Roundup of noteworthy court challenges involving redistricting (Oct. 19)

Here’s a summary of recent court challenges involving redistricting.

Former Republican elected officials file lawsuit challenging Oregon’s congressional map

On Oct. 11, four former Oregon elected officials—former Oregon Secretary of State Bev Clarno (R), former Oregon House Republican leader Gary Wilhelms (R), former Mayor of The Dalles James Wilcox, and former Oregon House Speaker Larry Campbell (R)—filed a lawsuit with the Oregon Supreme Court challenging the validity of the state’s enacted congressional map. In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs said the map was “an unconstitutional partisan gerrymandered redistricting map, as the Democrats drew the map with impermissible partisan intent to favor the Democratic Party, and [the map] will have impermissible partisan effects.” The plaintiffs requested the court declare the congressional map invalid and draw a different congressional map.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) signed the new congressional map into law on Sept. 27. It was approved by the Oregon House of Representatives 33-16 and approved by the Oregon State Senate 18-6.

ACLU, NAACP file lawsuit in federal court regarding South Carolina redistricting timeline

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the South Carolina chapter of the NAACP filed a lawsuit in federal court on Oct. 12 against the South Carolina legislature asking the court to set a deadline for legislators to return to session. South Carolina Senate President Harvey Peeler (R) canceled a special Senate session originally scheduled to begin Oct. 12 and indicated that lawmakers may not reconvene to address redistricting until December or January.

The ACLU and NAACP said the delay would prevent any potential lawsuits from being resolved before the new districts take effect. Leah Aden, deputy director of litigation at the NAACP’s Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said “In every redistricting cycle for the last 50 years — since Congress enacted the Voting Rights Act — voters and others have been compelled to go to court to fix the legislature’s maps…The state’s refusal to tell the public when it will reconvene to take up its obligation to redraw the lines and make it difficult, if not impossible, to resolve any court challenge before the consequential 2022 primaries is unacceptable.”

Three-judge panel named for federal lawsuit asking Virginia to hold legislative elections in both 2021 and 2022

A three-judge panel was selected in a federal lawsuit filed by former state Democratic Party Chairman Paul Goldman that argues that the state’s November 2021 legislative elections with districts drawn after the 2010 census violates the state’s constitution and the Equal Protection Clause. Goldman filed the suit in July.

Goldman argued that Virginia should also hold legislative elections in November 2022 after the state completes redistricting since urban areas have seen increased population growth relative to other parts of the state. Goldman stated that votes in the areas where the population has risen more rapidly are less valuable than those in other parts of the state if the 2010 maps are used for the entire two-year cycle.

U.S. District Judge David Novak ruled the case could move forward and appointed himself, Fourth Circuit Judge Stephanie Thacker, and U.S. District Judge Raymond Jackson to hear the case. Novak was appointed to the court by President Donald Trump (R), Thacker was appointed by President Barack Obama (D), and Jackson was appointed by President Bill Clinton (D).

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Redistricting update: Virginia redistricting commission’s legislative map deadline passes, Arkansas congressional redistricting veto referendum campaign announced

Here’s a summary of recent redistricting updates from Virginia and Arkansas.

In Virginia, the Redistricting Commission did not meet the Oct. 10 deadline to submit state legislative maps to the General Assembly. Under state law, the commission is given a 14 day extension to submit maps after “its initial failure to submit a plan to the General Assembly.” If the commission does not reconvene to draft maps, the authority to create new districts passes to the Virginia Supreme Court, which as of October 2021 was made up of a majority of justices appointed by a Republican-controlled legislature.

The Virginia Redistricting Commission is made up of four Democratic state legislators, four Republican legislators, and eight citizen members. The commission is also tasked with drawing a new congressional map, with an Oct. 25 deadline to submit maps to the legislature.

In Arkansas, an organization called Arkansans for a Unified Natural State announced on Oct. 9 that it would attempt to place both proposed congressional district map bills on the November 2022 general election ballot as veto referendums. On Oct. 13, Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) said he would neither sign nor veto the map bills, meaning they are set to become law 90 days after Oct. 13. The two map bills, submitted to the governor by the Arkansas General Assembly as HB 1982 and SB 743, are identical.

