitutionality of the creation of an at-large congressional district. Based on the authority granted to Congress under the Constitution to regulate congressional elections and relevant Supreme Court precedent, it appears that federal law establishing a temporary at-large congressional district would likely be upheld as constitutional. -- Congressional Redistricting: The Constitutionality of Creating an At-Large District, March 20, 2007

    March 23, 2007

    Massachusetts: Springfield trial suspended for legislative action

    The Springfield Republican reports: A federal judge today suspended a voting rights trial while legislation to reform the election system in Springfield is pending in the Legislature.

    U.S. District Judge Michael A. Ponsor said he did not want to interfere with a home rule petition providing limited ward representation on the City Council and School Committee. The petition was approved by the council and mayor last year. If it clears the Legislature, the measure will be decided by voters in the November election.

    "I think that process should go forward in its pure form," Ponsor said at a hearing in U.S. District Court today.

    Ponsor said he will stay the trial until one week after the November election. Either side may move to lift the stay in the meantime. -- Judge suspends Springfield voting rights trial

    March 22, 2007

    Arizona: petition drive starts to amend Independent Redistricting Commission law

    Capitol Media Services reports: Some former state lawmakers and their allies want voters to revamp a 7-year-old law on how congressional and legislative districts are drawn in hopes of creating some more competition at the general election ballot box.

    But the head of the Arizona Republican Party said it's simply an effort by a well-heeled Democrat to get more members of that party elected.

    An initiative drive formally launched Wednesday would revamp the Independent Redistricting Commission which actually draws the lines every decade, adding four new members. That change will ensure there are people from more parts of the state.

    But the real change would be to require that the commission pay more attention to creating "competitive" districts -- those where the Democratic and Republican candidates have relatively equal chances of getting elected. -- More 'competitive' districts wanted in revamp of law | www.azstarnet.com ®

    North Carolina: GOP pushes several election reforms

    AP reports: House and Senate Republicans held their weekly news conference, this time to talk about election-related bills. They highlighted measures that would create an independent redistricting commission, rotate the order of candidates on the election ballot and limit to four years the terms of House speaker and Senate president pro tempore. Senate Republican Leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, said it was up to Democrats - who control the Legislature and the Executive Mansion - to decide whether to support bills that he said would restore the public's confidence after recent scandal. -- Tuesday, March 20, 2007, at the North Carolina General Assembly - HendersonvilleNews.com - Times-News Online

    March 18, 2007

    Massachusetts: judge may halt testimony in Springfield trial

    The Springfield Republican reports: Following eight days of testimony in a federal voting rights trial, a judge announced yesterday that he may halt the court battle pending the outcome of a related petition before state lawmakers.

    U.S. District Court Judge Michael A. Ponsor made the announcement on the heels of the plaintiffs' final witness. The judge asked lawyers in the case to research the status of a home rule petition that is before the Legislature and favors ward representation on the City Council. It was approved last year by the council and Mayor Charles V. Ryan.

    Lawyers agreed to report back to Ponsor on Friday. Testimony has been suspended in the meantime. ...

    The petition proposes to change Springfield's nine-member at-large City Council in favor of a hybrid of eight members elected by ward and five elected at-large. -- Voting rights trial may be halted

    March 15, 2007

    Massachusetts: state representatives testifies for plaintiffs in voting rights case

    The Springfield Republican reports: State Rep. Benjamin Swan, D-Springfield, testified during a federal voting rights trial today that he believes abolishing the city's at-large election system will provide more racial balance in local politics.

    Swan, a seven-term Democrat who is black, was called by the plaintiffs in the case. They include Swan's nephew, the Rev. Talbert W. Swan II.

    Local civil rights groups and black and Latino voters filed a lawsuit against the city in 2005 to gain a district-based City Council and School Committee. Currently, members are elected to those bodies through a citywide system, which the plaintiffs argue largely shuts out black and Latino candidates.

    A nonjury trial began on March 6. Putting a string of black and Latino political candidates and civil rights leaders on the witness stand, lawyers for the plaintiffs have probed 20 years of race relations in Springfield. Civic leaders have portrayed the city's police force as brutal, its government detached, and the political landscape bleak for minorities. -- Breaking News: Rep. Swan testifies to bias in elections

    March 14, 2007

    Massachusetts: judge questions redistricting plan

    The Springfield Republican reports: Shifting population trends have complicated a federal voting rights trial, prompting a judge yesterday to question the wisdom of a proposed redistricting plan designed to benefit blacks and Latinos.

    U.S. District Judge Michael A. Ponsor yesterday peppered a witness with questions about a proposal to create nine voting districts across the city, wondering whether the plan would truly advance equal voting rights.

    "It does collide with logic," Ponsor told witness Doug J. Amy, a professor of politics at Mount Holyoke College, who did not design the proposal. "I'm, frankly, surprised to see a proposal in which ... five of the nine districts are overwhelmingly white."

    Ponsor also wondered whether the so-called ward representation plan comes too late, now that blacks and Latinos represent a collective majority in Springfield. -- Realities muddle voting rights suit

    March 13, 2007

    California: Speaker struggles with redistricting-reform plan

    The Tri-Valley Herald reports: Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez insists he will produce redistricting reform this year, taking away the authority to draw political boundaries from the Legislature and giving it to an independent commission. But roadblocks put up by his own party may test his optimism just as he begins to put pieces in place.

    Nunez, D-Los Angeles, returned from a meeting with members of the Democratic congressional delegation in Washington, D.C., this week with a singular message in hand: In no uncertain terms, they told him an independent commission drawing congressional boundaries was unacceptable.

    And for the obvious reason. Any losses to the Democratic congressional delegation from more competitive seats created by redistricting could threaten the Democrats' tenuous control of Congress.

    "Originally, I was going to include congressional districts, but at this point, I'm not," Nunez said this week. "But I'm open to discussions with all groups and members of the Legislature. We're not drawing the line in the sand." -- Inside Bay Area - Nunez's redistricting dreams face new bumps in road

    March 8, 2007

    "Reforming Redistricting: Why Popular Initiatives To Establish Redistricting Commissions Succeed or Fail."

    American Constitution Society announces: ACS is pleased to distribute an Issue Brief by Nicholas Stephanopoulos entitled "Reforming Redistricting: Why Popular Initiatives To Establish Redistricting Commissions Succeed or Fail." In this piece, Stephanopoulos argues that election district lines have often been drawn -- in such a way that fundamental democratic values are subverted." He then closely examines one avenue for redistricting reform: popular initiatives to establish redistricting commissions. Given other solutions and their limitations - legislators often having a vested interest in preserving the status quo, and recent Supreme Court decisions (such as Vieth v. Jubelirer and LULAC v. Perry) limiting judicial review - Stephanopoulos suggests that redistricting initiatives are the only realistic way to curb political gerrymandering. The initiative, available in some form in 24 states, enables the general public to place statutory and constitutional proposals directly on the ballot. The author reviews each of the 12 redistricting initiatives launched over the course of American history and identifies several factors that appear to predict their success or failure. He finds that the most important reason for the frequent failure of these initiatives is the concerted opposition of the majority party in the state legislature. In fact, redistricting initiatives succeed only when some factor (e.g., favorable national developments, the enthusiastic support of the state's media establishment, or division between the majority party's executive branch officials and its legislators) defuses majority party opposition. Stephanopoulos concludes by drawing lessons for the future, specifically offering to proponents of redistricting initiatives a playbook for increasing their chances of success.

    March 6, 2007

    Colorado: Supreme Court throws out GOP suit over redistricting

    The Denver Post reports: The U.S. Supreme Court dealt a final blow Monday to Colorado Republicans, ruling against their challenge to a congressional-redistricting plan.

    The justices unanimously found that four Colorado Republican voters, who filed suit to supplant a court's redistricting plan with one subsequently passed by the GOP-controlled state legislature, did not have standing to bring their case. ...

    The Denver District Court judge's plan, adopted from the Democrats, kept three congressional districts that lean heavily toward Republicans, three seats leaning Democratic and created one seat, the 7th Congressional District, that is fiercely competitive.

    Republicans said the plan favored Democrats. And in 2003, the Republican-controlled legislature passed a new plan in the waning hours of the session that Democrats said favored the GOP. -- DenverPost.com - Redistrict challenge flops in high court

    The opinion in Lance v. Coffman is here.

    March 2, 2007

    Texas: Amarillo lawsuit pauses

    The Amarillo Globe News reports: The two sides in the federal voting rights lawsuit are putting the case on hold. ...

    The suit seeks a court order that would order a new election on the issue of single-member districts. The suit alleges the city should have allowed voters to vote separately on two proposed city charter amendments on single-member districts, instead of combining them.

    If the single-member districting measure had passed, it would have drawn electoral lines across the city. The city's charter would have been amended to up the number of commissioners from four to eight and they would have been required to live within their districts and be elected by voters in their district. -- amarillo.com | Local News: Voting lawsuit on hold 03/02/07

    February 16, 2007

    New York: DOJ presents experts in suit against Port Chester

    The Journal News reports: The federal government sued Port Chester in December, alleging that the election system violates the federal Voting Rights Act. It is asking U.S. District Judge Stephen Robinson to replace the "at-large" system with one in which the six village trustees are elected from different districts, including at least one majority Hispanic district.

    It is also asking Robinson to stop the March 20 village election for two trustee seats until a district system is in place.

    Two government expert witnesses testified yesterday, contending that the village's election system discriminates against Latinos and prevents them from electing their candidate of choice.

    "I believe that the at-large system in Port Chester of electing trustees is diluting the minority vote," said Lisa Handley, an expert in voter data analysis and voting patterns among Hispanics.

    Robert Courtney Smith, a college professor and an expert in discrimination against Hispanics, said Solomon's statement, along with some 35 speakers at the hearings and a handful of hecklers, point to a pattern of racial polarization in the village. -- Racial polarization in Port Chester cited in federal lawsuit

    Wyoming: Plaintiffs rest in Fremont County case; defense presents first witness

    The Casper Star-Tribune reports: Single-member commissioner districts would benefit Fremont County like the ward system benefits the elections of city council members in Riverton, the city's mayor said Thursday in federal court in Casper.

    "The system works for city government," John Vincent said during testimony as the last witness in the ninth and final day of a voting rights bench trial before U.S. District Court Judge Alan Johnson. -- Riverton mayor favors single-member districts for Fremont County

    AP reports on the opening witness for the defense: More harm than good would be done to American Indian-white relations by having Fremont County's five commissioners each represent a district, one of those commissioners said during a trial challenging the county's at-large system of electing commissioners.

    "I'm worried this lawsuit will take us back 10 years in Fremont County in race relations," Commissioner Keja Whiteman, who is Indian, said Wednesday.

    Five members of the Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes on the Wind River Reservation, which covers a large part of Fremont County, filed the lawsuit. They say the at-large system causes discrimination by diluting Indian voting strength.

    They want the U.S. District Court to require the county to have districts. One of those districts would be the reservation land. -- Indian commissioner testifies against suit

    February 13, 2007

    Wyoming: Former candidate testifies about racial slurs against Indians

    The Casper Star-Tribune reports: Five people told Michelle Hoffman during her unsuccessful campaign for superintendent of public instruction against Jim McBride in 2006 that she had three strikes against her: She was a Democrat, a woman, and lived on the Wind River Indian Reservation.

    But Hoffman has heard and seen far worse discrimination against American Indians as superintendent of the Wyoming Indian School District in Ethete and as a Fremont County resident, she testified on Monday during the bench trial in which five reservation residents are suing the county for violations of the Voting Rights Act.

    Some of the worst incidents, she said, have occurred during sporting events in Fremont County and elsewhere when students and adults from competing schools yelled comments such as "go back to the reservation," "white chocolate" in reference to students who are half Indian and half-white, "black Indian boy," and "prairie n ---- r."

    Students have reported seeing floats in parades bearing phrases such as "teepee burners" and "sack the Indians," Hoffman said during questioning from Laughlin McDonald, who is lead attorney for the Indians and from the Atlanta office of the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation. -- Former candidate notes slurs

    February 8, 2007

    Wyoming: expert testimony in Indian voting rights suit

    The Capser Star-Tribune reports: Detamore and Laughlin McDonald, the Indians' lead attorney, hired statistical experts in voting practices -- Steven Cole for the Indians and Ronald Weber for the county -- to testify at the trial this week.

    By studying the 1996, 2000 and 2006 general elections, both Cole and Weber found Indian cohesion, but Weber found less cohesion than Cole.

    On Wednesday, Weber said he agreed with Cole generally but disagreed with Cole's analysis of racial polarization -- that Indians voted cohesively one way and non-Indians voted cohesively another way.

    Cole, who testified Monday, cited one contest in Fremont County where three Indian-preferred candidates were on the ballot, but only one won.

    Voters in Fremont County would have shown their voting patterns were not racially polarized if all three of those candidates won, Cole said.

    Weber responded Cole set too high a standard, and the analysis should be done differently.

    "I think it should be candidate-by-candidate," Weber said. -- Indians, county spar over voting analysis

    February 7, 2007

    Wyoming: Indian voting rights trial begins

    AP reports: Rampant poverty tends to depress participation by Wind River Indian Reservation residents in Fremont County politics, a University of Wyoming professor said in the first day of testimony in a federal civil trial challenging the county's system of electing county commissioners.

    The lawsuit claims that the at-large system violates the voting rights of residents of the reservation, which covers a large part of Fremont County.

    County residents Patricia Bergie, Pete Calhoun, Gary Collins, James E. Large and Emma Lu-cille McAdams - all members of either the Eastern Shoshone or Northern Arapaho tribes - say that not having commissioners represent certain areas of the county dilutes American Indians' voting strength. ...

    Garth Massey, a UW sociologist, was among several experts called by the plaintiffs Monday. Massey said that not even casino gambling would help the reservation's conditions much in the long run. ...

    Massey was questioned by one of the plaintiffs' attorneys, Laughlin McDonald, of the Atlanta office of the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation Inc. -- Rocky Mountain News - Denver and Colorado's reliable source for breaking news, sports and entertainment: Local

    February 2, 2007

    California: Nunez backs independent redistricting commission

    San Jose Mercury News reports: Assembly Speaker Fabian Núńez insisted Thursday he is ready to hand over the Legislature's power to draw political boundaries to an independent commission, casting the battle over reform as a test of whether lawmakers can trust citizens to remake the political landscape.

    He also declared he is determined to put a redistricting measure on the ballot as early as Feb. 5, 2008, the same spot on the calendar where legislative leaders are hoping to move the state presidential primary. He said it won't be tied to a change in term limits that he and other Democrats want. ...

    The proposal, which won't be formally introduced as a bill for several weeks, didn't touch on contentious subjects such as who will pick the commission members or whether congressional boundaries would be included, leading critics to wonder whether it was starting out on a shaky foundation. -- MercuryNews.com | 02/02/2007 | Núńez vows to push redistricting

    January 25, 2007

    Virginia: redistricting commission proposal passes committee

    AP reports: A bipartisan commission would draw congressional and legislative district boundaries based on population, not politics, under a constitutional amendment that cleared its first hurdle Tuesday.

    Though the measure passed the first obstacle, there's a long way to go before the partisan way district lines are drawn could change. Sen. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath, has introduced the same proposal since 2002 without success, and on Tuesday, it advanced with the support of just one Republican. ...

    The amendment would change Virginia's constitution to put redistricting in the hands of a 13-member commission made up of two appointments each by Senate and House leaders, the minority leaders of each house and the state Democratic and Republican party chairmen. The 12 partisan members then select the 13th member, and if they can't agree, the Supreme Court make the choice.

    The "radical" part of the bill, according to Deeds, is that the only demographic consideration that can be made in drawing district lines is population. -- Amendment would let bipartisan commission draw district lines

    January 24, 2007

    Alabama: Democrats may push mid-decade redistricting

    The Mobile Press-Register reported on Sunday: Democrats in the Alabama Senate are exploring the possibility of redrawing districts in the state early in hopes of boosting their chances of winning more seats in the Legislature and Congress.

    The senators, who said they got the idea from Republicans in Texas, approved rules this month that simplified passing redistricting bills in the Legislature's upper chamber before the 2010 Census. ...

    Democratic Sens. Zeb Little of Cullman and Roger Bedford of Russellville said they do not have specific plans, but said they passed the new rules with the intention of keeping their options open. ...

    Little, the Senate majority leader, said Democrats' goal would be to create districts in Alabama that were more favorable to their party. He said their main goal would be maintaining Democratic power in the 35-member Senate. -- Alabama Democrats exploring redistricting

    January 16, 2007

    New York: a proposal to ban at-large elections

    The Hudson Valley News reports: Assemblyman Peter Rivera of the Bronx and community leaders, Monday unveiled a proposal that would ban at-large elections and force the 932 towns and 554 villages in the state to adopt a modern district elections system. ...

    The proposed law would expand the federal Voting Rights Act by forcing communities that continue to rely on at-large elections to adopt district or ward elections by the fall of 2009. This move alone will allow minority communities and all communities in areas that use at large elections with greater access to the ballot, both as candidates for office and as voters, Rivera said. -- Hudson Valley News story

    January 12, 2007

    Illinois: Chicago Heights' 20-year voting rights suit

    Daily Southtown reports: Chicago Heights has spent 20 years and more than $3 million defending a voting-rights lawsuit that has become the oldest in the federal court system.

    And that's just one of more than a dozen federal lawsuits the city of 40,000 residents will defend this year.

    City attorney Thomas "TJ" Somer said he's optimistic a final ruling will come later this year on the voting-rights case filed in 1987 by Kevin Perkins, who is now an alderman in the city's 3rd Ward.

    Perkins and others alleged the city's then-commission-style of government diluted the voting strength of black and Hispanic voters.

    A $3 million legal bill seems large considering Chicago Heights has an annual budget of about $22 million. -- DAILY SOUTHTOWN :: News :: Chicago Heights has hands full with lawsuits

    January 10, 2007

    Massachusetts: Finneran resigns from lobbying job

    AP reports: Former House Speaker Thomas Finneran resigned on Tuesday night from his $416,000-a-year job as president of the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, days after he pleaded guilty to obstructing justice during a voting rights redistricting lawsuit.

    The council's board said it accepted his resignation, effective immediately, during an evening conference call, a day after it had met to discuss his future and it appeared he was losing support. ...

    Finneran took the job with the council that represents the state's life sciences industry in 2004 after resigning his legislative position. He was seen as an effective lobbyist for the group, and the board had backed him after his federal indictment in 2005. -- Finneran Resigns From Bio-Tech Job - Politics

    Pennsylvania: Democratic whip proposes redistricting commission and robo-call blocking

    The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports: [Democratic whip, Sen. Michael A. O'Pake] suggested a second idea that would need a constitutional change. He wants to have the new congressional districts redrawn, after the 2010 census, by a nonpartisan group called the Legislative Reapportionment Commission, which already redraws the state House and Senate district lines.

    Currently, congressional district lines are redrawn by the majority party in the Legislature. The last time, after the 2000 census, Democrats complained that Republicans redrew the congressional lines to try to ensure re-election of GOP incumbents. The current system lets the majority party in the Legislature "redraw congressional districts with a partisan bias," Mr. O'Pake said.

    A third idea wouldn't need a constitutional change. Mr. O'Pake wants to make it easier for state residents to block "robo-calls" by politicians seeking election -- the automated phone calls by office holders or their supporters urging people to vote for them. He would let people add such calls to the state's Do Not Call list, an idea first proposed last fall by Rep. Michael McGeehan, D-Philadelphia. He also is vowing to push for it again.

    The changes to the constitution would first have to be passed in the 2007-08 session, which just started, and then again in the 2009-10 session in order to get on the November 2009 statewide ballot, at the earliest. -- Dem leader wants to reduce size of Pa. legislature

    January 9, 2007

    Alabama: 11th circuit affirms dismissal of challenge to legislative redistricting

    The Eleventh Circuit today affirmed the dismissal of a partisan-gerrymander challenge to the legislative redistricting. The opinion is unpublished.

    The case had been heard by a three-judge court in the Southern District of Alabama. It ruled that the plaintiffs were barred by claim preclusion (res judicata). When the plaintiffs appealed to the 11th Circuit, the defendants argued that the Circuit Court did not have jurisdiction to hear the appeal because the case should have been appealed to the Supreme Court. The Circuit Court rejected that argument.

    On the claim preclusion issue, the court affirmed and held that the plaintiffs were virtually represented by different plaintiffs bringing similar suits a few years earlier.

    Disclosure: Jim Blacksher and I represented Speaker of the House Seth Hammett, a defendant-intervenor in the case.

    January 5, 2007

    Massachusetts: Finneran will plead guilty

    AP reports: Former House Speaker Tom Finneran is expected to plead guilty today to obstruction of justice charges.

    The once-powerful Beacon Hill Democrat is accused of lying during his testimony in a voting rights lawsuit. -- WHDH-TV - New England News - Source: Ex-House speaker to plead guilty in redistricting case

    And the Boston Globe reports: As former House speaker Thomas M. Finneran heads this morning to federal court, where he is expected to plead guilty to obstruction of justice, he faces the almost certain loss of his $30,000-a-year pension because of a decision last year by the state Supreme Judicial Court.

    The state's highest court ruled unanimously in March that Boston Juvenile Court Clerk-Magistrate John P. Bulger forfeited his pension when he admitted that he lied to two federal grand juries investigating the disappearance of his brother, fugitive mobster James J. "Whitey" Bulger.

    Alden Bianchi, cochairman of a Boston Bar Association committee on pensions, said Finneran's case appears to be a more obvious violation of the Massachusetts law that bars employees from receiving a pension if convicted of a "criminal offense involving violation of the laws applicable to his office or position." -- Finneran faces loss of state pension

    December 22, 2006

    New population projections show 7 seats will be moved from one state to another

    Election Data Services reports on its website: New Census Population Estimates document for the first time the significant loss of population in Louisiana due to the Hurricane Katrina catastrophe. The loss of population will also lead to a loss of representation in Congress, according to a study by Election Data Services Inc. that was released today. Louisiana is now projected to lose a congressional seat, based on the new data.

    The 2006 population estimates shift two more seats between four states, compared to last year’s study of the 2005 estimates (see Election Data Services Inc., “Five States Would Gain Seats if Congress Were Reapportioned with 2005 Population Estimates,” December 22, 2005). “Changes affecting three of the four new states were expected,” noted Election Data Services’ president, Kimball Brace, “but Louisiana’s loss was a new twist in the numbers.”

    Overall, the 2006 estimates show that seven congressional seats in 13 states have already changed at this point in the decade, if the U.S. House of Representatives was reapportioned with the updated numbers. Six states—Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, and Utah—would each gain a seat and Texas would gain two seats if the House was reapportioned with census population estimates for July 1, 2006, according to Election Data Services’ analysis. Seven states would lose seats—Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. The states of Georgia, Nevada, Louisiana, and Massachusetts are new states on the list of changes, compared to the 2005 study. --

    December 12, 2006

    Florida: Seminole Co. black leaders seeks single-member districts

    The Orlando Sentinel reports: For the first time in more than a dozen years, black leaders are actively organizing to get county and city officials to take notice of their needs.

    They say they are frustrated with a system that treats blacks like second-class citizens. Multimillion-dollar pedestrian bridges are being built in generally affluent areas while black communities are left to deal with poor drainage, crumbling or simply dirt roads and lax policing, they say.

    Even when improvements are made, they are more likely to be funded with federal block-grant money, not local tax dollars, they say. ...

    What's needed is a change in the way Seminole County commissioners are elected, Clayton said. Now, the five commissioners are elected countywide; single-member districts would provide the best chance for blacks and other minorities to have a voice, he said.

    NAACP members are gathering information on single-member districts from surrounding counties, including Osceola, where a federal judge ruled the current system of countywide elections violates the U.S. Voting Rights Act because it dilutes the county's Hispanic vote.

    A plan for Seminole County will be presented soon, Clayton said, and he hopes his group can work with county officials to get a single-member-district plan on the ballot. -- Black leaders in Seminole want county to listen - Orlando Sentinel : News Black leaders in Seminole want county to listen - Orlando Sentinel : News

    December 11, 2006

    South Dakota: federal court orders city of Martin to draft new plan

    The Rapid City Journal reported last Thursday: A federal judge has ordered the city of Martin to redraw the boundaries of its city-council districts because the existing districts violate the voting rights of American Indians.

    In a decision issued Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Karen Schreier of Rapid City said Martin must submit a proposal for redrawing the council-district boundaries by Jan. 5. The American Civil Liberties Union, which sued the city on behalf of two Indian voters, will have until Jan. 25 to file its response to the city's plan.

    The judge will then make the determination of whether the city's plan is a legally acceptable remedy.

    Martin is in Bennett County, which is adjacent to Rosebud Sioux and Pine Ridge Indian reservations in southern South Dakota.

    The judge said evidence shows that about 36 percent of the city's voting-age population is Indian, and those Indian voters are spread evenly among the existing three council wards. However, candidates preferred by Indians rarely win city council elections in Martin, Schreier said. -- The Rapid City Journal

    December 7, 2006

    Florida: federal judge to decide on Osceola commission plan today

    The Orlando Sentinel reports: A 17-month-long battle over how Osceola elects county commissioners could come to a close in federal court today.

    The remaining issue before U.S. District Judge Gregory A. Presnell is whether the county's proposal to create a system of at-large and single-member seats by increasing the size of the board to seven commissioners will pass legal muster.

    Presnell issued an injunction halting commission elections in June and ruled in October that the "racially polarized" county's at-large voting system penalizes Hispanics in violation of the Voting Rights Act.

    On Wednesday, commissioners voted 4-0 to accept a redistricting plan drafted by the U.S. Department of Justice, rather than a plan drawn up by county experts, after Presnell this week rejected a key part of the county's proposal. Commissioner Paul Owen was absent. -- Federal judge will decide merits of Osceola vote plan - Orlando Sentinel : Osceola County News Federal judge will decide merits of Osceola vote plan - Orlando Sentinel : Osceola County News

    December 6, 2006

    South Dakota: 10th Circuit rules in favor of Indian plaintiffs in voting case

    The ACLU announces on its website: The American Civil Liberties Union today applauded a federal district court decision in favor of Native American voters in Martin, South Dakota. The decision, which was released late yesterday, orders city officials to redraw city council district lines to correct violations of the Voting Rights Act that prevented Native Americans from having an equal opportunity to participate in the political process and elect representatives of their choice.

    "Yesterday's decision vindicates the long, hard struggle for Native American voting rights in the City of Martin," said Bryan Sells, a staff attorney with the ACLU Voting Rights Project and lead counsel in the case. “This ruling will enable Indian voters to enjoy the right that many other South Dakotans take for granted; the right to have a say in their local government. The decision also benefits everyone by promoting fairness and a more democratic city government."

