Florida state House adds 7 draft maps to redistricting fray

The state House in Florida put forward its proposals for new congressional districts on Tuesday, the Orlando Sentinel reported, another step in what is expected to be a drawn-out and contentious redistricting battle.

A Florida state House committee released a series of seven sample maps, and the state Senate released its own draft version last week.

Most of the House proposals would create a new district in the Orlando area that could be winnable for a Hispanic Democrat. The maps also would have the likely effect of pitting numerous incumbents against one another.

Sorting through the various proposals is expected to carry on well into 2012, and will likely involve court intervention.


Florida map proposal maintains GOP advantage

A Florida state Senate panel released a draft layout of the state's new congressional districts Monday, unveiling plans for a map that largely maintains the status quo — and in doing so, does a favor to Republicans, who already control a majority of Florida's congressional delegation.

Of the two new districts that Florida gained due to population growth over the past decade, one will be winnable for Hispanics and include 40 percent Hispanic voters, the Orlando Sentinel reported. The other will be solidly Republican.

Rep. Tom Rooney's (R-Fla.) district will be adjusted slightly and will become slightly more competitive for Democrats, while Rep. Dan Webster's (R-Fla.) district will become safer for Republicans.

“Today, Florida Republicans have taken a state — which experts have long considered one of the most malapportioned states in the country — and worsened it," Florida Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith said in a statement.

The Senate map proposal likely marks the first leg of a long and contentious journey to picking new boundaries that will serve Florida for the next decade. The state House will also draft a map, and the process is expected to require court involvement.


Brewer takes another swing at Arizona redistricting chairman

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) and her allies in the Republican-controlled Legislature are making a second go at ousting the chairwoman of the state's Independent Redistricting Commission, asking the state's highest court to keep her off the panel while the drama plays out in court.

The fight over Arizona's congressional map is far from over.

Brewer's regrouping comes less than a week after the state Supreme Court threw out her decision to remove the chairwoman, and makes it clear that while Brewer and the state GOP may have been knocked out in round one.

"I maintain that my action was lawful to remove the IRC Chairwoman based on her misconduct and neglect of duty, and ask that the Court reconsider its order of reinstatement," Brewer said in a statement. "At a minimum, the Chairwoman should be barred from resuming her duties until the Court has provided clarity regarding its cursory order."

Brewer is also asking for clarification about why the court overruled the will of the governor and the state Senate, which voted to approve Brewer's removal of Colleen Mathis, the head of the nonpartisan panel. Brewer accused Mathis of neglect and gross misconduct, but has had difficulty articulating exactly what Mathis did that was unconstitutional.

Democrats accused Brewer of an unprecedented power grab and trying to sabotage the map drafted by a voter-approved panel of two Democrats, two Republicans and an independent chair. The map they came up with benefited Democrats more than Republicans by shoring up some Democratic seats and creating a new Phoenix-area district that Democrats have a chance at winning.


Alabama congressional map gets Justice approval

The Justice Department has given its approval to a new layout for Alabama's congressional districts, clearing the way for a map that makes reelection a better bet for the state's seven House members.

Although Alabama didn't lose or gain any seats during the once-per-decade redistricting process, it adjusted its lines due to changes in population. The state has six Republicans in the House and one Democrat, who represents a majority-minority district.

Alabama is one of a number of states that must get federal pre-clearance for their maps because of a history of discriminating against minority voters.


Gov. Patrick signs new congressional map for Massachusetts

Gov. Deval Patrick (D) signed into law a new map that drops the number of congressional districts in Massachusetts from 10 to nine, his office confirmed.

The map Patrick signed creates the state's first majority-minority district and shores up a number of incumbents among the state's all-Democratic congressional delegation.

Massachusetts lost one seat in the House due to slower-than-average population growth in the once-per-decade redistricting process. But a serendipitous retirement by Rep. John Olver (D-Mass.) spared Democrats the ugly process of pitting two incumbents against each other in a primary.

Although Massachusetts Reps. Bill Keating (D) and Stephen Lynch (D) were both drawn into the same district, Keating will be able to run in another district, where he owns a vacation home.

- This post was updated at 6:01 p.m.


Mass. lawmakers issue new congressional map

State lawmakers in Massachusetts unveiled a new draft congressional map on Monday that pits two incumbent House members against each other, but also gives one an escape hatch.

The homes of Massachusetts Reps. Bill Keating (D) and Stephen Lynch (D) are both in the newly redrawn 8th congressional district. But Keating owns a vacation home in what will be the 9th district, clearing the way for him to run there instead.

While the map made major changes, including expanding the state's only majority-minority district, there won't be the same fight over partisan balance of power seen in other states undergoing redistricting, because every member of the state's House delegation is a Democrat.

Massachusetts is losing one House seat due to slower-than-average population growth in the once-per-decade reapportionment and redistricting process that follows the U.S. Census.

That led many in the Bay State to fear that two sitting members would be forced to run for one slot. But Rep. John Olver (D-Mass.) spared his colleagues that dilemma by announcing in October that he will retire.


DCCC Chairman: Impeach Gov. Brewer

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) should be impeached for interfering in Arizona's redistricting process, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) said on Friday.

"I think the people of Arizona should consider impeaching Jan Brewer for what she did," said Israel, who also offered an alternative way forward. "Gov. Brewer should think about impeaching herself."

Arizona's bipartisan redistricting commission — approved by voters in 2000 — issued a draft map in October that Republicans didn't like. On Tuesday, the Republican-controlled state Senate gave its blessing to Brewer's order for the chairwoman of that commission to be thrown out, leaving the redistricting process in chaos.

Brewer spokesman Matthew Benson called the Democrats' reaction "over the top" and said it demonstrated a willingness to ignore the Arizona Constitution and hijack congressional districts.

"The people of Arizona knew what they were doing when they specifically entrusted in the governor and state Senate an oversight role for redistricting," Benson said. "Gov. Brewer called out the [Democrats'] misconduct and stopped them dead in their tracks."


Ohio congressional map stalls as 'unholy alliance' falters

Republicans in Ohio fell eight votes short of fast-tracking a new congressional map through the state House on Thursday, leaving the future of redistricting efforts in limbo.

The new map will instead go through the committee process, the Columbus Dispatch reported, and Democrats have already been working to overturn a previous GOP map passed earlier in the year through a voter referendum.

Republicans had hoped to avoid the referendum by offering a new map that could muster more Democratic support. But the Democratic leader in Ohio's Republican-controlled House called the changes offered "generally not significant.”

The inability for Republicans to get the map to the House floor also represented a failure of the so-called "unholy alliance" between the GOP and African-American Democrats, whereby Republicans tried to pick off votes from black Democrats by offering them majority-minority districts in a map that was a net negative for Democrats statewide.

One unlikely advocate who was supporting the initial Republican-drawn map was Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), who shocked Democrats by launching robo-calls over the weekend to urge state lawmakers to back the map, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer.


DOJ approves new NC congressional map

The Department of Justice has given its blessing to North Carolinas new congressional map, over objections from Democrats and other groups who said the map disenfranchised black voters.

While the map could still be challenged in court, that will be made much more difficult now that the federal government has approved the map.

The Attorney General does not interpose any objection to the specified changes, wrote Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez.

States with a history of discriminating against minorities must have new maps pre-cleared by the Justice Department during the once-per-decade redistricting process, according to the Voting Rights Act.

While the Justice Department was charged only with clearing the map on racial discrimination matters, the map is under heightened scrutiny after it became clear on Tuesday that a technical snafu had left some voters without an assigned district.

Changes in North Carolinas map that would make some districts more competitive could lead to as many as four Republican pickups in the state.