Welcome to The Ballot Bulletin, where we track developments in election policy at the federal, state, and local levels. In this month’s issue:
- New York Court of Appeals overturns congressional, state Senate district maps
- Redistricting round-up: The latest redistricting news from Florida and Kansas
- Legislation update: Recently enacted legislation
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New York Court of Appeals overturns congressional, state Senate district maps
On April 27, the New York Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, struck down New York’s congressional and state Senate maps. The court held that both maps violated the state’s constitutional redistricting process. The court also found that the congressional map was drawn with unconstitutional partisan intent.
On Feb. 3, a group of 14 New York residents filed a lawsuit challenging the state’s enacted congressional and legislative maps. The plaintiffs said, “[T]he Legislature did not follow the exclusive process for enacting replacement maps that the People enshrined through the 2014 amendments, meaning that the congressional map is entirely void” and “the map is an obviously unconstitutional partisan and incumbent-protection gerrymander.” The plaintiffs asked the court to invalidate the approved maps and bar their use for the 2022 elections.
How the lower courts ruled
On March 31, Justice Patrick McAllister ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, saying, “Part of the problem is these maps were void ab initio [i.e., void from the start] for failure to follow the constitutional process of having bipartisan maps presented by the [Independent Redistricting Commission]. The second problem was the Congressional that was presented was determined to be gerrymandered.” McAllister ordered the legislature to pass new maps that “receive bipartisan support among both Democrats and Republicans in both the senate and assembly.”
On April 4, Justice Stephen Lindley, of the Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court in Western New York, issued a temporary stay of McAllister’s ruling. On April 21, a five-judge panel of the Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court upheld McAllister’s ruling on the congressional map. It reversed McAllister’s ruling overturning the state legislative map, allowing it to stand. The case was then appealed to the New York Court of Appeals, the state’s court of last resort.
What comes next
In its April 27 order, the New York Court of Appeals remanded the case to McAllister for further proceedings. On April 29, McAllister ordered the postponement of New York’s congressional and state Senate primaries to Aug. 23. McAllister also extended the deadline for lawmakers to submit new maps to the court to May 20. The Assembly maps were unaffected by this decision.
Redistricting round-up: The latest redistricting news from Florida and Kansas
In today’s round-up, we take a look at recent developments in Florida and Kansas.
On April 22, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed Florida’s new congressional district map into law. The Florida Senate passed the map in a 24-15 vote on April 20. The House approved the map 68-34 on April 21.
This was the second congressional map the state legislature approved. DeSantis vetoed the first version on March 29. Republican leaders said on April 11 they would wait to receive a map from DeSantis, which he proposed April 13.
Florida Politics’s Jacob Ogles wrote, “The most controversial change DeSantis made in his map, this new CD 4 really stands in as the replacement to the Lawson seat. […] The Black population in Jacksonville gets cleaved in half by the St. Johns River after DeSantis vetoed a map drawn by the Florida House that created a Duval-only Black seat.” When DeSantis vetoed the initial map bill, he wrote, “Congressional District 5 [Lawson’s district] in both the primary and secondary maps enacted by the Legislature violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution because it assigns voters primarily on the basis of race but is not narrowly tailored to achieve a compelling state interest.”
Florida was apportioned 28 U.S. House districts after the 2020 census, one more than it received after the 2010 census. This map will take effect for Florida’s 2022 congressional elections.
On April 25, Wyandotte County District Court Judge Bill Klapper overturned Kansas’ enacted congressional map. Klapper ruled that the map was racially and politically gerrymandered, violating the state constitution.
Klapper said, “The Court has no difficulty finding, as a factual matter, that Ad Astra 2 is an intentional, effective pro-Republican gerrymander that systemically dilutes the votes of Democratic Kansans.” Klapper also said the state’s new map “intentionally and effectively dilutes minority votes in violation of the Kansas Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection.”
Gov. Laura Kelly (D) vetoed the legislature’s original congressional map on Feb. 3, only for the House and Senate to vote to override her veto. The House overrode Kelly’s veto 85-37. Eighty-five Republicans voted to override the veto. Thirty-six Democrats and one Republican voted to sustain the veto. The Senate voted along party lines, overriding the veto 27-11.
