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.


Gov. Brewer threatens impeachment for Arizona redistricting panel

Following through on an earlier promise not to stay silent on Arizona's new congressional map, Republican Gov. Jan Brewer threatened to impeach members of the independent commission that drew the map.

Brewer's threat marked the latest scuffle in the partisan saga over Arizona's map, which the GOP has called gerrymandered and Democrats have called a return to a fair, competitive state of play after years of disproportional Republican influence.

Invoking the so-called "nuclear option," Brewer gave the five commissioners until Monday to respond to a litany of allegations she has lodged against them. Unless Brewer is pleased with their response, she can initiate impeachment proceedings, which would stand a major chance of securing the two-thirds majority needed to clear the Republican-controlled state Senate.

If commissioners or their chairman are impeached, the delicate map-drawing process would likely start over from scratch.


DOJ: Perry signed discriminatory congressional map in Texas

The new map for congressional districts in Texas signed by Gov. Rick Perry (R) discriminates against Hispanic voters, the Department of Justice said in a federal court filing.

The Obama administration is opposing implementation of the map and asking the court to stop it. The filing followed a review of the map by the federal attorneys that found that almost one-half million Hispanics would live in districts where they would be unable to elect a minority candidate.

"The state chose not to propose any new additional minority ability-to-elect districts and removed hundreds of thousands of minority voters from districts in which they could elect candidates of choice," even though Texas is getting four new House seats due largely to Hispanic population growth, the Justice Department wrote. "This suggests both possible dilution as well as possible retrogression of minority voting strength in Texas."

Texas is one of many states still completing the once-per-decade redistricting process that follows the U.S. Census. Under the Voting Rights Act, the federal government has oversight authority over maps in states with a history of discriminating against minorities through the voting process.


Arizona map shake-up benefits Democrats

The new congressional map released by Arizona's bipartisan redistricting commission appears to give Democrats a major boost, buttressing some Democratic seats, making some Republican seats more competitive and heightening the prospect that sitting Republicans will go head-to-head in 2012.

"It's Democrats' dream map. It means Democrats have a shot at five districts, whether or not Obama is winning or losing reelection," said David Wasserman, House editor for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.

Three Democrats and five Republicans currently represent Arizona, but the state is gaining a seat due to population growth since the last census one decade ago.

The new 9th district will include parts of Phoenix and part of the city's suburbs, and is almost evenly split among Democrats, Republicans and independents. It will include the home of Rep. Ben Quayle (R-Ariz.), but he is expected to depart that district for the more Republican 6th district, where he could face a primary contest with Rep. Dave Schweikert, another freshman Republican who has already told supporters he plans to run there.


Idaho must scrap redistricting commission, start over

Political leaders in Idaho have two days in which to scramble to appoint six new members to the state’s redistricting commission, thanks to a 2009 law barring previous commissioners from serving again. 

After the commission missed an early September deadline to settle on a new map for the state’s legislative and congressional districts, panel members expected the state Supreme Court to call them back to finish the process. But a rule preventing members from serving twice prevented that from happening, even though the first go-around yielded no results. 

Idaho has only two congressional districts – both held by Republicans – so redistricting shouldn’t have too much of an impact. But the contentious and unsuccessful first attempt by the commission parallels the difficulties bipartisan panels have had in other states where redistricting isn’t handled by the Legislature. 

Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa has instructed those responsible for appointing the members - top Democrat and Republican in the state House and Senate and the heads of the two parties - to have their selections in by Wednesday. Those new members should be prepared to get to work by the following Monday morning. 

“We're strategizing right now, and not sure how we're gong to proceed just yet,” said Jonathan Parker, executive director of the state GOP. 

The do-over sparked concerns that a drawn-out process could run up against election deadlines, but Parker said if both parties are willing to compromise, they should be able to reach agreement fairly quickly. 

After the 2000 census, the dividing line between the two districts, which runs through Boise, was moved slightly to the west but didn’t dramatically change the political makeup of the districts.


Courts weigh battling Colorado redistricting plans

Two prominent Latino groups have released proposed redistricting maps for Colorado, further complicating a process that could have a dramatic effect on the partisan makeup of the state's congressional delegation.

The Colorado state legislature was unable to come to a consensus on a new map earlier this year — Republicans hold the state House, while Democrats control the Senate and governor's mansion — so the redistricting fight has been thrown to the courts. Each party has submitted a new set of proposed districts, and outside interest groups now have the opportunity to submit proposals.

Courts are traditionally sensitive to civil-rights groups in redistricting battles, giving the Latino Forum and Colorado Hispanic Bar Association — the two groups who filed a proposal Friday — particular clout in the fight.

The map would move the San Luis Valley and Pubelo areas out of the 4th congressional district, while Larimer County — one of Colorado's most politically active, and politically independent, areas — would be incorporated into the liberal Boulder district. Practically, those shifts would likely reduce Democratic chances against incumbent freshman Rep. Cory Gardner, who won his seat from a Democrat in the tea party takeover of 2010, but squeeze Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn, who currently represents Colorado Springs, into a more competitive district.

Republican plans would largely keep the current districts intact; the GOP controls four of Colorado's seven congressional districts. Democrats have proposed a more dramatic shift that would move more than a third of Colorado's population into new districts. Under their plan, Republican Rep. Mike Coffman's safe seat in the Denver suburbs would become a toss-up.

Colorado remains a true swing state in the country, with a rapidly changing population and eclectic mix of citizens aligned outside traditional political categories. Because of its swing-state status — and the relatively high turnover of Colorado's congressional districts — even modest changes to the map could have significant electoral consequences.

Congressional boundaries must be redrawn every 10 years to reflect population shifts measured by the U.S. Census.