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  • 10 Dec 2018 8:58 PM | Jason Fierman (Administrator)

    In Pa., 381K more people voted for a Democrat for state House. But GOP kept the majority - PA Post - by Ed Mahon

    In November, 381,000 more Pennsylvania voters picked a Democrat than a Republican to represent them in the state House.

    But Republicans will keep their majority.


    You could blame geography — the idea being that Democrats are more likely to live in dense urban areas and so run up higher vote totals in uncompetitive races. You could point to the number of uncontested races in which Republicans didn’t field a candidate. You could dismiss this type of statewide comparison, reasoning that it’s the individual candidates, not a party, who voters chose to represent them in the General Assembly.

    Or you could blame gerrymandering — the drawing of districts to favor one party. Carol Kuniholm, co-founder of Fair Districts PA, does.

    “There’s gerrymandered state legislative districts. We’ve known that. It’s becoming more obvious and needs to be changed,” Kuniholm said.

    She said Pennsylvania ranks high for the disparity in legislative votes received vs. legislative seats won.

    The disparity helps show why it so difficult for Democrats to gain control of the Pennsylvania General Assembly, and that same disparity could influence lawmakers in a looming fight over congressional and state legislative redistricting.

    There has been a lot of talk in Harrisburg about changing the redistricting process.

    During a 2017 forum, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf pointed to gerrymandering and unfair maps when asked why Democrats and “pro-choice” lawmakers don’t have more power in the General Assembly.

    Earlier this year, the state Supreme Court tossed out the map used to elect members of Congress as a partisan gerrymander. But the maps for state House and state Senate, which were approved by the state Supreme Court in 2013 after a legal battle, remained in place.

    Meanwhile, redistricting fights have taken place all over the country this year. The Washington Post recently pointed to the discrepancy between votes won and seats held in Wisconsin as a sign of gerrymandering in that state.

    PA Post added up the total votes and seats won in Pennsylvania’s state House, state Senate and congressional races this year, based on unofficial returns. The state House had the largest discrepancy in the 2018 election.

    Here’s a look at all three.

    Pa. House

    In the November election, all 203 state House seats were up for grabs.

    Democratic candidates won 2.52 million votes, or about 54.1 percent of the two-party vote, meaning votes for either a Republican or Democratic candidate. (Independent and non-major-party candidates weren’t included in the PA Post analysis.)

    In the interactive map below, you can see how many votes the Republican and Democratic candidates received in each district.

    But their share of state House seats is significantly lower than the percentage of votes they received. Democrats won 93 out of 203 seats, or about 45.8 percent of the seats up for grabs.

    If their statewide vote share matched the percentage of seats won, they would have about 110 seats — a majority — in the upcoming session. Instead, Republicans won 110 seats.

    Jason Gottesman, a spokesman for the state GOP, said there a lot of factors when it comes to votes received vs. seats won, and he said Republican state legislative candidates do a good job of creating their own brand and speaking to local issues.

    Neal Lesher, a spokesman for Republican House Speaker Mike Turzai, dismissed the statewide comparison. Lesher said Democrats had more uncontested candidates, including in Philadelphia.

    “Trying to apply statewide numbers to legislative races has many down falls and does not lead to any legitimate conclusions,” he said in an email.

    But Kuniholm, with Fair Districts PA, thinks the large number of uncontested races is one result of gerrymandering. She said some districts are going to be naturally uncompetitive.

    “But there are lots of districts that were created very deliberately to pack Democrats into one district, or to carve communities up to give the Republicans an advantage,” Kuniholm said.

    Democrats, meanwhile, say the statewide comparison matters.

    “The difference between votes cast and the number of seats won is significant and undeniable,” Bill Patton, a spokesman for the House Democratic Caucus, said in an email. “It’s outrageous that a Republican vote seems to count for more in Pennsylvania than a Democratic vote.”

    Brandon Cwalina, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Democratic Party, said the “party that wins a majority of the votes should win a majority of the seats.”

    Pa. Senate


    In the Pennsylvania state Senate, half of the chamber’s 50 seats were up for grabs in the November 2016 election.

    Democratic candidates received 46.4 percent of the two-party vote. But they won nine out of 25 seats, or 36 percent. If they had won two or three more seats, that would have been a closer match for their statewide vote percentage.


    Half of the chamber’s 50 seats were again up for grabs this November.

    Democratic candidates received 54.2 percent of the two-party vote. And they won 12 out of 25 seats, or 48 percent.

    If they had won one more seat, which they came about 75 votes away from doing in one Bucks County district, they would have still been under their share of the two party-vote. If they had won two more seats, they would have exceeded their share of the two party-vote.

    In the upcoming session, Republicans are poised to have 29 seats to the Democrats 21 seats, although a special election is expected for a southwestern Pennsylvania seat, and Republican leaders have raised doubts about the eligibility for one Allegheny County Democrat.

    In the interactive map below, light blue represents seats that flipped from Republican to Democrat in the November election. Dark blue and dark red represent Democratic and Republican seats.



    Two years ago, all 18 of Pennsylvania’s congressional districts were up for grabs.

    Democrats won 45.9 percent of the statewide two-party vote. They won five out of 18 seats — less than 28 percent.


