Identifying and analyzing emerging trends in campaigns and elections.

Weekly Redistricting Update

In Redistricting on February 8, 2012 at 3:28 pm

Significant redistricting action occurred in the following six states during the past week:

FLORIDA (current delegation: 19R-6D; gains two seats) – The state House of Representatives passed their congressional map during this past week. The legislation now goes to the Senate. Though the congressional members and potential candidates are making political moves expecting the House-passed map to be the point of legal deference, such is not abundantly clear. The Senate-passed map is noticeably different from the House version, so it is certainly possible the two maps will endure a significant conference process. Gov. Rick Scott (R) will undoubtedly sign the eventual legislative produced plan into law but the Florida Supreme Court will have the last word. The legal differences between the voter-passed redistricting initiative and the Voting Rights Act are substantial, so the high court involvement is inevitable.

Considering this background, several political announcements were made, nonetheless. As stated last week, Rep. Allen West (R-FL-22) received the worst draw of any incumbent, as his home was placed in a heavily Democratic new 22nd District. Rep. Tom Rooney (R-FL-16), however, announced that he will run in new District 17, a safe Republican seat of which he represents a large portion but not his home political base. His decision opens marginal District 18 for West. Following Rooney’s lead, Mr. West announced he will run in District 18.

Turning to the northern part of the state, Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL-6) is faced with a decision. He can run in new District 3, a safe Republican seat that travels from the northern Orlando suburbs all the way to the Georgia border but fails to include the congressman’s home or political power base. His second option would be to run in new District 11, but this would mean an intra-party pairing with freshman Rep. Rich Nugent (R-FL-5).

Overall, in a good Republican year, this map looks to yield a 19R-8D partisan split, meaning the Democrats would gain two seats (the aforementioned District 22 and new District 9 in the south Orlando suburbs). It is likely the state Supreme Court, known for being a liberal body, will tilt the map in greater favor of the Democrats. The Florida redistricting process, one of the most important in the nation, still has a very long way to go before a legal map is finally instituted. The candidate filing deadline is June 8; the primary will be held Aug. 14.

KENTUCKY (current delegation: 4R-2D) – The Kentucky candidate filing deadline has passed (Jan. 31) yet the legislature has still not taken final action regarding adopting a new congressional map. If an agreement cannot be reached this week, the process will clearly be forced into the courts. Obviously, the candidate filing deadline is indefinitely postponed. The Kentucky primary is scheduled for May 22.

MISSOURI (current delegation: 6R-3D; loses one seat) – The redistricting trial ended with the state court upholding the legislature’s congressional map. The court had raised a question regarding the compactness of the 5th Congressional District (Rep. Emanuel Cleaver-D), but ruled that the draw does pass legal muster. This completes the Missouri process, pending appeal. The plaintiffs, backed by Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-MO-3) whose district was collapsed because the state lost a seat in reapportionment, say they will appeal the lower court ruling.

RHODE ISLAND (current delegation: 2D) – The state legislature has passed the Rhode Island congressional map and sent the legislation to Gov. Lincoln Chafee (I) for his signature. The plan improves freshman Rep. David Cicilline’s (D) district, from his perspective, by taking Democrats from Rep. Jim Langevin’s (D) 2nd CD. Thus, the Langevin seat becomes a bit more Republican but both districts will likely continue to send Democrats to Washington for the rest of the decade.

TEXAS (current delegation: 23R-9D; gains four seats) – Attorney General Greg Abbott (R) publicly announced that the state and the plaintiffs have reached an agreement on a compromise map to present to the federal three judge panel tasked with drawing at least an interim congressional map. The DC District of Court of Appeals, currently considering the pre-clearance issues on the state-passed map, issued a statement that no ruling would be forthcoming during the current 30 day period. This makes the three-judge panel responsible for breaking the logjam, at least on an interim basis for the 2012 election. The panel of judges told the plaintiffs and state to find a solution in order to prevent the April 3 primary from being moved again.

Almost immediately after Abbott’s announcement, the key plaintiffs, including representatives for the League of Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, and the NAACP, all said they have not agreed to support the Abbott compromise map. It is clear this process still has a long way to go. Chances are strong that the April 3 primary will again be moved.

WASHINGTON (current delegation: 5D-4R; gains one seat) – The state legislature made only cosmetic changes to the Washington State Redistricting Commission’s approved congressional maps. The commission is charged with drawing and passing a map, but the legislature can make changes, or reject a plan, with two-thirds vote of both houses. The action concludes the Washington process. All eight of the nine incumbents running for re-election (Rep. Jay Inslee, D-WA-1, is running for governor) have a winnable seat in which to seek re-election. The new 10th District in the Olympia area will go to the Democrats. Inslee’s open 1st District actually becomes competitive in exchange for making Rep. Rick Larson’s (D) 2nd District safer.

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