Group files to put redistricting reform on CO’s 2018 ballot

The Denver Post – A bipartisan coalition backed by two former governors on Wednesday took the first step toward putting redistricting reform on the 2018 ballot, filing three initiatives that the group hopes will lead to more competitive elections in Colorado.

The three ballot initiatives seek to dilute the influence of the two major political parties in the state’s redistricting process by putting more unaffiliated voters on the commissions tasked with drawing the lines for state legislative and congressional districts.

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Gerrymandering Colorado’s Not-So-Great Divide

IVN — The Colorado Rockies are home to many stunning features, one of which is the Continental Divide, which separates the watersheds of the Pacific Ocean and Atlantic Ocean. Now, while the Continental Divide is well-known, the state is also becoming known for another type of division that’s stunning for a very different reason.

Every 10 years, the Colorado Reapportionment Commission meets to divide up the state into districts based on the U.S. Census. They are charged with setting boundaries, substantially equal in population, for the state’s 35 State Senate and 65 State House districts.

In 2011, the last time Colorado’s districts were redrawn, they were drawn in such a way that the party receiving 55% of the vote in the 2014 elections ended up with fewer than half of the seats in the House of Representatives.

Why?

Through a process called gerrymandering, by which political partisans rig district boundaries to favor one class or party over another. Drawing districts based exclusively race or ethnicity is illegal, but up to this point, drawing them based on political party composition is allowed, though frowned upon by the Supreme Court.

The upshot of this partisan gerrymandering in Colorado?  Only one of the state’s seven congressional districts is truly competitive, and none of those seven districts have changed party hands this decade.  Of the state’s 65 State House districts, only three have changed party hands this decade.

Our vision for Colorado is congressional and legislative districts drawn using neutral, good-government criteria that promote more competitive elections.

Kathleen Curry, a former state legislator and FDFE board member

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Michigan ballot proposal to end gerrymandering

Detroit Free Press — A group says it wants to amend Michigan’s constitution to end political gerrymandering of election districts, taking the job of drawing the districts away from politicians and putting it in the hands of an independent commission.

The group Voters Not Politicians would have to collect close to 316,000 valid signatures to get the proposed constitutional amendment on the November 2018 ballot.

“I think Michigan voters overall have been frustrated at points with their government,” and “don’t trust their elected representatives with drawing election maps,” Katie Fahey, the group’s president and treasurer, told the Free Press today.

The proposal would establish a 13-member independent citizens commission on which independent voters would have five members, and the two major parties would each have four.

Elected officials, lobbyists, party officials and other political insiders would be ineligible to serve on the commission, which would hold public hearings before approving proposed district maps by majority vote, with at least two votes required from each of the three groups represented on the commission.

 While county lines and other municipal boundaries now form the building blocks of election districts, the commission would look to other factors, such as “communities of interest,” and seek to create districts that are politically competitive.

Fahey said her group has submitted proposed ballot language to the Board of State Canvassers but has not yet received a date for a public hearing.

Drawing of Michigan’s electoral districts is now controlled by lawmakers who control the state Legislature, with disputes resolved by the Michigan Supreme Court, whose members run on a nonpartisan ballot but are nominated by state political parties.

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Gerrymandering is a factor in South Dakota

Argus Leader — South Dakota’s election map is stacked against Democrats more than any other state in the nation, according to an Associated Press analysis.

Nearly 2 in 5 votes cast in 2016 state House races went to Democratic candidates, but the party captured only 14 percent of seats in the chamber.

That’s the widest “efficiency gap” among any state, according to the analysis, which used the same mathematical formula cited last fall by a federal appeals court that struck down Wisconsin’s state Assembly districts as intentional partisan gerrymandering.

The analysis supports some Democrats’ claims that the state’s dominant party has used its power to marginalize the minority party. Meanwhile, the chair of the South Dakota Republican Party dismissed the numbers as “fantasy.”

Other factors, such as geographic concentrations of voters for one party or another, could also affect a state’s efficiency gap.

Ultimately, partisans who have a problem with the way legislative districts are drawn in the state might want to blame the system rather than political opponents, said Emily Wanless, an Augustana University political science professor.

“Republicans have drawn themselves rather securely in the state,” Wanless said. “A bigger source of the problem isn’t the GOP but the mechanisms we use to draw lines.”

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Gerrymandering across U.S., but not Iowa

Quad City Times — Lawmakers across the country are protecting themselves by drawing favorable legislative boundaries, according to an Associated Press analysis.

The issue has reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which plans to hear a case involving accusations in Wisconsin of unconstitutional gerrymandering, a process by which lawmakers create political boundaries that condense friendly voters, thus making it easier for them to retain control of a legislative seat.

The AP’s analysis found evidence that political gerrymandering has occurred in almost half of U.S. states.

But not in Iowa.

