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Between the Lines: First New State Maps Are Winning Approval

Louisiana: Down to the Wire

Louisiana lawmakers passed a new Congressional map Wednesday evening, just hours before their deadline to finish redistricting in a special legislative session.

Gov. Bobby Jindal said Wednesday evening that he would sign off on the new map, which decreases the number of districts in the state from seven to six.

“We have said all along that we wanted legislators to work together across party lines and across chambers to come to a consensus plan,” the Republican governor said in a statement. “No one thinks this plan is perfect, but it is a good compromise. We will sign it and send it to the Justice Department.”

Louisiana’s map must get final approval from the Justice Department, which will check for compliance with the Voting Rights Act.

The new map eliminates freshman Rep. Jeff Landry’s (R) district, folding his territory into the districts belonging to Republican Reps. Charles Boustany and Steve Scalise.

Rep. Rodney Alexander’s (R) district will extend all the way along the state’s northeastern border, and Scalise’s new district will include much of the southeast part of the state.

Earlier this week, Jindal and five of the six Republicans in the Congressional delegation wrote a letter to state lawmakers, asking them to delay making the map until next year’s session because it was too important to rush.

Boustany, the only Republican not to sign on to that letter, praised the lawmakers for passing a plan.

“I commend the legislature on finishing the difficult task of redistricting,” Boustany said. “It has always been in the best interest of voters across the state to complete this and avoid uncertainty or confusion in the coming months.”

Arkansas: Second Place?

The Arkansas Legislature passed a new Congressional map Wednesday that Gov. Mike Beebe (D) is expected to sign.

Rep. Mike Ross’ (D) 4th district will change the most under the new map — but not in his favor, even though the map was drawn by Democrats who control both legislative chambers. The western part of Ross’ new district will extend almost all the way to the state’s northern border, cutting into the 3rd district’s soon-to-be former territory.

“While I’m disappointed the final plan passed by the state legislature calls for the Fourth District to lose Chicot, Desha and Lincoln counties and a small portion of Jefferson County, I recognize our Constitution and the census require congressional districts to change once every ten years,” Ross said in a statement about the new map. “I have said all along that I will continue to work hard to represent the Fourth District to the best of my ability — regardless of its boundaries.”

Also under the new map, the eastern portion of freshman Rep. Rick Crawford’s (R) district will now extend all the way to the state’s southern border.

Virginia: Minority Report

Rep. Bobby Scott (D) voiced his support Wednesday for new Congressional map working its way through the state Legislature that would decrease the black population in his own district.

The plan, which is supported by Democrats who control the state Senate, would shrink the black population in Scott’s district to less than 50 percent, making it a “minority influenced” district. The plan calls for making the new 4th district a majority-minority district instead.

“I’m for it. That’s what I called for 20 years ago,” Scott told Roll Call.  

The entire state Senate will take up the bill later this month, before the map heads to conference with other chamber, according to the Washington Post. The Virginia state House, which is controlled by Republicans, has passed a different map which they created in consultation with the Congressional delegation.

Iowa: Closer to Passage

Iowa lawmakers are inching closer to passing their new Congressional map and sending it to Gov. Terry Branstad (R).

A state Senate committee unanimously approved the map Wednesday, according to local reports, and will send it to the chamber’s floor for a full debate shortly. The state House is expected to debate the map on the floor today.

Provided the map passes both chambers, Branstad will have the opportunity to veto it or sign the bill into law — but the governor has not indicated whether he would.

Iowa will lose a House seat this cycle, and the map currently under consideration would pit two sets of incumbents against each other in new districts: Republican Rep. Steve King versus Rep. Tom Latham, and Democratic Rep. Dave Loebsack versus Rep. Bruce Braley.

Under Iowa’s unique redistricting process, a nonpartisan commission submits a map to the state Legislature for either approval or rejection. If lawmakers, or the governor or state lawmakers reject this map, the commission will submit a second and even a third map if necessary.

Kyle Trygstad contributed to this report.

Send news items on redistricting to Between the Lines here.

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