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Tag: Gerrymandering (page 1 of 4)

Do State Legislators have Standing to Appeal a District Court Racial Gerrymandering Ruling?

By Jakob Stalnaker

In June 2018, in a case called Bethune-Hill v. Virginia State Board of Elections, a federal district court in Richmond struck 11 districts as unconstitutional racial gerrymanders. Because the remedial map will likely impact the balance of power in the state legislature, its majority members would like to appeal the district court ruling.

The original defendant in this case was the Virginia State Board of Elections. The Virginia House of Delegates and the Speaker of the House of Delegates were permitted as Defendant-Intervenors in the original litigation. The trouble is, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring declined to appeal the ruling on behalf of the Virginia State Board of Elections. The Virginia House of Delegates and Speaker Kirk Cox, appealed the ruling as Defendant-Intervenors.

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Declassifying “the Bunker”

By: Emmalyn McCarthy

Congressional district boundaries are the latest dispute in a string of voting-related cases in the state of Ohio. In May, a lawsuit was filed in federal district court by the Ohio League of Women Voters, Ohio’s chapter of the A. Philip Randolph Initiative, and one democratic voter from each of Ohio’s sixteen congressional districts. The suit pertains to congressional district lines drawn by a Republican-controlled process in 2011 which took place in a closed off hotel room called “the bunker.” Map drawers created a twelve to four, Republican-favored districting scheme, splitting up many counties to create a twelve district Republican voting majority.

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Wisconsin’s 1st District: How the Race to Replace Paul Ryan Was Won Long Before 2018

By: Colin Neal

Wisconsin’s 1st District has been in political prominence since its young Congressman, Rep. Paul Ryan, was tapped as Gov. Mitt Romney’s running mate in the 2012 Presidential election. In 2015, riding the popularity of his Vice Presidential campaign, Rep. Paul Ryan became the youngest Speaker of the House of Representatives in over a century when he replaced Speaker Boehner. More recently, the race to replace outgoing Speaker Ryan in the Wisconsin’s 1st—a district Ryan has represented since 1999—has come under the national spotlight due to excitement about Democrat Randy Bryce, an ironworker and community activist with a bombastic, yet compassionate, attitude. However, Bryce’s race to replace Rep. Ryan may not be so simple. In the midst of a “blue wave” responding to the unpopularity of President Trump, Wisconsin’s 1st is seen as a potential pick-up district for Democrats. However, Wisconsin’s 1st is a product of a statewide gerrymander plan that may very well raise the Republican shoreline above the incoming blue wave, despite Randy Bryce’s efforts. This is due to a failure of the Wisconsin Constitution and Wisconsin statutes to codify requirements for Congressional districting beyond mere administrative advice, namely requiring compactness and respect for existing political borders. Although the Wisconsin Constitution requires such for the redistricting of the state legislature (the compliance with such constitutional mandate notwithstanding), its failure to include such requirement for federal elections has led to a near-insurmountable gerrymander in Wisconsin’s 1st, which may otherwise be quite competitive.

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A New Efficiency in Maryland: Gill v. Whitford’s Impact on Maryland

By: Zach Allentuck

The recent oral arguments for Gill v. Whitford left courtwatchers unsure if the Supreme Court would strike down excessive partisan gerrymandering. Gill v. Whitford’s impact goes far beyond Wisconsin: as previously noted, there is a lawsuit against Maryland’s 6th Congressional District for excessive partisan gerrymandering. Though the 4th Circuit declined to throw out the congressional voting map that created the 6th Congressional District, the case does not end there. The 4th Circuit wants to wait and see how the Supreme Court rules in Gill v. Whitford before issuing a ruling, and the plaintiffs announced their intent to appeal to the Supreme Court. If the Supreme Court sides with the plaintiffs in Gill, what would happen to the Maryland case?

