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The latest redistricting news from New Jersey, New Mexico, and Wisconsin

In this week’s Redistricting Review, we cover news out of New Jersey, New Mexico, and Wisconsin.

New Jersey: On July 20,New Jersey Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner asked Democrats and Republicans to reconvene and pick a consensus candidate for the 13th member of the state’s congressional redistricting commission.

According to state law, the majority and minority leaders of each chamber of the state legislature and the chair of the state’s two major political parties appoint the first 12 members of the congressional redistricting commission. The 12 commissioners then appoint the last commission member. If they cannot agree on an appointment, the commissioners must submit two names to the New Jersey Supreme Court and the court must then appoint the final commissioner.

Last week, when the commissioners could not reach a consensus by their July 15th deadline, they submitted former New Jersey Supreme Court Justice John E. Wallace, Jr., and former Superior Court Judge Marina Corodemus to the court. According to the New Jersey Globe, “This is the first time the two parties haven’t agreed on a 13th member for congressional redistricting. The Supreme Court option wasn’t involved in 1991, 2001 and 2011.”

Chief Justice Rabner gave the commissioners until July 30th to respond with a consensus candidate. If they do not, the New Jersey Supreme Court will pick a tiebreaker candidate by August 10th.

New Mexico: The New Mexico Redistricting Committee’s new website launched last week. The website includes information on how to participate in committee meetings and a portal for submitting public comments or maps. It can be accessed here.

Wisconsin: The Wisconsin Supreme Court temporarily halted a lower court ruling blocking Republican legislators from hiring private attorneys with taxpayer funds. On July 15, the court unanimously agreed to take up the case, and in a 4-3 decision ordered that Republican lawmakers be allowed to hire private attorneys pending their decision.

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Preview: Upcoming special congressional elections

Image of several stickers with the words "I voted"

Three special elections for the U.S. House will take place within the next month: a runoff election for Texas’ 6th Congressional District on July 27 and primaries in Ohio’s 11th and 15th congressional districts on Aug. 3.

Texas’ 6th

The July 27 runoff in Texas features Republicans Jake Ellzey and Susan Wright. The two advanced from a 23-candidate special general election on May 1, where Wright received 19% of the vote to Ellzey’s 14%.

The previous incumbent, Ronald Wright (R), died from complications related to COVID-19 on Feb. 7. Susan Wright is his widow. She served as district director for state Reps. Bill Zedler (R) and David Cook (R). Ellzey is a state representative, first elected in 2020. In 2018, he ran against Ronald Wright in the 6th Congressional District Republican primary, losing in the primary runoff with 48% to Wright’s 52%. 

The Club for Growth has spent more than $500,000 supporting Wright and opposing Ellzey in the special election. Former President Donald Trump endorsed Wright. Ellzey’s supporters include former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) and the Texas Farm Bureau AGFUND.

Ohio’s 11th

President Joe Biden (D) appointed former incumbent Marcia Fudge (D) secretary of housing and urban development, leaving this seat vacant. Inside Elections rates the Nov. 2 general election Solid Democratic. Of the 13 candidates in the Democratic primary, Shontel Brown and Nina Turner have led in fundraising, endorsements, and media attention.

Brown is a member of the Cuyahoga County Council and chairwoman of the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party. Hillary Clinton (D) endorsed her. Turner was a state senator and co-chaired Bernie Sanders’ (I) 2020 presidential primary campaign. Sanders endorsed Turner.

Ohio’s 15th

Former Rep. Steve Stivers (R) resigned in May to become CEO of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce. Inside Elections rates the Nov. 2 general election Solid Republican. Eleven candidates are running in the Aug. 3 special Republican primary.

Stivers endorsed Jeff LaRe, a state representative since 2019. LaRe also has a background in law enforcement. Trump endorsed Mike Carey, who served in the Army National Guard. Bob Peterson is a state senator and former president of the Ohio Farm Bureau. The Ohio Right to Life PAC endorsed him.

Seven special elections have been called during the 117th Congress so far. From the 113th Congress to the 116th Congress, 50 special elections were held. 



