Ohio: Jon Husted says Ohio’s gerrymandering problem could be fixed with 2 simple rules | Cleveland Plain Dealer

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted said Thursday that legislators could fix Ohio’s partisan redistricting process with a few sentences. Husted said the two competing efforts to change how Ohio draws congressional districts are too complicated. A reform plan, he said, only needs two rules: Require a bipartisan vote and don’t divide counties until the entire population of the county has been used up to draw a district. “That’s all you have to do. Bipartisan vote, don’t divide counties — boom!” Husted said, speaking to reporters outside a conference of the Ohio Association of Community Action Agencies.

National: The Courts Take Aim at Partisan Gerrymandering | The New Yorker

Donald Trump so dominates the media landscape that he crowds out other news. So what may be the most important political development of our time—the death of partisan gerrymandering—may not be receiving the attention it deserves. Following the 2010 census, and the Republican landslides in the midterm elections of that year, G.O.P. leaders at the state level created remarkably cynical legislative maps for both state offices and the U.S. House of Representatives. They drew district lines that gave Republicans many more seats than were justified by their over-all statewide numbers. In Pennsylvania, for instance, Republicans received only about half the statewide votes, but they now control thirteen of the eighteen seats in the House. Yet the Republicans may have overreached. A series of court decisions in recent weeks—in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and at the United States Supreme Court—have demonstrated that the judicial branch of government is mobilizing to end this shameful and destructive legislative practice.

Pennsylvania: Supreme court rejects GOP-drawn congressional districts | The Guardian

The Pennsylvania supreme court on Monday struck down the boundaries of the state’s 18 congressional districts, granting a major victory to plaintiffs who contended that they were unconstitutionally gerrymandered to benefit Republicans. Republicans who controlled the legislature and governor’s office following the 2010 census broke decades of geographical precedent when redrawing the map, producing contorted shapes including one that critics said resembled “Goofy kicking Donald Duck”. They shifted whole counties and cities into different districts in an effort to protect a Republican advantage in the congressional delegation. They succeeded, securing 13 of 18 seats in a state where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans five to four.

North Carolina: Federal judges tell lawmakers to use Stanford professor’s maps | News & Observer

A panel of federal judges has ordered North Carolina lawmakers to use maps created by a Stanford University law professor in the coming elections – in the second ruling this week on a state redistricting case. The ruling, released on Friday, comes less than a month before the filing period opens on Feb. 12 for candidates seeking office in the state Senate and House of Representatives. The ruling has an impact on districts in eight counties – Senate districts in Cumberland, Guilford and Hoke, and House districts in Bladen, Guilford, Mecklenburg, Sampson, Wake and Wayne counties. All other districts remain as adopted by lawmakers in late August.

Pennsylvania: Plaintiffs appeal gerrymandering case to Supreme Court after losing at trial | Philadelphia Inquirer

After federal judges rejected their contention that Pennsylvania’s congressional map was the product of unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering, plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit have filed a direct appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. In a 2-1 decision last week, a panel of federal judges sided with Republican lawmakers who drew Pennsylvania’s map in 2011. D. Brooks Smith, the chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, said that reform “must come from the political process itself, not the courts.”

Texas: U.S. Supreme Court dismisses Texas Democrats’ partisan gerrymandering appeal | The Texas Tribune

Texas, for now, will not join the list of states fighting in court over the limits of partisan gerrymandering. As it considers cases out of other states over whether extreme practices of partisan gerrymandering can be deemed unconstitutional, the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed the efforts of Texas Democrats and other plaintiffs to revive a related legal claim in the ongoing litigation over the state’s political boundaries. The high court’s dismissal comes just days after it agreed to hear a case over whether Texas’ congressional and House district boundaries discriminate against voters of color. In that case, the state appealed a three-judge panel’s ruling against the state that included findings of intentional discrimination by state lawmakers, unconstitutional racial gerrymandering and violations of the Voting Rights Act.

North Carolina: Don’t ‘reward gamesmanship and obstinacy,’ North Carolina gerrymander challengers say | News & Observer

Attorneys representing voters who successfully challenged North Carolina’s congressional districts as unconstitutional partisan gerrymanders are protesting lawmakers’ attempt to use the election maps again this year. U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Roberts had given attorneys until noon Wednesday to offer response to a request last week from Republican legislative leaders for the country’s high court to get involved in another gerrymandering case in North Carolina. “In the 2016 election, Republican congressional candidates received slightly more than 50 percent of the statewide vote in North Carolina,” attorneys for the League of Women Voters wrote in opposition to lawmakers’ request for an emergency stay that would put a lower court’s ruling on hold. “With this slim majority, they won ten of North Carolina’s congressional seats. The resulting partisan asymmetry was the largest in the country in the 2016 election, and the fourth-largest, on net, of all congressional plans nationwide since 1972.”

