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  • 26 Dec 2018 7:33 PM | Jason Fierman (Administrator)

    Missouri governor wants repeal of new redistricting law - AP News - by David A. Lieb

    JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — When then-Missouri state Sen. Mike Parson didn’t agree with a voter-approved law imposing tough regulations on dog breeders, he led a legislative effort to repeal the measure and replace it with a tamer version.

    Now eight years later as governor, Parson believes a similar repeal-and-replace effort is necessary for a new voter-approved constitutional amendment revising the way Missouri’s legislative districts are drawn. Beyond that, Parson said in an interview with The Associated Press, it may also be time to raise the bar for initiative petitions to appear on the ballot.

    The Republican governor acknowledges that neither of those things may sound good to voters.

    “Fundamentally, you think when the people vote you shouldn’t be changing that vote,” Parson told the AP. “But the reality of it is that is somewhat what your job is sometimes, if you know something’s unconstitutional, if you know some of it’s not right.”

    Parson, who ascended to chief executive after Republican Gov. Eric Greitens resigned in June, will be participating in his first legislative session as governor in 2019. It’s a position that gives him a more powerful voice in shaping state policy, even though he no longer is directly involved in drafting details as he was during his tenure in Legislature, from 2005 to 2017.

    Voters last month overwhelimingly approved Constitutional Amendment 1 . Dubbed “Clean Missouri” by supporters, the measure limited lobbyist gifts to lawmakers, subjected lawmakers to the state open-records law and changed the process for redrawing legislative districts after the 2020 census.

    It created a new position of “nonpartisan state demographer” who will draw state House and Senate maps that achieve “partisan fairness” and “competitiveness” by basing them on the votes cast for Republicans and Democrats in previous statewide elections.

    An AP analysis found the formula is likely to increase Democrats’ chances of winning elections and cut into Republicans’ supermajorities in the state House and Senate. The measure doesn’t change congressional redistricting, which is handled by state lawmakers. Repealing it would require a new measure to be placed before voters.

    Parson said politics still will creep into the redistricting process. He notes that politicians — the state auditor and majority and minority leaders of the Senate— will be involved in selecting the demographer. He also criticized the criteria for partisan fairness.

    “When you start talking about what they proposed in the redistricting, of how do you make districts even, I think that’s so questionable,” Parson said.

    Republican legislative leaders also have said they may consider changes to Amendment 1 during the session that starts Jan. 9.

    “I think the initiative petition itself, there’s a lot more to it than what the standard person can understand,” said state Sen. Dave Schatz, whom colleagues nominated as the next Senate president pro tem. “I think we’re going to have to get some legal opinions on truly the effects of what Clean Missouri really does.”

    Democratic consultant Sean Nicholson, who directed the Clean Missouri campaign, opposes any efforts to change the measure.

    “We’ll fight tooth and nail to protect the win and to stand up for voters,” Nicholson said.

    Officials in other states also have sought to undo voter initiatives.

    South Dakota is a prime example. Lawmakers in 2017 repealed voter-approved ethics regulations. House Speaker Mark Mickelson then spearheaded successful measures for the 2018 ballot requiring initiatives to stick to a single subject and banning out-of-state funding for initiatives. Voters rejected a third proposal that would have required a 55 percent threshold for voters to approve future constitutional amendments.

    Missouri voters in 2010 approved Proposition B, which capped breeding businesses at 50 dogs and required larger living spaces. Parson warned at the time that the law was “shutting down an entire industry in this state.” He led the charge for legislation in 2011 that repealed the 50-dog limit and pared back some other requirements.

    Parson told the AP this past week that broader changes may be needed to slow the proliferation of citizen ballot initiatives, which he said are used by individuals and groups “with deep pockets” who “have their own agendas that they’re wanting to push.”

    To qualify a proposed statute for the ballot, supporters must gather signatures equal to 5 percent of the votes cast in the previous gubernatorial election in six of the state’s eight congressional districts. For proposed constitutional amendments, that threshold is 8 percent. Initiative supporters write their own measures; the secretary of state prepares a summary that appears on petitions and ballots.

    “The bar should be a little higher for how you do one, and I think there definitely should be streamlining in how the language is wrote,” Parson said without going into specifics.

    Nicholson said he would oppose any attempt to make it harder on initiative sponsors.

    “Getting on the ballot was pretty darn hard,” he said, “and then you have to go make your case and win anyway.”

    https://www.apnews.com/7702bd1c62244505a0653a99167480e3


  • 21 Dec 2018 5:02 PM | Jason Fierman (Administrator)

    Barack Obama Goes All In Politically to Fight Gerrymandering - The Atlantic - by Edward-Isaac Dovere

    Barack Obama has sometimes struggled to find his political footing since leaving office, even though he’s more popular and more in demand by Democrats than at any point since 2008. He’d been challenged by a very deliberate decision he’d made to steer clear of direct confrontation with Donald Trump for a year and a half, aware that a fight is always exactly what Trump is looking for. Why help him turn out the Republican base?

    Behind the scenes, Obama had been much more active and forceful, meeting with top Democrats and mentoring up-and-coming Democrats, including most of the expected 2020 presidential candidates. Then, in September, he unleashed an intense argument against Trump and carried that forward with considerable effect through the midterms, which produced a blue wave that devastated Republicans nationally and locally. But since then, he’s been eager to move past the Trump dynamic again and address bigger, less personal politics.

    Read: Barack Obama and Donald Trump can’t stand each other

    The answer he’s found to accomplish this: redistricting reform. On Thursday night, Obama announced a major shift in the politics of his post-presidency, folding his Organizing for Action group into the National Democratic Redistricting Committee.