    Earlier this year, the state Supreme Court tossed out the congressional map as a partisan gerrymander that favored Republicans. The court created its own map.

    Democrats made big gains, winning 55.1 percent of the two-party vote. They won nine out of 18 seats.

    If they had won 10 seats, that would have been a little higher than their total vote share.

    In the interactive map below, you can see what the new representation for Congress in Pennsylvania will look like.

    About the analysis

    We included vote totals for candidates who were unopposed in their races.

    In four state House races, there was a candidate who appeared as both the Democratic and Republican nominee. Those candidates won their party’s nomination in the primary and also received enough write-in votes to appear as the nominee for the other major party. In those cases, we based the analysis on the candidate’s party registration.

    We did the same for state Senate candidates who appeared as both the Republican and Democratic nominee in 2016.

    Why only count two-party vote share? Independents and non-major party candidates, including the Libertarians and Greens, didn’t pick up any seats and received a relatively small percentage of the vote. In the congressional races, for instance, two Libertarian candidates received 10,950 votes compared to the more than 2.7 million for Democratic candidates and more than 2.2 million for Republican candidates.

    What’s next in PA

    Wolf recently announced the creation of a commission to make recommendations for changing the redistricting process. Republican leaders in the state House and Senate accused of him grandstanding.

    Meanwhile, some lawmakers are hoping to move forward on legislation that would create a citizens’ commission for redistricting.

    The next redistricting process is set to take place in 2021. Democrats hold the governor’s office and now hold a 5-2 majority on the state Supreme Court, so they are expecting to be in a better position for redistricting than in past years.

    Under the current system, congressional districts are approved by the General Assembly with the governor able to veto them. State legislative maps are approved by a five-member Legislative Reapportionment Commission.

  • 7 Dec 2018 2:25 PM | Jason Fierman (Administrator)

    Supreme Court discussing partisan gerrymandering behind closed doors Friday - CNN -  by Ariane de Vogue

    Washington (CNN)The Supreme Court is scheduled to return to a deeply divisive issue on Friday when the justices meet behind closed doors to discuss an issue left unresolved last term: when do states go too far in drawing district lines for partisan gain?

    The court has never established a standard to resolve extreme partisan gerrymanders, and if it chooses to do so, it could revolutionize the way congressional and state legislative maps are drawn.

    The issue often divides conservatives, who have suggested that courts should steer clear of such political disputes, and liberals, like Justice Elena Kagan, who contend that courts should be able to articulate a standard to combat a practice she believes "enables politicians to entrench themselves in power against the people's will."

    Here's how Wisconsin Republicans want to strip power from incoming Democrats

    Here's how Wisconsin Republicans want to strip power from incoming Democrats

    Last term, the justices heard a case out of Wisconsin called Gill v. Whitford and critics of partisan gerrymandering hoped that a divided court -- led by Justice Anthony Kennedy -- might issue a sweeping ruling. Instead, the court dodged key issues and sent the case back down to the lower courts to take another look at a threshold issue.

      Writing for a 9-0 court, Chief Justice John Roberts said that the Democratic plaintiffs challenging Republican-drawn maps had not done enough to establish "concrete and particularized injuries" necessary to bring the case. Although the opinion was unanimous, it sidestepped the merits of the case and masked deep divisions on the court. Kagan, writing for the liberals on the bench, agreed the case should be sent back, but in a concurring opinion offered a roadmap for future challenges.

      "Courts -- and in particular this court -- will again be called on to redress extreme partisan gerrymanders," Kagan wrote. "I am hopeful we will then step up to our responsibility to vindicate the Constitution against a contrary law," she said.

      Impact of Kennedy retirement

      One very important thing happened after Kagan wrote the opinion. Kennedy retired.

      Unlike his conservative colleagues, Kennedy believed a standard was possible, although he never found one he liked.

      After he retired, some critics of partisan gerrymanders lamented that they might have lost their best hope at a judicial solution to the problem.

      Rick Hasen, an election law expert at the University of California, Irvine, notes that Brett Kavanaugh, Kennedy's replacement, has not ruled on the issue as a judge.

      "But his overall judicial philosophy suggests he's likely to join with other conservatives and hold that courts have no business policing the political drawing of lines under the U.S. Constitution," Hasen said.

      North Carolina districts

      Friday's case, Rucho v. Common Cause, is brought by voting rights groups and voters who filed a lawsuit arguing that North Carolina's 2016 congressional district maps drawn by Republican legislators amount to an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander that intentionally diluted the electoral strength of individuals who oppose Republicans.

      They also say the maps illegally punished supporters of non-Republican candidates on the basis of their political beliefs in violation of the First Amendment.

      In August, a three-judge district court panel issued a 321-page opinion and held that the North Carolina voters had the legal right to bring claims and that the plan violated the Constitution.

      The court said that the state General Assembly "deprived Democratic voters of their 'natural political strength' by making it difficult for such voters to raise money, attract strong candidates and motivate fellow party members and independent voters to campaign and vote."

      Paul Clement, a lawyer for North Carolina's Senate Redistricting Committee argues in briefs before the Supreme Court that the lower court was wrong when it identified a test to strike down the map as unconstitutional. Courts cannot create workable tests for "separating excessive partisan gerrymandering from the run-of-the-mill consideration of partisan advantage by legislatures organized along party lines," Clement argues.

