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Maryland: Senate OKs bill to create redistricting commission — if other states do the same | Baltimore Sun

The Maryland Senate approved a bill Thursday that would require the state to create a nonpartisan commission for redistricting — but only if five other states agree to do the same. Senators were divided between those who see the bill as a hollow gesture and others who say it’s a first step toward fixing Maryland’s confusing, gerrymandered political districts. Proponents of the bill say that requiring five other Mid-Atlantic states to shift to nonpartisan redistricting is a regional solution to the problem. Opponents countered that the measure would simply delay any meaningful action. “We’re going to pass something that will never happen, just so we can say we did something,” said Justin Ready, a Carroll County Republican who voted against the bill. Read More

Texas: Court asked to block Texas congressional map for 2018 election | Austin American-Statesman

Texas should be blocked from using a map of congressional districts that was found to have been drawn in violation of the U.S. Voting Rights Act, a federal court was told Thursday. The motion, filed with a three-judge panel in U.S. District Court in San Antonio, follows a March 10 ruling that invalidated three districts, including one in Travis County, that the court said were drawn by Republicans to intentionally discriminate against Latino and black voters. That ruling, however, did not mandate or discuss any remedies to correct the problems. Attorney General Ken Paxton has argued that there is no need to redraw the congressional map because the court invalidated districts that were drawn in 2011, while Texans have been electing members of Congress according to a map that the Legislature adopted in 2013. But according to the motion filed Friday, the three districts invalidated in the 2011 map were little changed in the 2013 version. Read More

Florida: Redistricting wars continue: Senate passes bill targeting court in future fights | Tampa Bay Times

After four years of bitter legal battles over Florida redistricting, Republicans in the Florida Senate Tuesday passed a bill that makes new demands on the court in future map wars, and sets new standards about which maps take effect and when. The bill, SB 352 by Sen. Travis Hutson, R-Elkton, passed the Senate 24-14, on a party line vote. It locks maps in place on qualifying day and requires that if a map is challenged 71 days before the primary election, the existing map in force will be the one that applies for the election. If the court orders revised the boundaries after that, the new boundaries will take effect in the next election cycle. Those changes essentially codify the ruling of Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis in 2015, but the bill also trods new legal ground by also “encouraging” the court to act as if it were a legislative body. Before resolving a redistricting dispute, the Senate bill wants the court to conduct public hearings, record and maintain public records and accept public submissions of draft maps. Read More

Georgia: Critics warn Republican redistricting plan in Georgia is ‘likely illegal’ | Atlanta Journal Constitution

A coalition of left-leaning organizations urged Gov. Nathan Deal and lawmakers to scuttle a House Republican plan to redraw the district boundaries of eight Republicans and one Democrat, warning it could be ruled unconstitutional because it shifts thousands of minority voters out of the areas. In a letter sent Tuesday to state leaders, the groups said the redistricting plan outlined in House Bill 515 is “likely illegal” and urged legislators to wait until after the 2020 U.S. Census to make major revisions to the maps. (You can read the letter here.)  “If HB 515 is signed into law, Georgia will likely be in violation of the Voting Rights Act and subject to litigation that has cost states like Virginia and Texas millions of dollars,” the groups wrote. “This would cast a dark shadow over our state.” Read More

Maryland: Congressional redistricting reform bill voted down | WBAL

A Maryland House panel has voted against Gov. Larry Hogan’s redistricting reform bill, but a Senate committee has passed a bill to create a Mid-Atlantic compact for drawing congressional district lines. The Republican governor’s bill rejected Monday would have put redistricting in the hands of an independent commission. Maryland’s 3rd Congressional District is being ridiculed as shaped like a broken-winged pterodactyl. Hogan told WBAL NewsRadio 1090 AM “C-4” radio program Tuesday that his bill establishes a nonpartisan commission to redraw the lines. Read More

Alabama: Democrats file redistricting maps; number of districts could grow | Montgomery Advertiser

Alabama Democrats last week filed their proposals to redraw the state’s House and Senate district maps to address a January court ruling that struck down 12 legislative districts due to improper use of race in their construction. “This is the Alabama Legislative Black Caucus’ proposal,” said Rep. John Knight, D-Montgomery, the sponsor of the House bill, whose district was one of the 12 ruled unconstitutional. “If they’ve got better ideas, different ideas, let’s start the process of drawing constitutional districts.” The proposed map redraws “a majority” of the House’s 105 districts, Knight said. Sen. Gerald Dial, R-Lineville, co-chair of the Permanent Legislative Committee on Reapportionment, said Monday the committee might look at drawing more districts. Read More

Maryland: House kills Governor’s redistricting plan | Baltimore Sun

For the second year in a row, the Democrat-controlled General Assembly rejected Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s plan to take away lawmakers’ power to draw congressional districts. Without discussion, a key House committee on Monday killed Hogan’s proposal to cede that authority — and the less controversial power to General Assembly district boundaries — to a nonpartisan redistricting commission. The 18-5 party-line vote by the House Rules and Executive Nominations Committee effectively erases any hope the governor’s redistricting plan will advance this year. Hogan has pressed the legislature to take an up-or-down vote on his plan rather than letting it languish without one. Read More

National: Redistricting Reform Advocates Say The Real ‘Rigged System’ Is Gerrymandering | NPR

If the election results of 2016 were really about rejecting the political establishment, then Congress didn’t get the memo. After all, 97 percent of incumbents in the U.S. House of Representatives seeking re-election won even as national polls show overwhelming disapproval of Congress. Advocates for redistricting reform hope voters are ready to pay more attention to the otherwise wonky issue of legislative districts are drawn, a system that’s helped send so many incumbents back to Washington and state capitols, year after year. One group trying to change that system is One Virginia 2021, a nonpartisan organization that’s challenging the constitutionality of 11 state legislative district boundaries. Read More

Texas: A backstory on the Texas redistricting ruling | San Antonio Express-News

Last week’s ruling by a three-judge panel in San Antonio that the Texas Legislature racially discriminated in drawing three congressional districts is being hailed as a major civil rights triumph in some legal quarters. “This is a huge victory for voting rights plaintiffs,” wrote nationally recognized elections law expert Richard Hasen in his Election Law blog. He predicted the 2-1 decision was unlikely to be overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court because “it closely tracks Justice (Anthony) Kennedy’s views of the issues in this area.”
Kennedy is often the swing vote on the closely divided court. Hasen said the ruling was especially important because it could lead to Texas once again being required to preclear redistricting and other election matters with the Justice Department, as it was before the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013. This is because Judges Xavier Rodriguez and Orlando Garcia found intentional discrimination in the case. Read More

Arizona: Judge throws out final challenge in 2012 Arizona redistricting case | Associated Press

A judge on Thursday dismissed the final challenge to Arizona’s congressional and legislative district maps drawn by an independent commission in 2012. Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Roger Brodman dismissed the challenge to the congressional map brought by a group of voters following the adoption of the maps. The U.S. Supreme Court has previously upheld the legality of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission itself and the legislative district maps. Brodman rejected arguments that commissioners used improper procedures and illegally made decisions behind closed doors. He noted that it was important for him to rule because the appeals will likely take years and there are only two more general elections before the next mapmaking effort by a new commission. Read More