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    The consolidation focuses and directs Obama’s political activity and fund-raising for a cause that has become a major focus since he left the White House: gerrymandering reform.

    It ends the six-year existence of OFA, formed out of the pieces of Obama’s reelection campaign, which at times struggled to find footing with a clear mission. The Chicago-based group will cease to exist.

    “People want commonsense gun-safety laws; Congress ignores it. People want compressive immigration reform; Congress ignores it,” Obama said in a call with top supporters on Thursday night. “The single most important thing that could be done at the grassroots level over the next few years is to make sure the rules of the road are fair. If we do that, I think we’ll do the right thing.”

    Read: Barack Obama makes the case against Trump

    OFA was initially set up as a vehicle to provide pressure for Obama’s agenda in his second term. The group was ready to close down entirely two years ago, had Hillary Clinton won.

    Trump’s election gave the group new life, and over 2017, it became a nexus for a range of newly formed resistance groups to train in organizing, particularly in last summer’s fight to defeat Obamacare repeal. Then, in 2018, the group—which had always insisted it wasn’t about electoral politics—shifted into organizing for Democrats running in the midterms.

    Meanwhile, Obama had put more energy into the redistricting-reform group he backed and which he recruited Eric Holder, his friend and former attorney general, to chair.

    The merger will now create a “joint force that is focused on this issue of singular importance,” Obama said on Thursday.

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

    The merging of the organizations will begin almost immediately, building off a working relationship the groups formed during the 2018 midterms. Eager to get Obama voters engaged in the esoteric issue of redistricting, the NDRC tapped the OFA list, hosting multiple virtual house-party nights and helping rouse the most die-hard supporters of the former president to vote on the issue and spread the word.

    The results of the midterms were good news for the effort: Democrats flipped nearly 400 state-legislature seats and eight overall chambers, in addition to eating away at several Republican supermajorities. Those wins, along with the governor’s races that the Democrats flipped, put the party in much stronger shape ahead of the 2020 census and the next round of drawing the electoral maps, in 2021.

    Holder, who will continue chairing the group as he considers whether to launch a 2020 campaign himself (on Thursday, he’d say only that he was thinking about it and would make a decision by early 2019), called the merger “a way to maximize the incredible impact that OFA has had in the past and continue it into the future—this is a natural extension of the work we’ve been doing over the past year.”

    The bulked-up NDRC will be the main outlet for Obama’s fund-raising and political involvement over the next two years, with him returning to the sidelines and staying out of the fray until the 2020 elections.

    Holder said Obama has landed on redistricting reform as his central political cause as a way to get more action on climate change, gun control, and health care. He argued that those would move if the state legislatures and House districts elect members who are more representative of the voting public than the current lines allow.

    “If you say, ‘The Obama legacy will then be focused on redistricting,’ that’s the mechanism by which the things the Obama presidency were about will be preserved,” Holder said.

    The issue of gerrymandering has exploded in politics in the past two years, in part because of moves such as the one the Wisconsin and Michigan legislatures made after the November elections to cut back the powers of the Democrats who had won. Both states are heavily gerrymandered, giving Republicans major advantages in winning elections that are disproportionate to voter turnout.

    Not every OFA supporter will move to redistricting. Over the next few months, OFA officials will work to pair members who prioritize other issues with groups that focus on those.

    Holder will hold his own conference call with OFA supporters on January 7 to begin providing details of the merger.

    https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/12/obamas-political-group-shifts-focus-gerrymandering/578770/


  • 19 Dec 2018 2:47 PM | Jason Fierman (Administrator)

    The North Carolina GOP’s Latest Ploy to Save Its Partisan Gerrymander Is Almost Literally Unbelievable - Slate - by Mark Joseph Stern

    North Carolina Republicans are in trouble. On Nov. 6, voters elected Anita Earls, a civil rights attorney, to the state Supreme Court, cementing a 5–2 progressive majority. One week later, voting rights advocates filed a lawsuit in state court alleging that North Carolina’s gerrymandered legislative districts run afoul of the state constitution. Because the case revolves around the North Carolina Constitution and does not even touch on federal law, Republican legislators would seem to be stuck in the state judiciary, hurtling toward Earls’ court. There is simply no federal question for federal judges to adjudicate.

    The North Carolina GOP, however, has never let a legal principle stand in the way of its will to power. And so, on Friday, lawyers for the General Assembly—which is dominated by Republicans thanks to the gerrymander in question—attempted to remove the case to federal court, which has no authority to hear it. This patently frivolous endeavor is not actual lawyering; it is a bald faced effort to run down the clock and prevent the North Carolina Supreme Court from ruling in time for the 2020 election. In effect, Republicans are trying to exploit the federal courts to preserve their own illicit gerrymander for as long as humanly possible.

    There is no real doubt that North Carolina’s current legislative districts were carved up along partisan lines to favor the GOP. (Today’s districts were redrawn in 2016 and 2017, after the Supreme Court ruled that both congressional and legislative maps were tainted by an illegal racial gerrymander.) Republican Rep. David Lewis, who oversaw the committee in charge of the maps, explained his redistricting philosophy this way: “I think electing Republicans is better than electing Democrats.” He hired the same partisan map-maker, Tom Hofeller, who admitted that he drew the earlier unconstitutional districts “to ensure Republican majorities in the House and Senate.” Lewis compelled the use of “election data” in drawing new legislative maps and shot down an amendment that would’ve barred the manipulation of districts to create partisan advantage. The result is a map that gives Republicans a significant advantage across the state.