      "As decades of fruitless efforts have proven, trying to identify 'judicially discernible and manageagble standards' for adjudicating generalized political grievances is an exercise in futility," he wrote.

      But the challengers told the justices a different story.

      They pointed to what occurred in North Carolina in the 2016 election and said that Republican candidates won 10 out of 13 seats, even though the statewide vote was nearly tied.

      North Carolina state Rep. David Lewis, the co-chair of the Joint Select Committee on Congressional Redistricting, convened a meeting in 2016 and said, "I propose that we draw the maps to give a partisan advantage to 10 Republicans and 3 Democrats."

        "When politicians feel brazen enough to not just admit but to openly declare that they are drawing political lines to rig the elections and punish certain voters, we need the Supreme Court to step in and say enough is enough," said Kathay Feng, a lawyer representing the challenges from Common Cause.

        The justices could announce its action on the case as soon as Friday afternoon.

        • 5 Dec 2018 1:09 AM | Jason Fierman (Administrator)

          Fair maps? Fine. You too, then, Wisconsin - Chicago Tribune - by Eric Zorn

          Democrats have drawn the political map in Illinois to their advantage, clearly.

          The final vote totals for the Nov. 6 midterm elections released Monday by the Illinois State Board of Elections show that Democrats won 61 percent of the votes cast in U.S. House races in the state, yet they won 72 percent of the seats — 13 out of 18, instead of the 11 out of 18 that would have almost exactly reflected the Democrats’ share of the vote.

          One reading of that result is that the way Democrats drew the congressional district boundaries gave the party two more seats than a “fair map” would have entitled them to.

          All 118 seats in the Illinois House of Representatives were up for election this year (as they are every two years) and Democrats won 62 percent of those seats with 59.8 percent of the overall popular vote.

          Though these overall totals are somewhat skewed because 42 Democrats and 12 Republicans ran unopposed or with just token opposition, they’re very close to the percentage split seen in the aggregate vote for all statewide offices (governor, attorney general and so on) which went 59 percent for the Democratic candidates.

          One reading of that result is that the way Democrats drew the boundaries gave the party four more seats in the House than a “fair map” would have entitled them to.

          And yes, these results at least slightly offend the ideals of representative democracy.

          But, in context, are they outrageous?

          READ MORE: Election results show how gerrymandering is difficult to overcome: 'We did everything we could' »

          In the Wisconsin midterm elections, Republicans won just 46 percent of the overall popular vote for the U.S. House, but 63 percent of the seats — 5 out of 8. The weekly Isthmus newspaper based in Madison reports that Democrats won 54 percent of the popular vote for Wisconsin State Assembly but, due to the Republican-friendly map, only 36 percent of the seats.

          In the Ohio midterm elections, Republicans won 52 percent of the overall popular vote for the U.S. House, but 75 percent of the seats — 12 out of 16. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that Republicans won 50 percent of the popular vote in state House elections, but 63 percent of the seats.

          In the North Carolina midterm elections, Republicans won 50 percent of the overall popular vote for the U.S. House, but 77 percent of the seats — 10 out of 13 — though one apparent Republican victory has yet to be certified due to allegations of fraud. The Washington Post reports that North Carolina Democrats won 51 percent of the popular vote in state House elections, but just 45 percent of the seats.

          In the Texas midterm elections, Republicans won 50 percent of the overall popular vote for the U.S. House, but 64 percent of the seats — 23 out of 36.

          Democrats in Maryland won 65 percent of the popular vote for U.S. House but 88 percent of the seats — 7 of 8, while California Democrats turned a 66 percent victory in the overall U.S. House vote into an 87 percent victory (46 to 7) in the races for seats.

          I will not go through every state — where an analysis of the midterm results by the Washington-based Hill newspaper shows gerrymandering cost the Democrats a total of seven U.S. House seats — but the short answer is: No, Illinois’ results aren’t outrageously skewed, at least not by the low standards set by partisan mapmakers coast to coast.

          Scott Kennedy, proprietor of the independent, numbers-rich Illinois Elections Datawebsite and a Democratic operative, says the “impact of the map is overblown” by many political analysts in Illinois. “Other factors like candidate recruitment, candidate quality, campaign quality and financial means are far more relevant for explaining why the Democrats have significantly outperformed Republicans,” he said.

          Majorities of voters routinely tell pollsters that they want bipartisan or nonpartisan control of political mapmaking in order to diminish the impact of gerrymandering. And incoming Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker, like outgoing Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, sayshe wants to implement just such a change.

          My advice to Pritzker and other left-leaning self-styled reformers: Don’t unilaterally disarm. Strike a deal to hold hands and jump together with Wisconsin, North Carolina or other states where Republicans have drawn district boundaries to their advantage.

          Sure, it’s noble to try to set a good example, but your foes have proven themselves ruthless, and if you don’t cut a deal, you’re likely simply to lose power in the long run.

          Rather than go it alone, lead a crusade for a national overhaul of election laws to ban partisan considerations in political mapmaking and, while we’re at it, to set uniform standards for registration, early and absentee voting, voter eligibility, ballot design, vote counting and poll access.

