A bitterly divided Florida Senate committee gave preliminary approval to a redistricting redo pushed by Republican leaders Friday that would split Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties and force all 40 senate districts onto the ballot next year. The Senate Reapportionment Committee voted 4-3 along party lines to bring a Republican-leaning map offered by Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, to the floor next Tuesday but its prospects for passage remained cloudy. All three Democrats on the committee said they objected to the Galvano map, and two of the committee’s four Republicans warned that they may not support it next week because they fear it could run afoul of the state Constitution’s anti-gerrymandering provisions. “It is defiant. It is unnecessary. It is recalcitrant and I hope that our colleagues at the other end of the hall will recognize the fatal flaw that was placed on the record by our lawyers,’’ said Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon. He said the Senate’s lawyers ordered staff to ignore the allegations in the lawsuit that forced lawmakers into special session to fix the Senate map when they drew the map, a decision that could lead the court to reject the plan and become “another black eye” for legislators.
The chairman of the state Senate committee charged with redrawing districts for the 40-member chamber released his proposed draft of the map late Wednesday, as Republican discontent with a plan for whether and when members would have to run for re-election continued to brew. The complicated dance during a special redistricting session highlighted the delicacy of the issue among lawmakers most affected by the process and underscored fissures within the GOP majority over a lingering battle for the Senate presidency following the 2016 elections. The draft proposal released by Senate Reapportionment Chairman Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, came after an at-times contentious meeting of Galvano’s committee aimed at finding a way forward with a new map that would satisfy the voter-approved “Fair Districts” amendments, which ban political gerrymandering. The Senate settled a lawsuit with voting-rights organizations after determining it was likely to lose a court battle over the lines.
With their 247 seats in the House, the largest GOP majority since 1930, Republicans should have no problem pushing their agenda and agreeing upon a speaker to lead them. But here’s the rub: The Republicans are victims of their own success – gerrymandering success. Their commanding majority in the House is to some extent artificial. Only a few House Republicans represent districts where they hear divergent views, a situation that reinforces their mistaken belief that a majority of Americans agree with them and their agenda for the nation. A recent Pew Research Center survey showed more Americans believe the Democrats are better able to handle domestic policy issues and only 32% of Americans have a favorable view of the Republican Party. Another Pew poll showed that only 23% of Americans identify as Republicans. More than 40% of voter csonsider themselves independents, and when they are asked to say which party they lean toward more often and are included with strong partisans, only 39% of Americans say they favor GOP views versus 48% who agree with Democrats.
It’s no secret that the infighting within the Republican ranks in the Florida Senate has led to a bitter contest between Sen. Joe Negron of Stuart Jack Latvala of Clearwater over who will lead the Senate in 2016. Now, it appears, dissension is mounting over how Senate leaders are handling the legal argument as the Legislature meets in special session to resolve its differences over redistricting. On Monday, Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, emerged as a critic of the decision by Senate redistricting lawyers to propose a series of draft maps without showing how they repair the flaws alleged by the challengers in the lawsuit. The Legislature was sued by the League of Women Voters, Common Cause and a group of Democrat-leaning individuals for violating the anti-gerrymandering provisions of the Florida Constitution when it drew the 2012 Senate reapportionment boundaries.
Less than an hour after Florida legislators opened their fourth special session on redistricting Monday, they were roiling in a bitter dispute over how far they could go to protect half the Senate from facing voters in a tumultuous presidential election year. Just moments after the Legislature officially started its special session at noon, it became abundantly clear one major hurdle already exists as the chambers prepare to redraw Florida’s 40 state Senate seats: The two chambers, dominated by Republicans, are split over who will have to run for re-election in the Senate in 2016. The House, citing a 1982 court opinion and a ruling from the Florida Supreme Court in 2012, believes that when the Legislature redraws the district lines, every member whose district is revised will have to run for re-election in 2016. That would include as many as 14 state senators who were elected to four-year terms in 2014. “We’ve always understood it to be everyone has to go back and run again,” House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, told reporters. Not so, said State Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, chairman of the Senate Reapportionment Committee.
