Republicans in 2011 carved North Carolina into new districts from which public officials are elected, creating 170 areas for state lawmakers and 13 for members of Congress in a required effort to maintain balanced populations. Democrats and left-leaning groups complained that the new maps intentionally deflated their candidates’ chances in the state and federal elections, but courts have upheld the redistricting effort — which is necessary after every Census — as fair, legal and based on sound methodologies. But there’s a reinvigorated movement among officials and policy groups with ties to both political parties who say they’re sick of gerrymandering, or at least of the public skepticism that comes when politicians handle how the voting areas are drawn.
Several months of quiet whispers have quickly turned into a resounding buzz — and a nervous buzz, no less — about a case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court that questions whether it’s constitutional for independent state commissions to have the sole power to draw political district maps. The case is centered on Arizona, but the buzz being heard on this side of the Colorado River arises from the fear that if a lower court’s ruling is thrown out, California may very well be next in the return to partisan congressional gerrymandering. It explains why everyone from legal scholars to three former California governors is asking to be heard before the nation’s highest court.
Florida: Redistricted maps product of Democratic meddling, Legislature tells Court | SaintPetersBlog
Attorneys for the Florida Legislature are calling on the Florida Supreme Court to reject proposed redistricting maps submitted by voting-rights groups. Their argument: the maps are a product of influence by Democratic “partisan operatives and political consultants.” In a court filing on Monday, lawyers representing the House and Senate are asking to discard the maps weeks before the court hears arguments on the constitutionality of redistricting approved by the Republican-controlled Legislature. The Florida League of Women Voters is among the groups that brought suit, saying the districts violate Florida’s Fair District anti-gerrymandering constitutional amendment voters put in place in 2010.
Del. Rip Sullivan (D) has already filed 16 pieces of legislation, and his first session in the Virginia General Assembly is just hours old. One of his biggest priorities after being elected in August to replace Del. Bob Brink (D) will be reforming the process by which Virginia draws its districts for both state and federal legislatures. Sullivan’s legislation, HB1485, would follow through on recommendations made by a state government integrity panel last month. Although a long-shot in the Republican-controlled Virginia General Assembly, Sullivan’s bill calls for redistricting to become a nonpartisan process. Every 10 years, after a new U.S. Census, state legislatures redraw their district maps to align with the population changes. Often, these districts are drawn in a way to include certain blocks of voters with one another in order to gain seats in Congress or the General Assembly. The problems are not unique to Virginia, but they might be worse here.
Several Virginia voters have filed a federal lawsuit accusing the General Assembly of “racial gerrymandering” by packing black voters into 12 of the state’s House of Delegates districts. According to the complaint, filed with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in Richmond last week, the General Assembly in 2011 adopted a redistricting plan purposefully drawn to have “an African-American voting age population that met or exceeded a pre-determined 55 percent threshold,” diminishing the influence of black voters in the surrounding districts as a result. After each decennial census, Virginia redraws its congressional and legislative districts, taking into consideration population shifts in the previous 10 years. The procedure opens a door for state legislators to gerrymander the districts to their partisan advantage.
The Virginia Board of Elections is under fire for alleged racial gerrymandering during a 2011 voter redistricting plan for the House of Delegates. In a lawsuit filed in the Richmond, Va. Federal Court, a dozen voters say the committee violated electoral rights by packing black voters into fragmented and irregularly shaped district lines — targeting a 55 percent threshold and significantly decreasing compactness in these areas. “As a result, African-American voters were illegally packed into the Challenged Districts, thereby diminishing their influence in the surrounding districts,” the complaint says. “The General Assembly adopted the 55% racial threshold without justification, including any determination that the threshold was reasonably necessary to avoid retrogression in each of the Challenged Districts or otherwise comply with the Voting Rights Act of 1965.”
Ohio: In a Break From Partisan Rancor, Ohio Moves to Make Elections More Competitive | New York Times
Of 435 House races in November, only a few dozen were considered competitive — a result of decades of drawing district lines for partisan advantage, generally by state legislatures. But in an era of hyperpartisan gerrymandering, which many blame for the polarization of state and national politics, Ohio took a step in the opposite direction last week. With the support of both parties, the Ohio House gave final approval Wednesday to a plan to draw voting districts for the General Assembly using a bipartisan process, intended to make elections more competitive. “I think it will be a new day in Ohio,” said Representative Matt Huffman, a Republican who shepherded the plan. While the proposal is aimed narrowly at state legislative districts, it could have an indirect impact on congressional districts because they are drawn by state lawmakers. President Obama carried Ohio, a quintessential swing state, by two percentage points in 2012. Yet Republicans have overwhelming majorities in Columbus, the capital, and a 12-to-4 advantage in congressional seats. “When you’re an outsider looking in, it’s almost shocking,” said Senator Joe Schiavoni, the Democratic leader in the State Senate.
