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  • 31 Jan 2019 2:57 PM | Jason Fierman (Administrator)

    New Bipartisan Poll Shows Support for Supreme Court to Establish Clear Rules for Gerrymandering - Campaign Legal Center

    In January 2019, Campaign Legal Center (CLC) released a poll that finds strong opposition to gerrymandering among likely 2020 general election voters and broad, bipartisan support for the U.S. Supreme Court to set clear rules for when gerrymandering violates the Constitution. The poll, commissioned by CLC, was conducted by a Democratic firm, ALG Research, and a Republican firm, GS Strategy Group.

    The poll also reveals that voters strongly support the creation of independent redistricting commissions and overwhelmingly prefer congressional districts with no partisan bias, even if it means fewer seats for their own party.

    In addition to the strong desire to see the Supreme Court act to limit gerrymandering, people have expressed a clear preference for the creation of independent redistricting commissions, which voters supported in all five states where it was put to a vote in the 2018 cycle. Removing partisanship from the redistricting process will help ensure that every voice is heard in our democracy.

    Findings include:

    • Nearly three-quarters of voters support the U.S. Supreme Court establishing clear rules for when gerrymandering violates the Constitution, with broad support extending across partisan and racial lines.
      • Support is especially intense among Latinos, 55 percent of whom strongly support the Supreme Court setting such rules.
    • At least 60 percent of Democrats, Independents and Republicans support the creation of independent redistricting commissions.
    • When asked to choose whether boundaries for legislative and congressional districts should be drawn by state legislatures or by an independent redistricting commission, voters favor the latter by a nearly three-to-one margin.

    Learn more about the poll

    https://campaignlegal.org/update/new-bipartisan-poll-shows-support-supreme-court-establish-clear-rules-gerrymandering


  • 28 Jan 2019 6:48 PM | Jason Fierman (Administrator)

    These local business leaders want to put end to government gridlock - Washington Business Journal - by Katishi Maake

    Robert Giaimo, the CEO of Silver Diner Inc., has over the years grown increasingly frustrated with political gridlock in Washington.

    The record 35-day partial government shutdown that furloughed 800,000 federal workers (and just ended — at least for three weeks) has been one of the biggest pieces of that frustration.

    It was the impetus for Giaimo and his friend Tod Sedgwick, who happen to be registered in opposing political parties, to bring together a group of Greater Washington business leaders called "Democracy Group" to combat what they see as the primary cause of the gridlock: congressional gerrymandering.

    Gerrymandering is the process of drawing congressional districts in favor a political party. Since redistricting is handled by most state legislatures, parties in the majority can carve out districts in a manner that makes races much less competitive.

    Giaimo and Sedgwick believe gerrymandering incentivizes more extreme candidates from both parties to field primary challenges to moderates, which leads to more congressional polarization — pointing to the shutdown as evidence.

    "Lack of bipartisanship and extreme partisanship has driven our political system into a dysfunctional state," said Giaimo, who co-founded the Rockville-based restaurant chain in 1989. "We’ve seen that manifest with the shutdown."

    Giaimo partnered with Sedgwick, a former business owner, and Glenn Nye, president and CEO of nonprofit think tank the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress, to rally local business leaders to push Maryland and Virginia to restructure how congressional districts are drawn.

    The CSPC helped Giaimo and Sedgwick author an op-ed outlining the issues with gerrymandering and how it affects the political system. So far, 20 Greater Washington business executives have signed on, including Sid Banerjee, founder and vice chairman of Clarabridge Inc.; Brett Schulman, CEO of Cava Group Inc.; Dan Simons, the co-owner of Farmers Restaurant Group; Neil Cohen, president of District Photo Inc.; Craig Ruppert, CEO of Ruppert Landscape Inc.; and Michael P. Gavin, chair of the board of MCR Federal LLC.

    TRENDING

    TRAVEL & TOURISM

    SWaN & Legend, Interstate to resurrect historic Harpers Ferry hotel

    The planned Hill Top House resort is a resurrection of sorts of the historic Hilltop House in the same location, in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.

    COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE

    Everything must go from the Glass-Enclosed Nerve Center

    The glass-enclosed nerve center at WTOP in D.C. Everything inside will be sold as the station moves to Maryland.

    COMING EVENT

    Bizwomen Mentoring Monday 2019

    Feb. 25

    For Simons, who said business was slow at his Farmers restaurants during the shutdown, the issue of gerrymandering is cut and dry.

    "If you’re in a game and those you’re playing with can rig the rules to their advantage, then it’s not really a game anymore," said Simons, who said he's a registered independent. "The anti-gerrymandering approach should be the easiest bipartisan position to take."

    In Virginia, federal judges determined last week that the state's redistricting map favors Democrats, turning six districts currently held by Republicans majority blue, according to The Washington Post.

    Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan in December appointed members to a commission tasked with redrawing the state's districts after a federal court ruled one of was unconstitutionally drawn to disenfranchise Republican voters, according to The Baltimore Sun.

    Giaimo and Sedgwick both believe independent commissions are the best way to ensure bias is stamped out of the redistricting process across all 50 states. While the shutdown is one of the only byproducts of gerrymandering that has directly affected the business community, they believe prominent businesspeople can move the needle on an issue they see as nonpartisan.

    "We need to change our political systems so it favors compromise," Sedgwick said. "This is not just a pipe dream."

    https://www.bizjournals.com/washington/news/2019/01/28/these-local-business-leaders-want-to-put-end-to.html

  • 28 Jan 2019 6:45 PM | Jason Fierman (Administrator)

    Viewpoint: Fix our gerrymandered politics before it’s too late - Washington Business Journal

    The following Guest Comment was signed by 20 business leaders from Maryland and Virginia who have formed a coalition called Democracy Group. Find the signatories' names at the end of the piece, and read a news story about the effort here.