    The ACLU brought the lawsuit in April 2002 on behalf of two Native American voters who say the redistricting plan adopted by the city that year had the purpose and effect of diluting Native American voting strength. Native Americans made up approximately 45 percent of the city's population but would have been unable to elect any candidates of their choice to the city council because the redistricting plan ensured that white voters controlled all three city council wards. -- American Civil Liberties Union : Federal Court Sides with Native American Voters in South Dakota

    The ACLU has a link to the opinion on its site.

    December 5, 2006

    New York: Port Chester won't settle with DOJ over at-large voting

    The Journal News reports: The village is challenging the federal government's claim that its election system illegally disenfranchises Hispanic voters, possibly paving the way for an expensive legal battle.

    The Board of Trustees voted unanimously last night to notify the Department of Justice that it does not believe the village's at-large election system violates Section 2 of the federal Voting Rights Act, as the Justice Department contends.

    The board reached the decision after reviewing data the Justice Department provided the village. ...

    Last night's decision came in response to an April 20 letter from the Justice Department to Village Attorney Anthony Cerreto that threatened to sue the village unless it switched to district voting. The letter called for a districting plan that includes a majority Hispanic ward and concluded that "voting patterns in Port Chester are polarized by ethnicity."

    Though nearly half of the village's population is Hispanic, no Hispanic candidate has ever been elected to village office. Hispanic residents are about 22 percent of the citizen voting-age population, or 3,058 of 13,980 eligible voters. -- Port Chester is challenging the Justice Department over voter rights

    December 3, 2006

    Ohio: state voted for Democrats but gets Republicans

    The Columbus Dispatch reports: A clear majority of Ohioans who voted in the Nov. 7 election preferred a Democratic congressional candidate.

    So did Franklin County voters, where Democratic House candidates drew in excess of 10,000 more votes than Republicans.

    The result?

    While Democrats won nearly 53 percent of the congressional votes statewide, only about 39 percent of Ohioans will be represented next year by Democrats in Congress.

    That’s the biggest so-called "wrong winner" disparity in the country from the 2006 midterm elections, says the nonpartisan FairVote.org.

    Aided by gerrymandering — the drawing of districts to favor one party — Republicans captured 11 of the state’s 18 congressional seats, assuming that GOP Rep. Deborah Pryce, of Upper Arlington, survives a recount in the 15 th District. If she does, all three House members representing Franklin County will be Republicans. -- The Columbus Dispatch - Local/State

    November 30, 2006

    Utah: legislative panel approves 4-district plan

    The Salt Lake Tribune reports: Many Park City residents say they have more in common with Salt Lake City voters 35 miles to the west than their neighbors in Kamas, 10 miles to the east.

    In recognition of that reality, legislative members of a state Redistricting Committee relaxed their dedication to mixing rural and urban Utah neighborhoods in four proposed congressional districts enough to create a purely urban district Wednesday.

    Lawmakers approved a single map that links northern Salt Lake County with the Snyderville Basin and Park City in a new 2nd Congressional District. The remaining three districts will blend urban parts of the Wasatch Front with more rural communities to the north, east and south. -- Salt Lake Tribune - Final map a result of major give and take

    California: Monterey College considering single-member districts for trustees

    The Monterey County Herald reports: Trustees of Monterey Peninsula College will revisit the issue of district elections in January after hearing Wednesday from supporters of new trustee districts.

    Board members heard from local representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, who stood steadfastly behind dividing the district into five trustee areas.

    One ACLU representative sent information on the trustee districts to the group's national demographer, who works on the Voting Rights Project in Atlanta. The ACLU demographer concluded that five areas would be best for the college district.

    Board president Jim Tunney expressed concern that the trustees don't have enough information to determine what format would work best.

    In a controversial move, trustees voted in July to switch to one trustee area in Seaside and the other four to at-large seats from the rest of the district. They rescinded their decision Nov. 4 because they said it caused confusion in the community and they want what's best for the district. -- Monterey County Herald | 11/30/2006 | Board delays trustee decision

    November 28, 2006

    Utah: legislature considers redistricting in case it gets a fourth congressional district

    The Daily Herald reports: Brent Waldrop was one of two people to argue with the legislative redistricting committee at its public hearing in Provo on Monday morning. On hand were the bigwigs of Utah government; at stake was a possible fourth seat for Utah in the U.S. House of Representatives and a shake-up of who represents whom. ...

    Legislators, Waldrop and Brandon Plewe of Spanish Fork debated for about an hour at the hearing, throwing out new maps and different ideas, waving population distribution graphs and debating where to put a few thousand Davis County residents, and wondering out loud where Democrat U.S. Rep. Jim Matheson lives.

    The public hearing is part of a process to get Utah a fourth seat in the U.S. House of Representatives by adding two more seats, the other of which will go to Washington, D.C. Utah designs the districts, all of which need to have about 588,000 residents, the Legislature picks a map and then it goes to the House for discussion.

    Ten plans have been conceived; three were on the agenda to be discussed and a fourth, plan G, was amended and added for discussion. Waldrop said he supported plan G, which creates a huge district that's largely rural, except for St. George and south Utah County, two urban districts and one with a mix of the two. ...

    The public hearing is part of a process to get Utah a fourth seat in the U.S. House of Representatives by adding two more seats, the other of which will go to Washington, D.C. Utah designs the districts, all of which need to have about 588,000 residents, the Legislature picks a map and then it goes to the House for discussion. -- Daily Herald - Carving up Utah's congressional boundaries

    November 16, 2006

    Texas: Democrat introduces constitutional amendment to prohibit mid-decade redistricting

    The Fort Worth Star Telegram reports: Now that Tom DeLay is politically dead, an East Texas Democrat wants to kill his ghost, too.

    State Rep. Allan Ritter, D-Nederland, introduced a proposed constitutional amendment Wednesday that would prohibit congressional and legislative redistricting more than once a decade unless the courts order otherwise.

    House Joint Resolution 31, to be considered when lawmakers return to Austin in January, is intended to forever forbid a repeat of the maneuver engineered by DeLay in 2003 when he was the Republican leader of the U.S. House of Representatives.

    DeLay insisted that the GOP-dominated Legislature scrap the congressional redistricting plan enacted by the federal courts in 2001 and replace it with one that would maximize Republican advantage in the Texas congressional delegation. The effort prompted two extended walkouts by legislative Democrats and kept lawmakers in session nearly all summer in 2003. -- Star-Telegram | 11/16/2006 | Redistricting limit proposed

    November 15, 2006

    Georgia: two Democratic candidates for House certified by slim margins

    CQPolitics reports: Democratic Rep. John Barrow, according to Georgia’s secretary of state, has won a second term in the state’s 12th District, defeating former one-term Republican Rep. Max Burns (news, bio, voting record) by just 864 votes in the rematch of their close 2004 race.

    But it is not yet clear if the state’s certification of the outcome is the last word on the race: Barrow’s winning percentage is less than the 1 percentage-point threshold below which the trailing candidate can request a recount. ...

    The election board also officially certified the win by another embattled Democratic incumbent, Rep. Jim Marshall (news, bio, voting record), who won a third House term with a slim 1,752-vote edge over former six-term Republican Rep. Mac Collins in the 8th District.

    In a year when Democrats retained all the House and Senate seats they held prior to the election — and most by comfortable margins — the close contests faced by Barrow and Marshall were anomalies. ...

    But Barrow and Marshall faced a big new obstacle in their 2006 races, in the form of a mid-decade redistricting map — implemented by the Republican-controlled state legislature — that took away key portions of their previous constituencies and boosted the number of GOP voters. -- Count in Georgia 12 Favors Democrat, But Challenge Is Possible - Yahoo! News

    November 13, 2006

    Florida: Osceola Co. Comm. holds public hearing on redistricting plan

    Central Florida News 13 reports: Tonight, Osceola County Commissioners hope to get comments from people on how the board members should be elected.

    A federal judge has determined that Hispanics are penalized in the county, which is in violation of the Voting Rights Act. ...

    The new plan would set up single member districts and add two commissioners. -- Central Florida News 13,

    November 9, 2006

    Arizona: judge again rules that IRC did not draw a competitive legislative plan

    AP reports: Attorneys said Wednesday they expect a state commission will appeal the latest court ruling that again overturns as unconstitutional the district map used to pick state lawmakers since 2002.

    The Independent Redistricting Commission plans to consider appealing Tuesday's ruling by Judge Kenneth Fields of Maricopa County Superior Court when it meets later this month. Fields found that the commission did not put required emphasis on creating districts winnable by both Democrats and Republicans when it drew the lines. -- Appeal likely for latest ruling tossing legislative district map

    October 26, 2006

    North Carolina: reform group wants independent redistricting commission

    AP reports: With half of North Carolina's legislative seats uncontested on Election Day, two former congressmen said Tuesday the General Assembly should change how district boundaries are drawn to promote voter choice.

    "With little competition, accountability is lacking and voters start feel to discouraged and apathetic," said Republican Bill Cobey, who with Democrat Tim Valentine urged the creation of an independent redistricting commission at a news conference.

    The state House and Senate perform their once-a-decade redistricting of their own seats and those of North Carolina's congressional delegation, based on U.S. census figures. ...

    Cobey, also a former state GOP chairman and 2004 gubernatorial candidate, and other coalition members want lawmakers next year to create an independent panel that would make district decisions so that boundary lines aren't drawn to protect incumbents or their politically similar successors. -- CITIZEN-TIMES.com: Ex-congressmen, reformers wanted redistricting process changed

    October 16, 2006

    Georgia: state supreme court hears argument today in re-redistricing case

    The Athens Banner-Herald reports: The Georgia Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments today in the legal fight to overturn a 2006 redistricting that split Athens into two state Senate districts.

    The General Assembly, at the request of state Sen. Ralph Hudgens, shifted district lines for three state Senate districts early this year. The change unified Madison County into one district, but split Athens' Democratic-leaning voters into two Republican districts.

    A handful of local voters sued dozens of election officials to try to stop them from following the new maps during July primaries, though a visiting Superior Court judge dismissed their claim in June.

    Attorneys for the voters appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court, arguing that the Georgia Constitution allows legislators to redraw district lines only when a 10-year census shows the population has shifted, leaving too few voters in one district and too many in another. -- OnlineAthens.com | News | Arguments on districts heard today 10/16/06

    September 23, 2006

    Arizona: judge gets more time to rule on legislative redistricting

    AP reports: A judge who had been due to rule on the constitutionality of Arizona's legislative district map has been granted a 60-day extension to review evidence from a trial conducted nearly three years ago.

    Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Ruth McGregor signed an order dated Sept. 15 authorizing the extra time for Judge Kenneth Fields of Maricopa County Superior Court to review evidence from a nonjury trial conducted over a month's span in late 2003.

    Fields ruled in early 2004 that the legislative map was unconstitutional, but the Arizona Court of Appeals in 2005 overturned his ruling and ordered him to use different legal standards when considering the case again.
    After further proceedings, Fields took the case under advisement after a hearing July 21 and had been due to rule within 60 days, a period that ended Tuesday. McGregor granted Fields' request for an extension until Nov. 15. -- District-map ruling delayed | www.azstarnet.com ®

    September 21, 2006

    Alabama: federal court orders new election plan be adopted for Chilton County

    The federal court in the Middle District of Alabama has ordered Chilton County to develop a new election plan to be used in the 2008 election. The order stems from a suit brought by two white voters to dismantle the cumulative voting plan used in the county since 1988. The CV plan was agreed by the plaintiffs and defendants and put into effect by a consent decree.

    The court's opinon and
    order may be downloaded here.

    Note: James Blacksher and I represent the plaintiffs in this action. We have already appealed the decision setting aside the 1988 injuntion.

    Utah: GOP proposes 4-district congressional plan

    The Salt Lake Tribune reports: Utah's lone Democrat in Congress may get carved into a Democratic-leaning district under a plan Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. and legislative leaders are pushing as a way to drum up support for Utah to get a fourth congressional seat.

    Huntsman, House Speaker Greg Curtis and Senate President John Valentine - all Republicans - endorsed a map Wednesday for four congressional districts, in which Matheson would represent northern Salt Lake County and Summit and Morgan counties.

    Matheson was first elected in a district that was wholly within Salt Lake County, but was gerrymandered into a more Republican district stretching from Salt Lake City's Avenues all the way to the Utah-Arizona state line.

    The state leaders' move comes as an attempt to assuage congressional Democrats' fear that if they vote to give Utah a fourth U.S. House seat, Matheson would be merged into a district more Republican than his current rea. A bill awaiting action in Congress would grant Republican-dominated Utah another House seat as a way to counterbalance a seat for the Democratic haven of the District of Columbia, which currently has no voting member of Congress. -- Salt Lake Tribune - GOP pitches congressional district plan

    September 17, 2006

    Mississippi: Tupelo fighting a redistricting case and annexation case next month

    The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal reports: City leaders will sit for days in courtrooms next month for two major trials coming just weeks apart.

    Tupelo's redistricting case will be heard in federal court in Oxford beginning Oct. 10 before U.S. District Judge Mike Mills, city attorney Guy Mitchell III said Friday.

    A second high-profile case, on Tupelo's annexation plan, goes before retired Chancellor Charles Thomas of Pontotoc at the Lee Justice Center on Oct. 23. ..

    Thirteen days after the case begins in Oxford, Tupelo officials will be back in court to press for the annexation of 10.2 square miles to meet growth needs. Lee County supervisors and a group of citizens are fighting the move, fearing it will raise their taxes. The case may last several weeks.

    Earlier this week, a group of African-American residents announced they also are fighting the annexation. Their lawyer Kenneth Mayfield of Tupelo filed papers claiming it will dilute black voter strength. -- djournal.com

    Ohio: Euclid might redraw ward boundaries while still fighting DOJ suit

    The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports: The city might redraw ward boundaries while also contesting a federal lawsuit that accuses the city's existing election system of keeping black candidates out of office.

    Council President Ed Gudenas has drafted legislation that would give City Council the authority to propose new districts to ease a "statistical imbalance in population" in time for the 2007 election. The legislation is listed on the agenda for Monday's council meeting.

    Hilary Taylor, the attorney representing the city in the Department of Justice lawsuit, said City Council might lack the authority to adopt a redistricting plan without voter approval. ...

    The city has struggled to compromise with the Justice Department ever since a three-year investigation concluded that too many at-large council seats and districts that cover a large geographic area have diluted minority voting strength. -- Euclid council drafts law to propose new districts

    August 23, 2006

    South Dakota: 8th Circuit upholds redistricting order

    AP reports: A federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld a judge’s decision that redrew the boundaries of three legislative districts in an attempt to give American Indian voters a chance to elect more Indian candidates to the South Dakota Legislature.

    U.S. District Judge Karen Schreier of Rapid City was correct when she ruled that the Legislature’s 2001 redistricting plan violated the voting rights of Indians in an area that includes the Pine Ridge and Rosebud reservations, a three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said.

    The appeals panel also upheld Schreier’s ruling that redrew the boundaries of the legislative districts in south-central South Dakota. The new districts established by Schreier are being used in this year’s legislative elections. -- The Rapid City Journal

    More: The opinion in Bone Shirt v. Hazeltine, No. 05-4010 (8th Cir. Aug. 22, 2006), is available here.

    August 19, 2006

    APSA paper: "The Limits of the Gerrymander: Examining the Impact of Redistricting on Electoral Competition and Legislative Polarization"

    Winburn, Jonathan., Wright, Gerald. and Masket, Seth. "The Limits of the Gerrymander: Examining the Impact of Redistricting on Electoral Competition and Legislative Polarization"

    Abstract: Redistricting is often blamed for both declining electoral competition and increasing partisan polarization in the U.S. Congress and most state legislatures. Using election returns and roll call voting collections from Congress and state legislatures, we examine the extent to which redistricting is actually responsible for these trends. We find first that redistricting has had only a modest impact, if any, on the polarization of legislative districts; both state and federal districts have polarized more between redistrictings than during them in recent decades. Additionally, legislatures in states with partisan redistricting schemes are roughly as polarized as those in states with court- or commission-drawn legislative districts. While increasing legislative polarization and declining electoral competition may be defining features of modern American politics, our research shows that redistricting has had only a marginal impact on either of these trends. -- Download file

    August 18, 2006

    Foundation for the Future

    AP reports: One of the nation's largest labor unions, joining with other Democratic-leaning groups, is forming a political committee to raise millions of dollars for redistricting fights with the GOP.

    The formation of the political group Foundation for the Future, called a 527 because of the part of the tax code section that governs it, was at least partially a response to aggressive redistricting tactics by Republicans. ...

    The committee expects to spend about $17 million over the next five years on redistricting at the state and federal level, with more than half of that money provided by AFSCME, Scanlon said Thursday.

    The committee is being formed by AFSCME along with the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee and the National Committee for an Effective Congress. -- Union backing redistricting fights - Yahoo! News

    August 17, 2006

    "Mass Support for Redistricting Reform"

    Dan Smith emailed this paper to me. Here is a bit of it:

    Mass Support for Redistricting Reform: Partisanship and Representational Winners and Losers by
    Caroline J. Tolbert, University of Iowa; Daniel A. Smith, University of Florida; John C. Green, University of Akron

    This paper examines popular support for altering electoral institutions in two bellwether American states—California and Ohio. On Tuesday, November 8, 2005, a majority of voters in each state decisively struck down statewide ballot initiatives that would have created nonpartisan redistricting commissions. ...

    Riker (1962, 1986) argued that political elites act strategically, manipulating institutions for their electoral benefit. Building on the literature, we find compelling evidence that the mass public may also act strategically when making decisions about institutional change, as electoral losers are significantly more likely to support or vote for modifying electoral institutions. We find support for redistricting reform is contingent on loser status at the statewide legislative level and district level. While the findings are mixed regarding district level representation (stronger findings from Ohio), in general, we present evidence that “losers” statewide and at the district level are more likely to support efforts to create more competitive elections through redistricting reform. While it may be in the self-interest of statewide legislative losers (Democrats in Ohio and Republicans in California) to support changing the way redistricting is determined, some of these individuals (in particular, African Americans) may benefit at the district level from the current method of gerrymandering, which dampens their support for broader institutional change. Beyond defining losers by candidate preferences in the last election or perceptions of being an electoral loser, we find evidence that individuals who are electoral losers (represented by elected officials of a different political party at the statewide and district levels) are significantly more supportive of institutional change. We also find evidence that race and loser status may interact, shaping voting behavior. The analysis adds weight to a growing body of literature suggesting that strategic voting matters, especially in terms of “reforming the republic” (Donovan and Bowler 2004). As such, the research may have implications for future attempts to reform American electoral institutions in other states.

    August 14, 2006

    Colorado: federal court dismisses redistricting lawsuit

    The Rocky Mountain News reports: Federal judges have thrown out the last remaining challenge to a 2002 congressional redistricting plan, though attorneys for the plaintiffs said Monday they will appeal.

    The ruling by a three-judge panel said the state Supreme Court's earlier decision in a separate lawsuit had resolved the issue, and the plaintiffs could not revive it.

    After a split legislature could not agree on a plan, a state judge in 2002 drafted the redistricting plan currently in place. The following year a Republican-controlled legislature drafted a new plan, but the state Supreme Court threw it out, saying the state constitution only allows redistricting once per decade. -- Rocky Mountain News: News

    August 9, 2006

    California: will the redistricting bill pass?

    Medianews reports: The governor and his Democratic opponent are calling for a change in the way legislative maps are drawn. The legislative leaders of both parties also are on board. And polls show widespread public support.

    So why is it, with a deadline looming, that the Legislature still has not passed a redistricting bill? The short answer is that redistricting is all about political power -- and the current proposal is all about giving it up.

    Sen. Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, the principal author of the reform measure, is recommending that the power to draw political boundaries be taken away from the Legislature and handed over to an independent commission, eliminating what reformers say is a political system that protects incumbents.

    Just six weeks ago, a Democratic caucus killed the bill, but Lowenthal is back with an amended version that requires more diversity on the commission, among other changes he hopes will appease opponents. -- ContraCostaTimes.com | 08/09/2006 | Deadline looms to redraw districts

    August 8, 2006

    Florida: Lake Wales considers redistricting and single-member districts

    The Ledger reports: The city of Lake Wales is considering a redistricting of its voting boundaries because of changes caused by recent growth.

    The city has grown from 10,651 residents in the 2000 census to an estimated 12,500 today, with much of that growth coming in areas north of the city, including Lake Ashton. The city was last redistricted in 2002.

    The result is that some commission districts may now be larger than others, said Assistant City Manager Judy Delmar.

    Under state law, commission districts must be similar in size.

    Meanwhile, some black residents have asked the city to consider single-member districts in an attempt to ensure that black residents continue to be represented on the commission. In recent years, two of the city's five commissioners have been black. -- City May Realign Governing Districts | theledger.com

    Illinois: Chicago does not have to pay fees of alderman who sued city

    The Chicago Tribune reports: City Hall isn't obligated to pay more than $246,000 in legal fees owed by 23 current and former aldermen who sued the city over the 1992 redrawing of aldermanic ward maps, according to a ruling Monday from the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

    The decision reverses a lower court's ruling that ordered the city to pay that amount plus $168,000 in interest to attorneys for Ald. Ed Smith (28th) and other aldermen.

    The city immediately appealed the 2003 ruling and never paid the judgment amount.

    The appeals court ruled that while taxpayers should pay the legal fees of aldermen who are sued, they shouldn't be required to pay for aldermen to sue the city. -- City wins its appeal on remap legal fees | Chicago Tribune

    August 4, 2006

    Texas: 3-judge court re-re-redistricts 5 congressional districts; Bonilla picks up more Democrats

    Reuters reports: A U.S. Court redrew the boundaries of five south and west Texas congressional districts on Friday to restore political power to Hispanic voters.

    The three-judge panel, appointed by the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, vacated primary elections of candidates in the districts and said primary elections would be held simultaneously with the general election on November 7, according to the decision. ...

    Most affected by the change, according to political analysts is Republican Rep. Henry Bonilla's 23rd District, which saw the number of Democratic voters increase by 8 percent under the congressional district map issued on Friday. -- Court Redraws 5 Texas Congressional Districts - New York Times

    Note: The Lone Star Project has maps, statistics, and more about the old plan and the court-ordered plan on its home page (but this may move to the Texas redistricting page).

    Texas: Bonilla likely loser in the re-re-redistricting

    The Dallas Morning News reports: The lone Hispanic Republican in Texas' delegation to Congress, Rep. Henry Bonilla, probably faces a tougher fight under a voting map three federal judges said Thursday they are drawing themselves. It will be released soon, the judges said.

    Presiding Judge Patrick Higginbotham of Dallas suggested at a redistricting hearing that Mr. Bonilla's sprawling district in South and West Texas would lose its remaining foothold in Laredo and reach more deeply into Bexar County.

    While Mr. Bonilla's home is in San Antonio's predominantly white and Republican suburbs, the rest of the county is more Hispanic and Democratic. The proposed change could be "detrimental" to Mr. Bonilla, said his lawyer, J.D. Pauerstein.

    Mr. Pauerstein said the judges' emerging plan risks "losing too much of Mr. Bonilla's base and bringing in too much of Democratic Bexar County." ...

    Earlier, Judge Higginbotham, who sits on the 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, delivered some good news to Mr. Bonilla and lawyers for Gov. Rick Perry and other GOP state leaders.

    He indicated judges will rebuff pleas by Democrats and some civil-rights groups that Webb County be reunited in the 23rd District. That could have caused a showdown between Mr. Bonilla and U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo. He narrowly lost to Mr. Bonilla four years ago but ultimately won the redrawn 28th District seat. -- Dallas Morning News | News for Dallas, Texas | Texas/Southwest

    August 3, 2006

    Texas: report from the re-redistricting re-hearing

    The Austin American-Statesman reports: The state's congressional map could be fixed without pairing incumbents or eliminating U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett's Travis County base, a federal judge suggested today.

    U.S. District Judge Patrick Higginbotham, the presiding judge on a three-judge panel, made the suggestion as he grilled the state's attorney at a redistricting hearing this morning in a packed Austin courtroom.

    The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel is trying to find a fix for a South Texas congressional district the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled discriminates against Latinos. In June, the Supreme Court found that Laredo's 23rd congressional district violated Hispanic voting rights and ordered the panel to redraw the lines of that district, which would also affect other districts.

    Ted Cruz, representing the state, defended its map, which would pit Doggett against U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, and leave Travis County, largely a Democratic county, split between three Republican incumbents. -- Court hears redistricting plans

    Texas: re-hearing today on re-redistricting case

    AP reports: With an election just around the corner, a three-judge federal panel was set Thursday to hear arguments about how to redraw southwest Texas congressional districts to restore minority voting power.

    The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that a huge southwest district violates the Voting Rights Act because the power of the minority vote was diminished when concentrations of Hispanics were split into two districts.

    It is unclear when the three-judge panel may issue a decision, but Texas elections officials say a ruling by Monday is necessary for changes to go into effect for the Nov. 7 election.

    "It is recommended by our office that the court have a map in place by (Aug.) 7th," said Scott Haywood, a spokesman for Secretary of State Roger Williams. -- Fast Ruling Sought in Redistricting Case

    July 27, 2006

    Colorado: federal court hears arguments on GOP redistricting suit

    The Pueblo Chieftain reports: Federal judges again are considering whether to throw out a Republican lawsuit challenging the current congressional district lines in Colorado.

    A three-judge panel heard arguments Wednesday on whether they must dismiss the lawsuit on grounds they are precluded from ruling on it.

    The lawsuit seeks to overturn a Colorado Supreme Court decision, supported by Democrats, that upheld congressional district lines drawn in 2002 by a state court judge in Denver. The judge drew the districts after legislators could not agree on boundaries before the 2002 elections.

    The lawsuit alleges the state Supreme Court decision violates a U.S. Constitution provision about elections by restricting legislators' ability to redistrict. The plaintiffs want legislators to have another chance to draw the boundaries. ...

    The Colorado secretary of state contends the lawsuit is barred by a legal doctrine known as "issue preclusion" because the lawsuit presents the same issue "that was litigated to final judgment" by the supreme court. The secretary of state oversees elections. -- The Pueblo Chieftain Online - Pueblo, Colorado U.S.A

    July 26, 2006

    Texas: high-stake negotiations plus back-room deals

    Columnist Jaime Castillo writes in the San Antonio Express-News: A week from Thursday, a panel of three federal judges will try to figure out the best way to redraw Henry Bonilla's 23rd Congressional District to satisfy the concerns of the U.S. Supreme Court.

    But it has become clear that one of the plans judges will consider was the result of high-stakes negotiations between the four area congressmen with dogs in this fight.

    To hear one side tell it, Austin-based Congressman Lloyd Doggett went along his colleagues -- U.S. Reps. Bonilla, Henry Cuellar and Lamar Smith -- to get what he wanted in the proposal and then pulled out of the compromise at the 11th hour.

