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Tag: Gerrymandering (page 1 of 5)

“Colorful Colorado”: State Redistricting Maps In The 2020 Election

By: Weston Zeike

“Colorful Colorado” is one nickname of the “Centennial State.” Perhaps it’s fitting, then, that the state has been making headlines on the way it decided to color in its maps during the 2020 redistricting process.

Redistricting reform has received increasing attention in recent years, with Colorado being no exception to the national trend. In 2018, Colorado voters amended the Colorado Constitution to task an independent redistricting commission with drawing lines. Requiring 55% of the vote while receiving over 70%, these amendments gave the new independent redistricting commission authority to draw both state and congressional lines. Three years after the vote (and only months after the release of the requisite decennial census data release), we have a final congressional redistricting plan drawn by the commission.

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Political Process Breakdown: What Happens When the Political Branches Cannot Agree on a Map?

By: Kayla Burris

What happens when the governor and state legislature disagree on how to draw a state’s legislative districts? Should the courts get involved? And how soon should they get involved—at the beginning of the process, or closer to the primaries?

State and federal courts in Wisconsin are grappling with these questions. Two tandem tracks of cases are proceeding—one in the Wisconsin Supreme Court and one consolidated case in the District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin.

To set the scene, Wisconsin is one of the most politically divided states in the country with a Republican legislature and a Democratic governor—both of which are required to agree on a legislative map according to Wisconsin law. Thus far in the redistricting cycle, the two sides seem unlikely to come to an agreement on the new legislative map. The Democratic governor has said that “it’s unlikely he would sign into law any maps drawn by the Republican-controlled [l]egislature that are based on the current boundary lines that have solidified GOP majorities for decades.” The governor instead favors using a nonpartisan commission to draw the maps. The Republican-controlled legislature on the other hand argues for retaining the current maps to the extent possible under the law.

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Dead on Arrival: Oklahoma’s State Question 804

By: Parker Klingenberg

The Oklahoman citizen group People Not Politicians, backed by the Women Voters of Oklahoma, led the charge earlier this year to get State Question 804, also known as the Independent Redistricting Commission Initiative, on the ballot for Oklahomans voting on November 3, 2020. State Question 804 would have laid out a new framework for drawing both state and federal district lines, complying with both federal law and numerous other criteria. These lines would be drawn not by the state legislature like in the past, however, but would be drawn by a newly created Independent Redistricting Commission consisting of three members of the majority party, three members of the minority parties, and three non-party affiliated members. State Question 804 will not be on the ballot, however. The Oklahoma Supreme Court blocked it based on the grounds that the “gist,” or the summary that would appear to citizens during the process of gathering the required signatures to get on the ballot, was not “sufficiently informative to reveal its design and purpose.” Specifically, the gist failed to properly inform citizens that the ballot initiative was designed to stop partisan gerrymandering, and how the proposed committee would do so. While Oklahomans were not able to decide in November whether they want to vote for or against this proposal, it still raises interesting issues about Oklahoma’s future.

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Illinois Voters’ Will Thwarted: State Supreme Court Enshrines Strict Limits on Ballot Initiatives, Hampering Efforts to Solve Illinois’ Biggest Problems

In August of 2016, more than 563,000 Illinois voters signed a petition for a ballot initiative that many hoped would end partisan gerrymandering in the Land of Lincoln. The Illinois State Supreme Court quickly dashed those hopes when it struck down the ballot initiative as unconstitutional. The ruling affirms the Illinois constitution’s, exceptionally limited scope of potential ballot initiatives. This ruling has implications far beyond gerrymandering: this decision limits the potential for future ballot initiatives in Illinois, and thus the resolution of many of the state’s thorniest issues..

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The Tar Heel Test Case, Partisan Gerrymandering Cases in a Post-Rucho World

By: Gabby Vance

On Monday, October 28th, 2019, a three-judge panel of the Superior Court of Wake County ruled that the proposed North Carolina congressional district maps violated the North Carolina state constitution. Despite Democrats making up about half the state vote, the maps only consisted of three Democratic districts and ten Republican districts. The panel found that the maps clearly discriminated against Democratic voters. The mapmakers used tactics such as “packing” and “cracking” to skew the maps in favor of Republicans and manipulate the upcoming 2020 election in their favor. Packing concentrates supporters for a political party into one district to give their party a less number of wins. Whereas cracking, the opposite technique spreads large groups of voters with the same political ideology out to water down their votes. These methods created landslide victories in North Carolina in the three Democratic districts; the candidates consistently win by over 70% of the vote and then much smaller victories for the Republican seats, only around mid-to-high 50% victories.

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A Conversation with Professor Ken Mayer: Voter ID and Election Law in Wisconsin

By Richard J. Batzler

In recent years, Wisconsin has been a battle ground over many controversial election law changes, including a voter ID requirement. I spoke with University of Wisconsin Professor Mayer about his research on the impacts of voter ID in Wisconsin and recent election law changes in Wisconsin and elsewhere.

Kenneth Mayer is a professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Professor Mayer’s election law scholarship includes campaign finance, voter identification, and election administration. Additionally, Professor Mayer has filed expert reports in cases involving voting rights, gerrymandering, and campaign finance, among other issues. Continue reading

A New Color Under the Voting Rights Act?

Last August a federal court in the Northern District of Texas ruled on an election law case that, upon initial review, may seem run of the mill. Upon further examination, it is nothing of the sort.

The case dealt with a vote dilution claim under the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA), in which the plaintiffs claimed that their ability to elect an official of their choice in the Dallas County Commissioners Court election had been diminished by the way that the district map was drawn in 2011.

However, the claim itself is not unusual, but the oddity lies the status of the plaintiffs – white minority voters in Dallas County.

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Maryland – Proof That Both Parties Will Gerrymander When Given the Chance

By: Drew Marvel

While the recent fascination with gerrymandering would suggest it is a recent development in American politics, the practice is far from new. Gerrymandering is the practice of drawing election districts so as to give one political party a majority in as many districts as possible by concentrating the voting strength of the other party into as few districts as possible – and it has been a consistent force in American politics since the early 1800s. Contrary to the popular view of Republicans as the primary, if not sole, proponents and benefactors of gerrymandering, politicians in every state, Republicans and Democrats alike, have utilized this tactic to entrench themselves into power.

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(Dis)respecting Communities of Interest

By: Elizabeth Brightwell

My fiancé and I just became homeowners in Richmond, Virginia. Our small, Cape Cod is located on Patterson Avenue, a main thoroughfare for Richmonders in the Near West End. Our new neighborhood attracts many young people, some with children and most with dogs. Most of our neighbors lead a Richmond-centric life, sending their children to Richmond’s Mary Munford Elementary and spending weekends in the city. Continue reading

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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