Identifying and analyzing emerging trends in campaigns and elections.

Archive for the ‘Redistricting’ Category

The Democrats Have Problems Beyond Redistricting

In Election Analysis, Redistricting on January 15, 2015 at 10:55 am

The Democratic federal elected officials are gathered in Baltimore right now, discussing the future of their party and ways to recapture much of the political territory they lost in the 2014 elections. A clear theme settling around their US House predicament is redistricting, and how the Republican-drawn boundaries, they say, in what are typically Democratic states have unfairly cost them large numbers of seats.

North Carolina Rep. David Price (D-NC-4) spoke at length about redistricting and how it affects the party. According to an article on Yahoo News, Price said, “Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Virginia display the most egregious examples of gerrymandered districts for congressional and state legislative races.” His solution is to continue the process Democrats are using in several states, which is to sue over the current congressional boundaries contending that the district boundaries are “racially biased”. Except for Virginia, where a court has already declared the map unconstitutional for this reason, it will likely be difficult to make such a case in places where the minority districts have actually been maximized.

The 2014 electoral statistics cast a different light on the situation, however. Let’s take the case of freshman Rep. Gwen Graham (D-FL-2). She won a Republican-leaning seat in what was the worst of years for Democratic congressional candidates. The fact that she Continue reading >

Advertisements

Two Florida Congressional Districts Ruled as Illegal

In House, Redistricting on July 14, 2014 at 2:08 pm

A north Florida circuit court judge who briefly came to fame during the George W. Bush/Al Gore 2000 post-election counting process, has declared Florida congressional districts 5 (Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville) and 10 (Rep. Dan Webster, R-Orlando) illegal per the criteria adopted in the state’s 2010 redistricting ballot initiative. The Democratic legal challenge was launched soon after the lines were enacted in 2011, but technicalities pertaining to the plaintiff’s discovery motions here and in federal court delayed the process until now. Additionally, the US Supreme Court’s 2013 Shelby County decision changed the legal situation.

Democratic Judge Terry Lewis, who issued a pro-Bush presidential recount decision 14 years ago, ruled that the two districts fail the compactness criteria as outlined in the voter-passed proposition. Should the entire appellate process, including final review by the Florida State Supreme Court, uphold the Lewis decision districts 5 and 10 will be re-drawn. The tangential changes stemming from altering those boundaries could conceivably affect all of north and central Florida.

Judge Lewis ruled against the Democratic  Continue reading >

Impact of NC Redistricting Upheld

In Redistricting on July 11, 2013 at 11:37 am

The special three-judge state panel hearing the redistricting challenge to the legislative and congressional maps unanimously, and with a mention that partisanship was left out of their decision, ruled in favor of the state of North Carolina. This means that the Republican-drawn maps will continue to stand.

The judicial panel was comprised of two Democrats and one Republican. The upheld maps sent nine Republicans and four Democrats to Washington from the congressional delegation; a state Senate consisting of 33 Republicans and 17 Democrats; and a state House comprised of 77 Republicans and just 43 Democrats. Prior to the 2010 elections and the subsequent redistricting, Democrats held an 8-5 advantage in the congressional delegation, a 30-20 margin in the state Senate, and commanded a 68-52 House majority.

The decision will undoubtedly be appealed to the state Supreme Court, but a panel with a Republican majority is unlikely to overturn a Democratic special court that found in the state’s favor.

There are two key practical effects from the ruling. First, as it relates to the US Supreme Court’s Shelby County v. Holder opinion, it is now highly unlikely that the maps will be redrawn prior to the next census. Thus, the Shelby County decision will not likely come into play here until 2021. Since North Carolina has live redistricting litigation ongoing, as does Florida, Arizona, and Kentucky, an overturn of the state’s map could have had a major effect upon any new court-mandated drawing.

Second, one of North Carolina’s remaining four Democratic seats, the 7th District of Rep. Mike McIntyre, saw the closest finish of any 2012 US House race. McIntyre was re-elected over former state Sen. David Rouzer with a mere 654-vote margin from more than 336,000 ballots cast. With Rouzer already running again and facing a mid-term turnout model without President Obama leading the Democratic ticket, it makes McIntyre the most endangered Democrat in Congress. A redraw would have greatly helped him. Now without such a boost, does McIntyre even run again? The coming weeks in the southeastern corner of  Continue reading >

What They’re Missing

In Courts, Redistricting on June 28, 2013 at 12:23 pm

The analyses and coverage of the Supreme Court’s decision this week that invalidated Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) is typically missing a very subtle but highly important point.