    The bad news is that the U.S. Supreme Court does not seem interested in taking on partisan gerrymandering, despite its likely illegality. The good news is that the North Carolina Supreme Court can take action now. Like many state constitutions, the North Carolina Constitution protects voting rights more robustly than the U.S. Constitution. Its Equal Protection Clause guarantees all citizens “substantially equal voting power” and “the right to vote on equal terms.” And its Election Clause commands that “[a]ll elections shall be free”—that is, not rigged by lawmakers to predetermine the outcome. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently ruled that a similar provision in its own state constitution outlawed partisan gerrymandering, explaining that “a diluted vote is not an equal vote.” It seems quite likely that the North Carolina Supreme Court, led by Earls, will reach the same conclusion after hearing this lawsuit.

    GOP lawmakers are terrified of such a ruling, since it would threaten the legislative majority they entrenched by diluting Democratic votes. So after Common Cause and the North Carolina Democratic Party filed their lawsuit in November, the General Assembly—which has given itself the power to defend its gerrymander in court—did not defend its map on the merits. Instead, it filed a motion to remove the case to federal court. Federal judges are not typically permitted to hear cases that exclusively involve interpretation of state law. The General Assembly, however, argued that the plaintiffs are asking the state to violate the Voting Rights Act, the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, and the 15th Amendment’s bar on race-based voting restrictions. It asserts that because the relief sought would infringe upon federal law, the federal judiciary may snatch the case out of state court.

    How, you might ask, would it be a violation of the central voting rights protections our nation has for a state to undo a partisan gerrymander that dilutes the votes of hundreds of thousands of voters? The claim is absurd for so many reasons that it is difficult to count them all. But it’s worth highlighting a few. Start with the General Assembly’s own words earlier this year in a federal challenge to the very same legislative map (brought under the U.S. Constitution). In a bid to delay resolution, Republican legislators were then trying to remove the lawsuit from federal court to state court because that specific case tangentially implicated state law. A federal district court, is “foreclosed from ruling on contested issues of state law,” since “an unsettled issue of state law … is more appropriately directed to North Carolina courts, the final arbiters of state law,” GOP attorneys wrote at the time. It would be, they claimed, “a revolution in federalism” to let a federal court resolve this dispute.

    Republicans’ profound opposition to federal courts hearing gerrymandering cases mysteriously disappeared after Earls’ election. Now they seem to believe that federal courts are the only proper venue for such cases, even when the legal issue at hand is an interpretation of the state constitution alone.

    It gets worse. Republicans now insist that they cannot redraw the legislative maps without violating the 14th or 15th Amendments. But these amendments would not be violated unless the legislature were to intentionally draw districts or dilute votes along racial lines. The General Assembly is essentially arguing that it is incapable of drawing new maps without actively discriminating against minorities. And it is suggesting that the North Carolina Supreme Court will also be unable to draw maps without engaging in racial discrimination. By this logic, the 14th and 15th Amendments—ratified to protect the rights of newly freed slaves after the Civil War—prevents state courts from protecting equal voting rights enshrined in a state constitution. Why? Because the legislators being challenged in state court intend to violate the 14th and 15th Amendments if they lose.

    I am frankly unsure whether the legislature’s lawyers actually understood the implications of this argument, because if they did, they would surely be too embarrassed to commit it to paper.

    The coup de grâce, though, is the General Assembly’s assertion that a new map would infringe upon the Voting Rights Act. In short, GOP attorneys suggest that they drew the current map to comply with the VRA by preserving the power of minority votes, and that a new map would dilute that power. A strange argument on its own terms—but an outlandish one given that the General Assembly already told a federal court that it did not draw the current map to comply with the VRA. Seriously: In a 2017 filing, Republican attorneys declared that the Legislature did not consider race in drawing a new map because it “did not conclude that the Voting Rights Act obligated it” to.

    Were these lawyers lying in 2017? Are they lying today? Either way, the Common Cause plaintiffs rightly argue that the General Assembly should be legally prohibited from making a claim that it flatly contradicted in court one year ago.

    It’s easy to see what’s going on here. The General Assembly must know its arguments are meritless. It recognizes that, at some point, the North Carolina Supreme Court will probably invalidate its gerrymander. So it is trying to put off that decision for as long as possible by using the federal judiciary to gum up the works.

    Republicans’ motion for removal has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Louise W. Flanagan, a moderate George W. Bush appointee. She should reject it as quickly as possible. North Carolina voters deserve fair districts in 2020, and there is no legal impediment to the state Supreme Court creating them before the next election. The General Assembly’s latest machinations are not sly or shrewd or clever. They are just pathetic.

    https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2018/12/north-carolina-republican-gerrymandering-plan-insanity.html

  • 16 Dec 2018 2:55 PM | Jason Fierman (Administrator)

    Redistricting plan dropped, for now - New Jersey Globe - by David Wildstein

    A controversial plan to change the way legislative districts would be drawn after the 2020 census was pulled by Senate and Assembly leaders tonight, eliminating the possibility that a proposed constitutional amendment would be considered by New Jersey voters next November.

    Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin said the legislature would not vote on the issue when both houses meet on Monday. The two issued statements at the same time.

    The retreat is a win for Gov. Phil Murphy, who led the opposition to a proposal that some say would essentially make gerrymandering a constitutional requirement in New Jersey.

    It’s also a big win for progressive grassroots organizations, whose intense opposition to redistricting helped force legislative leaders to cave.

    Democrats in New Jersey were on the verge of a split over the issue, with more than fifty progressive groups and academics voicing strong opposition to the plan. Stories about New Jersey redistricting began to receive national attention, with former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and the New York Times editorial board strongly opposing the idea.