Redistricting review: Virginia House of Delegates candidate sues over 2021 elections using existing maps (and other news)

Virginia: On June 28, Paul Goldman, a candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates, filed suit against Gov. Ralph Northam (D) and the Virginia State Board of Elections (among other state officials), asking that a U.S. District Court declare the Nov. 3, 2021, elections for the House of Delegates invalid, limit the terms of delegates elected in 2021 to one year, and order new elections to take place in 2022. Because members of the House of Delegates serve two-year terms, a court order to this effect would result in elections in three consecutive years: 2021, 2022, and 2023.

The Constitution of Virginia requires that elections for the House of Delegates take place every two years on the Tuesday following the first Monday in November. Regularly scheduled elections occur in odd-numbered years. Because of the delayed release of U.S. Census redistricting data, redistricting authorities in Virginia were unable to draft new legislative district maps for this year’s elections. Consequently, existing maps will remain in force. Goldman argues that conducting the 2021 elections under the existing maps violates both the state and federal constitutions. Citing Cosner v. Dalton, a 1981 decision in which a federal court ordered the terms of delegates elected in 1981 under invalid maps be limited to one year, Goldman is asking that the court limit the terms of delegates elected in 2021 to one year and schedule elections under new maps in 2022.

In his complaint, Goldman said, “According to Cosner, plaintiff’s protected core political rights should allow him to run for the House of Delegates in 2022, not being forced to wait until 2023 due to the failure of the appropriate state authorities to adhere to the requirements of the federal constitution.”

Del. Marcus Simon (D), who serves on the Virginia Redistricting Committee, said the Cosner precedent does not necessarily apply to this situation: “In the 1980s, we deprived people of their civil rights, we had racially improper districts. Given the circumstances for why we don’t have districts today, I don’t know that the same urgency would apply.”

Utah: On June 30, the Utah State Legislature announced an anticipated timeline for congressional and state legislative redistricting. Under that timeline, the Legislative Redistricting Committee will hold public hearings in September and October and adopt final maps before Thanksgiving.

Wisconsin: On June 30, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R) and Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R) petitioned the Wisconsin Supreme Court to reverse a lower court’s ruling that barred them from hiring private attorneys in anticipation of challenges to the redistricting process. The court set a July 8 deadline for briefs from all parties involved in the matter.

On April 29, Dane County Circuit Judge Stephen Ehlke ruled against Vos and LeMahieu and in favor of the plaintiffs, four Madison, Wisc., residents who argued that state law prohibits legislative leaders from hiring attorneys from outside the Wisconsin Department of Justice before a lawsuit has been filed. Vos and LeMahieu appealed that decision to a state appellate court, which declined to stay Ehlke’s original order. This prompted the present appeal pending before the state supreme court.

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Colorado commission releases draft congressional district maps; Louisiana lawmakers adopt redistricting criteria; and Michigan Supreme Court considers deadline extension

The Colorado Independent Congressional Redistricting Commission released preliminary congressional district maps on June 23, making Colorado the first state in the current redistricting cycle to produce a draft congressional plan. The commission will now conduct at least three public hearings on the proposed maps in each of the state’s current congressional districts. This makes for a total of at least 21 public hearings, all of which must also be broadcast online.

After public hearings conclude, the commission can take a vote on the preliminary map or ask commission staff to make revisions. In order to enact a map, eight of the commission’s 12 members (including at least two unaffiliated members) must approve of it. The Colorado Supreme Court must also approve the map.

The Speaker of the Louisiana House of Representatives and the President of the Louisiana State Senate signed HCR90 on June 10, a concurrent resolution outlining the “minimally acceptable criteria for consideration of redistricting plans.” The resolution prohibits district-to-district population deviations exceeding 5% of the ideal district population for state legislative district plans. The resolution also requires that lawmakers use census data for redistricting purposes (not American Community Survey data, which some states have used or are considering using).

On June 21, the Michigan Supreme Court heard oral arguments over a request by the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission to extend the state’s constitutional deadline for adopting new redistricting plans.

Under the Michigan Constitution, the commission is required to adopt new redistricting plans by November 1. It is also required to publish plans for public comment by September 17. However, in light of the delayed delivery of detailed redistricting data by the U.S. Census Bureau, the commission argues that it will “not be able to comply with the constitutionally imposed timeline.” Instead, the commission is asking that the state supreme court issue an order directing the commission to propose plans within 72 days of the receipt of redistricting data and to approve plans within 45 days thereafter.