As mentioned in many articles and interviews, now that the official formula determining whether a jurisdiction must adhere to US Justice Department supervision is invalid, the laws previously stayed through the denial of pre-clearance procedure have taken effect. A representative sampling of recent laws that failed the pre-clearance test but are now fully enforceable are several polling place voter identification statutes from various states.

In terms of political district map drawing, there is now another crucial factor present in some places. Most states have what is commonly described as a “county line law.” The statute typically says that a county must be kept whole unless more population is needed to reach the proper district target figure. Often times counties are split between or among two or more districts for purposes of adding more minorities to a congressional or legislative district in order to protect that seat under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Now that the elimination of Section 4 effectively debilitates Section 5, the county line laws will presumably be stronger than the VRA, the reverse of what had, heretofore, been the usual practice.

Florida could be the state most quickly affected by the county line situation. In 2010, voters passed a ballot initiative that defined new and additional redistricting criteria. One of the included items is the county line provision. Currently, the state is embroiled in live redistricting litigation, and apparently headed for a January trial in Leon County (Tallahassee). The Supreme Court’s opinion this week will likely bear major influence upon the state judge’s ultimate decision, and it is probable that the tables have turned in the plaintiffs favor. If they do in fact win at the lower and upper court levels, new congressional and legislative maps will likely be mandated, and that could happen as early as the 2014 election cycle.

Florida is particularly vulnerable on the county line issue. The state has seven counties that are larger than a congressional district. Within those seven counties is enough population to complete 10 CDs. The  Continue reading >

Voting Rights Act Goes Before Supreme Court

In Redistricting, Voting Rights on March 1, 2013 at 10:47 am

The Voting Rights Act lawsuit plaintiffs from Shelby County, Alabama, and many of the Republican legal and political class who support overturning the VRA, need to take a step back and briefly consider the adage: “be careful what you wish for, ’cause it might come true.”

The United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments for and against the Shelby County case on Wednesday. The complaint challenges the constitutionality of parts of Sections 4 and 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that Congress last renewed for a 25 year period in 2006.

Based upon the Justices’ questioning of the participants plus their recent past rulings and writings about the Voting Rights Act, the Shelby County plaintiffs have a reasonable chance for victory but not without unintended consequences. For it is unlikely that the petitioners and vocal Republicans who support overturning the VRA want the Democratic Party to regain control of southern state legislatures and re-assume majority status in the House of Representatives. Yet, such a result will almost assuredly happen.

The case’s main tenet attacks the Act’s outdated “triggering mechanism.” When the legislation was first enacted in 1965, jurisdictions that saw a voting age population turnout falling below the 1964 presidential election standard were placed under VRA supervision.

During the Nixon administration, the VRA was amended to designate 1968 and the then-upcoming 1972 as triggering presidential elections. Such is the last time Congress altered the criteria, which is the basis of Shelby County’s complaint. Their local election officials argue that 40-year-old political data is not representative of the region’s contemporary electoral status.

The government contends that because the legislation contains what is known as a  Continue reading >

Texas Maps Tossed

In Redistricting on August 30, 2012 at 3:35 pm

For the better part of this year, the Texas congressional and legislative maps have been before the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The state submitted their proposed district lines to this body for pre-clearance purposes, in compliance with the Voting Rights Act, instead of the Obama Department of Justice.

Clearly Attorney General Greg Abbott and the Texas Republican legal brain trust felt their approval chances were better going this route than the traditional one – the DoJ. It turns out they were wrong. The Court, yesterday, rejected all of their submissions: congressional, state Senate, and state House. Abbott said Texas will immediately appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court, so the interim maps, ironically drawn by a different federal panel, will hold for the 2012 general elections.