    Our political system is broken. Our gridlocked elected representatives are presently unable to maintain the most basic responsibility of their position: a functioning government.

    Our government has just presided over a record-long shutdown that impacted the pay of an estimated 800,000 federal workers and scores of federal contractors. Businesses that depend on the basic functioning of government have seen decades of hard work consumed by the self-inflicted chaos and uncertainty spewing from our nation’s capital. Critical functions such as the processing of tax returns, small business loans and mortgage approvals were stymied- not to mention thousands of officials, including air traffic controllers and TSA agents, required to work without pay.

    The consequences ripple throughout the U.S. economy, but nowhere more than in our own backyard: D.C., Maryland and Virginia. Although the government has reopened for three weeks, the partisan polarization remains so deep that no one is confident that our leaders are incentivized to pursue the pragmatic solutions needed to keep the country moving forward. We urgently need to fix the political system that keeps allowing this to happen.

    As leaders of businesses in Maryland, Virginia and and the District of Columbia, we are Democrats, Republicans and independents, but we are all Americans first, gathering in our concern about the functioning of our democracy. We believe the time is long past due to fix our broken politics. Each of us has learned that for any organization to be effective, it must always remain responsive and accountable to the people it serves. Our job is to solve problems with common-sense workable solutions. If we allowed gridlock in our businesses or failed to align the underlying system of incentives with the broad preferences of our customers, we would go out of business!

    TRENDING

    TRAVEL & TOURISM

    SWaN & Legend, Interstate to resurrect historic Harpers Ferry hotel

    The planned Hill Top House resort is a resurrection of sorts of the historic Hilltop House in the same location, in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.

    COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE

    Everything must go from the Glass-Enclosed Nerve Center

    The glass-enclosed nerve center at WTOP in D.C. Everything inside will be sold as the station moves to Maryland.

    HIRING IN EDUCATION

    Co-Manager of Student Programs

    Close Up Foundation

    The endemic dysfunction in our government stems from incentives in politics that promote ideological purity over pragmatic problem solving and cooperation. That has to change. We believe anti-gerrymandering measures are the logical starting point for reform, and they are urgently needed in both Maryland and Virginia. A system in which politicians pick their voters, rather than the other way around, is inherently wrong and dysfunctional. Partisan gerrymandering is a protection racket for incumbent politicians, and it greatly contributes not only to widespread voter cynicism and apathy, but also to the kind of paralysis currently afflicting our federal government.

    Entrusting the job of drawing political districts to independent commissions would eliminate the conflict of interests inherent in having politicians cherry-pick their own voters, a process that rewards ideological purity and politicians who play to their most partisan voters, who reject the sensible compromises needed to govern effectively. Gerrymandering has led to a House of Representatives in which the vast majority of seats are uncompetitive. Members in safe seats mostly fear challenges from their left and right flanks in low-turnout primaries where the most partisan voters dominate, meaning these politicians have no incentive to reach across the aisle and strike compromises necessary to keep government functional. The kind of partisan gridlock that now grips our nation’s capital inevitably ensues. We’ve seen it time and time again.

    The American people are clearly on to this rigged game. In a recent poll conducted by the Wason Center for Public Policy, nearly four out of five Virginia voters (78 percent) favored amending their state Constitution to transfer the power to draw legislative districts from the General Assembly to an independent commission. It’s past time for politicians of goodwill on both sides of the political aisle to listen to their constituents and reform the rules, restoring fair and impartial elections as a pillar of a functioning democracy.

    While politicians and judges in Washington have failed to address the corrosive issue of gerrymandering, citizens across the country have stood up to act locally. Bipartisan coalitions of voters in Ohio, Michigan, Colorado and Missouri all passed in 2018 midterm elections major anti-gerrymandering initiatives that will take the drawing of congressional districts out of the hands of political partisans and entrust that critical job instead to independent or bipartisan commissions. They are set to join California and Arizona, which already adopted nonpartisan commissions. Not content to wait for action from Washington, these citizens moved to fix the system from the state level. Virginians and Marylanders have the chance to do the same, but we need to act now.

    Time is already running short for the necessary anti-gerrymandering reforms. The Virginia General Assembly will have to pass a constitutional amendment in its current session and again next year, and voters must approve it through a ballot referendum, for an independent Citizens Redistricting Commission to be in place in time for the next congressional district drawing in 2021. That’s why we strongly support efforts like those of OneVirginia2021, which recently unveiled a constitutional amendment crafted by a bipartisan Citizens Committee of former lawmakers, policy staff and constitutional scholars. The Virginia General Assembly is debating the constitutional amendment in the session currently underway, adding to the urgency.We likewise support efforts like those of the League of Women Voters in Maryland to pass similar legislation establishing an independent commission for redrawing voting boundaries in Maryland.

    As business leaders and citizens, we call on our fellow Virginians and Marylanders to reject cynicism and urgently contact their state lawmakers to demand that they support nonpartisan districting commissions in their states. Gerrymandering is a cancer on our democracy and it must end. America simply cannot afford another decade of broken politics.

    Bob Giaimo, co-founder and CEO of Silver Diner

    Tod Sedgwick, former CEO, Pasha Publications

    Sid Banerjee, founder and vice chairman, Clarabridge

    Dan Simons, co-owner, Farmers Restaurant Group

    Neil D. Cohen, president, District Photo

    Craig Ruppert, CEO, Ruppert Landscape

    Michael P. Galvin, chair of the board of MCR Federal LLC

    Ray Ottenberg, president, Ottenberg Bakers

    Ethan Assal, chairman and CEO, Verasolve

    Edward Lenkin, president, The Lenkin Co.

    Jed Lyons, president and CEO, Rowman and Littlefield Publishing Group

    Robert Goldstein, founder and president, Maryland Sound International Holding Co LLC

    Mark Joseph, former head of Yellow Transportation

    Pierce Dunn, founder, TalentWell

    Maxine Phillips, vice president international business development, Phillips Foods Inc.

