National Redistricting News

November 2001 - January 2002

  • Roll Call: "Campaigning: For former members, comebacks hardly look like a sure thing." January 31, 2002

  • Roll Call: "Banking On Seniority: GOPers ahead in member-member cash battles." January 31, 2002

  • Roll Call: "DNC Scales Back Redistricting Commitment." January 24, 2002

  • The Hill: "State lawmakers carve out their own districts." January 23, 2002

  • Roll Call: "Drawing Even: So far, redistricting hasnít yielded big gains for either party." January 21, 2002

  • Roll Call: "Redistricting shortfall may not cost GOP House majority." January 21, 2002

  • The Hill: "State legislators serve dual roles, carving out congressional districts for themselves." January 16, 2002

  • Cleveland Plain Dealer: "Our unduly selected representatives."  January 13, 2002

  • Washington Times: "Voting rights and wrongs." January 8, 2002

  • Washington Times: "GOP eyes 10-seat gain from redistricting." January 7, 2002

  • Washington Post: "A Multi-Party Mess." January 2, 2002

  • Washington Post: "Redistricting Rattles In-House Hopes." December 31, 2001

  • San Jose Mercury News: "Redistricting Stills the Votersí Voice." December 28, 2001

  • Wall Street Journal: "Cheating Seating." December 27, 2001

  • Washington Post: "The Value of a Vote." December 20, 2001

  • Washington Post: "Democrats Hold Edge Over GOP In Redistricting; Gains Still Possible for Republicans." December 14, 2001

  • Columbus Dispatch: "Neither Party Pulls Ahead In Redrawn Congressional Districts." December 10, 2001

  • Roll Call : "Hoeffel Takes Fight for District to Airwaves." December 10, 2001
  • "The Only Winner So Far in Bruising Redistricting Battle: Incumbents." December 7, 2001
  • The Hill : "As first filing periods begin, incumbents anticipate easy road." December 5, 2001
  • Washington Post : "Safe But Sorry." December 2, 2001
  • Washington Post : "It Could Be a Real Race." December 2, 2001
  • Roll Call: "Few Minority Gains Seen." November 8, 2001
  • Wall Street Journal : "The Gerrymander Scandal." November 7, 2001
  • Common Sense: "Cut Out." November 7, 2001
  • AlterNet: "Redistricting Isn't Sexy, but It Matters." November 6, 2001
  • Washington Post: "Md. Races Emerge as Key to Gaining House Majority." November 5, 2001
  • What's New in Redistricting is a summary of nationwide redistricting activity that is updated weekly.
  • California Congressional Delegation Proposed Districts Maps now online. August 31, 2001
  • Michael McDonald, an assistant professor at the University of Illinois-Springfield has compiled a redistricting scorecard with updated information about the redistricting progress in each state.

More redistricting news

Roll Call
Campaigning: For former members, comebacks hardly look like a sure thing
By Stuart Rothenberg
January 31, 2002

At least 10 former Members are mentioned as possible or certain candidates for the House this year. Statistics are tough to come by, so I don't know if that's a record. But in the last cycle, just four former Members made comeback attempts (Democrats Scotty Baesler (Ky.) and Jane Harman (Calif.), and Republicans Dick Zimmer (N.J.) and Charlie Dougherty (Pa.), and only one was successful.

Although some in this year's crop have legitimate chances to win, many are running quixotic efforts to return themselves to the political stage.

Two of the potential returnees originally left their House seats to run for higher office: Larry Pressler (R-S.D.) and Rick Lazio (R-N.Y.).

Eight of the potential comebackers lost their last bids for the House: Dave Nagle (D-Iowa), Jay Dickey (R-Ark.), Buddy Darden (D-Ga.), Frank McCloskey (D-Ind.), Robin Britt (D-N.C.), Merrill Cook (R-Utah), Jill Long Thompson (D-Ind.) and Clyde Holloway (R-La.).

The biggest problem facing many among those eight is that the voters have already fired them. Whether it was because of their voting records, the opposition, changing district demographics or the national mood, more than half the former House Members could not convince voters that they deserved to be re-elected.

And yet, most of those considering a comeback in 2002 have reasonable rationalizations for their losses and for why this year could be different. Redistricting appears to be the major reason why so many former Members figure that they can again win election to the House. New districts, which are without incumbents and often include some of the same territory they once represented, appear to be tempting targets for ex-Members who miss the Capitol Hill scene.

Clearly, the problem of having been defeated for re-election is greater for some lawmakers than others. Voters dumped Dickey in 2000 after four terms. He was first elected in 1992, after the Democratic incumbent was defeated in a primary and the ethically challenged nominee failed to unite the party. Two years later, Dickey faced a strong opponent who was overwhelmed in a great Republican year. In 1996 and 1998, he was up against second-tier challengers.

Although Dickey's name recognition must still be high, he never proved he could defeat a strong opponent when the political playing field was relatively level. How can he defeat a Democratic incumbent, particularly one with a moderate record?

Cook couldn't even make it out of the GOP primary last year. His name is undoubtedly familiar to a large number of voters, but that high name ID, combined with a loss in his own primary, would not seem a reason to be optimistic about another bid.

Nagle was defeated by a razor-thin margin in 1992 by Republican Rep. Jim Nussle, when redistricting threw the two incumbents into the same district. But Nagle didn't come nearly as close in a 1994 rematch, losing 56 percent to 43 percent. And now he has the added baggage of a rather public battle with alcohol.

Tarheel voters retired Britt after a single term in 1984, when he came up just 2,662 votes short against GOP challenger Howard Coble. Two years later, in a rematch, Britt lost again, but by a mere 79 votes. For Britt, little separated victory and defeat, so it is easy for him to argue that voters didn't really fire him.

Three former Democratic Members mentioned for this year's elections were swept out by the Republican tsunami of 1994: Darden, Thompson (then known as Jill Long) and McCloskey. That wave was particularly strong in conservative, normally Republican districts in the South and Midwest, where voters sent then President Bill Clinton a message about his views on health care, gays in the military and taxes.

Rep. Bob Barr (R) defeated Darden by 4 points, the same margin by which John Hostettler (R) prevailed over McCloskey, a former mayor of Bloomington. Both Democrats can reasonably argue that they would still be in Congress if it hadn't been for the GOP wave. Long lost by a larger margin (11 points) to Mark Souder (R), but two years earlier she had been re-elected with 62 percent of the vote.

Holloway went down in defeat in 1992, when redistricting threw him and Rep. Richard Baker (R) into the same district. Baker won by just 2,728 votes. Two years later, Holloway lost a comeback attempt to now Rep. Jimmy Hayes (D). He too can argue that a unique set of circumstances and events conspired to keep him out of Congress.

One consideration for some of those hopefuls is time. Although Darden and McCloskey were on the ballot eight years ago, Britt has not been before voters since 1986, an interval of 16 years. Given the growth in the Raleigh-Durham-Greensboro area, it's hard to believe that many voters remember much about the one-term Greensboro Democrat.

Pressler and Lazio may each have lost his last race for office (for Senate), but both left the House of Representatives voluntarily, to run for higher office. The trio could well start with a leg up for the nomination. But even in their cases, much depends on the primary field and on the quality of the general election opposition. If 2000 is any indication, former Members have a tough road ahead.

Roll Call
Banking On Seniority: GOPers ahead in member-member cash battles
By Chris Cilliza and John Mercurio
January 31, 2002

At least three of the four House Republicans who have been thrown into new districts with Democratic incumbents banked significantly more cash on Dec. 31 than their likely Democratic opponents, new reports show.

GOPReps. Chip Pickering (Miss.), Nancy Johnson (Conn.) and John Shimkus (Ill.) ended 2001 with war chests that dwarfed those of Democratic Reps. Ronnie Shows (Miss.), Jim Maloney (Conn.) and David Phelps (Ill.), respectively, according to reports filed this week with the Federal Election Commission.

Rep. Tim Holden (D), who may run against Rep. George Gekas (R) in a new Pennsylvania district, banked $347,000 at year's end. Gekas had not released his FEC reports yesterday.

Other disparities emerged as well.

In two Michigan primaries pitting House Democrats against each other, the senior incumbents enjoyed far more successful fundraising efforts than their junior counterparts.

Rep. John Dingell, who has served since 1955 and is the current House dean, raised $342,000 and banked $805,000 on Dec. 31. That's nearly twice as much as his likely primary rival, four-term Rep. Lynn Rivers, took in and nearly five times as much as Rivers reported in cash on hand. Likewise, 13-term Rep. Dale Kildee trounced his Democratic rival, five-term Rep. James Barcia, in fundraising. He raised $125,000 to Barcia's $43,000 and banked $772,000 to his rival's $230,000, according to the new reports.

"I am going to run," said Kildee when asked about his plans. Barcia apparently is seriously considering a bid for state Senate, one Democratic source said.

As year-end fundraising reports flood into the FEC this week, few are being as closely watched as those filed by House Members forced to run against one another due to redistricting.

Currently, there are 11 such races across the country. Those contests are mostly clustered in the Midwest and Northeast, where slower-than-average growth caused some states to lose seats after the 2000 census.

Of the 11 races, four pit a House Democrat against a House Republican, while five of the remaining seven are Democratic primaries. Only in Indiana and Georgia do Republicans face Member-vs.-Member primaries.

In Illinois, where Shimkus and Phelps are facing off in the restructured 19th district, Shimkus maintained a solid fundraising lead as of the end of 2001. Shimkus raised $218,000 in the final six months of the year and finished 2001 with $627,000 on hand.

After collecting only $88,000 in the first six months of the year, Phelps nearly doubled his fundraising total during the second half of 2001, bringing in $151,000 between June 30 and Dec. 31. Phelps had $370,000 on hand as of the end of last year.

At the end of the June filing period, Shimkus had $509,000 on hand to Phelps' $288,000.

But Shimkus argued that "[Phelps] has not shown an ability to close the [fundraising] gap."

In the Mississippi race pitting Shows against Pickering, the latter has a hefty fundraising advantage.

The Republican raised $325,000 in the last six months, retaining slightly more than $1 million on hand at the end of 2001. Shows yielded $247,000 in that period, with $370,000 on hand.

Johnson, who warned supporters last year in a fundraising letter that she was poised to face Maloney in a new district, raised $329,000, slightly less than Maloney's $341,000. But the Republican banked a whopping $1.3 million on Dec. 31, more than four times as much as Maloney had in reserve.

In an interview Wednesday, Maloney, who spent $2.1 million in his 2000 re-election bid, noted that he's closing the gap with Johnson in cash-on-hand. "She came into 2001 with a $500,00 surplus, we came in with a $250,000 deficit. ... Six months ago, she had a 10-to-one advantage. Today she has a three-to-one advantage. By the end of the campaign she may not have any advantage at all," he said. "We feel very strongly that we won the redistricting fight."

Although Democrats are optimistic that the lines drawn by Republicans in Michigan and Pennsylvania will be overturned in the courts, there are four potential primary fights in those two states alone.

In Pennsylvania, Democratic Reps. Joe Hoeffel and Bob Borski are currently in a Philadelphia-area district, while Rep. Frank Mascara (D) saw much of his 20th district placed in the new 12th district held by Rep. John Murtha (D).

Hoeffel has been the most involved member of the delegation on the redistricting front, pushing to preserve Montgomery County in one district.

Despite his efforts, the county was split into six Congressional districts by Republican redistricting agents, and Hoeffel, whose base is in suburban Philadelphia, would be forced to run against the city-based Borski.

Hoeffel raised $187,000 over the past six months and retained $242,000 on hand for the race, as of Dec. 31. Borski's report was filed in error, according to his office. The correct numbers were not available at press time.

In western Pennsylvania, Mascara has not yet announced whether he will run in the new 18th district where he currently resides or in the new 12th district against Murtha. State Sen. Tim Murphy (R) has already announced his intention to run in the 18th district, and Republicans are touting a poll that shows Murphy leading Mascara by 15 points.

If Mascara was to take on Murtha, the opponents would start on relatively even financial ground as of the end of 2001.

Murtha led Mascara in dollars raised over the past six months ($191,000 to $90,000), but Mascara has a $138,000 to $115,000 cash-on-hand advantage.

Mascara's district director, Lou Lignelli, said the Congressman "would refrain from saying anything about potential matchups" until the court case plays out.

A hearing in Pennsylvania court is scheduled for tomorrow; the federal court will take up the case Feb. 11. Democrats believe that the rapidity with which the case has moved through the state courts shows it has merit.

In Michigan the state Supreme Court heard the Democratic challenge to Republican redistricting lines on Jan. 23, but no decision has been announced. If the current lines are upheld, Reps. Dingelland Rivers would run against each other in the new 15th district.

Although on a financial level this race remains heavily weighted in favor of the former Commerce Committee chairman and current ranking member, Rivers' campaign believes that she will be able to raise the money needed to run against him from her base in the progressive community.

Rivers received a major fundraising boost after the year-end filing deadline, when EMILY's List endorsed her candidacy in mid-January. The organization, which backs pro-abortion-rights Democratic women for elected office, bundles campaign contributions to their targeted races and is seen as the pre-eminent fundraising mechanism in Democratic party politics.

EMILY's List will send two mailings out to their donors featuring Rivers during the next reporting period, according to her campaign.

In a potential Ohio primary Rep. James Traficant raised $11,000 this period with $49,000 on hand. His potential opponent, Rep. Tom Saywer (D), raised $31,000 with $121,000 on hand.

In a primary race in Indiana, where Reps. Brian Kerns (R) and Steve Buyer (R) are running for the new 4th district, there was insufficient information to compare their year-end fundraising totals.

Roll Call
DNC Scales Back Redistricting Commitment
By Ethan Wallison and John Mercurio
January 24, 2002

The Democratic National Committee has sharply scaled back its financial commitment to the party's Congressional redistricting program, reflecting confidence among officials that Democrats have minimized expected GOPgains in the decennial process.

House Democratic leaders and the DNC have agreed on a payment of $1.5 million to close out redistricting efforts this year, according to several sources familiar with the pact. The agreement was reached nearly one year after newly elected DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe pledged as much as $13 million for Congressional and legislative redistricting.

The DNC had never previously involved itself directly in Congressional remapping.

"Redistricting has been an incredible success so far for Democrats," said Greg Speed, a spokesman for Democratic Caucus Chairman Martin Frost (Texas), who leads his party's redistricting effort. "And that's thanks to many things, but particularly to the financial commitment from the DNC and Terry McAuliffe."

Speed refused to confirm the revised figure from the DNC, but he suggested that IMPAC 2000, the party's redistricting program, had benefited substantially from fundraising by several state delegations.

Republicans, who are clinging to early predictions of an eight- to 10-seat gain from redistricting, scoffed at the Democrats' claims. They said the DNC's move reveals that Democrats are conceding defeat and realize their resources are better spent elsewhere.

"It just shows that redistricting has gone badly for Democrats nationally," said Steve Schmidt, communications director for the National Republican Congressional Committee.

"This is just a recognition on their part that their lawsuit challenges are not going to be successful, that [the process] has been legally sound and that their strategy of nuisance suits is not workable," Schmidt added. "Clearly, if Democrats thought they could overturn Republican redistricting gains, they would be manning battle stations, not heading into retreat."

