Category Archives: redistricting

“GOP considers more ruthless redistricting”

Politico:

Republicans have mostly played it safe in the states that have completed redistricting so far, locking in the status quo with durable maps that are more likely to withstand demographic changes and legal muster. But amid a growing sense of frustration that the party is squandering its advantage, some in the GOP are advocating for a new level of ruthlessness. It’s a stance driven by a desire to appease an activist base, bolster ambitious politicians and gain retribution against audacious Democratic gerrymandering in blue strongholds.

The aggression on display in Missouri is also cropping up elsewhere. In Tennessee, Republicans are already successfully advancing a plan to crack Nashville into three districts, dooming Democratic Rep. Jim Cooper. In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis was so displeased with his legislature’s proposals to redraw their maps that he suggested one that could give Republicans 18 or moreof the state’s28 districts. Kansas Republicans this weekrevealed a plan that would crack the Kansas City area into two districts, though they could have gone even further in targeting Rep. Sharice Davids (D-Kan.).

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Breaking: “Redistricting: Ohio Supreme Court strikes down congressional map, forcing another round of drawing”

Columbus Dispatch:

The Ohio Supreme Court struck down the state’s congressional district map, saying Republicans violated the Ohio Constitution by drawing districts that favored GOP candidates.

Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor was, once again, a key vote in the 4-3 decision to reject the map, which would have given Republicans a 12-3 advantage in a state that leans Republican.

“When the dealer stacks the deck in advance, the house usually wins,” wrote Justice Michael Donnelly in the court’s opinion. “That perhaps explains how a party that generally musters no more than 55% of the statewide popular vote is positioned to reliably win anywhere from 75 percent to 80% of the seats in the Ohio congressional delegation. By any rational measure, that skewed result just does not add up.”

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Breaking: Ohio Supreme Court Rejects Redistricting Plans, Orders New Maps Drawn

Ohio Supreme Court tweet.

Opinion.

{¶ 1} Respondent Ohio Redistricting Commission adopted a General Assembly–district plan in September 2021 to be effective for the next four years. The complaints in these three cases allege that the plan is invalid because the commission did not comply with Article XI, Sections 6(A) and 6(B) of the Ohio Constitution, which require the Commission to attempt to draw a plan that meets
standards of partisan fairness and proportionality. In one case, the challengers also allege that the plan violates the Ohio Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection, assembly, and free speech.


{¶ 2} We hold that the plan is invalid because the commission did not attempt to draw a plan that meets the proportionality standard in Article XI, Section 6(B). We also conclude that the commission did not attempt to draw a plan that meets the standard in Section 6(A)—that no plan shall be drawn primarily to favor a political party. Because we declare the plan invalid under these sections, we do not decide whether the plan also violates the rights to equal protection, assembly, and free speech guaranteed under the Ohio Constitution. We order the commission to be reconstituted and, within ten days of this judgment, to adopt a new plan in conformity with the Ohio Constitution.

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Nothing to See Here, Folks, Dep’t: “Top GOP lawmaker relied on secret maps, later destroyed, NC gerrymandering trial reveals”

Charlotte Observer:

A political trial that has mostly been dominated by math and academic research erupted in drama late Wednesday, when a top Republican redistricting leader said on the witness stand that he had used secret maps, drawn by someone else, to guide his work.

That statement, made under oath, appears to directly contradict what he told Democratic lawmakers at the legislature in November, shortly before the Republican-led legislature passed those maps into law over Democrats’ objections.

A Durham Democrat and former judge, Rep. Marcia Morey, asked the GOP redistricting leader, Rep. Destin Hall, at the time if he had used any outside materials to help in drawing the maps. Hall said no.

On Wednesday, on the witness stand, he said he did — although under cross-examination by attorney Allison Riggs, Hall denied relying on the maps too much. He called them “non-consequential.”…

But on Wednesday Hall, a Lenoir Republican who leads the House redistricting committee, said that he would sometimes refer to “concept maps” that his top aide, Dylan Reel, had brought to him. Sometimes

Reel would bring the maps up on his phone for Hall to look at while drawing the official version of the map, Hall said in a deposition just before the trial, details of which came out during his testimony Wednesday.

Other times they would meet in a back room, to discuss the maps away from the public mapmaking terminals which were livestreaming video and audio. So the liberal challengers in the lawsuit asked if they could see those concept maps — to analyze them, potentially for signs that they used a process that violated the rules the legislature was supposed to be following.

But the legislature says those maps no longer exist.

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Dave Wasserman: “2022 House Overview: Still a GOP Advantage, but Redistricting Looks Like a Wash”

Wasserman in the Cook Political Report:

The surprising good news for Democrats: on the current trajectory, there will be a few more Biden-won districts after redistricting than there are now — producing a congressional map slightly less biased in the GOP’s favor than the last decade’s. The bad news for Democrats: if President Biden’s approval ratings are still mired in the low-to-mid 40s in November, that won’t be enough to save their razor-thin House majority (currently 221 to 212 seats).