    The plan also sought to change the way the independent redistricting commission members were picked. The current law gives the two state party chairman all five appointments. Democratic State Chairman John Currie is a Murphy ally, something that essentially would give the governor control over the new legislative districts in 2021.

    The plan would have reduced Currie’s picks from five to two and given the four legislative leaders two appointments each.

    Now Murphy controls the Democratic side of redistricting, unless the other faction of the New Jersey Democratic party can depose Currie when he faces re-election next year.

    Sweeney was struggling to get the votes to pass the resolution on Monday and his withdrawal from the fight marks the first legislative victory for Murphy, who has struggled to get along with the Democratic-controlled Legislature.

    Democrats have a 25-15 majority in the Senate and Sweeney could afford to lose no more than four. Three Democrats – Richard Codey (D-Roseland, Nicholas Sacco (D-North Bergen) and Brian Stack (D-Union City) – announced this week that they would oppose the redistricting plan.

    State Sen. Nia Gill (D-Montclair) was widely expected to vote no, although she had not announced her intentions. State Sen. Shirley Turner (D-Lawrence) had also not said how she planned to vote.

    One Democratic senator under immense pressure to vote against the plan was Nellie Pou (D-North Haledon), who represents Passaic County, where Currie is also the Democratic county chairman. A yes vote would have put her already tenuous political career in jeopardy.

    Sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that Pou had promised Currie that she would oppose the measure but faced enormous pressure from Sweeney to change her mind.

    Today, a Hudson County Democratic leader, also speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that Senate Deputy Majority Leader Sandra Cunningham (D-Jersey City was wavering on her expected support amidst intense local opposition to the redistricting plan. Cunningham is a member of Sweeney’s leadership team but was being pushed to buck the Senate President by party leaders and elected officials in Jersey City and Bayonne, which make up her own district.

    Sweeney has a strong alliance with six Republican senators, but on this one issue there was no support from the GOP. Passage of the constitutional amendment would have effectively made the Republicans a permanent minority in Trenton.

    Republican State Chairman Douglas Steinhardt had helped lead the fight against the redistricting plan.

    “A handful of politicians have demonstrated an alarming willingness to forsake the delicate fabric of the state’s democracy by advancing a redistricting amendment that benefits them and them alone,” Steinhardt wrote in an e-mail this morning. “I am even joined by Democratic leaders from around the country, who share our view. ”

    Two legislative sources who asked not to be identified said that Coughlin did not want to have this fight.

    Some Democrats had worried that the extraordinary number of progressive groups that had opposed the redistricting plan could prompt some primaries for Assembly incumbents next June.

    Still, according to sources, it was Coughlin that had the 41 votes to pass the initiative in the Assembly, while Sweeney did not have 21 Senate votes locked in.

    The plan is not dead, though. The Legislature could still vote to put the constitutional amendment on the ballot for the 2020 general election if they approve it in both 2019 and 2020.

    “While we continue to recognize the importance of improving the legislative redistricting process, we will not be moving forward with the proposed ballot resolution on Monday,” Sweeney said in his statement. “This will give us the time and opportunity to review the input we have received from the public, our legislative colleagues and others to determine if any of these ideas would improve the proposal.

    Sweeney said he recognizes the importance of the issue.

    “Redistricting provides the foundation for the democratic process and it gives voice to voters. We will maintain an open mind as we continue to work on a proposal that best serves the electoral process and the values of our democracy,” said Sweeney.

    Coughlin pointed to Senate and Assembly public hearings on the issue this week, where no individual or group testified in support of the redistricting plan.

    “I want to integrate some of the valuable input received to help create a better measure and improve the redistricting process overall,” Coughlin said.

    The speaker says he remains “committed to strengthening our electoral process.”

    Murphy commended the legislative leadership for their decision to pull the proposal from consideration at Monday’s voting session.

    “ I’m grateful they heard the voices of so many within New Jersey and around the country who saw that the proposal would have made our Legislature less representative and less accountable,” Murphy said. “I thank the many residents and grassroots organizations, on both sides of the aisle, who stood up to make their voices heard and whose activism resulted in the decision to pull this measure. We have serious challenges facing our state, and now we can get to them together without distraction.”

    Steinhardt said Republicans viewed the redistricting constitution amendment as bigger than partisan politics.

    “We saw that when leaders from both sides of the political aisle and groups from around the state came together, like the NAACP and League of Women Voters, to oppose this measure. It’s withdrawal is a win for the New Jersey’s 9 million residents and the foundation on which our democracy is built,” Steinhardt said. “Hopefully, now, we can get on with the business of making New Jersey advance the bi-partisan, good-government momentum that this issue forced, arriving at a more transparent redistricting process that reflects New Jersey’s diverse makeup and promotes a truly competitive legislative map that fairly represents all of us. This truly was a success in putting people before party politics.”

    Senate Minority Leader Thomas Kean, Jr. called the Democratic leadership retreat a “big win for New Jersey.”

    “The proposed redistricting amendment would have disenfranchised millions of voters, taking away one of the most important rights we have as Americans: the power to choose who represents us in the halls of government,” Kean said. “This shouldn’t be a partisan issue. Gerrymandering is wrong. We will remain vigilant, and fight back against any redistricting proposal that betrays democracy.”

    Kean kept the door open for some tinkering to the current system of drawing legislative districts.

    “I hope that this time, the sponsors will work with nonpartisan election experts and legislators on both sides of the aisle, so we can craft a redistricting proposal that we can all be proud of. The people we have the privilege of serving deserve no less than an amendment that ensures fair and equal representation for all,” said Kean.