    And if you listen to Doggett, he was the one being played by Bonilla who was simultaneously working with state officials on another map that eradicated Doggett's Travis County base. -- MySA.com: Metro | State

    July 22, 2006

    Texas: reactions to the state's proposal

    The Houston Chronicle reports: The state's proposed fix for a flawed South Texas congressional district invited scorn Friday from organizations hoping to convince federal judges of a better plan. ...

    "The state plan changes two or three districts by partisan makeup. It's a partisan get-even plan," said lawyer Rolando Rios, who represents the League of United Latin American Citizens.

    "State Republican leaders chose to put a partisan agenda ahead of the interests of Hispanic voters, whose voting rights have been violated," said Ed Martin, a Democrat consultant and redistricting expert. ...

    "I'm disappointed that the Republicans are using this as a cocktail party joke opportunity rather than to submit real evidence before real judges who are going to determine the future of our state," GOP consultant Royal Masset said. "The Republican plan makes no sense. It's not responsive to anything. It's like a political statement."

    Democrats wrote that the state's proposal should be called, "The Roadrunner That Ate Travis County," referring to the new 23rd District drawn in the Texas Hill Country for Bonilla. -- Chron.com | State's new map for Dist. 23 draws fire

    My comment: I am not sure what there is about redistricting that brings out the similes and metaphors like a Heywood Hale Broun column ("Sweat is the cologne of accomplishment").

    Texans: who moved my cheese [district]?

    The New York Times reports: Once upon a time, Congressional district lines were redrawn once a decade, after each federal census. But last month the Supreme Court made it clear that redistricting could occur far more often, and the resulting sense of impermanence was on display this week in a weather-beaten house on this city's Hispanic, working-class South Side.

    A few dozen people clustered around the color-coded maps pinned to the wall, each map showing the jigsaw patterns of how South and West Texas’ Congressional districts might be redrawn in the next few weeks. One keeps this part of southern Bexar County in the 28th Congressional District, another puts it in the 23rd, some split it into both and one plan divides the neighborhood among three districts.

    “It’s a mess,” said Jimmie Casias, a military veteran and school board official from nearby Somerset. “And what’s worst about it, the way things are now, if whoever’s running things doesn’t like the way an election turns out, they can come back and change the lines all over again.”

    The Supreme Court’s 5-to-4 ruling said that a 2003 redistricting plan, spearheaded by Tom DeLay, the former leader of the Republican majority in the House, was not an unconstitutional gerrymander even though it resulted in the defeat of four Democratic incumbents. But the court also ruled that one district, the 23rd, stretching for 700 miles from Laredo to the outskirts of El Paso was illegal under the Voting Rights Act and needed 100,000 more Hispanics in it to comply. -- Ruling Has Texans Puzzling Over Districts - New York Times

    July 20, 2006

    Mississippi: Tupelo spending big bucks on two suits

    The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal reports: Soaring legal costs for Tupelo's annexation case and other lawsuits could climb to $200,000 when the year is finished.

    City leaders Tuesday agreed to set aside $100,000 more for iits annexation fight with Lee County plus another high-profile case. ...

    In the other major suit, Rev. Robert Jamison and other black leaders are upset there's only one minority on the nine-member council. They want to eliminate the two at-large council seats.

    The new council should have either nine or seven wards, they say. Tupelo city officials want to keep the current form of government. The trial date is uncertain. -- djournal.com

    Texas: analyses of the re-redistricting proposal

    Kuff's World reports: Ready to get back to reviewing and analyzing redistricting map proposals? Of course you are. Good news: there are a couple of thorough efforts to examine. First up is this report (PDF) by local political consultant Mustafa Tameez, which looks at all of the maps and their relevant briefs where possible. When you're done with that, check out this report by Phillip Martin on another case-by-case overview done by the Lone Star Project. And finally, Vince Leibowitz runs all the partisan index numbers on the different plans, which he posts here. Take a look at them all and know what the lawyers will be talking about on August 3.

    The one comment I'll make at this time has to do with the state's plan, which would effectively defenestrate Austin Democrat Lloyd Doggett by splitting Travis County up again into three districts, only this time anchoring each one to a heavily Republican area outside Travis, while moving Doggett's CD25 south and thus leaving him without a base. Doggett could probably still win, at least in 2006, given his huge cash advantage, but the writing would be on the wall for him. -- Kuff's World: Still more redistricting map analysis

    Kuff's blog has links to the various reports he describes.

    July 18, 2006

    Georgia: state suppreme court will hear appeal of the Athens re-redistricting

    AP reports: The Georgia Supreme Court will hear an appeal in October of a lawsuit challenging changes to three northeast Georgia state Senate districts.

    State Rep. Jane Kidd, D-Athens, said attorneys for three Democratic voters have filed briefs for the appeal. The state's response is due by Aug. 1, she said.

    But a nearly identical lawsuit in federal court will not be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, according to Kidd who is running for an Athens-based seat that was reconfigured after she announced her campaign.

    Atlanta attorney Emmet Bondurant, representing the three voters, will attempt to overturn a June 20 Clarke County Superior Court decision that upheld changes to the district boundaries. -- AP Wire | 07/17/2006 | State Supreme Court to hear Athens redistricting case

    July 15, 2006

    Texas: a rundown on the re-districting proposals

    CQ Politics reports: The legal proceedings to amend one of the 32 House districts in Texas, as ordered by the Supreme Court in a June 28 ruling, moved forward on Friday -- the deadline for the parties in the case to submit proposals for revised district maps to a three-judge federal panel in Austin.

    The future of the state's 23rd District, represented by seven-term Republican Rep. Henry Bonilla, is the one remaining issue from a long-running legal dispute over an unusual and highly partisan mid-decade redistricting plan implemented by the Republican majority in the Texas legislature prior to the 2004 elections. The map overhaul, spearheaded by then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas, replaced one more favorable to Democrats that had been invoked by a state court panel prior to the 2002 elections. ...

    A redrawing of the 23rd District necessarily requires the reconfiguration of a few other districts. The major map proposals submitted to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas would also make alterations to the 21st District, a Republican-leaning district near Austin and San Antonio that is represented by 10-term Republican Rep. Lamar Smith; the 25th District, a heavily Hispanic and elongated district from Austin to the Mexico border that is represented by six-term Democratic Rep. Lloyd Doggett; and the 28th District, a south Texas district that is represented by freshman Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar.

    Friday’s deadline was set under an expedited schedule issued by the federal court June 29, one day after the Supreme Court ruling. The parties now have until July 21 to file comments on the proposed maps, and the court will hear oral arguments in Austin on Aug. 3. -- CQPolitics.com - TX: Remap Plans Vary Widely; New Primaries a Possibility

    [The article has details of the various proposals.]

    July 13, 2006

    Massachusetts: legislature defeats redistricting commission proposal, approves absentee voting proposal

    AP reports: Here is a list of all of the proposals before the Legislature at Wednesday's constitutional convention. Some issues appear twice because of minor differences in language or because they were brought to the convention in separate ways, such as through citizen petitions or by lawmakers. ...

    ABSENTEE VOTING (1) -- The amendment would permit a city or town to vote to allow absentee voting for any reason.

    Lawmakers voted for a substitute amendment allowing absentee voting, then gave it initial approval.

    SEPARATE ELECTIONS -- The proposal would repeal an amendment to the constitution that was enacted in 1966 to group the governor and lieutenant governor in teams according to party in the general election. This amendment would allow a governor and lieutenant governor from different parties to be elected.

    Lawmakers rejected initial approval of the proposal.

    LEGISLATIVE TERMS (1) -- The amendment would increase the legislative term from two to four years.

    Lawmakers rejected initial approval of the proposal.

    REDISTRICTING (1) -- The proposal would create an independent redistricting commission in an effort to establish transparency and fairness in the redistricting process.

    Lawmakers voted to move this item to the end of the calendar.

    BALLOT QUESTIONS -- The amendment would increase the current signature requirement for qualifying initiative petitions for the ballot and place title and language setting authority in a new commission.

    Lawmakers rejected initial approval of the proposal. -- A look at the proposed constitutional amendments before lawmakers - Boston.com

    July 12, 2006

    "Revitalizing Democracy" video

    The American Constitution Society for Law and Policy has posted the video of the “Revitalizing Democracy” panel at its recent National Convention. On June 17, ACS hosted a panel at its 2006 National Convention exploring the sources of the growing sense of disenfranchisement among Americans and avenues for reform that could make our democratic system more responsive to ordinary Americans. Panelists explored issues such as the impact of money in politics and campaign finance reform, the effect of redistricting on political polarization, the merits of the electoral college, how technology will affect political campaigning in the coming years and the implementation of the Help American Vote Act. Panelists also discussed ways that we can encourage a national conversation on these issues and broaden participation in our democracy. Included on the panel were:

  • Ron Klain, Executive Vice President and General Counsel, Revolution LLC; former assistant to President Clinton; former Chief of Staff and Counsel to Vice President Gore;
  • Donna Brazile, Brazile and Associates, LLC; former campaign manager for Vice President Al Gore;
  • Representative Artur Davis (D-AL);
  • Heather Gerken, Professor of Law, Yale Law School;
  • Benjamin Ginsberg, Patton Boggs LLP;
  • Robert Lenhard, Vice Chairman, Federal Election Commission; and
  • John Podesta, President and Chief Executive Officer, Center for American Progress; former Chief of Staff to President Clinton.
  • Ohio: DOJ sues Euclid over election system

    AP reports: This Cleveland suburb's mayor bristled Tuesday at a Justice Department lawsuit over the city's election system, calling the attempt to block elections premature and unwarranted.

    The lawsuit, filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Cleveland, alleges that majority whites voting as a bloc in an at-large election setup have made it impossible for a black candidate to get elected. It's the third time the Bush administration has filed a civil rights lawsuit on behalf of black voters, Justice Department spokesman Eric Holland said.

    "Euclid has been proactive in fostering racial harmony and full participation of all residents through programs sponsored by city government, nonprofit organizations and the many churches and congregations throughout our community," Mayor Bill Cervenik said in a news release Tuesday.

    The Lake Erie city of roughly 53,000 is 30 percent black, but no black person has been elected to a local seat. There have been eight recent black city council candidates, but the council's four wards and four at-large seats dilute black voters' power, the Justice Department lawsuit alleges. -- AP Wire | 07/11/2006 | Mayor rejects claims in Justice Department's voting-rights suit

    July 8, 2006

    Florida: Osceola County suit delayed for 2 months

    The Orlando Sentinel reports: Osceola County won a two-month delay Friday in the trial of a federal voting-rights lawsuit. ...

    Lawyers for the county asked the judge for a delay in order to take depositions for close to 30 potential witnesses in the wake of a three-day hearing that resulted in Presnell's June 26 injunction halting commission elections. Presnell's ruling to move the trial to September came after a telephone hearing Friday.

    There remains one unanswered question for experts to answer, the county said in paperwork asking for the delay.

    It "concerns whether a constitutionally proper and proportionate district can be drawn using 2006 population and registration data which still provides for a Hispanic majority. To this point, no expert on either side has tried to do this, and defendants submit it cannot be done," the legal filing said.

    The county argued it would take time for experts to flesh out that issue for trial. -- Voting trial in Osceola postponed 2 months - Orlando Sentinel : Osceola County News Voting trial in Osceola postponed 2 months - Orlando Sentinel : Osceola County News

    July 6, 2006

    Mississippi: group sues Hattiesburg over racial dilution

    The Hattiesburg American reported on 27 June: A lawsuit filed by 10 leaders of Hattiesburg's black community alleges that city council and election officials used 3,358 transient student residents to unfairly sway political power to maintain a white voting bloc in city council.

    "It's all about political power," said Ellis Turnage, a lawyer from Cleveland who represents a group of 10 city residents. "They cheated an African-American out of one seat on city council."

    The lawsuit alleges the redistricting plan created by city council and approved by the U.S. Justice Department in 2002 violates the Voting Rights Act by diluting the strength of black voters in the city.

    The suit cites statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau and the 2005 election results that show a much smaller number of people turned out to vote in Ward 1 - where the student population resides - than in the four remaining wards. The group is asking the court to order city council to eliminate the college students from the equation and redistrict the city in accordance with the new numbers. -- Hattiesburg American - www.hattiesburgamerican.com - Hattiesburg, Miss.

    July 5, 2006

    Not many places the Dems might re-redistrict

    The Washington Post reports:
    Democrats cried foul three years ago when Texas Republicans rammed through a highly partisan redistricting to gain an advantage in several House races. Now, a recent Supreme Court ruling that blessed the Texas plan gives Democrats a chance to show that turnabout is fair play.

    But early indications are that Democrats will probably resist the temptation to do unto Republicans as Republicans did unto them. ...

    First, Democrats must compile a list of states where a DeLay-like strategy is feasible. It will be remarkably short. Several states assign the redistricting task to commissions, shielding the process from partisan control. Some states, such as Texas, are controlled by Republicans. Many others have divided government, in which neither party controls both the governorship and the two legislative chambers, making blatantly partisan redistricting impossible. Finally, some Democratic-controlled states have already carved out all the Democratic-leaning House districts they can, leaving no room for gains.

    The result, redistricting experts say, yields perhaps four states where Democrats conceivably could try a mid-decade gerrymander comparable to that of Texas's: Illinois, North Carolina, New Mexico and Louisiana. In each one, however, such a move seems unlikely because of factors that include racial politics, Democratic cautiousness and even a hurricane's impact. -- Democrats Not Eager to Emulate Texas's Redistricting

    July 3, 2006

    Texas: ripple effects from the Supreme Court decision

    The Washington Times reports: Last week's Supreme Court ruling on the constitutionality of the 2003 Tom DeLay-led Texas redistricting coup was a distinct victory for the Republican Party, but it could spawn some interesting fallout.

    There was only one instance in which the court said the Republican gerrymandering could not be upheld -- District 23, which sprawls from San Antonio to far West Texas. The court criticized the redrawing of a second district, District 25, which meanders from Austin to the Mexican border, and said it expected that district would be somewhat redrawn.

    Despite the fact that the redrawing of district lines took months to accomplish -- resulting in the defeat of a half-dozen Democratic congressional incumbents throughout the state -- a panel of judges overseeing the changes is making sure they are determined well before this November's elections.

    Within hours of the ruling, a federal judge from Texas' Eastern District ordered that all participants in the lawsuit claiming that the Voting Rights Act had been violated must have new maps and arguments submitted to the court within two weeks. Oral arguments are scheduled for Aug. 3 in Austin. -- Fallout felt from Texas redistricting ruling - Nation/Politics - The Washington Times, America's Newspaper

    June 20, 2006

    California: state senate to consider redistricting commission this week

    AP reports: California lawmakers are considering giving up one of their most politically potent powers -- the ability to draw their own districts.

    A constitutional amendment that would transfer those duties to an 11-member commission seems to have enough votes to pass, a year after voters rejected a somewhat similar attempt that sparked a fight between Democrats and Republicans.

    ''I don't see a whole lot of opposition to this at this point,'' said Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuńez, D-Los Angeles. ''It's a clear effort to try and do the right thing by way of allowing for broader citizenship participation in the political process.''

    Twelve states currently take the power to draw districts out of the hands of legislators and give it to commissions. Five others use commissions if lawmakers fail to approve new districts by a deadline.

    If the California amendment passes, it would be the first time a state legislature had voted to give up its redistricting role, said Sen. Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, the measure's author. The other commissions were created by voter initiatives, he said. -- Monterey County Herald | 06/19/2006 | Redistricting resurfaces

    May 25, 2006

    Dick Engstrom on "exaggerated" claims of pro-minority districting causing GOP victories

    Dick Engstrom has emailed me his chapter from "Writing Southern Politics." He says, " It argues that the perverse effects hypothesis concerning African American majority districts resulting in the election of Republicans has been exaggerated, in light of the empirical research on this issue."

    The file is large because of the method used to make the PDF.

    Download part 1

    Download part 2

    Download part 3

    Download part 4

    May 23, 2006

    Alabama: court rules against GOP redistricting suit

    The Mobile Register reports: A three-judge federal panel on Monday decided not to change the boundaries of Alabama's legislative districts, ruling that previous litigation settled the issue.

    A group of Republican voters in southwest Alabama filed a federal lawsuit in Mobile last year, arguing that the Legislature's redistricting plan following the 2000 Census intentionally discriminated against GOP voters by packing them into districts that were as much as 5 percent more populous than the ideal number.

    Lawyers from the state attorney general's office and the Democratic leaders in the House and Senate argued the lawsuit should be barred because it made essentially the same case made in other challenges to the boundaries and that the plaintiffs were closely associated with the plaintiffs in the previous cases. -- Judges uphold legislative districts

    May 22, 2006

    Alabama: GOP loses latest redistricting case

    The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama has just dismissed the Republicans' suit against the 2002 state legislative redistricting plan on the basis of res judicata. Here's what the Court says in its conclusion:

    Having held that Gustafson and Montiel [an earlier redistricting case] involve the same cause of action and having found that the parties are in privity, and Plaintiffs having conceded the other requirements, we hold that the instant suit is barred by res judicata. Accordingly, judgment is due to be entered against Plaintiffs and in favor of all Defendants.
    Jim Blacksher and I represented the defendant-intervenorSeth Hammett, Speaker of the House. Bobby Segall, Larry Menefee, and Shannon Holliday represented defendant-intervenors Senators Lowell Barron and Hank Sanders.

    Here is the opinion.

    May 5, 2006

    Ohio: GOP proposes redistricting commission plan

    The Cleveland Plain Dealer: The biased, one- party process for drawing Ohio political districts would be erased and remade by a nonpartisan commission under a plan introduced Thursday by Republican House leaders.

    "Nobody can honestly look at this and say that it is an unfair proposal, that it favors one party over another," said Rep. Kevin DeWine, a Dayton- area Republican and the resolution's sponsor.

    But with a similar redistricting pro posal overwhelmingly rejected by voters just six months ago, House Minority Leader Joyce Beatty said lawmakers should move on to more- pressing matters, like the economy. ...

    DeWine's resolution has the support of House Speaker Jon Husted and is intended to show up on November's election ballot as a constitutional amendment. To get there, it needs approval from 60 percent of both the House and Senate. -- GOP proposes new redistricting panel

    May 2, 2006

    Georgia: federal court refuses to undo the re-redistricting

    AP reports: A three-judge panel Tuesday rejected an attempt from an Athens lawmaker to throw out a state Senate map that splits the Democratic stronghold of Athens in half.

    State Rep. Jane Kidd had asked the federal panel to rule a map that shifts Athens-Clarke County into two Republican-dominated districts unconstitutional and prevent it from being used in this year's elections.

    Kidd, who had announced plans to seek an open Senate seat, and other Democrats accused Republicans of redrawing the map to give their party an advantage to win a seat now held by Republican Sen. Brian Kemp. -- AP Wire | 05/02/2006 | Judges back Republican plan to split Athens vote

    May 1, 2006

    Mississippi: federal court hearing vote dilution suit today

    The Clarion-Ledger reports: A three-judge federal panel in Jackson will hear a lawsuit today that says the 2002 state legislative redistricting plan gerrymandered Senate District 45 to remove any chance of a black being elected.

    "This should have never been approved," said Forrest County Supervisor Rod Woullard, the main plaintiff in the lawsuit against the state.

    The federal panel will decide if the changes violate the Voting Rights Act, which was created during the civil rights era to guarantee fair election practices nationwide.

    The suit contends that minority voting strength in the redrawn district is 20.42 percent, compared with 42.96 percent before redistricting. -- Judges to hear redistrict suit - The Clarion-Ledger

    April 28, 2006

    Maryland: consent decree redistricts Carroll County, but appeal looms

    The Baltimore Sun reports: Two Carroll County residents, one of them an official in the administration of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., have gone to court to overturn an agreement that settled a long-running political feud about how to draw districts from which commissioners are to be elected this fall.

    The election has been in the throes of uncertainty since the General Assembly recessed without approving a map that would create the five commissioner districts called for in a referendum approved by voters in 2004. The referendum had expanded the number of commissioners from three to five and required them to be elected by district.

    Last week, a consent order was filed in Carroll Circuit Court that settled a lawsuit and called for a district map based on the recommendations of a redistricting committee created by the 2004 referendum.

    One resident seeking to overturn last week's order is Joseph M. Getty, a former delegate from Manchester and now policy director for Ehrlich. Getty was one of two members of the redistricting committee to reject the Option Two map, aligning himself with the delegation.

    He said the county Board of Elections doesn't have the authority to establish the districts called for in the consent order. -- 2 in Carroll County seek to overturn redistricting order - baltimoresun.com

    April 25, 2006

    Arizona: two appellate courts reject challenges to trial judge hearing redistricting case

    AP reports: The state's redistricting commission is questioning how it can get a fair shake from a trial judge who the commission suggests could be resentful, partly because his rulings on key issues on the legality of Arizona's map of legislative districts were overturned on appeal.

    However, both the state Court of Appeals and the Arizona Supreme Court have turned aside efforts by the Independent Redistricting Commission and a Republican group which supports the map to have the case reassigned from Judge Kenneth Fields of Maricopa County Superior Court.

    That leaves Fields presiding over Democrats' challenge that the commission didn't create enough competitive legislative districts - ones winnable by either major party _ when it drew the map used in the past two elections.
    Everybody involved now acknowledges that the case won't be resolved in time to affect this year's election, but the eventual outcome could determine which districts are used in 2008 and 2010. After that, new census results will be used to draw new districts. -- Redistricting case stays with judge after challenge fails | www.azstarnet.com

    April 24, 2006

    Wisconsin: county voters may vote on county board size

    AP reports: Advocates for smaller county boards have a new weapon in Wisconsin — putting the issue to a vote of residents — but early returns indicate changes won't come soon.

    Only one county has put the issue to a referendum so far and it failed, while the board in one of the state's most populous counties headed off an attempt to drastically reduce its size by voting for a smaller reduction before petitioners could get the issue on the ballot.

    Sabrina Davis of Wisconsin Rapids submitted petitions last week seeking to cut the size of the Wood County Board from 38 to 19, even though the board's own census review and redistricting committee had proposed a cut of the same size. -- Green Bay Press-Gazette - Reducing county board sizes can go to voters

    Alabama: GOP redistricting suit awaits court action

    AP reports: A lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the current district boundaries for the Alabama Legislature awaits a ruling by a three-judge federal panel on whether it can continue.

    Democrats claim it's a Republican attempt to pick up where the last redistricting suit left off. It's unclear when the three-judge panel will rule. A hearing date has not been set. ...

    But Barron, Sanders and another intervenor, House Speaker Seth Hammett, D-Andalusia, point to close relationships of Republicans involved in the suit, particularly Montiel, who has brought numerous redistricting lawsuits on his own.

    Minutes of the Republican Party Executive and Steering Committee show that on at least four occasions in 2004 and 2005, GOP vice chairman Jerry Lathan made formal presentations about the lawsuit.

    In speeches, he presented this suit as the "central aspect" of the party's official strategy to take over the state Legislature, Montgomery attorney Shannon L. Holliday wrote in a court filing last month. -- Welcome to TimesDaily.com

    Disclosure: I represent, along with James Blacksher, Speaker Hammett in this suit.

    April 22, 2006

    Georgia: DOJ preclears re-redistricting; lawsuit already pending

    The Athens Banner-Herald reports: The U.S. Department of Justice signed off late Thursday on a redistricting plan that would split Clarke County into two Senate districts, setting the stage for a lawsuit challenging the new districts filed earlier Thursday by state Rep. Jane Kidd, D-Athens.

    Federal approval came less than four days before the qualifying period, when candidates officially register to run for office, which begins Monday morning. If the justice department had not approved the maps by then, elections would have been held using the old districts.

    But the maps are not yet final. Attorneys are seeking a hearing on the lawsuit, filed in an Atlanta federal court, early next week, Kidd said Friday. A date has yet to be set, but at that hearing, attorneys will ask to either move back the qualifying period until the lawsuit is settled, or will seek a preliminary ruling to hold the elections using the old maps, she said. ..

    Kidd's lawsuit argues that the redistricting was unconstitutional because it did not occur in a census year, it creates uneven representation by changing the populations of the districts, and it limits the freedom of speech of Democrats who make up the majority in Clarke County by diluting their voting power. -- OnlineAthens.com | News | Feds OK map that splits A-C 04/22/06

    April 12, 2006

    Maryland: Carroll Co. in the lurch when the legislature fails to adopt district map

    The Baltimore Sun reports: Since the state legislature failed to carve Carroll County into five commissioner districts, county officials decided yesterday to ask the courts to define the district lines.

    The court could review two existing maps that each have five districts with equal populations. ...

    Candidates, who face a July 3 filing deadline, cannot officially campaign until the districts are set. But there may not be enough time or willingness for the courts to rule on a map, said William R. Varga, assistant attorney general. ...

    Kimberly A. Millender, county attorney, said she is reviewing the county's legal options and expects to make recommendations to the commissioners as soon as today. Minnich said he would urge Carroll County Circuit Court to make "a declaratory judgment in a timely manner." -- Carroll to ask courts to define districts - baltimoresun.com

    March 29, 2006

    California: court of appeals okays splitting Santa Clara in redistricting

    The Metropolitan News-Enterprise reports: A legislative redistricting plan does not violate the state Constitution merely because it splits a city, the Third District Court of Appeal ruled yesterday.

    The justices affirmed a Sacramento Superior Court judge’s ruling that lawmakers acted within their discretion when they drew up and passed the current redistricting plan five years ago. Santa Clara voters had challenged the decision to split their city between Assembly District 22 and District 24.

    District 24 is currently represented by Rebecca Cohn, D-San Jose, and District 22 by Sally Lieber, D-Mountain View. Most of Santa Clara is in Lieber’s district.

    The plaintiffs argued that splitting the city violated Art. XXI, Sec. 1(e) of the Constitution, which mandates that “[t]he geographical integrity of any city, county, or city and county, or of any geographical region shall be respected to the extent possible without violating the requirements of any other subdivision of this section.” -- Court of Appeal Rejects Challenge to State Assembly Redistricting

    March 23, 2006

    Florida: state supreme court okays marriage initiative, strikes redistricting initiative

    AP reports: A proposed state constitutional amendment that would have stripped lawmakers of their power to redraw legislative and congressional districts was knocked off the ballot Thursday by the Florida Supreme Court.

    In a separate ruling, the high court unanimously approved putting on the 2008 ballot another citizen initiative that would put a ban on same-sex marriages in the Florida Constitution. Sponsors had hoped to send it to voters this year but failed to get enough petition signatures.

    The justices ruled in a 6-1 opinion that the redistricting proposal failed to meet requirements to address only a single subject and have clear and unambiguous language.

    The citizen initiative would have set up a 15-member commission to handle redistricting every 10 years. Sponsors had collected the 611,009 signatures needed to put the amendment on the Nov. 7 ballot. -- AP Wire | 03/23/2006 | High court kills redistricting amendment, OKs gay marriage one

    The advisory opinions may be seen here: marriage amendment; independent redistricting commission.