Florida lawmakers are heading back to an expensive, well-worn drawing board. For the second time in three months, the Legislature will convene a special session Monday to redraw political boundaries. The task of redrawing congressional and legislative districts has already cost taxpayers $9.6 million over six years in litigation expenses alone. Lawmakers now face the task of redrawing 40 state Senate districts in a session scheduled to end Nov. 6. This time, legislative leaders are hoping to reach a consensus on new Senate maps that passes muster with the courts. Previous congressional redistricting efforts ended in a stalemate and a rebuke from the Florida Supreme Court for falling afoul of anti-gerrymandering provisions in the constitution.
In a stinging blow to opponents of the state’s anti-gerrymandering amendments, a federal court this week has thrown out a lawsuit filed by two Florida Republican Party officials who claimed the new law violated the constitution because it had a “chilling effect” on their free speech and petition rights. Tim Norris, the Walton County Republican Executive Committee Chairman and Randy Maggard, the Pasco County Republican Executive Committee Chairman. sued the Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner in August, demanding that he not enforce the Fair Districts provisions of the state constitution. They made the argument being echoed by many lawmakers that their speech is chilled because, as members of a political party, it will be used to invalidate a map. Hoping to find a venue that was most favorable to them, they filed the case in the Northern District of Florida in Pensacola. But in a 16-page opinion, the chief judge of the district, Judge M. Casey Rodgers, who was appointed by George W. Bush, rejected their argument and dismissed the case.
Florida House and Senate leaders on Wednesday released six staff-drawn base maps that reconfigure the state Senate boundaries which they will offer up to legislators as a starting point for the three-week special session that begins on Monday. That maps, each drawn by adhering to two different sets of standards, were designed to replace the enacted map produced by lawmakers in 2012, which legislative leaders conceded violated the anti-gerrymandering provisions of the Fair Districts amendments to the Florida Constitution. “We believe each map complies with the relevant legal standards contained in the Florida Constitution and federal law, including the Florida Supreme Court’s recent interpretations,” wrote House Redistricting Chairman Jose Oliva and Senate Redistricting Chairman Bill Galvano in a memo to legislators on Wednesday.
In a stinging blow to opponents of the state’s anti-gerrymandering amendments, a federal court this week has thrown out a lawsuit filed by two Florida Republican Party officials who claimed the new law violated the constitution because it had a “chilling effect” on their free speech and petition rights. Tim Norris, the Walton County Republican Executive Committee Chairman and Randy Maggard, the Pasco County Republican Executive Committee Chairman. sued the Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner in August, demanding that he not enforce the Fair Districts provisions of the state constitution. They made the argument being echoed by many lawmakers that their speech is chilled because, as members of a political party, it will be used to invalidate a map. Hoping to find a venue that was most favorable to them, they filed the case in the Northern District of Florida in Pensacola.
Gov. Larry Hogan’s Redistricting Reform Commission wrapped up its fifth and final regional hearing Tuesday night in Laurel with what has become the typical list of witnesses advocating for an independent commission to cure Maryland’s partisan gerrymandering of congressional and legislative districts. Republican legislators and citizens outnumbered Democrats and African American Democrats complained of underrepresentation. But in a break from previous hearings, a smattering of Democrats opposed changes that unilaterally weaken their party while larger Republican-controlled states continued their gerrymandering ways, disempowering Democrats.
Ohio: Expert Says Ohio’s Redistricting Proposal Could Serve As Model For Other States | Ohio Public Radio
A national political expert visited Columbus to talk about the push to change the way state lawmakers’ districts are drawn, and it’s an opportunity to achieve something rare in this country. “That is not a natural community in any sense of the word,” says Michael Li, the redistricting expert at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University. He’s pointing to a district map drawn in California. One particular district is just a sliver of land that snakes up the west side of the state. “It stretches almost 200 miles up the coast of California, here it’s barely there—in fact—there’s a point in which it disappears at high tide,” said Li. Li’s notes drew laughter but also point out the odd realities of gerrymandering. This is when one party can draw legislative districts to benefit one party over another.