The state supreme court asked the Office of the Attorney General to assemble two separate teams to make arguments, one team in support of the commission’s request and another opposed. The court heard oral arguments on June 21. Deputy Solicitor General Ann Sherman, speaking in support of the proposed deadline extensions, said, “The very maps themselves could be challenged if they are drawn after the November 1 deadline.” Assistant Attorney General Kyla Barranco, speaking in opposition, said, “There isn’t harm in telling the commission at this point, ‘Try your best with the data that you might be able to use and come September 17, maybe we’ll have a different case.'”

The court did not indicate when it would issue a decision in the matter.

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Redistricting review: Georgia, Maryland, and Michigan hold public redistricting hearings

Redistricting authorities in at least three states held hearings about their respective redistricting processes in the past week. Here’s a roundup.

Georgia: Last week, Georgia lawmakers announced a schedule for public redistricting hearings, the first of which took place virtually on June 15. Ten more public hearings are scheduled, with the next taking place in Atlanta on June 28 and the last taking place virtually on July 30. In Georgia, the state legislature is responsible for both state legislative and congressional redistricting. District plans are subject to gubernatorial veto. According to WABE, an NPR affiliate in Atlanta, a special legislative session on redistricting “is expected later this year.”

Maryland: On June 16, the Maryland Citizens Redistricting Commission held its second public hearing, which took place virtually. It is expected to hold at least six more public hearings between now and July 28. The Maryland Citizens Redistricting Commission, which was formed by Gov. Larry Hogan (R) via executive order, is expected to submit proposals for congressional and state legislative district plans to Hogan, who will in turn submit those proposals to the state legislature. The state legislature can accept the proposed state legislative district plan as submitted or adopt its own by joint resolution, which is not subject to gubernatorial veto. If the legislature fails to approve its own state legislative district plan, the governor’s proposal takes effect. Congressional district plans are adopted solely by the legislature and may be vetoed by the governor.

Michigan: The Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission conducted two public hearings, one on June 15 and one on June 17, both in Detroit. The commission is scheduled to conduct four more hearings between now and July 1. The commission was established in 2018 via constitutional amendment. This is the first cycle in which the commission will have responsibility for both congressional and state legislative redistricting.

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Redistricting review: Illinois enacts state leg., supreme court maps

On June 4, Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) signed into law new maps for the Illinois state Senate, the Illinois House of Representatives, and the Illinois Supreme Court, making Illinois the first state to enact new district maps in this redistricting cycle.

Upon signing the maps into law, Pritzker said, “Illinois’ strength is in our diversity and these maps help to ensure that communities that have been left out and left behind have fair representation in our government. These district boundaries align with both the federal and state Voting Rights Acts, which help to ensure our diverse communities have electoral power and fair representation.” House Minority Leader Jim Durkin (R), who voted against the new maps, said, “Gov. Pritzker, you sold out. You sold out independents, you sold out Republicans, you sold out Democrats, to the partisan Democrat machine which has destroyed Illinois.”

State supreme court districts were last redrawn in 1964. Illinois is divided into five supreme court districts. Cook County (home to Chicago) forms a single district, but it is allocated three seats on the seven-member court. Downstate Illinois is divided into four districts, each with one seat on the court. The state constitution allows state lawmakers to redraw supreme court districts at any time. However, according to The Chicago Tribune, “lawmakers have traditionally used boundaries for the circuit, appellate and Supreme Court laid out in a 1964 overhaul of the state’s court system.” 

In Illinois, the General Assembly is responsible for redistricting. Maps 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. The General Assembly approved the state legislative redistricting plan (HB2777) and the supreme court redistricting plan (SB0642) on May 28. In both chambers, the votes split along party lines, with all Democrats voting ‘yea’ and all Republicans present voting ‘nay.’

Because the U.S. Census Bureau does not expect to deliver granular redistricting data to the states until mid-August, and in light of the state constitution’s June 30 deadline for state legislative redistricting, Illinois lawmakers used population estimates from the American Community Survey to draft the new maps.

It is not clear when lawmakers will begin the congressional redistricting process. The state constitution sets no deadline for congressional redistricting.

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Comparing 2020 presidential and senatorial vote share by party

Image of donkey and elephant to symbolize the Democratic and Republican parties.