Pennsylvania: Supreme Court considers ordering new congressional map before 2018 elections | Philadelphia Inquirer

Pennsylvania Supreme Court justices on Wednesday interrogated lawyers defending the way the state’s congressional districts were drawn, a map opponents have challenged as illegally shaped to benefit Republicans, who hold a majority of its seats in the U.S. House. Based on the tenor of their questions, a majority of the court, which has five Democrats and two Republicans, appeared open to the argument that Pennsylvania’s congressional districts are illegally gerrymandered. A group of Democratic voters has asked the court to overturn the map and order a new one drawn before the 2018 elections, in one of several such lawsuits nationwide. The justices, while acknowledging that politics played a role in the boundary-drawing, must decide whether those political concerns crossed the line and deprived Democratic voters of their constitutional rights.

Pennsylvania: Supreme Court to decide if state congressional district map is a partisan gerrymander | WHYY

Pennsylvania’s congressional district map is often considered one of the most gerrymandered in the United States, but is it unconstitutional? And if so, how do you fix it? Those are the central questions the Pennsylvania Supreme Court will weigh when hearing oral arguments on Wednesday in a lawsuit that has the potential to change the state’s political landscape. The case was initiated by 18 voters, all Democrats, and the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania. Plaintiffs claim Republican lawmakers, who drew the congressional map, violated their state constitutional rights, and are requesting the court to order the state legislature to draw a new map before the primary elections in May. Each of Pennsylvania’s 18 congressional seats are up for grabs in the 2018-midterm elections.

Texas: The Supreme Court takes on two redistricting cases from Texas | The Economist

The Supreme Court rejects about 99% of the 7,000 to 8,000 petitions that reach it each year. But when it comes to cases involving reapportionment—challenges to how states draw lines for congressional or state legislative elections—the justices can’t be quite so choosy. Congress has chipped away at the cases subject to mandatory review by the Supreme Court, but it has kept it for redistricting cases where an election looms and time is of the essence. If skewed electoral maps may need to be redrawn, a special three-judge federal court is convened to hear the case; an appeal goes right to the Supreme Court, bypassing America’s 13 circuit courts. 

Virginia: Proposals seek to end gerrymandering in Virginia | Capital News Service

An assortment of bills to revise standards for drawing Virginia’s electoral districts could be the beginning of the end for gerrymandering in the commonwealth, according to redistricting reform proponents. Gerrymandering, the practice of politicians redrawing electoral districts to gain an advantage, has drawn attention and disdain in recent years. North Carolina’s congressional map was declared unconstitutional last week by a panel of federal judges, who ruled legislators had drawn it with “invidious partisan intent.” House Bill 276, proposed by Democratic Del. Sam Rasoul of Roanoke, would create a Virginia Redistricting Commission. The commission would determine the criteria for remedial redistricting plans if a court declares any congressional or legislative district unlawful. Under the current system, the legislators themselves determine the criteria for redrawing these lines.

National: A Case for Math, Not ‘Gobbledygook,’ in Judging Partisan Voting Maps | The New York Times

In October, when the Supreme Court heard arguments in a case that could reshape American politics, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. registered an objection. There was math in the case, he said, and it was complicated. “It may be simply my educational background,” the chief justice said, presumably referring to his Harvard degrees in history and law. But he said that statistical evidence said to show that Wisconsin’s voting districts had been warped by political gerrymandering struck him as “sociological gobbledygook.” Last week, Judge James A. Wynn Jr. came to the defense of math. “It makes no sense for courts to close their eyes to new scientific or statistical methods,” he wrote in a decision striking down North Carolina’s congressional map as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander.

Editorials: The constitutional case against partisan gerrymandering | Chicago Tribune

North Carolina is a purple state, narrowly electing a Democratic governor in 2016 while giving a slim presidential victory to Republican Donald Trump. But its congressional delegation is not split so evenly. Republicans hold 10 seats and Democratsonly three. Asked why, one GOP state legislator involved in designing district boundaries had a pithy explanation: “Because I don’t believe it’s possible to draw a map with 11 Republicans and two Democrats.” North Carolina’s lawmakers made no bones about their intention to divvy up voters so that the GOP would retain a large majority of the state’s congressional delegation no matter which way the political winds blow. And they succeeded. But last week, a federal appeals court ruled the redistricting plan unconstitutional because of its discriminatory purpose and effect. It was the first time a federal court had ever struck down a map because of partisan gerrymandering. Parties in power have practiced this method to entrench themselves for as long as anyone can remember. But modern technology has made it possible for legislators to carry out their mission with nearly infallible results.

