Assembly Democrats are withdrawing from a lawsuit over Wisconsin’s election maps, leaving it to a group of liberal voters to continue the high-profile litigation. By pulling out of the case, the Assembly Democrats are avoiding turning over documents and answering detailed questions to back up their claims that election maps drawn to favor Republicans have hurt their ability to recruit candidates and raise money. Assembly Democrats are getting out of the lawsuit because they believe others are well-equipped to handle the case and they do not have the money to continue the costly litigation, their lead attorney, Lester Pines, said.Full Article: Wisconsin Democratic legislators withdraw from redistricting lawsuit.
At least 11 of Michigan’s 110 House districts would be redrawn for the 2020 election under a proposed legal settlement announced Friday by Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat who said the deal would fix “egregious” examples of partisan gerrymandering. As part of her agreement with Democrats who sued, congressional and state Senate seats would stay intact. The Republican-led Legislature, which in 2011 drew the maps that are in question, would put in place new lines for 11 state House districts — subject to court approval. The number of newly cast seats would be higher, though, because of the impact on adjacent districts.Full Article: Michigan redistricting deal may lead to new state House map.
The Michigan Senate is looking to weigh in as a legislative body in the federal lawsuit challenging Michigan’s existing political district lines as Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson seeks a settlement in the case. On Wednesday, the chamber passed a resolution via voice vote to grant Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey the authority to intervene in the case, which was initiated by the League of Women Voters in December 2017. Amber McCann, Shirkey’s spokesperson, said the motion to intervene would be filed sometime Thursday. The court has final say over whether that motion is granted. “As a whole, the majority leader thought it was important to insert the Senate into the legal proceedings in the event that the body is included in the settlement,” McCann said.Full Article: Michigan Senate looks to intervene in federal redistricting suit | mlive.com.
A federal court will delay the date of the trial in Wisconsin’s partisan redistricting case until the U.S. Supreme Court decides two similar cases this summer, handing a partial legal victory to the Republican-controlled Legislature. The decision by the court to push the trial back from April to at least July, after the issuance of a decision in the two similar cases, is meant to prevent Wisconsin’s case from being tried twice. It is still possible Wisconsin’s political maps would be redrawn before the 2020 general election if the U.S. Supreme Court were to rule in favor of the plaintiffs — several Democratic voters across the state along with the Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee.Full Article: Trial in Wisconsin redistricting case delayed until at least July | Local News | journaltimes.com.
New Hampshire: Constitutional Amendment Would Create An Independent Redistricting Panel in New Hampshire | NHPR
Lawmakers heard testimony Tuesday on a proposed constitutional amendment that would create an independent commission to draw boundaries for state elections. Current law leaves the responsibility of redistricting to the New Hampshire Legislature. Supporters of this measure say that allows for gerrymandering, or the ability of the majority party to draw boundary lines in its favor. Democratic State Rep. Ellen Read, a supporter of the measure, said she’s mentioned limiting gerrymandering to members of her party in the past.Full Article: Constitutional Amendment Would Create An Independent Redistricting Panel in N.H. | New Hampshire Public Radio.
Virginia: Federal judges choose redistricting map favorable to Democrats; six GOP House districts would get bluer | The Washington Post
Federal judges have selected a Virginia House of Delegates redistricting map that appears to heavily favor Democrats, redrawing the lines of 26 districts and moving several powerful Republicans into unfavorable configurations. Six Republicans would wind up in districts where a majority of voters chose Democratic President Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential election, according to an analysis of the maps by the nonpartisan Virginia Public Access Project. No current Democrats would see their voter majority change to Republican, based on those election results. Virginia does not register voters by party. If the court’s map selection stands, it would create a favorable environment for Democrats seeking to take control of the House of Delegates in elections this fall, according to the analysis. All 100 seats in the House are on the ballot, and Republicans hold a 51-to-48 majority.Full Article: Federal judges choose Va. redistricting map favorable to Democrats; six GOP House districts would get bluer - The Washington Post.
A pending settlement proposal in a federal lawsuit alleging unfair bias in political district maps will be limited in scope but could still give Democrats a narrow chance to upend Republican majorities in the Michigan Legislature. The suit alleges that maps approved by GOP majority lawmakers in 2011 intentionally diluted the power of Democratic voters. New Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and plaintiffs are negotiating “a compromise in which fewer than” 34 of the state’s 162 congressional and legislative districts would be redrawn for 2020 elections, according to a new filing. It’s not clear if proposed changes would have a ripple effect and impact other adjacent districts.Full Article: Michigan gerrymandering deal focused on redrawing specific districts.
