Ohio, Census Bureau reach settlement in redistricting lawsuit

Welcome to the Thursday, May 27, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Redistricting review: Ohio, Census Bureau reach settlement in lawsuit over release of redistricting data
  2. Previewing the special election to New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District
  3. Texas voters to decide at least six constitutional amendments in November

Redistricting review: Ohio, Census Bureau reach settlement in lawsuit over release of redistricting data

In last week’s redistricting review, I wrote about a court case in Ohio concerning the Census Bureau’s timeline for releasing redistricting data. Earlier this week, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost (R) announced that the state had reached a settlement agreement with the Census Bureau in its lawsuit over the Census Bureau’s plan to deliver redistricting data to the states by September 30, 2021, instead of April 1, 2021, the deadline set forth in federal statutes. 

Under the settlement, the Census Bureau agreed to deliver redistricting data, in a legacy format, by August 16, 2021. The legacy format would present the data in raw form without the data tables and other access tools the Census Bureau will ultimately prepare for the states. The Census Bureau also agreed to deliver biweekly updates (and, in August, weekly updates) on its progress. As of May 26, 2021, the Census Bureau had not commented publicly on the settlement. The Census Bureau had previously indicated that redistricting data would be made available to states in a legacy format in mid-to-late August 2021.

Here’s some news related to redistricting ongoings in other states.

  • In Illinois, state lawmakers released their proposed maps for the Illinois State Senate and the Illinois House of Representatives on May 21, becoming the second state (after Oklahoma) in the 2020 redistricting cycle to produce draft maps. 
    • The Illinois General Assembly is responsible for both congressional and state legislative redistricting. Redistricting plans are subject to gubernatorial veto. Illinois is a Democratic trifecta, meaning that Democrats control the governorship and majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly.
  • In Wisconsin, the state supreme court denied a petition for a proposed rule by which the state supreme court would have assumed original jurisdiction over redistricting lawsuits on May 14. When a court assumes original jurisdiction, it has the “power to hear and decide a matter before any other court can review the manner.”
    • On June 3, 2020, Attorney Richard M. Esenberg, Brian McGrath, and Anthony F. LoCoco, on behalf of Scott Jensen and the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, filed the petition for the proposed rule, saying that the state supreme court had, in Jensen v. Wisconsin Elections Board (2002), “noted that redistricting was primarily a state and not a federal responsibility … but nevertheless deferred to the federal courts because of the perceived procedural problem of a lack of rules for such a case in [the state supreme court.” The petitioners asked the court to adopt the proposed rule “to cure the perceived procedural problems it noted in Jensen.”
    • In an unsigned order denying the petition, the court said, “The court determined that, as drafted, the procedures proposed in this administrative rule petition are unlikely to materially aid this court’s consideration of an as yet undefined future redistricting challenge, and voted to deny the petition.” 

Click the link below to read more about the 2020 redistricting cycle.

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Previewing the special election to New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District

The fourth special congressional election of this year is coming up in New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District. Here’s a preview of the June 1 general election.

Melanie Ann Stansbury (D), Mark Moores (R), and four other candidates are running in the special election. The election was called following incumbent Debra Haaland’s (D) appointment as secretary of the interior for the Biden administration. 

Stansbury and Moores were elected to run at Democratic and Republican Party conventions, respectively. Stansbury has served in the New Mexico House of Representatives since 2019. She has received endorsements from incumbent Debra Haaland (D) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D), EMILY’s List, and the Sierra Club.

Moores has served in the New Mexico State Senate since 2013. He has been endorsed by Rep. Yvette Herrell (R), the Albuquerque Journal, and the National Federation of Independent Businesses. 

As of May 12, Stansbury led in fundraising and spending, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission. She had $1,348,453 in receipts and $874,861 in disbursements. Moores had raised $595,423 and spent $469,868.

Christopher Manning (L), Aubrey Dunn (I), write-in Laura Olivas (I), and write-in Robert Ornelas (I) are also running.

President Joe Biden (D) won this district with 60.2% of the vote in 2020. Hillary Clinton won it with 51.6% of the vote in 2016. During the last election for the seat, Haaland won re-election against Republican Michelle Garcia Holmes 58% – 42%.

This election is one of five special congressional elections scheduled for this year. Two others, both in Louisiana, have already taken place. There were 10 special congressional elections to the 116th Congress and 17 special congressional elections to the 115th Congress.

Democrats currently have a 219 to 211 majority over Republicans in the House of Representatives. Five seats are vacant. 

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Texas voters to decide at least six constitutional amendments in November

The Texas legislature has referred six state constitutional amendments to the ballot over the last two weeks—since May 12. Additional amendments may also be certified for the ballot while legislators remain in session. The Texas legislature is scheduled to adjourn on May 31.

Texas constitutional amendments can only go before voters after the state legislature originates and approves them. A two-thirds majority in each chamber must vote in favor. 

Here’s a quick recap of the six measures Texas voters will decide in November:

  • Prohibit the state or any political subdivision from issuing or enacting a statute, order, or rule that prohibits or limits religious services, including religious services conducted in churches.
  • Allow the surviving spouse of a disabled individual to maintain a homestead property tax limit if the spouse is 55 years of age or older at the time of the death and remains at the homestead.
  • Change the eligibility requirements for a justice of the supreme court, a judge of the court of criminal appeals, a justice of a court of appeals, and a district judge.
  • Authorize professional sports team charitable foundations to conduct raffles at rodeo venues.
  • Authorize the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct to accept complaints regarding the conduct of candidates seeking judicial office and to discipline candidates in the same manner that the commission is currently authorized to do so with judicial officeholders. 
  • Authorize a total residence homestead property tax exemption for a surviving spouse of a member of the armed services “who is killed or fatally injured in the line of duty.”

The state’s current constitution was adopted in 1876. Since then, it has been amended 507 times. In November 2019, voters approved nine constitutional amendments and rejected one. 

In Texas, the state legislature generally meets in odd-numbered years. Voters have decided amendments in even-numbered years only twice since 1991. Between 1995 and 2020, voters decided an average of 13 measures during odd-numbered years, ranging between seven and 22. During that time, voters approved 154 of 169—or 91%—of constitutional amendments.

A total of 11 measures have been certified for the November 2 ballot so far in three states—six in Texas, one in Colorado, and four in New York. Voters approved seven bond measures in Rhode Island on March 2. Pennsylvania voters approved three state constitutional amendments and one state statute on May 18.

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