    Analilia Mejia, the executive director of the New Jersey Working Families Alliance, said that “when we fight, we win.”

    “There is tremendous power when voters are engaged and informed. Senate and Assembly leadership attempted to silently move a drastic proposal many understood to be detrimental to New Jersey’s democracy,” Mejia said. “Legislative leadership’s withdrawal at the face of an informed, engaged, and active public proves that government works best with the full engagement and knowledge of the people.”

    This story was updated at 7:43 PM to include comment from Murphy, at 7:53 PM to include comment from Steinhardt, at 8:14 PM to include comment from Kean, and at 8:51 PM to include comment from Mejia.

    https://newjerseyglobe.com/governor/redistricting-plan-dropped-for-now/


  • 16 Dec 2018 2:52 PM | Jason Fierman (Administrator)

    Virginia House of Delegates asks justices to intervene in redistricting dispute - ScotusBlog - by Amy Howe

    Last month the Supreme Court announced that it would, for the second time, review a case from Virginia challenging the legislative districts drawn in 2011 for the state’s House of Delegates as the product of unconstitutional racial gerrymandering – the idea that legislators relied too much on race when drawing the maps. Today Virginia legislators were back at the court, asking the justices to block proceedings in the lower court aimed at coming up with new maps for the 2019 election until the Supreme Court can rule on the dispute.

    The Virginia case is one with which the justices are already very familiar. Last year, the court ruled that a lower court had applied the wrong legal standard when it rejected claims that 12 districts were the product of racial gerrymandering. The Supreme Court upheld one district, but it ordered the lower court to take a fresh look at the other 11 – and, in particular, at whether race was the primary factor used to draw those districts.

    Applying the standard outlined by the Supreme Court, the lower court concluded that race was indeed the primary factor behind the district boundaries. Because the legislature also had not shown that it needed to use the same population targets in each of the “vastly dissimilar” districts at issue to comply with federal voting-rights laws, the lower court ruled, the districts are unconstitutional.

    Represented by former U.S. solicitor general Paul Clement, the Virginia House of Delegates today asked the justices to step in and put further proceedings in the lower court on hold until the Supreme Court rules on the case. The legislators complained that the lower court has “forged ahead” to create a new map, prepared by a voting-rights expert appointed by the court, so that new maps can be in place in time for Virginia’s 2019 off-year elections.

    But there is no need to rush, the legislators explained. The state has adjusted election deadlines in the past – for example, by holding primaries at the end of the summer, rather than in the spring – and can easily do so here. And putting the map-drawing process on hold is the better option, to avoid the confusion that could result if competing plans were created. Indeed, the legislators observed, the district court’s order rests on the idea that all 11 of the challenged districts are unconstitutional and that the Supreme Court will agree, setting up the “real possibility that House candidates and voters will spend months preparing for elections in districts that will not even exist come November.” On the other hand, waiting to draw the maps after the Supreme Court’s ruling will allow the two sides to come up with a plan that is consistent with the Supreme Court’s decision, whatever that decision is.

    Chief Justice John Roberts, who considers emergency requests from the geographic area that includes Virginia, today ordered the challengers in the case to file a response to the legislators’ application by noon on Thursday, December 20.

    This post was originally published at Howe on the Court.

    http://www.scotusblog.com/2018/12/virginia-house-of-delegates-asks-justices-to-intervene-in-redistricting-dispute/

  • 15 Dec 2018 3:58 PM | Jason Fierman (Administrator)

    Hardaway backs independent redistricting to avert gerrymandering - Daily Memphian - by Sam Stockard

    State Rep. G.A. Hardaway, still smarting from 2012 redistricting, says Tennessee’s Black Caucus will focus on the importance of voting in 2019 and could seek an independent commission to draw House districts after the 2020 census.

    <strong>G.A. Hardaway</strong>

    G.A. Hardaway

    Hardaway, a Memphis Democrat, contends the controlling Republican Party gerrymandered district lines in its favor six years ago, costing Democrats seats. Republicans now hold a 73-26 advantage in the House and 28-5 edge in the Senate.

    With Gov.-elect Bill Lee set to be inaugurated Jan. 19, a week and a half after the 111th General Assembly convenes, Hardaway said the Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators will likely “communicate with (Lee) so he understands the need for a fair redistricting process” and see where he stands on the matter.

    Following the 2020 census, U.S. House and Senate districts, as well as Tennessee congressional districts, will be redrawn based on the population.

    “We’re currently evaluating where we want to go on this, but we may be ready to talk about an independent commission charged with redistricting and keeping it away from the political whims of the parties,” Hardaway said. “That redistricting piece is going to be a major part of our effort going into 2020 and, subsequently, preparing for the redistricting in 2021 or ’22.”

    The legislative group could run into a wall, though, with Lee and Republicans.

    Lee spokeswoman Laine Arnold said Tuesday, “Redistricting has been repeatedly upheld as a legislative responsibility and Gov.-elect Lee does not support efforts that would attempt to move it to a third party outside of the General Assembly.”

    Starting in 2019, nevertheless, Hardaway said the Black Caucus initially plans to play a “stronger” role in educating residents on the importance of participating in the 2020 census. Not only does the head count affect state-shared funding for cities and counties, as well as state dollars from the federal government, Hardaway said, people need to know “how it impacts the ability for the 'one man, one vote' to become a reality for Tennesseans.”

    “A lot of the problems we have in D.C. and a lot of the problems we’ve had in the Tennessee General Assembly have been the result of extreme redistricting, and it makes it politically impossible for some of my colleagues to be able to compromise and come to a meeting of the minds, right or left of center,” Hardaway said.