In order to qualify for the ballot, supporters of the veto referendums would need to gather 53,491 signatures from registered voters across at least 15 of the state’s counties within 90 days after the end of the special legislative session during which the bills were passed. Supporters of the referendums announced they would need to gather the required 53,491 signatures for each of the identical map bills.

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Redistricting timeline update: California and Connecticut set final deadlines

Here’s a summary of recent redistricting updates from California, Connecticut, New Jersey, Nevada, and Washington.

California: On Sept. 22, 2021, the California Supreme Court set a Nov. 15, 2021, deadline for the release of initial draft district plans by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission. The court also set a Dec. 27, 2021, deadline for the delivery of final district plans to the secretary of state.

Connecticut: According to the Connecticut Constitution, the Reapportionment Committee was required to select a map, which needed two-thirds approval from both chambers of the Connecticut General Assembly, by Sept. 15, 2021. The committee did not meet this deadline due to delays in the release of census data and was disbanded. Under state law, since the initial eight-member Reapportionment Committee did not meet the Sept. 15 deadline, a nine-member Reapportionment Commission was formed with a final deadline of Nov. 30, 2021.

New Jersey: On Oct. 5, 2021, the New Jersey Congressional Redistricting Commission announced it would hold ten public hearings, five of which would be in-person and five of which would be virtual. The first virtual hearing will be held on Oct. 23 at 10 a.m., the first in-person hearing will be held on Oct. 26 at 6 p.m., and the second virtual hearing will be held at 10 a.m. on Oct. 30.

Nevada: The Nevada Committee to Conduct an Investigation into Matters Relating to Reapportionment and Redistricting held its first public meeting on Oct. 7, 2021. Committee Chair Brittney Miller (D) said the committee will hold at least three public hearings. One will be held in the Reno metro area, one in the Las Vegas metro area, and another in Carson City.

Washington: In an Oct. 14, 2021 press release, the Washington State Redistricting Commission reminded the public that third-party maps should be submitted by Oct. 22 in order to receive full consideration. Maps can still be sent until Nov. 15, but the commission said “we notify the public of the suggested deadline only to ensure that Commissioners have the time to properly consider public submissions.”

Redistricting map updates: proposals, advancements, and enactments between Oct. 6 and 13

Image of several stickers with the words "I voted"

At least eight states made progress in either proposing or advancing new congressional and state legislative district maps as part of the 2020 redistricting cycle between Oct. 6 and 13, 2021.


Massachusetts: The Special Joint Committee on Redistricting released proposed maps of state House and Senate districts on Oct. 12. The committee will accept public comments on the proposals until Oct. 18. In Massachusetts, the state legislature is responsible for redistricting, though Gov. Charlie Baker (R) may veto any proposals. Democrats currently hold veto-proof majorities in both chambers of the legislature.

View the proposals here.

South Dakota: On Oct. 7 and Oct. 11, the South Dakota House and Senate Redistricting Committees released two new state legislative maps titled Grouse and Eagle, respectively. These maps join the two Senate proposals—titled Blackbird and Falcon—released on Oct. 2 as the four proposed maps circulated during the committees’ statewide public hearing tour between Oct. 11 and Oct. 13. 

The committees will meet next on Oct. 18 to incorporate public feedback.

Since South Dakota was apportioned a single seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, there will be no congressional redistricting in the state in 2020.

View the proposals here.

Utah: Both the Utah Independent Redistricting Committee (UIRC) and the Utah Legislative Redistricting Committee (ULRC) released initial congressional, state House, and state Senate maps.

This is the first redistricting cycle after Utah voters approved Proposition 4 in 2018. As written, the proposition created the UIRC, which would draft maps and recommend them to the state legislature for final approval. Before this, the legislature alone proposed and approved maps. In 2020, the Utah State Legislature reached an agreement with Proposition 4 supporters and altered the proposition to reintroduce a legislative committee (ULRC) that could also propose maps.