In fact, word of the sharp drop-off in assistance from the DNC has sown considerable suspicion even among Democrats.

Some Caucus insiders have suggested that the funding discussion with the DNC came down to a turf battle for control of redistricting. In this scenario, Frost essentially was pushed aside by Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.), who relied on McAuliffe as his proxy in the battle.

Gephardt and McAuliffe are long-standing political allies. That close association is considered to be a large reason for the DNC's active role in redistricting this cycle.

A top Gephardt aide strongly disputed the theory that the leader and McAuliffe had been in cahoots.

The aide cast the situation as one where there was a fortunate confluence of events, in that Frost's organization won some important court victories just as the party committee was getting squeezed for cash after Sept. 11. The successes meant less litigation and, hence, less need for money.

"We've had less to deal with than expected," the aide said, citing the relatively swift processes in Texas and Ohio, the latter of which was nearing conclusion at press time.

Ohio's Republican-led Legislature approved a redistricting plan this week that would eliminate Rep.James Traficant's (D) district and increase GOP strength in Rep. Tony Hall's (D) seat, but otherwise does little damage to Democrats.

A DNC spokeswoman said the committee is "committed" to providing IMPAC with the resources it needs to be competitive in Congressional and legislative redistricting, but she conceded that the amount "may be" less than was originally pledged by McAuliffe.

The spokeswoman, Jennifer Palmieri, declined to discuss how much the DNC will ultimately contribute. But she said, "It's certainly an unprecedented effort, and we've already enjoyed tremendous success at the state and federal level."

Palmieri added that her impression was that Frost and Gephardt came away "very satisfied" from a meeting with McAuliffe earlier this month in which the DNC's financial stake in IMPAC was discussed.

Speed, the Frost spokesman, described the lawmaker as "grateful" to McAuliffe for the DNC's "unprecedented" contribution to redistricting.

Whether Frost was in fact pleased with the amount remains an open question. Insiders said Frost fought vociferously with the DNC before arriving at $1.5 million - the figure he told the DNC was "necessary" to carry out the remainder of the redistricting needs.

Frost, insiders said, has also continued to pressure the DNC to deliver the money up front rather than in drawn-out installments over a number of months.

"He likes to push the envelope," one insider said of Frost. Noting that it is routine for the chairman of any political organization to try to shift the financial burden, the insider added, "Everyone always wants more money than they get."

Still, disclosures filed by IMPAC with the Internal Revenue Service suggest that the DNC has played what would seem to be a smaller-than-expected role throughout the redistricting process.

The reports show that the DNC gave the redistricting committee $363,000 in four installments during the first half of last year.

The DNC made no contributions to IMPAC in 2000, though the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee gave it $53,000 that year.

And the reports indicate that IMPAC could use a financial cushion. They show that through the end of the June 30 reporting period in 2001, the committee raised only $169,815 more than it spent, even with the gifts from the DNC ($2.41 million in contributions versus $2.24 million in expenditures).

The next report from IMPAC is due Jan. 31 and will cover the second half of last year.

The Hill
State lawmakers carve out their own districts
By Allison Stevens
January 23, 2002

This article is the second in a two-part series on state legislators who use their influence to draw congressional districts suited to their own campaigns for Congress. The first part focused on Republican candidates; the second on Democrats.

Not many congressional hopefuls are as fortunate as Charles Walker Jr., a 33-year-old political novice whose father is one of Georgiaís most powerful Democrats.

Walker is running for the stateís newly drawn 12th District open seat ó a strangely configured long, thin line that stretches for hundreds of miles in order to incorporate such distant Democratic strongholds as Athens, Augusta and Savannah.

Walkerís campaign will no doubt receive a boost from his father, Charles Walker Sr., the majority leader in the state Senate and one of the most powerful black politicians in the country. Indeed, Walker Jr. has already reaped the benefits of his fatherís influence, according to Georgia political analyst Bill Shipp.

As majority leader, Shipp said, the senior Walker weighed in on his peers in the state Senate to help create a congressional district for a candidate to carry on his legacy. The chosen one, it turns out, is his son.

ìThey looked at the black census tracks,î Shipp said. ìThey looked at the last election and they saw where [Vice President Al] Gore ran very well. In other words, they formed a black districtî that was ìdesigned for a [black Democrat] of his choosing.î

The result? A convoluted district that separates communities of interest, but one where the younger Walker is already the clear frontrunner in a race that is expected to draw about a dozen candidates.

ìItís a serious geographical problem,î Shipp said, ìbut itís no problem for Walker as a candidate. Heíll win the Democratic nod and I donít see how a Republican has any hope in the general election.î

Walker, however, denied the allegation that his father weighed in on the redistricting process to help him secure a House seat.

ìItís a serious myth that my father created the district for me,î Walker said in an interview. ìMy father is considered one of the most powerful members of the state Legislature and people automatically assume that he knew that I was going to run and that he would do what he could to make sure that he would help his son. That did not happen in the least bit.î

He also denied that Georgia Democrats gerrymandered the district to help elect him as the stateís next African-American congressman, and instead charged state Rep. Ben Allen (D) with attempting to draw the district to further his own interests.

Allen used his seniority in the state Legislature to create a district that wholly incorporates his own state Assembly district in preparation for his congressional bid, Walker said.

ìI donít know Bill Shipp, but I will say that he certainly knows that Ben Allen drew the map to [advance] his personal agenda.î

There are three black representatives in the current 11-member Georgia delegation. In the 2000 elections, about a quarter of the Georgia voters were black.

If Walker wins, he wonít be the first beneficiary of a state lawmaker who has used his or her clout to design a custom-made congressional district. Nor will he be the last.

Nonetheless, he is one of a relatively small number of state legislators who are pulling strings behind state legislative doors this year to advance their own political agendas.

In 1992, seven state lawmakers in the Georgia Legislature won seven of the stateís then 11 House seats, a phenomenon that played out in states across the country, according to data compiled by the Center for Voting and Democracy.

Indeed, 10 years ago, a whopping 40 state legislators ó including a record number of African-Americans ó won House seats, the data showed. The class of state lawmakers comprised almost one-half of the 109-member freshman class that year.

This year, however, state legislators are expected to win a maximum of two of Georgiaís expanded 13-seat delegation. Only ina smattering of states, such as Florida, Michigan, North Carolina and Oklahoma, do similar opportunities arise.

A number of factors have contributed to the relatively small number of ambitious state lawmakers running for office, a phenomenon that works to the disadvantage of minority and woman candidates seeking entrÈe into Capitol Hill.

Rob Richie, executive director of the Center for Voting and Democracy, said the dominant trend this year is for state legislatures to shore up incumbents rather than create new opportunities for rising stars in state and local politics.

Fewer incumbents have retired, he added, and there are fewer states that are controlled entirely by one party, where state legislators have the best opportunities to draw districts for themselves. In addition, several states have employed nonpartisan commissions to avoid partisan gerrymandering and costly legal battles.

ìEverything is so finely tuned with so few seats needed to change control that itís much more difficult to have oneís personal ambitions be weighed more highly than the effect on oneís party,î Richie said.

Thatís not to say that all state lawmakers have given up on their congressional dreams and Capitol Hill wishes.

In North Carolina, Brad Miller, a Democratic state lawmaker who chairs the redistricting committee in the state Senate says heís just about ready to formally kick off his campaign for the stateís new 13th District in the central and northern part of the state.

Miller agreed to chair the committee last year even though he knew it would be ìawkwardî because he planned to run for Congress. But he said Senate President Pro Tem Mark Basnight persuaded him to take the position anyway.

Miller insists that the new district was not drawn specifically to help elect him and notes that the new maps were drawn up by the House redistricting committee ó not the Senate committee.

Still, he considers himself the strong frontrunner in the new district because he knows the district and its constituents better than other potential candidate.

Miller currently represents Wake County, which comprises about half of the Democratic-leaning district. The fairly compact and contiguous district has a 54-29 percent edge in Democratic registration, but Republicans still say they have a good chance to win the seat.

Several local newspapers wrote strongly worded editorials condemning his role in the process. But Miller said he doesnít think his work on the redistricting committee will resonate in his campaign.

ìRedistricting is a process in which a lot of people are acting in their own self interest,î he said. ìI certainly took my interests into account, but I was Mother Teresa compared to some.î

California Democrats Sally Havice and Dennis Cordoza are also running for Congress, as is Tennessee Democrat Lincoln Davis. None hold leadership positions or sit on their state redistricting committees. Still, all voted on maps that made them the clear favorites in these newly drawn districts that house their hometowns.

In Oklahoma, state Senate Majority Leader Billy Mickle (D) has no official role in the redistricting process. But he has nonetheless spent time drawing up maps in preparation for his congressional bid, according to a Republican official who declined to be identified.

ìHe showed me what he was working on,î the official said. ìHe has, on a regular basis over the last few months, spent several hours a weekî working on new congressional lines.

In Oklahomaís state House, Rep. Lloyd Benson, the Speaker emeritus and chairman of the redistricting committee, is also said to be mulling a congressional bid for one of Oklahomaís five seats, possibly challenging Rep. J.C. Wattsí (R). But Mickle is a more likely candidate than Benson, according to Brent Wilcox, spokesman for the Oklahoma Democratic Party.

Mickle has already formed an exploratory committee for the seat currently held by retiring Rep. Wes Watkins (R), which leans Democratic and is expected to be shored up after the Democrats, who control both chambers of the state Legislature, complete the new districting maps. Gov. Tom Keating (R) has said he will veto any plan that harms incumbents, a threat that will most likely cause the maps to be finally drawn in court.

Still, in all likelihood, Mickleís state Senate district would also be wholly contained within a new congressional district, Wilcox said. He added that Mickleís political clout and a tailor-made district would make the well-regarded state legislator the favorite in what is already becoming a crowded field.

ìI think heíll have a great deal of influence [on the process],î added Oklahoma Republican strategist Tom Cole. ìIf the district exists, heíll be regarded very seriously, probably, as the favorite for the Democratic seat.î

Roll Call
Drawing Even: So far, redistricting hasnít yielded big gains for either party
By John Mercurio
January 21, 2002

Two-thirds of the way through a national round of redistricting marked by the fierce protection of incumbents, House Republicans appear poised to make slight gains on the newly configured House battleground, according to a state-by-state analysis that still offers Democrats a chance to even the score.

In the 27 states that have approved lines for 281 districts, Republicans, who have long predicted an eight- to 10-seat gain overall, now appear to be in a position to gain a net of one to two seats if little beyond demographics is considered. But Democrats, who have said redistricting would result in a "wash,"could break even by gaining one or two seats when other key states enact new maps later this year.

Republicans remain convinced that they are poised for double-digit gains. "Given what we've seen in states like Pennsylvania and Michigan and what we're likely to see in the next couple of weeks in Florida, we're firmly on track for the eight- to 10-seat pickup we've predicted all along," said a House GOP aide.

Democrats disagree.

"Reality doesn't come anywhere near their predictions," said Greg Speed, a spokesman for House Democratic Caucus Chairman Martin Frost (Texas), the Caucus' point man for redistricting. "We are in a very strong position, and Republicans are scrambling to make redistricting a wash."

Pennsylvania, which so far has emerged as Republicans' biggest redistricting coup, could add two Republican seats while eliminating four Democratic ones.

The Keystone State was forced to eliminate two House seats in reapportionment. The plan forces three sets of incumbents to run against one another. Reps. Bob Borski (D) and Joseph Hoeffel (D) are placed in a Philadelphia-area district, Rep. George Gekas (R) would face Rep. Tim Holden (D) in a strongly Republican seat, and Pittsburgh-area Democratic Reps. Mike Doyle and William Coyne also have been thrown together. Coyne is retiring.

National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Davis (Va.), who has relied heavily on Pennsylvania to deliver hefty GOP gains, sent a letter to members of the Pennsylvania House Republican caucus last year urging them to support a state Senate plan that sought to maximize such gains.

"With many other states under Democrat control working to eliminate Congressional Republican opportunities and representation, your help in Pennsylvania is especially urgent and critical," Davis wrote.

Legal appeals at the state and federal levels are already under way.

Republicans also control the process in Michigan, which lost one House seat in reapportionment. State leaders drew a map that pairs six House Democrats in three districts, which would result in a loss of three House seats for Democrats, who are aggressively challenging the GOP-crafted plan in court.

The state Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a Democratic legal challenge to the map on Wednesday.

Texas disappointed House Republicans expecting major gains there. A court-drawn map, released after the divided Legislature failed to produce a plan, creates two new GOPseats; but it left unscathed several targeted House Democrats, including Reps. Charlie Stenholm, Max Sandlin, Chet Edwards andJim Turner.

Georgia, which gained two seats, represents the biggest Democratic jackpot of the 2002 cycle. Democrats, who control the Legislature and governor's office, devised a map that could shift the delegation from eight Republicans and three Democrats to six Republicans and seven Democrats.

Republicans there are challenging the plan in court.

A look at the political landscape taking shape reveals that House Republicans have benefited from a sharp increase since 1992 in the number of state legislatures and governor's offices they now control.

In the 1990 remapping Republicans had complete control of states that contained just five House seats, while Democrats dominated states with 172 seats. Another 240 seats were in states where control was split between the two parties, while independent commissions drew 11 seats. Seven states have single at-large seats.

By 2000, Republicans had increased their reach to roughly 100 seats, while Democrats' outright control fell to about 145.

Specifically, state lawmakers in Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Oklahoma, Maryland and Ohio are drafting House maps during legislative sessions that opened this month in capitals across the country. Democrats are favored to gain a total of four seats in Alabama, Oklahoma and Maryland, while Republicans could gain three in Florida and Ohio, and Colorado is a toss up.

New York lost two seats in reapportionment, but the state's divided Legislature is expected to force both parties to share the pain and lose one seat each. Mississippi also has to decide how to draw a map that eliminates one House seat. Reps. Chip Pickering (R)andRonnie Shows (D) are preparing to face each other.

The battleground has focused on about two dozen states, including those that have gained or lost seats and others in which one party has sought to use its control of the process to score big gains.

In Arizona, which received two more seats in reapportionment, an independent state commission approved a plan that both parties say should result in a one-seat gain for each party.

California added one House seat, which Democrats who control the process drew for themselves in Los Angeles County. More interested in protecting incumbents, state legislators did not target vulnerable Republican incumbents, angering some national Democratic leaders who had anticipated an additional three or four seats from the populous state.

It's unclear at this point how Connecticut will play out. A commission of state legislators, forced to draw a map that eliminates one of the state's six House seats, last month threw Reps. Nancy Johnson (R) and Jim Maloney(D) into a district that moves about 27,000 of Maloney's 107,000 Waterbury residents into the New Haven-based 3rd district, a disappointment to Democrats. Johnson begins the race with a sizable financial edge, but Maloney, who has twice waged tough re-election fights, is a proven vote-getter.

Illinois lost one seat in a map endorsed by most House Members. The notable exception was Rep. David Phelps (D), who was paired in a GOP-leaning district with Rep. John Shimkus (R). The new district, which President Bush carried with 56 percent, includes 13 counties Phelps now represents. However, Shimkus lives in Madison County, in the most heavily populated part of the district, and Phelps lives about 105 miles southeast of Madison County in sparsely populated Saline County.