The North Carolina state Supreme Court ruled on Friday that redistricted voting maps designed in 2011 by the state’s Republican-led legislature are constitutional. Critics denounce the maps as an attempt to marginalize black voters by weakening their influence through unlawful gerrymandering. A majority of justices disagreed, saying instead that the redistricting plans for the state’s congressional and legislative seats do not violate anyone’s rights, Reuters reported. The ruling comes 11 months after the justices first heard arguments in the case and supports a similar July 2013 ruling by a panel of three judges. In 2010, Republicans took the North Carolina legislature for the first time in more than a century, and after drawing new voting districts, increased their majority in subsequent elections, according to Reuters.
Florida: Legislature Tells Supreme Court That Fair District Amendment Is “Unenforceable” | News Service of Florida
Lawyers for the Legislature told the Florida Supreme Court in a brief filed late Friday that part of a state ban on political gerrymandering violates the U.S. Constitution. The filing is the latest chapter in a long-running battle over whether lawmakers rigged congressional districts during the 2012 redistricting process to benefit Republicans. Voting-rights organizations argue that the maps were influenced by politics, contrary to an amendment to the Florida Constitution approved by voters in 2010. Those voting-rights groups, including the League of Women Voters of Florida, are appealing a decision by Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis to approve a revised map the Legislature passed over the summer to address two districts Lewis ruled were flawed. But in the Legislature’s brief filed Friday, attorneys for state lawmakers said the “Fair Districts” amendment dealing with congressional redistricting — another amendment dealt with state House and Senate maps — runs afoul of the U.S. Constitution because it was approved by voters.
For over a decade, Ohio has been the nation’s most fiercely contested swing state, and its politics are as polarized as anywhere in the country. And yet, lawmakers from both parties somehow came together last week to approve a widely-praised plan aimed at making the state’s redistricting system fairer and less partisan. The state Senate voted 32-1 Friday in favor of the plan. If it passes a final vote in the House, as expected, it will go before voters next fall. The breakthrough comes amid growing, nationwide concern that rampant partisan gerrymandering threatens the legitimacy and responsiveness of our democracy, producing a shrinking number of competitive races and a House of Representatives whose partisan alignment is badly out of whack with voters’ preferences. So, can Ohio offer the rest of the country any lessons? Perhaps, but there certainly aren’t any magic bullets.
Almost invariably, whenever I speak about our polarized politics, the first or second question I get is about redistricting. Most Americans who know that our political system is not working the way it is supposed to don’t know what specifically is wrong. But gerrymandering is something that clearly stands out for many. That is true even for Bill Clinton, who spoke about polarization and dysfunction at the 2013 Clinton Global Initiative and singled out gerrymandering as a prime cause. The reality, as research has shown, is that the problem is more complicated than that. The “big sort,” in journalist Bill Bishop’s term, where Americans increasingly concentrate in areas where they are surrounded by like-minded people, is a major factor in the skewing, and the homogeneity, of districts. Other partisan residential patterns, including the fact that Democrats tend to live in more high-density urban areas, while Republicans tend to cluster in suburban and rural enclaves, matter. And the Senate, which represents states, not districts, is almost as polarized as the House. (Indeed, according to the National Journal voting records for the last Congress, it is more polarized—there was no overlap between the parties, meaning that the most conservative Democratic senator was to the left of the most liberal Republican senator.) Senate primaries, just like House ones, skew heavily toward each party’s base, and senators respond. And the permanent campaign pushes lawmakers to stick with their team, even if some of the team’s votes go against an individual member’s more moderate or bipartisan grain.
The Ohio Senate president said he anticipates a vote on Thursday on a plan that would change the way the state draws legislative districts. But Democrats already say it won’t go very far to end the partisan gerrymandering that allows the majority party to rig the election system to its benefit. Arguing that discussions are not progressing quickly enough on an already-introduced redistricting plan, Senate President Keith Faber, R-Celina, rolled out a new plan yesterday that would not alter the current process for creating the congressional map. Faber has said he is reluctant to change the congressional mapping process while there is a case out of Arizona pending before the U.S. Supreme Court on how involved a legislature must be in drawing those districts. Reportedly there has been private push-back from Ohio’s congressional delegation on making changes to the current process, which has provided most members with safe seats. Asked about conversations with U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, Faber would say only that he has spoken to various members of the congressional delegation and there are varying opinions.