The DC high court ruled that the state eroded the Latino community’s “clout” and took the “economic guts” from the African-American districts. The decision was broader than many believed would be the case, particularly because the San Antonio federal three-judge panel had already drawn interim maps based upon US Supreme Court direction as it pertained to legislative intent. The main areas of concern are the Dallas-Ft. Worth area, particularly as it relates to new District 33 (open seat), which stretches between the two major cities, the Austin-San Antonio corridor, and District 23 (Rep. Quico Canseco) that stretches from San Antonio to El Paso. But, if the African-American districts are also affected, then Houston could come into play, as well.

This ruling suggests major changes will come next year, as Texas redistricting will apparently, once again, begin anew.

Arizona’s Primary: A Look at A Hotly Contested State

In Election Analysis, House, Redistricting, Senate on August 27, 2012 at 12:09 pm

Arizona voters go to the polls tomorrow to choose Senatorial and US House nominees in a myriad of places.

Looking at the Senate, Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ-6) has enjoyed the inside track for both the primary and general elections since Sen. Jon Kyl (R) announced his retirement. Businessman Wil Cardon appeared to be mounting a serious early challenge but has curiously lessened his activity level as the election draws near, clearly a sign he has lost optimism about his chances of pushing past Flake to capture the Republican nomination. For the Democrats, former surgeon general Richard Carmona’s primary victory has long been a foregone conclusion. Assuming it’s Flake vs. Carmona after tomorrow, the Republican would begin the official general election campaign as the favorite.

The state gained a congressional seat in reapportionment and the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission used it to shape a much different state map for the next 10 years. The Democrats should benefit the most from the plan, but more so beyond 2012 considering the changing demographics as the ensuing decade unfolds. For this election cycle several of the districts are highly competitive, making Arizona one of the most hotly contested of all states.

In the expansive 1st District that encompasses most of the northern and eastern geography, former representative Ann Kirkpatrick (D), who held a similar district for one term until freshman Rep. Paul Gosar (R) unseated her two years ago, is mounting her political comeback and will easily win the Democratic nomination tomorrow. She will likely face former state senator Jonathan Paton (R) in the general election. On paper, this seat could go either way but it seems to have more Democratic tendencies. Such was clearly Gosar’s thought pattern, thus explaining his departure to the 4th District and eschewing re-election in the new AZ-1 even though he currently represents 75 percent of its constituents.

In the new 2nd District, formerly numbered 8 in Arizona’s southeastern corner around the city of Tucson, newly elected Rep. Ron Barber (D) is running for a full term. He won the right to replace his former boss, ex-representative Gabrielle Giffords (D) who resigned the seat earlier this year to concentrate on her physical recovery from the tragic shooting that also wounded Barber. The new congressman will undoubtedly face Gulf War veteran Martha McSally who placed second to former GOP nominee Jesse Kelly in the 2012 special election. Kelly lost to Giffords by two points in 2010. A new poll shows Barber ahead of McSally by only five points, but he is the clear favorite in the general election race, nonetheless. Expect new Democratic polling numbers to soon show him pulling away.

In the new western state 4th District, the safest Republican seat in Arizona, the aforementioned Rep. Gosar seeks his second term in office. However, former state senator Ron Gould is attracting major support from conservative and Tea Party organizations to the tune of over $750,000 in uncoordinated independent expenditures; he will provide the congressman’s principal primary opposition. The winner of tomorrow’s contest takes the seat in November.

Turning to the Phoenix suburban 5th District, former representative Matt Salmon (R-AZ-1) and ex-state House speaker Kirk Adams vie for the Republican nomination in what has been a spirited and relatively expensive campaign. Similar to the situation in District 4, the winner of tomorrow’s Republican race will win the general election. In this case, the eventual GOP nominee replaces Rep. Jeff Flake who vacated the seat to run for the Senate.

The big shoot-out is in the Scottsdale-based District 6, where an incumbent Republican pairing battle will conclude between freshman Reps. Ben Quayle (R-AZ-3) and David Schweikert (R-AZ-5). Quayle represents two-thirds of the current constituency as compared to his colleague’s one-third. He has raised over $2 million to Schweikert’s $1.5 million. Either man can win. Each says he is more conservative than his opponent. Both claim the other should be running in the new marginal 9th District; one of them will prove to be right. The winner keeps the safe Republican seat for the rest of the decade; the loser will be out of politics at least for the short-term.