Supporters of a push to create an independent redistricting commission in Utah are steeling themselves for a potential challenge to the ballot initiative that voters narrowly passed into law last year. Leaders of the effort aimed at combatting gerrymandering say they’re staying vigilant amid talk of a possible lawsuit to challenge the voter-approved law, the Deseret News reports. “We’re going to be vigilant. We’re going to be present. And we’re prepared through either a campaign or legal means to defend that,” said Jeff Wright, a Republican who co-chairs the group behind Proposition 4.Full Article: Independent redistricting supporters bracing for challenge | Government | standard.net.
New Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson moved Thursday to settle a lawsuit that challenges the state’s Republican-drawn legislative and congressional districts, a step that potentially could lead to new maps for the 2020 election. The Democrat, who took office two weeks ago, filed a brief seeking to halt a federal trial scheduled for Feb. 5. The filing says a resolution is in the best interest of the state and its voters, “as it will correct any lasting impact of impermissible partisan gerrymandering that may have occurred in the past.” Democrats and the League of Women Voters sued just over a year ago , alleging that Michigan’s U.S. House and state legislative districts are unconstitutionally gerrymandered to dilute the voting power of Democrats. The districts were enacted in 2011 by the Republican-led Legislature and former Gov. Rick Snyder.Full Article: New secretary of state seeks to settle gerrymandering suit | News & Observer.
Barack Obama and Arnold Schwarzenegger agree: Neither thinks Donald Trump has any business being anywhere near the White House, but the main political issue they’re going to focus on for the next two years is redistricting reform. The clock is ticking. The 2020 census, and the nationwide 2021 redistricting right after, are around the corner. Deadlines for ballot initiatives and legislation are already on the horizon for some states to change their procedures before then. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court could soon take up a case that would gut most of the efforts at redistricting reform that have, over the past 10 years, changed how states draw the maps that determine who runs where for Congress and their own legislatures.Full Article: Schwarzenegger and Obama Backing Redistricting Reform - The Atlantic.
As Virginia lawmakers get started on the 2019 session of the General Assembly, an unlikely bipartisan duo has a proposal to fix gerrymandering in the commonwealth. Senator Emmett Hanger, a Republican representing Augusta County in the Shenandoah Valley, and Senator Mamie Locke, a Democrat representing Hampton in the Eastern Shore, have joined forces to propose a bill that would take redistricting out of the hands of politicians and create an independent commission of citizens tasked with drawing election boundaries. “You can’t take politics out of the redistricting process, it’s political in nature, but you can set up a process if our constitution allows it,” Senator Hanger told us.Full Article: Virginia senators introduce bipartisan amendment to change redistricting.
As the 2019 state legislative sessions get underway, a busy year of legal battles also is beginning over lingering allegations that hundreds of electoral districts across the country were illegally drawn to the disadvantage of particular voters or political parties. First up was a court hearing Thursday in Virginia, where a federal judicial panel reviewed several proposals from an outside expert to redraw some state House districts. The court had previously determined that those districts were racially gerrymandered. The expert, University of California, Irvine political science professor Bernard Grofman, answered questions about his revisions. “My focus was on remedying constitutional infirmities,” he said.Full Article: Gerrymandering lawsuits linger as next redistricting nears - StarTribune.com.
The Republican-controlled state Assembly has requested a court halt proceedings in Wisconsin’s redistricting case pending U.S. Supreme Court action on similar cases from other states. Lawyers for the Assembly, which intervened in the case last fall, wrote to the court Monday saying two cases the Supreme Court agreed to hear on appeal present the same issues as Wisconsin’s Gill vs. Whitford case and that holding a trial would be unnecessary until the Supreme Court cases are resolved. “Proceeding before the Supreme Court issues its decisions would be an unnecessary waste of the Court’s and the parties’ time and resources,” the Assembly lawyers wrote.Full Article: Assembly Republicans ask court to halt proceedings in redistricting case | State News | kenoshanews.com.
Virginia: U.S. Supreme Court rejects Republican bid to delay redistricting in Virginia | The Washington Post
The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to delay the process of drawing new districts for at least 11 Virginia House of Delegates seats, rejecting a request for a stay from state Republicans who are contesting the overall effort. A panel of judges from the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia ruled last June that the districts had been racially gerrymandered to concentrate black voters and ordered a new map. Most of the affected districts are in the Hampton Roads and Richmond areas. After the General Assembly failed to agree on a redistricting plan last fall, the judges appointed an outside expert to handle it. California professor Bernard Grofman submitted a 131-page report last month outlining options for new boundaries.Full Article: U.S. Supreme Court rejects Republican bid to delay redistricting in Virginia - The Washington Post.