Democrats celebrated an Indiana remap last year that threw GOPReps. Steve Buyer andBrian Kerns into the same district. The Member-versus-Member GOP primary ensures that at least one House Republican will not return to Congress next year.

However, Republicans counter that the map gives attorney Chris Chocola (R) a fair shot at picking up the seat of retiring Rep. Tim Roemer (D), meaning they could still emerge with a one-seat gain.

A court-drawn map released this month in New Mexico was another setback for Democrats, who had hoped to increase their party's strength in the Albuquerque-based 1st district. Nonetheless, Rep. Joe Skeen's (R) retirement announcement means Democrats still could gain a New Mexico seat this year.

Democrats control the process in North Carolina and are expected to gain the Raleigh-based district they drew. State legislators also targeted Rep.Robin Hayes (R) by giving his district a distinctly urban flavor. The plan includes 109,000 Charlotte residents in the new 8th district, up from zero in the current plan.

Democrats scored a widely anticipated one-seat gain in Tennessee this month by enhancing their strength in the historically Democratic 4th district, which Rep. Van Hilleary (R) is vacating to run for governor. Democratic leaders have united behind a strong candidate, state Sen. Lincoln Davis, in that race.

As expected, Republicans who control the process in Utah went after the lone Democratic member of their delegation, freshman Rep. Jim Matheson, whose district was reconfigured from a compact Salt Lake City-based seat into a sprawling rural landmass. The district is roughly 60 percent Republican.

But some Democrats believe the map jeopardizes their chances of holding retiring Rep. Jim Hansen's district.

Roll Call
Redistricting shortfall may not cost GOP House majority
By Stuart Rothenberg
January 21, 2002

As the redistricting process nears completion and House candidates finalize their plans, the political landscape for this year's House elections is coming into focus. At this point, neither party can feel entirely comfortable with the outlook for November.

Republicans now appear headed for a net gain of a seat or two through redistricting, while the Democrats will suffer similar losses. Future redistricting developments in a half-dozen states (Colorado, Florida, Maryland, Minnesota, New York and Ohio) could change the bottom line slightly if either party scores a surprise in any of them.

So far, redistricting has produced dramatic changes in only three states. In Georgia the Democrats gain four seats and the Republicans lose two. In Pennsylvania the numbers are reversed, with the GOP picking up four districts and the Democrats losing two. And in Michigan, the Republicans gain two seats while the Democrats lose three. The only other state in which one party loses or gains multiple seats is Texas, where the GOP adds two.

Two states that have not yet finished drawing new lines, Florida and Maryland, could well produce multiple seat gains, for the Republicans in Florida and the Democrats in Maryland.

I've limited my calculations only to districts significantly altered by redistricting and only to those where a clear partisan change is evident. In a few cases I am projecting outcomes that are not yet final.

The GOP is likely to gain seats in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Texas and Florida. Pickups are also possible in Minnesota and Ohio, depending on the final lines in those states. The Republicans have suffered redistricting losses in Georgia, Indiana, Maryland, Oklahoma and Tennessee.

Democratic gains are expected in Arizona, California, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina and Tennessee. However, redrawn lines are likely to result in losses for the party in Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Democrats may also lose a seat in both Florida and Minnesota.

Newly created toss-up districts in Nevada and Arizona, and the "fair fight" seat in Connecticut, pitting Republican Rep. Nancy Johnson against Democratic Rep. Jim Maloney, aren't treated as gains or losses for either party. Districts that may change party primarily because of retirement and in which no fundamental partisan changes were made are also not included in my calculations.

The redistricting results mean that the current lineup of 223 Republicans (including Independent Rep. Virgil Goode of Virginia) and 212 Democrats (including Independent Rep. Bernie Sanders of Vermont) translates into something closer to 225 GOP seats and 210 Democratic seats going into November. Therefore, the Democrats will need to net eight seats nationally to win control of the House.

After examining all of the redrawn districts in which a serious challenge has developed or is likely to develop, and adding estimates for those states that have not yet completed redistricting, I have been able to identify almost 50 competitive House races for 2002. By comparison, two years ago at this time, I listed 60 competitive contests, and at this point in the 1997-98 cycle I had rated 92 districts as competitive.

Almost two dozen of this cycle's competitive districts are currently represented by Republicans, about another 20 are held by Democrats, and half a dozen are totally new or combined. That gives the Democrats approximately 30 Republican and new/combined seats to take aim at in their effort to win control of the House.

Is it possible to identify a baker's dozen of Democratic opportunities? Sure. Democrats could pick up a few redrawn seats in Georgia; win GOP open seats in New Hampshire, New Mexico, South Dakota and Tennessee; and knock off Republican incumbents in West Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, Minnesota, Iowa, Connecticut and Kentucky.

Now ask yourself this: Are they really going to win all of those races if they don't have at least a modest partisan wind at their back? And can they be certain that they won't lose a few seats of their own? Remember, for every seat the Democrats lose, they'll need to take another Republican one.

Numbers remain a challenge for Democrats. After their top 12 or 15 opportunities, the quality of the Democrats' chances drops off dramatically. Consequently, they don't have much room for error.

So what's the bottom line almost 10 months out from Election Day? It looks as if the Republicans are likely to win between 219 and 224 seats (anywhere from a Democratic gain of four seats to a GOP gain of a single seat). The single most likely outcome is a low-single-digit Democratic gain.

But this initial projection is based on the current national environment. If the economy settles into a prolonged recession and President Bush's poll numbers plunge to where they were headed before Sept. 11, a Democratic national trend is likely to develop. And in that case, their chances of winning the House markedly improve.

The Hill
State legislators serve dual roles, carving out congressional districts for themselves
By Allison Stevens
January 16, 2002

This article is the first in a two-part series on state legislators who use their influence to draw congressional districts suited to their own campaigns for Congress. The first part focuses on Republicans and the second on Democrats.

Not many congressional hopefuls are as fortunate as state Sen. Thaddeus McCotter, a high-ranking Republican in the Michigan state Senate and a candidate for the stateís newly drawn 11th Congressional District.

As vice chair of the Senate redistricting committee, McCotter had a hand in drawing the new district, which happens to fit him like a glove.

Already the clear frontrunner, McCotterís current state Senate district is wholly contained in the new 11th District, so he already represents 54 percent of the primary vote and 43 percent of the general electorate in the solidly Republican district. After more than 10 years in local politics, he is well-known among the new constituency and has already raised more than $300,000, an impressive showing for a local legislator.

Eager to maximize their chances for what could be a precious pick-up in a battleground state, Republican leaders in Washington have joined the effort to ensure McCotterís victory ó even though the filing period doesnít close until mid-May and the primary wonít be held until August. Itís an unusual step for national party leaders, who often stay out of contested primaries to avoid party infighting.

Nonetheless, House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Texas) wrote a check to McCotterís campaign for $5,000 and Michigan Republican Reps. Vernon Ehlers and Dave Camp have endorsed the state legislator.

Virginia Rep. Tom Davis, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), took the unusual step of making a personal endorsement and writing a $1,000 check to McCotterís campaign. Davisí endorsement does not translate into an endorsement by the NRCC, which has a policy of remaining neutral in contested Republican primaries.

This scenario would make most competitors shudder, but McCotter is unopposed ó an unusual circumstance in a solidly Republican, newly drawn open seat that would ordinarily draw throngs of GOP hopefuls.

Sensing McCotterís strength, Republican Tom Hickey withdrew his name from consideration earlier this year. And David Hagerty, an engineer who has said he may run for the seat, has not made a final decision.

Democrats have not yet recruited a candidate, and Rep. Lynn Rivers (D) has downplayed speculation that she may move to the district.

ìI kind of got lucky in the way the district got done,î McCotter said in an interview. But although he wields considerable power as vice chair of the redistricting committee ó a position he requested two years ago ó McCotter insists he ìdidnít have control of anythingî in the design of the fairly compact district in suburban and metro Detroit. ìI was just part of the maddening crowd,î he said.

McCotter added that he didnít have much ìwiggle roomî to draw the district because of restrictions, such as the Voting Rights Act, and laws requiring the preservation of communities of interest and majority-minority districts. Still, he conceded, ìitís in the very nature of every elected official who could run for something to have a unique self interest [in the process].î

McCotter is not unique among state lawmakers who hope to move up to higher office and help their party win control of the narrowly divided House in Novemberís midterm elections.

Indeed, he is merely one of many who are brokering deals behind state legislative scenes to ensure that their congressional dreams, and their partyís, become a reality.

The practice occurs most frequently in states controlled entirely by one party. Indeed, Florida, Michigan and Pennsylvania ó whose legislatures and governors are controlled by the GOP ó are expected to feature at least one congressional race starring a powerful local politician who locked up the race before it even began.

The same is true in Georgia and North Carolina, where Democrats control the redistricting processes. In Democratic-controlled California, and in Oklahoma and Tennessee, where Democrats control the state legislatures but not the governorsí mansions, Democratic state legislators are also involved in shaping congressional districts suited to their goals.

While partisan gerrymanders are perfectly legal and very common, the practice raises ethical questions for those using their political power to further their own careers.

But voters donít seem to care to hear the answers. While questions of ethical misconduct may be raised in newspaper editorials and in candidate debates, constituents are not likely to pay much attention to this quintessential game of inside baseball at the polling booth.

Indeed, even though the practice occasionally backfires, it figures in congressional races in every decennial redistricting year.

This year, in Florida, for example, a state that will add two seats to its 23-member delegation, the remapping process is just beginning. Still, state Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R), a longtime veteran of the state Legislature, chair of the House redistricting committee, and brother to Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), says population increases in south Florida call for a new district in or near Dade County, where he has held local political office for 17 years.

ìIf a plan that is fair and legal makes a district that would be one that I could run in, I would obviously be looking at that,î Diaz-Balart said. ìI would not be truthful if I said anything other than that. But I will have to be very careful in not allowing my personal agenda to get involved in the redistricting process.î

The district will almost certainly favor Republicans and will likely include a majority of Hispanics, a district Diaz-Balart, a Hispanic Republican, says is one that he ìwould be tough to beat in.î

Diaz-Balart is also expected to draw a district in central Florida designed specifically for Rep. Tom Feeney (R), the Speaker of the Florida state House and the man responsible for appointing Diaz-Balart to the chairmanship of the redistricting committee. Feeney, who will be term-limited out of office next year, has made his desire to run for Congress known among political insiders.

ìClearly, there is a new district in central Florida which is obviously going to be an open seat. I think Speaker Feeney is going to have as much of a shot as anybody because his record speaks for himself. There will be a new seat in the area that he represents.î

Nonetheless, the state Senate surprised local legislators last week when it produced the first round of maps and did not include a new seat for Feeney, who is rumored to be feuding with state Senate President John McKay (R).

But Democratic activist Jim Krug assured that ìMario is working on [a seat for Feeney]. The Speaker is not hands-on but he is doing this with Diaz-Balart.î

In Pennsylvania, the Legislature recently produced a map designed to elect Republican state Sens. Tim Murphy and Jim Gerlach.

Murphy, a five-year state senator who said he wasnít interested in a congressional bid last summer, does not serve on the redistricting committee and is not in the state Senate leadership. But he told The Hill that after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, he informed key state legislators that he had changed his mind and was interested in running for Congress.

The state Legislature produced a map earlier this month designed specifically for Murphy, a fiscally moderate and socially conservative psychologist who state leaders believed would appeal to the blue-collar constituency that runs south of Pittsburgh, through Allegheny County and adjoins Rep. Melissa Hartís (R) Beaver County district.

Murphy has no challengers to date, but is waiting to hear whether Rep. Frank Mascara (D-Pa.) will move to the district.

The state Legislature handed Gerlach, who has served for about 10 years, an even more favorable district. Although Gerlach is neither a member of the redistricting committee nor of the leadership, he also said he communicated with key legislators about the new district lines in southeast Pennsylvania and ìinformally monitoredî the process.

He is certainly pleased with the results. The new district is a fairly compact conservative stronghold that runs across western Montgomery, southern Berks and northern Chester counties and is euphemistically referred to as the Gerlach district.

ìIt seems Ö I would have perhaps the best springboard [of other potential candidates],î Gerlach said, noting that his current state Senate seat is ìsmack dab in the middleî of the new open seat in eastern Pennsylvania. ìI seem to have an advantage that others [candidates] may not have.î

Indeed, Gerlach, who said he will announce his decision within a week or so, presently represents more than 50 percent of the newly drawn district.

He currently has no challengers in what is a Republican-leaning district and boasts the support of several key state legislators.

And although both publicly insist they levied minimal influence in the remapping process, Terry Madonna, a professor of political science at Millersville University in Pennsylvania, said otherwise.

The skillful, and perfectly legal, gerrymanders were ìhand carvedî for Murphy and Gerlach, Madonna said. ìThereís just no other way to put this.î

Publicly, state leaders kept the two out of redistricting discussions, pronouncements and arguments, Madonna said. But their ìconspicuous absenceî in public does not mean they werenít involved in private discussions of the district parameters.

Added Jon Delano, political commentator and professor at Carnegie Mellon University, ìDonít believe for a moment that they werenít intimately involved in the mapmaking. These are two districts that were specifically drawn for these two legislators.î

Cleveland Plain Dealer
Our unduly selected representatives
By Tom Brazaitis
January 13, 2002

At the risk of destroying yet another cherished illusion from your high school civics class, I regretfully inform you that, contrary to what you have been told, you do not elect your member of Congress.

Oh, sure, if you are a conscientious citizen, you dutifully go the polls every two years and cast a ballot for or against the incumbent representative in your district. But, with few exceptions, the outcome in each of the country's 435 congressional districts is preordained.

As we embark on another congressional election year, experts are predicting that, at most, 25 to 30 districts in the country will be competitive. The outcome in the other 405 or 410 districts is a foregone conclusion.

The reason for this is that members of Congress are, in fact, selected, not elected, by a process called redistricting that takes place every 10 years following the national census. Voters have no say in redistricting. The lines for congressional districts are drawn in almost all states by governors and state legislators, who have two main concerns: 1) ensuring that their party, Republican or Democratic, depending on who's in charge, controls as many districts as possible, and 2) carving out districts that they themselves might be able to run in to move up the political ladder to federal office.

By creating districts heavily weighted toward one party or the other, the state politicians who draw the lines determine the outcome of all but a small percentage of congressional races for the next 10 years, until it's time to redraw the lines again.

Occasionally, an unexpected result occurs, such as the brief period when a Republican represented the heavily Democratic district of Youngstown and its environs, but it is these exceptions that prove the rule. In the case cited, voters chose Republican Lyle Williams rather than continue the reign of scandal-prone Democrat Charles Carney. The district later was returned to Democratic hands, if only nominally, by Rep. James Traficant.

Designating territory that is safe for one party or the other sometimes results in contorted districts spanning several counties with dissimilar legislative interests. But such disservice to the people living in those districts doesn't matter to the politicians who draw the lines, just as long as their selfish goals are achieved.

Usually, this gerrymandering, as it is called, takes place unobtrusively. Some voters don't realize what's been done until they show up at the polls.

Much to the chagrin of the political mucky-mucks in Ohio, the redistricting process has become very public, through no one's fault but their own. Although census data have been available for months, the Republican office-holders who have sole control of redistricting in the state dilly-dallied so long that it is now too late to redraw the lines in time for the state's May 7 primary without the consent of the Democratic minority.

