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.


New district map shakes up California

Several incumbent lawmakers face uncertain futures and potential match-ups against fellow members under California’s new map of congressional districts, which has been all but finalized.

Democrats are likely to pick up one to three seats under the redistricting plan, but the map could have more far-reaching consequences — a slew of competitive House races in the state over the next decade.

The biggest factor is the uncertainty: Lawmakers will be running in districts that have suddenly become competitive, and will have to introduce themselves to new constituents added to the voter rolls because of the shifting boundaries.

“It’s much more volatile,” said Tony Quinn, a redistricting expert who advises Republicans. “Nobody’s ever run a campaign in these seats for Congress when they were competitive.”

The chaos was caused by the new bipartisan California Citizens’ Redistricting Commission, which was created by a ballot proposition last year to undo California’s heavily gerrymandered congressional and state House maps.

The map has yet to be finalized, but strategists from both parties don’t expect much to change before they are released this Friday. There will then be a two-week waiting period before the map is officially approved by the commission. No one expects the commission to vote down the map, or that any group will challenge it in court.

University of California-Berkeley Professor Bruce Cain has identified 13 districts that could be in play under the new map. That stands in stark contrast to California’s current congressional boundaries: Of the state’s 51 seats, only one has changed parties in the last decade.

At-risk House members include Democratic Reps. Howard Berman, Lois Capps, Janice Hahn and Laura Richardson, and Republicans David Dreier, Elton Gallegly and Ed Royce, all of whom will have their districts drastically altered.

Royce and Berman are in the most danger, as their districts all but disappeared in the new map and they don’t have a logical place to move to for a new run. Royce may challenge Rep. Gary Miller (R-Calif.) for a seat that has a small part of his current district. Berman may challenge Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) in a district that contains many more of Sherman's voters than Berman's or could run further west in a Hispanic-majority seat.

Dreier is also at high risk — his current Republican-leaning district becomes a Democratic-leaning one, and a fast-growing Hispanic population means that even if he manages to win next year, the area could become harder and harder to hold in subsequent elections.

Hahn, who just came into office in July’s special election, has said she might run in a heavily African-American district in Compton, which could put her in a primary against Richardson, an African-American lawmaker. Richardson has faced tough primaries before, but she’s also facing questions about allegations she required staff members to work campaign events, which is a violation of federal law.

Capps and Gallegly hail from the same centrist area north of Los Angeles, but their districts were gerrymandered to be safe. Now they are both toss-ups. Capps will likely face former Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado, a Republican with a half-million dollars in his campaign account.

Other incumbents who should be concerned include Democrats Linda Sanchez and Jim Costa, and Republicans Brian Bilbray, Dan Lungren and Mary Bono Mack.

Costa’s seat becomes about 10 points more Republican, and while it still leans slightly Democratic, the Hispanic voters he relies on often don’t always show up in midterm elections. There are rumors he might move north to run for the seat of his good friend, Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D), who could be considering leaving Congress.

Lungren’s district still leans Republican but is not quite as red as it used to be. The four-term lawmaker has faced tough races the past two elections and is an underwhelming campaigner and fundraiser. Physician Ami Bera (D) came within 7 points of beating him in 2010, a Republican year, and is one of Democrats’ top fundraisers so far. Assemblywoman Alyson Huber (D) is also eyeing the seat, and both Democrats and Republicans say she could be formidable.

Sanchez will have to run in unfamiliar territory east of her current district, in an area that is not as liberal.

Bono Mack’s district remains Republican-leaning, but she has faced serious challengers the last few elections as a large number of Hispanics have moved into the area. While she will have the edge in any race and is known as a centrist, if the demographic change in that part of the state continues, she could face tough competition in future elections. One thing working for her: The commission created many new Hispanic-majority House and state House seats nearby, which would be more attractive for up-and-coming Democrats in the area.

The map also resulted in at least one retirement. Democratic Rep. Bob Filner will leave the House to run for mayor of San Diego — the map would make his district heavily Hispanic and he would likely have faced a tough primary challenger.

Adding to next year’s election confusion, another proposition California voters passed creates a “Jungle Primary,” where the top two vote-getters in the first round go on to the final round, meaning two Democrats or two Republicans could square off in a general election. 

This new law and the new map could combine to make politicians of both parties seek the center.

“It presents an opportunity for the Republican Party to alter its course … and do what the Bush wing of the party has been wanting to do and nominate some moderate Republican Hispanics that can win in places like the Central Valley and Inland Empire,” Cain said.

Quinn agreed that the reforms “actually worked” in creating more seats where centrists can win. “The Capps seat and the Gallegly seat, and this new Riverside seat, invite moderates to run,” he said. “The same thing is really true in this Dreier seat.”

-- This story was updated at 2:39 p.m. to correct the list of members at risk. Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.) was added.