Category Archives: Redistricting

Authoritarian Tea-Publicans are plotting to impeach the Pa. Supreme Court over new congressional map

Last month, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court struck down the GOP-gerrymandered congressional districts as violative of the Pennsylvania state constitution, and ordered all 18 districts redistricted.

The court gave Democratic Governor Tom Wolf and the Republican-controlled General Assembly about three weeks to approve a fast-tracked plan in its Jan. 22 order.

Neither side was able to take advantage of that window, which set up the next step in the court’s order: Its own imposition of new district lines by Feb. 19.

House and Senate Republicans made one last pitch to try to forestall the state court takeover of Pennsylvania’s Congressional maps, but were rebuffed by Gov. Wolf. Pa. redistricting is in the court’s hands now, after Gov. Wolf rebuffs last pitch for delay.

On Monday, State Supreme Court released a new congressional map for 2018 elections:

Under the court’s redrawn map, districts more closely align with county lines, and only 13 counties are split among two or three districts. By contrast, under the last map, enacted by the legislature in 2011, more than twice as many counties were split among multiple districts.

In striking down that map last month as unconstitutional, the justices said the new districts should be as compact and contiguous as possible. Their new map, they wrote in an order, is “superior or comparable” to proposals submitted by the participants and interested groups during the legal challenge that led to the historic ruling.

Pa-map

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Evil GOP bastards are trying to negate the AIRC so the legislature does redistricting maps again

SCR 1034 (.pdf), sponsored by Senator Yarbrough, would alter sections of the citizens initiative that established the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission.

Among the changes are an increase in the number of Commissioners to eight, selected directly by legislative leaders rather than the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments, which would lead to partisan gridlock because it also requires a supermajority vote of the AIRC to adopt a map (unlikely), which would then allow the legislature to refer its own alternate maps to the ballot (by simple majority vote), and if approved by the voters, would supersede the maps drawn by the Commission. Thus the legislature is back in the redistricting business again! Bwahahaha!

The Senate Government Committee approved the resolution on a 4-3 partisan vote on Wednesday. The Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required) reports, GOP proposal would restructure Arizona redistricting:

Critics warn that a plan to alter the membership of a commission responsible for drawing Arizona’s congressional and legislative district maps is designed to fail.

Senate President Steve Yarbrough conceded that by increasing the number of members on the Independent Redistricting Commission from five to eight, it’s likely that the commission would face gridlock.

“That is indeed going to create a probable 4-4 (vote) by my own estimation, but that is by design,” the Chandler Republican told the Senate Government Committee, which approved the resolution on a 4-3 partisan vote Wednesday.

Requiring a supermajority to approve maps during redistricting, a highly-contentious process that creates district maps that will be used for the next decade, will require commissioners to find true bipartisan consensus, Yarbrough said.

“I want the most bipartisan and fair process that we can design,” he said.

This is a bald-faced lie. Keep reading for the true reason.

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Pennsylvania will have to redistrict its congressional districts this year

The Washington Post’s Supreme Court reporter Robert Barnes reported Sunday on the status of gerrymandering cases pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. Opponents of gerrymandering keep winning, but it might not affect 2018:

Opponents of gerrymandering have won a historic string of victories in the courts recently, yet millions of voters will cast their ballots this fall in districts that judges have declared to be unconstitutional.

Federal courts in Texas, North Carolina and Wisconsin found that either politics or intentional discrimination played an unacceptable role in drawing electoral lines and ordered new districts in place for the 2018 elections.

But the Supreme Court stopped them all. The justices are traditionally reluctant to order changes in an election year, for one thing. And they have never thrown out a state’s redistricting plan because they found it so infected with partisan bias that it violates voters’ constitutional rights.

Unless and until it does — the subject is under review at the high court — the justices have routinely told states found to be offenders that they do not have to immediately redraw the maps, which almost surely means they won’t be in place for the 2018 elections.

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The most consequential of the stay requests is at the Supreme Court right now, and the decision could play a role in determining which party controls the House after the November midterm elections.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court last month ruled that the congressional map drawn by the Republican legislature in 2011 “clearly, plainly and palpably violates” the commonwealth’s constitution. It demanded a quick redrawing of the lines so that 2018 elections could be held in fairer districts.

But Republican legislative leaders in Pennsylvania have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to put the decision on hold.