Population shifts to the south and west will cost Ohio one of its 19 congressional seats. With control fully in their hands, Republican gerrymanderers want to make sure the seat that is lost is a Democratic seat and would like to weaken other Democratic districts as well. Because of term limits on state offices, some legislators want districts redrawn to suit their future ambitions.

Notice how the decision-making has nothing to do with the voters' best interests.

The Republicans, in their own best interests, have abandoned their proposal for a separate congressional primary in August, which would have cost taxpayers at least $6 million.

In the meantime, they had to endure Democrats' accusations that they wanted to push back the filing deadline to prevent Democratic congressmen who are redistricted from filing for state offices in the May primary.

Ironically, the Republicans' excuse for delaying the redistricting bill was that their first priority was dealing with a projected $1.5 billion budget shortfall. So, their solution is to add to the deficit in order to balance the budget.

Regular readers of this column know that my solution for this highly partisan exercise is to take redistricting out of the hands of elected officials by appointing a bipartisan commission to redraw the lines every 10 years. Better yet, do away with the current system of single-member congressional districts and replace it with multimember districts, say, two five-member districts and two four-member districts.

Ohio once was a national leader in proportional representation, which allowed voters to cast ballots that really mattered and produced more broadly representative legislative bodies.

The politicians seized back control of the process and re-established a system they could manipulate for partisan advantage.

Ohio's Republican leaders were shamed out of their petty plan to push back the congressional primaries, but voters need not forgive them for what they wanted to do, nor forget it next Election Day.

Brazaitis is a senior editor in The Plain Dealer's Washington bureau.

Washington Times
Voting rights and wrongs
By Evan Gahr
January 8, 2002

It's business as usual for the nation's bean counters. September 11 abruptly changed the world for most Americans. The terrorist attacks were rightly considered an assault on the values nearly all Americans cherish. Racial fault lines seemed to disappear amid flag waving and patriotic music.

In the background, however, quota mongers continue to sing their tired old song. As states redraw congressional districts in accordance with the results of the 2000 census, these unrepentant bean counters charge racism when the new boundaries don't conform to their particular notion of "diversity." Politicians who voted to approve the revamped districts, even if minorities themselves, are accused of complicity in wicked schemes to perpetuate white hegemony.

Case in point: In Los Angeles, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund seeks to invalidate two of California's new congressional districts. MALDEF filed a federal lawsuit Oct. 1 charging that the new districts would intentionally dilute overall Latino voting power in violation of the Voting Rights Act. MALDEF contends that the new districts were designed to ensure the continued election of Anglo representatives. The proof? Instead of hard evidence, MALDEF falls back on statistics and suppositions: the districts, it says, contain insufficient numbers of Latinos to elect "one of their own" ó so to speak.

In a press release announcing the lawsuit, MALDEF explains that the "congressional district maps fracture the geographically compact Latino community in the San Fernando Valley, intentionally placing adjacent heavily Latino area into two separate districts, thus leaving Latinos to cast ineffective votes as minority dissenters."

MALDEF's claim makes a certain amount of perverse sense, if you accept their premise that skin color is destiny. In other words, minorities can't possibly be elected without substantial support from other minorities, who robotically vote for anyone of like skin color.

In the 1990s, this theory spawned the creation of majority black and majority Hispanic districts, often drawn in strange shapes to achieve the "right numbers." The Supreme Court has since declared such blatant "racial gerrymandering" illegal ó but left room for more modest efforts to achieve the "right numbers." Nevertheless, the rationale for such shenanigans seems particularly outdated. There are countless examples of minorities being elected with substantial support from whites, and vice-versa.

Moreover, all but three of California's 26 Latino state legislators even voted for the redistricting plan that MALDEF seeks to overturn. Nevertheless, MALDEF sees discriminatory intent behind the new boundaries for districts now represented by Reps. Howard Berman and Bob Filner.

Both are Democrats. Mr. Berman seems a particularly odd target for Latino civil rights advocates. The 10-term incumbent is known for his support of liberal causes, such as legislation to protect farm workers and loosen immigration laws ó the kind of stuff which MALDEF presumably favors. Besides, Mr. Berman has been re-elected with strong Latino support, even when he defended his seat against a challenge from another Latino. In response to the lawsuit, Mr. Berman told the Los Angeles Times, "I guess for MALDEF it's more about skin color and ethnicity than the philosophy and quality of representation."


This is not an only in California story. Nationwide, the judiciary is weighing other challenges to new districts and several cases reportedly could end up before the United States Supreme Court. Outside the legal arena, some politicians play a similar race card. Rep. William Clay Jr. recently attacked his fellow Missouri Democrats for supporting new legislative boundaries that create insufficient numbers of black-majority districts. White Democrats, he lamented, have been "leading the charge" to illegally dilute the voting power of minorities.

If anything, the new boundaries would dilute the power of politicians and advocacy groups who rely on outdated theories of racial solidarity.

Shouldn't folks who now proclaim "United We Stand" renounce schemes that would divide Americans by race the moment they enter the voting booth? Or post-September 11, have things not changed so much, after all?

Washington Times
GOP eyes 10-seat gain from redistricting
By Stephen Dinan
January 7, 2002

Republican victories in Pennsylvania's and New Mexico's redistricting last week left party officials confident they would achieve their goal of picking up eight to 10 House seats because of the process.

"Nothing that's happened yet has been drastic enough to change that, and according to our models we're still going to net eight to 10 seats," said Carl Forti, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, the group charged with electing Republicans to the House.

Republicans want those new seats to cancel out any losses they may take in the midterm elections, when the president's party usually loses seats. There aren't many to spare with the balance in Congress standing at 222 Republicans, 211 Democrats and two independents.

But with more than half of the states now done or nearly done with redistricting, Democrats say the process looks like it will be a wash.

"Unlike the Republicans, we have always had realistic assumptions about the outcome of redistricting and have always maintained that parity was the most likely outcome," said Greg Speed, a spokesman for the Democrats' redistricting task force. "Other factors will determine the outcome of the elections in 2002, and the Republicans have known all along that is bad news for them."

Every decade seats in Congress are reallocated among the states based on population. States then draw new district lines to account for new or lost seats and for population shifts within their borders.

The key to redistricting is to know a region's voting habits, then draw maps to maximize your voters' reach while minimizing the effect of the other party's voters. Still, both sides acknowledge the new lines represent opportunities, not certainties. The parties will have to recruit good candidates and run good races to make good on their potentials.

Seven states have only one representative, so no redrawing of lines is needed. About 25 more states have enacted or are close to enacting plans.

When Democrats tally those states, they see an opportunity to net six seats solely because of the new lines ó four seats in Georgia, three in Iowa, two each in North Carolina and Arizona, and one seat in Nevada, Louisiana and California, which would offset losses of three seats each in Pennsylvania and Michigan and single seats in three other states.

But Republicans also see the chance to net six seats from the same maps ó two each in Texas, Michigan and Pennsylvania and one each in Utah, Arizona and Nevada ó to offset losing two in Georgia and one in Mississippi.

Democrats have done well in the states gaining new seats. The new seats in California and North Carolina are drawn to favor Democrats, as are the two new seats each in Arizona and Georgia. Republicans should win the two new seats in Texas. In their tallies, both parties count on winning Nevada.

In the states losing seats, like Michigan and Pennsylvania, Republicans are faring better by squeezing together Democratic incumbents in districts.

In Pennsylvania, which lost two seats, Republicans control the governorship and both houses in the Pennsylvania assembly, and approved maps last week that gave them a strong chance to win 13 of the state's 19 seats. On the other side of the tally, Democrats would control six seats ó down from the 10 they control now.

Among the states still to finalize plans, big changes could be seen in three ó Maryland, Florida and Ohio. Democrats control the process in Maryland, and the 4-4 split in the current delegation could turn into a 6-2 Democratic edge. But Republicans control Florida, which gains two seats, and Ohio, which loses a seat, and they can draw lines to maximize potential gains.

New York, which loses two seats this year, also has yet to redraw lines, but officials from both parties said they each will lose one seat.

Washington Post

A Multi-Party Mess

By Philip M. John

January 2, 2002


Rob Ritchie [letter, Dec. 20] is right in wanting to create more competitiveness in congressional districts, but he is wrong in wanting to replace the single-member-district, winner-take-all method of elections with proportional representation.

The single-member-district, winner-take-all mechanism causes the two-party system. To replace it with proportional representation would be to bring about a multi-party system, as has occurred wherever proportional representation has been and is used. Interest groups capable of gaining enough votes to gain a seat in Congress would turn into political parties. The most perfect proportional representation election system ever employed was that of the Weimar Republic, which produced a parliamentary multi-party system so extreme and ineffective in governing that it was compelled to hand over power constitutionally to the Nazis. The Fifth Republic of France was adopted to separate the executive, a single office elected by winner-take-all, from the multi-party ravages of parliamentary proportional representation under the Third and Fourth Republics. Israel has adopted the same scheme to insulate the executive from the farcical multi-party Knesset. Italy's multi-party system has been barely able to keep the Communist Party from taking power by legitimate means.

The reason so many U. S. congressional districts are not competitive is that they are drawn by incumbents and majority parties for the benefits of incumbents and majority parties in the states. Mr. Ritchie and his organization should direct their reform efforts at that cause of the problem rather than tinker recklessly with the two-party system.

Philip M. John

Washington Post

Redistricting Rattles In-House Hopes; Some Incumbents Face Unfamiliar Territory; Some Face Off With Each Other

By Juliet Eilperin
December 31, 2001

Like most incumbents, Rep. Tom Latham (R-Iowa) hasn't had to worry much about reelection. A familiar face in a solidly Republican rural seat, the House member didn't even have an opponent in 1998. Last year, he won with 69 percent of the vote.

But redistricting has not been kind to Latham, a seed company owner first elected to the House in 1994. While most members of Congress had their seats shored up through the process of drawing new congressional districts, Latham is one of about two dozen lawmakers whose once-safe seats are suddenly up for grabs -- either because their district no longer is as solidly Republican or Democratic as it once was, or because two districts have been merged into one, pitting two incumbents against each other.

The unfortunate members who find themselves in Latham's position after the redistricting range across the political spectrum. They include two Georgia Republicans, John Linder and Robert L. Barr Jr., who are now pitted against each other, and a Democratic stalwart, John D. Dingell (Mich.), who faces the prospect of a difficult primary contest against a more liberal colleague, Rep. Lynn N. Rivers. At least five other incumbents, facing tougher races in revamped districts, have simply announced their intention to either retire or run for higher office.

Closer to home, Maryland Democrats have vowed to move enough of their party's voters into GOP Rep. Connie A. Morella's already-liberal district in Montgomery County to try to gain a Democratic victory there next fall. The General Assembly will consider a redistricting plan early next year, but already several prominent Democrats are maneuvering for the seat.

Over the years, both parties have skillfully used reapportionment -- in which state officials redraw congressional districts to reflect the most recent census figures -- to winnow the number of truly competitive House seats across the country.

But this time the rejiggering has also created a small set of races that could determine which party controls the House after the 2002 election. With most incumbents nearly unbeatable, moving thousands of voters from one district to another -- and thus changing the demographics of a lawmaker's constituents -- often represents a party's best chance of unseating a sitting member.

"If you have someone who's been coasting for the past three or four election cycles, political operatives are always worried about that kind of candidate," observed political analyst Stuart Rothenberg. "It's not like these incumbents don't have any advantages. It's whether they apply themselves and they use their advantages."

Latham, who once had the most Republican seat in Iowa, suddenly finds himself in a district with tens of thousands more Democratic voters, thanks to the state's independent redistricting commission. While George W. Bush enjoyed a 13 percentage point edge over Al Gore in Latham's old district, Bush would have won by just one percentage point in the new one. So Latham has switched into an unfamiliar campaign mode. He recently invited lobbyists to lunch to solicit their help in transforming his sleepy political operation into a million-dollar campaign.

"It's going to be some different territory," Latham acknowledged. Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds (N.Y.), who holds the No. 2 post on the House GOP's campaign committee, had a blunter assessment. "He's got a tough seat," Reynolds said, pausing, "that in the end he will win."

Latham has begun reaching out to his allies in the business community and calculating how best he can make use of his coveted seat on the Appropriations Committee. Bill Miller, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's political director, who attended the lunch with Latham, described that position as "a monster sledgehammer" the House member can wield over potential opponents.

The lobbyists urged Latham to begin touting the projects he has delivered for his district in recent years, and to consider holding a field hearing in Iowa. They also discussed how he could target fundraising efforts at the industries that are most directly affected by his committee posts, including agriculture and energy.

Gary Andres, another GOP lobbyist who attended the lunch and heads a task force aimed at helping vulnerable Republican incumbents, said Latham is "doing all the right things. He's getting together with Washington lobbyists who can help him."

He's not the only one, in either party. Dingell, who has served in Congress since 1955 and survived four previous redistricting cycles, had a similar session with supporters at the National Association of Broadcasters' headquarters.

Dingell could face his fiercest challenge in nearly four decades. Unless the Michigan courts overturn the new congressional map drawn by the Republican-dominated legislature, he will be running in an August primary against Rivers.

Both lawmakers have already sent out fundraising appeals highlighting their potential advantages in a head-to-head matchup. Dingell's memo noted that he has "a long history" of attracting votes other Democrats cannot. Rivers's letter emphasized, "In any district which includes incumbent members of any party, I will be the only pro-choice, pro-gun safety, pro-environment candidate."

As the top Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee, Dingell can tap a broad fundraising base. Guests at a recent breakfast for supporters, for example, included union and automobile industry officials as well as representatives from the telecommunications industry.

"I've learned that if I work hard, I win, and we are working," Dingell said. "I did not fall off the cabbage wagon yesterday."

But Rivers has already enlisted her own allies. The Democratic women's political action committee EMILY's List is issuing an appeal on her behalf next month, and several prominent women's issue activists -- including EMILY's List President Ellen R. Malcolm and Human Rights Campaign President Elizabeth Birch -- are hosting a fundraiser.

"I've never been in a primary with a friend," Rivers said. "This is a whole other animal."

While Dingell and Rivers are eyeing each other warily, Georgia Republicans Barr and Linder are engaged in a full-scale brawl. Thrown together by the state's Democrat-controlled legislature into Georgia's 7th District outside Atlanta, they have posted dueling messages on their campaign Web sites and bickered publicly over a recent trade bill and legislation boosting funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

After Barr tried unsuccessfully to sponsor Linder's CDC bill, for example, he took the unusual step of publicly distributing a letter suggesting Linder add his name to the bill or risk implying "that you are refusing to add co-sponsors for petty or personal reasons."

Linder fired back, suggesting that his rival would be better off contacting him directly "rather than in a letter distributed through the press and carbon copied to the House leadership."

Both lawmakers have begun to woo future constituents, greeting voters in each other's home counties. "Just as he's working in my back yard, I'm working in his," Linder said.

Other House members are also doing their best to meet new voters while continuing to serve their constituents. They are struggling with what the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's national field director, Cathy Duvall, calls a "half-open seat," in which they retain many of the advantages of incumbency but lack the widespread name recognition they enjoyed in their old districts.

