Welcome to the Friday, September 8 Brew.
Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:
- Courts rule against congressional maps in Alabama, Florida
- Eight state legislatures are still in session
- #FridayTrivia: What is the length of the longest presidential campaign we’ve covered since 2016?
Courts rule against congressional maps in Alabama, Florida
Following the last census, state lawmakers spent the latter half of 2021 and the first half of 2022 enacting new state legislative and congressional maps for use in the midterms and 2024 elections. While those maps were meant to last until the 2030 Census, recent court decisions have thrown district lines in some states into doubt.
In other words, the battle over redistricting is far from over.
The following seven states could or soon will approve new congressional or state legislative district boundaries to comply with specific legal provisions or as a result of a court decision before the 2024 elections: Alabama, Florida, New York, North Carolina (congressional and state legislative), Ohio (congressional and state legislative), South Carolina, and Texas.
This decade has seen more litigation than its predecessor. Following the 2010 Census, four states approved new or revised state legislative district boundaries between 2012 and 2014 because of court rulings on the original maps: Alaska, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Texas. Four states approved revised or new congressional district boundaries as a result of court rulings, but none of those actions happened before 2015.
Let’s take a look at two recent redistricting stories out of Alabama and Florida that illustrate the legal and political stakes at play as we move closer to the 2024 elections.
A three-judge panel of the U.S District Court for the Northern District of Alabama ruled on Sept. 5 that the revised congressional district maps the legislature approved on July 21 violated the Voting Rights Act. The state adopted the revised congressional map after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Moore v. Harper ruling on June 27 which said the state’s original map had to be redrawn to include a second majority Black district. The state’s revised maps also did not include a second majority Black district.
Gov. Kay Ivey (R) said, “The Legislature knows our state, our people and our districts better than the federal courts or activist groups, and I am pleased that they answered the call, remained focused and produced new districts ahead of the court deadline.”
Six Republicans and one Democrat currently represent Alabama in the U.S. House.
Alabama Secretary of State Wes Allen’s (R) office said it would appeal the court’s decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The court order said “this Court concluded that the 2023 Plan did not remedy the likely Section 2 violation found by this Court and affirmed by the Supreme Court.”
The court ordered its Special Master to propose three new maps that comply with the Voting Rights Act by Sept. 25.
The panel’s three judges are Senior Justice Stanley Marcus of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, and District Court Justices Anna Manasco and Terry Moorer. Marcus was first appointed to a federal district court judgeship by President Ronald Reagan (R) in 1985 and to the 11th Circuit by President Bill Clinton (D) in 1997. Manasco and Moorer were appointed as federal judges by President Donald Trump (R) in 2020 and 2018, respectively.
The Alabama Reflector’s Alander Rocha and Jemma Stephenson wrote that the congressional map the state approved in 2023 “would lower the percentage of Alabama’s current majority-Black district and create a district in southeast Alabama that would be nearly 40% Black.”
On Sept. 4, Florida Secretary of State Cord Byrd (R) filed notice that his office and the legislature would appeal a Leon County Circuit Court decision overturning the state’s congressional district boundaries. Florida 2nd Circuit Court Judge J. Lee Marsh declared Florida’s current congressional map unconstitutional on Sept. 2 and directed the Legislature to draw new district boundaries.
Byrd said, “We disagree with the trial court’s decision. This is why the stipulation contemplates an appeal with pass through jurisdiction to the Florida Supreme Court which we will be pursuing.”
In the state court’s order, Marsh wrote, “This case is about whether the Legislature, in enacting its most recent congressional redistricting plan, violated the Florida Constitution by diminishing the ability of Black voters in North Florida to elect representatives of their choice. It is also about whether that provision of the Florida Constitution violates the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In short, the answers are yes and no, respectively.”
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed the original congressional map into law on April 22, 2022. The Legislature proposed and approved the map bill during a special session. The April 2022 map was the second congressional map bill that the Legislature adopted. DeSantis vetoed the first one on March 29, 2022.
Twenty Republicans and eight Democrats currently represent Florida in the U.S. House.
Click below to read more about states redistricting due to court rulings or legal requirements.
Eight state legislatures are still in session
For most state lawmakers, the business of legislating begins in January and ends before the dog days of summer. By the end of June this year, around 80% of state legislative sessions had ended, sending lawmakers back home.
Not all state legislatures have closed up shop for the season, though. Now that summer is drawing to a close, let’s catch up on where state legislators are still regularly meeting.
As of this writing, eight state legislatures are still in a regular session and two are in a special session. Legislatures have adjourned for the year in 40 states.
- California’s legislative session is scheduled to end on Sept. 14.
- North Carolina’s session was extended to at least mid-September.
- Massachusetts’ session ends on Nov. 15.
- The Pennsylvania House of Representatives is in recess from July 6 until Sept. 26, while the state Senate reconvened on Aug. 30.
Legislators in Texas and Virginia are meeting in special sessions. The special session in Texas began on Sept. 5 for Attorney General Ken Paxton’s (R) impeachment trial. You can read our coverage of that impeachment process here.
Virginia’s special session began Sept. 6 so lawmakers can discuss budget legislation.
The Wisconsin Legislature has an upcoming special session on Sept. 20 regarding childcare issues, while the Connecticut House of Representatives has scheduled a special session for Sept. 26.
Forty-six state legislatures hold regular sessions annually. The other four states—Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, and Texas—meet in odd-numbered years. The length of these sessions ranges from about two months in Florida and Louisiana to almost a year in Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. In 10 states, legislators are considered full-time, defined as meeting throughout the year. All other legislators are considered part-time because they only meet for a portion of the year. According to a National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) study comparing full-time and part-time legislators, lawmakers who worked the equivalent of 84% of a full-time job received, on average, $82,358. That dropped to an average of $18,449 for legislators in states who spent 57% of a full-time job on legislative duties.
Click below to stay up to date on state legislative sessions.
#FridayTrivia: An average of how many statewide measures had been certified at this time in odd-numbered years from 2011-2021?
In the Thursday Brew, we brought you an update on this year’s certified statewide ballot measures. So far this year, 41 statewide measures have been certified in eight states. This year’s six citizen initiatives are the most for an odd-numbered year since 12 measures made the ballot in 2011.
An average of how many statewide measures had been certified at this time in odd-numbered years from 2011-2021?