    March 15, 2006

    California: Senate committee passes redistricting reform bill

    Scripps Howard News Service reports: Legislation to strip California lawmakers of their power to draw state Senate, Assembly and other political boundaries narrowly passed a legislative committee Wednesday.

    Supported by Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, the measure comes four months after voters soundly defeated Proposition 77, which also called for independent redistricting but differed significantly in its process and timing.

    Sen. Alan Lowenthal, a Long Beach Democrat who helped craft SCA 3, hailed the proposed constitutional amendment as a way to give political power "back to the people."

    "We can only depoliticize the redistricting process by working together," Lowenthal said in urging bipartisan support.

    Under SCA 3, boundaries for legislative, congressional and Board of Equalization districts would be drawn once every decade, beginning in 2011, after the federal census.

    Boundaries would be set by a citizens commission, with legislative leaders choosing a majority of its members from a pool of candidates nominated by a panel of retired appellate judges. -- Scripps Howard News Service

    I'm sure that Rick Hasen will have all the details at Election Lawhttp://electionlawblog.org/.

    March 13, 2006

    "Tricks of virtual redistricting"

    Lani Guinier and Gerald Torres write in the Boston Globe: DURING ORAL arguments on the Texas redistricting case March 1, Chief Justice John Roberts asked the lawyer for the Mexican-American appellants: ''What's the difference between 'being one' and 'looking like one?' "

    Though Roberts was asking about the claim that the Legislature was hiding its partisan shenanigans behind an ersatz majority Latino election district in Southwest Texas, he could easily have been inquiring about the identity of the residents of that district and of their congressman. The question looms large because the legality of the Republicans' mid-decade redistricting will probably rise or fall with the proposition that appearances matter, i.e., that the legality of the plan depends on what the district, the politician who represents it, or the people living inside the district ''look like."

    That the case will turn on identity, not partisan politics is not surprising since the probable swing voter, Justice Anthony Kennedy, objected that the mapmakers' twists and turns camouflaged a racial ''affront and insult" within the partisan landscape. Kennedy grounded his objection in a series of cases in the 1990s, where the court expressed displeasure with Democrats who allowed race to predominate on the map of congressional districts in North Carolina.

    In North Carolina, blacks, who were one-fifth of the electorate, had not elected a representative of their choice to Congress for almost a century. Yet Democrats, concerned about the reelection of a white Democrat incumbent, chose not to create a compact district in the southeastern and central part of the state where blacks and Native Americans lived in close proximity. Motivated by their own brand of political engineering, North Carolina Democrats ignored the potentially compact district to fashion instead a majority black ''highway district" that followed the lines of a zigzagging interstate. One legislator mused that if you drove down Interstate 85 with both car doors open, you would mow down all the voters in the district. The court objected. Appearances mattered. -- Tricks of virtual redistricting - The Boston Globe

    March 6, 2006

    Arizona: redistricting case is back before Judge Fields

    AP reports: His previous ruling overturned by an appellate court, a trial judge has begun reconsidering Hispanics Democrats' challenge to a map of legislative district maps that favor Republicans.

    Judge Kenneth Fields of Maricopa County Superior Court said during Monday's hearing that he doesn't want the 4-year-old case to languish, and a lawyer for the Democrats left open a slim possibility that districts could be put in place for use in this year's election.

    In January, the Arizona Supreme Court let stand a state Court of Appeals ruling that overturned Fields' 2004 ruling that ordered the state redistricting to replace the legislative district map with a new version that included additional districts winnable by either major party.

    The Court of Appeals said Fields used incorrect legal standards in judging the map and ordered him to reconsider the Democrats' challenge under a standard that gives more discretion to the Independent Redistricting Commission. -- Welcome to the Tucson Citizen

    March 2, 2006

    Texas: another take on the re-redistricting argument

    The Washinton Post reports: The Supreme Court hosted its own performance of "Beauty and the Beast" this week. On Tuesday, it heard the plea of Anna Nicole Smith, the former stripper and Playboy Playmate seeking a share of her deceased husband's fortune. Yesterday, the justices debated the aesthetics of three congressional districts in Texas.

    "Particularly grotesque shapes," judged Justice John Paul Stevens. "Much less compact" than before.

    Justice Stephen Breyer offered a partially concurring opinion. "A long walking stick is what it looks like . . . It's not a circle . . . It's not absolutely terrible."

    Lawyer Ted Cruz, defending the state of Texas, found the map much more pleasing than the old one, which he said had "fingers" coming out of it. "It's not like they snake around," Cruz argued, rattling off what he called the districts' "perimeter to area score" and using fancy words like "equipopulosity."

    Breyer demanded a more precise description of the shapes. "Either it is reasonably compact or it isn't," he said. -- The Justices Look at Some Shapely . . . Congressional Districts

    Texas: Supreme Court argument on the re-redistricting case

    The New York Times reports: Texas Democrats had their day in the Supreme Court on Wednesday to challenge the unusual middecade redistricting of the state's Congressional delegation that led to the loss of five Democratic seats and helped solidify Republican control of Congress.

    While the Democrats may not come away completely empty-handed, it appeared unlikely by the end of the intense two-hour argument that a majority of the court would overturn the 2003 redistricting plan, or any other plan, for that matter, as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander.

    The new districts were drawn under a plan that was engineered by Representative Tom DeLay of Texas, then the House majority leader, after Republicans gained control of both houses of the Texas Legislature. And they are not necessarily invulnerable. Several justices, including, most significantly, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who may be in a position to cast the deciding vote, expressed concern with aspects of how particular districts were dismantled and reconfigured.

    As a result, it appeared possible that the court would find a violation of the Voting Rights Act or the Constitution's equal protection guarantee in the way the new lines were drawn in South Texas. The legislators removed 100,000 Mexican-American residents of Laredo from a district in which the Republican incumbent, Representative Henry Bonilla, had become more vulnerable with each passing election, while creating a new Latino-majority district in a narrow strip running 300 miles from Austin to the Mexican border. -- Supreme Court Justices Express Concern Over Aspects of Some Texas Redistricting - New York Times

    February 28, 2006

    Supreme Court to hear Texas re-redistricting and Vermont campaign finance cases this week

    The New York Times reports: The most pressing and unsettled questions in election law are those that concern the role of money, the role of race and the role of partisanship. The Supreme Court will take up all three this week.

    Hearing arguments in a campaign finance case from Vermont on Tuesday and a Congressional redistricting case from Texas on Wednesday, the justices will venture onto a shifting landscape where the controlling legal precedents are either unclear or unstable and the prospect for fundamental change looms on the horizon.

    On many of the questions, the new Roberts court will almost certainly be as closely divided as was the Rehnquist court. Two years ago, for example, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who was succeeded last month by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., cast the decisive fifth vote to uphold major provisions of a new federal campaign finance law. The justices were unable during that same term to agree on a majority opinion in a case from Pennsylvania on whether the Constitution prohibits a partisan gerrymander.

    While decisions in the new cases are not likely until June, the arguments this week could offer a hint of the court's direction and appetite for forging a new consensus. -- Supreme Court Set to Weigh Central Election-Law Issues - New York Times

    February 23, 2006

    Texas: re-redistricting plaintiffs file reply brief in Supreme Court

    The Austin American-Statesman reports: The Democratic attorneys challenging Texas' congressional districts filed a reply brief with the U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday, one week before arguments are set to begin in the high-stakes case.

    The brief is aimed at countering state arguments that say the map, which was redrawn in 2003 and helped Republican candidates, was done fairly and with consideration to both parties' senior members and minority voting stakes.

    Last week, the White House asked to join the state's case defending the map, and in the Wednesday arguments, the court will hear from Deputy U.S. Solicitor General Gregory Garr.

    In their brief filed Wednesday, J. Gerald Hebert and fellow appellant attorneys called the reasoning behind the redistricting "nonsense."

    "This was not some bipartisan effort. It was orchestrated in Washington and one of the most notorious power grabs in the history of our country," the attorneys said. -- Democrats prepare for redistricting case

    Thanks to the Man in the Tuxedo for the link.

    February 22, 2006

    Colorado: Republicans get another bite at the apple; Supreme Court remands redistricting case

    The Rocky Mountain News reports: A U.S. Supreme Court decision Tuesday dropped the hot potato of redrawing Colorado's congressional district map back in the lap of a federal district court, but it will take a rapid-fire decision for the case to affect the November election.

    Justices ruled that a three-judge, federal panel erred last year when it tossed out a Republican-backed lawsuit challenging the map drawn by Democrats and approved by a judge in 2002.

    Tuesday's ruling does not change the map, but it gives four Colorado plaintiffs their day in federal district court that could change the ultimate shape of Colorado's seven congressional districts.

    The plaintiffs' attorney, John -Zakhem, said he plans to file motions this week asking the judicial panel to put the case on a fast track. -- Rocky Mountain News: Local

    The U.S. Supreme Court opinion is here.

    February 14, 2006

    Illinois: Chicago Heights will appeal redistricting order

    The Chicago Tribune reports: Chicago Heights officials voted Monday to continue a fight over minority voting rights, a battle that dates to 1987 and that by one alderman's estimate already has cost the town more than $3 million in legal fees.

    By a 4-3 vote, with Mayor Anthony DeLuca casting the deciding vote, the City Council directed its attorney to appeal a federal court ruling ordering the city to redraw its voting districts and restructure its government to comply with the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

    Under the ruling handed down last week by U.S. District Judge David Coar, the city is required to go from a six-member City Council to a seven-member board of aldermen. The decision would weaken the mayor's powers to appoint department heads without council approval and cast tie-breaking council votes.

    The ruling overturns a 1994 settlement of the 1987 lawsuit filed by four residents, including Ald. Kevin Perkins (3rd), who said the city's at-large elections for City Council were unfair to minority voters. Under the settlement the city abandoned at-large elections and replaced them with six districts, whose voters select their alderman. -- Chicago Tribune | Chicago Heights fights on

    February 10, 2006

    Florida: several legislators ask Supreme Court to block proposed initiative on redistricting

    AP reports: A proposed constitutional amendment that would strip state lawmakers of their power to redraw legislative and congressional districts should be kept off the ballot, lawyers for several state and federal lawmakers told the Florida Supreme Court on Thursday.

    The citizen initiative would set up a 15-member commission to handle redistricting every 10 years. Sponsors have collected the 611,000 signatures needed to put the amendment on the Nov. 7 ballot if the high court approves.

    The lawyers who argued against the amendment, state Rep. Dudley Goodlette and former Rep. Barry Richard, said it would violate a ballot requirement because legislative and congressional redistricting are separate matters. Ballot questions can have only one subject. -- Lawmakers Seek to Keep Redistricting Off Ballot | theledger.com

    February 8, 2006

    California: IGS study shows effects of non-partisan redistricting

    Dan Walters writes in the Sacramento Bee: Would legislative and congressional districts drawn by some independent body be more competitive? An exhaustive new study of California redistricting by the University of California's Institute of Governmental Studies - directed by a one-time redistricting consultant to the Legislature's dominant Democrats - concludes that plans drawn without regard to partisan impact would create a substantial number of competitive districts, i.e. those that could conceivably be won by either party.

    The study, co-directed by Bruce Cain and drawing on the institute's extensive database, found that about a dozen congressional districts and, depending on the criteria, one to two dozen of the Assembly's 80 districts could be competitive without violating the other redistricting criteria, such as compactness and protection of minority rights.

    The study notes that even with more competitiveness, it's likely that Democrats would retain control of both the Legislature and the congressional delegation - but that observation misses the point. The purpose of redistricting reform isn't to change partisan balance, but to give voters the opportunity to elect whomever they want without the outcome being dictated by politicians themselves.

    The study, moreover, ignores the influence of legislative term limits, under which about a third of the Legislature's members are turned out of their seats every two years. Term limits have accelerated the impact of the 2001 gerrymander, and would also accelerate the impact of a non-gerrymander plan by diminishing the power of incumbency. In other words, the vacancies mandated by term limits would give voters even more opportunities to change partisan ownership of their districts. -- Politics - Dan Walters: UC study demonstrates how new districts can be competitive - sacbee.com

    February 6, 2006

    Texas: DOJ defends Texas re-redistricting against VRA claims

    The Dallas Morning News reports: The Bush administration has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to ignore arguments by minority voters in Texas that a contentious redistricting by Republican state legislators in 2003 violated the Voting Rights Act.

    In a 35-page friend-of-the-court brief filed last week, the U.S. Justice Department argued that minority representation was preserved and even enhanced by the Republican reconfiguration and that Hispanics may be over-represented in some parts of the state.

    Democrats and minorities have contested the reconfigured map, thus far unsuccessfully, as an unprecedented power grab by former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land. They argue that Republicans misused data from the 2000 census to tailor a mid-decade partisan gerrymandering that maximized Republican voter influence at the expense of incumbent Democrats. ...

    In its brief, the Justice Department includes no position on excessive partisanship or various questions about the use of census data. It focuses instead on whether the current Texas districts violate the Voting Rights Act. -- Dallas Morning News | News for Dallas, Texas | Washington

    February 2, 2006

    Texas: DOJ files brief supporting re-redistricting

    The Washington Post reports: The Bush administration has come to the defense of Texas in a legal battle with political overtones, telling the Supreme Court in a brief filed yesterday that the state's 2003 congressional redistricting plan, drafted by Republicans, is fully consistent with the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

    The redistricting plan, drawn up at the request of Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), who was House majority leader at the time, was designed to give Texas's House delegation a Republican majority to match the state's overall voting preference. After the 2000 census, the state's delegation grew from 30 seats to 32, and the shift to a Republican majority in Texas helped cement GOP control of the House.

    But opponents have challenged the plan in court on a variety of grounds, saying that it is so partisan that it violates the constitutional guarantee of equal protection, and that it violates the Voting Rights Act by diluting the voting strength of black and Hispanic voters in some areas. A three-judge U.S. District Court panel upheld the plan last year; the Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case during a special two-hour hearing March 1. -- White House Defends Texas's GOP Remapping Plan to Justices

    February 1, 2006

    Georgia: re-redistricting bill passes

    Morris News Service reports: A redistricting plan that would divide Clarke County between two Senate districts passed the House, 100-69, on a nearly party-line vote Tuesday.

    The plan now moves to Gov. Sonny Perdue for his signature. Perdue hasn't yet commented specifically on the bill, though he said Monday he would veto any redistricting plans that he considered unfair.

    The debate over the measure was sharp and partisan and reopened old wounds from the heated redistricting efforts of the past. Democrats, long accused by Republicans of twisting the state's political boundaries to their advantage while in power, railed against the GOP-backed plan. Republicans blasted the Democrats as chameleons who were ignoring their own past of gerrymandering. -- OnlineAthens.com | News | Clarke division passes 02/01/06

    January 31, 2006

    Prisons: where should the census (and the redistricters) count the prisoners

    The Washington Post reports: Since the first U.S. census in 1790, there has been a rule for keeping track of the convicts sitting in prisons: They are counted in the state and region where they are serving their time, not necessarily the place they did their crime or will call home once they are out of the joint.

    How to count inmates historically has not been a big issue. But the fast-expanding prison population -- now about 1.5 million -- is prompting a debate because government spending and electoral district boundaries are in part decided by population. Opponents say the practice unfairly rewards rural, often sparsely populated regions where many prisons are built, at the expense of the cities where many prisoners had resided.

    "For people in prison, their bodies count but their voices don't," said Kirsten Levingston, director of the criminal justice program at the Brennan Center for Justice. "Their presence in the tabulation column expands the influence of those who have an incentive to keep them in prison, not those who need the resources to help keep them out."

    Now, after a congressional directive, the Census Bureau is studying what it would take to change the policy, and the National Academy of Sciences will also report on the question. -- Census Bureau, Activists Debate How and Where to Count Inmates

    January 27, 2006

    Indiana: House passes bill for independent redistricting commission

    The Indianapolis Star reports: The interests of voters, not politicians, would be the deciding factor when legislative districts are mapped in the future under a bill passed Thursday by the Indiana House.

    House Bill 1009, which creates a bipartisan commission to draw House and Senate maps beginning in 2011, passed the House 54-43, with three Democrats joining Republicans in voting for the measure.
    The bill was one of many passed Thursday as lawmakers worked late into the night, including one tightening restrictions on government's ability to seize private property under eminent domain.

    But House Speaker Brian C. Bosma, R-Indianapolis, told lawmakers nothing they do this session will have greater long-term impact on the state than reforming the way legislative districts are drawn. -- House OKs redistricting change | IndyStar.com

    January 26, 2006

    Delaware: independent redistricting commission bill advances

    The Cape Gazette reports: Election-district map making is big business in politics. It is time consuming, tense and tentative to the very end. Although the next federal census is five years away, redistricting is emerging as a divisive issue in the state capital.

    Bipartisan support is lending momentum to legislation aimed at establishing an Independent Redistricting Commission. If approved, SB 215 would dramatically alter the process of drawing the boundaries of state Senate and House districts.

    “It is simply a fair concept. Regardless of which party is in the majority in either chamber, pure incumbent protection is not good,” said Sen. Gary Simpson, R-Milford. ...

    As the issue gets traction, legislative watchdogs such as John Flaherty, executive director of Common Cause of Delaware, are gaining enthusiasm about the fate of SB 215. -- Independent redistricting bill gaining momentum in General Assembly

    Alabama: Legislative redistricting hearing cancelled

    The Mobile Register reports: A trial originally scheduled for Wednesday related to a federal lawsuit challenging Alabama's legislative districts has been canceled.

    A three-judge panel in Mobile was to have heard evidence this week before deciding whether the lawsuit should be allowed to move forward. Lawyers for Democratic legislators have argued that a redistricting lawsuit in 2002 precludes the most recent suit, filed last year by Republican voters in southwest Alabama.

    The voters contend that the Democratic-dominated Legislature's redistricting improperly packed them into overpopulated districts.

    Plaintiffs made similar arguments in the 2002 case.

    The many lawyers involved agreed last week to submit testimony from depositions rather than present live witnesses. The judges will review that testimony, along with written arguments from the lawyers, before making a decision. -- Hearing on legislative redistricting canceled

    Disclosure: I am one of the counsel (for the Speaker of the House) in the case.

    January 25, 2006

    Florida: redistricting initiative has enough signatures, group claims

    AP reports: A group that thinks drawing political boundaries is a job for an independent commission and not politicians said Tuesday it has enough signatures to put the issue on November's ballot.

    The Committee for Fair Elections said it has turned in more than 900,000 signatures, far more than the 611,009 needed to put it on the ballot. As of Tuesday evening, elections supervisors had certified almost 580,000 signatures. The deadline for certification is Feb. 1.

    The ballot question would ask voters to create a 15-member commission to draw congressional and legislative districts. Members would be selected in a nonpartisan process and would not be able to seek elected office for four years after serving. Two-thirds of commissioners would have to agree on the districts, and if they couldn't agree by a deadline, the Supreme Court would set political boundaries. -- Gainesville.com | The Gainesville Sun | Gainesville, Fla.

    January 24, 2006

    Georgia: more re-redistricting on the horizon

    Morris News Service reports: A controversial plan to craft new political boundaries in Clarke County could be the first of several attempts to shift the state's political maps, though Republican leaders vow that a wholesale redrawing of legislative districts is not in the offing.

    House leaders gave representatives and senators the opportunity to propose redistricting plans for their areas - as long as all affected lawmakers sign off on them.

    In a memo to representatives, the chairman of the House committee charged with overseeing the state's political lines said the Georgia General Assembly would not "redraw" the lines throughout the state.

    "However, we do recognize that for a long time there has been a general understanding that if ALL members affected agree to change district lines or precincts, the House would permit such a change," wrote Reapportionment Committee Chairman Bobby Franklin, R-Marietta. "In keeping with that tradition, we will permit a similar practice of consensual redistricting during the 2006 session" as long as the proposals are in line with a list of rules Franklin laid out. -- OnlineAthens.com | News | Clarke's split may not be last 01/24/06

    January 19, 2006

    Indiana: bill to create redistricting commission approved by House committee

    AP reports: A bill that would create a five-member commission to draw up new maps for congressional and legislative districts each decade advanced to the full Indiana House on a party-line vote Thursday.

    All seven Republicans on the House Elections and Apportionment Committee endorsed the proposal while all five Democrats voted against it. Maps are currently drawn by the Legislature.

    Lawmakers would not be allowed to serve on the panel, but leaders of the four caucuses in the General Assembly would each appoint one member, and the chief justice of the Indiana Supreme Court would choose a chairman.

    The commission would be required to base new district boundaries on nonpolitical factors that include population, compactness and attempts to keep communities together. The General Assembly would then meet in a special session during the redistricting year to vote on the proposal. -- AP Wire | 01/19/2006 | Bill that creates redistricting commission advances

    Minnesota: city councilman indicted for seeking bribe to pay his redistricting legal bills

    AP reports: A former Minneapolis City Council member who portrayed himself as a champion of the downtrodden was indicted Wednesday for allegedly using his position to solicit cash and favors from developers seeking help with their projects.

    A federal grand jury indicted Dean Zimmermann on three counts of accepting cash and one count of soliciting property — a retaining wall he wanted built at the home of his former girlfriend.

    The indictment alleges that Zimmermann, a member of the city's zoning committee, accepted $5,000 from the developer of the Chicago Commons condo and retail complex, who was seeking a change in zoning rules to allow more retail space. ...

    According to an FBI agent's affidavit filed in September, the exchanges between Zimmermann and the Chicago Commons developer were recorded on audio- and videotape. The FBI agent said Zimmermann wanted the $5,000 to help pay for his legal fees in a lawsuit against the city over a redistricting plan. The affidavit said the $1,200 and $1,000 payments were donations to Zimmermann's re-election campaign. -- Former council member indicted

    Poor guy. He had a monkey lawyer on his back.

    Georgia: local officials oppose re-redistricting of Georgia Senate

    The Athens Banner-Herald reports: Local officials took advantage of a home-field crowd Wednesday night to join rank-and-file Democrats in lambasting state Sen. Ralph Hudgens' plan to split Clarke County into two state Senate districts, hours after two Republican Senate leaders came to Athens to defend the proposal.

    At a Thursday morning press conference, Rep. Chip Rogers, R-Woodstock, backed Hudgens' previous statements that he was acting on the request of the Madison County Commission and the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce when he introduced a bill to retool lines of Districts 46 and 47.

    The chamber represents the will of the people more than the Democratic Athens-Clarke County commissioners who oppose the new map, the Senate Reapportionment Committee chairman said.

    "The wisdom of the chamber of commerce, given the makeup of the chamber of commerce, may surpass that of the commissioners," Rogers said. -- OnlineAthens.com | News | Senators scolded over redistricting proposal 01/19/06

    And what group would be wiser than the Georgia Legislature, Senator?

    January 16, 2006

    Texas: Bexar water district takes up redistricting again

    The San Antonio Express-News reports: Less than two years after a bungled redistricting effort led to delayed elections for Bexar Metropolitan Water District, the utility's board is trying again.

    The board last Monday approved a realignment of districts' boundaries that nearly equalizes the population in each based on the 2000 U.S. Census. The new boundaries must be approved by the Voting Rights Section of the Justice Department before they become valid.

    Board President Victor Villarreal said he doesn't foresee problems with federal approval because the new plan appears to meet all the criteria laid out for acceptance and preserves the five current predominantly Hispanic voting districts. ...

    The plan [two years ago] proposed to move more than 27,000 people out of the two districts scheduled to vote that November because they were overpopulated, but it left those people with the prospect that they might go 10 years without a chance to vote. -- MySA.com: Metro | State

    January 13, 2006

    Georgia: another re-redistricting to hurt the Dems

    AP reports: Republicans in the state Senate on Thursday pushed through a change to their chamber's political map that would divide Athens - a Democratic stronghold - into two districts.

    The plan's sponsor called it an effort to honor a five-year-old request from commissioners in rural Madison County. But Democrats dubbed it an election-year ploy designed to hurt the chances of a House Democrat who is seeking the seat and help the brother-in-law of a Republican senator.

    "This is a battle I've been fighting since 2001," said Sen. Ralph Hudgens, R-Comer, the plan's sponsor, who showed senators a 2001 letter from Madison County commissioners asking that their county remain whole.

    But Democrats argued the plan appears aimed at hurting the odds of Rep. Jane Kidd, D-Athens, who has announced plans to run for the seat this year.

    Under the proposed change, which passed 34-18, the district that currently includes all of Athens would include half of the city and Republican-leaning Walton County. -- Macon Telegraph | 01/13/2006 | Senate pushes map change that would divide Athens

    Texas: LULAC files its brief in Supreme Court

    The San Antonio Express-News reports: Opponents of a Republican-drawn congressional redistricting map in Texas filed briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court that claim outdated Census data was used to establish political lines that diminish minority voting strength.

    "They diluted the voice of Latinos by using this old data," Rolando Rios, a lawyer for the League of United Latin American Citizens, said Thursday.

    The state of Texas has until Feb. 1 to respond to the briefs, which were filed Wednesday with the Supreme Court as part of an accelerated plan by justices to hear oral arguments in the case on March 1, one week before party primaries are held.

    The court agreed Dec. 12 to hear oral arguments in the Texas redistricting case that helped Republicans win new congressional seats and cement their majority in Congress. -- MySA.com: Metro | State

    January 10, 2006

    Alito veers toward the mainstream on voting rights

    Washingtonpost.com reports: Sen. Herb Kohl questioned Alito at length on the 1985 job application he wrote expressing his opposition to the direction of the Warren Court, eliciting some actual news as he sought to settle some of the hottest controversies surrounding his nomination.

    Alito stated that he had no objection to the "one-man, one vote" principle" enunciated by the Warren Court in Reynolds v. Simms and Baker v. Carr, and also that he had no objection to Griswold v. Connecticut, the Warren Court ruling establishing a "right to privacy" that later served as the basis for Roe v. Wade. He agreed also, said Alito, with a 1972 Supreme Court opinion barring the executive branch from conducting "domestic security" wiretaps without a proper warrant.

    In this exchange, Alito also distanced himself from Judge Robert Bork, who he once praised as a worthy Supreme Court nominee but has since come to symbolize the unconfirmable candidate.

    The principle of "one man, one vote" is a fundamental principle of constitutional law, Alito said. "I don't see any reason why it should be reexamined.....I never was opposed to the one-person one-vote concept."

    So what was it that concerned him, asked Kohl.
    He said his father, then working for the New Jersey legislature, had brought to his attention the question of "how exactly equal districts had to be." It seemed that the Supreme Court, at one point, was saying they had to be exactly equal and "that would have wiped out" some of the New Jersey re-mapping. -- Campaign for the Supreme Court - The Politics of the Nomination of Samuel A. Alito Jr.

