New redistricting commissions splinter along partisan lines

3 weeks ago 11
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When voters successful immoderate states created caller commissions to grip the politically thorny process of redistricting, the anticipation was that the bipartisan panelists could enactment unneurotic to gully caller voting districts escaped of partisan gerrymandering.

Instead, practice has proved elusive.

In New York, Ohio and Virginia, commissions gathering for the archetypal clip this twelvemonth person splintered into partisan camps to trade competing redistricting maps based connected 2020 census data. The divisions person disappointed immoderate activists who supported the reforms and highlighted however hard it tin beryllium to purge authorities from the once-a-decade process of realigning boundaries for U.S. House and authorities legislative seats.

As a result, the caller authorities House and Senate districts successful Republican-led Ohio volition inactive favour the GOP. Democrats who power New York could inactive gully maps arsenic they wish. And a imaginable stalemate successful Virginia could yet footwear the process to the courts.


“It’s astir apt predictable that this is benignant of however it's panned out,” said Alex Keena, a governmental idiosyncratic astatine Virginia Commonwealth University who has analyzed redistricting and gerrymandering.

Redistricting tin transportation important consequences. Subtle changes successful territory lines tin solidify a bulk of voters for a peculiar enactment oregon divided its opponents among aggregate districts to dilute their influence. Republicans request to nett conscionable 5 seats to regain the U.S. House successful the 2022 elections, which could find the destiny of President Joe Biden's remaining agenda.

Throughout astir of American history, redistricting has been handled by authorities lawmakers and governors who person an inducement to gully lines favoring their ain parties. But arsenic nationalist attraction to gerrymandering has grown successful caller decades, voters successful an expanding fig of states person shifted the task to peculiar commissions.

Some commissions — specified arsenic those successful Arizona, California, Colorado and Michigan — dwell solely of citizens who clasp the last accidental connected what maps to enact. But others, specified arsenic successful Ohio and Virginia, see politicians among their members oregon necessitate their maps to beryllium submitted to the legislature for last approval, arsenic is the lawsuit successful New York, Virginia and Utah.


If New York's Democratic-led Legislature rejects the enactment of the caller committee (consisting for 4 Democrats, 4 Republicans and 2 independents), past lawmakers tin draught and walk their ain redistricting plans.

The prospects of that accrued past week, erstwhile Democrats and Republicans connected the committee failed to hold and alternatively released competing versions of caller maps for the U.S. House, authorities Senate and authorities Assembly.

State Republican Party Chairman Nick Langworthy blasted the Democratic maps arsenic “wildly gerrymandered” and accused Democratic commissioners of refusing to compromise.

State Democratic Party Chairman Jay Jacobs countered that determination was nary crushed to “bend implicit backwards" to effort to gully arsenic galore Republican seats arsenic possible. He added: "We’ll beryllium fair, but to a point.”


The commission's part frustrated Jennifer Wilson, lawman manager of the League of Women Voters of New York. The enactment supported the 2014 ballot measurement that created the committee and encouraged radical to attest astatine the panel's nationalist hearings this year.

"It astir feels similar a slap successful the look to america and to each those radical who spent the clip to spell and taxable comments -- took clip retired of their regular lives to bash that -- erstwhile it’s precise evident determination was nary respect for immoderate of those comments,” Wilson said.

Frustration besides is mounting successful Ohio, wherever a committee dominated by Republican elected officials voted this past week to follow a authorities legislative redistricting plan they favored. Because the program had nary Democratic support, the authorities constitution limits it to 4 years.

Democrats connected the sheet called the maps unfair. But Republican Senate President Matt Huffman asserted that peculiar interests pressured Democrats not to backmost a redistricting program that could person lasted the full adjacent decade.


Huffman said the caller representation apt would nutrient 62 Republican seats successful the Ohio House and 23 successful the Senate — down conscionable a mates successful each enclosure from the existent GOP supermajorities. Experts estimation the state's voters are much evenly divided, astir 54% Republican to 46% Democratic.

The partisan representation came contempt much than a twelve nationalist hearings dominated by grounds from Ohio residents who said the existent gerrymandered maps person near them retired successful the cold.

“Too galore of america person had small accidental successful who represents america and watched helplessly arsenic laws are passed that wounded our families and disregard our needs,” Areege Hammad, of CAIR-Ohio, a civilian rights enactment for Muslims, testified.

She said the vicinity astir the Islamic Center of Cleveland, 1 of the region’s largest Muslim populations, is fractured into aggregate legislature and statehouse districts.

“Because of the mode that districts are drawn, our elected officials person nary inducement to beryllium receptive, responsive oregon accessible to america oregon our concerns,” she said.


Michigan’s national redistricting committee released its archetypal draught of a caller authorities Senate and U.S. House representation this past week and is inactive moving connected a authorities House map. It's readying to instrumentality much nationalist remark connected its proposals with a extremity of finalizing maps by the extremity of the twelvemonth — blowing past the Nov. 1 deadline acceptable successful the law amendment approved by voters.

But the Michigan sheet of 4 Democrats, 4 Republicans and 5 independents has truthful acold avoided devolving into partisan encampments. One crushed whitethorn beryllium that Michigan’s committee includes nary politicians and nary quality for the Republican-led Legislature to override its work, Keena said.

In Virginia, 2 abstracted mapmakers hired for Democrats and Republicans are to taxable rival plans for information this coming week by the 16-member commission, which has 4 lawmakers and 4 citizens from each large party. If the committee can't hold — oregon the Democratic-led General Assembly rejects its maps — the determination volition autumn to the authorities Supreme Court, which is dominated by GOP-appointed judges.


How commissioners respond to the 2 maps volition find whether the betterment effort works, said Liz White, enforcement manager of OneVirginia2021, which supported past year's ballot measurement creating the commission. She hopes panelists find a mode "to marry” the 2 proposals.

“There’s surely a interest that 2 balanced sides conscionable extremity successful gridlock," White said. “The anticipation truly is that the citizens are determination to marque definite that doesn’t happen.”

Even if the committee stalemates, the caller process inactive could beryllium considered an betterment implicit the erstwhile one, due to the fact that the nationalist is getting to spot deliberations and divisions that mightiness different person been kept down closed doors, said Keena, of Virginia Commonwealth.

“We’re going to beryllium capable to look backmost connected this benignant of experimentation and spot what works and what doesn’t work," helium said. "Hopefully, that volition pb to amended reforms successful the future.”


Lieb reported from Jefferson City, Missouri. Associated Press writers Julie Carr Smyth successful Columbus, Ohio, and Marina Villeneuve successful Albany, New York, contributed to this report.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This worldly whitethorn not beryllium published, broadcast, rewritten oregon redistributed without permission.

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