Election season is in full swing. This year, it is not a presidential election to which I am referring, of course—both parties’ candidates and the initial GOP debates to the contrary—but on Nov. 3, registered voters 18 and older can go to the polls to elect Virginia Senate and House of Delegates seats throughout our commonwealth. Of course, not all of the eligible registered voters will participate in what is perhaps our most holy of democratic traditions. Some may be turned away for not having the correct photo ID—a potential impediment not required in recent decades in Virginia, before last year’s elections. Virginia legislators, it seems, must spend much of their time away from Richmond looking under their beds for practically nonexistent fraudulent voters, thereby disenfranchising many of whom they perceive as the “wrong” voters.
Florida: Lawmakers set the stage for special session on redrawing district maps | News Service of Florida
Legislative leaders hope to have a new map of the 40 state Senate districts done by 3 p.m. on Nov. 6, according to the official “call” of a special redistricting session scheduled to begin in two weeks. House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, and Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, issued the call Monday for the special session, which will start at noon Oct. 19. Legislative leaders earlier announced the dates of the session, but the call provides formal details. Lawmakers have to draw new Senate districts as part of a settlement with voting-rights organizations and voters who sued to overturn the existing map under the anti-gerrymandering “Fair Districts” redistricting standards approved by voters in 2010. The current map was drawn in 2012, following the once-a-decade U.S. Census.
A Florida judge is poised to unveil his plan for reshaping the state’s congressional boundaries, the latest chapter in a contentious and increasingly messy effort to strip away partisan politics from redistricting. At the instruction of the Florida Supreme Court, Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis is weighing seven proposals for redrawing boundaries advanced by the Republican-led legislative chambers and Democrat-allied voter groups. The state high court set a deadline of Oct. 17 for him to recommend a new map based on guidelines they issued in their ruling. Lawyers say Judge Lewis could release his plan as early as this week.
Florida: House, Senate reach agreement on congressional redistricting | Jacksonville Business Journal
As congressional mapmakers defended their versions of districts in a hearing before a Tallahassee judge, the House and Senate announced Friday that they had reached agreement on how to move forward with a process to draw new lines for the state Senate in a special session starting next month. There were few revelations during Friday’s hearing on the congressional districts, expected to wrap up Monday. Leon County Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis is expected to either choose one of seven maps — offered by lawmakers, voting-rights organizations, and a group of voters backed by the Florida Democratic Party — or combine the maps in a new proposal. Ultimately, Lewis’ recommendation will go to the Florida Supreme Court, which ruled in July that a map approved by the Legislature in 2012 and tweaked two years later violated a voter-approved constitutional ban on political gerrymandering.
n 2001, three Indiana senators represented portions of Madison County. Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, had a majority of the county; Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, had the western portion; and Doug Eckerty, R-Yorktown, had just one township, Van Buren in the northeastern corner of the county. In 2011, after districts were redrawn using the 2010 census, the state senate districts changed dramatically. Lanane’s 25th district, which had been exclusively in Madison County, is now mostly a Delaware County district. Kenley’s district has retreated back across the Hamilton County line, and Eckerty now represents all of Madison County except Anderson. “When they brought me in to show me my district, I almost didn’t recognize it,” Lanane said. “It basically got turned on its side.”
Lawyers sparred over Florida’s congressional districts in court Thursday, the latest episode of a three-year battle that has left the state without political boundaries for the 2016 election. The case is in court because the Florida Supreme Court threw out the prior maps in July, ruling that GOP operatives had infiltrated the redistricting process and packed Democratic voters in District 5, a skinny district that snaked from Jacksonville to Orlando. Leon Circuit Judge Terry Lewis will now consider as many as seven proposals for the maps submitted by both chambers of the Legislature, the League of Women Voters and other plaintiffs. The trial will continue into next week, and Lewis will make a final decision and send it to the Supreme Court for review by Oct. 17. Already, litigation and special sessions related to redistricting have cost taxpayers about $11 million.
A bloc of state Representatives — Scott Conklin, Tina Davis and Brian Sims — have introduced bills that would automate voter registration, form an independent redistricting commission and allow in–person absentee ballot voting. Conklin and Sims have partnered on a bill that would automatically register eligible individuals when that person obtains a Pennsylvania driver’s license; Davis and Sims introduced a bill that acts on the precedent set in Arizona, which ended gerrymandering there. “Any serious discussion about reforming government begins with redistricting and establishing a fairer system for drawing our state’s voting maps,” said Davis, D–Bucks. “The independent commission that our measure would create would put voters — and not political advantage — at the forefront when electoral districts are revised.