    He further argues Republicans’ redistricting plan is gerrymandered to the point “they have no real balance in their constituency.”

    <strong>Glen Casada</strong>

    Glen Casada

    On the contrary, Republican leaders have said Democrats who controlled the Legislature for a century drew district lines to suit their needs and that the plan adopted in 2012 was the fairest Tennessee has ever had.

    They say public input was taken, and the Senate and House took each other’s plan and collaborated for the drawing of congressional district lines.

    Glen Casada, Republican House speaker-nominee, said if Democrats had a problem with the redistricting plan in 2012, “there sure was no one complaining.” Instead of a “blanket accusation,” he said he wanted to know specifics from Hardaway.

    <strong>Randy McNally</strong>

    Randy McNally

    “But in regards to an independent source, the Legislature’s drawn our lines for 200 years, Democrats, Republicans. It’s turned out well over the course of history,” said Casada, a Franklin Republican who has held leadership positions for a decade. “We’ll listen to his proposal like we will everybody’s, but without specifics I sure don’t see the merit. But again, the committee system is there for such things, and we’ll listen.”

    The redistricting plan was barely challenged from a legal standpoint.

    Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, an Oak Ridge Republican, responded by calling the last redistricting process “one of the most open and transparent” in Tennessee history.

    “The maps created for the 2012 election cycle were fair, legal and withstood court scrutiny,” McNally said. “We plan for the next redistricting process to meet that same standard. Independent commissions may have the veneer of independence, but only the General Assembly is ultimately accountable to voters. The Constitution gives the General Assembly authority to draw legislative districts in Tennessee. We plan to execute that authority.”

    But former House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, a Ripley Democrat who ran for governor this year and left his legislative seat, said there is no question the districts were rigged by putting Democrats into a few slots where they would be guaranteed a win and creating more Republican districts where they would have little opposition.

    Either a citizen redistricting commission is needed to redraw the district map or Democrats need more numbers to “even it out,” Fitzhugh said.

    State Rep. Jim Coley, a 12-year Republican legislator from Bartlett, said the Legislature followed required guidelines for drawing districts to reflect ethnic and racial makeup of the districts, as well as population.

    “All I know is the districts, the Republican districts in Shelby County when we drew those, we were given certain parameters in which we had to make a decision about the drawing of the lines, and we stayed within those parameters,” Coley said.

    He added one of the keys to drawing new district lines is making sure the plan isn’t challenged in court. Coley acknowledged it will be interesting to see how Democrats in the Legislature approach the matter.

    “The Democrats have got a job cut out for them because the state is so red,” he said.

    Likely topic

    Senate Minority Leader Jeff Yarbro, a Nashville Democrat, has sponsored legislation several times requiring a third-party redistricting plan to combat gerrymandering.

    “It’s a great idea,” Yarbro said. “I think it will come up this session and, frankly, you had a lot of Republicans lose their elections this year because they drew themselves into such safe districts, they were vulnerable in a primary challenge.”

    Yarbro said gerrymandering is bad for elected leaders, voters and the government, yet it is difficult for politicians who wield control to avoid giving themselves an advantage at the polls.

    “It’s time to take the drawing of lines out of politicians’ hands,” he added. “The people should pick their elected officials instead of the elected officials picking their voters.” 

    Hardaway, who played a role in offering redistricting alternatives to Republican plans in 2011-12, backs his assertions, saying the process wasn’t fair in terms of having “adequate resources” to counter the controlling party.

    Democrats “were hampered,” he said, because they had to share attorneys with the majority party and didn’t have access to mapping and data experts.

    With better legal resources, Hardaway said, Democrats could have waged “an effective legal challenge” to the House redistricting plan as a violation of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

    Specifically, Hardaway said, his former House District 92 residence was drawn into the district of District 86 Rep. Barbara Cooper, a Memphis Democrat, requiring him to find an alternative legislative seat.

    Hardaway contends Democrats should have maintained their number of House seats in Shelby County and should have picked up two more that would have been primarily African-American districts.

    On the Senate side, he said, an additional district comprised mainly of African-Americans could have been created in Shelby County as well as in Hamilton County.

    Casada, though, didn’t buy Hardaway’s argument and said population and shifts over a decade dictate the boundaries of House and Senate seats.

    “Just because you’re an incumbent and your district loses population, we’re not going to show favoritism,” he said.

    https://www.dailymemphian.com/article/1804/Hardaway-backs-independent-redistricting-to-avert-gerrymandering

  • 14 Dec 2018 1:29 AM | Jason Fierman (Administrator)

    Democrats in New Jersey Have a Firm Grip on Power. They Want Even More - The New York Times - by Nick Corasaniti

    TRENTON — [What you need to know to start the day: Get New York Today in your inbox.]

    Legislative power brokers across the country have long designed district lines in back-room deals that entrenched their control for years, if not decades. But now, Democratic lawmakers in New Jersey are carrying out a power grab in an unusually public fashion: They are seeking to make Republicans a permanent minority by essentially writing gerrymandering into the State Constitution.

    The New Jersey plan comes amid a national reckoning over the consequences of gerrymandering and has been met by fierce opposition across the political landscape — and not just from Republicans and nonpartisan watchdog groups.

    Even some national Democratic leaders have criticized the plan, fearing that it undercuts Democratic efforts to attack what they term Republican strong-arm tactics in state capitals across the country. Republicans in Wisconsin and Michigan are facing an intense backlash after state legislatures there voted to strip power from newly elected Democratic governors.