Recently released documents related to the decennial redistricting process in Florida show that the firm in charge, Data Targeting, made a concerted effort to benefit the state’s Republican Party and keep it all out of the sunshine. One email even made note of the need to converse over the phone instead of by email. I’m not surprised. Back in July, Circuit Judge Terry Lewis ruled that Republican operatives “made a mockery of the Legislature’s proclaimed transparent and open process of redistricting.” The 538 pages of records show that’s exactly what happened. While redistricting always has been a kind of behind-closed-doors process, what was different this time around was Florida’s Fair Districts amendment passed by 63 percent of voters. Not only were the state’s open-government laws violated, the amendment states in part that “congressional districts or districting plans may not be drawn to favor or disfavor an incumbent or political party.” The next step is up to the Florida Supreme Court. The groups that filed the original challenge will argue that the revised map approved by Judge Lewis after last summer’s special legislative session doesn’t fix the many violations of the amendment. Oral arguments are set for March 4.
Previously secret testimony and documents about the 2012 redistricting process, released this week by the Florida Supreme Court, provide the most detailed information yet about an alleged plan by Republican political consultants to funnel maps through members of the public to conceal the origins. The effort itself is not a surprise; revelations at a redistricting trial about a map submitted under the name of former Florida State University student Alex Posada had already indicated some maps submitted through the Legislature’s system to gather public ideas were not drawn by the people whose names were attached to them. But the records and testimony released this week provide the clearest view yet of the breadth of the scheme and how the consultants tried to explain it away. “The documents that these political operatives worked so hard to hide from the public, along with their testimony given in closed proceedings, reveal in great detail how they manipulated the public process to achieve their partisan objectives,” said David King, a lawyer for voting-rights organizations challenging the state’s congressional districts.
Editorials: GOP operatives had outsized role in Florida redistricting | Aaron Deslatte/Orlando Sentinel
To hear Republican operative Pat Bainter tell it, he’s a victim of voters’ anti-gerrymandering zeal. When Florida in 2010 passed reforms barring the intentional re-crafting of legislative and congressional districts to help candidates or political parties, it theoretically benched highly paid brains such as himself behind politicians such as Mike Haridopolos and Daniel Webster. In the witness testimony from last summer’s redistricting trial, the Gainesville consultant whose firm banked $2.9 million in 2011-12, declares himself a “second-class” citizen, unable to openly participate in Florida’s historic and flawed first stab at carrying out the Fair Districts reform. “The amendments themselves created a second class of citizen, including myself,” Bainter said in court testimony previously sealed. “They basically made it impossible for someone like me, that was interested in the process, to participate in that process without fear of some retribution, such as this.”
Long before the first public maps were released, critics say Florida Republican political operatives were creating an “illusion” of non-partisanship over the once-a-decade redistricting process with a “wink and a nudge toward their collaborators in the Legislature.” That illusion was outed Tuesday when the Florida Supreme Court released thousands of pages of emails, testimony and sealed court records related to the GOP political consulting firm Data Targeting, which was at the center of the two-year legal fight over lawmakers’ attempts to implement anti-gerrymandering reforms passed by voters. The Gainesville-based company’s president, Pat Bainter, has been fighting to block the release of over 500 pages of emails, maps and other records from 2011 and 2012. The records provide some insight into the lengths to which the political operatives went to influence the 2012 redistricting process in which the Legislature had been tasked for the first time with drawing new legislative and congressional maps without partisan intent.
Ohio: Conservative and liberal groups agree Ohio’s redistricting process is ‘badly broken’ | Cleveland Plain Dealer
A conservative think tank and liberal advocacy group usually at odds with each other are on the same page on one issue — redistricting reform. State legislators are considering proposals to change how Ohio draws its congressional and legislative boundaries, a process that has become bitterly hyperpartisan as the party in power draws lines favoring their incumbents. Opportunity Ohio CEO Matt Mayer and ProgressOhio Executive Director Sandy Theis released a joint statement Tuesday calling on Ohio lawmakers to adopt “meaningful redistricting reform” by June 2015. “This reform must eliminate the gerrymandering of congressional and state legislative districts, which is more about empowering political parties and less about empowering voters,” Mayer and Theis said.
