Gerrymander Gazette: Trial in Tallahassee Edition
There’s a lot of action in courts and state capitals across the country in the fight for fair maps, so let’s dive into the latest.
The trial in a racial gerrymandering challenge to Florida’s congressional map led by Common Cause Florida, Fair Districts Now, the Florida State Conference of the NAACP, and individual co-plaintiffs started today. We are represented by the brilliant legal minds at Southern Coalition for Social Justice and Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP. Common Cause staff will be in the courtroom every day of the two-week trial to provide updates on how things are going.
Keep up with these developments on our Democracy Wire live blog and by following Common Cause on (The Platform Formerly Known as) Twitter (national and Florida), Facebook (national and Florida), Instagram (national and Florida), TikTok, and Threads.
Fixing the Mess in Ohio
Ohio continues to demonstrate why a new ballot initiative effort to empower a citizens redistricting commission is the best path forward for ending gerrymandering in the state. Ohio’s politician redistricting commission drew a draft state legislative map that is somehow an even more extreme partisan gerrymander than an unconstitutional plan in use in the last election. A vote on this map could happen as early as this week.
Alabama Map Struck Down…Again
The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear Alabama legislators’ appeal of a trial court decision finding that those legislators illegally discriminated against the state’s Black voters in congressional redistricting. If this has Groundhog Day vibes, it’s not your imagination. The U.S. Supreme Court already upheld a trial court order requiring Alabama to create a second majority-Black congressional district in Allen v. Milligan. Somehow that wasn’t sufficiently clear to legislators who simply ignored the order when drawing a new map.
A less than thrilled three-judge panel (“[Alabama] has lost three times already, and one of those losses occurred on appeal”) in a Birmingham federal court reiterated the need for another majority-Black district. It appointed a special master to submit three new proposed maps by September 25. The trial court will now consider each of the three options the special master provided.
Wisconsin’s Desperate Legislators
Wisconsin Republicans are exploring new and creative ways to threaten the foundation of representative democracy in the state. First, Republican legislators drew themselves a supermajority in one legislative chamber and a near-supermajority in the other despite Wisconsin’s swing state status. Now they’ve threatened to impeach newly elected Supreme Court Justice Janet Protasiewicz if she does not recuse from redistricting cases. What “corrupt conduct in office” or “crimes and misdemeanors” required for impeachment are legislators accusing her of committing? Her alleged transgressions are (1) accurately calling one of the country’s most gerrymandered maps “unfair” and “rigged” and (2) accepting lawful donations from the Wisconsin Democratic Party during a political campaign.
These disingenuous accusations were concocted to ensure that a new progressive majority on the Wisconsin Supreme Court does not hear a partisan gerrymandering challenge targeting state legislative districts. In a disturbing twist, legislators are considering impeaching Justice Protasiewicz in the Assembly and then not holding a trial in the Senate so the state’s Democratic governor cannot appoint a replacement. In addition to this impeachment scheme, legislators are trying to ram through fake reform also designed to keep the Wisconsin Supreme Court from hearing the case.
Newsom’s Opportunity in California
Two historic bills to stop the gerrymandering of local voting maps in California are now on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk. As Newsom prepares for a debate with Florida governor Ron DeSantis, signing these bills seems like a pretty good opportunity to contrast reform with the racial discrimination that DeSantis supported in Florida.