    Republicans have also come under fire for legislative gerrymandering in states like North Carolina.

    Eric H. Holder Jr., a former attorney general under President Barack Obama and a potential presidential candidate in 2020, called on the Democratic lawmakers in the New Jersey Legislature, who have significant majorities in both chambers, to rethink their plan.

    Mr. Holder leads the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, a political group seeking to untangle gerrymandered districts that have helped Republicans hold power in Washington and elsewhere.

    “The American people want redistricting reforms that help level the playing field so that elections are decided on who has the best ideas, not which party was in charge of drawing the lines,” Mr. Holder said in a statement.

    “As currently constructed, the proposal in New Jersey fails to live up to those standards,” he said.

    The Democratic lawmakers’ proposal would amend the New Jersey Constitution, and New Jersey voters would need to approve it through a ballot measure.

    It overhauls the makeup of a redistricting committee to give more power to legislative leaders. It also establishes a “fairness test” requiring district maps to reflect how major political parties perform in statewide elections for governor, senator and president.

    In New Jersey, which has not elected a Republican senator since 1972 and where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by nearly 1 million voters, that standard ensures that the redistricting process would begin on an uneven playing field. (New Jersey did elect a Republican governor in 2013, but the state has been trending Democratic.)

    “It institutionally strips away the will of the voter,” said Tom Kean Jr., the Republican leader in the Senate. “The will of the Republicans and unaffiliated voters in New Jersey would be ignored to the benefit of incumbent majority party legislators forever more.”

    Proponents of the plan, Stephen M. Sweeney, the Senate president, and Nicholas P. Scutari, a co-sponsor of the bill, argue that the redistricting process is too often conducted behind closed doors by unelected officials and where deals are hashed out without any voter input.

    By putting their plan before the electorate, supporters argue, New Jersey Democrats are letting voters decide how redistricting should be done.

    “There’s nothing gerrymandering about it,” Mr. Scutari said. “If we have a significant advantage in voters, then you’re going to have a significant difference in legislative districts. If you took this matrix of guidelines and put it in Texas, you’d probably get significantly more legislative districts that favored Republicans.’’

    At two separate hearings on Thursday in Trenton, over 100 people testified against the proposal. The sole note of support in the Senate came from Mr. Scutari.

    Democratic leaders are turning to an obscure legislative maneuver just to try to put the proposal on the ballot.

    Typically, a proposed constitutional amendment requires a three-fifths majority in the state legislature before it can get on the ballot. But since no Republican supports the redistricting plan, it seems unlikely that it would ever succeed in either chamber in Trenton.

    Instead, Democratic leaders are digging into the state’s laws and using a provision allowing an amendment that passes the state legislature with a simple majority in two consecutive calendar years to be placed on the ballot.

    Democrats have scheduled a vote on the redistricting plan for Monday, the final day the legislature is to meet this year. Then they are likely to bring it up again in early January, satisfying the two-year requirement in less than a month. Should the measure pass in both instances, the proposal could be put on the ballot in November.

    The quick procedural move, in particular, has provoked an outcry, including from Gov. Philip D. Murphy. Though Mr. Murphy is a Democrat, the redistricting plan would greatly weaken his ability to influence the process.

    “I have as much a concern about the process as I do even about the substance,” Mr. Murphy said. “I don’t like the substance, but this is classic jam something through, and I got elected to stand up against that and I’m going to.”

    The plan makes significant changes to the way the state’s redistricting commission is established. Currently, the Republican and Democratic state party chairs each nominate five people to the redistricting board, and the state Supreme Court selects someone to serve as the tiebreaker. Mr. Murphy is closely allied with the chairman of the Democratic state party, John Currie, giving the governor sway over some of the commission’s members.

    The redistricting plan would increase the size of the commission by two members, to 13, and state party chairs would only be allowed two nominees each. The Senate president, Senate minority leader, Assembly speaker and Assembly minority leader would each get to nominate two members, at least one of which must be a state legislator.

    The notion of including legislators on panels that draw legislative districts runs counter to what many advocates for redistricting reform are demanding and the approach that other states are taking.

    But the main criticism of New Jersey’s plan centers on setting the benchmark for drawing districts based on statewide election results.

    The proposal says that at least 25 percent of legislative districts must be “competitive,” meaning that they must be within five percentage points of the statewide average based on the results for president, senator and governor in the past decade. That formula would likely result in a Democratic statewide advantage of 55 percent, according to a study by the Princeton Gerrymandering Project at Princeton University.

    In effect, competitive districts could still have Democratic majorities of as much as 60 percent.

    “The map becomes permanently slanted,’’ said Patrick Murray, the director of polling at Monmouth University. He noted that of the state’s 40 legislative districts, at least 25 would have to be majority Democratic under the redistricting proposal.

    “It’s the exact opposite of where the reform movements are going right now,” Mr. Murray added. “Not only are they using formulas to give one party an advantage over another, but they’re actually moving away from considering political metrics in their drawing of districts. That includes past vote, voter registration, where incumbents live and a whole host of other things. So this is even a step backward from what the national Democrats are doing.”

    The proposal also creates the possibility that Democrats could redraw competitive districts around safe incumbents who have enough support that they would win even with more Republicans added to their district. Party leaders could then add more Democrats to weaker districts.

    This scenario has provoked strong criticism from Democratic incumbents who tend to win by large margins in Democratic strongholds like Hudson County in northern New Jersey. “This proposal would create an imbalance of power with representation of North Jersey counties being diluted in the legislature,” Senator Nicholas Sacco of Hudson County said in a statement, “and given that our region is continuing to grow and propel the state’s economy forward that outcome would be fundamentally unfair.”