Ballotpedia compared the performance of Joe Biden (D) and Donald Trump (R) in the 2020 presidential election to Democratic and Republican Senate candidates in each state.

Thirty-five U.S. Senate elections were held in the general election. Biden outperformed Chris Janicek (D) in Nebraska, Sara Gideon (D) in Maine, and the cumulative vote total for Democratic Senate candidates in Louisiana by the largest margins with a percentage difference of 27.0%, 22.5%, and 15.8%, respectively.

Biden underperformed Steve Bullock (D) in Montana, Doug Jones (D) in Alabama, and Mike Espy (D) in Mississippi by the largest margins with a percentage difference of 10.7%, 8.0%, and 7.0%, respectively.

The following map shows the percentage difference between Biden and Democratic Senate candidates in all states that held Senate elections. Positive numbers indicate Biden overperformed. Negative numbers indicate Biden underperformed. 

Trump outperformed Allen Water (R) in Rhode Island, Bryant Messer (R) in New Hampshire, and Lauren Witzke (R) in Delaware, by the largest margins with a percentage difference of 19.2%, 11.4%, and 7.5%, respectively.

Trump underperformed Susan Collins (R) in Maine, Mike Rounds (R) in South Dakota, and Ben Sasse (R) in Nebraska, by the largest margins with a percentage difference of 14.6%, 5.7%, and 4.7%, respectively.

The following map shows the percentage difference between Trump and Republican Senate candidates in all states that held Senate elections. Positive numbers indicate Trump overperformed. Negative numbers indicate Trump underperformed.

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Here’s how Virginia Republicans will select their statewide nominees on May 8

Republicans in Virginia will be meeting on Saturday to pick their statewide nominees for governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general. The Republican Party of Virginia chose to hold an unassembled convention rather than a primary, meaning delegates, voters who registered to participate in the convention, will decide the nominees.

Conventions in Virginia typically take place with delegates meeting at a single location, but due to coronavirus restrictions, the party developed a new set of rules for 2021. Here’s a breakdown:

• The convention is taking place from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on May 8, 2021.

• Delegates will meet at 39 different locations across the state. Each delegate represents a voting unit and may only vote at the polling place assigned to his or her given voting unit.

• There are 125 voting units. These units mainly correspond with each of the state’s 95 counties and 38 independent cities.

• Over 53,000 delegates registered to participate in the convention, a record number.

Delegate votes are weighted. The state party allocated a set number of votes to each voting unit, which will, in turn, be divided among the delegates assigned to that voting unit. For example, if the party allocated 100 votes to a unit and 100 delegates participate, each delegate would have one vote. If 200 delegates participate in that voting unit, each would have half a vote.

• The convention will use ranked-choice voting, an electoral system in which voters rank candidates by preference on their ballots rather than voting for just one candidate. If one candidate wins a majority of voters’ first-preference votes, they win outright. Otherwise, the bottom-placing candidate is eliminated and their votes are distributed among their voters’ next choices. The process is repeated until one candidate wins a majority.

• This is the Republican Party of Virginia’s second election using ranked-choice voting. The party previously used the system to select its chairman in 2020. This will be the first time the state party uses the system in a candidate election.

All ballots will be counted by hand. After the convention, the ballots will be delivered to a central location and counting will begin on Sunday. Party chairman Rich Anderson (R) said they are prepared to count until the following Thursday, but he expects counting to be finished by the following Tuesday.

Republicans last won a statewide race in Virginia in 2009, when Bob McDonnell (R) was elected governor. Virginia became a Democratic trifecta in 2019 after Democrats won control of both the state House and Senate.

To learn more about the 2021 convention process in Virginia, click here: https://ballotpedia.org/Virginia_gubernatorial_election,_2021_(May_8_Republican_convention)#Conventions_in_Virginia_.282021.29

Learn more about the races up for election on Saturday using the links below:



Republicans lost a net 187 state legislative seats during the Trump presidency

During President Donald Trump’s (R) term, Republicans lost a net 187 state legislative seats. In 61 of the 99 state legislative chambers, the Democratic Party held more seats following the 2020 general election than it did after the general election in 2016.