    Brad Callahan, CEO, MetaCoastal

    Charles Feghali, president, NGE Systems LLC

    Brett Schulman, CEO, Cava Group Inc.

    Alan Chetrit, chairman, LabConnect

    Andrea J. Wooten, president, River Bend Strategies

    https://www.bizjournals.com/washington/news/2019/01/28/viewpoint-fix-our-gerrymandered-politics-before-it.html


  • 26 Jan 2019 2:40 PM | Jason Fierman (Administrator)

    GOP asks Supreme Court to block Dem settlement in gerrymandering suit - The Detroit News - Jonathan Oosting

    Lansing — Michigan Republicans are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hit pause on a federal lawsuit alleging GOP gerrymandering, a move that could disrupt a settlement agreement announced Friday by Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson.

    Benson's deal with plaintiffs would require Michigan to redraw at least 11 state House districts. It would likely force a recalibration of an unknown number of surrounding districts as well.

    But attorneys for Republican lawmakers are asking the nation’s highest court to intervene and delay any action in the suit until justices consider arguments in similar gerrymandering cases out of North Carolina and Maryland they are expected to take up in March.

    “The Supreme Court will be ruling soon on the exact issues presented in this case, and this afternoon we asked the United States Supreme Court to stay this entire proceeding,” attorney Charlie Spies told The Detroit News by email.

    State House Speaker Lee Chatfield of Levering, Rep. Aaron Miller of Sturgis and several congressional Republicans directed their request to Justice Sonia Sotomayor, a Democratic nominee.

    The Michigan lawsuit alleges maps approved by the Republican-led Legislature in 2011 intentionally diluted the power of Democratic voters by “packing” or “cracking” them into specific districts.

    The new districts would only apply for the 2020 elections. Voters last fall approved the creation of a citizen redistricting commission that will draw maps for 2022 and beyond.

    As part of the deal with Benson, which would require approval by a three-judge panel overseeing the case, plaintiffs agreed to drop challenges to congressional and state Senate districts, along with four other state House Districts.

    The 11 state House districts targeted in the agreement “represent some of the most egregious examples of the unconstitutional attempts by past legislators to draw legislative districts in an effort to rig the partisan outcomes of elections,” Benson told reporters at a Friday briefing.

    Several neighboring districts would likely need to be redrawn as well, but “that’s going to be a question for the Legislature,” Benson said.

    The Michigan gerrymandering case is currently scheduled to go to trial Feb. 5. In their application to the U.S. Supreme Court, GOP attorneys suggested federal judges are aware of settlement talks but made clear they do not plan to delay the trial for “any reason.”

    Plaintiff attorneys submitted the proposed settlement Friday afternoon in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.

    “The next step is whether the court will accept it, and we’ll go from there,” Benson said.​​​​​​

    ​Benson: Deal avoids 'upheaval'

    The Detroit Democrat said she pushed plaintiffs to drop congressional and state Senate district challenges to minimize “upheaval." But the deal still reflects her view that gerrymandering occurred in a way that violated the constitutional mandate of “one person, one vote.”

    Benson has been the subject of considerable GOP scorn the past week after signaling her intent to settle the federal lawsuit brought by the League of Women Voters, a group of Democratic voters and attorney Mark Brewer, former chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party.

    Michigan Republican Party spokesman Tony Zammit blasted the deal, saying Benson “has shown she cannot be impartial in this case, and therefore she must be replaced as it’s defendant.” Former Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, a Republican, had defended the GOP maps.

    Benson denied partisan motivation for settling the case she inherited after taking office this month, suggesting she did not want to waste taxpayer resources fighting a case she believes the state would lose. The deal would give the Republican-led Legislature the first opportunity to redraw the state House lines, subject to judicial review.

    “It does not matter to me who or what parties drew the districts," Benson said. "What matters to me is whether they were drawn to circumvent the will of the voters.”

    The proposed consent decree would require the state to redraw state House districts 24, 32, 51, 55, 60, 63, 76, 91, 92, 94 and 95. Six of those seats are currently held by Republicans and five are controlled by Democrats. Republicans currently represent 58 of 110 state House districts, a six-seat majority.

    “The Democrats know it will be nearly impossible to redraw these 11 districts without affecting countless others causing electoral chaos,” Zammit said. “Worse yet, outdated 10-year-old data will be utilized to draw the new lines which will not accurately reflect the demographics of our state.”

    The deal does not dictate how the Republican-led Legislature should redraw the state House districts, but it encourages them to do so in “transparent proceedings open to the public.”

    The 11 targeted districts include two Republican-held seats in Metro Detroit, both in Macomb County, currently represented by Rep. Steve Marino of Harrison Township and Pamela Hornberger of Chesterfield Township.

    None of the settlement districts are north of Mount Pleasant, meaning seats in the northern Lower Peninsula and Upper Peninsula where Republicans are dominant are unlikely to be affected.

    The federal court would be responsible for establishing a deadline for the redrawn state House maps and determining how it would judge the partisan fairness of the proposed districts.

    Brewer ties blasted

    Republican lawmakers have denied overt political bias in the district boundaries they approved in 2011, but emails between map makers revealed in the federal case have included partisan references and commentary on the prospects of maintaining GOP power.

    Benson told reporters she expected Republican opposition to the settlement despite its limited nature, which means state senators just elected to four-year terms would not need to run for re-election in 2020.

    “I think no matter what decision I made in this case, someone was going to be upset, whether we went to trial or whether we settled or not,” she said.

    Republicans have blasted Benson for connections to Brewer, the former state Democratic party chairman who donated $500 to her campaign and is a lead attorney for plaintiffs in the case.