The district of Rep. Jim Matheson (D-Utah) went from covering 250 square miles around Salt Lake City to encompassing 50,000 square miles, while Reps. John M. Shimkus (R) and David D. Phelps (D) got thrown together in Illinois's 19th District and are both working to cover new territory.

"I have a lot of miles to drive and a lot of people to meet," Shimkus acknowledged.

And Phelps -- who spent a recent morning celebrating the construction of a power plant in his old district and the afternoon addressing unemployed workers in his new one -- said he has been hampered by the House's unusually long schedule this year. "It is one big frustration," he said.

At least Shimkus and Phelps face the same scheduling constraints. While Latham was stuck in Washington, his opponent, John Norris, was completing a week-long tour of all 28 counties in the new northern Iowa district.

With all of these incumbents, Rothenberg observed, only an aggressive campaign in the coming months will quiet their critics and reassure their allies. "There's a big question mark hanging over their heads," he said, "until they've done it."

San Jose Mercury News
Redistricting Stills the Votersí Voice
By Rob Richie and Steven Hill
December 28, 2001

VOTERS, beware. Redistricting is back. Every 10 years it revisits us like a recurring plague. This year's shenanigans show just why the renewed civic pride in the wake of September's terrorist attacks won't bring many disenchanted Americans back to the polls.

After the release of new census numbers, all legislative districts in the nation must be redrawn to make sure that they are closely equal in population. In California, for example, that means about 639,000 residents for each U.S. House district.

Whichever political party controls the line-drawing process has the God-like powers to guarantee themselves majority control and make or break individual political careers. They rely on ``packing'' and ``cracking'': packing as many opponents into as few districts as possible and ``cracking'' an opponent's natural base into different districts. Powerful computers and software have made this process of unnatural selection ever more sophisticated and precise.

Does it make a difference? You bet it does. In Virginia, the Democrats this year won their first statewide race for governor since 1989. But Republicans went from barely controlling the statehouse to a two-thirds' majority. How? That's right -- they drew this year's district lines.

The best example of partisan gerrymandering used to be California's congressional plan in the 1980s. The late Congressman Phil Burton, its chief architect, called it his ``contribution to modern art.'' One district was a ghastly looking, insect-like polygon with 385 sides.

The result? In the 1984 elections the Democrats increased their share of California's house seats to 60 percent even as Ronald Reagan's landslide win helped Republican congressional candidates win more votes than Democrats in the state.

Today's computer technology makes such redistricting magic the norm. In some states one party indeed has stuck it to the other -- just ask a Republican who was mugged in Georgia or a Democrat roughed up in Michigan.

But 2001's real story is that both parties have often colluded to take on their real enemy: the voters. This year will go down in political history for the crass way it has raised ``incumbent protection'' to a whole new level.

Take California -- please. The California Democratic Party controlled redistricting, and its leaders decided to cement their advantage rather then expand it. Incumbents certainly took no chances. Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez acknowledged to the Orange County Register that she and most of her Democratic U.S. House colleagues each forked over $20,000 to Michael Berman, the powerful Democratic Party consultant in charge of redistricting.

The money was classic ``protection money.'' Sanchez said that ``20,000 is nothing to keep your seat. I spend $2 million (campaigning) every election. If my colleagues are smart, they'll pay their $20,000, and Michael will draw the district they can win in.''

California's Republican Party, which has vociferously opposed past Democratic redistricting plans, was largely mute. That's because their pliant incumbents also were bought off with the promise of safe seats. The one incumbent facing a tough re-election battle promptly announced his retirement; the rest are likely free from serious competition for a decade.

The story has been the same in state after state. The Wall Street Journal in a November editorial on ``The Gerrymander Scandal'' estimated that as few as 30 of the 435 U.S. House seats will be competitive next year. Already fewer than one in 10 House seats were won by competitive margins in 1998 and 2000.

The ones hurt by these back-room deals are the voters. For most voters, their only real choice in the next decade will be to ratify the candidate of the party that was handed that district in redistricting. One-party fiefdoms will be the rule no matter what changes are made in campaign financing and term limits until we reform how we create districts.

There once was a time when voters went to the polls on the first Tuesday in November and picked their representatives. But that's changed. Now, the representatives pick us first. Following on the heels of Florida's election debacle, this only further undermines confidence in our already shaky political system.

Rob Richie and Steven Hill are, respectively, the executive director and the western regional director of the Center for Voting and Democracy (

Wall Street Journal

Cheating Seating

By Editorial Staff

December 27, 2001

When last we wrote about the "bipartisan scandal" known as gerrymandering, we zeroed in on the way it takes the competition out of Congressional elections. But it turns out things are worse than we thought: Gerrymandering is even affecting votes in Congress. Witness the ideological pirouette now being performed by California Representative Ellen Tauscher.

Ms. Tauscher is a three-term Democrat from the suburbs of San Francisco who won her seat as a moderate free-trader. She became vice chair of the Democratic Leadership Council, chiding her own party' protectionists and voting for several trade accords. Business groups threw their support and cash behind her re-election, along with other "New Democrats."

So they (and we) were shocked to discover that in the critical vote to grant President Bush trade promotion authorityówhich passed by a single voteóMs. Tauscher cast her lot with the "nays." At first we suspected pressure from Big Labor, but that proved to be only half right. The bigger cause of her 180-degree ideological shift turns out to be California's once-a-decade gerrymander. Like every other Congressperson in our most populous state, Ms. Tauscher has suddenly been granted a "safe" seat. Provided she plays by the new rules, that is.

Ms. Tauscher's new safe seat is part of a redistricting plan which Democrats saw as a way of protecting their 32 to 20 advantage in the state's Congressional delegation. The deal they struck protected incumbents of both parties, pushing Democratic voters into districts with Democratic representatives and Republican voters into districts with Republican representatives. Only a handful of these seats had ever been competitive, and Ms. Tauscher's was one of them.

But now essentially none of them will be. The head of the GOP Congressional campaign committee, Tom Davis, has already suggested he'll invest no money in any California races in 2002. Given California's size, that means that one-eighth of the entire U.S. House of Representatives will face no real competition from the other party.

As Ms. Tauscher's trade vote shows, all of this has real-world political consequences. Though Ms. Tauscher no longer need worry about losing to a Republican, what she does have to worry about now is the Democratic primary, where the new challenge will come from a labor-left far less amenable to her pro-trade views.

Her local paper, the Contra Costa Times, calls this "punitive redistricting." And Ms. Tauscher herself blasted the redistricting plan as retribution for her pro-business views and her failure to endorse San Francisco liberal Nancy Pelosi for minority House whip. Liberal line-drawers stretched what had been a compact district all the way to Sacramento County, replacing her swing suburbanites with union members and liberals.

For Ms. Tauscher that means that the safest political play now is to repudiate her former principles and become a protectionist. Which is exactly what she's now done.

The California gerrymander also affects Gary Condit, whose relatively moderate district (53% of whom voted for George W. Bush) has just been stuffed with more Democrats. This includes a significant boost in Hispanics who might be more likely to vote for primary challenger Dennis Cardoza, a state assemblyman, and an influx of more Democrats from Stockton expected to favor a more liberal challenger.

Now, we don't mind a good ideological fight. But gerrymanders mean that such fights actually matter less in the public arena because they have less chance to change any votes or seats. Members in "safe" seats seldom change their minds, and only the rare national tidal wave can make more than a handful of gerrymandered seats competitive.

It tells us much about the state of play in Washington that despite its corrupting influence on our politics, gerrymandering never attracts the passion that, say, attaches itself to campaign-finance "reform"ówhich would only help make incumbents safer in their seats. But maybe that's the point. As the Tauscher turnabout shows, gerrymanders mean that the voters no longer choose their politicians; the politicians choose their voters.

Washington Post
The Value of a Vote
December 20, 2001

Joanne Dann made a number of cogent points in her Dec. 2 Outlook piece arguing that it is time to establish criteria-driven, nonpartisan approaches to redistricting. But I would like to correct one error and suggest a broader prescription.

First, only 42 U.S. House races were won by less than 10 percent in 2000 -- meaning that for the second straight election, fewer than one in 10 House races could be categorized as competitive. Second, criteria-driven redistricting creates more competitive elections, but only to a point. In Massachusetts, for example, all House seats are held by Democrats in districts where George W. Bush won no more than 38 percent, while in Nebraska, all House seats are held by Republicans in districts where Al Gore won no more than 38 percent of the vote. The country has many such swaths, where voters are doomed to no-choice elections under winner-take-all rules no matter how district lines are sliced and diced.

We should join most well-established democracies in using systems of proportional representation in multi-seat districts. Use of proportional systems in modest three-seat districts would lower the share of votes necessary to win to 25 percent, which at least would give supporters of both major parties a fighting chance to win everywhere in the nation and provide a fairer balance among moderates and partisans.

Rob Richie
Executive Director
The Center for Voting & Democracy
Takoma Park

Washington Post

Democrats Hold Edge Over GOP In Redistricting; Gains Still Possible for Republicans

By Thomas B. Edsall
December 14, 2001

With congressional redistricting halfway completed, Democrats have thwarted a Republican bid to gain a decisive advantage in the 2002 contest to control the House. But the GOP still has a number of opportunities to pull ahead in the states that have not finished drawing new district boundaries.

Democrats and Republicans each claimed to have gained a substantial edge over their adversaries, but neutral observers discounted the assertions of both.

"There is no big tidal wave for either party," said Amy Walter, who analyzes House races for the Cook Political Report. Her view is shared by Stuart Rothenberg, who runs the Rothenberg  Political Report.

A Washington Post analysis of 21 states that have completed redistricting of 236 districts (up from 230 before census-directed gains) suggests that the Democrats have an edge in three districts, the GOP in two, and a new district in Nevada is competitive.

In addition to redistricting fights in the remaining states, the Democrats face a daunting task in trying to take back the House for another reason: The overall number of competitive districts is being reduced by plans that protect incumbents. The smaller the number of close races, the tougher it will be for the Democrats to win a majority in the House, which is split 221 Republicans, 211 Democrats.

Preliminary Democratic success in the decennial struggle can largely be attributed to the Georgia Legislature, which maximized Democratic opportunities, and the Texas Legislature, which could reach no agreement, allowing a federal court to draw new districts protecting incumbent Democrats with only token reflection of the strong Republican trends in Texas.

The Georgia redistricting, where Democrats are expected to gain the state's two new seats and two seats held by Republicans, outraged GOP strategists. "Democrats rewrote the book when they did Georgia, and we would be stupid not to reciprocate," said Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (Va.), chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. Davis vowed that when the Republican-controlled Pennsylvania Legislature redistricts the state, "it will make Georgia look like a picnic."

In fact, the Pennsylvania state Senate this week backed a plan that would force eight Democratic incumbents into four districts in what would be the most extreme case study of partisan vengeance this year if given final approval.

Rep. Martin Frost (D-Tex.), the principal Democratic redistricting strategist, declared, "We are very satisfied" with the process so far.

Frost's major success was thwarting a Republican bid to turn redistricting in his home state of Texas into a Democratic massacre. Over the past two decades, Texas has undergone a Republican realignment. Exit polls in the 2000 election showed that a plurality of voters in the once-overwhelmingly Democratic state are now Republicans, who outnumber Democrats 42 percent to 35 percent. Many pollsters believe these numbers underestimate Republican strength.

Despite these trends, the Democrats, largely because of artful redistricting in 1991, hold a 17- to 13-seat majority. Both parties generally agree that after the 2002 elections, Democrats are likely to retain all 17 seats, and the GOP will pick up only the two new seats added as a result of population growth, to produce a likely delegation of 17 Democrats and 15 Republicans.

The GOP's most successful redistricting has taken place in Michigan, where the Republican-controlled Legislature crammed four incumbent Democrats -- John D. Dingell, Lynn N. Rivers, Dale E. Kildee and James A. Barcia -- into two districts and converted the district held by retiring Rep. David E. Bonior (D) into Republican terrain.

Michigan Democrats are banking on rescue by the state courts, where they have filed a challenge to the plan. Just as Davis was furious with the Democratic-devised plan in Georgia, Terry McAuliffe, Democratic National Committee chair, attacked the Michigan plan.

"I join civil rights groups and Democrats around the country in condemning the actions of the Michigan Republican legislators," McAuliffe declared in a statement. "This process . . . shines a bright light on how this Republican government in Michigan and its leaders choose to interact with the people they represent."

States where one of the parties is likely to gain or lose a seat are Arizona, California and North Carolina, all one-seat pick-ups for the Democrats; Illinois, a one-seat Democratic loss; and Utah, a possible gain of one for the GOP and a loss of one for the Democrats.

In a number of states still to be redistricted, Democrats are preparing to take plans to court if Republicans succeed in their announced goal of decimating the opposition.

In Florida, where the Democratic Party has been rebounding recently and where two seats will be added, Republicans plan to strengthen their 15 to 8 majority to as much as 18 to 7 after 2002. Such a lopsided margin would require surgical precision in a state where Democrats and Republicans are about even in voting strength.

Similarly, in Pennsylvania, where voters are evenly split between the two parties, according to 2000 exit poll data, the GOP plans to boost its 11 to 10 House delegation majority to a 13 to 6 majority as the state loses two seats.

To do so, the GOP would pack at least six Democrats -- William J. Coyne with Mike Doyle, Joseph M. Hoeffel III with Robert A. Borski and Tim Holden with Paul E. Kanjorski -- into three districts. In addition, the state Senate would put Democrats John P. Murtha and Frank R. Mascara into the same southwest Pennsylvania district.

In Ohio, which has a Republican-controlled legislature and will lose one seat in 2002, the GOP is gearing up to draw lines that could endanger at least two incumbents, and perhaps more, Democrats. Among those on the target list are Reps. Sherrod Brown, Ted Strickland and Thomas C. Sawyer.

But Democrats say they remain optimistic. After the most recent state completed redistricting, creating a Democratic-leaning seat in North Carolina, Frost declared: "Success in another key redistricting state is more proof that it's time for Republicans to retire their bogus redistricting spin. After North Carolina, Republican strategists had better figure out how to win elections while running on an unpopular agenda because redistricting won't bail them out next year."

Davis scoffed at Frost's assertions, claiming that when the process is complete, the GOP will have gained a strong advantage in eight to 10 seats.

Columbus Dispatch

Neither Party Pulls Ahead In Redrawn Congressional Districts

By Robert Tanner

December 10, 2001

Less than a year before elections put control of Congress to voters, the behind-the- scenes struggle to gain an advantage through redistricting has kept both Republicans and Democrats from making decisive gains.

Republican strategists say they'll come out ahead after GOP-controlled legislatures in Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania finish their work. Democrats see more to back their prediction that the balance will remain unchanged, a view many political scientists echo.

"This is a game in which people are grinding out one yard at a time by brute force. There are no long-run touchdowns here,'' said Bernard Grofman, a political-science professor at the University of California-Irvine. "The potential for really changing the map just isn't very large.''

Redistricting is the redrawing of political lines to account for population changes after a new census. Maps from Congress to city councils must be redrawn so electoral districts are equal in population.

Republicans came into the process hoping that they would wind up with a chance to expand their 10-seat majority in the House by creating a bunch of new, GOP-majority districts.

But GOP hopes were damaged, though not destroyed, by a court-ordered Texas map last month that creates only two new likely Republican districts. Some state leaders had predicted an eight-seat gain.