    Judge Alito's new position is quite interesting to me. Republicans in Alabama have sued to overturn the legislative redistricting on the grounds that it does not have "exactly equal districts." I am one of the attorneys for the Democratic Speaker of the House, who has intervened as a defendant.

    Indiana: GOP proposes independent redistricting commission

    The Indianapolis Star reports: The drawing of legislative districts would be taken away from lawmakers and handed to a bipartisan commission in a bid for more competitive races, under a proposal unveiled Monday by House Republicans.

    The plan, House Bill 1009, is part of an extensive House GOP agenda outlined Monday by House Speaker Brian C. Bosma, R-Indianapolis. Other elements include tax breaks for businesses and homeowners; vouchers to send autistic children to any school their parents choose, including private; and local government consolidation, including removing assessment duties from township trustees.
    But no proposal may have more long-term impact than changing the way legislative and congressional districts are drawn. Currently, the party that wins control of the House or Senate in a census year also wins the once-in-a-decade right to draw the maps.
    In Indiana, both parties have been upfront about using the maps to try to maximize their political advantage. They have protected incumbent lawmakers, ensuring that no two were drawn into the same district, and carefully studied voting patterns in order to come up with districts that were predictably Republican or Democratic. -- GOP plan: New body should draw maps | IndyStar.com

    January 8, 2006

    Alabama: Alito's views on "Reynolds v. Sims"

    The Birmingham News reports: A landmark decision from 1964 on drawing political boundaries in Alabama is likely to be an issue during this week's confirmation hearings of Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito Jr.

    The 41-year-old ruling in Reynolds v. Sims established the principle of "one man, one vote" by ordering Alabama's legislative districts nearly equal in population. The decision ended the political advantage of sparsely populated rural areas over more populated urban areas, a situation that evolved over the 60 years when the district lines were not adjusted for population changes. ...

    In a 1985 job application to the U.S. Department of Justice under then-President Ronald Reagan, Alito wrote that he was drawn to constitutional law in part by his disagreement with the reapportionment decisions of the Warren Court. The statement has drawn criticism from civil rights and voting rights activists who believe it is a sign that a Justice Alito could be unfriendly to their causes.

    "Recognizing the concept of `one person, one vote,' the court enshrined the principle that every citizen has the right to an equally effective vote, rather than the right to simply cast a ballot," according to a written review of the Warren Court's reapportionment decisions by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. "Judge Alito's strong disagreement with some if not all of these pivotal rulings is extremely troubling." -- Alabama redistricting likely to arise

    January 5, 2006

    Arizona: state supreme court refuses to hear appeals of redistricting decision

    AP reports: The Arizona Supreme Court on Wednesday turned away appeals aimed at forcing the state to adopt new congressional and legislative district maps, apparently ending the challenge to the congressional map and ensuring that the current legislative map will be used again this year.

    The Arizona Supreme Court without comment declined to consider multiple appeals to an Oct. 18 ruling by the Court of Appeals that upheld Arizona's congressional map and told a trial judge to reconsider his ruling against the legislative map.

    A lawyer for the state redistricting commission said the Supreme Court's action should end the challenge to the congressional map and ensures that the legislative map will be used again in this year's elections as that part of the case is sent back to a lower court for reconsideration. ...

    Hispanic Democrats who wanted a new legislative map with more districts where either major party has a chance of winning had urged the Supreme Court to review the ruling by the Court of Appeals. -- '06 legislative maps likely won't change | www.azstarnet.com

    Disclosure: I was previously involved in the Congressional portion of this case.

    Alabama; 3 plaintiffs' lawyers seek to withdraw from redistricting case

    AP reports: Within weeks of a pivotal hearing, three of the four lawyers seeking Republican gains in their legislative redistricting suit in Mobile federal court have asked to withdraw.

    Atlanta lawyers Frank B. Strickland, Anne W. Lewis and Luanne M. Bonnie, who helped the GOP win a similar redistricting suit in Georgia, have asked U.S. District Judge Ginny Granade to allow them to leave the Alabama case, citing "professional considerations," without elaborating.

    In a Dec. 30 court filing, the attorneys in the firm of Strickland Brockington Lewis LLP said they could not reveal "client confidences" that led to the pullout. Granade did not immediately rule on the request. ...

    Their absence would leave Montgomery attorney Mark G. Montiel as the sole attorney for the Republican plaintiffs who filed suit last June, challenging the constitutionality of the current district boundaries for the Alabama Legislature. -- Some in redistricting suit seek to withdraw

    Disclosure: I am one of the attorneys for the Speaker of the Alabama House, one of the defendant-intervenors.

    December 22, 2005

    Texas: Henderson's brief in the re-redistricting appeal

    Richard Gladden has sent his brief in Travis County v. Perry, one of four cases the Supreme Court is considering in the Texas re-redistricting controversy. You may download the file here. I have not had a chance to read the brief yet, but it looks as though Henderson's lawyers are going down the "satisfy Justice Scalia on original intent and early-Republic history" road. Here are the major topics in the brief:

    ARGUMENT................................................................... 7
    Any “reasonably conceived plan” adopted by a State
    legislature to alter valid congressional districts must
    be supported by a legitimate and neutral regulatory
    purpose that takes into account, and is justified by,
    shifts or growth in population unaccounted for since
    congressional districts have last been established.
    I. Comparison of the Elections Clause with
    Contemporaneous State Constitutional Provisions
    in Effect at the Time the Elections
    Clause was Adopted, on which the Framers
    Purported to Model the Constitution ................ 8
    II. Usage of the Elections Clause Power by the
    Several State Legislatures During the First
    Decade of the Republic ....................................... 19
    III. The Contemporaneous Understanding of the
    Temporal Scope of Redistricting Power under
    the Elections Clause........................................... 24
    IV. Chancellor James Kent’s View on Multiple
    Intra-Census Electoral Redistricting, Given
    When Construing a Redistricting Provision on
    which the Elections Clause was Modeled ......... 27

    December 19, 2005

    Florida: Osceola Co. ponders Hispanic district

    The Orlando Sentinel reports: Osceola County officials wonder how they can satisfy the concerns of the U.S. Justice Department about Hispanic voting rights without creating a commission district so oddly shaped that it might invite legal challenges.

    The county has two Hispanic-rich population pockets -- Poinciana on its west side and Buenaventura Lakes, northeast of Kissimmee. These communities are home to 80 percent of the county's 42,000 Hispanic voters.

    But neither area appears to have enough registered voters to form a district by itself, suggesting that a majority Hispanic district might have to connect the two.

    "Poinciana is on one end, and BVL is on the other," Commissioner Ken Shipley said recently. "I'm not sure you could gerrymander a line that could give you a predominantly Hispanic district . . . and do it legally."

    In its July lawsuit against the county, the Justice Department says Osceola could give Hispanics more influence at the polls by switching from countywide elections to a single-member district format, with the districts designed so a Hispanic candidate is likely to be elected. -- Experts: Hispanic district is challenge - OrlandoSentinel.com:

    December 12, 2005

    Texas: Supreme Court to hear re-redistricting case

    The New York Times reports: The United States Supreme Court agreed today to review the constitutionality of the Texas redistricting plan that was engineered by Representative Tom DeLay, the House majority leader until recently, and helped Republicans add to their majority from the Lone Star State.

    The justices will consider several lawsuits by Democrats and minority groups challenging the redrawn maps of voting districts pushed through in 2003. The redistricting has been credited with helping Republicans gain five more seats in the Texas delegation to the House of Representatives in 2004, increasing the Republican ranks to 21, compared with 11 Texas Democrats.

    Today's announcement by the Supreme Court comes 10 days after the Justice Department acknowledged that some of its top officials had overruled a determination by the agency's civil rights division staff in 2003 that the redistricting plan would dilute the voting strength of minorities in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1965.

    The justices are to hear arguments on March 1 and issue a decision before they adjourn for the summer, just before the 2006 Congressional election campaigns begin in earnest. How the court's decision will affect the Texas races is likely to be a subject of conjecture for many months. -- Supreme Court to Review Texas Redistricting Dispute - New York Times

    December 3, 2005

    Texas: U.S. House Dems want investigation of DOJ decision to preclear re-redistricting

    AP reports: The House Democratic leader wants an independent inquiry into the Justice Department's decision to approve a Texas redistricting plan that staff lawyers concluded diluted minority voting rights.

    Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the decision by senior officials to ignore the staff lawyers' conclusions - contained in a 73-page memo made public Friday - was political. ...

    Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who was not in that post when the plan was approved, defended the department's decision. The senior officials who approved it were "confirmed by the Senate to exercise their own independent judgment" and their disagreement with other agency employees doesn't mean the final decision was wrong, he said.

    The decision appears to have been correct, Gonzales said, because a three-judge federal panel upheld the plan and Texas has since elected one additional black congressman. -- AP Wire | 12/03/2005 | Democratic House wants redistricting decision investigated

    December 2, 2005

    Texas: DOJ staff recommended objection to re-redistricting plan, but higher-ups overruled

    The Washington Post reports: Justice Department lawyers concluded that the landmark Texas congressional redistricting plan spearheaded by Rep. Tom DeLay (R) violated the Voting Rights Act, according to a previously undisclosed memo obtained by The Washington Post. But senior officials overruled them and approved the plan.

    The memo, unanimously endorsed by six lawyers and two analysts in the department's voting section, said the redistricting plan illegally diluted black and Hispanic voting power in two congressional districts. It also said the plan eliminated several other districts in which minorities had a substantial, though not necessarily decisive, influence in elections. ...

    The memo also found that Republican lawmakers and state officials who helped craft the proposal were aware it posed a high risk of being ruled discriminatory compared with other options.

    But the Texas legislature proceeded with the new map anyway because it would maximize the number of Republican federal lawmakers in the state, the memo said. The redistricting was approved in 2003, and Texas Republicans gained five seats in the U.S. House in the 2004 elections, solidifying GOP control of Congress. -- Justice Staff Saw Texas Districting As Illegal

    A sidebar to the story has links to the documents. I will add those later today.

    November 30, 2005

    Specter will question Alito on voting rights

    Knight Ridder Newspapers reports: Sen. Arlen Specter, serving notice that he intends to take up contentious issues raised in years-old writings by Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr., asked the Supreme Court nominee Wednesday to be prepared to clarify his views on affirmative action and voting rights.

    Specter, R-Pa., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, sent Alito "advance notice" of questioning he could expect at his confirmation hearings, scheduled to begin Jan. 9.

    In a 1985 memo Alito wrote while seeking a promotion in the Reagan administration's Justice Department, he said he disagreed with Supreme Court reapportionment decisions in the 1960s that enforced the doctrine of "one person, one vote." ...

    The senator advised Alito, now a judge on the Philadelphia-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, that he would ask at the hearing whether Alito considered "one person, one vote" a bedrock principle and whether race was ever an acceptable consideration in drawing voting-district lines. -- Alito to face questioning on affirmative action, voting rights

    November 28, 2005

    Florida: Fort Myers decides on redistricting plan

    The Fort Myers News-Press reports: Fort Myers City Council will decide today which of two redistricting plans is most likely to pass muster with a federal court judge and civil rights advocates.

    The council will review two plans that have been drafted by a redistricting consulting firm. All five council members, along with Mayor Jim Humphrey, suggested that three of six wards have minority majorities — or at least a 53 percent African-American majority.

    A sixth ward was created after voters passed a referendum earlier this year to change to a city manager form of government. The mayor becomes the seventh voting member of the council.

    If the council approves either redistricting plan — 4A1 or 4B1 — a minority majority will exist in wards 1, 2 and 3.

    Still, the final redistricting draft must be approved by U.S. District Judge John Steele. And it is likely to face scrutiny from lawyers of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. --
    Fort Myers council to choose redistricting plan

    November 27, 2005

    South Dakota: committee proposes spliting house districts

    AP reports: A subcommittee of the state Constitutional Revision Commission has decided tentatively that all legislative districts for House members be split in two.

    The proposal, which will be reviewed by the full commission when it meets again next spring, would establish two House districts within each state Senate district.

    Currently, each of the state's 35 legislative districts elects one senator and two at-large House members, except for a huge district in northwestern South Dakota. District 28 is split into two House districts.

    Mary McClure Bibby, a former seven-term Republican legislator and head of the subcommittee studying the legislative boundary-making process, says split House districts would be especially beneficial in sparsely populated areas of the state that now require very large districts. Often candidates from the larger towns in rural districts have the political edge over those from rural areas, she says. -- AP Wire | 11/27/2005 | Split house districts may be proposed

    November 24, 2005

    Alito: do we know his views on reapportionment?

    The Washington Post reports: One of the mysteries still hanging in the confirmation battle over Supreme Court nominee Samuel A. Alito Jr. is his view of a landmark case that established the legal principle of one man, one vote. The answer varies depending on when you ask -- not to mention whom you ask.

    In 1985, when Alito was applying for a political appointment in the Reagan administration, he wrote that he disagreed with decisions by the Warren Court in the 1960s involving "reapportionment." Those rulings required electoral districts to have equal populations and helped ensure greater representation of urban minorities.

    Those 20-year-old words are highly inflammatory to civil rights groups marshaling forces against President Bush's choice to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. But the White House and a key Republican ally this week were spreading the word that Alito has privately assured senators he has no intention of overturning the Warren Court's reapportionment precedents. Democrats, for their part, refuse to say what, if anything, Alito has told them on the subject.

    The controversy over Alito's beliefs -- in the past and now -- illuminates one of the strange rituals of the modern confirmation process. Supporters usually say nominees should not comment on their views, except at official public hearings -- and often not even then. When it suits the purposes of one side or the other, however, conversations at the ostensibly private courtesy calls nominees pay on senators often are widely publicized, through authorized leaks or secondhand accounts from aides and political operatives. -- Alito's Stance on One Man, One Vote Is Debated

    November 22, 2005

    New York: Spitzer calls for nonpartisan districting

    The New York Times reports: Attorney General Eliot Spitzer said Monday that if elected governor he will end a practice that many say is at the root of Albany's dysfunctional government: the power of state lawmakers to draw legislative districts so that incumbents are perennially re-elected.

    Mr. Spitzer, a Democrat, called the current system "a classic conflict of interest" and said that as governor he would push for a nonpartisan commission to draw district lines. If the Legislature did not agree to such a change, he pledged that he would veto the next set of district lines established unless the boundaries were "reflective of democracy, not incumbent protection." ...

    But districting is one of the most cherished powers in Albany. Currently, the Democratic-led Assembly draws the lines for Assembly districts and the Republican-led Senate draws the lines for Senate districts. Because of what critics call artful cartography, and some unusually shaped districts that critics say are drawn to benefit incumbents, neither house has changed hands in decades. And officials in both parties say districting has been vital to Senate Republicans, who have retained their majority even as Democratic voter registration has become stronger.

    Sometimes, critics say, the districts have been drawn to stifle the aspirations of specific candidates. A Democrat who had made an unusually strong run against former State Senator Guy J. Velella, a Republican, found her house excluded from his district when the lines were redrawn in 2002. So did a candidate who had made a strong showing in a Democratic primary against Assemblyman Roger L. Green. (Mr. Velella later resigned after pleading guilty to bribery-related charges; Mr. Green resigned, but was later re-elected, after pleading guilty to billing the state for fake travel expenses.) -- Spitzer Calls for Nonpartisan Districting - New York Times

    November 21, 2005

    Arizona: IRC opposes fast-track appeal

    AP reports: The state's redistricting commission is opposing a Democratic group's request that the Arizona Supreme Court conduct an accelerated review of the Democrats' appeal of a lower court's ruling upholding current congressional and legislative district maps.

    The Democrats say accelerated review by the Supreme Court still could allow their appeal of the Court of Appeals ruling to be decided in time to allow new legislative districts to be used in the 2006 elections. -- Welcome to the Tucson Citizen

    November 20, 2005

    Nathan Newman on "a political rightwing dinosaur"

    Nathan Newman discusses the connection between organized labor and the reapportionment decisions of the 1960's and concludes: In opposing the reapportionment decisions, Sam Alito made it clear that this was not merely an abstract legal position but part of his more general alignment with the rightwing politics of the 1960s, including an allegiance to the National Review , which opposed civil rights and democratic equality in the states with all its intellectual vigor in that period.

    So how any Democrat could even consider voting for a political rightwing dinosaur of that era is beyond me. -- Labor Blog

    November 15, 2005

    Nathan Newman on why Alito is "Against Democracy"

    Nathan Newman says: The release of Alito's 1985 Job Application is causing ripples because of his clear statement that "the Constitution does not protect the right to an abortion."

    But forget Roe-- that's just confirmation of what everyone suspected, and I continue to believe (along with Ruth Bader Ginsburg) that Roe was not particularly helpful to abortion rights in the long-term.

    But what is most striking about Alito's statement is this line:

    In college, I developed a deep interest in constitutional law, motivated in large part by disagreement with Warren Court decisions, particularly in the areas of criminal procedure, the Establishment Clause, and reapportionment.

    "Reapportionment"?

    For the non-lawyers out there, Alito meant he was against the Supreme Court decisions requiring that all state legislative districts be designed to guarantee "one person, one vote", instead of giving some districts with very few voters the same representation as urban districts with far more voters.

    While I strongly believe that most judicial activism by the Warren Court was unneeded or even counterproductive for progressive goals since ongoing democratic mobilization was moving civil rights and feminist goals forward, the reapportionment cases-- Baker v. Carr and Reynolds v. Syms-- dealt with a problem that democratic voting inherently could not correct, namely the lack of real democracy in most state legislatures. -- NathanNewman.org

    There's more -- and I left out the links in Nathan's original post.

    November 14, 2005

    "Judge Alito as an Opponent of One Person, One Vote?"

    Rick Hasen has this extremely important post: Today the Reagan and Bush (41) libraries released a small set of documents related to Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito. What has received the most attention so far is this job application for a senior Justice Department position in the Reagan White House, because of the nominee's statements about abortion. But the application (pdf page 15) also includes the following sentence (thanks to Sam Hirsch for pointing this out to me): "In college, I developed a deep interest in constitutional law, motivated in large part by disagreement with Warren Court decisions, particularly in the areas of criminal procedure, the Establishment Clause, and reapportionment." (emphasis added) ...

    But the statement made by Judge Alito against the Warren Court's reapportionment precedents is unqualified, allowing opponents to charge that he would go back to the days of severely malapportioned districts--and all the potential bad consequences for representation that accompany large disparties in voting power. I suspect this issue will be probed at the confirmation hearings, and could prove important. -- Election Law: Judge Alito as an Opponent of One Person, One Vote?

    Think of the late Fred Rogers asking, "Can you say 'youthful
    indiscretion,' children?"

    November 13, 2005

    Ohio: did support for a proposition fall from 61% to 25% in two days?

    The Left Coaster asks: Did you vote on a touch-screen system last Tuesday? If so, how confident are you that your vote was registered correctly? Were you surprised at the results?

    Well, if you lived in Ohio, you might have been very surprised at the results. After all, if the results are correct, people must have been spoofing the pollsters something awful.

    How else to explain the fact that one of the Reform propositions regulating the amount individuals could contribute to a campaign that polls on Sunday before the election showed was supported by 61% of the people and opposed by 25% (14% undecided) failed spectacularly with 67% of the voters opposing it?

    Did 67% of the voters really think that individuals should be able to contribute $10,000 to a candidate when only 2 days before the election the polls said that only 25% supported that position? Who knows? The state voted on Diebold voting systems, so there isn't any way to check. -- The Left Coaster: Tuesday's Election in Ohio: The End of Democracy?

    Will 2006 be another 1994? Or will the ghost of redistricting past spoil the Dems' celebration?

    The New York Times reports: ACROSS the political landscape, there are signs the nation may be headed toward a sweeping anti-incumbent election next year. The Republican Congressional majority is staggering from one setback to another, the voters seem uneasy about problems at home and the war abroad, and President Bush's approval ratings have reached new lows.

    Democrats dream of another 1994, with control of the House changing hands, this time to them. All they need, after all, is a net gain of 15 seats, surely an attainable goal in a nation of 435 Congressional districts.

    Or is it?

    Even the most optimistic Democrat has to wonder, deep down, whether big, 1994-style change is possible in the current House. Redistricting and other incumbent protections have created a Republican fortress in recent years, with so little turnover that even the party's relatively narrow majority is very hard to crack.

    In the last three Congressional elections, the incumbent re-election rate has hovered from 96 to 98 percent, among the highest since World War II. In 2004, only seven incumbents were defeated in the general election, four of them Texas Democrats pushed into new districts engineered by Republicans. -- An Opening for Democrats, However Slim - New York Times

    November 11, 2005

    "Next Time, Start With the People"

    Heather Gerken and Christopher Elmendorf write on Balkinization: Tuesday’s defeat of redistricting ballot initiatives in California and Ohio was a wake-up call for reformers, who are pressing a nationwide campaign to strip politicians of the power to draw electoral districts. California's Proposition 77, which would have vested line-drawing responsibilities in an independent commission composed of three retired judges, was rejected by six out of ten voters. Ohio's Issue 4 similarly lost by a significant margin. Yet polls show that large majorities of Republicans and Democrats agree that it is a bad idea for the legislature and the governor to make decisions about redistricting. What’s going on? ...

    Is there a way for reformers to play politics as they must, while warding off the accusation of political infection? We would suggest taking a page from the playbook of our neighbors to the North. First in British Columbia and now in Ontario, basic electoral reform problems are being put to citizens’ assemblies, groups consisting of over a hundred randomly selected citizens who hear out competing presentations from experts and the concerns of interest groups and fellow citizens. If the citizens’ assembly reaches agreement on a proposed reform, it is submitted to the electorate for a referendum vote. -- Next Time, Start With the People

    November 10, 2005

    Florida: supporters of redistricting initiative defend it in state supreme court

    AP reports: A group supporting two state constitutional amendments that would eliminate the Legislature's redistricting power disputed lawmakers' claims that their proposals violate election law.

    The Committee for Fair Elections gave the state Supreme Court its written responses Wednesday to arguments that the amendments' cover more than one subject and their titles and summaries are misleading. Opponents say the court should stop the amendments from being placed on next year's ballot.

    "The Independent Commission Initiative does not substantially alter or perform the functions of multiple branches of government and does not cause `multiple precipitous' or `cataclysmic' changes in state government,' " the committee argued.

    The committee says that the titles and summaries clearly state the chief purposes of the measures "and need not explain every detail, ramification or effect." -- AP Wire | 11/10/2005 | Supporters says redisticting initiatives don't violate state law

    California: Dems may push their redistricting plan now

    AP reports: Despite voters' rejection of Proposition 77, the Legislature's top leaders are promising to try to get a new plan on the ballot as early as next June that would strip lawmakers of the powerful job of drawing legislative and congressional districts. ...

    That measure could be a constitutional amendment by state Sen. Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, that's awaiting a vote next year in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

    In its current form, it would create a seven-member commission to draw new districts after each census, starting in 2010. The governor, the Legislature's top four leaders, the California Judicial Council and University of California president would each appoint one commission member.

    It passed the Senate elections committee in July, but then stalled when Democrats and Schwarzenegger couldn't work out compromises on redistricting and the other ballot measures pushed by the Republican governor.

    If approved by lawmakers, it would go on the ballot next June or November.

    Any deal on a redistricting measure could include an agreement that would liberalize lawmakers' term limits, which now allow senators to serve no more than 8 years, and Assembly members no more than 6 years. -- AP Wire | 11/09/2005 | Leaders to seek redistricting change despite 77's defeat

    November 9, 2005

    Josh Marshall on redistricting reform

    Josh Marshall writes: For most of the time I've been actively interested in politics I've been at best skeptical about a lot of what you might call good government reformism. Part of that is just temperamental. To the extent there's substance behind it, I've always felt that there's a strain of 'goo-goo' reform which puts procedural cleanliness over substantive good results for ordinary citizens -- effective provision of services, real representation of different interests in society, and so forth.

    Hovering behind these ideas is a recognition that there were strong anti-democratic tendencies in the original Progressive movement, though they did not define the entirety of it. And most important, I think if you look back over the history of the US, our most effective reforms have not come in complex regulatory regimes but in systems which effectively balance different powers and interests against each other. And that still makes me less than a total optimist about the potential of effective campaign finance reform.

    All that said, though, sometimes the ship of state just gets too overrun with barnacles and the whole thing has to be scraped clean. And we're clearly at one of those points. One needn't indulge utopian fantasies about abolishing government corruption or dealing a death blow to the power of monied interests in politics. All that is necessary is a recognition that reform is a cyclical process needed to keep the government healthy and functioning. And we're overdue for real reform. -- Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall November 9, 2005 01:52 PM

    Ohio: redistrcting and election reforms defeated in referendum

    AP reports: Voters soundly rejected four issues Tuesday that would have overhauled the way Ohio runs its elections, ending a high-pitched campaign that had hoped to capitalize on a Republican investment scandal and complaints about last year's presidential election.

    The issues would have opened absentee balloting to all voters, lowered the cap on individual campaign contributions and put boards, instead of elected officials, in charge of drawing legislative and congressional districts and overseeing the state's elections.

    Reform Ohio Now, a coalition of unions and other Democrat-leaning groups, wanted to wrest control of elections from state officeholders, now a virtual Republican monopoly. Republicans resisted, forming an opposition group known as Ohio First. -- cantonrep.com

    California: redistricting initiative defeated

    AP reports: For the fourth time in 23 years, voters refused Tuesday to strip the Legislature of the powerful job of drawing legislative and congressional districts, handing Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger a special election defeat on Proposition 77, a key measure in his "year of reform" agenda.

    With 100 percent of precincts reporting, the proposal trailed 59 percent to 41 percent, failing in many conservative inland counties as well as more liberal coastal areas.

    The Republican governor campaigned extensively for the ballot measure, which would have amended the state constitution to give redistricting duties to a panel of retired judges and required them to try to draw new lines in time for next year's June primary.

    Lawmakers normally redraw districts every 10 years to reflect population changes uncovered by a new national census. The process can determine which party dominates the Legislature and the congressional delegation and determine the fate of individual lawmakers. -- AP Wire | 11/09/2005 | California voters reject governor's redistricting change

    November 2, 2005

    Groups call for substantive and procedural changes in redistrcting

    Campaign Legal Center and the Center for Democracy & Citizenship at the Council for Excellence in Government have issued a press release: Broad principles to reform congressional and legislative redistricting were announced today by a range of groups and individuals who are advocating the use of independent commissions to create competitive districts.

    The principles were drafted by a group of experts with diverse backgrounds and political affiliations at a redistricting reform conference held last June in Airlie, Virginia. They are part of a report entitled The Shape of Representative Democracy and lay out an integrated approach that addresses both procedures for redistricting and standards for redistricting.

    The procedural principles include: assigning the job of redistricting to an independent commission; ensuring transparency and a meaningful opportunity for interested parties and the public to participate effectively; and limiting redistricting to once a decade, following each census.