    Earlier this week, the Michigan GOP accused Benson and Brewer of trying to orchestrate “the greatest partisan power grab in Michigan history,” and attorneys for Republican lawmakers asked court permission to demand their communications donating back to 2017.

    Benson noted she raised more than $1 million for her campaign and received donations from both Republicans and Democrats.

    “If anyone giving me $500 can influence a decision I made when you raise that much money from thousands of people, then we’re in trouble,” she said. “And so that’s certainly not the case here.”

    The settlement does not require any state payments to cover the cost of plaintiff attorneys but makes clear that the parties could agree to award fees at a later date.

    “How much money are the taxpayers of Michigan going to be paying Mark Brewer’s law firm in this case?” Zammit said.

    https://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/politics/2019/01/25/benson-proposed-settlement-redraw-11-michigan-house-seats/2679732002/



  • 23 Jan 2019 4:31 PM | Jason Fierman (Administrator)

    Constitutional Amendment Would Create An Independent Redistricting Panel in N.H. - New Hampshire Public Radio - by Robert Garrova

    Lawmakers heard testimony Tuesday on a proposed constitutional amendment that would create an independent commission to draw boundaries for state elections.

    Current law leaves the responsibility of redistricting to the New Hampshire Legislature. Supporters of this measure say that allows for gerrymandering, or the ability of the majority party to draw boundary lines in its favor.

    Democratic State Rep. Ellen Read, a supporter of the measure, said she's mentioned limiting gerrymandering to members of her party in the past.

    "And this person within my own party said, 'Oh no you don't, the other guys did it, so we're going to do it to them when it’s our turn,'” Read said.

    This bi-partisan-backed update to the state constitution would set up a seven-member commission made up of members of the public. “The President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and the minority leaders of the House of Representatives and the Senate shall each appoint one member,” the measure reads. The remaining three members would be selected by the initial four appointees, in a process administered by the Secretary of State.

    Several voters as well as members of progressive groups in the state spoke in favor of the proposed constitutional amendment.

    "Demand an end to gerrymandering and restore the confidence not only in the sanctity of the vote -- that there are fair districts being created -- but also restore the confidence in the legislature," said Liz Tentarelli, President of League of Women Voters of New Hampshire, a non-partisan coalition that advocates for voting rights.

    Yurij Rudensky, Redistricting Counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice, a non-partisan group that has advocated for redistricting reform, said he’d worked closely with the amendment’s sponsors to “make sure that these proposals advance best redistricting practices.”

    Rudensky recommended that lawmakers update the amendment so that the commission would have at least nine members. “It worries me that there are only two Democrats and only two Republicans and three unaffiliated members,” Rudensky said. “We heard from jurisdictions like Arizona, Washington state that use small commissions -- that use five member commissions -- that a slightly larger one in many instances would make it easier to reach compromise and work because there were times when there was one obstinate member.”

    Other states, including California, Arizona and Washington have adopted independent redistricting commissions.

    “Courts provide a robust backstop against unfair and unconstitutional legislative maps, and judges have recently not hesitated to strike down maps that truly create an uneven playing field,” Governor Sununu’s spokesman Ben Vihstadt said in an email. “Governor Sununu believes the current system works well.”

    For passage, a proposed amendment to the New Hampshire Constitution needs a three-fifths margin of approval in the Senate and House. If one meets that threshold, it is passed directly to the voters for ratification, where voter approval needs a two-thirds vote.

    https://www.nhpr.org/post/constitutional-amendment-would-create-independent-redistricting-panel-nh#stream/0


  • 23 Jan 2019 4:19 PM | Jason Fierman (Administrator)

    Federal judges choose Va. redistricting map favorable to Democrats; six GOP House districts would get bluer - The Washington Post - by Gregory S. Schneider

    RICHMOND — Federal judges have selected a Virginia House of Delegates redistricting map that appears to heavily favor Democrats, redrawing the lines of 26 districts and moving several powerful Republicans into unfavorable configurations.

    Six Republicans would wind up in districts where a majority of voters chose Democratic President Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential election, according to an analysis of the maps by the nonpartisan Virginia Public Access Project. No current Democrats would see their voter majority change to Republican, based on those election results.

    Virginia does not register voters by party.

    If the court’s map selection stands, it would create a favorable environment for Democrats seeking to take control of the House of Delegates in elections this fall, according to the analysis. All 100 seats in the House are on the ballot, and Republicans hold a 51-to-48 majority.

    One seat is open because former delegate Jennifer Boysko (D-Fairfax County) recently won election to the state Senate.

    Several efforts to amend the state’s constitution to create independent or bipartisan redistricting commissions for future redistricting efforts are percolating through this year’s General Assembly. Those efforts would not impact the November elections.

    [Federal court releases plans for possible redistricting in Virginia, refuses to delay process]

    A panel of judges from the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia ruled last June that 11 districts had been racially gerrymandered to concentrate black voters and ordered a new map.

    Most of the affected districts are in the Hampton Roads and Richmond areas; redrawing those lines alters several surrounding districts.

    Because the Republican-controlled General Assembly and Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam couldn’t agree last fall on how to redraw the lines, the judges selected a California professor as “special master” to devise a plan. Late Tuesday, the judges said they had chosen a combination of maps from the special master’s plan.

    The court ordered the special master to complete a final planby Tuesday, and said either side could submit objections by Feb. 1. The judges will implement the new map soon after.

    The maps chosen by the judges would more evenly distribute black voters and put more Democratic-leaning voters into districts held by Republicans.

    House Speaker Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) would see his district tilt Democratic, shifting 32 percentage points to the left, according to the VPAP analysis of the 2012 results.

    Del. Chris Jones (R-Suffolk), the powerful chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, would also wind up in a majority Democratic district, shifting more than 27 points to the left, according to VPAP.