View the proposals here.


Arkansas: On Oct. 7, the Arkansas General Assembly approved two identical proposed congressional maps, sending them to the desk of Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R). The proposals—House Bill 1982 and Senate Bill 743—were introduced by Rep. Nelda Speaks (R) and Sen. Jane English (R), respectively.

On Oct. 13, Hutchinson announced that he would not sign the bills into law, meaning they would go into effect without his signature in 90 days. Hutchinson said he was concerned about how the maps might affect minority voters.

The proposals split Pulaski County—where less than 50% of voters identify as white alone—into three separate districts. Proponents of the proposal said splitting Pulaski County, which is located in the center of the state, allowed them to avoid splitting counties elsewhere.

Hutchinson could have vetoed the legislation, but in Arkansas, a gubernatorial veto can be overridden with a simple majority vote. Hutchinson said the 90-day window would allow interested parties time to challenge the maps.

View the proposals here.

Colorado: The Colorado Independent Legislative Redistricting Commission approved its final state House and Senate maps. The commission approved its final House map on Oct. 11 with an 11-1 vote. The group could not agree on a Senate map and reconvened on Oct. 12, its self-imposed deadline. Commissioners ultimately approved a Senate map with a 12-0 vote on Oct. 12.

The approved maps will now move to the Colorado Supreme Court, which will receive commentary. The court will either approve the final maps or send them back to the commission for further work by Nov. 15.

The separate Colorado Independent Congressional Redistricting Commission previously selected its final map on Sept. 28.

View the proposals here.

Michigan: The Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission voted on Oct. 11 to approve four congressional maps, three state Senate maps, and three state House maps for a final series of public hearings, which will take place around the state between Oct. 20 and Oct. 26.

View the proposals here.

Texas: On Oct. 7, the Texas House of Representatives approved a proposed map of the state’s House districts. The following day, on Oct. 8, the Texas State Senate approved a congressional district map proposed by Sen. Joan Huffman (R). The Senate previously approved a new map of the state’s Senate districts on Oct. 4.

New district plans must be finalized on or before Nov. 15 in order for the state’s primary election calendar to remain unchanged. The filing deadline for 2022 elections is currently Dec. 13, the earliest in the nation, and the primary is scheduled for March 1, 2022. If maps are approved after Nov. 15, the filing deadline could be moved to as late as March 7, 2022, with the primary on May 24.

View the proposals here.

West Virginia: The West Virginia Senate Redistricting Committee voted to recommend a proposed congressional and state Senate map to the full Senate on Oct. 11, 2021, the first day of the legislature’s special session. Both proposals were introduced by Sen. Charles Trump (R), the committee’s chairman. Due to population decline, West Virginia was apportioned two congressional seats following the 2020 census, a decrease from the three seats the state received following the 2010 census.

View the proposals here.


No new maps were enacted between Oct. 6 and Oct. 13. 

As of Oct. 13, four states—Indiana, Maine, Nebraska, and Oregon—had enacted new congressional district maps. Those four states plus Illinois and Ohio had also enacted new state legislative district maps.

Redistricting timeline update: West Virginia calls special session, Wyoming committee agrees on timeline

Here’s a summary of recent redistricting updates from West Virginia and Wyoming.

West Virginia: On Oct. 7, 2021, West Virginia Governor Jim Justice (R) called for a special session starting Oct. 11 for the legislature to finish the redistricting process and approve legislative and congressional district maps. “This is on all the redistricting we have to do. We’ve got to do this and everything. The special session is part of the Legislature’s constitutional duty to redistrict the state of West Virginia,” Justice said.

Wyoming: At an Oct. 6, 2021, meeting, the Wyoming Legislature’s Joint Corporations, Election and Political Subdivisions committee agreed on a schedule to finish the redistricting process. The committee set Nov. 1, 2021, as the deadline for map proposals. Redistricting legislation proposals must be finished by Dec. 1, 2021, so they can be reviewed before the 2022 budget session begins on Feb. 14. The committee plans to meet again in early November to go over any remaining issues with the map drafts, but has not set a date yet.