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Squashing the Praying Mantis: Why Maryland 3rd Should be Redrawn

By: Zach Allentuck

The Washington Post called it the “second-most gerrymandered” district. Its shape is comical and unwieldly. It has been compared to a praying mantis. This is Maryland’s 3rd Congressional District. Yet, when the topic of gerrymandering in Maryland arises, Maryland’s 6th Congressional District receives an outsized amount of attention and focus. The focus on the 6th makes some sense; it is the focus of a federal court case. Certainly, from a lawsuit perspective, focusing on a district where the incumbent lost his seat because of gerrymandering makes more sense than a district where the incumbent kept his seat. However, the 3rd is still more gerrymandered, because it is a weirder shape and the margin of victory for Democrats in the 3rd is higher than it is in the 6th. It is good that both the current governor, Larry Hogan, and the former governor, Martin O’Malley, agree that the gerrymandering in Maryland is bad. However, they should speak out about the 3rd specifically, because, as stated before, the 3rd is more gerrymandered, and because it makes more political sense to focus on the 3rd. The two should draw attention specifically to the 3rd.

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Defining “Compactness”: Meaningless Truism or Gerrymander Slayer?

By: Ben Williams 

This past week, an upstart election law reform organization in Virginia garnered national attention for a lawsuit that could redefine the legal strategies of anti-gerrymandering activists across the country. Per Article II, § 6 of the Virginia Constitution, “[e]very electoral district shall be composed of contiguous and compact territory…” (emphasis added). Virginia is not alone in requiring its districts to be compact—a majority of states have such a requirement. But while the word “contiguous” is easily defined (all parts of the district are connected in a single, unbroken shape), the political science community lacks a common understanding of what exactly contiguity is. As a threshold issue, there are two potential ways to measure a district’s compactness: spatially (the physical shape and area of the district) or demographically (calculating the spread of persons within a given district).  While many states do not define which of these measures should govern, or if one should be preferred over the other, the Virginia Supreme Court in Jamerson v. Womack said the language of Art. II (cited above) “clearly limits [the Article’s] meaning as definitions of spatial restrictions in the composition of electoral districts.” Thus, one of the key questions the Circuit Court judge and the attorneys in the case had to address was how to measure spatial compactness in Virginia?

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A New Efficiency in Maryland: Gill v. Whitford’s Impact on Maryland

By: Zach Allentuck

The recent oral arguments for Gill v. Whitford left courtwatchers unsure if the Supreme Court would strike down excessive partisan gerrymandering. Gill v. Whitford’s impact goes far beyond Wisconsin: as previously noted, there is a lawsuit against Maryland’s 6th Congressional District for excessive partisan gerrymandering. Though the 4th Circuit declined to throw out the congressional voting map that created the 6th Congressional District, the case does not end there. The 4th Circuit wants to wait and see how the Supreme Court rules in Gill v. Whitford before issuing a ruling, and the plaintiffs announced their intent to appeal to the Supreme Court. If the Supreme Court sides with the plaintiffs in Gill, what would happen to the Maryland case?

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Crafting Competitive Criteria: The Institution is Critical

By: Benjamin Williams

With the rapid increase in political polarization in recent years, momentum is building in several states to dramatically alter the redistricting process after the 2020 Census. True to the idea of the states being laboratories of democracy, there have been state constitutional amendments in Florida, partisan gerrymandering challenges in Wisconsin, Maryland, and North Carolina, redistricting criteria bills in Virginia, as well as a myriad of racial gerrymandering challenges. But the new idea—based on a blend of Iowa-style and Florida-style redistricting—is to create stringent criteria for legislatures to follow. That idea is simple enough: if the redistricting body (legislature, independent redistricting commission, college students, etc.) is forced to follow strict criteria when redistricting, the result will be “better” districts that aren’t ugly and are more competitive. But does the data actually bear this out?

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Why Aren’t Virginia Voters Voting in Year 3 Elections?

By: Melissa Ryan

Virginia holds elections every year in November: Year 1 for Governor (most recently 2013); Year 2 for the U.S. Congress (2014); Year 3 for the Virginia legislature and statewide and local offices (2015); and Year 4 for the President and U.S. Congress (2016).

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Shifting Racial Make-Up of D.C

By: Randolph Critzer

Few places in the United States can offer a snapshot of American politics quite like Washington D.C. There are over 650,000 people living in the District, which serves not only as the focal point of our federal system, but also as the local and pseudo-state level government for its many residents.

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