With a Leon County circuit judge ready to hear arguments Thursday, the Florida Supreme Court has rejected a request that could have shed more light on congressional redistricting maps proposed by groups that have waged a long-running legal battle against the Legislature. The Supreme Court, in a 5-2 decision Monday, turned down a request from House attorneys to allow additional information-gathering — through a legal process known as discovery — about proposed maps submitted by the League of Women Voters of Florida, Common Cause and a group of individual plaintiffs.
For roughly two hours Monday, 10 members of the new Maryland Redistricting Reform Commission listened to voters and elected officials alike vent about the state’s congressional and legislative district maps. Speakers told them they felt disenfranchised and distressed. They said their voices had been silenced, and their views weren’t represented. “They’re frustrated and apathetic,” former district court judge and commission co-chairman Alexander Williams Jr. concluded after the hearing. “People want something done.” Monday’s hearing, conducted at Hagerstown Community College, was the second in a series the 11-member panel is holding across the state.
Arguing that “neither political party holds a monopoly on gerrymandering,” lawyers for the Florida House on Thursday asked the Florida Supreme Court to allow them to ask the redistricting challengers questions about the Democrat-leaning firms that drew their proposed congressional map. “Without apparent shame, Plaintiffs have presented to the trial court alternative maps that were drawn, reviewed, discussed, modified, and approved in a closed process, in complete darkness, by national political operatives,” the House lawyers wrote in the motion. “The fact that Plaintiffs’ maps, despite their origins, are pending before the trial court for a possible recommendation to this Court should dismay and disturb all Floridians.”
Lawmakers on Monday filed three potential maps of the state’s 27 congressional districts for a Leon County judge to consider, as the deadline for turning plans into the court approached. The state House wants Circuit Judge Terry Lewis to approve the last map that House members voted out during a special redistricting session that collapsed last month, while the Senate is floating two alternative proposals for the judge to consider. After the session collapsed, the Florida Supreme Court gave Lewis the task of coming up with a map for justices to review. The Supreme Court struck down the current congressional map in July for violating the anti-gerrymandering “Fair Districts” standards approved by voters in 2010.
A group of Virginia residents sued state elections officials Monday over 11 legislative districts — including some in Northern Virginia — charging that they violated the state Constitution by enforcing election maps that too easily protect incumbents. The plaintiffs argue that during the last round of redistricting, in 2011, the General Assembly drew the districts to give incumbents the best chance at holding on to their seats at the expense of geographical compactness, which the Constitution requires. If successful, the suit, which is the third recent court challenge to the state’s elections maps, could scrap the maps and send vulnerable lawmakers scrambling to compete in newly drawn districts. The House and Senate districts in question are spread all over Virginia and include parts of Prince William County, Manassas, Manassas Park, Fairfax County and Arlington County.
All of the parties involved in a legal fight over the shape of the state’s congressional districts have until Monday to submit maps they believe should be used in the looming 2016 elections, a Leon County judge ruled Friday. An order approved by Circuit Judge Terry Lewis lays out the timeline for the latest stage of the courtroom battle, now in its fourth year. The Legislature’s version of the congressional map was thrown out in July by the Florida Supreme Court, which said the plan violated the anti-gerrymandering “Fair Districts” standards approved by voters in 2010. The process for redrawing the map plunged into chaos when lawmakers emerged from a special session last month without a deal on what the state’s 27 U.S. House districts should look like. A hearing held Friday by Lewis followed another Supreme Court ruling last week on how to proceed.
Maryland: Redistricting Reform Commission to hold first hearing Tuesday, schedules 4 more | Maryland Reporter
Gov. Larry Hogan’s recently formed Redistricting Reform Commission will hold the first of five regional meetings this Tuesday, 6:30 p.m., Sept. 15, in the Minnegan Room at Towson University’s Johnny Unitas Stadium. Hogan created 11-member commission by executive order Aug. 6, and gave it only till Nov. 3 to submit its report to him and the legislature. His executive order made clear he wants an independent, nonpartisan commission to replace the current process controlled by the governor and General Assembly leaders.