The start of 2022 is an ideal time to take stock of the nation’s cartographic makeover. New district lines are either complete or are awaiting certification in 34 states totaling 293 seats — more than two-thirds of the House (this includes the six states with only one seat). 

Cook Political Report with Amy Walter analysis finds that in the completed states, Biden would have carried 161 of 293 districts over Donald Trump in 2020, an uptick from 157 of 292 districts in those states under the current lines (nationwide, Biden carried 224 of 435 seats). And if Democrats were to aggressively gerrymander New York or courts strike down GOP-drawn maps in North Carolina and/or Ohio, the outlook would get even better for Democrats.

However, the partisan distribution of seats before/after redistricting is only one way to gauge the process. Because Democrats currently possess the lion’s share of marginal seats, estimating the practical effect of new lines in 2022 still points towards a wash or a slight GOP gain.

As we’ve written all cycle, redistricting was never going to be the GOP bonanza depicted in some sky-is-falling narratives on the left. Yes, Republicans wield the authority to redraw 187 seats compared to 75 for Democrats. But that’s less lopsided than in 2011, when Republicans had nearly a five-to-one advantage. And many GOP-controlled states are already gerrymandered, limiting Republicans’ ability to wring them for additional gains.

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“Odds of Gerrymandering Grow in New York as Redistricting Panel Falters”

NYT:

The independent commission created to strip politics from New York’s redistricting process veered toward collapse on Monday, as the same partisan forces the panel was designed to circumvent threatened to undo it.

With time running out, the panel’s Republican and Democratic members bitterly conceded during a virtual meeting that they could not reach consensus on a single set of maps to determine congressional and state legislative districts for the next decade. Instead, they voted to send two dueling, nonbinding proposals to Albany for consideration.

Lawmakers in the Democratic-led State Legislature could still adopt one of the proposals or send them back to the commission for further revision. But with the commission deadlocked, another outcome appeared increasingly likely: Eight years after New Yorkers voted to take redistricting out of the hands of politicians, the politicians are poised to wrest it back.

Indeed, Democrats in Washington and Albany have been quietly planning for just that eventuality for months, even as the commission, which held two dozen public hearings last year and was granted a $4 million budget, crowed about the possibility of finding agreement. The political stakes, and potential gains for Democrats, are staggeringly high.

With Democrats battling nationally to fend off a Republican takeover of the House of Representatives this November, New York offers perhaps the single best opportunity for the party to use its unified control of a large blue state to flip a handful of congressional seats by drawing itself more favorable lines, with as many as half a dozen seats hanging in the balance.

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“Detroit lawmakers plan to challenge redistricting maps over racial fairness”

Detroit News:

A group of Detroit lawmakers said Monday they plan to file suit in the Michigan Supreme Court over redistricting maps they argue disenfranchise Black candidates and, by extension, Black voters. 

The congressional, state Senate and state House maps approved last week significantly decreased the number of majority-minority seats in the Michigan Legislature but also made gains in providing more partisan fairness toward Democrats, who have been subject to districts drawn by the Republican majority for decades. 

The Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission, approved by voters in 2018, changed the way the once-in-a-decade redistricting process is done by giving that responsibility to a 13-member citizens panel made up four Republicans, four Democrats and five non-partisan members. 

“Unfortunately, the problem lies in the largest African American majority city in the nation has received the very short end of the stick,” said filing attorney Nabih Ayad. “The new redistricting map lines have unfairly discriminated against the city of Detroit, its residents and its elected officials.”

The commission said Monday it had heard of the suit through media reports but had not yet been served. The panel believes the advice it received from its Voting Rights Act lawyer guided the creation of maps that comply with the Voting Rights Act, said commission spokesman Edward Woods.  

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“Minnesota mathematicians, data scientists use new technology to shape political districts”

Star Tribune:

Political map-making requires a tedious series of adjustments, each one with the potential to disrupt the balance.

Trying to evenly redistribute population among districts — required by the U.S. Constitution each decade after the census count — may mean dividing a county or city. A district that’s physically compact might also be one that splits up a minority community.

But what if a computer could do all that monotonous work instead?

That’s a question a group of a dozen mathematicians and data scientists put to the test using advanced computational technology — until now only used in court battles — to run through millions of redistricting scenarios. They argue that by using science they’ve created a set of exceptionally fair congressional and legislative redistricting maps for Minnesota, ones no expert or a team of experts could hope to draw themselves.

“The number of combinations is astronomical,” said Sam Hirsch, an attorney who has been involved in redistricting cases for decades and helped assemble the group. “A decade ago, the kinds of things we’re doing were not known and were not possible.”

