On Nov. 12, the Montana Districting and Apportionment Commission enacted a new congressional map following the 2020 redistricting cycle. The commissioners voted 3-2 to approve the map and to transmit it to the Montana Secretary of State. Both Republican commissioners and Maylinn Smith, the nonpartisan tiebreaker, voted in favor of the map, and the two Democratic commissioners voted against the map.
A version of the congressional map enacted by the commission had previously been approved on Nov. 4. The map that received final approval on Nov. 12 made a minor change in Pondera County, allocating a smaller portion of it to the Western district.
Following the approval of the congressional map, Democratic Commissioner Kendra Miller said: “Neither district on this plan is seriously competitive. The two districts together don’t adequately represent the overall makeup of our state. And for that reason, this plan has been drawn to unduly favor one political party.” Republican Commissioner Jeff Essmann said: “In terms of the Western district, you know, as it’s drawn, this is not, whether it is represented in the future by a Democrat or Republican, it will never be considered a safe seat in the 10 years going forward that would permit any candidate to not listen to the voters of that district.”
Following the 2020 census, population increases in Montana gave the state two congressional districts. Previously, the state had one at-large congressional district. The next deadline ahead of the commission will be preparing a legislative redistricting plan by Jan. 14, 2022, the 10th day of the upcoming regular legislative session.
On Nov. 10, 2021, the Alaska Redistricting Board adopted a new legislative map outlining the state’s 20 Senate districts and 40 House districts as part of the 2020 redistricting cycle. While the new map has been enacted, there will now be a 30-day period during which interested parties may file legal challenges against the new map.
The board’s three Republican-appointed members—John Binkley, Bethany Marcum, and Budd Simpson— voted in favor of the final map while the two nonpartisan members—Melanie Bahnke and Nicole Borromeo—voted against it.
The Midnight Sun’s Matt Buxton wrote that, during the Nov. 10 meeting, Bahnke and Borromeo, “pulled no punches when arguing that the Senate pairing for the Anchorage-area … were both a racial and partisan gerrymander that favored conservatives and drew the entirety of the plan into question.”
Regarding the process, Binkley, the board’s chairman, said, “I think the board earnestly … tried to put together a fair plan … But sometimes, those are in the eyes of the beholder. And some people … can look at one plan and say it’s fair. Other people can look at it and say it’s not fair.”
KTOO’s Andrew Kitchenman reported that, since the new map largely altered the state’s Senate districts, 19 of the 20 districts will hold elections in 2022. Alaska normally staggers elections to its Senate with half the chamber holding elections in one even-year cycle and the other half holding elections in the next and all members serving four-year terms. In 2022, certain districts will elect senators to two-year terms while others will elect them to four-year terms in order to restart the staggered process under the new lines. Alaska’s House districts hold elections every two years.
The Virginia Supreme Court will now have the authority to draft new congressional maps in the state after the Virginia Redistricting Commission did not meet the Nov. 8, 2021, deadline to submit a plan for U.S. House districts. Under the constitutional amendment that established the commission, party leaders of the House of Delegates and Senate must nominate three special masters from each party to assist the court in the redistricting process, which they did on Nov. 1. The court will then select one special master from each party’s list of nominees.
State Democrats nominated three professors, Bernard N. Grofman, Nathaniel Persily, and Bruce E. Cain, who participated in previous redistricting efforts. Grofman is a political science professor at the University of California, Irvine, and assisted in drawing Virginia’s congressional districts in 2015 and the Virginia House of Delegates districts in 2018. Persily is a Stanford Law School professor and has served as a special master for drawing legislative and congressional maps in other states, including Maryland, Georgia, New York, Connecticut, and North Carolina. Cain, a professor at Stanford University’s School of Humanities and Sciences, helped draw state legislative districts in Arizona in 2002 as a special master and worked as a consultant for redistricting efforts in Maryland.
Republican nominees Thomas Bryan, Adam Kincaid, and Adam Foltz also have previous experience in redistricting. A former U.S. Census Bureau statistician, Bryan is the founder of a consulting firm specializing in demographic analysis and has provided expert witness services to parties involved in state and local redistricting cases. Kincaid previously served as National Republican Congressional Committee redistricting coordinator and is the current executive director of the National Republican Redistricting Trust and Fair Lines America. Foltz is a legislative analyst for the Texas Legislative Council, drew maps for the Wisconsin State Assembly Republican Caucus in 2011-2012, and defended Wisconsin in court cases challenging district maps.
The Virginia Supreme Court requires that nominees possess the “requisite qualifications and experience to serve as a special master and should have no conflicts of interest.” Members of both parties said the opposing party’s nominees did not meet the latter criteria. In a letter to the court, Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw (D) said, “there can be no doubt that the records and prior conduct of the minority’s special master nominees ‘create in reasonable minds a perception’ that their ability to carry out their responsibilities ‘with integrity and impartiality is impaired.’” Virginia Senate Republican Caucus Press Secretary Jeff Ryer said the Democrats’ nominees are “all extreme-left academics with well-demonstrated records of considering one and only one criteria when it comes to drawing district lines: What will benefit Democrats most.”
The Supreme Court scheduled meetings from Nov. 8-10, 2021, to discuss the selection of special masters, which they could select as early as this week. Once selected, the special masters will have 30 days to draft a proposal to submit to the court for review. The court invited the public and elected officials to comment on the process by emailing written comments.
Here’s a summary of recent redistricting committee updates from Ohio, New Mexico, and Utah.
In Ohio, the state legislature announced members of the Joint Committee on Redistricting, which will be holding two hearings on congressional redistricting proposals before the Nov. 30 deadline for map enactment. The committee’s members are Sen. Theresa Gavarone (R), Sen. Rob McColley (R), Sen. Vernon Sykes (D), Rep. Beth Liston (D), Rep. Scott Oelslager (R), and Rep. Shane Wilkin (R). Sykes is the only member of the joint committee who was also a member of the Ohio Redistricting Commission.
The New Mexico Citizen Redistricting Committee adjourned on Oct. 29 after submitting its final set of map recommendations to the legislature. The commission’s proposals do not bind the state legislature, which retains the authority to adopt, amend, or discard the proposals as it sees fit. Additionally, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) has veto authority over the maps. The legislature is expected to convene in December to begin considering proposals.
In Utah, former U.S. Rep. Bob Bishop (R-Utah) resigned from the state’s Independent Redistricting Commission on Oct. 26. Bishop said the commission favored urban areas and that the commission “is a metro-centric group. […] The majority are from Salt Lake County, we see things in a different way.” The executive director of Better Boundaries, an organization that supported the ballot proposition creating the commission, said: “We are encouraged by the work of the remaining six commissioners to suggest objective and qualified maps to the state legislative redistricting committee through this fair and transparent process.” On Oct. 29, Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson (R) appointed former Utah Commissioner of Agriculture and Food Logan Wilde (R) to replace Bishop on the commission.
Here’s a summary of recent redistricting updates from Georgia, New Hampshire, and Ohio.
Georgia: The Georgia State Legislature convened for a special session focused on redistricting on Nov. 3, 2021. Senate Majority Leader Mike Dugan (R) said he expected the legislature to agree on and pass state legislative maps quicker than congressional maps. “[State legislative maps] will be more straightforward. The congressional ones will be a little more involved,” Dugan said.
New Hampshire: On Oct. 26, 2021, Senate Redistricting Committee Chairman James Gray (D) announced that the Senate will not begin considering map proposals until city officials in Nashua have finished redrawing ward lines. Gray said he expects the Senate to begin deliberations on proposed maps in late January 2022. The House Redistricting Committee, however, is expected to recommend proposals this year, with Rep. Barbara Griffin (R) saying the committee plans to make final map recommendations to the legislature on Nov. 16 or 17, 2021.
Ohio: The Ohio Redistricting Commission did not meet its Oct. 31, 2021, deadline to draw and approve a congressional map, and the authority to create new districts will now pass to the state legislature. Dan Tierney, a spokesperson for Gov. Mike DeWine (R), said the delayed release of U.S. Census Bureau data “essentially took five months out of the process” and did not leave sufficient time for the commission to draft and debate new congressional districts. The General Assembly must now draw and approve a new map by Nov. 30, 2021. For any map to be put in place for a full 10 years, support from at least a third of the members of the minority party is required, and any approved plan that does not meet this threshold will only be effective for four years.
Iowa enacted new congressional and state legislative maps, and Massachusetts enacted new state legislative maps, on Nov. 4.
Nationwide, legislative redistricting has been completed for 444 of 1,972 state Senate seats (22.5%) and 1,243 of 5,411 state House seats (23.0%).
In Iowa, Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) signed new congressional and state legislative maps into law after the state’s Legislative Services Agency had proposed them on Oct. 21. The Iowa legislature approved the maps on Oct. 28 by a vote of 48-1 in the state Senate and 93-2 in the state House. The legislature could only vote to approve or reject the maps and could not make any amendments. These maps take effect for Iowa’s 2022 congressional and legislative elections.
Bloomberg Government’s Greg Giroux said about Iowa’s congressional redistricting plan, “The map, drafted by the state’s nonpartisan legislative agency, created three districts where Donald Trump would’ve narrowly defeated Joe Biden in the 2020 election and a fourth that’s heavily Republican…The map paired the homes of Reps. Cindy Axne (D) and Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R) in the politically competitive 3rd District, which takes most of its population from Axne’s current district in and around Des Moines.”
The Iowa Legislative Services Agency prepares the state’s redistricting plans and is assisted by a five-member advisory commission consisting of one person each appointed by the majority and minority leaders of the state House and Senate. The fifth member of the commission is selected by the other four. All five members cannot hold a partisan public office or be an officer in a political party, nor can they be related to or an employee of either the legislature or any individual legislator.
Upon signing the maps, Gov. Reynolds said, “Today I signed the bipartisan redistricting maps into law. I am confident in how the process played out—just as the law intended, and I believe these new districts will fairly and accurately represent the citizens of Iowa for the next decade.” After the legislature approved the maps, Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver (R) said, “Despite years of fear-mongering about gerrymandering and claims the first map could not be improved, the Iowa Senate followed the process outlined in Iowa Code, and a more compact map with better population differences has been approved.”
In Massachusetts, Gov. Charlie Baker (R) signed the state’s new legislative redistricting plan into law. The state House passed the maps by a vote of 158-1 on Oct. 21. The state Senate approved the legislative plans on Oct. 27 by a vote of 36-3. The legislature began consideration of the state’s redistricting plans on Oct. 19. These maps take effect for Massachusetts’ 2022 legislative elections.
After the legislature approved the maps, State Sen. William Brownsberger (D) said, “It’s a quality final product. We have used every minute we’ve had to keep vetting, to keep adjusting . . . and to respond to input that we’ve received.” After the redistricting plans were enacted, Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin (D) issued a statement expressing concern regarding how the maps would be implemented: “I am extremely disappointed that these bills were signed into law in their current form and I think it is a devastating blow to the voters of Massachusetts. With local precincts divided multiple ways, it will inevitably lead to chaos at the polls and make it impossible for voters to understand who their elected representatives are.”
In Massachusetts, state legislative district lines are drawn by the legislature with committee work performed by the state’s Special Joint Committee on Redistricting. State statutes require that state legislative district boundaries be contiguous and “reasonably preserve counties, towns, and cities intact, where otherwise possible.” Redistricting plans are subject to veto by the governor.
Ten states have adopted congressional district maps, six states were apportioned one congressional district (so no congressional redistricting is required), and 34 states have not yet adopted congressional redistricting plans after the 2020 census. Congressional redistricting has been completed for 99 of the 435 seats (22.7%) in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Twelve states have adopted legislative district maps, one state’s legislative map is awaiting approval by the state supreme court, one state enacted its legislative boundaries based on Census estimates, which will be revised in an upcoming special session, and 36 states have not yet adopted legislative redistricting plans after the 2020 census.
North Carolina and Alabama enacted new congressional and legislative maps as part of the 2020 redistricting cycle.
In Alabama, Gov. Kay Ivey (R) signed proposals for both congressional and legislative maps into law on Nov. 4. The state Senate approved the Senate map on Nov. 1 with a 25-7 vote, and the state House approved it on Nov. 3 with a 76-26 vote. The House approved the House map 68-35 on Nov. 1 and the Senate followed on Nov. 3 with a 22-7 vote. Additionally, Ivey signed new board of education maps into law, which passed the Alabama State Senate and Alabama House of Representatives on Nov. 1 and Nov. 3, respectively.
The House voted 65-38 in favor of the congressional map on Nov. 1 followed by the Senate voting 22-7 on Nov. 3. The Montgomery Advertiser‘s Brian Lyman wrote that under the maps Republicans could maintain control of six of the state’s seven congressional districts, adding, “The new maps do not significantly alter the existing districts, and do not give the GOP many opportunities to extend their majorities further.” The congressional and legislative maps will take effect for Alabama’s 2022 elections.