Updates on redistricting lawsuits in Wisconsin, Illinois

Federal court pauses lawsuit challenging Wisconsin’s redistricting until Nov. 5

On Oct. 6, a three-judge federal court panel agreed to temporarily halt proceedings in a lawsuit asking the court to set a deadline for legislators to redraw district maps and intervene by drawing its own maps. Attorney Mark Elias filed the lawsuit on behalf of six Wisconsin Democrats. The court postponed further action in the case until at least Nov. 5, but said that it would prepare for a trial in January 2022 if maps are not enacted.

In its ruling, the three-judge panel said, “Federal rights are at stake, so this court will stand by to draw the maps — should it become necessary. The court recognizes that responsibility for redistricting falls first to the states, and that this court should minimize any interference with the state’s own redistricting efforts. But the Wisconsin Supreme Court did not commit to drawing new legislative or congressional maps, and has not yet set a schedule to do so, or even to decide whether it will do so.”

On Sept. 24, lawyers for Republican state legislators in Wisconsin asked the U.S. Supreme Court to throw out the federal lawsuit, arguing that redistricting challenges should be heard in state, rather than federal courts. On Sept. 22, the Wisconsin Supreme Court decided 4-3 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 to draw the maps themselves should they be unable to.

Plaintiffs amend filings in lawsuits challenging enacted legislative maps in Illinois

The plaintiffs in two lawsuits challenging Illinois’ newly enacted state legislative district boundaries amended their filings on Oct. 6 after Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) signed the new maps into law on Sept. 24. The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and Illinois House and Senate Republican leaders Jim Durkin and Dan McConchie argue that the redrawn district boundaries reduce the number of districts where Latino voters comprise a majority of the voting-age population.

Both lawsuits were originally filed in June and argued at the time that the original state legislative maps enacted on June 4 were invalid because they used data from the American Community Survey rather than from the 2020 census. Both lawsuits ask the court to invalidate the enacted maps. The lawsuit filed by Illinois’ House and Senate Republican leaders further argues that the state failed to meet the June 30 constitutional deadline for new district boundaries since the maps that the legislature passed were invalid. If a court rules that the Illinois legislature failed to approve a redistricting plan by the deadline, responsibility for drawing new maps would go to an eight-member backup commission where no more than four members may belong to the same political party.

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Redistricting map updates: proposals, advancements, and enactments between Sept. 29 and Oct. 6

At least nine states made progress in either proposing, advancing, or enacting new congressional and state legislative district maps as part of the 2020 redistricting process between Sept. 29 and Oct. 6.


New maps were proposed in Colorado, Ohio, Washington, and West Virginia.

Colorado: The Colorado Independent Legislative Redistricting Commission released its third staff-drawn plan for the state’s House and Senate districts on Oct. 5. The release of this proposal comes one week before the 12-person commission’s Oct. 12 deadline to select a final map out of the existing proposals.

This is the first redistricting cycle in Colorado since the adoption of Constitutional Amendment Z in 2018, which created a non-politician commission to develop new state legislative maps. The commission is made up of four Democrats, four Republicans, and four unaffiliated members. At least eight of the 12 commissioners, including two of the unaffiliated members, must vote in favor of a map for it to be approved and sent to the Colorado Supreme Court for next steps.

If the commission cannot select a map by the Oct. 12 deadline, one of the three staff-drawn maps will be sent to the court instead.

View the proposals here.

Ohio: Democratic State Sens. Kenny Yuko (D) and Vernon Sykes (D) released a proposed congressional district map on Sept. 30, the final day for the legislature to take the first pass at congressional maps. No action was taken on the map and the legislature missed the deadline.

What happens next was decided by voters in 2018 when they approved Issue 1, a legislatively referred constitutional amendment.

Under the amendment, since the legislature did not select a map by its first deadline, the process moves over to a redistricting commission made up of the governor, auditor, and secretary of state—all Republicans—and four legislators, at least two of whom must belong to the minority party, which, in this case, is the Democratic Party. The commission may approve a map with a majority vote but only if at least two minority party members are voting in favor. If the commission cannot select a map it moves back to the legislature for a second round. Learn more here.

