State of Elections

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Tag: partisan gerrymandering

“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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Independent (Advisory) Commission: Utah State Legislators Gradually Loosen Grip on Redistricting

By: Maxfield Daley-Watson

After the 2010 census, Utah gained one congressional district, giving the state a total of four federal congressional seats. In 2011, when the state drew its new legislative map, the process was conducted by the state’s Republican controlled legislature. This process resulted in the creation of three heavily conservative districts and one Republican leaning district. In 2018 voters narrowly approved Proposition 4, a ballot initiative directed at creating an independent bipartisan commission with the intention of creating fairer maps. The plan for this independent commission was then edited and eventually implemented through the passage of Senate Bill 200. As a result, SB 200 appropriated 1 million dollars for the independent redistricting commission. In a less positive move, the bill also shifted the independent commission to an advisory role with the ability to draft maps that are then voted on by the state legislature. This is possible because Utah allows the state legislature to amend any enacted statute with a simple majority vote. According to Better Boundaries, the organization behind Proposition 4, the impetus for the legislative overhaul on the redistricting commission centered around the unwillingness of state law makers to place a prohibition on partisan gerrymandering in the redistricting process. Furthermore, the Utah Constitution vests redistricting power in the hands of the legislature, which added an additional wrinkle to the implementation of Proposition 4.

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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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Electoral Competitiveness in Washington State – Part Two

By: Rachael Sharp

As established in Part One, a facial analysis of two possible measures of competitiveness – margins of victory and incumbent reelection rates – seems to indicate that Washington’s independent redistricting commission has not been especially successful at accomplishing its mandated goal of creating competitive elections in the state. However, this analysis may not be dispositive as a judgement against the success of the commission as a whole. In fact, the lack of change in the metrics of competitiveness analyzed in Part One also may actually be an indicator of the commission’s success in other ways.

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Efforts to Challenge Pennsylvania’s 2011 Redistricting Continue into 2017

By: Scott McMurty

Election law—and particularly map drawing—in Pennsylvania carries the potential to have significant impacts on the composition of government in Washington, as the state has long been considered a battleground in national elections. Yet despite its reputation for competitiveness, Pennsylvania’s Congressional delegation has consisted of thirteen Republicans and just five Democrats in the past three Congresses, following a redistricting overhaul by the Republican-controlled state legislature in 2011. This imbalance has sparked calls for redistricting reform in Pennsylvania, and in June became the subject of a legal challenge in Commonwealth Court by the League of Women Voters and disgruntled voters from some of the state’s more “convoluted” districts.

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Federal Court Ruling Creates Chaos for North Carolina Primaries But There May Be a Solution

By: Blake Willis

Election litigation has experienced a new spike in recent years, with many states being involved with litigation over redistricting plans, Voter I.D. laws, and other ballot access issues. Since the inception of litigation under the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA), there has been a consistent concern that federal courts should not be involved in determining the policies of voting, re-districting, and other related issues. Cases such as plurality opinion Davis v. Bandemer express such concerns, stating that partisan gerrymandering concerns are not justiciable, and that opening the door for federal courts to examine similar claims may set a dangerous precedent. In Veith v. Jubelirer, Justice Scalia echoed this sentiment, arguing that it is an increasingly difficult task for courts to determine what the predominant factor for drawing a district line may be. The expanding jurisprudence from both partisan and racial gerrymandering cases proves this argument may hold some validity, as evidenced by courts’ disagreement over the correct standard to apply, what the evidentiary standard should be, and who the burden of proof rests upon, as just a few examples. Although this litigation has been ongoing for decades, it is by no means near reaching an end.

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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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