Five chambers in four states flipped from Republican to Democratic control during the course of the Trump presidency: the Colorado State Senate, Maine State Senate, Minnesota House of Representatives, and both chambers in the Virginia General Assembly. In Colorado, Maine, and Virginia, these flips resulted in the creation of Democratic trifectas, where Democrats controlled both legislative chambers and the governorship. Republicans did not gain control of any chambers by the end of Trump’s presidency that they did not already control at its start.

Democrats saw positive margin changes in 34 states during Trump’s presidency, either by increasing an already-existing majority or narrowing/flipping a Republican majority. The largest shifts in Democrats’ favor came in Connecticut, Virginia, and Georgia. Republicans saw positive margin changes in 13 states. The largest shifts in Republicans’ favor came in Kentucky, West Virginia, and Louisiana. There were no shifts in Alaska or Nevada. Nebraska, which has a nonpartisan legislature, was excluded from this analysis.

Across all presidencies since 1921, the president’s party has lost a net average of 552 state legislative seats. Trump’s net loss of 187 Republican state legislative seats was the smallest loss of seats for the president’s party since Harry Truman’s (D) presidency, which saw a net loss of 138 Democratic seats. Two presidents—George H.W. Bush (R) and Ronald Reagan (R)—gained state legislative seats over the course of their presidencies. During the past century, the largest Republican losses occurred under the Herbert Hoover (R) administration with a net loss of 1,662 Republican seats from 1929 to 1933. The largest Democratic losses occurred under the Barack Obama (D) administration with a net loss of 948 Democratic seats from 2009 to 2017.

For more detailed information including additional historical comparisons, chamber-specific changes, and methodology, click here:

https://ballotpedia.org/Changes_in_state_legislative_seats_during_the_Trump_presidency



Here’s a round-up of this week’s redistricting news: May 5, 2021

Last week, the U.S. Census Bureau released apportionment counts for the U.S. House of Representatives, kicking off the 2021-2022 redistricting cycle. Throughout this year and next, policymakers (including state legislators, governors, and special redistricting commissions) will draft and implement new state legislative and congressional district maps, which will remain in force for the next 10 years. Beginning today, we will provide weekly updates on major redistricting events across all 50 states.

Oklahoma lawmakers unveil draft maps for state legislature: On April 21, Oklahoma lawmakers released their proposed district maps for the state senate and house of representatives, making Oklahoma the first state in the 2021-2022 cycle to produce draft maps. In lieu of final 2020 census data, which has not yet been made available to the states, lawmakers used the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey data for 2015 through 2019 to draft their proposals.

Release of apportionment counts triggers lawsuits in Louisiana, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania: On April 26, Democracy Docket filed three separate lawsuits on behalf of registered voters in three states, asking courts in Louisiana, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania to intervene and set up timelines for enacting court-drawn maps for the 2022 election cycle “in the near-certain event” that governors and legislatures in each state fail to do so. The substantive language used in the three suits is similar. All three allege that “there is no reasonable prospect that … political branches will reach consensus to enact” lawful district maps in a timely manner because the three states operate under divided governments (i.e., both the Democratic and Republican parties control at least one of the following: the governorship, the upper chamber of the state legislature, and the lower chamber).

New York Gov. Cuomo mulls legal challenge over loss of congressional seat: On April 27, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) told reporters that he was considering the state’s “legal options” with respect to New York’s loss of one congressional seat to reapportionment. According to estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau, the state could have kept the seat if 89 additional New York residents had been counted. Cuomo said, “Do I think it was accurate within 89? No. And we’re looking at legal options. Because when you’re talking about 89, that could be a minor mistake in counting.” According to Janna Johnson, an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota Humphrey School of Public Affairs, no state has ever succeeded in challenging apportionment counts in court.

Pennsylvania Supreme Court appoints chairman of state legislative redistricting commission: On May 3, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court announced the appointment of Mark Nordenberg as chairman of the Pennsylvania Legislative Reapportionment Commission. Nordenberg, Chair of the University of Pittsburgh’s Institute of Politics, joins Sen. Majority Leader Kim Ward (R), Sen. Minority Leader Jay Costa (D), House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff (R), and House Minority Leader Joanna McClinton (D). The state supreme court appointed Nordenberg as chairman after the four other members of the commission failed to agree on an appointment. The commission has the sole authority to draft and implement new state legislative district maps.

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