          Think big. The “blue map” in Illinois is a small problem.

          Twitter @EricZorn

        • 3 Dec 2018 2:13 PM | Jason Fierman (Administrator)

          Redistricting panel will decide which Mich. U.S. House seat to kill - The Detroit News - by Melissa Nann Burke

          A new redistricting commission is expected to decide in the next three years which part of Michigan will lose a U.S. House seat as it considers how to redraw political boundaries statewide.

          The Constitution requires that seats in the U.S. House of Representatives be reapportioned among the states every 10 years according to the results of the census. 

          Michigan has been losing political clout in the House for decades and remains on track to lose another seat because the state's population is growing slowly compared with other states.

          Michigan would go from having 14 representatives in the U.S. House to 13 — down from 19 representatives in 1970. 

          It's unclear which district would be dissolved, though several observers suggested it will probably come out of southeast Michigan because that's where the most districts and people are clustered.

          Southeast Michigan also lost a seat in both 2000 and 2010 after redistricting, forcing political battles each time in a new consolidated district.

          Democratic U.S. Reps. Hansen Clarke of Detroit and Gary Peters of Bloomfield Township faced off in 2012, and Democratic U.S. Reps. John Dingell of Dearborn and Lynn Rivers of Ann Arbor battled in 2002.

          Republicans were in charge of the last two redistricting cycles in Michigan. 

          When partisans look at a map to eliminate a district, it tends to be a political calculation to take a seat from the rival party, said Dave Daley, author of the 2016 book, "Ratf**ked: The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America’s Democracy."

          "It remains to be seen where that district would come from in 2022, especially if you're starting over," Daley said. 

          "Members of the commission have free rein to start a map from scratch without regard for incumbency or partisan advantage, which is an amazing opportunity if you're interested in fairer representation." 

          Political districts in Michigan are supposed to be more "geographically compact and contiguous" under new criteria adopted by voters this month in a ballot measure.  

          The new maps also shall not provide "disproportionate advantage" to political parties or candidates. 

          "Given that we're going to have this independent redistricting commission, I would guess it won't be an overtly political act of targeting a Republican or Democratic district," said Eric Lupher, president of the nonpartisan Citizens Research Council of Michigan.

          Lupher also anticipates the redistricted maps won't resemble the "classic" gerrymander of the S-shaped 14th District or the "backward question mark" shape of the 11th District.

          A report by his group this year found Michigan's political maps failed several advanced tests of partisan neutrality. 

          Also, email correspondence released this year as part of federal litigation over gerrymandering showed Michigan party officials in 2011 attempted to diminish voters of the rival party (Democrats) by "cracking and packing" them into a smaller number of winnable districts. 

          Republicans who drew the current boundaries have argued that existing laws already limit manipulation. They also say the new commission would allow Democrats to gain an advantage under the guise of nonpartisanship after failing to win races at the ballot box.

          Lupher expects Michigan will retain two majority African-American congressional districts among its 13 districts in 2022 to comply with the federal Voting Rights Act.

          That law prohibits states from dividing minority groups or packing them in larger communities to dilute their voting power, he said. 

          Driving political boundaries

          Daley drove the entire boundary line of Michigan's snaking 14th District for his book. 

          The district winds from Pontiac in the north, Farmington Hills to the west, Detroit to the south and captures the Grosse Pointes in the east.

          "I started at 8 in the morning and went until 10 at night. It was a long day of driving some of the most impoverished neighborhoods in the country," Daley said. 

          The 14th District was designed to "pack" as many Democrats into as few congressional districts as possible, Daley said, thereby "bleaching" the surrounding districts to maximize the number of white people likely to elect Republicans. 

          "There were times on my tour where I could take four left turns and come in and out of the 14th District three different times and watch the property values go from a half-million dollars down to $8,500," Daley said.

          "If you have a commission doing this, you are less likely to see such surgical shenanigans." 

          Daley acknowledged that Michigan's geography means it won't have 13 or 14 competitive seats for the U.S. House. For example, GOP-leaning parts of the state like the Upper Peninsula and West Michigan are likely to remain "red." 

          "The five to six districts now that surround Detroit would look very different if drawn by a commission and would probably yield more competitive results," Daley said. 

          Redistricting commission

          A commission of citizens will draw the next set of maps after voters in November approved Proposal 2, making Michigan one of five states to strip redistricting authority from politicians this year in efforts to combat partisan gerrymandering. 

          North Carolina Republican state Sens. Dan Soucek, left, and Brent Jackson review historical maps during the Senate Redistricting Committee in 2016.

          North Carolina Republican state Sens. Dan Soucek, left, and Brent Jackson review historical maps during the Senate Redistricting Committee in 2016. (Photo: Corey Lowenstein / The News & Observer / Associated Press)

          For the first time, the process of redrawing boundaries within the state will be a public one. In the past, deals have been brokered behind closed doors. 

          "It would be nice to have turnover based on voting, rather than turnover based on retirement or death," said demographer Kurt Metzger, the mayor of Pleasant Ridge who hopes to serve on the new commission. 

          "In gerrymandered districts, you win and it's your job for life." 

          Experts predict that Michigan's new maps — drawn under a mandate to keep communities together — will have more geographically compact districts and lead to more competitive races. 