    The recommended substantive standards for redistricting are: adhering to all constitutional and Voting Rights Act requirements; promoting competitiveness and partisan fairness; respecting political subdivisions and communities of interest; and encouraging geographical compactness. -- The Campaign Legal Center: Independent Commissions, Competitive Districts Best Path to Redistricting Reform, Non-Partisan Group Announces

    The report is here.

    October 27, 2005

    Texas: SCOTUS to consider redistricting case on Friday

    Legal Times reports: It is widely agreed that Republican Rep. Tom DeLay plays politics the way Ty Cobb ran the base paths -- spikes up. How lawful that style is depends on who is answering the question. The Supreme Court may soon be weighing in on DeLay's conduct if it agrees to hear arguments on his orchestrated reshaping of federal representation for his home state of Texas.

    The Supreme Court will consider Travis County, Texas, et al. v. Rick Perry, Governor of Texas, et al., along with several other related Texas redistricting cases, during its private conference on Friday. They are among dozens of cases the Court will review at the conference to determine if they should be added to the Court's docket for argument.

    In October 2004 the Supreme Court remanded the Texas redistricting case back to a three-judge federal panel, which then rejected, for a second time, legal challenges to the new Texas congressional map, passed in 2003 and followed in the 2004 election.

    The appellants, which include elected officials and special interest groups, are asking the Court to throw out the new map in favor of one drawn shortly after the 2000 census. They also want the Court to explicitly define what constitutes partisan gerrymandering -- an act the Court last year deemed unconstitutional. If the Court agrees to hear the case, opening arguments could begin next spring. -- High Court May Take Up Texas Redistricting

    October 25, 2005

    Colorado: GOP appeals redistricting case to SCOTUS

    AP reports: Republicans who lost a federal court battle over Colorado congressional redistricting said Tuesday they will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, setting off another round in the contentious battle over new election maps.

    John Zakhem said a decision by federal judges to throw out the last remaining challenge to Colorado's congressional districts was unconstitutional because it deprived citizens of their right to hold their legislators accountable.

    A special three-judge panel dismissed the challenge on grounds the state Supreme Court resolved the case when it upheld a congressional redistricting plan drawn by a district court judge and supported by Democrats.

    Zakhem said he will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to rule before next year's elections. -- Summit Daily News for Breckenridge, Keystone, Copper and Frisco Colorado - News

    October 24, 2005

    South Dakota: federal court orders redistricting of malapportioned county plan

    AP reports: The county commissioner districts in Charles Mix County are unconstitutional because there is too large a deviation in the population of the three districts, a federal judge ruled Monday.

    U.S. District Judge Lawrence Piersol of Sioux Falls gave Charles Mix County officials until Nov. 14 to file a new redistricting plan that would comply with constitutional requirements.

    If the county decides not to file its own remedial plan, the judge could impose a new districting plan.

    American Indian voters filed a lawsuit alleging that the county commissioner districts were improper because they violated the constitutional requirement for one-person, one-vote; violated a federal law by diluting Indian voting strength; and violated constitutional provisions because they were drawn to harm the voting rights of Indians. -- AP Wire | 10/24/2005 | Judge strikes down Charles Mix County commissioner districts

    October 23, 2005

    Wyoming: Indians sue Fremont County over at-large voting

    AP reports: A federal lawsuit filed Thursday by five American Indians challenging the system of at-large elections in Wyoming's Fremont County is part of a continuing, nationwide effort by Indians to assert their voting rights, attorneys say.

    Five members of the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes charge that Fremont County's system of at-large elections dilutes the Indian vote. Although nearly 20 percent of Fremont County's 35,800 residents are Indian, none of the five county commissioners is Indian.

    The plaintiffs are represented by local lawyers and Atlanta lawyers with the American Civil Liberties Union. -- Arizona Daily Sun-

    October 22, 2005

    "Who Should Redistrict?"

    The Sunday New York Times Magazine's Idea Lab column will report: Rising out of the farmland south of Sacramento, Elk Grove is a pleasant, unremarkable collection of scrubbed subdivisions with artificial lakes and velveteen lawns. What makes Elk Grove special - and of intense interest to politicians - is that in a state where political segregation is the norm, Democrats and Republicans live side by side in almost equal numbers.

    When the residents of Elk Grove choose their state legislators, however, their votes are divided into two improbable assembly districts that meander into outlying rural areas and give each a Republican majority. Those districts are the legacy of a statewide redistricting in California in 2001 from which both parties benefited. The Democrats retained firm control of the State Legislature and the 53-member Congressional delegation, while Republicans were assured 20 safe seats in Congress and a spoiler's share of the seats in the state Capitol. ...

    The drawing of legislative boundaries is one of the most politicized and corruptible practices in American-style government, and few people will say they approve of the gerrymandering it has unleashed. Boundary-rigging infamously kept blacks from gaining political power in the South. (One Mississippi district, mapped in the late 1870's with the single purpose of preventing the re-election of a black congressman, was 500 miles long and 40 miles wide.) In the early part of the 20th century, rural lawmakers held onto power by simply ignoring their obligation to draw new boundaries as people migrated to the cities and populations shifted, thus denying the swelling cities the political representation their numbers warranted. ...

    But while it's easy to make a case against gerrymandering, it's much harder to say how districts should be drawn. Most states require that district boundaries be revisited every 10 years, after the release of new census data and the reapportionment of the country's Congressional seats. The creation of contiguous districts is the most widely accepted and uncontroversial criterion. Every state requires contiguity, and in 1842, Congress passed the first federal law that mandated the drawing of contiguous Congressional districts. A few other rules apply: the Supreme Court decisions of the 1960's forced Congressional districts to be roughly equal in population. The Voting Rights Act also prohibits "retrogression" in minority voting rights in certain states and the diluting of the political strength of minority communities anywhere. But beyond these piecemeal and often vague criteria - contiguity, after all, can accommodate serpentine shapes - legislators are free to create the maps as they see fit. -- Who Should Redistrict? - New York Times

    Florida: 3 GOP representatives challenge redistricting initiative

    AP reports:
    Three U.S. representatives, all Cuban-American Republicans from Miami, have challenged a proposal to strip the Florida Legislature of its redistricting power and hand that job to an independent commission.

    Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and brothers Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart filed written arguments Thursday with the Florida Supreme Court against a proposed state constitutional amendment that would create a 15-member panel to reapportion legislative and congressional districts.

    They alleged it would violate the Florida Constitution's requirement that amendments deal with a single subject, arguing that congressional and legislative redistricting are separate matters.

    They also contend the ballot title and summary are misleading on a variety of grounds including a failure to disclose that the governor would lose power to veto congressional redistricting plans. Legislative redistricting does not go to the governor. -- Dateline Alabama

    October 19, 2005

    Arizona: court of appeals sends redistricting case back to trial court

    The Arizona Republic reports:
    The Democrats' dream of using new legislative boundaries to gain a stronger foothold in the Legislature was dashed Tuesday by a court ruling that could affect everything from tax cuts to school choice to access to health care.

    A three-member panel of the Arizona Court of Appeals scrapped a redistricting plan that would have created as many as four more competitive, and some say potentially Democratic, legislative districts in Arizona. ...

    The three-judge panel reversed a Maricopa County Superior Court judge's ruling that cleared the way for more-competitive districts. Most legislative districts in Arizona are so solidly Republican or Democrat that there is little chance for the party in the minority to win. The plan approved by Judge Kenneth Fields would have increased the number of competitive districts, those where Republican and Democratic registration is relatively even, to seven or eight from four.

    The appellate panel ruled that Fields used the wrong "standard of review" for his ruling and that both sides must return to his court to sort the case out. Democrats and Republicans both interpreted that as a Republican victory and said it's a virtual certainty the boundaries favored by Republicans will remain in place for the 2006 election.

    The suit had been filed by a coalition of Hispanic Democrats, including legislators, who said minorities' rights had been violated by the lack of competition. -- Court axes Democrats' dreams of redistricting

    The opinion is here. Disclosure: I represented three citizens attacking the congressional plan, but my clients did not appeal their portion of the case.

    October 8, 2005

    More details on Miers and the voting rights suit against Dallas

    The Dallas Observer reports: Mike Daniel is one of a tiny coterie of tough activist lawyers who in the 1970s and '80s pushed through a series of federal anti-segregation, anti-housing discrimination, anti-disenfranchisement lawsuits that changed the city forever. Of that barrage of litigation, the piece that struck the deepest blow was a suit seeking the overthrow of the old city council system.

    Daniel represented plaintiffs Marvin Crenshaw and Roy Williams, who argued that Dallas had used a series of tricky arrangements to prevent black people and Latinos from achieving power on the city council. When their lawsuit was coming to a head in 1991, Harriet Miers was nearing the end of her single two-year term as an at-large city council member.

    Daniel and Roy Williams, his former client, remember Miers as a smart and thoughtful council member who eventually came to support a version of the all single-member district "14-1" council system they were seeking.

    "She's really not an ideologue," Daniel says. "She came over to 14-1 way sooner than the mayor."

    The mayor at the time was Annette Strauss, nominally a Dallas liberal, sister-in-law to Robert ("Mr. Democrat") Strauss, who was a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Both Daniel and Williams remember Miers as far more interested in fair representation issues than Strauss or any of the other big Democrats still in town in those days. -- dallasobserver.com | News & Features | Schutze | Die-In | 2005-10-06

    October 7, 2005

    Alabama: Court asks parties to brief connection between current and earlier GOP suits

    The Mobile Register reports: A federal judge has asked parties in a legislative redistricting lawsuit to explain again any links between the ongoing dispute and a similar suit that was decided three years ago.

    A ruling in the earlier suit, brought by Republican voters, upheld the legislative districts that Democratic lawmakers drew after the 2000 Census. The redistricting plan was also backed by then-Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor, a Republican, and ratified by the Bush administration's Justice Department in Washington, D.C.

    State lawyers have written in briefs submitted to U.S. District Judge Ginny Granade that the latest suit is indeed a repeat argument that cannot be adjudicated again under a legal principle known as "res judicata."

    Should Granade side with the state's attorneys, the latest challenge by GOP voters would likely be moot. Should the plaintiffs convince her that this case is different, it will proceed to trial, Montgomery attorney Mark Montiel predicted Thursday. -- Judge to hear sides in legislative redistricting lawsuit

    Note: I am one of the counsel for House Speaker Seth Hammett, who has intervened in the case. The Court's order and other pleadings are here.

    October 6, 2005

    California: committee returns $1.75 million to governor's committee

    AP reports: A campaign committee backing Proposition 77, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's attempt to take the powerful job of drawing legislative and congressional districts away from lawmakers, has returned $1.75 million donated by the Republican governor.

    The ballot measure's opponents said Schwarzenegger's contributions exceeded limits imposed by voters in 2000. They said the donations violated Proposition 34's restrictions and suggested their preparations to file a lawsuit prompted the return of the money.

    "The governor is so eager to grab power, he's willing to break the law to do it," Lance Olson, an attorney for Californians for Fair Representation, the committee fighting Proposition 77, said Thursday.

    A spokesman for Schwarzenegger's campaign, Todd Harris, said the governor's aides asked for the money back because they didn't want to "push the limits" of Proposition 34.

    The money will be used in other ways to support several Nov. 8 ballot measures backed by the governor, including Proposition 77, said Tom Hiltachk, an attorney for Schwarzenegger's California Recovery Team campaign committee. -- AP Wire | 10/06/2005 | Redistricting committee returns $1.7 million from governor

    Georgia: Rep. Lewis says no challenge to redistricting likely

    AP reports: Rep. John Lewis says it's unlikely Georgia Democrats will mount a legal challenge to a recently approved congressional map, even though he contends at least one of the new districts will limit the influence of black voters.

    Lewis, a civil rights leader and the dean of the state's Washington delegation, said a lawsuit would likely be too costly for the party. Besides, he says few of the black voters he believes would be disenfranchised have done much complaining.

    "You don't have people in the district making noise about what happened there - about retrogression," Lewis said. "If people aren't prepared to fight their own fight, it'll be very hard to get others to."

    The district in question is western Georgia's 11th District, currently represented by Republican Phil Gingrey.

    Under the new map approved last week by the U.S. Justice Department, the seat would appear much safer for Gingrey or any Republican. Lewis says blacks would have less of a chance at electing a candidate they support because their numbers in the district would dwindle substantially. -- AP Wire | 10/06/2005 | Lewis says Democrats likely won't challenge redistricting

    Miers has real-world experience on redistricting

    Rick Hasen has done some digging on Harriet Miers' experience on the Dallas City Council. Dallas was sued in the late '80s by blacks and Hispanics seeking fairer representation on the Council. Miers had been elected to an at-large seat and most public officials I know elected to an at-large seat believe that at-large seats provide the best representation (after all, the at-large system elected me, didn't it?). But Miers testified in the suit that the then-current plan (8 SMD and 3 at-large) was unfair. She supported the plan with 14 SMD and a mayor over a plan with 10 SMD, 4 larger, overlapping districts, and the mayor.

    Rick has done a good job on his research. I recommend you read the whole thing. Here's his conclusion:

    What to make of all of this? It is not entirely clear. We appear to have someone sensitive to minority voting rights and skeptical of incumbency protection. Miers may not be the next Sandra Day O'Connor, but her vote in upcoming Voting Rights Act and partisan gerrymandering cases may be just as nuanced (and perhaps unpredictable). At least they would be informed by some real-world experience. -- Election Law: Harriet Miers and Election Law: Might She Be a Supporter of the Voting Rights Act and an Opponent of Partisan Gerrymandering?

    You know, maybe a little real-world experience might help the Court -- or, at least, a Justice.


    October 4, 2005

    Louisiana: Katrina may have blown away a congressional seat and New Orleans' dominance of state legislature

    The New York Times reports: The two recent gulf hurricanes may result in a significant loss of population for Louisiana, and state officials are now virtually certain that Louisiana will lose a Congressional seat - along with federal financing and national influence - after the 2010 census.

    Having dislodged more than a million people in southern Louisiana alone, Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita are also likely to alter the state's political landscape, demographers and political experts say, reducing the domination of New Orleans over the State Legislature and increasing the influence of suburban and rural areas.

    With a low-wage economy and consistently poor educational performance, Louisiana was losing population even before the hurricanes. The state had a net loss of more than 75,000 people from 1995 to 2000, according to census figures. But the physical and psychological damage inflicted by the hurricanes could push tens of thousands, and possibly hundreds of thousands, of people out of the state for good, state officials say, comparable only to the Dust Bowl during the Great Depression and possibly the 1927 floods. -- Population Loss Alters Louisiana Politics - New York Times

    October 2, 2005

    Alabama: federal court allows governor and legislative leaders to intervene in GOP redistricting suit

    The federal court in the Southern District of Alabama allowed Governor Riley and the legislative leadership to intervene in the Gustafson v. Johns case. The suit, brought by a number of Republicans, seeks to void the redistricting of the state legislature on the theory that the districts are malapportioned -- even though they are all within plus or minus 5% of the ideal size. Selected pleadings in the case may be found here.

    Disclosure: Jim Blacksher and I represent the Speaker of the House in the case.

    September 30, 2005

    Ohio: opponents of independent redistricting show "purple" map

    The Toledo Blade reports: Opponents of a proposed constitutional amendment overhauling how Ohio redraws congressional and legislative districts attempted to make their point yesterday that mixing Republican red and Democratic blue to create competitive purple on a map would have disastrous results for the state.

    The Republican-dominated Ohio First Inc. said it created a congressional map by using the mathematical formula and ideals contained in Issue 4 set for the Nov. 8 ballot. Ohio First is the nonprofit organization quietly created in July to fight proposed constitutional reforms of Ohio's election system

    The resulting map creates several narrow districts snaking nearly from Pennsylvania to Indiana and dividing numerous counties. -- - toledoblade.com -

    I have not been able to find the map online. If you know where to find it, email me.

    Georgia: DOJ preclears congressional plan

    AP reports: The U.S. Justice Department gave Georgia the go-ahead Friday to use a new map drawn by Republicans for congressional elections next year. The map, drawn after Republicans gained control of the Legislature this year, replaces an earlier one crafted by Democrats when they held the power to redistrict.

    The map significantly restructures the state's 13 congressional districts, eliminating oddly shaped districts which Republicans argued were purposefully designed by Democrats to punish Republicans and retard that party's growth. -- AccessNorthGa.com - North Georgia's Newsroom

    September 29, 2005

    California: Rose Institute study claims Prop. 77 would make more competitive districts

    The Los Angeles Times reports: The number of true tossup races for the Legislature and Congress would increase sixfold in California if voters passed Proposition 77, according to a new academic study of the initiative. But redistricting experts caution against expecting a dramatic shake-up of political power.

    Retired judges rather than lawmakers would draw political boundaries under Proposition 77. The new districts probably would create competition in 10 congressional districts, seven Assembly districts and eight state Senate districts, according to research released Monday by Claremont McKenna College's Rose Institute of State and Local Government. ...

    That would be a major increase in competitiveness, the researchers said. At present, there are no competitive congressional districts in California, three in the Assembly and one in the state Senate. ...

    By ignoring the advantages of incumbent politicians — such as name recognition among voters — the Rose Institute report probably exaggerates the number of competitive districts the judges could draw, said Rob Richie, executive director of FairVote — the Center for Voting and Democracy in Maryland.

    Politicians seeking reelection can count on a roughly 7% advantage over candidates trying to break into office, he said.

    "That can move a district that looks competitive on paper to being uncompetitive," said Richie.

    And in at least two states that use independent commissions to draw political boundaries — Arizona and Iowa — incumbents have still been reelected easily, Richie said. In Arizona, 15 of 16 congressional races have been won by margins of 20% or more since the independent redistricting commission plan went into effect.

    Changing redistricting, Richie said, "still hasn't created any nirvana of competition." -- Modest Change Seen Under Prop. 77 - Los Angeles Times

    Maryland: redistricting expert witness runs for Senate

    WBAL reports: American University political historian Allan Lichtman announced his candidacy Wednesday for U.S. Senate, saying his upstart campaign for the Democratic nomination was a challenge to a tradition of Maryland Democrats anointing a front-runner in statewide races.

    Speaking at his son's middle school in Bethesda, Lichtman compared himself to the late Sen. Paul Wellstone, a Minnesota political scientist who won a Senate seat in 1990 without ever holding elected office. And he challenged the record of Rep. Ben Cardin, D-Md., a leading candidate in the Democratic primary. ...

    Although he has never held public office, Lichtman said he has considerable public policy experience. That includes testifying as an expert witness in voting rights and redistricting court cases, and commentary he has provided on national television.

    While other candidates might have greater name recognition, Lichtman said "people recognize me when they see me and hear me." -- TheWBALChannel.com - News - Lichtman Joins Crowded Democratic Field For Senate

    September 26, 2005

    Redistricting is a hot topic in mid-decade

    The Los Angeles Times reports: When California voters go to the polls Nov. 8 to decide whether to strip lawmakers of the authority to draw their own districts, so will voters in Ohio. Millions more are likely to follow in Massachusetts and Florida.

    In these and more than a dozen other states, activists are busy concocting different solutions to the same problem. They are trying to find a less political way to draw districts for Congress and legislatures so voters have a better crack at actually deciding elections. ..

    From California, where Proposition 77 would put redistricting in the hands of three retired judges, to Florida, where a circulating initiative would create a 15-member bipartisan redistricting commission, the usually arcane, once-a-decade process of redrawing districts to even out shifts in population is a hot political topic.

    Besides ballot measures pending or in the works in California, Ohio, Florida and Massachusetts, bills to create independent or bipartisan redistricting commissions have been introduced in at least 12 state legislatures this year. In Congress, a Tennessee Republican introduced a bill to mandate independent commissions nationwide. -- Several States May Revisit Redistricting - Los Angeles Times

    Ohio: how the redistricting proposal would work

    A diary on RedState.org reports: For background: the current breakdown is 12 Republicans and 6 Democrats, a 2:1 ratio that is striking because Bush defeated Kerry in Ohio by only a few percentage points. There may be a number of reasons for this: poor Democratic performance in campaigns, poor Democratic candidates...but the one the mostly Democratic reformers chose to focus on was the gerrymandering of Ohio's districts. Taking the very rough standard of a margin of victory in 2000 (no data for 2004) of 10 points or more as uncompetitive, I found 7 uncompetitive R districts, 4 uncompetitive D districts, 6 competitive lean R districts, and 1 competitive lean D district. Each of those falls along party lines except District 6, represented by Ted Strickland (D).

    Such a plan would not be adopted according to the rules set out in the amendment, and a new plan would almost certainly favor Democrats. Here's why.

    The amendment has a "competitiveness" requirement that has the committee assign a score to each plan, based on the following formula: # of competitive districts leaning one way balanced by competitive districts leaning the other way x 2 + # of remaining competitive districts, minus # of uncompetitive districts for one side NOT balanced by an uncompetitive district for the other side x 2. Using the numbers above (again, very rough), the current map would earn a score of 3. That won't cut it, since the committee is required to consider plans with the highest score first. I put together a really rough plan without regard to benefitting Democrats or Republicans, and my plan got a 7. So I feel confident that somebody who does have all the data and expertise could make one with an even higher score. -- || RedState.org

    September 23, 2005

    Virginia: insurance company seeks dismissal of GOP suit

    The Daily Progress reports: A federal judge is set to decide this fall whether the Republican Party of Virginia’s lawsuit against its former insurance company should go to trial or be dismissed.

    U.S. Magistrate Judge Dennis Dohnal heard arguments Thursday on a motion that the GOP’s lawsuit should be tossed out as groundless. Dohnal is expected to rule within weeks on motions for summary judgment from both sides in the lawsuit that an attorney for the insurance company called frivolous.

    The GOP contends that the Union Insurance Co. of Lincoln, Neb., breached its contract by not covering the $750,000 the state party paid last December to 33 Virginia Democrats who sued over eavesdropping by a pair of top Republican officials on Democratic conference calls discussing redistricting.

    The GOP lawsuit also seeks $200,000 for lawyers’ bills from RPV’s nine-month legal battle with Democratic legislators, who claimed the March 2002 eavesdropping violated their privacy rights. -- Judge hears motions on GOP eavesdropping suit

    September 21, 2005

    Florida: would it cost less to have a redistricting commission?

    The Tallahassee Democrat reports: Taxpayers could save half the cost of redrawing Florida's political boundaries by taking that enormous power away from legislators and giving it to an independent commission, backers of the plan said Tuesday.

    Attorney Mark Herron, a veteran elections-law lawyer and former head of the Florida Commission on Ethics, said it's impossible to know exactly how much the state spent on redistricting in 2001-02. But he told a special economic-impact task force that the current remapping process is "duplicative" as the House and Senate pass overlapping and conflicting plans for their own districts and congressional boundaries every 10 years - then cut deals to protect incumbents, divide seats between parties or open up new tracts for powerful bosses.

    "There would be a cost for expenses of the commission, for commission staff, for computers," Herron said of the independent-commission plan. "But it would be approximately half of the cost now because there would not be duplication."

    The House and Senate have separate reapportionment committees, each with its own staff of statisticians, demographers and legal experts. They also hire outside counsel to advise and represent the leadership during Justice Department review and in court, once legislative and congressional plans are adopted. -- Tallahassee Democrat | 09/21/2005 | Cost of redrawing boundaries panned

    September 14, 2005

    Louisiana: mid-decade redistricting?

    Roll Call reports on speculation that there might be a mid-decade redistricting in Louisiana: Still, there is a realization at the state Legislature in Baton Rouge that Louisiana may have to take action before the end of the decade. Marusak and Lowrey said state lawmakers have discussed holding a special session before they are scheduled to convene again in March 2006.

    That recognition may stem from growing pressure in central and northern Louisiana congressional districts that have become a temporary home for thousands of newcomers renting houses, filling public schools and clogging local highways.

    Baker spokesman Michael DiResto estimated that the 6th, which is northwest of New Orleans and encompasses Baton Rouge, may have twice as many people in it as most every other district in the nation.

    Baker said that motels, hotels and public-housing and rental units are filled in Baton Rouge and surrounding communities. He added that some business owners had bought 20 or 30 houses to relocate their entire operations to the state capital.

    The "ideal" district, Lowrey said, has 638,425 people. Officials in Baton Rouge said the 4th, 5th and 6th districts are each housing more than 1 million people. Bonner said Alabama had picked up 20,000 residents, including as many as 5,000 in his district. -- Hurricane may end up costing La. a House seat
    [I don't have a link because I don't have a subscription to Roll Call]

    Let's assume that most people from South Louisiana have moved to North Louisiana. Without a census, you can't tell how many people are where, so you can't draw a zero-deviation district as the Supreme Court requires for congressional districts, and probably can't draw +/- 5% legislative districts. On the other hand, the de-population of South Louisiana makes it pretty clearly unfair to leave things as they are. What do you do?

    A modest proposal: Get Congress to amend the federal law requiring single-member congressional districts to allow an alternative voting system that allows all Louisianans to vote for the same candidates. Congress could authorize the state legislature to choose one of these (taken from the FairVote.org site):

    * List System -- by far the most widely used form of full representation. The voter selects one party and its slate of candidates to represent them. Party slates can be either "closed" or "open," with open lists allowing voters to vote for individual candidates rather than political parties. If a party receives 30% of the vote, they receive 30% of the seats in the legislature, 10% of the vote receives 10% of the seats, and so on. A minimum share of the votes can be required to earn representation; typically a 3-5% threshold is used. This type of full representation is ideal for large legislatures on state and national levels. * Choice Voting -- the voter simply ranks candidates in an order of preference (1,2,3,4, etc...). Once a voter's first choice is elected or eliminated, excess votes are "transferred" to subsequent preferences until all positions are filled. Voters can vote for their favorite candidate(s), knowing that if that candidate doesn't receive enough votes their vote will "transfer" to their next preference. With choice voting, every vote counts and very few votes are wasted. Choice voting is ideal for non-partisan elections like city councils. This method is also called "Single Transferable Vote" or "STV".

    A disaster the size of Katrina requires some creative thinking. Let's get to it.

    September 13, 2005

    California: 2 campaign groups now supporting reidstricting reform

    AP reports: A key supporter of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's redistricting measure announced plans Tuesday to form an independent, nonpartisan campaign supporting Proposition 77 - largely over fears the measure will fail if tied directly to Schwarzenegger's other Republican-backed ballot initiatives.

    Bill Mundell, a Southern California businessman who donated more than $300,000 to help qualify the redistricting measure for the ballot, said his new group would operate separately from the governor's California Recovery Team in support of the initiative.

    The move comes on the same day the California Recovery Team announced that Steve Poizner, a Silicon Valley billionaire and Republican candidate for Insurance Commissioner next year, will head up the Schwarzenegger-backed committee also pushing Proposition 77.