Florida: Emails show GOP consultants’ ‘almost paranoid’ mission to circumvent gerrymandering ban | Miami Herald
The Republican consultants had to be hush-hush — “almost paranoid” in the words of one — because of their high-stakes mission: Get go-betweens to help circumvent a Florida Constitutional ban on gerrymandering. The plot was spelled out in a newly released batch of once-secret emails that show how the consultants surreptitiously drew congressional and state legislative maps. They then recruited seemingly independent citizens to submit them in an effort to strengthen the hand of Florida Republicans when the GOP-led Legislature redrew lawmaker districts in 2011. The year before, Florida voters overwhelmingly amended the state’s constitution to prohibit legislators from drawing legislative and congressional districts that favor or disfavor incumbents or political parties. Citing the new amendments, a coalition of voting-rights and liberal groups called the Fair Districts Coalition sued the Legislature over its maps. The emails, under court seal until this weekend, played a key role in a recent court victory to force the Legislature to redraw some of Florida’s congressional districts. The correspondence will take center stage in a related case challenging the state Senate maps.
Editorials: Gerrymandering is a Texas tradition whose time has come and gone | Micahel Li/San Antonio Express-News
Texas gets a new set of statewide elected officials next year — but one thing that won’t have changed is that the state will find itself embroiled in complicated and expensive redistricting litigation, just as it has in each of the last four decades. In fact, it is very likely that sometime next year, the Supreme Court will take up yet another major Texas redistricting case. In some ways, Texas’ penchant for breaking ground in redistricting law isn’t surprising. Texas long has been among the nation’s fast-growing states — one with a complicated ethnic mix, and lots of jockeying and jostling for power and representation. The fights over district lines often have been no-holds-barred, with the leaders of the day, be they Democrats or Republicans, pressing for maximum advantage and letting the courts decide if they went too far. The result has been frequent, head-spinning map changes.
The fed-up, frustrated mood of Ohio voters in this year’s elections can be traced in large part to an issue that voters themselves have traditionally ignored: gerrymandering. It’s largely why all 16 of Ohio’s U.S. representatives were easily re-elected earlier this month despite near-record-low approval ratings of 14 percent for a body frozen by gridlock. The 15 who had an opponent won with an average of 66 percent of the vote. While Republicans have seemingly benefited the most from districts last drawn in 2011 – holding three-quarters of U.S. House seats and a super-majority of General Assembly seats in a politically balanced state – they realize change is needed. “Gerrymandering is the leading cause of dysfunction in both state and federal legislatures,” state Sen. Frank LaRose, an Akron-area Republican, told The Enquirer. “Reforming this is one of the most impactful things we can do for the future of our democracy.” We agree, and there’s no question that change is needed before district lines are redrawn in 2021.
In the aftermath of the midterm elections, there’s no shortage of easy explanations for the outcome, and everyone’s an expert. Pundits say the Democrats didn’t allow President Barack Obama to campaign enough, or featured him too much. They didn’t talk enough about the economy. They went too negative, or weren’t negative enough. The Republicans ran better, less extreme candidates. Variously, gerrymandering, vote suppression, vote fraud, or big money made the difference. Of course, the real reasons are far more complex. In the weeks and months ahead, we’ll comb through the data to learn more, but right now one fact is painfully clear: Citizens showed up to vote at lower rates than in any federal election since the middle of World War II. Preliminary data indicate that national turnout was below 37 percent. That means nearly 2 in 3 eligible voters, or approximately 144 million American citizens—more than the population of Russia—chose to sit this election out. The nation hasn’t seen turnout this low in any federal general election since 1942. Even in recent midterms, when the turnout was remarkably low, it still exceeded 40 percent, meaning millions more Americans voted in 2006 and 2010 than in 2014.
Editorials: The SCOTUS Should Reject Alabama’s Legislative Districts | Jim Sleeper/The Washington Monthly
With roughly 80% of Alabama whites voting Republican and 90% of African-Americans voting Democrat, it’s been easy for the state’s legislative leaders to deny they had any explicitly racial intent in compressing black voters into a few electoral districts and “whitening” the neighboring districts to elect more Republicans. Districting along party lines is the prerogative of whatever party controls the process, and if citizens are voting in racial blocs, what can a loyal Republican or Democrat line-drawer do but follow that pattern — and perhaps even intensify it when “voting rights” laws facilitate the design of “majority-minority” districts to enhance non-white voters’ opportunities to elect “candidates of their choice”? That’s the gist of Alabama’s defense this week in a suit brought by the state’s Legislative Black Caucus. The Supreme Court must decide whether the line-drawers acted racially, and therefore unconstitutionally, or for purely partisan purposes. But poor leadership on both sides of this question has intensified racial polarization even when voters have tried to transcend it, even in the Deep South. The Court should rebuff line-drawers in a way that points beyond both racialism and partisanship in districting.