The General Assembly’s secret haggling months past the deadline for a state budget frustrates school officials, teachers and state employees and could upset thousands more depending on how much new policy ends up in the new spending plan. But what really ought to outrage the public is that the leaders of the General Assembly have little reason to care about how the public feels. The legislative redistricting maps passed in 2011 after Republicans took control of the General Assembly were so aggressively gerrymandered it would take a pitch-fork rebellion by voters to end the GOP majority. How safe are the seats? Consider what happened in the 2014 General Assembly election. For 170 legislative seats, 78 had only one candidate. Of the 92 remaining races, fewer than 10 were competitive. In the end, three seats switched parties. Former Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker, along with former Charlotte Mayor Richard Vinroot have led a statewide drive to have district lines drawn every 10 years by an independent commission or nonpartisan legislative staff. The proposal has gone nowhere in the General Assembly despite broad public support for an end to having politicians choose their voters.“Everywhere you go virtually everybody favors ending gerrymandering,” Meeker said last week. “It’s not even close. It’s 4 or 5 to 1.”
The Ohio Democratic Party today officially joined the chorus in favor of a ballot issue to overhaul Ohio’s inherently partisan process under which state legislative districts are redrawn every 10 years. The party stood on the sidelines for months while a majority of organizations usually allied with it stood with Republicans to promote Issue 1 on the Nov. 3 ballot. The party’s executive committee waited to run computer models to see how it might fare under the new system before jumping on board. “We weren’t looking for, and we didn’t find, any models that showed we could guarantee ourselves a majority,” party Chairman David Pepper said. “Frankly, that would be gerrymandering just like in the past. What it found, though, was that if Democrats were to win the apportionment board, we could draw many seats that would be likely Democrat seats. But the most important change is there would be many more competitive races.”
House Speaker Steve Crisafulli on Tuesday all but ruled out a special session to take another stab at drawing new districts for Florida’s congressional delegation, making it increasingly likely that the task will fall to the courts. In a memo sent to state House members, Crisafulli indicated he would not back off a demand that lawmakers approve a “base map” aimed at satisfying a July Supreme Court ruling, which found that existing congressional districts violate the anti-gerrymandering “Fair Districts” standards approved by voters in 2010. During a special session last month, senators tried to amend the base map, but House leaders said that could cause the courts to strike down districts again. The session imploded after the House and Senate failed to reach agreement. The Supreme Court on Friday sent the redistricting issue back to Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis, who has overseen long-running litigation about the congressional map. But justices left open the possibility that lawmakers still could go into special session and agree on districts.
The betting odds are that the case filed by Stephen M. Shapiro, a former federal employee from Bethesda, won’t make a dent in Maryland’s chronic gerrymandering — the manipulation of district lines in order to benefit the majority party. All past attempts to get the judiciary to intervene have failed. But you have to give Shapiro, who has pursued the issue for a quarter-century, credit for trying. His determination has gotten him not just a day in court but a day (well, actually more like an hour) in the U.S. Supreme Court this fall. The court is scheduled to hear a case resulting from Shapiro’s contention that the maps drawn by this state’s Democrats after the 2010 census violate First Amendment rights to free speech.
Florida: Redistricting challengers used data and emails to piece together signs of conspiracy | Tampa Bay Times
The legal team that uncovered the shadow redistricting process that invalidated Florida’s congressional and Senate districts didn’t rely just on maps and cloak-and-dagger emails to prove that legislators broke the law. The best clues came in the form of data — millions of census blocks — delivered electronically and found in the files of political operatives who fought for two years to shield it. The Florida Supreme Court ruled 5-2 in July that lawmakers were guilty of violating the anti-gerrymandering provisions of the Florida Constitution and ordered them to redraw the congressional map. It was a landmark ruling that declared the entire process had been “tainted with improper political intent” — a verdict so broad that it prompted an admission from the state Senate that lawmakers had violated the Constitution when they drew the Senate redistricting plan in 2012. The Legislature has scheduled a special session in October to start over on that map.