    A handful of Democrats who won in 2017 in red or closely divided districts would see their bases get more blue. While many Democratic districts would pick up voters who tend to cast ballots for Republicans, none would become majority Republican, VPAP predicted.

    “The Eastern District Court selected a series of legally indefensible redistricting modules that attempts to give Democrats an advantage at every turn,” Cox said Tuesday night via email. “The modules selected by the Court target senior Republicans, myself included, without a substantive basis in the law.”

    [U.S. Supreme Court to take up Virginia redistricting case on racial gerrymandering]

    The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal of the case, though it refused to delaythe redistricting effort as it weighs the appeal. Part of what the high court is considering is whether the House Republicans have standing to bring the case.

    “We are confident that the Supreme Court will not allow the remedial map the court appears to be on its way to adopting to stand,” Cox said, noting that Northam had voted for the 2011 redistricting plan when he was in the state Senate and it was approved by the Obama-era Justice Department. “We will continue to fight for the 2011 redistricting plan.”

    Marc E. Elias, a Democratic election lawyer representing those who challenged the design of the districts, tweeted late Tuesday that the court “has ordered the special master to adopt the alternative-map configuration we advocated. We are one important step closer to the end of the GOP’s racial gerrymander.”

    Northam has said he supports establishing a nonpartisan effort to draw future political boundaries, and several proposals to create a new process are alive in the General Assembly.

    A Senate committee on Tuesday defeated a measure seeking to amend the state constitution to set up an independent Citizens’ Redistricting Commission. But the same committee approved a resolution calling for an amendment to establish a bipartisan panel made up of citizens and legislators.

    On the House side, a host of related bills are parked in a subcommittee, awaiting action. Several have bipartisan support, but it’s unclear if any will advance.

    “The governor is a longtime advocate of nonpartisan redistricting reform and looks forward to seeing what progress the General Assembly makes on that front this session,” Northam spokeswoman Ofirah Yheskel said.

    Virginia is set to redraw all its legislative boundaries in 2021.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/virginia-politics/federal-judges-choose-va-redistricting-map-favorable-to-democrats-six-gop-house-districts-would-get-bluer/2019/01/22/401b2618-1ebc-11e9-9145-3f74070bbdb9_story.html?utm_term=.2e97fc24bfad


  • 20 Jan 2019 1:40 AM | Jason Fierman (Administrator)

    GOP fights 'secret' settlement in gerrymandering case - The Detroit News - by Jonathan Oosting

    Lansing — Republican lawmakers are fighting an attempt by Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson to settle a federal lawsuit alleging partisan gerrymandering in political district maps drawn by the GOP-led Legislature in 2011.

    Benson and plaintiff attorneys filed briefs Thursday indicating they were "committed" to reaching a consent agreement in the federal case. Among the plaintiff attorneys is Mark Brewer, who was the Michigan Democratic Party chairman when the lines were drawn.

    While details of the pending agreement are not known, the deal could lead to new Michigan legislative and congressional district maps for the 2020 election cycle and potentially force a state Senate election that would not otherwise occur until 2022, cutting short what are typically four-year terms in the upper chamber.

    But Republicans in the state House and Congress are fighting the move, saying that any negotiations are being done "in secret." Benson's request to delay the trial pending a consent agreement with plaintiffs is "both procedurally improper and substantively wrong," their attorneys wrote in a Friday afternoon filing.

    An agreement would "affect Intervenors rights" and the trial "would nonetheless be required to go forward regardless of what plaintiffs and the secretary may do," they said. 

    Attorneys Jason Torchinsky and Charlie Spies also disputed a suggestion by plaintiff attorneys that Republican lawmakers had "chosen not to participate" in the settlement discussion.

    "This statement is false," they wrote, telling a three-judge panel that GOP intervenors were never invited to participate and did not reject an invitation. 

    "To the extent settlement discussions have been held, these discussion have occurred in secret without any offer to allow (Republican lawmakers) to participate."

    Former Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, a Republican, had been defending the current political district maps approved by the GOP-led Legislature in 2011. But Benson, who took office Jan. 1, officially replaced her as a named defendant in the case this week and quickly signaled a major strategy shift

    Republican lawmakers had already won permission to intervene in the case, citing "uncertainty" over Benson's position.

    Benson announced the pending settlement Thursday as part of a motion supporting Republican requests to delay the trial, tentatively set to begin Feb. 5.  The suit alleges current maps violate the U.S. Constitution by intentionally "packing" or "cracking" Democrats into certain districts to benefit GOP candidates. 

    "It's clear the court has found significant evidence of partisan gerrymandering, and the likely outcome would not be favorable to the state," Benson said in a statement. "It is therefore my responsibility to ensure a fair and equitable resolution for the citizens of Michigan that would save taxpayers money and ensure fair representation."

    Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield and Rep. Aaron Miller were not in office when the maps were approved in 2011 but are among the Republicans fighting the lawsuit, along with U.S. Reps. Jack Bergman of Watersmeet, John Moolenaar of Midland, Fred Upton of St. Joseph, Tim Walberg of Tipton and Paul Mitchell of Dryden. 

    Plaintiffs include the League of Women Voters and several Democratic voters, including U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Detroit.

    The Michigan Republican Party blasted the potential settlement Friday, calling it a "blatant partisan power grab" orchestrated by Democrats, including Benson and Brewer, the former party chairman and one of the lead attorneys for plaintiffs. 

    "The 2019 Best Actress Oscar should go to Jocelyn Benson for promising a fair and nonpartisan Secretary of State office during the 2018 election," said GOP spokesman Tony Zammit. "With Jocelyn Benson's help, Nancy Pelosi and her friends are about to redraw our states' congressional map twice in the next two years."

    It's not clear who would redraw Michigan maps if federal judges approve the pending consent agreement. 

    Benson said Thursday that any potential changes would only affect the 2020 election cycle. Voters in November approved a new citizen redistricting commission that will draw new boundaries for elections beginning in 2022. Benson supported the ballot measure.

