As the 2019 state legislative sessions get underway, a busy year of legal battles also is beginning over lingering allegations that hundreds of electoral districts across the country were illegally drawn to the disadvantage of particular voters or political parties.

First up was a court hearing Thursday in Virginia, where a federal judicial panel reviewed several proposals from an outside expert to redraw some state House districts. The court had previously determined that those districts were racially gerrymandered.

The expert, University of California, Irvine political science professor Bernard Grofman, answered questions about his revisions.

"My focus was on remedying constitutional infirmities," he said.

Next on the schedule is a February trial in Michigan, where a lawsuit by Democratic voters alleges U.S. House and state legislative districts were illegally gerrymandered by Republican officials to dilute the voting power of Democrats. A similar partisan gerrymandering trial is scheduled for March involving Ohio's congressional districts.

The U.S. Supreme Court also has agreed to hear arguments in March on separate cases appealing rulings of unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts by Republicans in North Carolina and Democrats in Maryland.

Then a new trial is scheduled for April in Wisconsin in a case in which federal judges previously determined that Republicans had illegally gerrymandered the state Assembly districts to the disadvantage of Democrats.

The pending lawsuits are contesting districts drawn based off 2010 Census data. They seek to force new district boundaries before the next legislative elections. But depending on the timing and scope of the rulings, they also could set precedents for states to follow during the next round of mandatory redistricting that will occur after the 2020 Census.

Here's a look at some of the pending redistricting cases, as well as some that were recently decided by the courts:

___

ALABAMA

Partisan breakdown: U.S. House: six Republicans, one Democrat.

The claim: Racial gerrymandering.

The case: A federal lawsuit filed last June and backed by a national Democratic redistricting group alleges the U.S. House maps approved in 2011 by the state's Republican-led Legislature and GOP governor illegally limit the voting influence of black residents.

A separate lawsuit previously alleged that state House and Senate maps had packed too many black voters into certain districts. The U.S. Supreme Court in 2015 ordered those maps to be reconsidered by a lower court, which subsequently struck down a dozen districts. The Legislature then redrew 25 of the 35 state Senate seats and 70 of the 105 state House seats. The court dismissed a challenge to the new maps in October 2017.

___

ARKANSAS

Partisan breakdown: U.S. House: four Republicans.

The claim: Racial gerrymandering.

The case: A federal judicial panel in August ruled that the publisher of the Little Rock Sun, a black community newspaper, did not have legal standing to bring a lawsuit alleging the boundaries of an eastern Arkansas congressional district were drawn to dilute the voting strength of black residents. The U.S. Supreme Court dismissed an appeal Dec. 10. Democrats controlled both the Legislature and governor's office during the 2011 redistricting.

___

GEORGIA

Partisan breakdown: U.S. House: nine Republicans, five Democrats. State House: 103 Republicans, 75 Democrats, two seats vacant pending the outcome of special elections.

The claim: Racial and partisan gerrymandering.

The cases: A federal lawsuit filed last June and backed by a national Democratic redistricting group alleges that a U.S. House district was redrawn in 2011 by the state's Republican-led Legislature and GOP governor to illegally limit the voting influence of black residents.

A separate federal case filed in 2017 by the NAACP and Democratic voters alleges that two state House districts were unconstitutionally gerrymandered by the Republican-led Legislature in 2015 to increase the percentage of white voters and decrease the percentage of black voters. In September, a federal judicial panel allowed the plaintiffs to add a partisan gerrymandering claim to the lawsuit.

___

LOUISIANA

Partisan breakdown: U.S. House: five Republicans, one Democrat.

The claim: Racial gerrymandering.

The case: A federal lawsuit filed last June and backed by a national Democratic redistricting group alleges the U.S. House maps approved in 2011 illegally limit the voting influence of black residents by packing a large number into one majority-minority district and spreading other black voters out among multiple districts. Republicans controlled both legislative chambers and the governor's office at the time the redistricting plan was approved during a special legislative session.

__

MARYLAND

Partisan breakdown: U.S. House: seven Democrats, one Republican.

The claim: Partisan gerrymandering.

The case: The U.S. Supreme Court has scheduled arguments in March on an appeal of a ruling that western Maryland's 6th Congressional District is an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander that diluted the voting power of Republicans. Democratic Attorney General Brian Frosh appealed a Nov. 7 federal court order to redraw congressional districts by March 7 using traditional redistricting criteria that show regard for "natural boundaries."

The 6th District had been held by a 20-year Republican incumbent. But the Democratic governor and Democratic-controlled Legislature redrew it in 2011 to extend into suburban Washington, D.C., adding tens of thousands of Democratic voters while dropping Republican voters. Democrats have won the district in each election since then. While the case is pending, Republican Gov. Larry Hogan has created a nine-member commission to recommend new congressional district boundaries to his office by April. The revised map then would be submitted to the Legislature for a vote.

___

Associated Press writer Denise Lavoie in Richmond, Virginia, contributed to this report.

Loading...
Loading...

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.