The Supreme Court’s decision on Friday to take up partisan-gerrymandering cases from North Carolina and Maryland brought to mind a saying attributed to Judy Garland: Behind every cloud is another cloud. The now firmly conservative Court likely took the cases not to announce that such activities violate the Constitution, but to reverse the lower courts that said they do. Down the road, the Court might do much more damage, including by preventing states from using independent commissions to draw congressional districts. For years, the Supreme Court has ducked the question of partisan redistricting, failing to provide clear guidance on its constitutionality. Until he left the Court this summer, Justice Anthony Kennedy was the key swing vote on this issue. In 2004, he disagreed with conservatives that such cases present “political questions,” which courts cannot hear given the lack of “judicially manageable standards.” And he disagreed with liberals that any as-yet-proposed standards adequately separated permissible from impermissible consideration of partisan information in drawing district lines. But he suggested that the First Amendment’s right of association could serve as the foundation of a ruling against gerrymandering.Full Article: Supreme Court Will Rule on Gerrymandering in MD and NC - The Atlantic.
The Supreme Court will grapple with the legality of partisan gerrymandering in March when it hears arguments challenging congressional-district maps in two states. The court announced Friday it would consider cases from Maryland and North Carolina after lower federal courts threw out the congressional maps in both states, ruling that they were so gerrymandered to favor one party that they violated the constitutional rights of voters. The high court will consider whether to uphold those rulings and order new maps drawn for the 2020 elections in those states. Federal judges in Maryland tossed the state’s congressional map in November after Republicans sued, claiming Democrats went too far when they altered the lines of a district in Western Maryland to defeat the then-Republican incumbent. Since redrawing the map before the 2012 election, Democrats have held a 7-to-1 advantage in the state’s congressional delegation, after entering the redistricting process with six members, to Republicans’ two.Full Article: Supreme Court to take on partisan gerrymandering this year - POLITICO.
National: House Democrats unveil first major legislative package of voting, campaign finance and ethics overhauls | Roll Call
Automatic voter registration, independent redistricting commissions, super PAC restrictions, forced release of presidential tax returns — these are just a handful of the provisions in a massive government overhaul package House Democrats will formally unveil Friday, according to a summary of the legislation obtained by Roll Call. The package is being introduced as H.R. 1 to show that it’s the top priority of the new Democratic majority. Committees with jurisdiction over the measures will hold markups on the legislation before the package is brought to the floor sometime later this month or early in February. H.R. 1 features a hodgepodge of policies Democrats have long promoted as solutions for protecting voters’ rights and expanding access to the polls, reducing the role of so-called dark money in politics, and strengthening federal ethics laws.Full Article: House Democrats unveil first major legislative package of voting, campaign finance and ethics overhauls.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) says he wants to reform the way congressional and legislative districts are drawn in his state, days after legislative leaders canceled a vote on a controversial plan that good government groups called a blatant power grab. In an interview with The Hill, Murphy applauded the decision to shelve the proposed overhaul, despite the fact that it likely would have cemented Democratic control of the state legislature and congressional delegation for years to come. The measure sparked outrage from Republicans, Democrats and groups that advocate for fair district lines.Full Article: New Jersey governor calls for redistricting reform | TheHill.
South Carolina: Lawmakers push for independent commission to redraw district lines after 2020 | The Post and Courier
Some state lawmakers want to create a new commission to redraw the state’s legislative and congressional districts after 2020, setting the stage for a debate over gerrymandering and whether the Republican-led Legislature should be in charge of divvying up voters. A group of senators and representatives filed several pieces of legislation last week that would give South Carolinians the ability to choose whether state lawmakers or a commission made up of nine other people draw the state’s future political boundaries. Anyone who is or was a lobbyist, a candidate for office, a legislative staffer, an employee of a political party or contributed $2,000 or more to a political candidate in any given year could not serve on the proposed commission.Full Article: Lawmakers push for independent commission to redraw district lines after 2020 | News | postandcourier.com.
Voting rights and partisan gerrymandering, traditionally the preoccupation of wonky party strategists and good-government groups, have become major flash points in the debate about the integrity of American elections, signaling high stakes battles over voter suppression and politically engineered districts ahead of the 2020 presidential race. When Democrats take the majority in the House on Thursday, the first bill they plan to introduce will be broad legislation focusing on these issues. Early drafts of their proposals include automatic voter registration, public elections financing and ending gerrymandering by using independent commissions to draw voting districts. But action and anger go far beyond Congress. With voters increasingly aware of the powerful impact of gerrymandering and doubtful about the fairness of elections, voting issues have become central to politics in key states including Florida, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.Full Article: Voting Issues and Gerrymanders Are Now Key Political Battlegrounds - The New York Times.