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Pennsylvania Supreme Court strikes down GOP-gerrymandered congressional districts as unconstitutional, orders redistricting

One of the most GOP-gerrymandered states in the country is Pennsylvania. Today the Pennsylvania Supreme Court struck down the GOP-gerrymandered congressional districts as violative of the Pennsylvania state constitution, and ordered all 18 districts redistricted.

The Washington Post reports, Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court just gave Democrats a big win on redistricting:

In a decision that could tilt the congressional balance of power in a key swing state in favor of Democrats, Pennsylvania’s highest court decided Monday that the state’s GOP-drawn congressional districts violate its Constitution, and ordered all 18 districts redrawn in the next few weeks.

Less partisan congressional districts could give Democrats a chance this November to win back as many as half a dozen seats that had been lost to them over the past decade. It could also give the party a major boost in its quest to take back the House of Representatives, where Democrats need to net 24 seats to win control of the chamber.

“Yet another gerrymandered district map thrown out!!” tweeted Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) of the news.

“Today’s decision is a victory for democracy and another blow to the Republican Party’s nationwide effort to game the system,” said Tom Perez, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, in a statement.

In a 4-to-3 decision, Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court ordered the Republican-controlled state legislature to redraw the lines by Feb. 9, an extraordinarily quick timeline that will reset the districts in time for the state’s May congressional primaries. Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf will have veto power over the maps.

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Partisan gerrymandering cases headed to the U.S. Supreme Court

There has been a lot happening in partisan gerrymandering lawsuits lately, and luckily Rick Hasen at Elction Law Blog has put together a summary of where these cases stand today that will save me a lot of time. The State of Play on Partisan Gerrymandering Cases at the Supreme Court:

Back in 2004 the Supreme Court in Vieth v. Jublelirer split 4-1-4 over what to do about claims that partisan gerrymandering violates the U.S. Constitution. Four Justices said it was non-justiciable, four Justices said it was justiciable and raised a variety of challenges, and Justice Kennedy, in the middle, agreed with the Court’s liberals that the cases were justiciable, but agreed with the Court’s conservatives that the proposed standards didn’t work.  He essentially told everyone to keep working on the issue and come back, maybe looking at the First Amendment, maybe history, and maybe computers.  The cases at or coming to the Court seek to satisfy Justice Kennedy in various ways.

Here’s the state of play; the Supreme Court heard argument in October in Gill v. Whitford involving a challenge to state legislative districts in Wisconsin. Gill raises a partisan gerrymandering challenge under the Equal Protection Clause, and the McGhee/Stephanopoulos “efficiency gap” figured in (but was not the entire basis) for the analysis. Last month, the Court somewhat surprisingly also agreed to hear full argument in Beniske v. Lamone, a case challenging a Maryland congressional district as a partisan gerrymander under the First Amendment. I explained in this LA Times piece why the Court might have agreed to full argument in Benisek v. Lamone. Argument in the Maryland case will be later in the Spring.

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Politicizing the Census Bureau for GOP authoritarianism

Steve Benen warns of an ominous development at the U.S. Census Bureau. Trump eyes radical choice for the Census Bureau:

The Census, conducted every 10 years by constitutional mandate, is one of those incredible important tasks that most people probably find rather dull. That’s a shame because getting this right has an enormous impact on everything from federal spending to representation in Congress.

With that in mind, it was disappointing when Census Bureau Director John Thompson, in the midst of a funding fight, decided to resign unexpectedly in May. Making matters worse, we’re just now getting a look at the replacement Donald Trump apparently has in mind. Politico reports:

The Trump administration is leaning toward naming Thomas Brunell, a Texas professor with no government experience, to the top operational job at the U.S. Census Bureau, according to two people who have been briefed on the bureau’s plans.

Brunell, a political science professor, has testified more than half a dozen times on behalf of Republican efforts to redraw congressional districts, and is the author of a 2008 book titled “Redistricting and Representation: Why Competitive Elections Are Bad for America.”

Some Trump personal choices are alarming, some are disheartening, and some belong in the you-have-got-to-be-kidding me category.

As Slate explained earlier this year, “The decennial census is critical to ensuring that Americans are fairly represented in Washington, since it’s used as the basis for congressional redistricting. A mishandled census could undercount poor and minority populations, putting some states and many cities at a demographic disadvantage.”

It’s against this backdrop that Trump is eyeing someone who has not only played a direct role in helping Republican gerrymandering efforts, but who quite literally wrote a book criticizing competitive elections.

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