Redistricting proposals rejected in Nebraska; legal challenges expected to enacted maps in Ohio

Here’s a summary of the week’s noteworthy redistricting news out of Nebraska, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin:

Nebraska: On Sept. 17, the Nebraska legislature rejected Sen. Lou Ann Linehan’s (R) proposed congressional redistricting map (LB1). The legislature voted 29-17 in support of advancing the map, which was four votes short of the 33 needed to advance. Sixteen Democrats and Sen. John McCollister (R) voted against advancing the map. On Sept. 20, the Nebraska legislature also rejected Linehan’s proposed map (LB3) for legislative redistricting. The map received 27 of the 33 vote needed to advance. Seventeen Democratic legislators voted against the bill, along with McCollister.

The Lincoln Journal-Star reported on Sept. 21 that Senate Speaker Mike Hilgers (R) said he may adjourn the legislature’s special redistricting session, which is expected to end by Sept. 30, without enacting new maps. Hilgers said if new maps are not approved this month, the legislature would take up redrawing congressional and legislative district boundaries during the Senate’s regular session in January, which could force the state to delay next year’s primary elections.

Ohio: Following the enactment of state legislative maps, Gov. Mike DeWine (R) and Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R), who are members of the Ohio Redistricting Commission, said they expected legal action to challenge the maps. DeWine (R) said: “Along with the secretary of state I will vote to send this matter forward but it will not be the end of it. We know that this matter will be in court. […] What I am sure in my heart is that this committee could have come up with a bill that was much more clearly constitutional.” The commission voted to approve state legislative maps along party lines shortly after midnight on Sept. 16. Since the maps were only approved by Republican members of the commission, they will only last for four years rather than ten.

Oregon: Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek (D) announced the creation of two special legislative committees to review congressional and state legislative maps during the first day of the legislature’s special redistricting session on Sept. 20. Kotek appointed two Democrats and one Republican to the House Special Committee on Congressional Redistricting, and four Democrats and four Republicans to the House Special Committee on State Legislative Redistricting. Previously a single committee, the House Special Committee on Redistricting had the responsibility of considering both the legislative and congressional maps

Also, the Oregon Senate approved the Senate Redistricting Committee’s legislative and congressional redistricting proposals 18-11 on Sept. 20 along party lines. All 18 Democratic legislators voted to approve the maps, and 10 Republicans and one independent legislator voted against.

Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania Legislative Reapportionment Commission said on Sept. 21 it would only count incarcerated individuals whose sentences expire in less than ten years at their last residence, rather than at their place of incarceration, for the purposes of redistricting. On Aug. 23, the commission voted to approve a measure that would count all incarcerated individuals at their last known address, rather than at their place of incarceration.

Wisconsin: The Wisconsin Supreme Court decided 4-3 on Sept. 22 to hear a redistricting case filed by the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty asking the court to establish a timeline for the legislature and Gov. Tony Evers (D) to agree on new maps, and for the court draw the maps should the legislature and governor be unable to. The state supreme court said that lawsuits concerning the state’s district maps should be heard in state, rather than federal, courts, stating, “This court has long deemed redistricting challenges a proper subject for the court’s exercise of its original jurisdiction.”

On Sept. 21, a three-judge federal district court panel asked all parties to a lawsuit associated with the state’s redistricting process to submit a proposed schedule to complete a trial by the end of January so that district maps can be finalized by March 1, 2022. The lawsuit was filed by a group of plaintiffs on Aug. 13 and asks the court to set a deadline for legislators to redraw district maps. The suit also asks the court to intervene and draw maps if the deadline is not met. The panel’s opinion stated, “If history is any guide, to put it mildly, there’s at least a substantial likelihood that divided government in the state of Wisconsin will have trouble, as it has in the past, drawing its own maps.”

Federal law requires that a three-judge panel hear constitutional challenges to congressional or state legislative redistricting plans. The judges on the panel are appeals court justice Amy St. Eve, James Peterson, and Edmond Chang. St. Eve was nominated to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals by Donald Trump (R) and Chang and Peterson were nominated to the district court by Barack Obama (D).

Additional reading: