Redistricting review: Colorado Supreme Court adjusts redistricting deadlines

The Colorado Supreme Court modified its schedule for reviewing congressional and state legislative redistricting plans on July 26. This prompted the state’s congressional redistricting commission to adjust its own deadlines for submitting a final plan to the court for review.

The court’s July 26 order requires the congressional commission and all other interested parties to submit briefs “seven days after [the commission] … submits a final [congressional] plan and relevant accompanying materials to the supreme court for review, but in any event no later than Oct. 8.” The court will issue a ruling on the plan by Nov. 1. On Aug. 2, the congressional commission voted to adjust its own deadlines accordingly. It will approve a final plan by Sept. 28 and submit that plan to the court by Oct. 1. The commission’s original deadline for adopting a final congressional plan was Sept. 1.

The congressional redistricting commission originally petitioned the court to extend the deadline for submitting a final plan to Oct. 28. In response to the court’s July 26 order, Commissioner Bill Leone said, “We asked for a schedule, and they gave us a slightly different schedule — it’s not as much as we asked for, but it’s more than we have.”

For the state legislative district plan, the court set Oct. 22 as the briefing deadline. The court will issue a ruling on the plan by Nov. 15. The state legislative redistricting commission has not yet determined whether it will extend its original Sept. 15 deadline for submitting a final plan to the court for review.

To date:

  • Two states have enacted state legislative district plans: Illinois and Oklahoma.
  • In one additional state (Colorado), redistricting authorities have released drafts of proposed congressional and state legislative district plans.

Redistricting review: New Jersey Republicans request clarification from secretary of state about how to count incarcerated individuals

On July 26, the New Jersey Globe reported that the Republican leaders of New Jersey’s redistricting commissions had requested clarification from Secretary of State Tahesha Way (D) on how incarcerated people in the state should be counted in reapportionment and redistricting processes. Under S758, passed in 2020, New Jersey must count incarcerated individuals at their last known residential address for the purposes of legislative redistricting, rather than the location of their incarceration at the time of the census. A698, which currently awaits action from Gov. Phil Murphy (D), would expand that requirement to redistricting for municipal, county, school board, and congressional purposes.

Under S758 and A698, the secretary of state must submit an apportionment report based on numbers from the New Jersey Department of Corrections (DOC). Legislative Apportionment Commission Republican Chairman Al Barlas and Congressional Redistricting Commission GOP Chairman Doug Steinhardt said in their request to Way that the U.S. Census Bureau’s use of differential privacy in the 2020 census would produce data inconsistent with DOC data because “this statistical technique deliberately manipulates census data to assertedly protect the confidentiality of respondents by introducing ‘statistical noise; into both population totals and demographic characteristics.” “Barlas and Steinhardt asked whether there was a plan for “addressing the consequences of differential privacy with regard to New Jersey’s prison populations [and] … how will discrepancies between census and DOC data be rectified.”

Barlas and Steinhardt requested that Way respond by Aug. 2.

In other redistricting news, public redistricting hearings are scheduled in Indiana, South Carolina, Washington, and Virginia.

Additional reading:

Redistricting in New Jersey after the 2020 census

Redistricting in Indiana after the 2020 census

Redistricting in South Carolina after the 2020 census

Redistricting in Washington after the 2020 census

Redistricting in Virginia after the 2020 census

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.

Additional reading:

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.

Additional reading:

Redistricting review: Federal court rejects Alabama’s attempt to force early release of Census Bureau redistricting data

In this week’s Redistricting Review, we cover news out of Alabama and Colorado.

Alabama: On June 29, a three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama rejected an attempt by Alabama state officials to force the U.S. Census Bureau to release redistricting data in advance of August 16, the date by which the Bureau has said it will release the data to the states.

Federal law requires that the Bureau deliver redistricting data to the states by April 1 of the year following a census. However, due to delays in conducting the 2020 census and processing the data, the Bureau announced in early 2021 that it would miss this deadline. The state of Alabama sued the Census Bureau on March 11. In his complaint, Alabama Solicitor General Edmund G. LaCour, Jr., said, “The Bureau has no authority to grant itself this extension and deprive Alabama of information to which it is entitled.” LaCour also alleged that the U.S. Census Bureau “intends to use a statistical method called differential privacy to intentionally skew the population tabulations given to States to use for redistricting,” thereby “denying Alabama accurate information about where Alabamians actually live.”

LaCour asked the court to issue an order barring application of the differential privacy method and directing the U.S. Census Bureau to deliver data to the states by March 31. A three-judge panel of Judges Kevin Newsom, Emily Marks, and R. Austin Huffaker (all Donald Trump (R) appointees) heard the case.

The court unanimously rejected Alabama’s request: “The court cannot force the Bureau to do the impossible – that is, comply with an already-lapsed deadline. … Furthermore, the Bureau has made quite clear that it will be able to deliver the redistricting data to the State by August 16, 2021. Again, Plaintiffs have acknowledged that date suffices for them to be able to complete redistricting without injury. We see no prejudice to Plaintiffs in denying a writ of mandamus requiring the Bureau to issue the data any earlier.”

Colorado: On June 29, staff of the Colorado Independent Legislative Redistricting Commission released preliminary district maps for the Colorado House of Representatives and the Colorado State Senate. 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 are concluded, 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 sign off on the map.

The staff of the Colorado Independent Congressional Redistricting Commission released preliminary congressional district maps on June 23.

Additional reading:

Redistricting in Alabama after the 2020 census

Redistricting in Colorado after the 2020 census

North Carolina General Assembly enacts bill postponing 2021 municipal elections to 2022

The delayed release of 2020 block-level data by the U.S. Census Bureau has led the state of North Carolina to delay municipal elections currently scheduled for 2021. 

A bill postponing this year’s municipal elections in North Carolina to 2022 became law on June 28. It affects elections in at least 35 municipalities, including Charlotte, Durham, Greensboro, and Raleigh. 

The bill, SB722, applies to any municipality holding elections in 2021 for officers representing a subdivision within the municipality, such as a city council ward. In other words, this change does not affect mayoral elections. SB722 allows municipalities holding elections for at-large offices to proceed as scheduled in 2021.

Once the U.S. Census Bureau releases raw 2020 block-level data in mid-August, the municipalities will make any needed changes to their electoral districts. In previous census cycles, the bureau delivered block-level data in the spring. 

Current officeholders in affected municipalities whose terms were set to expire in 2021 will remain in office until after the elections in 2022. 

The bill (SB722) became law without Gov. Roy Cooper’s (D) signature. Cooper said, “While delays to census data caused by the pandemic necessitate changes to local elections, decisions about local elections like these should involve more open discussion and public input, and therefore, these changes will become law without my signature.” 

The North Carolina House of Representatives unanimously approved SB722 on June 9. The North Carolina Senate approved the bill 33-14 on June 14. All votes opposed came from Democrats. Republicans control the chamber 28-22.

New Election Dates

Elections will be rescheduled based on election methods.

For municipalities using either the partisan primary and election method (for example, Charlotte) or the nonpartisan primary and election method (for example, Fayetteville), the primary will take place on March 8, 2022.

The general election will take place on April 26, 2022, unless a primary for the U.S. House or Senate advances to a runoff. In that case, the general election for these municipalities will take place on May 17, 2022.

For municipalities using the nonpartisan plurality method (e.g., Greenville), the general election will take place on March 8, 2022.  

Filing Deadlines

For municipalities that revise their district maps on or before Nov. 17, the candidate filing period for the 2022 elections will open on Dec. 6 and close on Dec. 17. 

For municipalities that revise their district maps between Nov. 18 and Dec. 17, the candidate filing period will open on Jan. 3, 2022, and close on Jan. 7, 2022.  

Municipalities that wish to proceed with at-large elections as scheduled in 2021 must notify their county election boards within five days of the opening of the candidate filing period.   

At least one other state, Illinois, has postponed statewide 2022 primaries by three months in response to the delay.

Stay tuned for more updates as we follow these changes closely throughout the redistricting cycle.

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.

Additional reading:

Roundup of lawsuits against Illinois’ newly-adopted redistricting plans

As of June 16, two lawsuits have been filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois-Eastern Division challenging the state legislative maps signed that Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker (D) signed into law on June 4, 2010. Both complaints focus on the Illinois Legislature’s use of data from the American Community Survey (ACS) instead of from the U.S. census, alleging that by using data from the ACS the maps violated the Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection Clause.

Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin and Senate Republican Leader Dan McConchie filed a complaint on June 9 alleging undercounts by the ACS compared with the census data saying, “[ACS] estimates are not intended to be, and are not, a proper substitute for the official census counts.” They allege that “because it uses ACS estimates for population data, the Redistricting Plan does not ensure that the Senate and Representative Districts satisfy the constitutional mandate of substantially equal populations [among districts].” They are asking the court to declare the enacted maps unconstitutional and to appoint either a bipartisan legislative commission or a special master (outside expert) to draft new maps.

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) filed a complaint on behalf of five registered voters (Contreras, Fuentes, Martinez, Padilla, and Torres) on June 10 alleging the maps were malapportioned because of the committee’s use of the ACS data and that they violated the Fourteenth Amendment, saying “ACS data are an estimate of population characteristics based on sample data, and not a count of U.S. citizens and non-U.S. citizens.” The plaintiffs allege that “the Enacted Plans purportedly ensure compliance with the ‘one-person, one-vote’ standard mandated by the Fourteenth Amendment; however, ACS data is inadequate for that purpose.” They are asking the court to declare that the enacted plans violate the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, and are asking for an injunction preventing the defendants from certifying petitions or conducting future elections for the General Assembly under the enacted plans and an injunction requiring the defendants to draw new maps based on the data from the 2020 Census.

Democratic leaders of the Senate Redistricting Committee Omar Aquino and Elgie Sims responded to Durkin and McConchie’s lawsuit, saying: “Throughout this process, (Republicans) have done nothing but delay and obstruct efforts to ensure our communities are fairly represented, as seen by their refusal to even draft their own proposals… We stand by our work to ensure everyone has a voice in state government.” No response to the MALDEF lawsuit had been reported as of June 16th.

Additional reading

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.

Additional reading:

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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