In California, Democrats cut a deal that drew the state's new seat to their side, adding one to their current 32-20 hold over the state's delegation. Some Democrats had hoped for a three-seat gain.

As 2002 approaches, 20 states have finished congressional redistricting, slightly less than half that must. So far:

Republicans appear likely to see a five- seat swing in Michigan, two seats in Texas and a possible Utah seat. They are likely to lose a seat in Indiana. In all, that would be a seven-seat gain.

Democrats might gain single seats in Arizona, California and North Carolina, and lose a seat in Illinois and maybe Utah. In Georgia, new maps would give Democrats a six-seat swing, although those maps face federal scrutiny. That would also mean a seven- seat gain.

The GOP is hoping to break ahead by gaining as many as eight seats combined in Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania.

Roll Call
Hoeffel Takes Fight for District to Airwaves; Members increasingly look to public for aid in keeping seats
By Chris Cillizza
December 10, 2001

Redistricting, a process typically controlled by ambitious state legislators and fretful Members of Congress and largely ignored by voters, has found its way on to Philadelphia's airwaves.

Rep. Joseph Hoeffel (D), who has represented the Montgomery County based 13th district since 1998, launched a media blitz last Monday shortly before a scheduled vote in the state Legislature that may carve up his district prior to the 2002 elections.

"Many people have come to understand our seat is at risk," said Hoeffel, explaining his decision to take the normally "insider" issue to the public.

"This has been a concrete campaign for months," agreed Hoeffel Chief of Staff Josh Shapiro. "It is a public-interest issue."

Hoeffel's attempt to exert pressure on state legislators before they redraw the state's Congressional lines is the most aggressive example so far this year of how Members endangered by redistricting have tried to take matters into their own hands.

Although Members from across the country have taken an active interest in the redistricting process, in places such as Pennsylvania, New York, Oklahoma and Illinois--all of which lost Congressional seats after the 2000 census--there has been a great deal of public campaigning to save districts endangered in the remapping process.

Hoeffel is running a 60-second ad on several Philadelphia radio stations and has distributed 50,000 mailers to voters in his district pushing for the preservation of a Montgomery County seat in Congress.

He would not reveal the exact dollar figure he is spending on the ad campaign, but said it is in the "tens of thousands."

"In a few days the Pennsylvania Legislature will consider a bill that will redraw the lines of all the Congressional districts in the state," the ad says. "One county in our part of the state, Montgomery County, is ending up with the short end of the stick."

"This is not about saving Joe Hoeffel, this is about saving a seat for Montgomery County," Hoeffel contended.

The area has had a Congressional Representative since the inception of the institution. And, in fact, the first Speaker of the House, Frederick Muhlenberg, hailed from the area, Hoeffel noted.

The direct-mail piece strikes much the same chord as the radio ad, urging voters to "demand that our Montgomery County legislators fight for our seat in Congress." It also lists the phone numbers for all of the Montgomery County state legislators as well as State House Majority Leader John Perzel (R).

Perzel's spokesman, Stephen Drachler, dismissed the efficacy of the Hoeffel ad campaign.

"I don't know of any calls to Harrisburg, and it wouldn't matter anyway," said Drachler.

"Perzel will do what is important for the entire state," he added, referring to Hoeffel's actions as a "publicity ploy."

Hoeffel said Thursday that he expects the Legislature to vote on redistricting plans tomorrow. Drachler contradicted him, saying there is only "a chance" that redistricting will come up this week.

Other Pennsylvania Democratic Members who may either see their districts eliminated or be pushed into a race against a colleague were less forthcoming about their plans.

Reps. Paul Kanjorski, Tim Holden and Bob Borski, all of whom are Republican targets in redistricting, did not return numerous calls for comment.

Hoeffel claimed his aggressive approach for his ad campaign came from observing Rep. Amo Houghton (R-N.Y.), who has engaged in a multiyear fight to save his Southern Tier 31st district from redistricters' knives.

"I was inspired by Amo's work on this," said Hoeffel.

Houghton, 75, has resisted retirement in the past two cycles in order to try to preserve his western New York seat.

He has also formed the Millennium Project, which is designed specifically to rally financial and institutional support to save the district.

Houghton, an heir to the Corning fortune, has donated more than $250,000 to Republicans in the state Legislature to curry favor and has organized a bipartisan petition drive among his constituents.

Houghton would not comment for this story.

Although Houghton has been the most active among the New York delegation, a number of his colleagues are taking special precautions to ensure that they are not left standing when the game of political musical chairs ends next year.

Democratic Reps. Nydia Velazquez, Gary Ackerman and Maurice Hinchey have all hired lobbyists to represent their interests in Albany while they are tied up in Washington.

Velazquez, who has represented the strongly Hispanic 12th district since 1992, calls her decision to hire a lobbyist a matter of practical politics.

"He is a good friend of mine," she said, "and when I am [in D.C.] I want to make sure someone is [in Albany].

"We all know that when [redistricting] starts, the political games will begin," Velazquez added. "I want to be in the game."

Her district must gain 30,000 people before the 2002 election in order to fit the ideal district population for the state.

Hinchey's upstate 26th district is more than 60,000 people short, and Ackerman's Long Island based 5th district was heavily altered in the 1992 round of redistricting, and even slight changes could affect his re-election prospects.

Following in the footsteps of Houghton, a number of New York Members have made donations to their caucus in hopes of protecting their district lines next year.

Democratic Reps. Velazquez, Carolyn Maloney, Jose Serrano, Anthony Weiner, John LaFalce and Eliot Engel have all contributed to the Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee.

And although Houghton carries a wide lead in terms of contributions, GOP Reps. Jack Quinn, James Walsh, John McHugh, Sue Kelly, Sherwood Boehlert and Ben Gilman have all added to the Republican Senate Campaign Committee's coffers.

Democrats control the state Assembly in New York, while Republicans have the majority in the state Senate. Gov. George Pataki (R) has veto power over any approved plan.

Several other Members have sought to use the courts to defend the boundaries of their districts.

Rep. David Phelps (D-Ill.), who found his district split up between GOP Reps. Tim Johnson and John Shimkus, filed a lawsuit in June to overturn the map, but decided late last week to drop the case.

Phelps said he "felt like we should challenge [the map]" to defend the interests of southern Illinois, and then "people started calling my office and saying, ìSign me up.'"

Even though the suit had bipartisan support, Phelps decided last Thursday to drop the case because it would likely interfere with the Dec. 17 filing deadline for Congressional races.

Phelps plans to file for the race in the new 19th district against Shimkus today as well as formally announce his candidacy.

In Oklahoma, Rep. Ernest Istook (R) has broached the possibility of taking redistricting control away from the Legislature and allowing state courts to draw the map.

Pointing to the fact that the special election in the 1st district to replace Rep. Steve Largent (R) has slowed the process considerably, Istook said it is "unrealistic" to expect any movement on redistricting in the Legislature before March.

"The public is not well served by the delay," he added.

Istook said that while he has mentioned the redistricting situation in mailings to constituents and donors, he has not considered devoting radio or television time to the issue.

"It is very difficult to get the public interested in redistricting during normal times," said Istook. "It is near impossible to get people to focus on it now."
The Only Winner So Far in Bruising Redistricting Battle: Incumbents
By Kelley Beaucar Vlahos
December 7, 2001

With 20 state redistricting plans final and the rest either caught up in court, state legislatures or both, it appears that neither party stands to gain enough of an advantage from the new congressional district boundaries to change the make-up of the Congress in the 2002 elections.

ìThis is going to be a break-even nationally, and then the election will be determined on the merits,î said Democratic Rep. Martin Frost from Texas, which will gain two new seats in heavily Republican areas. The current Democratic majority in the Texas delegation shouldnít be affected, however.

Nationally, both parties are picking up seven seats each, according to the plans that have already been approved. But many more are up for grabs. Experts say that Republicans may come out on top in this race by the time it's all over, but only marginally.

The GOP in fact was confident that it would come out of the process a big winner all over the country, especially since it had won a High Court battle over how the census count would be taken.

The Democrats fought hard for statistical sampling of the population used to come up with the final census headcounts. Such a move would likely have added more minorities and city dwellers to the rolls ó and they historically vote Democratic.

Republicans, who argued that statistical sampling would not truly reflect the state of the population, brought their case to court and won, on at least one level. The Supreme Court ruled that statistical sampling could not be used for congressional redistricting, but the ruling did not apply to redistricting for state legislatures and federal aid disbursements.

ìI think Republicans had anticipated they would be doing better,î noted Rob Richie, executive director of the Center for Voting and Democracy. ìWhile they have done well here and there, as of now thereís nothing to prevent the Democrats from retaking Congress in 2002.î

Despite the ìvicious bloodsportî behind the scenes to win this once-a-decade battle, he said, the real story is that the status quo was preserved in most states and incumbents in their respective parties are safer than ever. ìTheyíve made more races non-competitive,î he said, noting that there will be only 30 to 50 competitive races out of almost 400 at the midterms.

ìThe only way you can lose a seat thatís safe is by losing a primary,î he said. ìThat is the bigger story here.î

Mike Franc, a government policy analyst for the Heritage Foundation, says this has helped reinforce extreme-left or -right party affiliation and partisanship in Washington D.C. ìIncumbents get locked in for one party or another; there is a constant diminishment of moderates,î he said. ìAll of your members are on one end of the spectrum or the other.î

But redistricting is far from over and, in most cases, stateís political fates will be decided in a court of law. But it appears here that incumbents were the real winners of this much-anticipated match. ìThe idea was to come to some sort of compromise and that compromise was, ëletís just protect what we have,íî said Richie.

In more notable state redistricting news:

New York will lose two seats and they could come from both Republican and Democratic strongholds when the lines are redrawn.

California gets one new seat and itís going to the Democrats ó though they hoped for three new seats

Connecticut loses one seat. There is currently an impasse in court over which party will give it up. There is currently an even 3-3 balance between parties in Congress.

There are two new seats in Arizona, with one clearly going to the Democrats and the other up for grabs.

Democrats seek to pick up six new seats in Georgia, while Republicans gain five news seats in Michigan.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

The Hill
As first filing periods begin, incumbents anticipate easy road
By Allison Stevens
December 5, 2001

Congressional incumbents may want to think about including their state lawmakers on their Christmas gift list.

Thanks to the pro-incumbent atmosphere after Sept. 11, the ever-rising cost of congressional elections, and a redistricting year in which state legislatures shored up many of last yearís marginal districts, most incumbents can go home this holiday season looking forward to easier races next year.

Incumbents have a lot to be thankful for in a year that began with warnings that as many as 100 seats would be in play in next yearís midterm elections, and is ending with predictions that only two dozen races will actually be competitive in 2002.

ìChristmas is coming early for incumbents,î said Marshall Wittmann, a governmental scholar at the Hudson Institute. ìThere were a lot of expectations that redistricting would change the whole landscape. But that just hasnít been fulfilled.î

He added, however, that an unforeseen shift in the political winds ó a deepening recession, for example, or a backlash against the Bush administration ó could jeopardize incumbents.

But unless that happens, the three states that have filing periods this month ó California, Texas and Illinois ó serve as apt openers for a mid-term election year that will likely be marked by a small smattering of competitive races across the country.

In California ó once a battleground state that was home last year to half-a-dozen competitive racesó party officials are predicting a lackluster election year in which the stateís 33 Democratic-leaning districts and 20 Republican-leaning districts produce few surprises.

Less than a week before Californiaís first-in-the-nation filing deadline on Friday, California Democratic Party spokesman Bob Mulholland conceded, ìThereís not going to be much action here.î

The conventional wisdom, he said, is that even vulnerable House members ó like Democrats Ellen Tauscher and Cal Dooley and Republicans Elton Gallegly and Dana Rohrabacher ó appear to be on more solid ground. ìWe wonít know until the March primaries whether any more districts will be competitive,î he added. ìMaybe some wacko Republican will get nominated somewhere.î

Gallegly, whose Democratic-leaning district has been reconfigured to contain more Republicans, said he was somewhat relieved as he heads into the election year but cautioned that no California Republican should ever take anything for granted.

The lack of excitement comes after a watershed year in which Democrats ousted four Republican incumbents and this year forced one more ó Rep. Steve Horn ó to retire. The muted politicking has forced political junkies to turn instead to primaries for election year fireworks.

Embattled Rep. Gary Conditís (D) shored-up district, for example, has drawn more than its share of media attention. To date, only one Democrat, state Rep. Dennis Cordoza, has emerged as a credible primary threat to Condit, while two Republicans ó state Sen. Dick Monteith and City Councilman Bill Conrad ó have lined up to mount longshot bids in the newly shored up district in central California.

Meanwhile, Democrat Linda Sanchez, attorney and sister of Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.), created a bit of a stir when she announced her intention to run in the new Democratic stronghold in Los Angeles. If both Sanchez women win next year, they would become the first sisters ever elected to Congress.

Democratic state Reps. Sally Havice and Marco Antonio Firebaugh have also announced plans to run for the new Hispanic majority seat.

The Golden Stateís 51 other districts have little to report. Aside from Condit, several members have drawn primary opponents so far, but none appear to be strong enough to take down an incumbent. These members include GOP Reps. Bill Thomas, Richard Pombo, John Doolittle, Mary Bono, Ken Calvert and Democratic Reps. Barbara Lee and Lynn Woolsey, according to documents filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC).

Nathan Fletcher, political director of the California Republican Party, said he is focusing on recruiting candidates for the general election before the Friday deadline. ìWhat weíre looking for is people to give the Republican perspective on the issues and stand with President Bush,î he said, adding that he expects to field GOP candidates in every district.

The picture is similar in Texas where few credible candidates are lining up to take on incumbents as the Jan. 2 filing deadline looms on the horizon.

Republicans had hoped to draw a map that would put a number of Democrats at risk but wound up with an incumbent-protection plan that virtually guarantees the reelection prospects of the stateís 17 Democrats and 13 Republicans and creates two new solid GOP districts.

While Republicans say they have their best chance in a decade of unseating three Blue Dog Democrats ó Reps. Chet Edwards, Ralph Hall and Charlie Stenholm ó even the GOP concedes that they are more likely to win the seats after the three veteran centrists retire.

ìHonestly, the split is probably going to be 17-15,îsaid Ted Royer, spokesman for the Texas Republican Party. ìThe numbers say there is going to be little change.î

Edwards, considered by Royer the most vulnerable of the three, agreed. ìI think there will be a lot of competition, but when the dust settles in November of 2002 most, if not all, of the incumbents will have been reelected.î

Republicans also concede that one of the stateís few open seats, vacated by Rep. Ken Bentsen (D) to run for the Senate, will also likely be succeeded by another Democrat.

Democrats are also optimistic about their prospects in the 5th District, currently held by Rep. Pete Sessions (R), who is vacating the seat to run in the more compact and more conservative new district near Dallas. Sessions leaves behind a marginal Dallas-based district that will be sure to draw attention next year.

Republicans who have yet to field a candidate in the 5th, maintain they will hold this GOP-leaning district in Dallas. They are also confident they will win the two new seats in central Texas and Dallas, where Sessions is unlikely to face serious opposition. Republicans state Sen. Steve Ogden and state district judge John Carter have expressed interest in the race for the central Texas seat.