Voting Blogs: Squashing the Praying Mantis: Why Maryland 3rd Should be Redrawn | State of Elections

The Washington Post called it the “second-most gerrymandered” district. Its shape is comical and unwieldly. It has been compared to a praying mantis. This is Maryland’s 3rd Congressional District. Yet, when the topic of gerrymandering in Maryland arises, Maryland’s 6th Congressional District receives an outsized amount of attention and focus. The focus on the 6th makes some sense; it is the focus of a federal court case. Certainly, from a lawsuit perspective, focusing on a district where the incumbent lost his seat because of gerrymandering makes more sense than a district where the incumbent kept his seat. However, the 3rd is still more gerrymandered, because it is a weirder shape and the margin of victory for Democrats in the 3rd is higher than it is in the 6th. It is good that both the current governor, Larry Hogan, and the former governor, Martin O’Malley, agree that the gerrymandering in Maryland is bad. However, they should speak out about the 3rd specifically, because, as stated before, the 3rd is more gerrymandered, and because it makes more political sense to focus on the 3rd. The two should draw attention specifically to the 3rd.

Georgia: How redrawing districts has kept Georgia incumbents in power | Atlanta Magazine

After Joyce Chandler and Brian Strickland, two white Republican state representatives in metro Atlanta, barely won re-election against Democrats in 2014, their colleagues in the General Assembly didn’t take it as a sign to step up minority outreach. Instead, they pulled out their maps. When the state Legislature convened the following January, as part of a “midcycle” redrawing of more than 15 House seats, lawmakers decided to swap out heavily black and Latino areas in Chandler and Strickland’s suburban districts with nearby precincts that leaned Republican. Two years later, Strickland again eked out a victory. The creative mapmaking appeared to be yet another political power play, one practiced just as deftly by Democrats during their more than 150 years of control over the General Assembly. But according to a federal lawsuit filed last October, the 2015 effort was an “assault on voting rights” that amounted to racial gerrymandering—an unconstitutional act.

Editorials: North Carolina’s ‘partisan gerrymander’ could prompt supreme court action | Andrew Gumbel/The Guardian

The last time North Carolina Republicans redrew the state’s 13 congressional districts, they made absolutely no secret of their ambition to rig the system and lock in a 10-3 balance in their favour – regardless of whether they or the Democrats won a majority of the votes in future elections. “I think electing Republicans is better than electing Democrats,” bragged the chair of the redistricting committee in the state general assembly, David Lewis. “So I drew this map to help foster what I think is better for the country.” Drastic improvements in mapping technologies and voter information databases meant specialist mapmakers had unprecedented power to manipulate political outcomes, even in a swing state like North Carolina where one would ordinarily expect to see US House and state legislative seats split more or less evenly between the two parties. The instruction from Lewis and his colleagues, according to court documents, was “to create as many districts as possible in which GOP candidates would be able to successfully compete for office”.

Editorials: Will the Court Kill the Gerrymander? | Zachary Roth/The New York Review of Books

On Tuesday, a panel of federal judges struck down North Carolina’s congressional map, ruling it an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. State Republicans had drawn district lines with such ruthlessness that they had won ten out of thirteen seats in the 2016 election—77 percent—even though they got only 53 percent of the vote. GOP lawmakers, wrote Judge James Wynn Jr., had been “motivated by invidious partisan intent.” Republicans had openly admitted as much. “Nothing wrong with political gerrymandering,” declared one of the lawmakers leading the process at a 2016 hearing. “It is not illegal.” The GOP is likely to appeal Tuesday’s ruling to the Supreme Court on those grounds. Whether courts are empowered to block partisan gerrymanders—as opposed to gerrymanders involving racial discrimination, which just about everyone agrees are unconstitutional—is a question the justices considered in October when they heard Gill v. Whitford, a challenge to Wisconsin’s state assembly map. The fate of North Carolina’s map likely hangs on how the court decides Gill. A ruling is expected before the end of June.