Ohio: Redistricting proposal would give majority party more power, critics say | Cleveland Plain Dealer
Critics say new proposals intended to make Ohio’s process for drawing congressional and legislative district lines less partisan would actually make gerrymandering worse. Rep. Matt Huffman, a Lima Republican, introduced a pair of resolutions last week intended to amplify minority party members’ voices on the panels that draw the lines. Dan Tokaji, a law professor at OSU’s Moritz College of Law, said the proposals also remove safeguards that allow Ohio citizens and public officials to challenge newly drawn district maps. Tokaji said the resolutions don’t allow a citizen-initiated referendum or a governor’s veto of the congressional map approved by state lawmakers. “This will ensure the majority party can ram through the plan they want without any votes from the minority party and any realistic plan of it being reversed,” Tokaji told reporters Monday.
Editorials: Texas should learn from states that led in voter turnout | Elaine Ayala/San Antonio Express-News
Secretaries of state across the country have begun to report their voting statistics, and the United States Elections Project out of George Mason University is eagerly awaiting them. It will be deep into January, however, before its analysis will be completed. Already, however, indications are that history has repeated itself — the states that historically have done the best job of getting voters to the polls were on top again. Think Oregon, South Dakota, Alaska, Wisconsin and Maine. Texas is expected to come in at the bottom again with one of the lowest voter participation rates in the country. What do the best voting states do? It’s not too surprising. They’re liberal in their openness, having instituted same-day registration, or voting by mail, or in one of the most interesting cases (North Dakota) no voter registration at all. These high-turnout states share some characteristics. They have higher educational and income levels. They’re whiter and older, and many of them have had highly competitive elections in which no one party dominates. They’re states that UTSA political scientist Patricia Jaramillo has called “moralistic states,” which encourage participation, as opposed to “traditionalistic individualist states” that don’t encourage voting beyond those already engaged.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday appeared unsure how to resolve a challenge to a state legislature redistricting plan in Alabama that packed black voters into certain districts in a way that critics say diminishes their influence at the polls. The nine justices heard an 70-minute oral argument on two cases brought by the Alabama Democratic Conference and the Alabama Legislative Black Caucus against the redistricting by the Republican-controlled state legislature in 2012. The case centers on the practice known as gerrymandering in which election districts are drawn in a way to provide one party an advantage in as many districts as possible while consolidating the other party’s voters into as few as possible. Democrats say Alabama, a state with a past history of erecting hurdles for black voters, violated the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law by concentrating black voters, who tend to vote Democratic, into a small number of districts.
Editorials: Argument analysis: Hitting the “sweet spot” on race, party, and redistricting? | Richard Hasen/SCOTUSblog
By the end of Wednesday’s oral argument in Alabama Legislative Black Caucus v. Alabama and Alabama Democratic Conference v. Alabama, it was not clear whether the state of Alabama or challengers to its state redistricting plan would be likely to win the racial gerrymandering claim currently before the Supreme Court. Nor was it clear how the Court would separate permissible partisan gerrymanders from impermissible racial gerrymanders. But the argument left little doubt that, one way or another and sooner or later, Alabama is likely to have a legislative districting plan which helps the state’s Republican legislators and minimizes the voting power of the state’s Democrats and African Americans. The legal landscape and factual background of this case are exceedingly complex and laid out more fully in this argument preview. The case concerns a challenge to state legislative districts drawn by the Alabama Legislature after the 2010 census. The legislature, newly controlled by Republicans, drew a redistricting plan that contained the same number of majority-minority Senate districts and one additional majority-minority House district compared to the 1990s plan drawn by a court and the 2000s plan drawn by a Democratic legislature. Because of population shifts and declines, as well as the composition of the original 2001 districts, the African-American districts were the most underpopulated of all the districts, meaning that many voters had to be shifted into these districts to comply with “one person, one vote” requirements.
