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Redistricting

UNDERSTANDING REDISTRICTING

After every Census, representation in Congress, state legislatures, and many state and local governing bodies significantly shifts as a result of the redistricting process.

Control of the redistricting process and the direction of our country over the next decade hang in the balance in the upcoming 2010 elections.

Voters in 35 states will determine which party will redraw congressional districts for the 2010 election and ultimately control Congress through 2022.

Redistricting Map

Following the 2000 census, Republican control of the last redistricting process in just five states – Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas – resulted in a 31-seat swing in Congress.

The top five redistricting target states in 2010:

1. OHIO
2. PENNSYLVANIA
3. TEXAS
4. MICHIGAN
5. FLORIDA

Control of these state legislatures could be decided by just a few thousand voters.

The AV Redistricting Control Project is coordinating and supporting independent progressive and Democratic campaigns in crucial states where the power over redistricting will be determined in the 2010 elections.

The America Votes Redistricting Control Project is a comprehensive initiative to coordinate and support independent progressive and Democratic campaigns in crucial states where control of redistricting will be decided by the 2010 elections.

America Votes has overlaid competitive state legislative districts with the most competitive congressional districts to identify hotspots for redistricting and congressional control.

Hotspots are identified in 29 of the 59 most competitive congressional districts, including many freshman Democrats whose votes have made them champions for progressive issues, such as healthcare.

 

Blog Posts on Redistricting

New Hampshire Redistricting

The Public News Service put out a story today about the lack of transparancy in the redrawing of congressional lines in New Hampshire.

You can read and listen to the full piece here.

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Florida House Member Lies About $30 million

In the fight for fair redistricting in Florida, while the people have voted in favor of three "Fair District" amendments, state legislatures are fighting against these amendments. Citizens were questioning why there was $30 million on reserve to deal with these redistricting battles, which

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Redistricting Set To Solidify Republican Gains in Wisconsin

In many states across the country, Republican gains in state legislatures will be boosted by efforts to re-draw legislative and congressional lines in their favor.

Craver writes:

The key for Republicans in Wisconsin is to gain an advantage in swing districts. They do this by shifting Democratic areas of these districts into less competitive districts. In some cases that will mean packing Democratic voters into solidly blue districts (where the GOP has no hope anyway), and in other cases it will mean moving them into districts with a large enough Republican tilt that the additional Democratic voters won't present a threat.

With the help of state-of-the-art computer programs, the process is highly sophisticated and complex. Legislators are able to examine the partisan advantages of thousands of alternatives.

What is most important to note is that there are few, if any, roadblocks to put down to stop the GOP from drawing the lines in a best-case scenerio for them.  Craver points out two possible stumbling black, however -- one is a Voting Rights challenge, the other is a public opinion push:

According to Ken Mayer, a UW-Madison political science professor, a Voting Rights challenge is the most likely way for Democrats to have the GOP's map disqualified.

Public opinion could be another deterrent to shameless gerrymandering. Gratz is optimistic that the increased access to the computer programs the legislators are using will mean more groups and individuals exploring the process themselves, as well as challenging the final plan.

Read the full piece here.

 

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Fair Redistricting in Florida

One of the top priorities this year for the America Votes table in Florida is a combo ballot iniative (amendments 5 and 6) to reshape how redistricting is done for State House and Congressional districts.

While it's not the perfect solution, it is a step in the right direction.

The
Tampa Tribune had a recent editorial in support of the measures.  In
short, it states that, regardless of who is in power now, the amendments
make the process more fair.  It's worth a read.

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Opinion Piece by Joan Fitz-Gerald Featured by AOL News

An opinion piece written by America Votes President Joan Fitz-Gerald was featured today by AOL News.

The piece argues that this November's elections are important not just for the immediate control of Congress, but also for control of the redistricting process in many states that could have long-lasting ramifications for the party that loses control of state legislatures and governor's mansions.  Also check out information about America Votes' Redistricting Control Project to see how our progressive partners are working in important states to take or hold state legislatures and governor's mansions.

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Joan Fitz-Gerald on the David Sirota Show

On Wednesday, September 8th, America Votes President Joan Fitz-Gerald did a radio interview on the David Sirtoa Show out of Denver, Colorado.

Among other things, Joan talked about Colorado politics, redistricting and the importance of the work America Votes partners are doing in Colorado and across the country.

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Election Update from Executive Director Greg Speed

September is here - to August, good riddance (and take those generic ballot numbers, declining Dow, and Glenn Beck Mall rallies with you, but we'll keep the GOP primary results in Alaska, Colorado and Florida).

Labor Day weekend and the "traditional campaign season" have arrived and the national landscape is as rough, if not rougher, than before Washington went on August vacation. The overall environment clearly must improve over the next 61 days - we'll do it with consistent messages reminding voters of the clear choice in this election, that their deep concerns are the result of conservatives' failed policies, and that our opponents are outright extremists whose plan to privatize Social Security is the tip of the iceberg.