    A growing backlash against the redistricting plan has left the fate of the proposal unclear with just a thin margin of support among Democrats in the Senate.

    “If they succeed, and I hope they don’t, I will fight it right through to the ballot box, and you should assume that we ain’t giving up this fight,” Mr. Murphy said. “I’m a proud Democrat, let there be no doubt. I want to win stuff fair and square, and this is not.”

    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/13/nyregion/redistricting-new-jersey-democrats-republicans.html

  • 12 Dec 2018 6:58 PM | Jason Fierman (Administrator)

    McNerney Legislation Designed To Combat Partisan Gerrymandering - Escalon Times

    In an effort to reduce the role of partisan bias in congressional district mapping and return power to the American voters, Congressman Jerry McNerney (CA-09) has introduced legislation to establish a set of standards centered on scientific and mathematical techniques.

    The Fair and Inclusive Redistricting (FAIR) Map Act, H.R 7252, would direct the National Academy of Sciences to conduct a study to develop guidelines, best practices and examples for congressional redistricting. The Academy’s recommendations would also have to maintain geographic contiguity, compactness, and comply with the constitutional equal population requirement as well as the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

    “Our nation’s congressional districts are drawn by the very people who would benefit from partisan practices,” said Congressman McNerney. “This results in highly biased districts that can make elections unfair and discourage voters. My proposal seeks to increase transparency, starting with creating an impartial process free from self-interested influence. It puts our elections back in the hands of the voters.”

    Gerrymandering, which is the manipulation of district boundaries to favor a particular political party, has become a high-profile issue in recent years, with legal challenges arising in a number of states. This past election, voters took action to try and curb gerrymandering, with three states voting to take the power of redistricting out of the hands of their state legislators.

    “The act of drawing voting districts is vital to the functioning of American democracy,” said Karen Saxe, Associate Executive Director of the Office of Government Relations for the American Mathematical Society. “The mathematical and statistical sciences have always played a fundamental role in drawing voting district plans, and with modern predictive techniques and computing power, can play an even more powerful role in this process. The American Mathematical Society does not endorse any one approach or metric for measuring fairness of voting district plans. We do urge, however, that mathematics and statistical science be employed to evaluate the fairness of district plans. I applaud Representative McNerney’s efforts to set national, transparent standards that work toward enfranchising all voters.”

    McNerney has long been a staunch advocate for evidence-based policymaking and good government reforms. As the co-founder and co-chair of the Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Caucus, he has introduced legislation to amend the constitution to eliminate political action committees and ban dark money in politics.

    McNerney serves the constituents of California’s 9th Congressional District that includes portions of San Joaquin, Contra Costa, and Sacramento counties. For more information on McNerney’s work, follow him on Facebook and on Twitter @RepMcNerney.

    https://www.escalontimes.com/news/mcnerney-legislation-designed-combat-partisan-gerrymandering/


  • 11 Dec 2018 8:01 PM | Jason Fierman (Administrator)

    Supreme Court takes no action in NC partisan gerrymandering case - Talk Media News - by Geoff West

    WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court has temporarily punted a decision over whether to take up a case involving partisan gerrymandering in North Carolina.

    On Friday, the justices were scheduled to meet behind closed doors to discuss an appeal filed by voting rights groups in North Carolina who challenged the state’s 2016 congressional maps, claiming they were unconstitutionally drawn by Republican lawmakers to suppress statewide gains by Democrats.

    The case, Rucho v. Common Cause, was one of dozens of cases scheduled for review Friday by the justices. On Monday, however, it was absent from the court’s list of accepted and rejected cases stemming from its Friday conference.

    It’s unclear why: The court offered no explanation. But it’s possible the justices may consider picking up the case again later this term, perhaps after the justices reconvene in early January.

    Last term, the court failed to issue a ruling over the constitutionality of partisan gerrymandering in a case involving Wisconsin’s congressional map. The court voted unanimously to send the case back to a lower court over a technicality but left open the possibility of reviewing the issue again.

    In November, the court agreed to hear a case involving racial gerrymandering in Virginia but has so far not taken up partisan gerrymandering this term.

    http://www.talkmedianews.com/featured/2018/12/10/supreme-court-takes-no-action-in-nc-partisan-gerrymandering-case/


  • 10 Dec 2018 10:19 PM | Jason Fierman (Administrator)
    Council Rock School Board To Vote On Redistricting Plan Thursday - Patch - by Kara Seymour

    NEWTOWN, PA — The Council Rock School Board is scheduled to vote on a redistricting plan during a meeting Thursday, Dec. 13. The meeting starts at 7:30 p.m.

    The vote will be the culmination of more than a year of analysis by the district on the issue of redistricting, which is being considered to better balance the north and south regions of the district.

    During a lengthy school board meeting in late November, the board discussed and received public feedback on the latest proposal, which impacts 719 elementary students.

    Not surprisingly, the current redistricting map has been opposed by some local parents, who launched a petition against the proposal, which they called "too disruptive."

    During a Dec. 6 Facilities Committee meeting, several issues related to the redistricting process were discussed, including if Richboro Elementary can be shifted to a North-feeding school.

    According to information from the facilities committee, such a proposition is not recommended because it will flip the imbalance of students from the South to the North. The redistricting committee discussed flipping RES at the January 16, 2018 meeting and determined that it would not enable them to balance secondary, the meeting notes said.

    Additional issues that were discussed at the Dec. 6 meeting can be found here.

    https://patch.com/pennsylvania/newtown-pa/council-rock-school-board-vote-redistricting-plan-thursday

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