3 States Still Have Fuzzy District Lines for 2016
The filing deadline to run in North Carolina’s primaries is less than a month away. But with a redistricting case still outstanding, anyone interested in running for Congress can’t know for sure what district they’ll find themselves in.
The boundaries of the 1st and 12th districts have been challenged on the grounds that the GOP legislature packed too many black voters into those districts when they drew them in 2011.
Seven-term Rep. G.K. Butterfield represents the 1st District and two-term Rep. Alma Adams represents the 12th.
The state Supreme Court upheld the current configuration of the districts, but after ruling on a similar case involving Alabama’s congressional districts in April, the U.S. Supreme Court sent North Carolina’s case back to the state’s high court for review.
The North Carolina Supreme Court revisited the case in August but has yet to issue a ruling on whether the legislature violated the 14th Amendment by intentionally using race to draw district lines.
Although any redraw of the congressional map would likely affect the 1st and 12th Districts the most, it’s impossible to shift one district’s lines without affecting surrounding districts.
In North Carolina’s neighbor to the north, Virginians know they’re getting a new congressional map; they just don’t know what it will look like yet.
A year ago, a federal three-judge panel in Virginia found that the GOP-controlled legislature illegally packed Rep. Robert C. Scott’s 3rd District with blacks, thereby diluting their influence in the rest of the state.
The U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal to that ruling when it ruled on the Alabama case, sending the Virginia case back to the lower court for review.
The three-judge panel reaffirmed its ruling earlier this year, and after the General Assembly failed to come up with a new map, took responsibility of the redraw into its own hands.
A court-appointed special master is currently weighing map proposals submitted earlier this fall.
Redistricting experts have predicted the court will approve a minimal redraw of the map, but as is always the case, tweaking lines in one district affects lines elsewhere.
Democrats expect at least one seat to become safer turf, with Republican 2nd District Rep. Scott Rigell, 4th District Rep. Randy Forbes and 7th District Rep. Dave Brat most likely to be affected.
Democrats have acknowledged that the wait for a new map has slowed recruiting in the state since potential candidates don’t know in which district they’ll find themselves when the new map comes out.
The filing deadline for the state’s June 14th primary would be March 31, according to the Virginia Department of Elections.
The Sunshine State is also playing on the waiting game.
The state Supreme Court heard arguments over a new map Tuesday, but the ultimate configuration of the state’s 27 congressional districts is still unknown.
The filing deadline is June 24 for the Aug. 30 primary.
Of the five states whose maps could have changed for 2016, only the above-mentioned three are still up in the air and subject to change for next year’s elections.
Civil rights groups have been challenging the state’s congressional map since 2011 when GOP lawmakers approved a new map pushed by then-Republican Gov. Rick Perry.
Challengers have argued that the 2013 plans drawn for Texas’ congressional and state House districts discriminate against minorities.
The judges’ decision last week wasn’t a ruling on the merits of the challenge to the 2013 districts; it simply took the pressure off for 2016. Candidate filing begins on Nov. 14.
“If the Court enjoined the 2013 enacted plans and imposed yet another set of interim plans for the 2016 election, the shifting district and precinct lines would leave candidates in limbo, voters confused, and election officials with the burden of implementing new maps in a timely manner with very limited resources. It would be extremely difficult to implement new interim plans without tremendous interruption to the 2016 election schedule,” the three-judge panel wrote in a seven-page order on Nov. 6.