However, the most important dynamic in this election may not be the national mood or generic ballot, but the specific political environments in a number of key states. Look at the heavy concentration of defeated Democrats and Republicans in a handful of states in 1994 and 2006, the two "wave" mid-term elections in the last 20 years. In midterms, when things went bad nationally, they went really, really bad in a few states.

In the 1994 landslide, seven states accounted for over half of all losses by House Democratic incumbents (CA, GA, IN, NC, OH, TX and WA - 19 of 34 losses). In the 2006 election that won back a Democratic majority, 60 percent of Republican incumbent losses were in just five states (CT, IN, NH, NY and PA - 13 of 22 losses). Importantly, Republicans lost races for governor in Pennsylvania, New York and New Hampshire four years ago by an average of 35 points.

How is this history relevant to our 2010 strategy? In the most recent Cook Political rankings, half of the Democratic-held House seats rated as "Toss Up" were concentrated in seven states (FL, IL, MI, NH, OH, PA and VA - 18 of 37 seats). All of these states are also top redistricting control priorities in the November election. Cook rates gubernatorial races in FL, IL, OH and PA as "Toss-Ups" and the MI and NH legislatures are key redistricting control targets. (Virginia's races for governor and legislature were in 2009).

America Votes' strategy this year puts the highest priority on the states and districts where vital races are layered, up and down the ballot. America Votes' Redistricting Control Project and many of our coalition partners' programs represent a firewall to fight back on the ground. It's a plan designed for tough environments like this one - find the turf we must defend and build programs to forcefully beat back the rising tide.

Bottom line: there of course must be improvement in the national landscape or we're in for an election as bad as 1994 was for us and 2006 was for them. But final margins in Congress in 2011, perhaps through 2012, and other priorities may hinge upon our success over the next 61 days in winning back swing voters and mobilizing progressives in places like Orange County, FL, Franklin County, OH) and Delaware County, PA.

 

 

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AV President Discusses Redistricting on CO Radio

America Votes President, Joan Fitz Gerald, recently discussed redistricting on a Boulder, Colorado radio show, Labor Exchange (KGNU) - listen to the full interview here.

 

Speaking specifically about the process of redistricting, Joan commented, "When it [redistricting] is done correctly, it should maximize the impact of one man one vote, you redistrict to make sure no congressional district is larger than another... It also groups people with common interest-like belonging to a rural or agricultural area."

As a former State Senator, Joan has firsthand experience with the redistricting process. While a state senator, Joan had a district that "spanned the continental divide." She said that she had to make sure that both parts of her district received a representative that could serve their needs. In 2001, the State Senante couldn't agree with the Republican House and the governor at the time, so they went to court. Then in 2003, there was a second attempt to redistrict CO that gave Joan even more insight into how the redistricting process worked and impacted citizens.

Describing how redistricting can effect working citizens, Joan said, "If working people get put into a district that will be represented by someone who can never represent their interest, then they will not be able to effectively lobby for themselves and they will be a minority in that district."

Listen to the full interview here.

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The Worst Case Scenario

Over the past few weeks, there has been a definite increase in the attention that the media has given to redistricting, and the effects it may have on this year's elections.  One of the latest stories comes from David Bass for The American Spectator, highlighting the potential pitfalls of a poor showing from the Democrats this year:

"By casting their ballots in dozens of gubernatorial and hundreds of legislative races, voters will decide whether Democrats or Republicans dominate the redrawing of state and federal political borders for the new decade - a process known as redistricting. And the results could be even more far reaching for Democrats than the outcome of the midterm elections. ... With about a dozen of the nation's state legislatures closely split along partisan lines and 18 governor's races in the "toss up" category this year, big changes could be in store"

Read the full article here.

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What Happens In Vegas, Stays In Vegas… Except This

America Votes intern extraordinare, Alicia spent time last week at the Netroots Nation conference in Las Vegas.

I have just returned from an epic trip to Las Vegas, NV! Usually when talking about a Vegas trip, I would stop here. But, while in Vegas this time, I attended Netroots Nation 2010. The conference, which lasted from July 22 to July 25, was the perfect forum for progressives to learn, discuss, experience, debate, and prepare for the upcoming elections this November.

Since redistricting is one of our main focuses here at America Votes, I want to share with you some relevant things I learned at Netroots. Specifically, I took in the Redistricting Panel, which featured State Senator Steven Horsford, a DLCC Board Member and the Majority Leader of the Nevada Senate, Executive Director Bill Burke of the Foundation for the Future, and Michael Sargeant, Executive Director of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee. The panel provided important information about redistricting and went into depth about the importance of investing resources into this process. The full panel can be viewed here.

This panel has led to more discussion about redistricting. Paul Rosenberg at Open Left discussed his thoughts on the panel and what he thinks are the most important points on the redistricting subject for Democrats in the 2010 election.

I am very glad this successful panel was held at Netroots. Redistricting is an extremely important issue that absolutely needs to be picked up by the blogger community. Netroots was the perfect catalyst.

In addition to the redistricting, there were of course fantastic keynote speakers, fun social events, and a lot of excitement. The rest of what happened in Vegas, though, stays in Vegas.

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