North Carolina: Court rules against partisan gerrymandering | The New York Times

A panel of federal judges struck down North Carolina’s congressional map on Tuesday, condemning it as unconstitutional because Republicans had drawn the map seeking a political advantage. The ruling was the first time that a federal court had blocked a congressional map because of a partisan gerrymander, and it instantly endangered Republican seats in the coming elections. Judge James A. Wynn Jr., in a biting 191-page opinion, said that Republicans in North Carolina’s Legislature had been “motivated by invidious partisan intent” as they carried out their obligation in 2016 to divide the state into 13 congressional districts, 10 of which are held by Republicans. The result, Judge Wynn wrote, violated the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection.

Pennsylvania: Judges rule Pennsylvania can keep congressional map | Associated Press

Pennsylvania can keep its congressional map, a judicial panel in Philadelphia ruled Wednesday, rejecting an argument from a group of Democratic voters who contended it should be thrown out because the state lawmakers who created the map in 2011 gerrymandered it to help Republicans. The court cast aside the argument that districts should not consider politics, saying partisanship is part of the system. “The task of prescribing election regulations was given, in the first instance, to political actors who make decisions for political reasons,” Circuit Court Judge D. Brooks Smith wrote in the majority opinion in the case. “Plaintiffs ignore this reality.” The ruling came a day after a court threw out North Carolina’s congressional map, finding it went too far to help Republicans.

National: It’s Probably Not Possible To End Gerrymandering | FiveThirtyEight

Gerrymandering was once only the concern of map drawers and politics nerds. Most people didn’t know who their congressional representatives were, let alone the contours of their districts. But gerrymandering is having a moment. People don’t like it, and they want it fixed. It’s easy to understand why. As we’ve mentioned before, gerrymandering takes the blame for partisan polarization, uncompetitive elections, marginalizing minorities and rigging elections in favor of one party or the other. If you could solve those things by ending gerrymandering, why wouldn’t you?

Ohio: Ohio Republicans propose changes to congressional redistricting; Democrats say it won’t end gerrymandering | Cleveland Plain Dealer

State lawmakers would still draw congressional districts, but would need bipartisan support to approve a map under a GOP proposal unveiled Wednesday morning. Sen. Matt Huffman, the Lima Republican behind the proposal, said requiring minority-party votes and setting new rules for how districts could be drawn are improvements over the current process. But Democrats and redistricting-reform advocates say the plan still allows for too much political maneuvering by the majority party. The Fair Districts = Fair Elections coalition plans to move forward with its proposed constitutional amendment.

Editorials: Two Ways of Looking at Gerrymandering | Linda Greenhouse/The New York Times

Even though Doug Jones won a famous statewide victory in last month’s Alabama Senate race, he actually lost — less famously — to Roy Moore in six of the state’s seven congressional districts. That’s right: He carried only the heavily black Seventh Congressional District, into which the Alabama Legislature has jammed almost a third of the state’s African-American population while making sure that the rest of the districts remain safely white and Republican. That’s gerrymandering in the raw. Something equally raw, although less overtly racial, happened in Maryland back in 2011, when the overwhelmingly Democratic State Legislature decided that two Republicans out of Maryland’s eight-member congressional delegation was at least one Republican too many. The 2010 census required the state to shrink the majority-Republican Sixth District by 10,000 people in order to restore one-person, one-vote equality among the districts. Seeing its opportunity for some major new line-drawing, the Legislature conducted a population transfer. It moved 66,417 Republican voters out of the district while moving into it 24,460 Democratic voters from safely Democratic adjoining districts, a swing of more than 90,000 votes. And guess what? The 20-year Republican incumbent, Roscoe Bartlett, lost the 2012 election to the Democratic candidate, John Delaney, who has won re-election ever since.

North Carolina: How far into 2018 before North Carolina knows shape of election districts in gerrymander case? | News & Observer

As 2017 drew to a close, an often repeated phrase among observers of North Carolina politics was the only thing certain about the 2018 elections was uncertainty. With the filing period for candidates seeking state House and Senate seats set to open in mid-February, the lines for the election districts remain unclear. North Carolina lawmakers have canceled primaries for all judicial races and continue to weigh new options for how judges at all levels of state court get to the bench. Answers to some of the lingering questions might emerge early in January as federal judges hold hearings on a case that will determine the shape of election district maps for state legislative races.

Pennsylvania: Judge Says Pennsylvania Election Districts Give Republicans an Edge, but Are Not Illegal | The New York Times

A Pennsylvania judge said Friday the state’s Congressional districts were drawn to give Republicans an advantage, but they did not violate the state Constitution, ruling in a high-profile gerrymandering case with the potential to have major consequences on the 2018 midterm elections. Judge P. Kevin Brobson of Commonwealth Court in Harrisburg noted that Republicans hold 13 out of 18 Congressional seats in Pennsylvania, a perennial swing state that has one of the most extensively gerrymandered maps in the country. Nonetheless, the judge said that Democrats who brought suit had failed to articulate a legal “standard” for creating nonpartisan maps.

