Double whammy for Florida Dems as DOJ, local court green light new maps

The Department of Justice gave its approval Monday to Florida's new congressional map, while a circuit court rejected Democrats' injunction request — a double whammy for Democrats who argue the new map unfairly favors Republicans.

The Obama administration's pre-clearance was required under the Voting Rights Act, which requires that states with a history of racial discrimination have their maps approved to ensure that minorities are not denied proper representation.

"The Attorney General does not interpose any objection to the specific changes" to the maps, Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez wrote Monday in a letter to members of Florida's state government.

Democrats are expected to gain a few seats under the new map, which includes two new districts created after the 2010 U.S. Census as a result of rapid population growth in Florida.

But Republicans will likely maintain the upper hand. Nineteen of the 27 members of the congressional delegation are Republicans in Florida, a state that had 600,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans in 2010.


Federal court draws NY congressional map

A panel of federal judges put in place a court-drawn map for New York's congressional districts on Monday, blasting state lawmakers as derelicts who have failed to fulfill their obligations.

New York lost two congressional districts after the 2010 census due to slow population growth, forcing the legislature to redraw the maps and eliminate two seats. But the Democratic-controlled state Assembly and GOP-controlled state Senate deadlocked for months, unable to agree on a proposal for where the new lines should sit.

A federal court intervened in early March, urging lawmakers to break through their gridlock while developing a contingency plan of its own. With a June 26 primary rapidly approaching, a panel of three federal judges decided it had waited long enough, and on Monday adopted its own map.

"In prior redistricting challenges, New York has avoided such a wholesale transfer of state legislative power to the federal courts through last-minute enactments of new redistricting plans," the judges wrote in their decision. "In this case, however, New York has been willing to let even the last minute pass and to abdicate the whole of its redistricting power to a reluctant federal court."


Court takes over redistricting in NY

Control of redistricting in New York will be handed to a federal court after state lawmakers were unable to agree on a new proposal for the state's congressional lines.

Lawmakers in the Democratic-controlled state Assembly and GOP-controlled state Senate have been working for almost a year to draft a suitable map, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) threatened to veto the version they submitted weeks ago, calling it overly partisan.

With lawmakers expected to be unable to meet a Monday night deadline to propose a new map, a panel of three federal judges put in place a process for the courts to draw the new lines. U.S. Magistrate Roanne Mann has been named as the special master and ordered the panel to develop a new proposal by Wednesday, the Times Union reported.

New York is losing two congressional seats in 2012 due to population growth over the past decade that was slower than in other states.


Texas primary date up in the air

The planned April primary in Texas is now almost certain to be pushed back to May or even June, threatening to relegate the state to political irrelevance in the fight for the Republican presidential nomination.

Texas originally scheduled its primary for Super Tuesday in March, where the contest would have received heavy attention. But the pandemonium surrounding the state’s new congressional map, which is still tied up in the courts, forced it to be rescheduled for April.

Now judges in Texas say an April date is implausible, the AP reported, with one federal judge suggesting June 26 for the new primary date. That would put Texas at the back of the pack and likely defuse any substantial influence the state could wield over the presidential nominating contest.

Texas gained four seats in Congress due to fast population growth over the past decade, forcing the state to redraw its maps and create new districts. But disagreements over whether those seats should be drawn to favor Republicans or Democrats have led to an escalating legal fight with major ramifications for future control of the House.

Republican lawmakers originally drew a map that federal judges said failed to reflect Hispanic population gains that netted Texas new seats in the first place. But a counterproposal was deemed to have deviated too far from the original intent of lawmakers who drew the map.


West Virginia looks to high court in redistricting battle

West Virginia officials are asking the Supreme Court to weigh in on a congressional redistricting map thrown out by a lower court.

The officials filed an appeal to Chief Justice John Roberts on Friday, essentially asking the high court to let the map drawn by the West Virginia legislature stand.

That map was approved and signed into law after making very minor changes to the state’s map.

But in a split decision, a three-judge federal panel ordered state lawmakers to come up with another plan by Jan. 17.  The judges charged that, by making so few changes, lawmakers had not adequately divided the population in the three congressional districts.


Judges toss new W.Va. congressional map

Lawmakers in West Virginia will go back to the drawing table to redraft a new map for the state’s congressional districts after a three-judge panel deemed the Legislature’s plan unconstitutional.

A panel voted 2-1 to reject the new map, alleging it maintained the status quo at the expense of equaling out the population size in each district, Reuters reported.

Legislators have until Jan. 17 to put a new plan together, or the courts will take over the process.

Democrats control the redistricting process in West Virginia, where the governor’s mansion and both chambers of the Legislature are in Democratic hands.