Redistricting 'newbies' may complicate process

An inexperienced crop of public officials are managing the intricate congressional redistricting process, which could open the door to more court challenges. 

The Census Bureau has already released the reapportionment numbers for House seats and states are beginning the process of redrawing their congressional boundaries.

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But the majority of officials tasked with making those calls are new to the process, according to Kimball Brace, president of Election Data Services, a bipartisan firm that specializes in Census data and redistricting for state and local governments. 

Brace noted that only half the participants at the National Conference of State Legislatures’ redistricting seminar over the weekend at National Harbor, Md. had been through the process before.

"In a lot of states, you have a lot of newbies who are managing the process," Brace said at a redistricting briefing Tuesday. "You'll have people having to learn the hard way.

"They're so new they may not realize how far behind they are."

A scramble to complete the process ahead of the 2012 elections could result in congressional districts hastily drawn to favor one party or another, which inevitably leads to court challenges.

Only a handful of states actually have permanent redistricting committees. "The state of Texas has probably the most elaborate process that there is," said Brace. "They keep their operation in place."

New York also maintains some form of a standing redistricting commission, he said. "That is not the case in the vast majority of states."

Mark Braden, a Washington attorney who specializes in redistricting litigation, said that brutal court battles of the past have pushed many experienced officials out of the process.

"It's the damn lawyers," he said. Those who left, "were sick of the process."