Michigan: Federal judge orders panel to hear gerrymandering case | The Detroit News

A federal judge has approved the creation of a three-judge panel to hear a lawsuit alleging Michigan’s political districts are unconstitutionally drawn to favor strong Republican majorities in the Legislature and Congress. U.S. District Judge Denise Page Hood signed an order Wednesday allowing a three-judge panel to hear the case after former Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Mark Brewer filed the lawsuit last Friday on behalf of the League of Women Voters and other Democrats, including former state Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Fred Durhal Jr. of Detroit.

Ohio: Ohio Joins Wave Of States Trying To Erase Gerrymandering | WOSU

Five years ago, few people in Ohio were paying close attention to the claim that political consultants – armed with partisan power, increasingly sophisticated computer technology and big data – were in a position to hijack democracy. Critics like Carrie Davis of the League of Women Voters looked at Congressional maps, drawn largely in secrecy by Republican state lawmakers, and issued a warning. “Voters are ignored and made to feel as if their voice doesn’t count,” Davis said. “Communities are carved up so that they don’t have a Congress-person who truly represents them. Members of Congress are frequently threatened with being ‘primaried’ by the extremes of their own party.” But voters repeatedly turned down proposals to change the system. That may be changing – not just in Ohio, but around the country.

Michigan: Federal suit alleges GOP ‘gerrymandering’ in Michigan | The Detroit News

A new federal lawsuit alleges political district maps drawn by Michigan’s Republican-led Legislature discriminate against Democratic voters to protect GOP majorities at the state Capitol and in Congress. Former Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Mark Brewer filed the suit Friday on behalf of the Michigan League of Women Voters and various Democrats, including former state Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Fred Durhal Jr. of Detroit. The complaint contends 2011 maps drawn by Republicans represent a “particularly egregious example of party gerrymandering,” whereby a party in power draws districts to give itself an advantage in elections.

Ohio: ‘Gerrymandering Is Really Bullying’: Inside Ohio’s Attempts To Reform Redistricting | WOSU

On election night two years ago, Catherine Turcer of Common Cause Ohio couldn’t have been more thrilled. “It’s like Christmas,” Turcer said. “I got the best present, and the thing that’s exciting is that this is for all of us.”  “This” was an Ohio constitutional amendment to create a seven-member bipartisan redistricting commission. Previously, Ohio saw citizen-backed ballot issues on redistricting that were rejected by voters. But finally, in 2015, this one passed with more than 70 percent of the vote – likely because both Democratic and Republican lawmakers also supported it. One problem: The amendment applied only to state House and state Senate districts. Advocates said Congressional redistricting was next: The current Ohio map has been called one of the most gerrymandered in the country.

North Carolina: Plaintiffs’ lawyers object to expert in redistricting case | Greensboro News & Record

Lawyers for 31 voters suing Republican legislative leaders over racially biased election districts are questioning the other side’s plan for a California political scientist and demographer to testify at a hearing next month. They argue that redistricting consultant Douglas Johnson of Glendale, Calif., should not be allowed to take the stand on Jan. 5 because he has not met a basic, federal requirement that such expert witnesses must file a report in advance covering “all opinions the witness will express and the basis and reasons for them.” “Because legislative defendants have not produced a report for Dr. Johnson, he should not be permitted to offer expert testimony on Jan. 5,” voter lawyers Allison Riggs of Durham and Edwin Speas of Raleigh contend. “Should the court allow him to testify, plaintiffs request that he be ordered to produce a report and be available for deposition prior to Jan. 5.”

Ohio: Snakes, Ducks and Toilet Bowls: How Does Ohio Shape Congressional Districts? | WOSU

Ian Yarber, a former Oberlin school board member, considers himself a knowledgeable voter. He lives at the northeast end of Ohio’s 4th Congressional District, which stretches south and west nearly to the Indiana border. But when it comes to how it or any of Ohio’s 16 districts were drawn, he hasn’t a clue. “I don’t really know as to the rhyme or reason for the setting up the district,” Yarber says. “I’d be interested to know.” Every 10 years, after each U.S. Census, the 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives are re-distributed based on population. Then, the states get to work drawing a new map of their Congressional districts. In Ohio, those boundaries are set by the state legislature. Over the past five decades, Ohio’s Congressional districts have become increasingly “safe” for incumbents – because they’re strategically drawn for maximum political gain.