Redistricting litigation updates in five states

Welcome to the Thursday, January 19, Brew. 

By: Juan Garcia de Paredes

Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Updates regarding redistricting litigation in five states
  2. 2024 presidential candidate filings currently at the third-highest level in forty years
  3. Listen to our interview with pollster and political analyst Scott Rasmussen for On the Ballot, our weekly podcast

Updates regarding redistricting litigation in five states

In the aftermath of the 2022 redistricting cycle, at least 82 lawsuits challenging congressional and state legislative maps across the country have been filed. According to the American Redistricting Project, 22 states have ongoing litigation regarding either their congressional or legislative redistricting (or both). 

Here are some updates regarding redistricting litigation in South Carolina, Kansas, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Texas.

South Carolina

On Jan. 6, a federal three-judge panel ruled that South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District was unconstitutional and enjoined the state from conducting future elections in the district until the court approved new boundaries. The ruling ordered the General Assembly to submit a remedial map for its review by Mar. 31. 

South Carolina enacted new congressional district maps on Jan. 26, 2022, when Gov. Henry McMaster (R) signed a proposal approved by the South Carolina House and Senate into law. Both state legislative chambers approved the congressional map along party lines, with Republicans supporting the proposal and Democrats opposing it.

On Feb. 10, 2022, the South Carolina State Conference of the NAACP and a South Carolina voter filed an amended complaint against State Senate President Thomas Alexander (R), four other state legislators, and the members of the South Carolina State Election Commission challenging the constitutionality of the state’s congressional district boundaries. The complaint argued that South Carolina’s enacted congressional map “discriminates on the basis of race by appearing to preserve the ability of Black voters to elect in Congressional District 6 (“CD”) while working adeptly to deny the ability of Black voters to elect or even influence elections in any of the other six congressional districts.”

The complaint challenged the constitutionality of the state’s 1st, 2nd, and 5th congressional district boundaries. The three-judge panel ruled the boundaries of the 2nd and 5th district were constitutional, while the boundaries of the 1st district were not. 

Chief Judge Roger Gregory of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit appointed the three judges on the panel. Two of the judges – Judge Mary Geiger Lewis and Judge Richard Gergel from the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina – were nominated to their current court by President Barack Obama (D), while the third one — Judge Toby Heytens from the United States Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit — was nominated by President Joe Biden (D). 

As of January 18, 2023, it was unclear whether the state would appeal the ruling. 

Kansas

On Nov. 23, the plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the state’s congressional district boundaries filed a petition for a writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS). The petition—which asks SCOTUS to hear the case—challenges the Kansas Supreme Court’s May 2022 decision upholding that state’s congressional redistricting plan. As of January 18, SCOTUS had not announced whether it would review the case. 

Kansas enacted congressional district boundaries on February 9, 2022, when both the state Senate and House overrode Gov. Laura Kelly’s (D) veto of a redistricting plan that the legislature passed. The House of Representatives overrode Kelly’s veto 85-37 on February 9, 2022, with all votes in favor by Republicans, and 36 Democrats and one Republican voting to sustain the veto. The Senate overrode Kelly’s veto 27-11 along party lines on February 8, 2022. The state Senate originally approved the congressional district map proposal on January 21, 2022, and the state House of Representatives approved it on January 26, 2022. Kelly had vetoed the congressional map on February 3, 2022.

On Apr. 25, 2022, Wyandotte County District Court Judge Bill Klapper struck down Kansas’ enacted congressional map. Klapper ruled on a case that resulted from the consolidation of three lawsuits challenging congressional district boundaries on the grounds that they violated the state constitution due to political and racial gerrymandering.

On Jun. 21, 2022, the Kansas Supreme Court overturned the district’s court’s decision that had found that the state’s congressional district boundaries were unconstitutional. The state supreme court’s order said, “The record below demonstrates that plaintiffs did not ask the district court to apply the correct applicable legal tests to their race-based claims. The district court, in turn, did not apply these legal tests to plaintiffs’ race-based claims…Therefore, on the record before us, plaintiffs have failed to satisfy their burden to meet the legal elements required for a showing of unlawful racial gerrymandering or unlawful race-based vote dilution.”

Mississippi

On Dec. 20, the Mississippi State Conference of the NAACP and five Mississippi voters filed a lawsuit in federal district court challenging the state’s legislative district map. The suit alleges that the boundaries the legislature enacted in March 2022 violate the 1965 Voting Rights Act and “illegally dilute the voting strength of Black Mississippians and improperly use voters’ race to achieve partisan goals and protect incumbent politicians.”

On Dec. 20, Judge Priscilla Richman, the Chief Judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, appointed a three-judge panel to hear the case. The judges on the panel — Circuit Judge Leslie Southwick, District Judge Daniel Jordan, and District Judge Sul Ozerden — were nominated to their current court by President George W. Bush (R). 