In North Carolina, the General Assembly enacted congressional and legislative redistricting proposals on Nov. 4. Governors do not have veto power over new maps in North Carolina, so they became law without Gov. Roy Cooper’s (D) signature. The North Carolina House of Representatives passed the House map 67-49 on Nov. 2, and the North Carolina State Senate passed it 25-21 on Nov. 4. The Senate voted 26-19 to approve the Senate map on Nov. 3 and the House voted 65-49 to approve on Nov. 4.
The Senate enacted the congressional map in a 27-22 vote on Nov. 2, and the House followed suit, voting 65-49 on Nov. 4. Rep. Destin Hall (R), chair of the House Redistricting Committee, said redistricting this cycle was “the most transparent process in the history of this state.” Sen. Ralph Hise (R), co-chairman of the Senate Redistricting and Elections Committee, said, “I feel that we have complied with the law.” Democratic members of the legislature criticized the new maps. Rep. Kandie Smith (D) said, “When I look at these congressional maps – they stink. People don’t want gerrymandering. That’s what we have.” Sen. Jay Chaudhuri (D) said, “Is it going to come down to litigation being filed? Yes.” At least one case has been filed challenging the maps.
States have recently approved new congressional and legislative district maps or are in the process of redistricting after the 2020 census. So it seemed like a good time to look back at instances in the past when opponents of specific redistricting maps collected signatures for veto referendum petitions asking voters to repeal the maps.
Voters in seven states have decided 11 veto referendums targeting the repeal of recently passed redistricting maps. Voters repealed seven maps targeted through veto referendums and upheld four. California had the most district map veto referendums with five. Maryland, North Dakota, Arizona, Oklahoma, Missouri, and Ohio each had one.
Most recently, voters in California and Maryland upheld maps in 2012. The first veto referendums on district maps were in Ohio in 1915 and Missouri in 1922. Voters repealed both targeted congressional maps.
Currently, Ballotpedia is tracking one veto referendum petition effort in Arkansas targeting the repeal of the state’s congressional map that was approved on Oct. 13.
Refresher on veto referendums
A veto referendum is a measure put on the ballot through a citizen signature petition. A veto referendum targets the repeal of a bill recently passed by the legislature. Ballot initiatives are a more common type of citizen-initiated measure, and they propose a new change to state law rather than targeting a recent bill for repeal.
There are 23 states that have a process for veto referendums at the statewide level. From 1906 through 2020, 526 veto referendums appeared on the ballot in 23 states. Voters repealed 342 (65%) of the targeted laws. Voters upheld 184 (35%) of the targeted laws.
Status of redistricting
As of November 1, 2021, seven states have adopted congressional district maps, six states were apportioned one congressional district (so no congressional redistricting is required) and 37 states have not yet adopted congressional redistricting plans after the 2020 census.
As of October 25, 2021, eight states have adopted legislative district maps, one state’s legislative map is awaiting approval by the state supreme court, one state enacted its legislative boundaries based on Census estimates which will be revised in an upcoming special session, and 40 states have not yet adopted legislative redistricting plans after the 2020 census.
On Nov. 1, the Colorado Supreme Court unanimously approved the congressional redistricting plan that the state’s Independent Congressional Redistricting Commission approved on Sept. 28. The map will take effect for Colorado’s 2022 congressional elections.
The Court’s opinion said, “For the first time, the state’s congressional district map is not the product of politics or litigation; it is instead the product of public input, transparent deliberation, and compromise among twelve ordinary voters representing the diversity of our state. The Plan surely will not please everyone, but again, the question before us is not whether the Commission adopted a perfect redistricting plan or even the “best” of the proposed alternatives. The question is whether the Plan meets the requirements of article V, section 44.3. Based on our review, we conclude that the Commission did not abuse its discretion in applying the criteria in article V, section 44.3. We therefore approve the Plan and direct the Commission to file the Plan with the Secretary of State by Dec. 15, 2021.”
Eleven of the twelve commissioners approved the Congressional plan. Four unaffiliated members, four Republican members, and three of the four Democratic members voted in favor. The maps required approval from at least eight members, including two unaffiliated members.