 

The AP found both political parties benefitted in states where there was evidence of gerrymandering, although Republicans were helped more often. The AP analysis found four times as many states with Republican-skewed statehouse districts, and nearly three times as many states — among the country’s 12 most populous — with GOP-tilted U.S. House districts.

Iowa was not among the states whose legislative seats were unfairly skewed toward either party.

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N.C. rally for non-partisan redistricting

Greensboro News & Record — Mayor Nancy Vaughan joined activists from across the city on Monday in urging an end to statewide redistricting under the control of any one political party.

At a news conference outside the federal courthouse on West Market Street, the mayor praised Guilford County legislators of both parties “who have come out and taken a really strong stand against gerrymandering,” which is the term for legislative lines drawn specifically to favor whichever party is in power at the time.

“The issue of gerrymandering does not belong to any one party,” she said. “We are spending too much money defending unconstitutional races.”

The press conference was hosted by the nonpartisan group, Common Cause North Carolina, on a day when its leaders expected to be heading to trial in U.S. District Court for North Carolina’s middle district.

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Arizona cut politics from Redistricting

US News — An effort by Arizona voters to take politics out of the once-a-decade process of redrawing the political lines for U.S. House seats appears to have largely succeeded, based on an analysis of district inequities across the nation.

Arizona has among the lowest measures of unequal representation among the states analyzed by The Associated Press, coming in fourth out of 43 states in the 2016 election. Republicans won five of nine congressional seats in 2016, a result that largely mirrors the split between Democratic and Republican votes cast statewide.

But that doesn’t mean the process overseen by a five-member panel designed to remove it from the Legislature wasn’t both highly political and rife with highly charged disputes. Republicans remain bitter about the congressional district maps adopted before the 2012 election.

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Examining Va.’s voting districts with analysis

Staunton News Leader — Virginia Republicans significantly outnumber Democrats in both the U.S. Congress and Richmond, but according to an analysis of the way voting districts were drawn, that representation doesn’t necessarily reflect voting results as evenly as it could.

Virginia as a state has seven Republican to four Democratic U.S. Representatives and 66 Republican delegates to 34 Democrats in the General Assembly.

But the state went blue by almost 5 percent in the 2016 presidential election and has two Democratic U.S. Senators.

According to an Associated Press analysis, partisan redistricting — aka gerrymandering — may have played a role in those uneven results. Republicans have won a disproportionate number of seats compared to the number of votes they received in Virginia, the data finds.

They measured “wasted votes” cast for a winner beyond what was needed to win as well as votes cast for losing candidates. i.e. if a candidate defeated his or her challenger with 60 percent of the vote, 10 percent of the votes for the winner are considered “wasted,” because the vote went beyond what was needed to win.

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Buckle up, California – redistricting looms

Capitol Weekly — We are just getting used to the current districts, but once again redistricting is about to rear its decennial head.

Few political activities are more partisan, more bitter than the once-a-decade process drawing of boundaries for lawmakers’ districts. Just this week, national attention was again directed at redistricting as he U.S. Supreme Court announced it was going to hear a case that will decide if partisan gerrymandering is constitutional.  We will watch this case, but the fact is that it shouldn’t have much, if any, impact on California, which has taken partisanship out of the process.

Some communities in past censuses have suffered from a significant undercount – such as Santa Ana, San Diego, the Coachella Valley and East Los Angeles.

To provide a preview of what is to come in California, we have created an interactive map of the state’s 53 Congressional districts using current census projections and voter registration data.  This tool allows you better understand the mid-decade projections and project to what could be the factors in the 2021 redistricting.

You can use the tools to select districts based on multiple criteria.  For example, you can select just the districts that are under population, or those that were majority-minority in 2011, or are currently majority minority using the latest census estimates.  Hovering your mouse over any district will bring up additional details.

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Supreme Court to hear WI redistricting case

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel — The U.S. Supreme Court agreed on day to hear a case that found Wisconsin Republicans overreached in 2011 by drawing legislative districts that were so favorable to them that they violated the U.S. Constitution.

In a related ruling Monday, the high court handed Republicans a victory by blocking a lower court ruling that the state develop new maps by Nov. 1. Democrats and those aligned with them took that order as a sign they could lose the case.

The case is being watched nationally because it will likely resolve whether maps of lawmakers’ districts can be so one-sided that they violate the constitutional rights of voters. The question has eluded courts for decades.

The court’s ultimate ruling could shift how legislative and congressional lines are drawn —  and thus who controls statehouses and Congress.

“This is a blockbuster. This could become the most important election law case in years if not decades,” said Joshua Douglas, a University of Kentucky College of Law professor and co-editor of the book “Election Law Stories.”

A panel of federal judges ruled 2-1 last fall that Wisconsin lawmakers had drawn maps for the state Assembly that were so heavily skewed for Republicans as to violate the voting rights of Democrats. The judges ordered the state to develop new maps by November.

GOP Attorney General Brad Schimel appealed to the Supreme Court in February. In a one-sentence order Monday, the high court said it would hold arguments on the case.

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