Republicans currently hold majorities in both the House (64-35) and Senate (25-8). 

View the proposed map here.

Washington: The state’s four voting redistricting commissioners each released proposed congressional district maps on Sept. 28. These maps will be the subject of a virtual meeting on Oct. 9. Members of the public are invited to participate. The deadline for the commission to finalize its maps is Nov. 15.

The release of the congressional maps comes one week after the commissioners each released their proposed state legislative district maps on Sept. 21. A public meeting over those proposals was held on Oct. 5.

In Washington, congressional and state legislative lines are redrawn by a five-person non-politician commission. The majority and minority leaders of the Washington state House and Senate each appoint one registered voter. These four appointed commissioners then appoint a fifth, non-voting member, to serve as chair.

View the proposals here.

West Virginia: On Sept. 30, the House and Senate Redistricting committees released a collective total of 18 congressional district map proposals, the first proposed maps released during the state’s 2020 redistricting cycle.

In addition to its congressional map proposals, the House Redistricting Committee also released its first proposed state legislative district map for the House of Delegates. No senate maps were included in the initial release.

In West Virginia, both the House and Senate propose congressional maps. For state legislative map proposals, each chamber is responsible for originating its own maps.

View the proposals here.


Arkansas and Texas got one step closer to enacting new maps as proposals advanced to the next stage.

Arkansas: On Sept. 29, legislators in Arkansas reconvened in a special session to, among other things, consider new congressional district maps. On Oct. 6, two identical proposals, one from the House and one from the Senate, passed out of their respective committees.

The proposals—House Bill 1982 and Senate Bill 743—were introduced by Rep. Nelda Speaks (R) and Sen. Jane English (R), respectively. Over 30 proposals were filed, with these two also coming within the past week.

At the time of writing, these bills had not yet passed through the legislature in full, but local commentary appeared to believe the proposed map would ultimately make it to the desk of Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R), who then has the ability to either sign or veto the map.

View the proposed map here.

Texas: The Texas State Senate voted 20-11 in favor of a proposed map of the state’s Senate districts on Oct. 4. 

The vote fell largely along party lines. Seventeen Republicans voted in favor of the proposal and were joined by three Democrats: Sens. Juan Hinojosa, Eddie Lucio, and Judith Zaffirini. The remaining 10 Democrats in the chamber voted against the proposal in addition to Republican Sen. Kel Seliger.

View the proposed map here.


Three states—Indiana, Maine, and Nebraska—enacted new congressional and state legislative maps. In each state, the legislature was responsible for redrawing the district lines which were then sent to the governor for final approval. Indiana and Nebraska account for 12 congressional districts. Both states currently have Republican trifectas. Maine, which has two congressional districts, is a Democratic trifecta.

Wisconsin General Assembly passes resolution to preserve core of existing districts in redistricting process

On Sept. 28, the Wisconsin General Assembly voted to approve a resolution that called for keeping “as much as possible the core of existing districts, thus maintaining 11 existing communities of interest, and promoting the equal opportunity to vote by minimizing disenfranchisement.” The Senate approved the resolution in a 19-12 vote along party lines, and the Assembly approved it in a 60-38 vote. 

Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke (R) said the resolution was “about continuity of representation. The parameters of reapportionment have always been the same, trying to keep districts compact, contiguous, keep communities of like interest together.”

Gov. Tony Evers (D) said it was unlikely he would approve any maps that maintained the current districts, saying “The current maps are inadequate, and to base our decision-making on that inadequacy would not be doing the people’s work.”

In Wisconsin, both congressional and state legislative district boundaries are drawn by the Wisconsin State Legislature. These lines are subject to veto by the governor. The state legislature has not yet announced a date to begin the redistricting process.

Indiana adopts new congressional, legislative district boundaries

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) signed new congressional and state legislative district maps into law on Oct. 4, 2021. The Indiana General Assembly approved the new maps on Oct. 1.