    "As a longtime advocate of citizen involvement in redistricting as a solution to end gerrymandering, I look forward to implementing (the commission) in a way that is transparent, nonpartisan and effectively engages citizens across the state in the important task of drawing legislative districts that comply with state and federal law," she said in a statement.

    https://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/politics/2019/01/18/gop-fights-secret-settlement-gerrymandering-case/2618765002/


  • 15 Jan 2019 3:00 PM | Jason Fierman (Administrator)

    Is This the Year for a Redistricting Revolution? - The Atlantic - by Edward-Isaac Dovere

    LOS ANGELES—Barack Obama and Arnold Schwarzenegger agree: Neither thinks Donald Trump has any business being anywhere near the White House, but the main political issue they’re going to focus on for the next two years is redistricting reform.

    The clock is ticking. The 2020 census, and the nationwide 2021 redistricting right after, are around the corner. Deadlines for ballot initiatives and legislation are already on the horizon for some states to change their procedures before then. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court could soon take up a case that would gut most of the efforts at redistricting reform that have, over the past 10 years, changed how states draw the maps that determine who runs where for Congress and their own legislatures.

    To hear the redistricting-reform advocates tell it, democracy is on the line. But, they say, the attention to the issue that’s exploded since the 2016 election came at the perfect moment to tap into the anger at a broken system and fundamentally change how the country works.

    Read: A grassroots call to ban gerrymandering

    “The people became more and more frustrated. They decided that the system was fixed, there’s nothing they can do about it. So they look for outsiders to save them—outsiders like myself, or like Trump, or like [Representative Alexandria] Ocasio-Cortez,” Schwarzenegger said at an event at the University of Southern California last Thursday. “But unless outsiders are willing to take on gerrymandering and truly fight the establishment, the people will find no salvation.”

    Standing in a conference hall, with complicated chandeliers and the flag of every state that has passed an independent redistricting commission framing the stage, Schwarzenegger unveiled his latest move in the wonky fight that has oddly become a decade-long obsession for him since changing the California laws while he was governor: the creation of an organization he’s calling the Fair Maps Incubator, run out of the Schwarzenegger Institute on campus.

    Read: Arnold Schwarzenegger’s war on gerrymandering is just beginning

    Schwarzenegger has eagerly been deploying his celebrity to call attention to the topic for years. Now he says he wants to accelerate the fight, bringing together those who’ve won nonpartisan redistricting ballot initiatives to create an ongoing nexus of advice, information, and connections for people in other states putting together their own campaigns.

    The ballot initiatives passed in November in Colorado, Utah, Missouri, and Michigan put one-third of all congressional districts under independent redistricting. Now, with movements to create independent commissions in Virginia and, more distantly, South Carolina, Florida, Arkansas, and New Jersey, Schwarzenegger announced from the stage, his goal for 2020 is to get two-thirds of all House seats drawn by independent commissions.

    Read: The Supreme Court could make gerrymandering worse

    In a conversation afterward, Schwarzenegger acknowledged that this probably wasn’t possible. But he kept comparing his crusade to when he started bodybuilding. It, too, was an obsession of out-there enthusiasts, but ended up going more mainstream, and eventually laid the path for him to become a multimillionaire Hollywood icon and a governor for seven years.

    Realistically, Schwarzenegger said, he’s hoping for movement in four to six states over the next two years. “I shoot for the stars. It’s always easier to be short, and by accident go further. That’s not going to happen,” he said.

    At the end of last year, Obama announced that he was folding his Organizing for Action group into the National Democratic Redistricting Committee(NDRC), chaired by his former attorney general, Eric Holder. In doing so, he blamed gerrymandering for the lack of action on everything from climate change to immigration reform. Schwarzenegger agrees. If there were more competitive House districts, he said, members of Congress might actually feel compelled to compromise and deliver for the voters, instead of retreating into their partisan corners.

    Look at the shutdown standoff, Schwarzenegger said. It’s become wall versus no wall, without anyone talking about the Dreamers or border patrol, let alone anything like comprehensive immigration reform. The politicians don’t move for close to a month while workers don’t get paid.

    “How stupid of a dialogue is that? How do they get away with this crap?” he said. “Because they get reelected.”

    Politicians have been using gerrymandering to entrench their own power for 200 years, deciding which voters get to vote for them and crystallizing party control by cutting up neighborhoods and counties to make them less competitive. Digitizing maps and voter-registration records has accelerated that process. Because Republican operatives prioritized gerrymandering efforts long before Democrats started paying attention, the Republican wave in 2010 enabled the GOP to create nearly insurmountable structural advantages.

    Democrats won more votes statewide for the state Senate and assembly in Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, but because of maps drawn to split Democrats between districts, they didn’t win a majority in any of those states. In the Wisconsin assembly, for example, Republicans won 63.6 of the seats despite winning just 47 percent of the votes cast—and then went on to do a major power grab ahead of the new Democratic governor taking office.

    In a way that no one was anticipating, over the past two years, it’s become an issue that’s moved closer to the mainstream and started driving votes. The ballot initiative that created an independent commission in Michigan, for example, started with a Facebook post by a woman, who had no experience in politics, griping about how politicians controlled the process. The post, she noted, wasn’t so different from one she’d written after the 2014 elections, though that one didn’t get anywhere near the same reaction.

    And the issue has moved mostly for Democrats, many of whom have landed on gerrymandering as a prime reason the makeup of government doesn’t seem representative. Democratic operatives in Michigan credit the ballot initiative last year with helping to drive some of the turnout that led to their sweep of statewide offices in November. And Democratic turnout didn’t surge only in Michigan. According to data compiled by the former Obama campaign analyst Andrew Claster, the four independent-commission ballot initiatives that passed last year—in Colorado, Utah, Missouri, and Michigan—saw Democratic support ranging from 72 to 83 percent, heavy support among independents, and much lower support from Republicans.

