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Between the Lines: 5 Unknowns as 2012 Begins

Secondly, Floridaís new maps must also pass muster with the Justice Department or the District of Columbiaís District Court. Parts of the Sunshine State are also subject to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.

All in all, itís going to be a long, litigious journey.

3. Will state Senate Republicans cut a deal in New York to save themselves and sacrifice the GOP House Members?

New York is losing two House seats because of population decline, so at least a couple of Members are on the chopping block. New House Members, such as special-election victor Rep. Bob Turner (R), and Congressional veterans, such as Rep. Louise Slaughter (D), are at risk.

But mapmaking control is a mixed bag in the Empire State, where Democrats control the state House and governorís office but Republicans control the state Senate.

Congressional Republicans are increasingly worried their state Senate colleagues will cut a deal to save their own seats on the legislative map, meanwhile throwing their Congressional colleagues to the wind.

Itís a unique situation ó even for redistricting. Albanyís political egos are comparable only to those on Capitol Hill, and itís hard to imagine state Senate Republicans wonít pursue whatever means necessary to save their own seats first.

4. Who will benefit from the court-drawn maps in Minnesota and New Mexico?

There are few seats still up for grabs in Minnesota and New Mexico, where legislative standstills forced the courts to pick up the mapmaking.

Party operatives are watching the boundaries on at least one seat in New Mexico. Rep. Martin Heinrichís (D) departure to run for Senate leaves competitive territory open next year, and new lines could swing that district in either direction.

Meanwhile, three or four seats could be competitive in Minnesota depending on the new lines. The courts are expected to release a draft map this month ó just in time for the Gopher Stateís traditional caucuses next month.

5. How many more retirements will come before the remaining maps are finalized?

Itís been a pretty tame retirement season this cycle. Only nine House Democrats and two House Republicans have announced they wonít be seeking re-election. Thatís a low tally, especially for a redistricting cycle.

Many Members contemplate retirement each cycle, but the daunting task of getting to know a brand-new district often puts them over the edge. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) admitted as much in November when he decided not to run for a 17th term.

In other words, a wave of anticipated retirements might still be on its way.

Specifically, watch out for potential retirement announcements in states without finished maps: Florida, Minnesota, New York and Texas. Once some Members take a gander at the boundaries, they might decide itís easier to move to the private sector than to move to a new district.

Correction: Jan. 3, 2012

An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the number of Congressional maps completed and the number of House Republicans who said they would not be seeking re-election. As of today, 28 new Congressional maps are completed and two House Republicans have announced they won't seek re-election.

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