The new open eastern Phoenix suburban 9th District, the seat added in reapportionment, plays as a marginal domain in 2012 but will trend more Democratic as the decade progresses. No less than seven candidates have raised more than $200,000 for this race, with former state Democratic chairman and Clinton Administration official Andrei Cherny and ex-state senator Kyrsten Sinema (D) raising well over $800,000 apiece. The Republicans feature three current and formal local office holders including 2010 congressional candidate and Paradise Valley Mayor Vernon Parker. The eventual Democratic nominee will have the early advantage, but this race is clearly a free-for-all tomorrow and possibly in November.

House Realignment Scorecard

In Election Analysis, House, Redistricting on July 6, 2012 at 2:33 pm

The conventional wisdom during the past 18 months was that Democrats were going to make modest gains in the post-redistricting House, but such prognostications are changing. Considering the re-maps from a national perspective without regard to campaign competition factors, the Republicans are the ones who now appear to have the slight advantage.

The outlook is changing because none of the major Republican seat-risk situations appear to be producing multiple losses. Neither the New York, Florida, California, Virginia, nor Texas map is, on the surface, going to add large numbers of new Democratic House members solely because of plan configuration.

Since we now know where the new seats are going and where the lost districts are coming from, more complete analyses can be rendered. While the straight numbers suggest that Democrats must score a net gain of 25 districts to re-capture the House majority by a single seat, the adjusted post-redistricting number actually increases that figure to 29.

The basis for such a conclusion is in accounting for the 12 seats that have shifted states along with several obvious conversion districts. Other factors are equally as viable in projecting an overall House partisan balance figure, but how competitive various seats are in states like California and New York can be debated in another column. For now, looking at the placement and displacement of the new seats, along with what appear to be some obvious open-seat campaigns going decidedly toward either a Democratic or Republican nominee, lead us to a +4 Republican gain figure.

Let’s first look at the multiple-seat gain or loss states, which tend to be a wash in terms of partisan divide. In Texas, the biggest gainer, the new seats of TX-25, 33, 34, and 36 are headed for a 2R-2D split. In Florida, their two new districts, FL-9 and FL-22, look to be leaning Democratic (certainly so for FL-22), but the campaign evolving in the new 9th puts the outcome in question. Republicans have recruited a strong candidate in local county commissioner John Quinones, while the Democrats are again tapping controversial one-term ex-Rep. Alan Grayson who was defeated for re-election in 2010.

On the multiple-seat reduction side, both Ohio and New York also appear to be neutralizing themselves between the parties. Both sides look to lose one net seat in each state.

But it is among the single-seat gaining and losing states where the GOP has scored well. The Republicans look to be coming out on top in gainers like Georgia (GA-9), South Carolina (SC-7), and Utah (UT-2). Democrats will have a slight edge in Arizona’s new district (AZ-9), and are likely winners in Nevada (NV-4), and Washington (WA-10).

In the states losing congressional representation, while New York and Ohio don’t give either party a clear advantage, Democrats are forced to absorb the loss in Massachusetts (MA-10), New Jersey (NJ-13), Michigan (MI-15), Pennsylvania (PA-4), and Missouri (MO-3). Republicans take the hit in Illinois (IL-19) and Louisiana (LA-7).

The GOP looks to be headed for conversion victories in Arkansas (AR-4, Rep. Mike Ross retiring), Oklahoma (OK-2, Rep. Dan Boren retiring), and likely in Indiana (IN-2, Rep. Joe Donnelly running for Senate). They will also gain three to four seats in North Carolina, but those are neutralized by what appear to be similar gains for Democrats in Illinois. All totaled, before the campaigns hit their stretch drive, it is the GOP that now enjoys a slight post-redistricting advantage and makes a 2012 House majority change even more remote.

Weekly Redistricting Update

In Redistricting on June 12, 2012 at 3:00 pm

The federal three-judge panel in Kansas adopted and released the state’s new congressional plan, meaning all 43 multi-district states have now completed the redistricting process.

Litigation drags on in Florida and North Carolina, but it is likely that both of those enacted maps will be in effect for the 2012 elections, meaning the national political stage is set for November. Changes for 2014 and beyond could occur in Florida and North Carolina, however, in addition to Texas and West Virginia, where new maps will be drawn after the 2012 election due to previous legal rulings.