    Obama and Holder argue that if the lines are fairer, more Democrats will win, but the only way to get the lines to be fairer is to back Democratic campaigns and Democratic lawsuits. Obama used redistricting reform to guide many of his endorsements and some of his 2018 fundraising, and he’s expected to keep that up over the years ahead.

    “President Obama believes gerrymandering is one of the most important structural problems currently facing our politics because it touches every issue. When politicians choose voters rather than the other way around, you end up with Republican elected officials at a national level who consistently ignore the will of voters on everything from health care to gun safety to climate change,” said Katie Hill, a spokesperson for Obama. “Fairly drawn maps are key to ensuring that the arc of history bends toward justice.”

    There’s been the pushback against independent redistricting reform from Democrats in several states. In Virginia, for example, the process for getting an initiative on the ballot would require it to pass the legislature in two consecutive sessions. With Democrats hoping to take the majority in November 2019 races, though, Democratic leaders in the state aren’t eager to give up the power right at the moment when they might get to use it to their own advantage.

    “We’ll do everything we can to take as much of the politics out and do it fairly,” Virginia Governor Ralph Northam said at an event in December promoting Democratic efforts in the state, when pressed about whether he’d support an independent commission.

    This year, the Obama-backed NDRC group will back candidates in state races in Kentucky, Louisiana, and Virginia, as well as one for a seat on the Wisconsin state supreme court. Next year, the emphasis will be on Florida, Georgia, Texas, Ohio, and North Carolina, in the hope of at least chipping away at the massive Republican advantages in those states. The nonprofit affiliated with the group is also already supporting litigation around changing the districts in North Carolina and Pennsylvania.

    “The fight against gerrymandering is about fairness,” Holder said, adding that he sees the next two years as a crucial opportunity. “It is about ensuring that every American has an equal say in our government and that our elected officials truly represent the will of the people. We will continue using every tool at our disposal to make real a fair redistricting process in the states.”

    Schwarzenegger and the NDRC backed many of the same efforts in 2018. But Schwarzenegger said he’s not looking for an official partnership.

    “It’s the definition of what is fair. I don’t want them to define what is fair. I’m the only one that I know, having been around the country and done this, that really does not care. I don’t even ask anybody when I come to a state, ‘Is this favoring the Democrats or the Republicans?’ I never even talk about that. It doesn’t matter to me,” he said.

    The Schwarzenegger event was a mix of activists who’d flown in from all over the country, a collection of operatives from Common Cause and other groups, curious USC students, and a few stragglers who seemed to have come by for the free food and a glimpse of the old movie star.

    Claster, the data analyst, walked the crowd through voter data and broke down the elements of the winning campaigns. Wording such as “Voters Not Politicians” (the name of the Michigan campaign) helps, or lines such as “Voters should pick their elected officials, not the other way around,” which he said polled well in every state. He advised targeting Republicans with endorsements from Republican leaders and Democrats with Democratic leaders. It takes cash. The Utah campaign featured commercials starring the actors Ed Helms and Jennifer Lawrence.

    “We can’t just take the California model and pass it in each state. We can’t just take the Michigan model and pass it in each state. We need to customize,” Claster said. “Just because we can win everywhere doesn’t mean we will win everywhere—but we will win if we have the right strategy.”

    Still, advocates are running out of states where they can reasonably pass ballot initiatives. For all the activist talk of trying to create an independent commission in Florida, most looking at the situation there pragmatically say they don’t expect an effort to be successful. Others note that the emphasis on creating the commissions often overlooks the details of how those commissions will be structured.

    “Once you’ve had the baby,” said Kathay Feng, the national redistricting director of Common Cause, “you’ve got to have the commitment 24/7 to make sure it grows up.”

    In 2017, the Supreme Court heard a case that began in Wisconsin that some thought might lead to the declaration of gerrymandering as unconstitutional. It didn’t. Now there’s fear among redistricting-reform advocates that the new makeup of the Court will do pretty much the opposite and take a case that would declare the independent commissions unconstitutional. Feng said that if that happened, it would lead to a revolution. “I’m calling us to arms,” she joked. Others believe that it could have a boomerang effect, forcing Congress to address the issue nationally—the same thought process that had people believing that Congress would update the Voting Rights Act after the Supreme Court struck down a key section of it in 2013.

    It hasn’t even come up for official debate in the years since.

    Even on that front, Schwarzenegger said he’s optimistic. The justices, he believes, will see the tide toward reform in the country and not move so starkly against it.

    “You have to use momentum, but you also have to understand that everything’s not going to happen from one day to the next,” Schwarzenegger said. “But we’re on to something good.”

    https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2019/01/schwarzenegger-and-obama-backing-redistricting-reform/580240/

  • 15 Jan 2019 2:57 PM | Jason Fierman (Administrator)

    Judge bars citizenship question from 2020 census - Associated Press - by Larry Neumeister

    NEW YORK (AP) — A federal judge blocked the Trump administration Tuesday from asking about citizenship status on the 2020 census, the first major ruling in cases contending that officials ramrodded the question through for Republican political purposes to intentionally undercount immigrants.

    In a 277-page decision that won’t be the final word on the issue, U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman ruled that while such a question would be constitutional, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross had added it arbitrarily and not followed proper administrative procedures.

    “He failed to consider several important aspects of the problem; alternately ignored, cherry-picked, or badly misconstrued the evidence in the record before him; acted irrationally both in light of that evidence and his own stated decisional criteria; and failed to justify significant departures from past policies and practices,” Furman wrote.

    Among other things, the judge said, Ross didn’t follow a law requiring that he give Congress three years notice of any plan to add a question about citizenship to the census.

