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Tag: Redistricting (page 1 of 9)

Minnesota Redistricting: A Process Without History On Its Side

By: Cullen Enabnit

Minnesota’s heated legislative redistricting process is starting to ramp up. After being delayed due to the pandemic, the US Census data is beginning to be sifted through in the great state of Minnesota. While other states like Texas and New York have released proposed plans for how their reimagined districts should look, Minnesota is working in a split government and will have to take more time to draw their maps.

In terms of the fight state legislators are about to face, there is reason for relief and reason for concern. The major headline for Minnesota’s eight House Representatives was that the state was able to maintain all of its Congressional seats by a tight margin. If this number were to have changed, the difficult task of redistricting would have become even harder as the existing map would have needed to be reimagined from the ground up. While this feared situation did not come to pass, Minnesota lawmakers are still facing a challenge that does not have history on their side. Minnesota has not drawn legislative boundaries without court intervention a single time in 140 years. In fact, for at least the last 20 years, and maybe even the last 50 years, the courts have ended up drawing the final lines when the legislature failed to draw a bipartisan map.

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“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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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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Redistricting in DC: City Council Works to Balance Citizen Concerns and Ward Populations

Washington, DC, like a number of states around the country, is currently beginning its redistricting process in the wake of the 2020 census. Per the Ward Redistricting Amendment Act of 2021, DC’s wards and Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (ANCs) must be redrawn to reflect the population changes that have occurred since the last census in 2010. To accomplish this goal, the DC City Council has tasked the Council’s Subcommittee on Redistricting with soliciting public input and weighing the different concerns that inevitably accompany the redistricting process. The Subcommittee, chaired by at-large Councilmember Elissa Silverman, held a virtual public hearing on September 29, 2021, where many such concerns were voiced.

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Fourth Time’s the Charm? Albany County Addresses Redistricting Problems

By: Christopher Hennessy

Often, the conversation around redistricting focuses on the national or state levels; which party has control state legislatures around the census has an important effect on the next decade of political discourse and control in that state. However, what gets lost in that national focused conversation is what happens at a local level. Local redistricting can also have a large impact on politics. I interviewed William & Mary Law school alumni Caitlin Anderson to talk a little bit about her experience with redistricting in Albany County. Continue reading

Special Election Battle in Wisconsin

By: Richard J. Batzler

As pundits assess the political climate in the lead up to the 2018 midterm elections, special elections provide key insights into electoral trends. Earlier this year, Wisconsin was the site of two State Senate races that buoyed the hopes of those working toward a “blue wave.” But one of these elections almost never took place, as all three branches of state government clashed over whether the Governor had to call special elections in the first place.

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Two Steps Forward, One Step Back: Ohio’s State Redistricting Commission

By: Spencer Murray

In 2015, Ohio voters approved a state constitutional amendment that reformed the process for drawing district lines for the state legislature. Previously, state legislative redistricting had been managed by a five-member Apportionment Board, consisting of the governor, the secretary of state, the state auditor, and one member of the state legislature from both parties. New district lines only required a simple majority vote to enter into effect.

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Electoral Competitiveness in Washington State – Part One

By Rachael Sharp

Prior to 1983, Washington was among the large number of states whose state and national electoral districts were drawn by its state legislature. This arrangement changed in 1983, when a constitutional amendment (as enacted in § 43 of the Constitution) made Washington the third state to have an independent commission conduct its redistricting process. Washington’s commission is a five-person panel made up of two Democratic appointees, two Republican appointees, and one nonvoting chairperson chosen by the four appointees.

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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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