The Indiana state Senate approved the final congressional and legislative district boundaries on Oct. 1 by a vote of 36-12, with all votes to approve coming from Republicans. Eleven Senate Democrats joined State Sen. Ron Grooms (R) in voting against the maps. On the same day, the Indiana House of Representatives approved the final district maps by a vote of 64-25. All votes in favor were by Republicans with 22 Democrats and three Republicans voting against.

The Indiana House Republican caucus released the first draft of congressional and state House district boundaries on September 14, 2021. The Indiana Senate Republican caucus released the first draft of proposed state Senate districts on September 20, 2021. The full legislative history of Indiana’s redistricting proposals, including House and Senate committee reports and proposed amendments, can be found here at the Indiana General Assembly’s website. 

In a statement issued after signing the state’s new district boundaries, Gov. Holcomb said, “Today I signed HB 1581, completing this once-in-a-decade constitutionally required process. I want to thank both the House and Senate for faithfully following through in an orderly and transparent way. And, a special thanks to every Hoosier who participated in the process by sharing their local perspective and input.” 

Kaitlin Lange of the Indianapolis Star wrote that the “congressional map also likely will enable Republicans to keep seven of the nine congressional seats in Indiana and make the 5th District, which contains suburban Hamilton County, a more reliably Republican district.”

Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray (R) said of the maps, “We have said all along that we were committed to drawing fair maps in a transparent way, and I believe we have done that. We prioritized keeping communities of interest together and drawing districts that make sense for the Hoosiers who live there while maintaining nearly equal populations in each district. I believe these maps reflect feedback from the public and will serve Hoosiers well for the next decade.”

State Sen. Eddie Melton (D) said, “I’m very disappointed by the partisan nature of the redistricting process as well as the actions by the supermajority to deliberately dilute minority voices. In Northwest Indiana, two of my colleagues were drawn into the same district, and in West Lafayette and Lafayette, communities of interest were inexplicably split up. The supermajority’s intent to secure complete political control by drowning out certain voices seems clear from their actions, and it’s truly a disservice to our residents.”

All three maps take effect for Indiana’s 2022 congressional and legislative elections.

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Maine enacts new congressional and state legislative district maps

On September 29, 2021, Maine Gov. Janet Mills (D) signed legislation enacting redrawn congressional and state legislative district boundaries as a result of the 2020 census. The Maine Apportionment Commission approved a final congressional district plan on Sept. 24 and final state legislative district plans on Sept. 27. 

The Maine legislature unanimously approved the state’s new congressional and state Senate maps. The Senate unanimously approved new state House district boundaries and the Maine House approved them, 119-10. A two-thirds majority was required to approve new district boundaries.

According to the Bangor Daily News, “The only changes to the state’s congressional maps will take place in Kennebec County, where about 54,000 Mainers will switch districts. Augusta, the capital city, will move from the 1st to the 2nd District, along with Chelsea, Farmingdale, Hallowell, Manchester, Readfield and Winthrop. Meanwhile, Albion, Benton, Clinton, Litchfield, Unity township and West Gardiner will move from the 2nd District to the 1st.”

The Maine Wire reported that the legislature did not change any of the maps submitted by the Apportionment Commission, but some members objected to changes made to the composition of their districts.

Upon signing the new district plans, Gov. Mills released a statement saying, “I applaud Maine’s Apportionment Commission, especially its Chair, former Maine Supreme Judicial Court Justice Donald Alexander, as well as lawmakers on both sides of the aisle for preparing and approving new maps that fulfill our commitment to making sure Maine people are equally and fairly represented in their government. To have done so without rancor and partisanship and under a constrained timeline is something Maine people can be proud of.”

After the maps’ approval, State Sen. Rick Bennett (R), a member of the apportionment commission, said, “Extremely happy that we reached the deadline and we were able to deal with it in a legislative context and not send any part of it to the court. I was pleased, while there was some elbows here and there, that we did our work, we worked collaboratively and we got the job done.”

All maps will take effect for Maine’s 2022 congressional and legislative elections.

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