    The ruling came in a case in which a dozen states or big cities and immigrants’ rights groups argued that the Commerce Department, which designs the census, had failed to properly analyze the effect the question would have on households where immigrants live.

    A trial on separate suit on the same issue, filed by the state of California, is underway in San Francisco.

    The U.S. Supreme Court is also poised to address the issue Feb. 19, meaning the legal issue is far from decided for good.

    “We are disappointed and are still reviewing the ruling,” Justice Department spokeswoman Kelly Laco said in a statement.

    In the New York case, the plaintiffs accused the administration of Republican President Donald Trump of adding the question to intentionally discourage immigrants from participating, which could lead to a population undercount — and possibly fewer seats in Congress — in places that tend to vote Democratic.

    Even people in the U.S. legally, they said, might dodge the census questionnaire out of fears they could be targeted by a hostile administration.

    The Justice Department argued that Ross had no such motive.

    Ross’ decision to reinstate a citizenship question for the first time since 1950 was reasonable because the government has asked a citizenship question for most of the past 200 years, Laco said.

    When Ross announced the plan in March, he said the question was needed in part to help the government enforce the Voting Rights Act, a 1965 law meant to protect political representation of minority groups.

    New York Attorney General Letitia James, whose office was among those that litigated the lawsuit, called the decision a win for “Americans who believe in a fair and accurate count of the residents of our nation.”

    Ross said politics played no role in the decision, initially testifying under oath that he hadn’t spoken to anyone in the White House on the subject.

    Later, however, Justice Department lawyers submitted papers saying Ross remembered speaking in spring 2017 about adding the question with former senior White House adviser Steve Bannon and with then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

    The U.S. Supreme Court blocked Ross from being deposed, but let the trial proceed, over the objections of Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch.

    In a dissent on one of two Supreme Court orders related to the case, Gorsuch wrote there was “nothing unusual about a new cabinet secretary coming to office inclined to favor a different policy direction, soliciting support from other agencies to bolster his views, disagreeing with staff, or cutting through red tape.”

    “Of course, some people may disagree with the policy and process,” he wrote. “But until now, at least, this much has never been thought enough to justify a claim of bad faith and launch an inquisition into a cabinet secretary’s motives.”

    The constitutionally mandated census is supposed to count all people living in the U.S., including noncitizens and immigrants living in the country illegally.

    The Census Bureau’s staff estimated that adding a citizenship question could depress responses in households with at least one noncitizen by as much as 5.8 percent. That could be particularly damaging in states like New York or California, which have large immigrant populations.

    Justice Department lawyers argued that the estimate was overblown and that, even if they were true, that didn’t mean Ross exceeded his legal authority in putting the question on anyway.

    The administration faces an early summer deadline for finalizing questions so questionnaires can be printed.

    https://apnews.com/c39334f65f99465582b49489c5077781?utm_campaign=SocialFlow&utm_source=Twitter&utm_medium=AP


  • 15 Jan 2019 2:55 PM | Jason Fierman (Administrator)

    Public will get to propose 6th Congressional District lines to commission online - Maryland Reporter - by Diane Rey

    The public will have the opportunity to help redraw the contorted lines of Maryland’s gerrymandered 6th Congressional District, the Governor’s Emergency Redistricting Commission announced at its organizational meeting Friday in Annapolis, just hours before the Supreme Court agreed to consider the case from Maryland.

    The Supreme Court’s decision to review an appeals court’s order to redraw the lines of the 6th CD because it is unconstitutional could make the work of the governor’s commission irrelevant if the high court decides to reverse the lower court order. But the commission plans to press ahead with hearings and redrawing the lines of the 6th and adjacent districts.   

    Secretary Robert McCord of the Maryland Department of Planning discussed a website the department is developing that will enable the public to provide input into the redistricting process. He said the new website should be up and running this week.

    “The public can create accounts and submit plans electronically. It’s a 21st century way to do it,” McCord said.

    The public can use the state’s Maptitude redistricting software, which will be preloaded with current district data, or their own software. The commission will also accept hard-copy plans from the public for review.

    “I’m trying to make it so the public has multiple ways to get it to you,” said McCord.

    McCord gave the commission a draft hard-copy of what the website might look like.   

    The commission also set up a public hearing schedule to gather input on the redistricting process. The first public hearing will be held at 7 p.m., Jan. 14, in Frederick. Other public hearings will take place Jan. 31 in Montgomery County and Feb. 6 in western Maryland.

    The commission will reconvene in Annapolis for a workshop at 10 a.m. Feb. 20. The meeting will be video and audio live-streamed at www.governor.maryland.gov.

    In his executive order, Gov. Hogan gave the emergency commission a deadline of March 4 to present a new plan and map for the 6th Congressional District for a public comment period that will run until March 26. The final map and report are due to the governor by April 2. The governor will submit the new district plan to the 2019 Maryland General Assembly as emergency legislation.

    The Emergency Commission on Sixth Congressional District Gerrymandering is made up of three Democrats, three Republicans and three unaffiliated voters. Hogan created the commission to comply with a federal appeals court order requiring Maryland to draw new boundaries for the 6th Congressional District, which currently encompasses all of Garrett, Allegany and Washington counties as well as portions of Montgomery and Frederick counties.

    The deadline for that court order has been delayed until July 1 pending a ruling by the Supreme Court.

    “The governor has made it clear he wants a fair and independent job by all of us here,” said retired U.S. District Court Judge Alexander Williams Jr., co-chair of the commission, along with Walter Olson, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C. “We want to draw lines the whole country can look at. It’s a model for other states to adopt,” said Williams.

    For more information about Maryland’s Redistricting Commission, visit: governor.maryland.gov/free-and-fair.

    Diane M. Rey can be reached at Reywriting@gmail.com,

    https://marylandreporter.com/2019/01/06/public-will-get-to-propose-6th-congressional-district-lines-to-commission-online/


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