          Critics have argued that the commission could see runaway costs and fear its structure gives too much oversight to a partisan secretary of state, who is set to be Democrat Jocelyn Benson in 2021.

          But the ballot measure drew support from both Republican and Democratic parts of the state, passing with over 61 percent of the vote. 

          "It's a strong reform. ... People are really excited about this nationally just because no one thought you could never get anything like this done in Michigan," said Michael Li, senior redistricting counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law.

          "This is a wake-up call for a lot of the country that there's a lot of citizen energy around this and a desire to make the system better, including in some unexpected places." 

          The fall midterm elections demonstrated that that commission- and court-drawn seats are often more competitive, compared with those drawn by single-party legislatures, Li said. 

          More than 70 percent of the U.S. House seats won by Democrats and all of the House seats picked up by Republicans on Nov. 6 were in districts drawn either by commissions or courts, he said. 

          "When you keep communities together, if there's a move toward one party or another, that can manifest itself in electoral outcomes," Li said. 

          Michigan saw two exceptions to this trend with the election of Oakland County Democrats Elissa Slotkin of Holly and Haley Stevens of Rochester Hills in districts drawn by the Republican-led state Legislature in 2011. 

          Studies of California's redistricting effort also suggest that commission-drawn maps enable more women, people of color and younger candidates to run, despite not always having access to "big money," Li said. 

          That's because congressional districts that are more community-based may overlap with local political boundaries where such candidates could benefit from name recognition and more centralized campaigns, he said.

          Metzger, who founded the firm Data Driven Detroit, said more competitive districts could produce stronger candidates from both parties who provide more discussion of the issues in Michigan. 

          "Now, people sit home and say, 'Oh, well, we know what's going to happen,'" Metzger said. 

          "The more competitive elections you have, the greater chance you have of people coming out and generating excitement, thinking they have a chance to make a difference by voting."



        • 3 Dec 2018 2:09 PM | Jason Fierman (Administrator)

          Redistricting supporters worried bill would alter voter-approved plan - The Detroit News - by Beth LeBlanc 

          A lame duck bill addressing the selection process for the state’s newly adopted citizens redistricting commission has the initiative’s backers crying foul.

          The proposal by Republican Sen. Phil Pavlov of St. Clair details rules and procedures for the selection of the commission, items already outlined in the Proposal 2’s language and, to some degree, left up to the discretion of incoming Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson.

          Another set of bills introduced by GOP Sen. Mike Kowall of White Lake the same day clarify some rules surrounding items approved in Proposal 3, such as same day voter registration and no-reason absentee voting.

          The bills arrived on the Senate floor amid furor over other GOP-introduced proposed changes to Proposal 1, which legalized recreational marijuana, and changes to petition-driven initiatives dealing with minimum wage and paid sick leave.

          The GOP Senate majority maintains the bills addressing the redistricting commission and voters rights are “enabling legislation” that clarify new responsibilities for Benson, a Democrat who takes office Jan. 1.

          But the ballot committee that spearheaded the ballot initiative, Voters Not Politicians, argued the bill would “interfere with the voice of Michigan voters” who supported the initiative in November.

          “Given past activities by the legislature this week, we expect this bill may only be a shell and that lawmakers will use (it) to alter the fair, impartial and independent nature of the commission that was overwhelmingly approved by voters,” said Katie Fahey, executive director for Voters Not Politicians.

          Pavlov was not available for comment.

          The legislation implements statutory changes that allow the proposals to be “properly executed” according to the “intent that voters had when they passed them,” said Amber McCann, a spokeswoman for GOP Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof of West Olive.

          “It’s not to alter, because that would require us to have a super majority in both chambers,” McCann said.

          Changing a voter-adopted initiative requires the support of three-quarters of both the House and Senate. 

          The redistricting ballot initiative calls for a 13-member commission made up of four self-identified Republicans, four Democrats and five people not affiliated with any party.

          The selection of the commissioners would fall to the secretary of state, who would solicit applications, process them and randomly select members. The House and Senate majority and minority leaders would have the option of vetoing up to five applicants each before the secretary of state makes the final random selections.

          The constitutional amendment prohibits a wide swath of applicants from being selected, including individuals who in the past six years were candidates, elected officials, consultants to a political party, employees of the Legislature or registered lobbyists. It also bans close relatives of those individuals.

          Pavlov’s bill calls for the secretary of state to promulgate rules regarding the application process for commissioners, including how applicants would attest to their political affiliation.

          The bill identifies a person’s party affiliation based on whether they’ve done anything to further the purpose of a party, if they’re a member of the party, if they contributed to the party within six years or if they swear an oath attesting affiliation to a certain party or as an independent. The bill would fine people for lying about their political affiliation.

          The bill also requires the secretary of state to make applications available online, in all secretary of state offices and through the mail to people selected from a pool of all registered Michigan voters.

          The legislation would bar a politically affiliated person from providing services, including legal and accounting, to the commission.

          The bill has been referred to the Senate government operations committee, which is chaired by Meekhof and meets on Tuesdays.

