News Recap 06-22 to 06-26

2010-06-22 ND constitutional amendment proposed to make independent comission.
North Dakota now has 47 legislative districts. Each one is represented by two House members and a senator.
The amendment petition needs almost 26,000 petition signatures by Aug. 4 to get on the November ballot.

Party Fight
2010-06-23 Real Clear Politics blog notes Howard Dean's warning of republican gerrymandering power grabs, and the Democratic Governors Association's "Redistricting Fund".

2010-06-23 Rose Report on the escalating kerfluffle in Florida. More politicians and organization weighing in and joining suits.

2010-06-24 Orlando Sentinel formerly-Republican Governor Charlie Crist weighs in on lawsuits on the side of keeping 5 and 6 on the ballot.

2010-06-24 Mississippi county supervisors note tightness or impracticability of schedule between Census data release and primaries. Part of the time crunch is VRA federal approval of distict maps.

Delaware SB 20 would make an independent commission for state legislative redistricting.

There are now initiatives on the November 2010 California ballot to both (Prop 20) add congressional redistricting to the independent comission previously made in charge of state legislature redistricting; and (Prop 27) eliminate that comission on redistricting. I believe the rules are that if both pass then the one with more votes wins and overrules the other. California Secretary of State Qualified Ballot Measures

2010-06-25 Rose Report tells us the system protects its own. The anti-independent-commission ballot initiative seems to have gotten priority treatment (or a term-limit measure got specially slow treatment) and got squeezed into the schedule for the November 2010 ballot.

2010-06-26 Akron Law Cafe blog talks about the (apparently pretty good) maps that resulted from random interested citizens being given the right tools.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren [D-CA16] introduced H.R. 5596: "To prohibit States from carrying out more than one Congressional redistricting after a decennial census and apportionment, to require States to conduct such redistricting through independent commissions, and for other purposes."


Oregon Prop 50

Oregon Prop 50 bill text

A few comments:
This independent Commission is made up entirely of semi-retired judges. I think that's a weird demographic and possibly a small pool to select from.

Their list of criteria (no explicit priority precedence, but maybe this order implies priority):
(6)(a) Each district, as nearly as practicable, shall:
(A) Be contiguous;
(B) Be of equal population;
(C) Utilize existing geographic or political boundaries;
(D) Not divide communities of common interest; and
(E) Be connected by transportation links.
Ok, nothing revolutionary there. The messy bits will come in when it does become time to run out of "nearly practicable" and break some things from parts C, D and E. Which things get broken where could be the difference between a fair map and a mess.

(6)(b) "No district shall be drawn for the purpose of favoring any political party, incumbent legislator or other person."
(6)(c) "No district shall be drawn for the purpose of affecting the voting strength of any language or ethnic minority group."

(6)(c) may be the snake in the grass the NAACP feared with these new independent commission laws. This clause might be read to prevent affecting the racial mix of districts in either direction. Affirmative action gerrymanders forbidden. Though, in Oregon this isn't a big issue right now - the blackest district is less than 1%.
Also, I think intention based law is bait for messy suits. Concrete effects are much easier to measure and judge. They're doing a little to short-circuit that by making all appeals go directly to the state supreme court. Their decision is final, boom, done.

The Commission is empaneled by January 31, the Census has its data out by April 1, and the Commission has to have out a preliminary plan two months later on June 1. They better be ready to go with good tools.


Advocacy, Open Tools, Open Process

Heather Gerken (Prof at Yale Law) post at Balkinization, points to a lecture she gave on redistricting reform.
Gerken on Open Source Software for redistricting - "I cannot emphasize how important it is to have this software. Most of the other reforms I describe here turn on its existence."
She highlights Dr Michael McDonald (George Mason U) and Dr Micah Altman (Harvard) on BARD district analysis software. (Michael McDonald's page on redistricting reform.

The rise of data nerds and their role in the internet may yet bring to light factoids that people can rally around to embarrass and shame the politicians and their dirty redistricting plans in the court of public opinion. Winning in that court can still be worth enough to cause change.

Recently released was the Brookings Institution statement of redistricting principles (with others, another Altman and McDonald venture). This is primarily a statement about transparency and public participation. I'm particularly interested in its emphasis on technology; it has a lot to say about insisting that public data and public process be conducted in open formats. If there's any software that wants to be Free, it's software for the conduct of public process and governance.