Aside from a potentially competitive race to succeed Sessions, political observers have little to look forward to in the Lone Star State where at least two Republican incumbents, Reps. Lamar Smith and Sam Johnson, have drawn challengers, and one, Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R), has drawn a primary opponent according to FEC documents. DeLay, however, defeated the same candidate, Michael Fjetland, by a landslide last year.

ìThe districts have become marginally more competitive,î Royer said. ìTheyíre moving to the right, but the Democrats are still very entrenched.î

In Illinois, a battleground state last year, party officials also have little to look forward to as the stateís Dec. 17 filing deadline fast approaches.

As in Texas and California, Illinoisí new map also presents few opportunities for either party. The new map protects most of last yearís vulnerable incumbents, such as GOP Reps. Mark Kirk and Tim Johnson and Democrat Lane Evans.

Democrats have also targeted Rep. Jerry Weller (R). But Wellerís district has been made more Republican and his primary challenger, Patricia Clemmons, recently withdrew her name from consideration.

Republicans, meanwhile, have little opportunity in the stateís only open seat ó the southwest suburban Chicago seat held by Rep. Rod Blagojevich (D), who is retiring to run for governor.

So far, three Democrats, including former Clinton aide Rahm Emmanuel and former state Rep. Nancy Kaszak, are running, while only one Republican, financial consultant Mark Augusti, has said he plans to run. Two other Republicans are also exploring bids. The filing period opens Dec. 10 and closes Dec. 17.

Illinoisí star attraction will no doubt be the race that features Rep. David Phelps (D), who was paired with Johnson but has indicated that he will move to Rep. John Shimkusí (R) district.

Phelps has not yet chosen which district he will run in and may continue to pursue his legal options in court.

ìI have said I would run in the district where most of my constituents are,î Phelps said in an interview. ìThat appears to be the new 19th District. Republicans are favored, but itís doable.î

Washington Post
Safe But Sorry; The Way We Redistrict Destroys the Middle Ground
By Joanne Dann
December 2, 2001

Barely six weeks after the post-Sept. 11 sheathing of partisan swords on Capitol Hill, politics was -- in House Majority Leader Dick Armey's understated phrase -- "back to usual." The rancorous congressional debate over the stimulus package and the airport security bill should have surprised no one: The polarization of the House of Representatives, which took decades to develop, is so deep-rooted that not even a terrorist attack is enough to reverse the trend for very long. The moderate voices who once forged compromises have all but vanished from committees and the floor.

Where has the House middle ground gone? That's a good question. Here's a better one: Why don't more moderates get elected?

The answer, in part, can be traced to changes in the redistricting process, that once-a-decade ritual undertaken by each state after the Census Bureau releases new population figures. A century ago, moderates had a strong voice in a House where competitive elections were the norm (election records show that fully half the seats in the 1890s were won by margins of 10 percent or less). Today, in all but a handful of states, the lords of redistricting engage in fierce partisan battles to create "safe" districts for one party or the other (in most congressional elections over the past 40 years, fewer than one-fifth of the seats were decided by margins under 10 percent).

There are still a few states, such as Iowa and Washington, which routinely host some of the most hotly contested congressional elections in the country. It's no coincidence that both states have handed over redistricting to a nonpartisan or bipartisan group -- and thatboth have a track record of sending independent-minded moderate representatives to Capitol Hill. "I can't believe everyone doesn't use our system," Marlys Popma, executive director of Iowa's Republican Party, told me.

Ironically, the overall decline in competitiveness -- and the House's current fractured state -- can be seen as an unintended consequence of a landmark series of Supreme Court rulings that were intended to open up the political process: the "one-man, one-vote" cases of the 1960s. The court, citing Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution, required congressional districts to have roughly the same number of people. Before the court's rulings, districts could be of varying population; boundary lines generally were redrawn only when population changes caused a state to lose or gain a seat.

Creating districts of equal population was clearly a better way to ensure equal political power. But in effect, the court's ruling opened every district to redistricting mischief every 10 years. The process had always been highly political, but now the majority party in each state capitol had a greater opportunity to carve out safe seats. Or, in cases where the two parties share power, they can dicker and bargain over which districts will be primarily Democratic and which will be primarily Republican. Working with increasingly sophisticated computer programs, consultants hired by state legislatures can draw these partisan districts with ever sharper expertise. These designer districts now dominate the political landscape. As Tom Hofeller, the Republican National Committee's redistricting director, recently told the National Conference of State Legislatures: "In the politics of redistricting, politicians get to choose the voters."

These safe districts encourage hard-line views. "If you have districts drawn so that incumbents are always safe and don't worry about being reelected, it leads to less attention paid to the constituency," says Rep. Adam Smith, a Democrat from Washington state's 9th District. Think about it: If you represent a district that votes 80 percent Republican or Democratic, why worry about the views of voters from the other party? It's the winners of close elections who often are willing to soften an uncompromising stance.

Over the past four decades, redistricting has twice caused a blip of renewed competitiveness in the first election after new maps were released, with the number of close races higher in 1972 and 1992. Perhaps the process itself, and the accompanying hoopla, attracts both new candidates and voters. But as the decades wore on and the parties became entrenched in most of these carefully crafted districts, competitiveness tended to decline again; in 2000, for example, only 57 of the House's 435 seats were decided by margins of 10 percent or less -- an astoundingly low 13 percent.

Will this year's redistricting follow this familiar pattern? There's no reason to think otherwise. Eighteen states have already finished their work, and lawsuits spawned by cutthroat redistricting politics already clog more than a dozen state judicial dockets, with especially contentious battles underway in Texas and Georgia. Incumbents continue to petition their state legislatures to draw district lines in their favor, or at least so their districts remain on the map.

Now is the moment to take a serious look at less partisan methods of reshaping congressional districts. Iowans may have the most experience with the nonpartisan approach; in 1981, disgruntled by never-ending lawsuits, the state legislature handed the job to the Legislative Service Bureau, a highly respected agency that also drafts bills and does research for the legislature. Under the law that created the bureau, it is not permitted to use party data in its redistricting. The law also stipulates that counties not be divided and that contiguity must be maintained.

The bureau submits a redistricting plan to the legislature, which can accept or reject the first two attempts but cannot offer amendments until the third try. If no agreement is reached, the process goes to the courts. That has never happened.

This year, the legislature turned thumbs down on the first map, but approved the second -- which almost guarantees competition in four of the state's five districts.Thirteen-term Republican moderate Jim Leach, thrown into the 1st District with incumbent Republican Jim Nussle, has chosen to move from his home in Davenport to Iowa City so he can run in the unfamiliar terrain of the newly designed 2nd District. "We have zero input," Leach said. "The maps are put on the Internet at a given hour, and we have no pre-knowledge." None of his House colleagues quite believe it, he added.

Leonard Boswell, a Democrat from Iowa's 3rd District and former president of the state senate, says he watched carefully 10 years ago to see if the redistricting plan truly surprised state legislators when it was put on their desks. "Guards were at the doors," he recalls. "I watched the face of the majority leader when he opened his envelope. I know it was a real surprise." To run in the newly shaped 3rd, Boswell also must move from his hometown.

After the initial shock of having to move their political bases, Leach and Boswell maintain they support Iowa's nonpartisan approach. "It's the fairest way I know of," says Democrat Boswell, who manages to please both the AFL-CIO and the Chamber of Commerce. Leach, who frequently bucks Republican leadership, agrees: "Good nonpartisan redistricting is good for the public," he says.

There is, of course, internal political grumbling, criticism and accusations about how Iowa's system sometimes works. "There's still politics in the process," the chair of the Democratic state party, Sheila Riggs, emphasizes. As there should be; after all, this is politics at its most raw. But so far, Iowa's nonpartisan approach has produced the desired result, at least according to the people in charge of it. "You've got to say the process shuffles incumbency," Gary Rudicil, the computer expert on the Legislative Service Bureau team, told me. Ed Cook, the head honcho for this last redistricting, agreed. "It's difficult to create safe districts using our method," he said.

Washington state, meanwhile, has gone the bipartisan route, setting up its first commission in 1991. The commissions consist of two Democrats and two Republicans chosen by the state legislature, and a non-voting fifth member picked by the four others; the panels go out of existence after each redistricting is complete. The redistricting plan must be favored by three of the voting commissioners and passed by the legislature.

In 1992, the state added a new district, the 9th, as a result of population gains. A Democrat won in 1992, and then the seat changed hands -- and parties -- in 1994 and again in 1996. Democrat Smith has held the seat since then. The commission drew the boundary lines, he said, with the intent of creating "a 50-50 district," with an equal number of Democratic and Republican voters.

"A split is good public policy," Smith said. "But it's bad for me personally. Obviously, I would like to be guaranteed my seat. But redistricting that sets out to protect incumbents harms democracy. It polarizes people and it makes the district less competitive."

Both Iowa and Washington have more than their share of congressional moderates. Leach, known for his independence, bucked President Bush on three energy-related votes in August. Democrat Boswell, meanwhile, broke from his party ranks to vote with the president on the same issue. Three of Iowa's five representatives frequently vote independently, as do five of Washington's nine representatives.

Only a half-dozen larger states now have redistricting panels or commissions that bypass the legislature, but the number is growing. Arizona, which gained two congressional seats in the 2000 censusand will have a total of eight for the 2002 election, recently joined the fold in an attempt to avoid the legal fights of the past. It remains to be seen whether this year's multiple legal hassles will lead more states to take the nonpartisan route.

Let's hope so. That may be the best way to create more competitive districts and bring back the voices of moderation and compromise that are so urgently needed on the House floor.

Joanne Dann, a Washington writer and former journalist, has been studying the effects of redistricting.

Washington Post
It Could Be a Real Race
By Rhodes Cook
December 2, 2001

Ready or not, many members of Congress may face something next year that they have not encountered for the better part of a decade: serious competition.

In the election of 2000, a presidential year, fewer than 15 percent of victorious House candidates won with less than 55 percent of the vote (a standard benchmark for defining a competitive race). This paucity of competition is not unusual for the end of a decade, when incumbents are so firmly rooted in their domains that potential challengers tend to defer a bid until redistricting -- a process taking place right now around the country -- creates a new political map.

In all but the seven smallest states, which elect only one representative, boundaries will be redrawn. For some districts, little more than a tummy tuck is needed to reach the "one man, one vote" requirement that has been legally mandated since the 1960s. Many, however, will require major surgery to make them of equal population with other districts in their state.

The question now is: What will the new lines produce in the 2002 campaign? Will there be little or no increase in the number of competitive races, as occurred in the elections of 1972 and 1982? Or will there be the kind of dramatic spike in competition that defined the 1992 congressional elections (111 competitive races, as defined by the 55 percent benchmark, compared with just 57 two years earlier)?

Why the sudden burst of competitiveness in 1992? Not all of it can be attributed to redistricting; other powerful factors were at work that year. There was the strong scent of lax ethics emanating from Capitol Hill, courtesy of the House banking scandal. As the campaign season began, the nation was widely perceived to be in recession, which added to theunpredictability of the political backdrop. And nearly 15 percent of House members had decided to call it quits, a post-World War II record that produced an unusually large number of open seats.

All in all, it was a volatile environment that is unlikely to be replicated in 2002. House departures are not expected to come anywhere close to the 65 retirements in 1992. No scandals have tarred large numbers of congressional members. And the 2000 reapportionment resulted in the smallest shift of House seats from the Frost Belt to the Sun Belt in decades -- just 12 seats -- which will limit the amount of political volatility produced by the need to create or eliminate districts.

But politics have a way of making any forecast -- and any forecaster -- look foolish. The full political impact of the terrorist attacks, and the events that have followed, is still to be determined. But we do know that Sept. 11 produced one of the quickest agenda shifts in the nation's history, and that Congress is one of the focal points of that shift. Then there's the economy: There are no signs there will be a quick recovery from the recession that became official last week. If the economy is still struggling next year, it will create political turmoil, as it always does. Add the effects of congressional redistricting, and it's possible -- how's that for a bold statement? -- that 2002 could join 1992 as one of the most competitive elections in years.

One caveat, however: In 1992, the level of competition did not translate into a major shift of power; in the House, the Republicans scored a modest gain of 10 seats. But the highly competitive nature of that election was quite noticeable in other ways: Forty-three incumbents were defeated (the highest number in any election since the post-Watergate contest of 1974), including 19 members who lost in their party's primary (the highest number since the end of World War II).

In short, the skirmishing for House seats in 1992 was not confined to November. For those who believe in competition, there's still time for history to repeat itself in 2002.

Rhodes Cook analyzes political trends at and is the co-author of "America Votes," Congressional Quarterly's biennial summary of national election results.

Roll Call
Few Minority Gains Seen; Remap May Net Just One New Majority-Black District
By John Mercurio
November 8, 2001

Ten years after redistricting created a record-breaking 13 new districts that ended up sending African-Americans to the House, remapping may produce just one new majority-black seat in 2002, a drop that stems from a decade of court rulings, population shifts and House Democrats' loss of power.

"There's even a possibility there won't be one [new seat] at all," said David Bositis, senior political analyst with the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies and a nonpartisan analyst of politics and race. "There is a possible scenario in Louisiana and one in Massachusetts. But there's just no obvious place where such a district would be created."

One key dynamic shaping this trend is a debate developing between African-Americans in some state Legislatures who want to create additional majority-minority districts, and black Democrats who already hold House seats. Aiming to regain the majority, those House Members are more focused on creating opportunities for Democrats, regardless of race.

The trend is not limited to blacks. While the nation's Hispanic population grew dramatically in the 1990s, the 18-Member caucus is likely to gain no more than three new Members based on new maps, a far cry from the six Hispanic-majority seats added 10 years ago and earlier projections that redistricting could result in another 12 Hispanic seats in 2002.

And despite strong population growth among Asian-Americans, few redistricting officials have even raised the prospect of drawing a district with an Asian majority.

The post-2000 census round of redistricting, which is roughly midway through the state-by-state process, is also notable for the relative lack of legal battles and contentious partisanship that marked the 1990s.

"The demographics have driven this, so it's been more harmonious than before," said Mark Gersh, a redistricting expert with the National Committee for an Effective Congress and a consultant to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. "Nobody knew what the rules were 10 years ago. But the Supreme Court decisions of the 1990s, combined with the fact that retrogression is a violation of the Voting Rights Act, have created guidelines that make things much clearer."

That new landscape, both legal and political, is being challenged by African-Americans in state legislatures across the country, and lawsuits could still arise in southern states that have rejected black legislators' efforts to create more majority-minority districts.

In Louisiana, state Rep. Arthur Morrell (D), chairman of the black caucus in Baton Rouge, whose plan to create a second majority-minority district was rejected along racial lines in the state Legislature, plans to challenge the state's House map in court because he claims it violates the Voting Rights Act.

"They said it was reverse discrimination because it created a black district. But they created six white districts, which is also gerrymandering,"Morrell said. "So it's apparently OK to create six white districts, but it's not OK to create one minority district."

Such fights have started to put black state legislators at odds with black House Members within their delegations.

Morrell, for example, laid scorn on African-American Rep. Bill Jefferson (D-La.), who he said failed to consult with the legislative caucus before he endorsed the Congressional delegation's incumbent protection plan. That proposal, which the Legislature largely endorsed, left Jefferson with the state's only majority-minority district.