    The proposition, one of three "year of reform" initiatives that Schwarzenegger helped put on the ballot for a special election Nov. 8, would strip lawmakers of their power to draw Congressional and state legislative boundaries, handing the job to a panel of retired judges. -- AP Wire | 09/13/2005 | Redistricting proponents break with governor, form own campaign

    September 7, 2005

    Ohio: GOP challenges ballot initiatives

    Reuters reports: An appeals court in the key electoral battleground of Ohio will hear on Thursday a challenge to ballot measures that would allow voters to strip the state's elected officials of control over electoral redistricting and how elections are run.

    Republican-led opponents of four proposed constitutional amendments say they should not be on Ohio's ballot on November 8 on grounds that many people who collected the 330,000 voter signatures on petitions in support of the referendum were from outside Ohio. ...

    Ohio law requires those circulating petitions to be from the state so they can be subpoenaed if there are challenges, said David Hopcraft, who represents Republicans challenging the referendum.

    While the courts have made exceptions for petition gatherers working for individual candidates, the same exception does not apply to petition circulators backing issue referendums, Hopcraft said. -- Ohio electoral changes challenged by Republicans

    September 6, 2005

    Texas: to the Supreme Court again on the re-redistricting case

    Two groups have filed a jurisdictional statement in the U.S. Supreme Court on the validity of the Texas redistricting case. The JS is here. The Questions Presented are:

    1. Whether the Equal Protection Clause and the First Amendment prohibit States from redrawing lawful districting plans in the middle of the decade, for the sole purpose of maximizing partisan advantage.

    2. Whether Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act permits a State to destroy a district effectively controlled by African-American voters, merely because it is impossible to draw a district in which African-Americans constitute an absolute mathematical majority of the population.

    3. Whether, under Bush v. Vera, 517 U.S. 952 (1996), a bizarre-looking congressional district, which was intentionally drawn as a majority-Latino district by connecting two far-flung pockets of dense urban population with a 300-mile-long rural “land bridge,” may escape invalidation as a racial gerrymander because drawing a compact majority-Latino district would have required the mapmakers to compromise their political goal of maximizing Republican seats elsewhere in the State.

    August 25, 2005

    Alabama: Dems rebut Flowers

    The Alabama Democratic Party blog has this to say about the Steve Flowers column quoted yesterday: What Steve Flowes failed to point out in his piece is that the district boundaries were drawn in a bi-partisan nature. Legislators of both parties were involved in the process and had to vote on it. Former Republican Attorney General (and now Bush-appointed judge) Bill Pryor defended the boundaries previously, and they were swiftly approved by the Bush Department of Justice. Our districts have been approved every step of the way by Republicans, and this lawsuit is nothing more than an admission by the GOP that they can't take control of the legislature if they play by the rules in place - rules, I might again add, which have been supported by Republican after Republican.

    I think it does a disservice to the readers of Flowers' column not to mention this. I am not accusing Flowers of having a political agenda in his columns, but I will say this is not the first time I've found misleading or factually inaccurate information in them. -- Steve Flowers Doesn't Get It - ADP Blog

    Florida: The Department of State takes the redistricting initiative off the ballot because it contains an 81-word summary rather than the 75 allowed by law

    AP reports: The Department of State rescinded its approval Thursday of a ballot initiative that would change the way the state's political lines are drawn, saying it is six words too long.

    The petition is one of three the Committee for Fair Elections is circulating to ask voters to create an independent redistricting panel and set standards it should follow. The group already has more than 223,000 signatures to put the items on next year's ballot.

    That work may now have to be scrapped. State law requires that ballot summaries be no longer than 75 words if they are part of a petition drive. Ballot questions approved by the Legislature can be longer.

    In a letter to the Committee for Fair Elections, Secretary of State Glenda Hood said her department didn't detect the problem when it reviewed and approved the language. The 81-word summary would require districts be compact and preserve communities of interest rather than favor an incumbent politician or political party. -- AP Wire | 08/25/2005 | State rescinds approval on redistricting ballot initiative

    August 24, 2005

    Alabama: campaign contributions drying up because of GOP suit

    Steve Flowers writes in the Brewton Standard: An issue that looms over all of next year's legislative races has finally been set in motion. The GOP has threatened for more than a year to file a federal lawsuit similar to Georgia in hopes of overturning the legislative district lines approved in 2000.

    The suit was filed in Mobile Federal Court which is seen as a Republican friendly venue. At issue is the Republican allegation that a democratically controlled Alabama Legislature packed voters with GOP leanings into a few districts. Indeed most Republican districts are overpopulated while most Democratic districts are under populated. The fact is clear but the question is whether a federal court will order new districts drawn in 2006, six years after the fact and only a few years away from the next redistricting. The Republicans won their case in Georgia based on similar facts causing the Legislature to go from majority Democrat to a Republican majority.

    The case will be watched very closely by incumbent legislators of both parties, but the lobbyists and major campaign contributors will be watching even more closely. It has already shut down most campaign contributions because the case could linger throughout 2006 and you could have an election in 2006 and again in 2007.

    A good many Montgomery special interests believe there is a good chance this scenario will occur. This cloud will hover over all Legislative and Senate races next year. Speaking of clouds, Don Siegelman has not let the threat of Federal indictment in Montgomery deter his campaign plans. As I have stated previously, the only way that Don Siegelman will not run for governor next year is if he is in jail or dead. -- The Brewton Standard - Opinion

    Disclosure: I repesent the Speaker of the House, who has moved to intervene as a defendant.

    August 23, 2005

    Florida: word limit may trip up redistricting initiative

    The St. Petersburg Times reports: A push to strip the Legislature of its power to draw political districts and give it to an independent commission has hit a snag: One of the proposals has too many words.

    Under state law, ballot language for citizen initiatives to amend Florida's Constitution can't exceed 75 words.

    The petition in question, one of three the Campaign for Fair Elections is trying to get on the November 2006 ballot, has 81 words.

    The measure would require that congressional or legislative districts be drawn so that they favor no one political party or candidate - a dramatic change to the status quo where legislative leaders routinely draw boundaries to benefit individual politicians. -- Tampabay: 6 words may block overhaul of redistricting

    August 22, 2005

    A debate on independent redistricting commissions

    The Tallahassee Democrat reports: On Thursday, both left a debate on the topic [on of redistricting] shaking their heads. The debate, between a law-school professor and a national advocate for independent commissions, was part of the National Conference of State Legislatures' annual conference. ...

    The debate, between Daniel Lowenstein, a professor at the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law, and Cecilia Martinez, director of the Washington, D.C.-based Reform Institute, was of special interest to Florida lawmakers in light of a campaign to put three amendments on the 2006 ballot creating an independent redistricting commission. ...

    "Voters are troubled by politicians drawing their own districts," Martinez said. "I don't think you can remove politics from the process, but you can add independence to the process." ...

    Lowenstein, the law professor, agrees that redistricting is a political and often bitterly partisan process. He just doesn't believe that taking that responsibility from lawmakers and giving it to an appointed commission will change that.

    "I think that despite the fact that of course there's a conflict of interest, the legislature is the place where redistricting ought to be done," he said. -- Tallahassee Democrat | 08/22/2005 | Lawmakers cool to redistricting

    August 19, 2005

    South Dakota: federal court orders redistricting

    The ACLU says in a press release: The American Civil Liberties Union announced today that a federal court in South Dakota has issued a final ruling ordering the redrawing of legislative district lines to ensure there is no discrimination against Native American voters in 13 of the state’s 66 counties. The order came in a case originally brought by the ACLU on behalf of four Native American voters in December 2001, after the South Dakota legislature redrew the boundaries of the state's 35 legislative districts. -- Federal Court Orders South Dakota to Comply with Voting Rights Act

    Here is a copy of the opinion.

    August 18, 2005

    California: FEC okays congressmen's plan to raise soft money to fight Prop. 77

    The Los Angeles Times reports: In a decision that could feed the political spending frenzy for the November election, the Federal Election Commission today ruled that members of Congress are free to spend without limit on California ballot measures.

    The decision involved a proposed ballot measure that would change how boundaries of legislative districts are drawn, but could open spending floodgates on other ballot proposals on topics as diverse as teenage abortions and political spending by unions.

    The commission ruled unanimously that federal law limiting contributions to congressmen to $5,000 does not apply to November's special state election because the balloting is entirely a state affair, with no federal candidates involved.

    The FEC ruled directly on one of Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's key initiatives, transferring authority for legislative redistricting from lawmakers to judges. -- FEC Allows Unlimited Fundraising Against Calif. Redistricting Plan - Los Angeles Times

    August 16, 2005

    Virginia: Insurance company subpoenas Kilgore and other Republicans

    The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports: Attorneys for an insurance company being sued by the Republican Party of Virginia in connection with an eavesdropping dispute subpoenaed the party's gubernatorial nominee, Jerry W. Kilgore, yesterday.

    Christopher C. Spencer, an attorney for Union Insurance Co. of Lincoln, Neb., said he also is issuing subpoenas to GOP members of Virginia's congressional delegation, to U.S. Sens. John W. Warner and George Allen and to the Republican National Committee.

    All contributed to the $750,000 the state party paid to settle a lawsuit brought against it by Democratic legislators after two GOP officials eavesdropped on Democratic phone calls.

    "I want to know what they paid and why," Spencer said. "I want to know what the Republican Party lost, if anything." -- TimesDispatch.com | Kilgore subpoenaed in civil case


    Via GOTV and LeftyBlogs.

    California: Sec. of State says districts could be ready for 2006 if Prop. 77 passes

    The San Francisco Chronicle reports: Despite concerns about the tight timing, California's political map could be redrawn in time for the June 2006 election, if Proposition 77 passes in November, Secretary of State Bruce McPherson said Monday.

    It's a tough criterion, "but I think the lines could be in place for next year,'' he said during an informal news conference.

    It was an abrupt shift of direction for the former Santa Cruz legislator, who said several weeks ago that backers of the redistricting measure, who include Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, had no chance of having the new districts ready for next year's elections. -- SACRAMENTO / New districts possible for June 2006 vote / If Prop. 77 passes, secretary of state sees quick implementation

    California: 2 congressmen ask FEC for permission to raise soft money to oppose Prop. 77

    AP reports: Two California House members from opposite parties are asking a federal elections panel for permission to raise unlimited money to oppose Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's redistricting measure.

    Reps. Howard Berman, D-North Hollywood, and John Doolittle, R-Rocklin, are seeking an advisory opinion from the Federal Election Commission that would allow them to collect "soft money" from unions, corporations and other donors to support or oppose ballot measures in the Nov. 8 special election.

    Both oppose Schwarzenegger's redistricting initiative. Berman's chief of staff, Gene Smith, said the request was motivated by their desire to raise money to fight it.

    Schwarzenegger's campaign committee will not be bound by limits in raising money to boost the initiative. Proposition 77 would take the responsibility of drawing legislative district lines away from lawmakers and give it to a panel of retired judges. -- AP Wire | 08/16/2005 | House members seek to raise money to oppose redistricting measure

    August 13, 2005

    California: Supreme Court puts Prop. 77 back on the ballot, but leaves open question of legality

    The Los Angeles Times reports: The California Supreme Court handed Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger a major victory Friday, putting back on the Nov. 8 ballot his initiative to change how legislative district lines are drawn.

    The brief order, issued by a 4-2 vote, ends a monthlong legal battle between supporters of the initiative, Proposition 77, and Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer. The attorney general had won two rounds in lower courts. Those judges accepted his argument that the measure should not be voted on in November because its backers had violated election law in the way they got the measure on the ballot.

    The Supreme Court overturned those lower-court decisions. But it left open the possibility that the election-law violations could still sink the ballot measure. If voters approve the measure, the justices said, they might then review the legal issues to determine if it is valid. -- Redistricting Back on Ballot - Los Angeles Times

    August 9, 2005

    Virginia: Dems want the GOP to pay the piper

    The Daily Progress reports: Democratic state legislators victimized three years ago by state GOP officials who eavesdropped on conference calls about a redistricting lawsuit offered Monday to help an insurance company sued last month by the Republican Party of Virginia.

    The Republican Party sued its former insurer July 18, seeking $950,000 in reimbursement, including $200,000 for legal fees and $750,000 the party paid Democrats to settle an eavesdropping lawsuit in December.

    Two Democratic delegates and six state senators sent a letter to the Richmond lawyer for Union Insurance Co. of Nebraska offering to assist the company “in any way possible to ensure that RPV and the other [GOP eavesdropping lawsuit] defendants remain accountable for their actions by bearing the cost of [last December’s] settlement.”

    Democrats said in a news release that Jerry W. Kilgore, the Republican nominee for governor and former attorney general, could recoup $125,000 that his campaign fund paid in the settlement if the current lawsuit against the insurance company is successful. -- Democrats engage GOP insurer

    California: court of appeals affirms order on Prop. 77

    The Los Angeles Times reports: The state appeals court ruled today to keep Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's redistricting proposal off the Nov. 8 special election ballot, siding with the state attorney general and setting the stage for a quick appeal to the state Supreme Court.

    In its 2-1 ruling, the three-judge panel backed Atty. Gen . Bill Lockyer, who had argued that the version of the proposition that was circulated among voters to collect signatures to place it on the ballot was different than the initiative that was given to his office, which is illegal. ...

    "The petitioners could easily have avoided or discovered and corrected the problem of different versions before the circulation of the petitions," the ruling said.

    Presiding Justice Arthur Scotland issued the dissenting opinion, saying that any challenges to the validity of the proposition should wait until after the election is held. -- Appeals Court Upholds Move to Strike Redistricting Proposal

    Alabama: Governor moves to intervene in GOP's redistricting suit

    AP reports: Republican Gov. Bob Riley agrees with most claims of a lawsuit challenging state legislative districts as unequal in population, but has asked to intervene as a defendant.

    A group of voters filed a federal court lawsuit in Mobile in June alleging that the Democrat-controlled Legislature packed some Republican-leaning state House and Senate districts with too many voters, while doing the opposite in some Democratic districts.

    Riley, in court papers filed Friday, asked to be included in the lawsuit as a defendant.

    Spokesman John Matson said Tuesday the governor could legally intervene on either side. He said the governor chose to intervene on the side of the defendants because the lawsuit challenges all of the state's House and Senate districts "and he represents the entire state as governor." -- Tuscaloosa

    Disclosure: I represent another would-be intervenor in this case, the Speaker of the House.

    August 2, 2005

    California: Gray Davis supports redistricting initiative

    The L.A. Daily News reports: Facing declining popularity and increasingly heated partisan opposition, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger must be thankful for the support he's received from an unlikely quarter.

    Former Gov. Gray Davis, whom Schwarzenegger replaced in the 2003 recall election, said he supports the plan to reform the redistricting process, allowing a panel of judges rather than politicians to draw political boundaries.

    Every elected official should have some sense of jeopardy in a November election," Davis told Sacramento radio talk-show host Eric Hogue. "They should have some obligation to the general interest and not just have to win their primaries.

    "People should have the opportunity to decide whether or not they want the Legislature and the governor to continue to draft reapportionment plans or take it out of their hands." -- L.A. Daily News - News

    July 28, 2005

    Colorado: federal court OKs redistricting plan

    AP reports: A federal court has thrown out the last remaining challenge to Colorado's congressional redistricting plan, saying the state Supreme Court resolved the case when it upheld a plan backed by Democrats.

    Republican Party officials said today they expect to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

    The ruling, handed down Wednesday and made available today, is a setback for the GOP, which has been seeking to overturn the state's congressional district map for two years. -- DenverPost.com - LOCAL NEWS

    July 26, 2005

    California: appeals court stays injunction on Prop 77

    AP reports: Supporters of a ballot measure aimed at redrawing congressional and legislative districts filed an appeal Monday and were granted a temporary suspension of a lower court ruling that ordered Proposition 77 off the ballot.

    The measure, one of three backed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for the November special election, would give authority for redrawing district boundaries to a panel of retired judges. But organizers of the petition drive mistakenly used two different versions in the circulation process prompting Sacramento County Judge Gail Ohanesian to toss the measure from the ballot last week.

    But Justice Coleman A. Blease, of the 3rd District Court of Appeal agreed to stay Ohanesian’s order until the case could be decided. -- Appeal Filed on Redistricting Initiative

    Virginia: GOP sues insurance carrier

    AP reports: The Republican Party of Virginia is suing its liability insurance carrier, seeking nearly $1 million in reimbursement for the GOP's payout to settle a lawsuit over the eavesdropping scandal and attorneys' fees the insurer refused to cover.

    The state GOP contends in a complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Richmond that the Union Insurance Co. of Lincoln, Neb., breached its contract by not covering the $750,000 the party paid in December to Virginia Democrats who sued over two intercepted conference calls.

    The lawsuit also seeks $200,000 for legal bills from RPV's nine-month court battle with Democratic legislators and other party officials who alleged top GOP operatives violated their privacy rights.

    The party contends it should have been covered because it did not know about or condone the espionage on calls made March 22 and 25, 2002, among Democratic lawmakers and, briefly, Gov. Mark R. Warner. The Democrats from across the state met by phone to discuss legal strategy for challenging the 2001 Republican-authored legislative redistricting plan.

    As RPV's former executive director, Edmund A. Matricardi III secretly monitored the calls and pleaded guilty in 2003 to a single federal count of intercepting a wire communication. -- WVEC.com | News for Hampton Roads, Virginia | Virginia News

    July 21, 2005

    California: redistricting initiative off the ballot

    AP reports: A judge kicked Arnold Schwarzenegger's redistricting measure off the special election ballot Thursday, a crushing blow for a proposition that was held up as a centerpiece of the governor's campaign to reform state government.

    The judge ruled that supporters violated California's constitution by using two versions of the initiative in the process of qualifying the measure for the ballot.

    "The differences are not simply typographical errors," Judge Gail Ohanesian said. "They're not merely about the format of the measure. They are not simply technical. Instead they go to the substantive terms of the measure." ...

    Attorney General Bill Lockyer asked the judge to order the measure off the ballot because its supporters used two versions - one to gather voter signatures and another version given to the attorney general. -- AP Wire | 07/21/2005 | Redistricting measure off Calif. ballot

    Alabama: legislative leaders intervene to protect districting plans

    The Mobile Register reports: The two top lawmakers of each branch of the Alabama Legislature sought Friday to intervene as defendants in a lawsuit challenging the state's legislative boundaries and asked a judge to toss out the complaint.

    A group of voters in southwest Alabama filed the lawsuit in federal court in Mobile last month, claiming the state's redistricting plan illegally diluted their influence by packing them into overly populous districts.

    The plan, according to the complaint, was an attempt by the Democrat-controlled Legislature to benefit Democrats by stuffing as many Republican voters as possible into as few legislative districts as possible. ...

    Senate President Pro Tem Lowell Barron, D-Fyffe, and House Speaker Seth Hammet, D-Andalusia, filed paperwork Friday asking to be recognized as defendants. State Sen. Hank Sanders, D-Selma, also sought to intervene.

    The lawmakers argued they were better equipped to defend the interests of the two groups with the most to lose from a challenge to the district lines -- the majority of Democrats in the Legislature and black voters, who vote overwhelmingly for Democrats. Sanders is a member of the Black Legislative Caucus. -- State legislative leaders want redistricting suit to be tossed

    Disclosure and note: I am one of the attorneys representing Speaker Seth Hammett. This article appeared on Saturday.

    July 12, 2005

    South Dakota: Legislature will not change districting plan to comply with court order

    The Argus Leader reports: Legislative leaders decided Monday they'll continue to play the hand they dealt themselves in a 4-year-old redistricting plan that a federal judge says violates Lakota voting rights.

    The Legislative Research Council's executive board voted unanimously to reaffirm its 2001 action in the face of U.S. District Judge Karen Schreier's ruling.

    Schreier said the plan packs Lakota voters into District 27 and dilutes the minority population's voting strength in neighboring District 26.

    The two districts are part of an area that includes the Pine Ridge and Rosebud Indian reservations in southwestern South Dakota. Schreier gave the Legislature until July 29 to submit a plan that responded to her finding of a voting-rights violation.

    Lawmakers instead will offer a resolution adopted Monday that affirms their earlier action. Then they'll wait for Schreier's final order in the case and almost certainly will appeal her decision to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. -- Argus Leader - News

    California: Dems will join AG's suit against redistricting initiative

    AP reports: The Legislature's Democratic leaders are seeking to join a lawsuit aimed at removing the redistricting initiative from the special election ballot, a direct challenge to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

    The measure is one of three the governor placed on the Nov. 8 ballot as part of his "year of reform" package and seeks to change how boundaries are drawn for members of the state Legislature, Congress and the state Board of Equalization.

    Attorney General Bill Lockyer filed a lawsuit last week claiming supporters of Proposition 77 violated the state Constitution by significantly changing the wording of the initiative after it was approved by state officials for circulation.

    Attorney Lance Olson, representing Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez and Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, said he will file papers Wednesday asking the court to allow his clients to join with Lockyer in arguing that the measure should be removed from the ballot. -- Democratic leaders to join lawsuit over redistricting initiative

    July 10, 2005

    Florida: campaign to change redistricting gains

    The Ledger reports: A bipartisan campaign to change the way Florida draws lines for its congressional and state legislative districts is gaining momentum, according to its supporters.

    Ben Wilcox, executive director of Florida Common Cause, the citizens' lobbying group that has spearheaded the effort, reports that the Committee for Fair Elections has gathered about 80,000 signatures from voters. Once those signatures are verified by state election officials, it will be enough to get the group's redistricting amendments before the state Supreme Court for a review.

    If the court approves the wording of the three constitutional amendments, the proposal will be on next year's general election ballot if the redistricting group can collect enough additional signatures to reach the 611,000 signatures that will be needed. The Fair Elections group has until Feb. 1. -- Web Sites Become New Campaign Issue | theledger.com

    July 9, 2005

    South Dakota: Legislative Executive Board meets Monday on redistricting

    AP reports: South Dakota legislative leaders will hold an emergency meeting Monday to decide how to respond to a federal judge's ruling that said the current legislative redistricting plan violates the rights of American Indians.

    The Legislature's Executive Board, which handles management issues for the Legislature, will meet with lawyers from the attorney general's office.

    Sen. Ed Olson, R-Mitchell, chairman of the Executive Board, said lawmakers will discuss whether to hold a special legislative session to pass an alternate redistricting plan or take some other action. ...

    [U.S. District Judge Karen Schreier] had asked the South Dakota Supreme Court to determine whether the Legislature has constitutional authority to redistrict now. The court last week ruled that the Legislature does have constitutional authority to fix the redistricting plan in response to Schreier's order. -- AP Wire | 07/06/2005 | Legislative panel to meet Monday on redistricting dispute

    Mississippi: judge orders new elections in Granada

    AP reports: A federal judge has ordered the Grenada City Council to hold a new city election that includes residents annexed in 1993.

    If the city fails to do so, U.S. District Judge Neal Biggers said he will order a special master to carry out his order.

    Biggers issued the order Tuesday, instructing the city to correct the long-debated issue.

    He gave the city 30 days from the date of his order — July 5 — to draw new ward lines and ordered the city to hold an election within 90 days of devising a new redistricting plan, which includes all citizens within the old corporate limits and the annexed area.

    Grenada officials had sought to void the annexation that brought in several hundred white residents. Chancellor Percy Lynchard refused in 2002 to allow the city to de-annex the area only to get federal approval for new ward lines.

    The Justice Department objected to both the city's 1993 annexation plan and the de-annexation. Federal officials said the then-majority white council in 1993 intended to use annexation to thwart the growth of black voting strength. -- Judge orders new city election

    According to the order, the Justice Department withdrew its objection to the 1993 annexation in 2005.

    California: AG sues to remove redistricting initiative from ballot

    AP reports: Attorney General Bill Lockyer filed suit Friday to remove Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's redistricting initiative from the November ballot, saying supporters violated the state Constitution when they significantly changed the measure's wording.

    Lockyer filed the suit in Sacramento County Superior Court as the issue becomes increasingly politicized between the attorney general, a Democrat, and Secretary of State Bruce McPherson, a Republican appointed by Schwarzenegger.

    The measure is one of eight on the Nov. 8 special election ballot and one of three that are part of the governor's "Year of Reform" package.

    "By opting to collect signatures on a ballot measure different from the text reviewed and approved by the attorney general, the proponents violated state law and deceived voters," Lockyer said in a statement. "Allowing access to the ballot for initiative proponents who switch or modify text during the signature gathering phase would defeat existing laws designed to protect the integrity of state elections and would corrupt the people's initiative process." -- L.A. Daily News - News

    July 2, 2005

    Why the replacement for Justice O'Connor is important to voting rights lawyers

    Rick Hasen writes in the New Republic Online: No doubt the coming Senate hearings to confirm Sandra Day O'Connor's successor will focus on hot-button issues like affirmative action and abortion. This is understandable, of course, since O'Connor's replacement with a more conservative justice could mark a change in direction for the Court on these topics--two years ago, for instance, she granted a twenty-five year reprieve to affirmative action programs, and a few years before that she was the decisive vote in striking down state bans on partial birth abortion.

    But while these issues will grab the headlines, O'Connor's departure from the Court could have equally startling consequences in an area of the law that may not even come up during the Senate hearings: election law. It is possible, even likely, that her resignation will lead to both the deregulation of campaign financing and a serious challenge to major parts of the Voting Rights Act. Such changes would, in turn, mean radical shifts in the way elections are conducted in the United States.

    In 2003, O'Connor was the decisive fifth vote in McConnell v. FEC when the Court upheld McCain-Feingold, Congress's first major revamping of federal campaign finance law in a generation. In the case, she voted to bar political parties from collecting large soft-money contributions from corporations, unions, and wealthy individuals; she also endorsed limits on so-called issue ads, which corporations and unions had previously used as a backdoor way of participating in campaigns. -- The New Republic Online: Rock the Vote

    Thanks to Rick Hasen who mentioned this piece on his blog this morning.

    June 29, 2005

    California: you can't tell the redistricting proposals without a score card

    AP reports: Key provisions of rival plans backed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and state Senate Democrats to draw districts for the Legislature, California’s congressional delegation and the state Board of Equalization:

    WHO WOULD DRAW DISTRICTS?

    Schwarzenegger plan: A panel of three retired judges who would be selected by legislative leaders from a pool of 24 ex-judges nominated by the state Judicial Council. There would have to be at least one panel member from each major political party.

    Democrats’ plan: A seven-member commission. The governor, the four top legislative leaders, the Judicial Council and the president of the University of California each would appoint one member. No more than three members could be from the same political party. Calls for commission that reflects state’s diverse population. -- Comparing the Redistricting Plans

    Oregon: GOP cuts Secretary of State budget; is it payback?

    AP reports: A House panel carved $1 million from Secretary of State Bill Bradbury's budget for auditing government agencies, a move that could limit his office's ability to spot fraud and wasteful spending.

    Republican Rep. Wayne Scott, chairman of the House Budget Committee and House majority leader, said Wednesday the cut resulted from a "prudent scouring of the budget. We feel strongly they can perform their duties and keep within the restraints of the budget."