News Recap 05-19 to 06-18

2010-05-19 FL Legislature competes with redistricting initiatives.
"That means the measure – HJR 7231 – will appear on the ballot as
Amendment 7. The redistricting amendments pushed by FairDistrictsFlorida.org
are Amendment 5 and Amendment 6."

2010-05-20 TampaBay.com
"Unfettered by party, independent Crist backs constitutional ban on
gerrymandering" That would be formerly Republican Governor, Charlie Crist.

2010-05-20 Orlando Sentinel Proponents of 5 and 6 complain about placement of 7 that could cause confusion

2010-05-21 Orlando Sentinel NAACP, LWV, and others cry foul over 7.

2010-05-22 and then they file suit:
"They filed a lawsuit in Tallahassee on Friday that asks a circuit court judge
to knock off the ballot a proposed constitutional amendment that the
GOP-controlled Legislature approved the last day of the session."

2010-05-25 Orlando Sentinel
In what looks like a tit-for-tat move, U.S. Reps. Corrine Brown,
D-Jacksonville, and Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami "have filed a lawsuit
challenging the Fair Districts constitutional amendments headed to voters this
fall, claiming the congressional redistricting proposal would not afford
enough protection to minorities."
I think that'd be covered by the old Voting Rights Act, as usual.
2010-05-26 Diaz-Balart criticizes FL citizen initiative 6
"Amendment 6 is riddled with inconsistencies and, if passed,
would set unworkable standards in drawing districts," said Diaz-Balart, a
four-term congressman who served 14 years in the Legislature.
I kinda agree.

2010-05-31 Longish article about arguments on both sides, 5,6 vs 7.

2010-05-25 OH HJR 15
"House Joint Resolution 15, a plan to revamp how state legislative districts
are drawn, was approved on a 7-6 party-line vote by the House Elections and
Ethics Committee."

2010-05-29 Examiner.com
"The measure in question, HJR 15, sponsored by Democrats Tom Letson of Warren
and Jennifer Garrison of Marietta, passed 69-28 with the help of 17
Republicans, some of whom expressed their strong concerns in comments made
from the floor."
"Senate Joint Resolution 5, a similarly focused measure sponsored by State
Send. Jon Husted (R-Kettering) that was passed by the Senate in September of
last year,"

2010-06-02 Marietta Times
"The House version is a version that is a mathematical formula and considers
representational fairness and political competitiveness, keeping
municipalities and counties together,"

2010-06-04 ohio.com and Columbus Dispatch note apparent failure in current political process.
Current negotiations failed, but "GOP State Sen. Jon Husted (HYOO'-sted), the
top proponent of redistricting, pledges to keep working on an agreement before
an August deadline for placing the issue on the November ballot."

2010-06-12 Akron Law Café blog on competing redistricting reforms in Ohio.

2010-05-24 Rose Report
Analysis of California case suggesting that redistricting criteria in their
laws may be weak and without teeth.

2010-06-14 CA commission winnowing down to 622 (press release)
2010-06-16 Rose Report on the selection of the CA comission

HB4650 would adjust prison populations back to their prior home addresses.
(seen at http://www.prisonersofthecensus.org/news/2010/05/17/danville/)

S7881 proposed. See my analysis of NY S7881.

2010-05-19 Long Island Exchange and Capital Tonight and Lawkipedia.com cover "S.1614A, sponsored by Senators Dave Valesky and Craig Johnson" which is also credited to Bill Samuels for pushing it.

There has been lots of misc blogging on Prop 50, mostly in favor. I should read the measure. 2010-05-27 NPR story on Oregon Prop 50.
Oregon Prop 50 bill text

2010-06-15 Blog muses on Obama justice department influence on 2011 redistricting.
"Since the passage of VRA, the Texas Legislature has undertaken redistricting five times, in '71, '81, '91, '01, and '03. At each of these times, the White House - and therefore the Justice Department - was controlled by Republicans."

US Congress
H.R.4918 "Redistricting Transparency Act of 2010" proposed. It's a transparency act. Actual change requires public shame of bad plans. H.R.4918 bill text

Party fight
Redistricting Majority Project "A Program of the Republican State Leadership Committee"
Advocating for a Republican Party naked power grab via redistricting.
They note the FL 5,6 vs 7 situation, and assert guilt-by-association of the 5,6 people.

2010-06-18 NAACP Legal Defence Fund skeptical of "so-called Independent Redistricting Commissions". They seem to see a risk of these commissions becoming unaccountable and potentially creating racially charged maps. Discussion of Voting Rights Act and racial gerrymandering.