On April 26, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt (R) said he would appeal Klapper’s ruling to the Kansas Supreme Court. Schmidt said, “Today’s Wyandotte County District Court decision may be the first redistricting case ever to make use of folk-song lyrics, the Buddha, and personal memories from the judge’s childhood. The state is promptly appealing.” The Kansas City Star’s Jonathan Shorman and Katie Bernard wrote, “The Supreme Court’s review is likely to occur on a highly accelerated timeline. While lawsuits can often last years, Kansas faces multiple looming election-related deadlines, including the June 1 candidate filing cutoff and the Aug. 2 primary election.”
Kansas was apportioned four U.S. House districts after the 2020 census, the same number it received after the 2010 census.
Status of congressional redistricting
Congressional redistricting has been completed for 396 of the 435 (91.0%) U.S. House districts.
- 40 states have adopted congressional district maps.
- Two states have not yet adopted congressional redistricting plans.
- Maps in two states have been overturned by court action.
- Six states were apportioned one U.S. House district, so no congressional redistricting is required.
Status of state legislative redistricting
Legislative redistricting has been completed for 1,803 of 1,973 state Senate seats (94.4%) and 5,214 of 5,413 state House seats (96.3%).
- 45 states have adopted legislative district maps for both chambers.
- One state has adopted a map for one legislative chamber.
- Legislative boundaries in Kansas are awaiting state supreme court approval.
- A court in one state has overturned previously enacted maps, a court in one state has overturned a map for one chamber, and one state has not yet adopted legislative redistricting plans after the 2020 census.
Legislation update: Recently enacted legislation
On April 25, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed S0524 into law, making a number of changes to Florida’s election laws, including:
- Establishing the Office of Election Crimes and Security, as a division of the Department of State, “to aid the Secretary of State in completion of his or her existing duties related to investigation of election law violations or election irregularities.”
- Requiring election supervisors to conduct registration list maintenance programs at least once per year (state law previously required such maintenance once in each odd-numbered year).
- Barring the use of private donations for any election-related expenses, including the costs of litigation.
- Barring the use of ranked-choice voting in any election.
- Increasing the annual cap on fines assessed against third-party voter registration organizations that fail to deliver completed applications in a timely manner from $1,000 to $50,000.
- Establishing a penalty against third-party voter registration organizations of $1,000 per application found to be altered by a person working on the organization’s behalf.
On March 4, the Florida Senate approved the bill 24-14, with 23 Republicans and one Democrat voting in favor and 13 Democrats and one Republican in opposition. The Florida House of Representatives followed suit on March 9, approving the bill 76-41, with 76 Republicans voting in favor and 41 Democrats in opposition.
- Political context: Florida is a Republican trifecta, meaning that Republicans control the governorship and majorities in both chambers of the state legislature.
On April 13, the Kentucky General Assembly enacted SB216 over Gov. Andy Beshear’s (D) veto. This bill requires the attorney general to conduct “an independent inquiry for any potential irregularities that may have occurred in each election” in at least 12 counties. This bill prohibits the purchase of voting equipment that tabulates votes and connects to any network. This bill requires that voting equipment and ballot boxes remain under video surveillance for a period of 30 days following any election. The bill also makes changes to the state’s campaign-finance reporting requirements
The House approved the bill by a vote of 83-10 on March 30 (71 Republicans and 12 Democrats voted in favor; 10 Democrats voted against). The Senate approved the bill on the same day by a vote of 35-1 (28 Republicans and eight Democrats voted in favor; one Democrat voted against). Beshear vetoed the bill on April 8, citing his opposition to the bill’s campaign finance provisions. The House overrode the veto by a vote of 71-18 on April 13 (71 Republicans voted in favor; 18 Democrats voted against). The Senate overrode the veto by a vote of 27-9 on the same day (27 Republicans voted in favor; eight Democrats and one Republican voted against).
- Political context: Kentucky has a divided government. The governor is a Democrat. Republicans control both chambers of the state legislature.
On April 21, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) signed companion bills HB328/SB907 into law. These bills allow polling places to be set up in buildings “used, owned, or occupied by an establishment” with a liquor license. These bills require the State Board of Elections to adopt regulations regarding the use of such buildings. They also require election officials “to prioritize the placement of polling places in a facility not owned by the holder of a [liquor license].”
The Senate and House unanimously approved the final version of HB328 on April 8 and April 11, respectively. The Senate and House unanimously approved the final version of Sb907 on March 21 and April 4, respectively.
- Political context: Maryland has a divided government. The governor is a Republican. Democrats control majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly.