Monday, December 26, 2011

Redistricting battles to continue in new year

From: The Hill's Ballot Box

The decennial redrawing of the congressional maps that follows each U.S. census wrapped up in 2011 in most states, but a few stragglers will carry their redistricting fight over into 2012.

New Jersey came in just under the wire, with a bipartisan panel picking a Republican-drawn map two days before Christmas that will likely pit Reps. Steve Rothman (D) and Scott Garrett (R) against each other.

Democrats in Ohio gave up their challenge in December to a GOP-friendly map that had prompted complaints against both parties. Democrats accused House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) of putting his thumb on the lever, but also faulted national Democrats for failing to intervene and help out in their fight.

And a bloody redistricting tug-of-war in Arizona between Republicans and the state's independent commission seems to have fizzled out after the GOP, led by Gov. Jan Brewer (R-Ariz.), ran out of feasible options for contesting a map that Republicans charge unfairly benefits Democrats.

Here's a look at a few states that will still be battling out the redraw after New Year's Day:

Sketching out a new map for the Sunshine State's House seats will be a top focus when the state Legislature convenes in mid-January. Substantial population growth over the past decade gave Florida two new seats in the House, so lawmakers in the Republican-controlled Legislature will have to draw two new districts.

Both the state House and Senate have released draft maps detailing their proposals, and most expect that a new Democratic district will be created in the Orlando area that could be winnable for a Hispanic candidate.

Former Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.), who was defeated in 2010, has already made clear his intentions to run in that district, if it is created.

An amendment to Florida's state Constitution passed in 2010 prohibits drawing lines to favor any candidate or political party, so lawmakers are staying tight-lipped about the process, which is likely to involve court challenges.

New York
Redistricting in New York has gotten off to a slow start due to disagreement over the process used to pick the new map. Republicans and Democrats share control of the Legislature in New York, which is losing two seats this time around. Democrats will be eager to keep their advantage in a state that currently is represented by eight Republicans and 21 Democrats in the House.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) fought for the process to be turned over to an independent commission, taking it out of the hands of state lawmakers, but the Legislature hasn't gotten on board. Cuomo has also threatened to veto any Legislature-drawn map he deems to be overly partisan.

Common Cause, a good governance group, offered its own map proposal in December that prioritized keeping similar communities in the same district.

Nobody knows exactly how the chips will fall in Texas, where a messy and racially-tinged redistricting fight has been playing out for months in the courts.

The Republican-controlled Legislature initially drew a map favorable to their party that would likely have given the GOP three new seats in Texas. Much of the population growth led to Texas picking up an additional four seats came from a growing Hispanic population, but the GOP map drew only one new Hispanic district.

Texas is one of a number of states that must get their maps cleared by the Justice Department because of a history of discriminating electorally against minorities. But the Justice Department refused to pre-clear the GOP-drawn map, and a federal court in Washington tapped three federal judges in Texas to huddle together and produce a new map that could be used for the 2012 election.

When that judicial panel came out with their own map that favored Democrats, Republicans balked, but Democrats were tickled, asserting that a GOP plan to wildly overstep in drawing a partisan map had backfired. Now the entire mess is headed to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2012.

Other states
Less attention has been given to the ongoing map redraw in a number of other states, including those where major adjustments aren't necessary because there is no change to the number of districts in the state. Virginia, Minnesota and New Mexico will all keep the same number of seats in 2012.

But Washington is gaining one seat, and the state's redistricting panel has already missed its self-imposed November deadline. The commission faces a Jan. 1 deadline to adopt a map or responsibility will fall to the state Supreme Court.

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