Mississippi enacted new state legislative district boundaries on Mar. 31, 2022, when both legislative chambers approved district maps for the other chamber. Legislative redistricting in Mississippi is done via a joint resolution and did not require Gov. Tate Reeves’ (R) approval.

Mississippi voters will decide elections for all 52 state Senate seats and all 122 state House of Representatives seats in 2023. The qualifying period for prospective state legislative candidates began on Jan. 3 and ends on Feb. 1.

North Carolina

On Dec. 16, the North Carolina Supreme Court affirmed the February 2022 decision of the Wake County Superior Court that rejected the remedial congressional redistricting plan that the General Assembly adopted (RCP) and adopted the Modified remedial congressional redistricting plan (Modified RCP) that the court-appointed special masters developed. The special masters were three former judges: former Superior Court Judge Tom Ross, a Democrat, former state Supreme Court Justice Bob Orr, an independent, and former state Supreme Court Justice Bob Edmunds, a Republican. The Modified RCP was used for North Carolina’s 2022 congressional elections. 

Two of the justices who voted to affirm the Wake County Superior Court’s decision — Justice Robin Hudson (D) and Justice Sam Ervin IV (D) — left the court on January 1, 2023, 16 days after the ruling took place. Hudson did not run for re-election in 2022, and Ervin lost re-election on November 8. 

The North Carolina General Assembly originally enacted new congressional district boundaries on Nov. 4, 2021. On Feb. 4, 2022, the North Carolina Supreme Court ruled 4-3 that the enacted congressional map violated the state constitution and directed the General Assembly to develop new maps.

Republican state legislators filed an emergency appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court on Feb. 25, 2022, asking to halt the state court’s order until SCOTUS could review the case. The United States Supreme Court declined on Mar. 7, 2022, to block the enacted congressional map. The Speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives—Timothy K. Moore (R)—appealed this case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case on Jun. 30, 2022. The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in this case on Dec. 7, 2022.

Texas

On Dec. 6, a federal district court dismissed the League of United Latin American Citizens’ claims that the state’s adopted congressional district boundaries do not enable Hispanics to “have an equal opportunity to participate in the political process and elect representatives of their choice” in Texas’ 15th Congressional District. This is one of seven ongoing cases challenging the congressional map Texas adopted after the 2020 census.

From September 2021 to May 2022, 44 states enacted revised congressional district boundaries after the 2020 census, and six states were apportioned one U.S. House district, so no congressional redistricting was required.

Keep reading 

2024 presidential candidate filings currently at the third-highest level in 40 years 

Five hundred and thirty-one people have filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to run for president in 2024 as of Jan. 17. The list includes 77 Democratic candidates (14.5%), 145 Republican candidates (27.3%), and 309 nonpartisan or minor party candidates (58.2%). This figure excludes candidates whose filings have expired or who we identified as fake candidates.

Any person running for president that raises or spends more than $5,000 for a campaign must file a Statement of Candidacy with the FEC within 15 days. To do so, that person must be a natural-born citizen of the United States, at least 35 years old, and a resident of the United States for at least 14 years. A Statement of Candidacy includes basic information like the candidate’s name and address and any campaign committees working for them.

The number of filings in the 2024 election is the third most in 40 years. In 2016, 1,762 candidates filed with the FEC to run for president. In 2020, 1,212 candidates filed. 

Of the 11 presidential elections that took place from 1980 to 2020, the 1984 election had the highest proportion of Democratic candidates at 40.1%. The major party candidates running that year were incumbent Ronald Reagan (R) and Walter Mondale (D). The 2012 election had the highest proportion of Republican candidates in that period at 29.0%. The major party candidates that year were incumbent Barack Obama (D) and Mitt Romney (R). The highest proportion of nonpartisan or minor party candidates filed in 2016 (70.4%), which featured Hillary Clinton (D) and Donald Trump (R).

The current proportion of 2024 candidates—14.5% Democratic, 27.3% Republican, and 58.2% nonpartisan or minor party candidates—most closely resembles the averages seen in presidential elections with a Democratic incumbent. President Joe Biden (D) has not announced a re-election campaign, but he is eligible to run for a second term in 2024.

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Interview with pollster Scott Rasmussen for On the Ballot, our weekly podcast

On the Ballot, our weekly podcast, takes a closer look at the week’s top political stories.

In this week’s episode, Ballotpedia’s Editor-in-Chief Geoff Pallay steps in for host Victoria Rose to interview pollster Scott Rasmussen, the president of RMG Research and the author of the Number of the Day column for Ballotpedia. In their conversation, Geoff and Rasmussen cover various topics, from the 2022 U.S. House results and the difficulty of polling today to political polarization in America and even the origins of sliced bread!

Episodes of On the Ballot come out Thursdays.

Click below to listen to older episodes and find links to subscribe.

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About the author

Juan Garcia de Paredes

Juan Garcia de Paredes is a staff writer at Ballotpedia. Contact us at editor@ballotpedia.org.