According to the Commission’s final report, “The populations of the districts in the Final Plan are as mathematically equal as possible, with a difference among districts of only one person.” The Commission’s final report also said it believed the plan complies with the federal Voting Rights Act, kept key communities of interest as intact as reasonably possible, preserved existing political subdivisions, was compact, “maximized the number of politically competitive districts to the extent possible,” and “was not drawn for the purpose of protecting any incumbent members of the House of Representatives, any declared candidates, or any political parties.”
The Denver Post’s Alex Burness said that the approved map “gives comfortable advantages to each of Colorado’s seven incumbent members of Congress — Democrats Joe Neguse, Jason Crow, Diana DeGette and Ed Perlmutter and Republicans Ken Buck, Lauren Boebert and Doug Lamborn.” On the state’s new eighth district, Burness wrote, “Recent election results suggest the new 8th Congressional District will be a close race in 2022.”
When the Commission approved the new congressional maps, Colorado Republican Party Chairwoman Kristi Burton Brown said, “We want to thank all twelve members of the Independent Congressional Redistricting Commission for their hard work and many sacrifices over the past few months. We are pleased that the process approved by Colorado voters was successful and that the commission was able to overwhelmingly agree on a competitive map. Colorado Republicans look forward to fighting for every vote in all 64 counties in 2022.”
Jennifer Parenti, Northern Colorado organizer for Colorado Common Cause, said, “Communities of color make up about 30% of the state’s population overall. But unfortunately, this proposed congressional map does not reflect that diversity. It, rather, splits our communities of color across multiple districts, while seemingly prioritizing municipal boundaries and protecting incumbents.”
Colorado was the seventh state to enact a congressional map after the 2020 census, making Congressional redistricting complete for 74 of the 435 seats (17.0%) in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Here’s a summary of recent court challenges involving redistricting.
A three-judge panel in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois ruled on Oct. 19 that Illinois’ legislative maps enacted in June were unconstitutional and violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. The Illinois legislature initially enacted state legislative maps on June 4 using the American Community Survey (ACS) data, a demographics survey program conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau but distinct from the decennial census. Two sets of plaintiffs—Illinois’ House and Senate Republican leaders and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund—filed lawsuits challenging the state’s legislative redistricting plans arguing that the maps were malapportioned since they were based on ACS, rather than official census, data.
After the state received data from the Census Bureau in August 2021, the legislature reconvened and adopted revised maps that Gov. J. B. Pritzker (D) signed into law on Sept. 24. The June maps were never explicitly repealed. Both sets of plaintiffs filed amended complaints on Oct. 1 arguing that the September maps violated the Voting Rights Act since they reduced the number of Latino opportunity districts—where Latinos make up more than 50% of the population—despite the growth in the state’s Latino population over the preceding decade.
The three-judge panel ruled that the maps adopted in June were invalid and set a November hearing schedule regarding the plaintiffs’ amended complaints challenging the September redistricting plans.
On Oct. 25, the Colorado Supreme Court heard oral arguments from the following individuals and organizations regarding the state’s legislative redistricting plan: the Colorado Republican Committee, Colorado Republican State Senate Caucus, and Colorado Republican State House Caucus; Colorado Latino Leadership, Advocacy & Research Organization; Fair Lines Colorado; and, Thomas E. Norton, a former mayor of Greeley, Colorado. Following the oral arguments, the state supreme court ordered the Colorado Independent Legislative Redistricting Commission to submit information explaining its decisions to split the City of Lakewood into two Senate districts and place a part of Jefferson County into Senate District 4.
The redistricting commission submitted its final map to the state supreme court on Oct. 15, which set the court’s deadline to decide on the map for Nov. 15. Following that submission, nine organizations and individuals submitted briefs to the supreme court in support of or opposition to the final approved legislative proposal.
On Oct. 25, two residents of Lane County, Oregon, filed a lawsuit before the Oregon Supreme Court challenging the boundaries of two districts in the state’s newly enacted House of Representatives redistricting plan. The lawsuit said, “That line was not based upon consideration of any permissible districting criteria, but was the result of an effort by Legislative Assembly leadership to protect one incumbent from a primary challenge.” It went on to say that “this case does not involve the momentous issues of a wholly partisan-gerrymandered map […] it involves violations of law important to people in one part of Oregon that, respectfully, this Court should require the Secretary of State to correct.”
Gov. Kate Brown (D) signed Oregon’s state legislative maps into law on Sept. 27. The House of Representatives approved the maps 31-18, and the state Senate 18-11. These maps take effect for Oregon’s 2022 legislative elections.