        • 30 Nov 2018 5:58 PM | Jason Fierman (Administrator)

          Could the timing be right for a redistricting constitutional amendment - Virginia Mercury - by Mechelle Hankerson

          A redistricting reform advocacy group has again drafted a constitutional amendment to create an independent redistricting commission that would take responsibility for drawing the boundaries of Virginia’s legislative districts out of the hands of the General Assembly.

          Some observers think the latest campaign is coming at an opportune moment: Republicans are facing the potential loss of their slim majorities in both chambers in next year’s House and Senate elections and could play ball to avoid getting gerrymandered out of office.

          Stephen Farnsworth, director for the Center of Leadership and Media Studies at the University of Mary Washington, said keeping redistricting in the hands of the legislature is a gamble for Republicans.

          “One of the potential problems that Republicans face in Virginia is that before too much longer there might be a Democratic majority in the legislature,” Farnsworth said. “And if Democrats are in a position to do to them what they did to them in terms of gerrymandering, that wouldn’t be appealing.”

          One Virginia 2021 created a citizen committee in August tasked with creating the outline for a new way to draw voting districts in the state.

          Currently, the General Assembly does it, but a court-appointed expert redraw congressional districts in 2015 and a federal court has ruled that 11 House of Delegates districts were racially gerrymandered and appointed a special master to redraw them. The U.S. Supreme Court will hear an appeal from Virginia Republicans in that case.

          “It is a political thing,” said Ken Cuccinelli, a committee member and former Virginia attorney general and state senator. “Power players want to draw the lines.”

          One Virginia 2021’s proposal would allow legislators to still have a role in redistricting, but take the responsibility of actually drawing the maps out of their hands. Senators Emmett Hanger, R- Mount Solon, and Mamie Locke, D-Portsmouth, will sponsor the bill in the Senate, said Brian Cannon, executive director of One Virginia 2021.

          The organization is still working on finding House of Delegates sponsors.

          Cannon said there has been support for redistricting reform on both sides of the political spectrum. But some top Republicans, like Del. Chris Jones, Suffolk, chairman of the Appropriations Committee, and Speaker of the House Kirk Cox, Colonial Heights, have said the legislature should retain the power to draw districts.

          “It’s clearly a legislative responsibility, it was made to be that way,” Cox said earlier this month.

          Parker Slaybaugh, a spokesman for Cox, also cast doubt on One Virginia 2021’s objectivity, pointing out that the organization has cost “Virginia more than $1 million in legal fees by challenging the current bipartisan map,” that was supported in 2011 by Democrats, Republicans, then-Sen. Ralph Northam, most of the Legislative Black Caucus and the U.S. Justice Department.

          “However, the drafting of a redistricting constitutional amendment will certainly be a topic that comes up during the 2019 session,” Slaybaugh said in a statement. “There are a lot of passionate advocates on both sides of the aisle and the amendment will have to go through the legislative process along with the many other resolutions that will be presented come January.”

          Creating the commission requires a constitutional amendment. The proposal would have to be introduced and pass in the upcoming General Assembly session, pass again in the 2020 session and then go on the ballot for voter in November 2020.

          “House Democrats have long advocated for independent redistricting as a means to prevent harmful racial and partisan gerrymandering,” Trevor Southerland, executive director of the Virginia House Democrats said in a release. Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam has also voiced support for nonpartisan redistricting.

          “Voters should be able choose their representatives, rather than the other way around,” Southerland said. “Our members look forward to working with constituents, colleagues and advocates to pass a constitutional amendment on redistricting reform in the 2019 session. We have great hope that when the districts are redrawn in 2021, it will be done by an independent commission.”

          Cuccinelli, who was a state senator from 2002-2010, has supported redistricting reform for 12 years. This year, there seems to be some momentum behind it and it would be good for legislators to find an alternative to drawing their own maps, given how delicate the balance of power is in the legislature, he said.

          In 2019, if Democrats are able to win a majority of seats — they came within one seat of an even split in the House in 2017 when one race was determined by drawing a name out of a hat — they would have control of the post-2020 redistricting process under the current system.

          “I don’t think an independent redistricting process really aids anybody in keeping a majority,” Cuccinelli said. “That’s one of the beauties of it.”

          In a poll sponsored by George Mason University’s Schar School of Public Policy and Government earlier this year, redistricting reform was “widely opposed” by Virginia Republicans, Mark Rozell, the dean of the school, wrote in an email. But in neighboring Maryland, where Republicans have been victims of Democratic gerrymandering, there was strong support for redistricting reform in the party.

          “It appears to be all about politics — who benefits, who loses,” Rozell wrote. “Of course, the fewer Republicans in favor may believe that it is the right thing to do and the decision about the best process to use should not be driven entirely by partisan self-interest.”

          The specifics of the plan

          One Virginia 2021’s committee was made up of college professors, retired lawmakers and attorneys that have been meeting since August to create the proposal.

          The group considered what other states do and their own experience in Virginia politics, Cannon said.

          “The committee looked at what we had done in Virginia and seen what has been successful and what hasn’t worked,” he said. “They have a pretty good understanding of what can stick and what cannot stick.”

          The group suggests creating a nominating committee of five retired circuit court judges who would be chosen by the four Republican and Democratic leaders in both chambers of the General Assembly. The fifth judge would be picked by his or her peers on the nominating committee.