Their maps are among roughly a half-dozen submitted for consideration to a five-judge panel appointed by the state Supreme Court, which will draw new political borders in the event the divided Legislature cannot by a Feb. 15 deadline. The process has been kicked to the courts each decade for the past 50 years.

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In Ohio and North Carolina, Children of Political Leaders Sit on State Supreme Court Deciding on Legality of Latest Redistricting Plans Challenged as Gerrymanders

In North Carolina, Justice Phil Berger, Jr. will decide himself whether he can rule on lawsuits against his dad, a leading Republican state senator.

In Ohio, Justice Pat DeWine “has chosen not to recuse himself. DeWine says he’ll hear arguments in a trio of lawsuits against the Ohio Redistricting Commission. His father, Gov. Mike DeWine, is a member.”

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“Georgia redistricting signed into law and lawsuits quickly follow”

AJC:

Gov. Brian Kemp signed new Georgia political maps into law Thursday, finalizing Republican efforts to solidify their majorities in a rapidly changing state as opponents immediately filed three court challenges.

The once-a-decade redistricting creates boundaries that give Republicans an opportunity to gain a seat in Congress after next year’s elections. The new congressional map contains nine districts that lean Republican and five districts with mostly Democratic voters.

While there was never a doubt that Kemp would sign the redistricting bills, he waited over a month since they passed the General Assembly. The delay stalled legal action until the new maps were written into state law.

The federal lawsuits allege that both congressional and state maps are racially discriminatory because they reduce the voting strength of people of color who tend to support Democrats. Georgia’s population has increased by 1 million since 2010, fueled entirely by people of color as the number of white residents declined.

“Notwithstanding this explosive growth, politicians have failed to draw maps that give many of these new Black voters new opportunities to elect candidates of their choice,” said Sean Young, legal director for the ACLU of Georgia. “Rather than a new chapter, politicians have stuck with the same discriminatory playbook.”

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“Ungerrymandered: Michigan’s Maps, Independently Drawn, Set Up Fair Fight”

NYT:

One of the country’s most gerrymandered political maps has suddenly been replaced by one of the fairest.

A decade after Michigan Republicans gave themselves seemingly impregnable majorities in the state Legislature by drawing districts that heavily favored their party, a newly created independent commission approved maps late Tuesday that create districts so competitive that Democrats have a fighting chance of recapturing the State Senate for the first time since 1984.

The work of the new commission, which includes Democrats, Republicans and independents and was established through a citizen ballot initiative, stands in sharp contrast to the type of hyperpartisan extreme gerrymandering that has swept much of the country, exacerbating political polarization — and it may highlight a potential path to undoing such gerrymandering.

With lawmakers excluded from the mapmaking process, Michigan’s new districts will much more closely reflect the overall partisan makeup of the hotly contested battleground state.

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“‘They know where Black voters live’: Challengers say ‘race blind’ redistricting maps are anything but”

CNN:

In states like Texas and North Carolina, Republican lawmakers in charge of redrawing the political maps for the next decade say that the new plans are “race blind.” Their opponents in court say that the claim is implausible and one that, in some situations, is at odds with the Voting Rights Act.

Several lawsuits, including from the Justice Department, allege that the maps drawn after the 2020 census discriminate against voters of color.

Between a 2013 Supreme Court decision that scaled back the federal government’s role in monitoring redistricting and a 2019 ruling that said partisan gerrymanders could not be challenged in federal court, voting rights advocates have been left with fewer tools to address what they say are unfair and illegal redistricting plans.

Meanwhile, lawmakers in the states where the redistricting legal fights have been most pitched have adopted an approach that claims that racial data played no role as they drew the maps for the next 10 years. Legislators say they’re avoiding the use of race data after decades of litigation where they’ve been accused of unconstitutionally relying on race to gerrymander.

“I don’t view this as a serious legal defense, but more of a PR defense,” said Thomas Saenz, the president and general counsel of Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which is suing Texas lawmakers over their new maps.

Challengers to the maps say that such an assertion of “race blind” maps is dubious as well as a betrayal of states’ obligations under the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits racial discrimination in redistricting. The law requires that in some circumstances, map-makers must draw plans in a way that creates minority-majority districts where voters can elect the candidates of their choice. In lawsuits alleging a failure to comply with the law, states like Texas have been accused of drawing maps that instead dilute the votes of communities of color.

Legislators may be trying to “immunize” themselves from most of the claims that are used in court to strike down redistricting maps, according to Nate Persily, a Stanford Law School professor and redistricting expert.’

“By saying race was not in the minds of the people who drew the lines, you potentially get out of those constitutional causes action that you are intentionally diluting the vote of racial minorities or that race was the predominant factor in the construction of a district,” Persily told CNN, adding that such an approach doesn’t shield map-drawers from cases alleging Voting Rights Act violations.

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