    Scott said the reduction had nothing to do with GOP complaints of bias in the Democratic secretary of state's redrawing of legislative districts in 2001. ...

    If the full House passes the panel's budget bill for Bradbury's office, it would set up a confrontation with the Democrat-controlled Senate. That chamber has passed a version of the budget that doesn't cut funding for audits. -- OregonLive.com: NewsFlash - House committee shaves Bradbury auditing money

    June 28, 2005

    California: Dems propose redistricting panel

    The Los Angeles Daily News reports: Senate Democrats plan to announce today their own reform plan for redistricting, which would retain their political control of the process of drawing legislative and congressional district boundaries.

    According to a copy of the proposal obtained by the Daily News, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's plan to transfer the Legislature's redistricting power to a nonpartisan panel of retired judges would be scrapped. That authority would instead be given to a commission of seven political appointees, four of whom would be chosen by legislative leaders.

    Republican leaders said the administration was unlikely to accept the plan but acknowledged it could be a first step toward a compromise.

    "Certainly, discussions are a positive thing and there might be a possibility for compromise," said Senate Minority Leader Dick Ackerman, R-Irvine. "But if you look at the language in the bill compared to what we saw before, I think it makes it worse in terms of something we would sign off on and the governor would sign off on."

    Sen. Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, who authored Senate Constitutional Amendment 3, is scheduled to unveil the proposal today. Common Cause, a national group based in Washington, D.C., which previously endorsed Schwarzenegger's redistricting plan, and the League of Women Voters are expected to lend their support to the bill -- at least in principle, sources said. -- L.A. Daily News - News

    June 18, 2005

    Alabama: which way will the AG jump on the GOP's suit?

    AP reports: Democrats and Republicans are watching to see which side Republican Attorney General Troy King takes in a Republican-inspired lawsuit seeking to redesign the state's legislative districts.

    Democrat Lowell Barron, president pro tem of the Senate, said he expects King to defend Alabama's redistricting plan like his predecessor, Republican Bill Pryor, did.

    Republican District Attorney David Whetstone of Baldwin County said King should side with the plaintiffs because, in his view, fast-growing, Republican-leaning areas of the state — like Baldwin County — are shortchanged by the current legislative districts.

    King said Friday he had not yet received the suit, which is against state and county officials.

    "It's premature to start speculating about what we'll do," he said. "I want to see what the merits of the claims are." -- AG King weighing legislative suit as both sides watch

    June 17, 2005

    Alabama: GOP sues over district size

    AP reports: Republican lawyers filed a federal court suit Thursday that seeks to do the same thing a similar suit did in Georgia -- create new legislative districts and switch control of the House and Senate from Democrats to Republicans.

    Democrats said they are not concerned about the litigation because Alabama's legislative districts have been approved by the U.S. Justice Department and survived a previous federal court challenge. ....

    The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Mobile, claims the current legislative districts violate the principle of one-person, one-vote because of population differences between the districts, and contends there are no legitimate reasons for the population differences. The suit seeks new districts that are more equal in population.

    In the Alabama House, Rep. Mary Sue McClurkin, R-Pelham, has the most overpopulated House district, which is 4.8 percentage points above the ideal population. Rep. Skippy White, D-Flomaton, has the most underpopulated district, which is 4.9 percentage points below the ideal size. -- montgomeryadvertiser.com

    June 14, 2005

    California: Gov. calls special election for redistricting initiative

    Bloomberg.com reports: California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger called for the state's fourth election in two years, seeking to pass political-district and budget proposals that could boost Republicans' power in the most populous state.

    One measure supported by the Republican governor would place retired judges in charge of redrawing the state's political boundaries for Congress and the state Legislature. Democrats control 33 of the state's 53 seats in the House of Representatives and both chambers of the state Legislature.

    ``Once you take redistricting from the Assembly, you're going to open up California politics like it's never been opened up since the Progressive era,'' said Kevin Starr, the University of Southern California professor and author of a seven-volume state history. ``You'll get more Republicans, more conservatives and you'll get more independents.'' -- Bloomberg.com: U.S.

    June 9, 2005

    Texas: federal court rejects Dems' challenge to re-redistricting

    AP reports: A three-judge federal panel today rejected legal challenges to the 2003 congressional redistricting plan that resulted in a Republican majority in the Texas delegation in Washington.

    Democrats and minority interests challenged the plan, arguing that it was overly partisan and politically motivated.

    Last year, the U.S. District Court panel for the Eastern District of Texas said the map redrawing congressional voting districts was constitutional. That decision was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which sent the case back to Texas for review by the panel. -- HoustonChronicle.com - Federal panel rejects redistricting plan challenge

    The Campaign Legal Center has the opinion here.

    And Rick Hasen already has some thoughts on what it all means.

    June 8, 2005

    Massachusetts: Finneran indicted

    AP reports: Former Massachusetts House speaker Thomas M. Finneran was indicted Monday on federal charges of lying under oath about his role in redrawing state legislative districts.

    Finneran was charged with perjury and obstruction of justice and could be sent to prison and lose his license to practice law if convicted. ...

    The former lawmaker was accused of lying when he testified in 2003 before a federal appeals court in a lawsuit brought by minority groups. The minority groups said that a new legislative map would hurt black and Hispanic candidates and protect Finneran and other incumbents. Finneran told the three-judge panel he had no role in drafting the map beyond appointing members of a redistricting committee.

    In its ruling, the court said it found his testimony hard to believe. -- Former Mass. House Speaker Indicted in Redistricting Probe

    May 28, 2005

    Arkansas: lawsuit seeks redistricting of school board

    The Helena Daily World reports: Attorney James Valley was expected to file a lawsuit Friday morning to force the Helena-West Helena School District to redraw its election zones and conduct an election for all school board members in the September school elections. The lawsuit is a civil action brought pursuant to the Arkansas Civil Rights Act.

    Nearly 60 Phillips County residents are named as plaintiffs in this latest legal action.

    Valley states in his lawsuit that the plaintiffs intend to show that the Equal Protection Clause and the "one person- one vote" principle have been violated. Federal law requires new district lines be drawn following each census. The most recent census was conducted in the year 2000 and the redistricting should have occurred in the year 2001.

    The suit alleges that the current school board has failed and refused to draw any new district lines. The suit states that the board ordered new zones to be drawn by an expert in West Memphis but the board failed to adopt a map created by the expert. -- The Helena Daily World: News

    May 25, 2005

    Florida: group asks Gov. Bush to support independent redistricting commission

    AP reports: Groups wanting an independent panel to draw Florida's political boundaries are using Gov. Jeb Bush's support of California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's to make their case.

    The groups, including one founded by Betty Castor, are letting supporters know that Gov. Jeb Bush helped Schwarzenegger raise money last week for the California governor's proposed ballot initiatives. One of those measures would create an independent redistricting panel, which could help the Republican governor whittle down the Democrats' power in the California Legislature. ...

    Castor is involved with two groups - Campaign For Florida's Future and the Committee for Fair Elections - that support a proposed Florida ballot measure that would create an independent panel to draw legislative and congressional districts.

    As part of that effort, she e-mailed supporters and asked them to write to the governor under the subject line "If it's good enough for California...." -- Groups see opportunity in Bush aiding Calif. redistricting plan | theledger.com

    May 24, 2005

    Minnesota: urban/rural gerrymandering suit tossed

    The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports: Rural residents are not a class of voters entitled to special protection, a judge has ruled in Glencoe, Minn.

    Judge Thomas Murphy ruled that it was legal for the McLeod County Board to reapportion itself in 2002 so that Hutchinson, Minn., is represented by 60 percent of the commissioners although it had only 37.5 percent of the county's population.

    In a lawsuit filed last year against the county and city, Douglas Krueger of Glencoe said the result was that county commissioners favored road and other projects in the Hutchinson area, often by 3-2 votes.

    Each of the Hutchinson districts includes some rural voters, and Murphy ruled earlier this month that the districts are well within the 10 percent population variance allowed by state law. He said that Krueger failed to show any "disparate" treatment and that no case law "established 'rural' or 'urban' as a constitutionally recognized class for the purpose of judicial protection in a redistricting matter." -- Judge rules against suit in McLeod County

    May 21, 2005

    Texas: redistricting commission bill passes Senate

    The Dallas Morning News reports: The partisan blood bath that has been congressional redistricting in the Legislature would be relegated to a citizen board under legislation tentatively passed Friday in the Senate.

    The victory for bill author Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, was somewhat hollow. While he has worked on the proposal for 12 years, and it passed the Senate for the first time, he acknowledged that the bill is presumed dead in the House and lost for the session. ...

    Under his proposal, the House and Senate would join to appoint eight redistricting commissioners, with Democrats appointing four and Republicans appointing the other four. A ninth member would be selected by the chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court and would vote only to break ties.

    Commissioners could not be a party official, registered lobbyist or an elected official, or anyone who had served in those roles within the previous two years. In addition, a commissioner would serve for 10 years and could not run for elective office. -- DentonRC.com | News for Denton, Texas | Texas/Southwest

    May 18, 2005

    California: Secretary of State says revised election districts can't be ready for 2006

    AP reports: Secretary of State Bruce McPherson cast more doubt on the need for a special November election, saying the new legislative and congressional districts sought by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger can't be in place for elections next year.

    "There's no way I can see that we can make 2006," McPherson, California's top elections official, told members of the Sacramento Press Club on Tuesday. "Maybe 2008, but that's a question mark."

    Schwarzenegger announced in January that he wanted to take the power to draw the districts away from the Legislature and have a panel of retired judges draw new lines in time for 2006 balloting.

    He's threatening to call a special election in November to give voters a chance to approve an initiative that would make that change. Schwarzenegger proposals to cut state spending and lengthen the amount of time new teachers remain on probation could also be on that ballot. -- SignOnSanDiego.com > News > State -- McPherson says new lines can't be in place for 2006 elections

    May 9, 2005

    Nevada: senator proposes independent redistricting commission

    AP reports: A Nevada senator says his proposal to take away redistricting power from the state Legislature and put it in the hands of a five-member commission would lessen the politically charged nature of the process, which turned nasty in 2001.

    Sen. Bob Beers, R-Las Vegas, said the 2001 redistricting fight, which resulted in Gov. Kenny Guinn calling a special session to work out the mess, was extremely political and resulted in oddly shaped districts. ...

    Under the soon-to-be-amended resolution, each party's leaders in the Senate and Assembly would appoint one community member to the commission, and those four appointees would then appoint a fifth to serve as the panel's leader. If they couldn't settle on a chairperson, the Nevada Supreme Court would appoint the last member.

    The commission would be charged with what is now the Legislature's duty: redrawing the state's 63 Senate and Assembly districts every 10 years after the release of the latest U.S. Census figures. -- Las Vegas SUN: Nevada redistricting proposal stems from 2001 fight

    May 6, 2005

    Massachusetts: feds to indict Finneran

    The Boston Globe reports: Federal prosecutors are preparing to indict former House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran for perjury, in allegedly lying when he testified in a federal trial that he was unaware of the contents of a House redistricting plan, according to two sources familiar with the progress of the investigation.

    Finneran's lawyers have launched a last-ditch effort to lobby US Attorney Michael J. Sullivan against bringing such a charge, arguing that the evidence gathered against Finneran in a year-long probe doesn't warrant federal prosecution, and that such a move would be viewed as excessive, said the sources, who asked not to be identified.

    The case has centered on testimony Finneran gave during the 2003 civil trial, when he was still speaker and said under oath that he had no knowledge of the controversial redrawing of House districts. Federal judges, in an unusual move, later publicly questioned the truthfulness of his testimony.

    According to one of the sources, federal prosecutors have made clear to Finneran's lawyers that they intend to bring a perjury charge against the former speaker, a felony that could carry jail time and would strip him of his license to practice law, if he is convicted. The source said the prosecutors rejected a suggestion by Richard Egbert, one of Finneran's lawyers, that the former speaker plead guilty to a misdemeanor, agree not to practice law for a period of time, and serve no jail time. -- Boston.com / News / Local / Mass. / Indictment of Finneran is expected

    May 3, 2005

    Georgia: Governor signs congressional re-redistricting plan

    AP reports: Gov. Sonny Perdue signed off Tuesday on a new map for Georgia's congressional districts, declaring it dismantles a Democratic gerrymander and puts people "back in charge" of deciding who will represent them in Washington. ...

    Democrats scoffed, saying the map approved in March by the state's first-ever Republican-led Legislature was just as partisan as the one Democrats crafted after the 2000 Census. ...

    The map cannot take effect until it is approved by the U.S. Justice Department. Georgia, like other states with a segregationist past, must get federal approval for changes in voting laws.

    The new Republican-drawn map significantly restructures the state's 13 congressional districts, dividing fewer counties and voting precincts and eliminating many of the bizarre shapes Republicans have criticized. -- AP Wire | 05/03/2005 | Perdue signs congressional redistricting map

    April 23, 2005

    Arizona: IRC seeks fees from losing plaintiffs

    The Capitol Times reports: A state commission won a short-lived redistricting lawsuit filed last year against it by Hispanic Democrats and now wants the challengers to pay its legal costs - as long as it doesn’t have to get personal.

    The Independent Redistricting Commission voted 3-1 on April 8 to ask a federal judge to order the challengers to reimburse the commission for approximately $52,300 in attorney fees and court costs.

    However, commissioners said they’d drop the request if they receive firm assurances from the challengers’ lawyers that the challengers themselves — and not some support group or benefactor — would personally be on the hook financially.

    The Hispanic Democrats, including five current or former state legislators, sued the commission in federal court last April in a failed attempt to force the state to use a new map of legislative districts in last year’s elections. -- Arizona Capitol Times

    April 17, 2005

    Arizona: court of appeals hears arguments in state redistricting case

    AP reports: Arizona's redistricting fight was back in court Tuesday as an appellate court heard arguments over whether legislative and congressional maps drawn by a commission and used in two elections satisfy a voter-passed initiative.

    A trial judge in January 2004 ruled that the legislative map was unconstitutional because it didn't create enough competitive districts. However, the judge said the congressional version passed legal muster.

    The Independent Redistricting Commission is appealing the ruling on the legislative map, which was challenged by Hispanic Democrats, while the Navajo Nation is appealing the one on the congressional map.

    Court of Appeals Judge Ann A. Scott Timmer said a key issue is whether the constitutional amendment creating the commission put creating competitive districts ahead, behind or on a par with other redistricting goals.

    Commission attorney Lisa Hauser said the amendment gave the higher goals a higher priority but that courts should not be second-guessing the commission's exercise of its discretion to balance the competing priorities. -- Court of Appeals weighs redistricting appeals

    April 2, 2005

    South Dakota: federal judge rules for City of Martin in voting rights suit

    The Native Times reports: A ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Karen Schreier denied claims by the American Civil Liberties Union that the City of Martin voting districts discriminate against Indian voters. The ruling said that the ACLU failed to present sufficient evidence to support the claims.

    The ACLU is representing Oglala Sioux Tribal members Pearl Cottier and Rebecca Three Stars who live in Martin. The ACLU filed an appeal on the decision later in the week.

    The ACLU contends that the 2002 redistricting plan approved by the city council for Martin fragments the Indian population in a way that reduces the chance the Indian voters electing their preferred candidate. ...

    Schreier wrote in her decision that there was no evidence that the contracting organization that drafted the district plan had focused on the ethnic makeup of voters. Nor were there any statements, minutes or reports indicating that the Martin City Council acted with a “racially discriminatory intent” when it enacted an ordinance that included the new districts. -- Native American Times - America's Largest Independent, Native American News Source

    March 19, 2005

    South Dakota: federal judge stops use of redistricting law

    The Argus Leader reports: A federal judge has blocked a South Dakota law that would have let county officials redraw their county commissioner districts more than once a decade.

    The Legislature passed HB1265 as an emergency measure, and Gov. Mike Rounds signed it March 9. Legislators said the law was needed because of a federal lawsuit against Charles Mix County.

    In January, Native American voters, aided by the American Civil Liberties Union, filed a lawsuit alleging the Charles Mix County Commission districts discriminate against Native Americans, reducing their opportunity to have affect elections in proportion to their numbers.

    The county should have redrawn its voting districts after the 2000 census, the plaintiffs said. State law allows redistricting every 10 years after each census. -- Argus Leader - News

    March 13, 2005

    North Carolina: proposal for independent redistricting commission

    NC Rumors reports: Groups supporting voter education, participation and access, representing both liberal and conservative interests, have joined in support of a Constitutional Amendment to create a Non-Partisan Redistricting Commission.

    Long championed by state Senator Ham Horton (R-Forsyth), he believes his proposed amendment to North Carolina's Constitution would take politics out of congressional and state legislative redistricting.

    The amendment was first advocated by a legislative commission in 1997, the bill amendment is once again being sponsored by Horton and Sen. Ellie Kinnaird (D-Orange).

    Among the groups supporting the amendment are the John Locke Foundation, Common Sense, Democracy South, the North Carolina Center for Voter Education and the State Grange. -- NC Rumors-News

    March 10, 2005

    Illinois: no mid-decade redistrcting; Kos comments

    Roll Call reports that the Illinois Democratic delegation to Congress has decided against a mid-decade redistricting, a la Texas. Since I don't have a paid subscription to Roll Call, I have to pick up the crumbs others throw me. DailyKos quotes what appears to be the whole article, which ends this way:

    [Rep. Rahm] Emanuel, who heads the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, echoed the sentiment that Democrats wanted to send a message by taking the high road.

    Kos then comments: Who is getting this "message"? There are only two types of people getting the message. To political junkies like us, the message is, "we're losers". And to their Republican colleagues, who are on a redistricting tear across the country, the message is, "we're patsies".

    The idea wasn't to validate what DeLay has done. The idea is to fight fire with fire -- to show Republicans that their actions have repercussions. But once again, the GOP gets away with murder while the Dems cower under the bed in fear. -- Daily Kos :: Political Analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation.

    March 4, 2005

    Congress: Dems debate mid-decade redistricting

    The Hill reports: Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.), the latest entrant in the race to become the next Democratic caucus vice chairman, does not believe his House colleagues should adopt the Republican practice of redrawing congressional boundaries outside of the traditional 10-year process.

    Larson's approach to redistricting distinguishes him from his two rivals for the House Democrats' No. 4 slot. Both Reps. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.) and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) support plans to redraw congressional maps in off years and have made their support part of their pitch to their fellow lawmakers. Crowley, however, is making his support more integral to his campaign than Schakowsky.

    Larson's view aligns him with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who has said that she does not believe Democrats should engage in a tit-for-tat redistricting game outside of the prescribed 10-year census cycle.

    However, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer's (D-Md.) strong support to retaliate against Republicans for their Texas cartography appears to be gaining momentum in the caucus. -- Larson splits with caucus rivals on redistricting

    February 26, 2005

    Georgia: Legislature nears passage of new congressional map

    The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports: Republican legislators appeared Friday to be close to their goal of killing the last of the state's three Democratic-drawn redistricting maps.

    After little debate, GOP-run committees in both the House and Senate signed off Friday on a new map of the state's 13 congressional districts. Republicans said they met privately Thursday night and hashed out differences between House and Senate versions of the map.

    Democrats criticized GOP legislators for crafting the map behind closed doors and for pushing it through the House reapportionment committee in less than five minutes. ...

    Since the GOP won a majority in the House in November, Republicans have been eager to use their power to replace the current map. They point to sprawling, splotchy district lines in explaining the need for new districts.

    Several of Georgia's GOP congressmen also have pushed for more favorable district boundaries. The state currently has seven Republican congressmen and six Democrats. -- GOP pushes new map | ajc.com

    February 23, 2005

    South Dakota: bill would allow mid-decade redistricting after lawsuit

    AP reports: Emergency legislation that would allow county commissioners to redraw the boundaries of their districts was introduced and passed within minutes Wednesday by the South Dakota House.

    Rep. Thomas Deadrick, R-Platte, said HB1265 is needed because of a federal lawsuit that was filed last month by the American Civil Liberties Union against Charles Mix County. ACLU alleges that commissioner districts in the county illegally dilute the voting strength of American Indians, he said.

    The districts have not been redrawn since 1950, Deadrick said.

    Should the county be found in violation of state or federal redistricting laws, existing state law does not provide for emergency redistricting, he said. County redistricting is only permitted once a decade, Deadrick said, and the next time Charles Mix County could redraw its voting boundaries is 2012. -- AP Wire | 02/23/2005 | County redistricting bill offered

    January 29, 2005

    South Dakota: federal court ask state supreme court for advice

    AP reports: The federal judge in a voting-rights case involving American Indians wants the South Dakota Supreme Court to decide whether the state constitution allows legislators to change a redistricting plan that she said is illegal.

    U.S. District Judge Karen Schreier ruled in September that the 2001 plan packed so many Indians into one legislative district that their chances of electing lawmakers of their choosing in a neighboring district was reduced. She said that constituted a violation of the federal Voting Rights Act.

    When state lawyers responded that the South Dakota Constitution limits redistricting to once every 10 years, Schreier asked the state Supreme Court to tell her whether lawmakers could take further action to comply with her ruling.

    The state court issued an order last week accepting that question. It set a legal briefing schedule that requires all written arguments to be in its hands by Feb. 24. -- AP Wire | 01/27/2005 | Court to hear districting case

    South Dakota: Indians sue over failure to redistrict

    AP reports: The American Civil Liberties Union is helping four people sue Charles Mix County, claiming the county unfairly dilutes the American Indian vote.

    County commission members said they would consider responding on Tuesday.

    The ACLU filed the federal lawsuit in Sioux Falls on behalf of four Indian voters. It says the way voting districts are drawn dilutes Indian voters in the southern portion of the county and hurts their chances of affecting elections proportional to their numbers. ...

    The plaintiffs said the 2000 census indicates an ideal county commission district in Charles Mix County would contain 3,117 people. They say District 1 has 326 people too many, a deviation of almost 10.5 percent; District 2 is 60 people low, or about 2 percent; and District 3 is low by 267 people, or 8.7 percent. ...

    [County Auditor Norm] Cihak said creating an Indian-dominated district would violate a tenet of state law that says voting districts should be as "regular and compact in form as possible." -- AP Wire | 01/29/2005 | Indian voters sue Charles Mix County

    January 16, 2005

    Athens, GA: proposal to reduce commission size

    The Athens Banner-Herald reports: The debate is on about whether to revamp the structure of the Athens-Clarke County commission, but there's not much hankering for change, at least among commissioners.

    States McCarter, who won re-election in November, proposed a couple of weeks ago that commissioners consider - just consider, he insisted - whether 10 commissioners are too many.

    The suggestion seemed to come out of nowhere. Both commissioners and citizens have suggested from time to time in Athens-Clarke's nearly 15 years that the commission's two super districts, giant zones that each take in half the county, duplicate representation and dilute minority power. (According to the 2000 census, the commission comes close to a balanced racial mix. The community is 27 percent black and has two African-American commissioners; the community also is 51 percent female, but has only two women commissioners.)

    McCarter suggested doing away with the districts to create a smaller commission, not turning the districts into regular-sized zones that might add another minority vote to the mix. -- OnlineAthens: News: McCarter's suggestion sparks serious debate on districts 01/16/05

    As this and the following story show, those who are on the short end of the stick don't get a bigger share when the stick gets smaller.

    King Co., Wash.: redistricting strengthens status quo

    The Seattle Times reports: The King County Districting Committee did not dawdle. In just over six weeks, it remade the county's political boundaries to shrink the Metropolitan King County Council from 13 members to nine. The last redistricting process, in 2001, took 10 months.

    If the districting committee sailed swiftly, its wake was not as turbulent as many had hoped.

    While redistricting was sold in last fall's election as a way to shake up local politics, many think that the county's new political map, finalized yesterday, only strengthens the status quo. ...

    Rural residents had been optimistic that a nine-member council would include three rural-oriented districts, increasing the strength of their voice on the council from three out of 13 seats to three out of nine seats. -- The Seattle Times: Local News: Panel formally adopts voting-district changes

    California: proposals to change redistricting and do it again before 2006

    The San Francisco Chronicle reports: Details of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's push to change the way California draws its legislative boundaries emerged for the first time Friday, showing the governor seeks to allow three retired judges to craft a plan that would become law without voter or lawmaker approval.

    In seeking to overhaul the very mechanism by which political fortunes rise and fall in California, the proposed constitutional amendment seeks to radically reduce the Legislature's role as a political kingmaker and could be in place before voters are asked to select new state and congressional representatives in 2006.

    The amendment proposed Friday for Schwarzenegger by Assembly Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, and Assemblywoman Sharon Runner, R- Lancaster, would entrust a randomly selected panel of judges to hold at least six public hearings to sift through a raft of public and legislative proposals fashioned each February after new U.S. census data is reported.

    Unlike a proposed redistricting ballot initiative expected to be circulated next month, the plan would become law without a public vote. ...

    But McCarthy's proposed amendment -- which has 18 Assembly Republican co-authors but no Democrats -- would also trigger a redistricting to begin 20 days after voters approve the new system. The detail is significant because political boundaries could end up redrawn before the 2006 election if the governor follows through on threats to hold a special election sometime this year, which could ultimately imperil many current officeholders. -- SACRAMENTO / Plan puts redistricting in judges' hands / Governor proposes bypassing voter, lawmaker approval

    January 11, 2005

    Montana: GOP pulls a coup

    The Billings Gazette reports: We've come to expected the unexpected from the Montana Legislature on opening day.

    Two years ago the Senate and House Republican majorities pulled off a turn-back-the-clock move that pushed the starting point of the budget back by $138 million.

    On Monday, three Democrats conspired with 50 House Republicans to wrest the speaker's job from the House Democratic caucus choice, Rep. Dave Wanzenried, D-Missoula. The Republicans and three Democrats put Rep. Gary Matthews, D-Miles City, a quiet, likeable backbencher for his previous three House terms, into the speaker's chair on a 53-47 vote.

    The power play irked Democrats, who hadn't controlled the House since 1991 and now were left with a conservative Democrat not of their choosing as speaker. Wanzenried and newly elected Senate President Jon Tester, D-Big Sandy, had spent the past two years traveling the state to help other Democrats and develop an economic development plan.

    House Republicans could hardly suppress their delight. It was payback time for what they believe was a redistricting plan stacked against them by a commission with a 3-2 Democratic majority. They also were irritated at Democrats for challenging the disputed Lake County election. In late December, the Montana Supreme Court ultimately put Democrat Jeanne Windham into the seat and deprived Republicans of a 50-49 majority, with one Constitution Party member. -- Roots of speaker surprise involve political payback - billingsgazette.com

    Will the Census Bureau help mid-decade redistricters?

    The Sacramento Bee reports: In fast-growing regions like Sacramento, decade-old population statistics are about as relevant as Y2K survival kits. So, with the last U.S. census growing staler by