Editorials: Did legislators redraw district lines to hurt Democrats or to disenfranchise black voters? | Richard Hasen/Slate
As Democrats struggled last week to salvage control of the Senate, they pushed to get as many black voters to the polls as possible, especially in the South. It’s no wonder: Blacks are the most reliable Democratic voters, and 89 percent of them ended up supporting Democratic candidates in the 2014 elections (a mark that was actually down from 2012). White voters, in contrast, came out heavily for Republicans in the South. In North Carolina, where incumbent Democrat Kay Hagan lost to Republican Thom Tillis, the GOP candidate got just 3 percent of the black vote. But as we all know, the black turnout was not high enough to beat back the Republican wave in North Carolina or elsewhere. In North Carolina in particular, black turnout was down compared with 2012. Recognizing this major overlap of race and party in the South is key to understanding Wednesday’s Supreme Court case involving a constitutional challenge to Alabama’s legislative redistricting. No one disputes that the Alabama Legislature packed black voters into a few legislative districts, thus strengthening Republican control in the majority of districts throughout the rest of the state. But whether or not that action is constitutional depends a great deal on whether the court views this as a case about race (in which case Alabama may have acted unconstitutionally) or one about party (in which case Alabama’s actions are constitutional, if unsavory politics as usual). Given current realities, this “race or party” determination is a wholly artificial exercise, but one that puts the justices in a very interesting spot.
One thing this election cycle has taught us is that although recent court battles and political arguments over voter identification laws, gerrymandering, and the Voting Rights Act tend to grab the headlines, election officials across the political spectrum are improving how well elections actually work by implementing some of the technological improvements the private sector has been using for years. Consumers — in this case, voters — want the convenience, accessibility, and mobility offered by new technologies. This has led to a quiet revolution in red and blue states alike that has made the voting process more accurate, cost-effective, and efficient. After all, we’re accustomed to using our smartphones and laptops to pay bills, book flights, and scan the news. So why not use them to register to vote or find out where to cast a ballot? A great example of this approach is online voter registration. Four years ago, citizens in only eight states, representing 12 percent of eligible voters nationwide, could register online. But as of the end of September 2014 — with registration deadlines rapidly approaching — almost 110 million of the approximately 225 million eligible U.S. voters were living in the 20 states that now offer online registration. This innovation was driven not by political partisans but by professional election administrators; pioneered by Republican election officials in Arizona and then Washington, online voter registration is now offered by states as red as Kansas and Georgia, and as blue as California and Maryland.
In the 2012 elections, a Redistricting Amendment to the Ohio Constitution was put on the ballot. Known as Issue 2, the amendment would have created a commission of twelve citizens to draw legislative and congressional maps. The amendment was defeated at the ballot box by a resounding 63% against and 37% for the amendment. To many, partisan redistricting is only a polite way of saying gerrymandering, and this very process of the state legislature choosing who will essentially elect them is provided for in the Ohio Constitution. In fact, the Secretary of State of Ohio, John Husted, wrote in the Washington Post this February, “[I]f government is to be more responsive, it is not the people but the Ohio Constitution that needs to change.” However, it may very well be the case that John Husted was the reason for Issue 2 failing at the ballot box. In 2012 I was an undergraduate student at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. I received my absentee ballot in the mail and started working my way through it. After wondering to myself “Why in the world am I electing members of the Judiciary?” I reached the part of the ballot pertaining to Issues. The first, Ohio’s twenty year option to hold a constitutional convention to “revise, alter, or amend the constitution,” and after that a two column monstrosity of an issue that made me cringe. I must confess, I voted against it. I thought it looked too complicated and surely there could be an easier way to redistrict.
A few states have turned to independent or arms-length commissions to limit political influences when redrawing congressional and legislative districts. The Supreme Court, however, is hearing a case from Arizona that could jeopardize the future of these commissions. Commission supporters point to more competitive contests and new faces replacing incumbents as evidence of reduced gerrymandering, the deliberate drawing of often misshaped districts to benefit one party or the other. In California, a 14-member citizen panel of Republicans, Democrats and people who are not affiliated with either party redrew the state’s 53 congressional and 120 legislative maps in 2012. The realignment of political boundaries produced some of the most competitive congressional races in decades. Fourteen House incumbents either lost their seats or opted not to run under the new lines. Arizona, Hawaii, Idaho, New Jersey and Washington also have set up commissions to redraw district boundaries after the new census every 10 years. A handful of others have formed panels to redraw only state legislature seats.