          Those judges would then nominate 22 citizens — five Republicans, five Democrats and 12 independents — for a 10-member redistricting commission.

          Since Virginia doesn’t require voters to register by party, the General Assembly will still have the power to decide how a citizen is deemed a Democrat or Republican, Cannon said. They may also create additional requirements for who can apply to be on the committee, but anyone could redraw a map.

          “I think eighth-graders could do a better job than the politicians that have been doing it,” Cannon said.

          Those 22 people would be cut down to 10 by allowing each of the four General Assembly leaders to remove one member of the opposite party and two independents.

          Any map the commission makes has to pass with at least seven yes votes. A member from each party has to vote yes and commission members wouldn’t be allowed to abstain from a vote.

          Once a map is drawn, the commission would hold three public hearings in different regions of the state.

          The proposal has clear guidelines on how members will draw the districts, clearly prohibiting gerrymandering and loosening population rules in order to keep natural boundaries and eliminate confusing split precincts, Cannon said.

          A summary of the proposal says:

          Districts must have equal populations. Congressional district populations can’t be more than one-half percent from the “ideal” number and House of Delegates and Senate districts can’t deviate more than 5 percent from the “ideal” population.

          Districts shouldn’t “abridge or deny the ability of substantial racial or ethnic minority communities to elect representatives of their choice,” and shouldn’t favor or create a disadvantage for any political party or incumbent.

          Counties, cities and towns should be in the same district whenever possible. If it’s not possible for other reasons, like population requirements, districts should be drawn according to natural boundaries, like rivers, roads and neighborhoods.

        • 30 Nov 2018 5:46 PM | Jason Fierman (Administrator)

          Karen Celestino-Horseman: It’s time to reform Indiana’s redistricting process - Indianapolis Business Journal - by Karen Celestino-Horseman

          Finally, the elections are over, and I can return to cooking, posting dog photos on my Facebook page, and watching movies in front of my fireplace. And we now have time to turn our attention to addressing the problems this election highlighted.

          Nationally, voters decided they did not like one party having complete control of the legislative and executive branches. The power will be shared by the two major political parties as the Democrats now hold the majority in the House of Representatives.

          Here in Indiana, a problem remains. Our electoral districts are drawn to allow a single party to retain control of the Indiana House and Senate and congressional districts. For example, of the nine congressional districts, the chance of being represented by Republicans in seven of the nine districts ranges from 94 percent to more than 99 percent. In the two remaining districts, there is a 91 percent and 93 percent chance of a Democrat’s being elected. These latter two districts are drawn so as to contain the largest number of minority voters among the nine districts.

          Going into the election, Republicans held 70 of the Indiana House’s 100 seats, compared with 30 for Democrats. In November, Democrats picked up additional House seats but still remain one member shy of breaking Republican control of a quorum.

          Of the 50 members of the Indiana Senate, only nine were Democrats going into the election. Democrats won just one more seat this month, not enough to change the GOP supermajority.

          In addition, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate captured 51 percent of the vote and incumbent Democrat Joe Donnelly captured 45.1 percent. This shows Indiana voters are not all of one party, yet Republicans hold full control.

          Republicans control our legislative branches, not because it is the will of the people but because of the way the districts have been drawn—not for the benefit of Hoosiers but for the benefit of the Republican Party.

          It is small wonder that we lack the forward, out-of-the-box thinking that could transform Indiana from follower to leader. We continue to rank at the bottom when it comes to education, health, etc., and a large part of that is due to the fact that the same people keep coming up with the same ideas.

          story continues below

          In 2015, the Indiana General Assembly created an independent study committee on redistricting reform. The committee recommended that districts be drawn not by the Republican-controlled Legislature but by a citizen-led redistricting commission that is not weighted to favor Republicans or Democrats.

          In 2016, an interim legislative study committee recommended that the redistricting process be reformed. In 2017, the Republican chairman of the House Elections Committee refused to allow the committee to vote on a bill that would have created an independent redistricting commission. In 2018, the Republican-controlled Legislature failed to pass legislation to reform the redistricting process.

          In actuality, it takes a lot more time, money and effort to gerrymander than it does to draw compact, organized districts. Computer software has made what was once a decennial Herculean task into one that can be accomplished swiftly and fairly without regard for the political partisanship of voters. A computer will not look to benefit one party or another unless it is instructed to do so and that instruction takes effort, time and money.

          If the Legislature does not willingly take on the task of redistricting in a fair and even-handed manner for the benefit of Hoosiers and not individual turfdoms, the decision might have to be made by the courts. And I do not believe any branch of government wants to see that happen.•

          Click here for more Forefront columns.

        • 30 Nov 2018 5:42 PM | Jason Fierman (Administrator)

          Committee of 70 CEO David Thornburgh to head new redistricting commission - Technically Philly - by Roberto Torres

          In a bid to improve the state’s electoral district boundaries, Gov. Tom Wolf just instituted the Pennsylvania Redistricting Reform Commission and appointed David Thornburgh, president and CEO of good government nonprofit Committee of Seventy, as chairman.

          The 15-member commission, announced on Thursday through Executive Order 2018-07, will be tasked with reviewing examples of nonpartisan redistricting processes around the country, seeking input from the public around the principles that should guide a non-partisan redistricting process, and provide recommendations to state government on ways to make Pennsylvania’s map a fairer one.

