Welcome to the FELN Biweekly Redistricting Update. If you have updates to share – on federal, state and local redistricting plans – please email us at email@example.com.
-The FELN Team
Democrats in the legislature sent a proposal to redraw house and senate districts to the Permanent Legislative Committee on Reapportionment. The committee has yet to release their plans. The Democrats redistricting plans will not deviate more than 2 percent in population from House district to House district or from Senate district to Senate district. The legislature will begin debating redistricting plans in a special session starting on Thursday.
On Tuesday, the Alaska Redistricting Board submitted new redistricting plans to the Alaska Supreme Court. The new map redraws the southeastern districts in Juneau to reflect the redistricting requirements in the Alaska Constitution without regard to the Federal Voting Rights Act requirements. The court ordered the redistricting board to redraw those districts on May 10 to comply with the requirements in the Alaska Constitution. The changes may impact Native Alaskans influence. The current districts, represented by two Native legislators, were eliminated. Those legislators will have to face reelection against non-Native incumbents in districts less populated by Native voters. The Alaska Supreme Court has until Friday to issue any objections to the proposed map. The map then must go to the U.S Department of Justice for review.
The Maricopa County Election Director Karen Osborne filed legal papers last week to intercede in a federal lawsuit that is challenging the maps that were drawn by the Independent Redistricting Commission. Osborne argues that it is too late to change the districts for this year’s election. Precincts, based off of the maps that are being challenged, have already been drawn and several candidates have already filed the necessary nominating papers to run.
There is also a separate lawsuit that challenges the congressional maps drawn by the Independent Redistricting Commission. However, that lawsuit does not seek to alter the lines for this election year. It is seeking new maps for 2014.
A three-judge panel dismissed Secretary of State Mark Martin from the lawsuit over the redrawing of an east Arkansas district in the new senate map. The state senator that represents the district argues the map dilutes the African-American vote. Secretary Martin was included in the lawsuit, claiming he intentionally discriminated against African-Americans because he voted against a redistricting map that lowered the black voting age population in the district. Gov. Mike Beebe testified in federal court last week defending the plan approved by the Board of Apportionment last year against claims that it intentionally discriminated against blacks in east Arkansas.
Last Friday was the last day of regular session for the Kansas legislature and the legislature still had not come up with new redistricting plans. The Kansas Constitution requires the legislature to draw new maps during the 90-day regular session. No one is certain if the legislature can proceed with attempting to pass redistricting plans or if it must fall to the courts to redraw the maps. Due to the stalemate, Secretary of State Kris Kobach has pushed back the candidate filing deadline from June 1 to June 11. There has already been one redistricting lawsuit filed in federal court on behalf of a JohnsonCounty woman but no proceedings have occurred yet. Secretary Kobach also filed a motion in the lawsuit, asking the court to draw election boundaries for state and federal offices in time for this summer’s primaries.
A constitutional amendment was introduced this week that would make changes to how Kansas handles its redistricting process. The proposal would set up a five-member redistricting commission that would draw political boundaries for congressional, legislative and State Board of Education districts. The majority and minority leader from each chamber would pick a member to serve on the commission. The four members would then pick the fifth member and that person would serve as chair. Once maps are drawn, the maps would be sent to the legislature for an up or down vote. If the maps fail after two attempts, the legislature could make changes to the maps. If this constitutional amendment receives two-thirds of the vote in both chambers, it will be placed on the ballot for voters to consider.
The House voted to approve the Senate redistricting plan. The maps now must be approved by the U.S. Department of Justice.
The five lawsuits that were filed challenging New Hampshire’s new maps have been consolidated into one lawsuit that is now heading to the New Hampshire Supreme Court. At the center of the case is a 2006 constitutional amendment that requires the legislature to attempt to draw single-town and single-ward districts. The plaintiffs are arguing that the new maps deny 62 communities their own representative despite having the requisite population. The House Speaker filed a motion to intervene to defend the maps on behalf of the House of Representatives.
Public hearings over proposed redistricting plans ended last week. The redistricting panel hopes to agree on a final plan by the end of the month.