          “There has been significant bipartisan support for bringing more fairness to this process,” Wolf said. “The goal of this commission is to hear from experts and citizens about what can be done to make this process more fair. The redistricting process should ensure every citizen’s voice is heard in our democratic process.”

          Currently, Pennsylvania uses an electoral map created by the U.S. Supreme Court, which in January declared the prior map to be so biased that it violated the state’s constitution. After the 2020 Census, the map will need to be redrawn.

          Thornburgh, whose organization funded a redistricting education and engagement effort called Draw the Lines PA, said the digital tools from the effort (including an overhauled software platform from Azavea and a site built by P’unk Ave) will help empower more people to participate in the process.

          “People all around the Commonwealth who have taken up the digital tools [are] perfect contributors to the process,” Thornburgh said. “They can talk not just in generalities but in facts. They can say, ‘When I sat down to fix the problem, here’s what I came up’ and in that sense it’s do-it-yourself democracy.”

          Map-drawing tools aside, the core of the Draw the Lines is more about goals and values. The discussion elicited from the education effort will help the commission understand what values Pennsylvanians wish to see in the redistricting effort.

          “That’s a big part of the process,” Thornburgh said. “It’s not just, ‘Here’s a tool, go crazy’: You have to put thought into it.”

          One component of the Draw the Lines effort is a state-wide mapping competition. The deadline to enter the contest is Dec 14.

        • 30 Nov 2018 5:35 PM | Jason Fierman (Administrator)

          Hamden Votes to Close 2 Schools as Part of Redistricting - NBC Connecticut - by Jamie Ratliff

          Frustrated parents in Hamden are fighting to keep their schools open after the district decided to close two locations Thursday night.

          The Board of Education unanimously voted to close and repurpose the Church Street and Shepherd Glen schools, moving sixth grade to the middle school and incorporating Wintergreen Magnet School into the public school system.

          This will impact more than 1,000 students.

          Redistricting for Hamden schools has been on the table since last fall.

          Hamden Officials to Consider School Consolidation[HAR] Hamden Officials to Consider School Consolidation

          Redistricting for Hamden schools has been on the table since last fall. Board members will decide tonight on three scenarios to consolidate the district which includes closing a combination of two of its ten K-6 schools and moving the 6th graders from those schools to the middle school.(Published Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018)

          “When we've come to our decisions it is something that has not been made in haste,” said board member Melissa Kaplan.

          Many parents were upset with the decision, calling it a mistake and threatening to move out of the district if the schools close.

          Board members argue that this benefits all Hamden students. They say declining enrollment, budget concerns and making sure schools are racially balanced all played a role in the changes.

          Couple Weds in San Diego Costco Where They Had 1st Date

          “Any transition is difficult but the other alternative is cutting opportunities and curriculum and programming and to me that is doing a disservice to every student,” Kaplan said.

          It’s still up in the air how much money this will save the district. It could be millions if Wintergreen students who live in Hamden transition to the public schools.

          Those who spoke at the meeting said that won’t happen.

          US Stands Apart as G-20 Summit Stumbles on Trade, Climate

          “You will not recoup the funds you expect from us or others as your math estimates because you underestimate our commitment,” one parent said.

          The school closures will happen in phases, with the hope to have all this completed by the 2022-2023 school year.

          And because the Wintergreen building is owned by the town, the board must petition the council to transfer it to them.

        • 27 Nov 2018 5:58 PM | Jason Fierman (Administrator)

          Democrat-led panel OKs redistricting amendment in New Jersey - San Francisco Chronicle - by Mike Catalini

          TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey lawmakers late Monday advanced a proposed constitutional amendment that would overhaul how the state creates legislative districts.

          The Democrat-led Senate budget committee approved the proposal after a marathon marijuana legalization hearing that drew large crowds and significant news coverage.

          If approved, the new legislative redistricting scheme would lead to the creation of districts that would last a decade, until the next federal census in 2030.

          Republicans, a civil rights coalition including the League of Women Voters, and one of the state's highest-profile pollsters opposed the plan. They say the proposed question obscures a built-in advantage for Democrats by tying districts' makeup to political party performance in statewide elections over the previous decade.

          But supporters say the proposal increases transparency by requiring public hearings and adding public members to the commission that draws the state's 40 legislative districts.

          New Jersey reconsiders its legislative districts after the federal census every 10 years.

          Under the current system, a 10-member commission with appointments split between the state Democratic and Republican party chairmen create the maps. The state's chief justice selects a neutral tiebreaking member.

          Under the proposal, in addition to the public meetings, power of appointment would be taken away from state party chairmen. Instead there would be a 13-member commission, and the party chairmen would each appoint two members. At least one would be from the public at large.

          The four legislative leaders from both major political parties would each pick two members, with at least one of each of those being a member of the Legislature. The chief justice would appoint the 13th member.

          But the proposal's definition of competitiveness drew significant opposition.

          The proposal defines competitiveness based on party performance in prior elections over the previous decade. Specifically, a district could favor one party over the other if a party's percentage of votes for president, senator and governor over the past decade exceeded the statewide percentage in those elections.

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