"It was adopted because all of the incumbents were looking out for themselves," he said. "Jefferson ... could have waited to see what plans were out there before he committed. He could have and he should have."

Indeed, the tension between Morrell and Jefferson underscores a broader debate that has existed since Republicans took control of the House in 1994, throwing all but one black House Member into the minority.

Since then, black House Members have been lobbied aggressively by party leaders to support efforts to draw districts with significant, but not overwhelming, percentages of African-American voters, a strategy that enables Democrats to distribute their support to more districts.

"There's a belief that majority-minority districts contributed to Republicans taking over the House," Bositis said. "Since every Member of the [Congressional Black Caucus] is a Democrat, they definitely have a goal of helping the Democrats take over. So black Democrats realize that if the number of Democrats is going to increase, there needs to be a significant number of black voters in districts that will be winnable by white Democrats."

Other groups also are being lobbied to place their party's bid for the majority ahead of their community's desire for increased representation. Congressional Hispanics, for example, privately agreed earlier this year to back incumbent Democrats in primary contests with Hispanic challengers, regardless of the incumbents' race.

"Clearly, if we want Members to vote with us on the issues of importance to our community, we need to support them," Democratic Caucus Vice Chairman Bob Menendez (N.J.) said at the time.

National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Davis (Va.) said white Democrats who control state legislatures are not eager to create more majority-minority districts. "Why do that, because then everything else is Republican?" he said this week.

"The key is, you use minority straight-ticket Democratic votes to elect white Democrats - that's their formula. Partisanship is driving redistricting, not racial or ethnic politics."

Still, some House Democrats said redistricting officials could achieve both.

"The idea that you have to choose between two white Democrats or a black Democrat and a white Republican is false," said Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), who's challenging a GOP-drawn map of his state that shifts thousands of black voters from the district of new Rep. Randy Forbes (R), who is white, to Scott's majority-black district in Richmond. "You don't have to choose. You can have both if you draw the districts properly."

In an Oct. 12 letter to the Justice Department, Scott said the current House map in Virginia does just that. He said the existing 4th district, which is 39 percent African-American, is acceptable because it created the "opportunity" for black voters to elect the candidate of their choice.

Redistricting this year has been shaped by six major Supreme Court rulings during the 1990s, all of them decided by 5-4 votes.

In perhaps its most pivotal decision, the court in Shaw v. Reno in 1993 rejected a "bizarrely" shaped district drawn for black Rep. Mel Watt (D). Writing for the majority, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor warned against giving states "carte blanche to engage in racial gerrymandering."

That ruling paved the way for fresh challenges to some of the new black and Hispanic districts created in 1992.

In the Georgia case of Miller v. Johnson, the court ruled in 1995 that "strict scrutiny" applied when race was the "predominant" factor used to create new majority-minority districts.

Several rulings influenced the 1996 re-election bids of black House Members.

In United States v. Hayes, the court struck down the Z-shaped district held by then Rep. Cleo Fields (D-La.), calling it an unconstitutional racial gerrymander. Fields, who is black, subsequently retired.

The court's ruling in Johnson v. Mortham forced Florida to redraw Rep. Corrine Brown's (D) majority-black district, decreasing the black voting-age population from 50 percent to 42 percent. That same year, in Vera v. Bush, the Supreme Court struck down the majority-minority districts of black Texas Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee (D) and Eddie Bernice Johnson (D), as well as Rep. Gene Green, a white Democrat who represents a majority-Hispanic district.

In 1997 the High Court let stand a lower court ruling that Scott's district in Virginia was an unconstitutional racial gerrymander, forcing state legislators to reduce its black population from 64 percent to 54 percent.

Federal courts also reviewed challenges to the districts held by Reps. Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.), Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) and James Clyburn (D-S.C.).

Although African-American gains in the House appear to have reached a plateau in 2002, some analysts suggested there's still room for growth within the CBC. According to Bositis, black voters are more widely represented by white Republicans in the South than Democrats of any race.

In the 98th Congress, elected in 1982 following the post-1980 redistricting, 4 percent of the black population in the 11 Southern states was represented by black House Democrats, 69 percent by white House Democrats and 27 percent by white House Republicans, according to Bositis.

By the 103rd Congress, elected in 1992, 37 percent of the Southern black population was represented by black House Democrats, 40 percent by white House Democrats and 23 percent by white House Republicans.

And by the 107th Congress, elected in 2000, 26 percent was represented by black House Democrats, 20 percent by white House Democrats and 53 percent by white House Republicans.

"So more blacks are represented in the South in Congress today by white Republicans than either black or white Democrats," Bositis said.

Wall Street Journal
The Gerrymander Scandal
November 7, 2001

Americans will go to the polls a year from this week in the quaint belief that they will be electing a new Congress. But the real story is that nearly all of those races have already been decidedóby politicians in backrooms and long before anyone even votes.

The reason is the bipartisan scandal known as redistricting, or more colorfully as the "gerrymander." That is the process by which state politicians sit down every 10 years to carve up Congressional districts. This time they're doing it with an even more blatant mix than usual of partisanship and incumbent protection. The result is that perhaps only 30 of 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives will even be competitive next year.

The process is turning American democracy on its head. The House was supposed to be the legislative body closest to the people, the one built to reflect swift changes in the popular will. But nowadays the Senate is more open to popular opinion, despite six-year terms, because no one has yet figured out how to gerrymander an entire state.

Gerrymanders have been part of American history at least since the term was coined in 1812. But today politicians use computer data bases to build districts so precise in their demographics that they resemble bugs splattered on a windshield. The line drawers know enough about party registration to divide people on different sides of the same street.

This year, as usual, both parties are in on the scandal. But because Republicans have more House incumbents, and more governors, they're likely to get the partisan advantage, creating perhaps a dozen new safe GOP seats. Michael Barone, author of the Almanac of American Politics, says the way redistricting is going "will make it next to impossible for the Democrats to retake the House." This may be good for Republicans, but it's bad for democracy. A year ago more than 20% of the entire House had no major party challenger. George W. Bush won Florida by only 537 votes, but 10 of the 21 Florida House incumbents ran unopposed.

Gerrymanders can produce effective disenfranchisement. Witness the scam Republicans pulled off this year in Utah to defeat the state's Democratic Congressman, Jim Matheson. The state's GOP legislature carved up his urban Salt Lake City district and mixed city neighborhoods with 14 rural counties. The GOP plan moved 684,000 people from one district to another, while competing plans moved fewer than one-tenth as many. Democrats won 41% of the vote in House races in Utah last year, but next year they'll struggle to get even one of the state's three House seats. (See the nearby maps.)

And that's not the worst. In Michigan, which Al Gore carried by five percentage points, a GOP gerrymander has stuffed six Democratic incumbents into only three seats. The likely result is that a nine-to-seven Democratic majority delegation will become a nine-to-six GOP majority. In a burst of candor, one of the stuffed Democrats, Representative Jim Barcia, admitted that "If the shoe were on the other foot, we would be doing the same thing."

And Democrats did precisely that in Georgia, pushing four GOP incumbents into two districts and creating four ungainly new Atlanta districts tilted toward Democrats. Stu Rothenberg of Roll Call newspaper says Georgia's legislature should be "publicly humiliated" for its brazen line drawing. One new district has four strange peninsulas that resemble in turn: Long Island, Cape Cod, Malaysia and the genie from the movie "Aladdin."

It's tempting to say "that's politics" and assume that the partisanship balances out over time. But that can be a very long time. Meanwhile, the public will is stymied, fewer elections are competitive and more and more Americans decide not to vote at all. What's the point in voting if you know the outcome in advance?

We know that courts or bipartisan "commissions" don't always do a better job than politicians in the messy work of redistricting. But both Canada and Britain appoint boundary commissions that somehow are universally respected by all parties and create far more competitive seats. This year in the U.S., both Iowa and Arizona used nonpartisan bodies to draw compact districts, with much success.

That was the model Ronald Reagan had in mind when he warned Americans in 1989 about the "conflict of interest" legislators have in drawing their own districts. He said gerrymandering would remain a "national scandal" so long as the public was uninformed about how it renders many elections meaningless.

Mr. Reagan's sensible voice has been stilled, so we hope other leaders will take up the call. Perhaps former Congressional leaders without a stake in the process can help. The sad truth is that incumbents and party hacks are using this year's gerrymanders to fix next year's elections in advance. It's no consolation that this time around the smarter, more brazen hacks are Republicans.

Common Sense
Cut Out
By Paul Jacob
November 7, 2001

O, the humanity! Again and again, I've talked about the unfair process of congressional redistricting. Why won't they listen?

Here's the deal: Every ten years, using the new census numbers, brand new political boundary lines are fashioned. These new lines are used to elect representatives at the state and congressional levels.

The process has been hijacked by politiciansówho draw lines that benefit the incumbents. This is all done very scientifically using party affiliation, voting trends, race, income, etc. Recently a congresswoman out in California admitted that the politicians there were bribing the top line-maker with $20,000 per district.

But it's never enough. Incumbents have come up with yet another method for derailing that most evil of democratic happenings: political competition. Seems congressional lines are not only being drawn to stack the deck in favor of incumbents, they're also being drawn to cut out likely challengers of the incumbent.

In Illinois, wiggly new district lines just happen to mysteriously eliminate potential opponents of incumbents like Congressmen Phil Crane, Tim Johnson, Bobby Rush, and Luis Gutierrez. Sure, this can happen once in a while, by coincidenceóbut this often? And in Congressman Crane's case it was three separate challengers who got deleted by the re-mapping.

Reforms in Washington state and Arizona take redistricting out of the hands of the politicians and guide it by non-political criteria. It's about time we did this everywhere.

This is Common Sense. I'm Paul Jacob.

Common Sense is U.S. Term Limits' weekly radio commentary program by National Director Paul Jacob. Common Sense can be heard on 277 radio stations in 49 states.

Redistricting Isn't Sexy, but It Matters
By James E. Garcia
November 6, 2001

Why should we care more about redistricting? Because the decisions being made today about how to redraw electoral boundary lines could affect you for the rest of your life.

Sometimes I wish there was a sexier way to say it. A way to get people excited as soon I whispered the word. A way to make them want to talk about it, read about it, and, yes, even do it.

I'm talking about the infamously tedious, political process known as "redistricting." The thing is that this seemingly dull and uninteresting exercise -- which occurs just once every 10 years -- also happens to represent one of the most significant, periodic events in American politics.

Political junkies know exactly what I mean. To redistrict is to redraw the geographic boundary lines of the thousands of local and regional voting districts across the nation. I'm talking about the areas represented by your city council members, state representatives and members of Congress.

If you haven't heard or read much about this year's redistricting process in your local news, don't feel too bad. It's not all your fault.

Reporters, as a general rule, would rather stick hot pokers in their eyes than cover redistricting. Why? Because it's a complicated subject. It doesn't produce great pictures. And unlike a house fire, the story isn't there and gone in a day. The redistricting process can take months to complete.

As for the publicóthe audience for this seemingly mundane news storyómost of us would rather hear about a congressman's sordid love affair than whether our district fairly represents the interests of minority or low-income voters. Unless, of course, you're a minority or low-income voter.

Fortunately, we have organizations like the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, known as MALDEF, which fight for the rights of the proverbial little guys. Because little guys tend to have little or no power, they need groups like MALDEF and the NAACP working on their behalf.

Why should we care more about redistricting? Because the decisions being made today about how to redraw the boundary lines of your congressional districts, for example, could affect you for the rest of your life. How's that for a serious consequence?

It's because the stakes are so high that MALDEF and others have filed lawsuits across the country challenging some of the initial proposals to redraw some boundary lines. In its California lawsuit, MALDEF is arguing that the proposed redistricting plan violates the 1965 Voting Rights Act by minimizing the ballot-box influence of the state's Latino and Asian voters.

Meanwhile, a lot of incumbents are less than thrilled about the idea of redrawing the boundary lines of their districts. The way they see it, democracy is all well and good, as long as it doesn't threaten their grip on power.

So, you see, it is an important process -- even if it is a little boring. Now say it with me. And if it helps, go ahead and say it in a sexy voice: redistricting ...

Didn't that feel good?

James E. Garcia is editor and publisher of E-mail the writer at [email protected] .

Washington Post
Md. Races Emerge as Key to Gaining House Majority; Redistricting Democrats Grapple With Leveraging Liberal Vote
By Jo Becker and Spencer S. Hsu
November 5, 2001

Maryland Democrats in charge of congressional redistricting are under intense pressure to deliver big for their party this year, as uncertainty over a far-off court case and GOP advantages elsewhere raise the stakes in the state-by-state struggle to influence the composition of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Democrats hold an almost 2 to 1 registration advantage over Republicans in Maryland, yet the party controls only half of the state's eight House seats.

While a plan has yet to be formalized, the state is seen as key to the Democratic Party's strategies, and party officials who control the redistricting process have settled on an aggressive goal of redrawing political boundaries to maximize their chances of picking up two seats.

"I've been told that it's very doable," said a top national Democratic redistricting strategist. "This is a state where one party has an advantage, and we'll try to press that advantage to gain as much as we can."

Every 10 years, the political boundaries of districts are redrawn to reflect population shifts. Districts must be roughly equal in population to ensure equal representation.

But figuring out which voters to pack into what district is a high-stakes political battle that can determine which people stay in power and who gets to vote for them.

For Democrats, the pressure is particularly intense: To reach a majority of 218 in the House, Democrats must gain six seats. To do that, they must win 31 of the 50 competitive races in 2002, a difficult task.

In states such as Florida, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania, Republicans are pulling out all the stops to design districts they can win. Democrats, for their part, have fought to maximize their advantage in states they control, recently winning a crucial victory in Georgia, where the party could pick up as many as four additional House seats.

In Texas, a plan that could have resulted in the loss of as many as nine Democratic seats was scrapped amid legal wrangling, and redistricting is now in the hands of a three-member panel of federal judges.

With two of the three members of the panel appointed by a Democratic president, the national party is less worried than it was initially. But the outcome is uncertain, which adds to the pressure that Maryland Democrats face.

"We have heard a lot from Democrats who say, 'Remember the Alamo, remember Texas,' said Isiah Leggett (D-At Large), a Montgomery County Council member who is part of a five-member redistricting task force appointed by Gov. Parris Glendening (D).

Even apart from pressure from the national party, most of Maryland's congressional Democrats have concluded on their own to push for a map with six Democratic districts.

"I think we recognize that everyone among the four [Democratic] incumbents will have to make some sacrifices to accommodate that goal," said U.S. Rep. Albert R. Wynn (D-Md). "We are going to do that."

A spokeswoman for Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, dean of Maryland's Democratic delegation, said members were closing in on a plan.

Target number one for Maryland Democrats is U.S. Rep. Constance A. Morella, an eight-term Republican who represents most of Montgomery County.

Significantly increasing the number of Democrats in Morella's 8th District would be easy, if that were all the party wanted to accomplish. But picking up two seats without hurting Democratic incumbents is difficult, because there are only so many Democratic voters to go around. Political mapmakers run the risk of maintaining the 4 to 4 status quo if the districts aren't drawn with strongly Democratic majorities.

One plan would increase the number of Democrats in Morella's district, while attempting to convert the district currently represented by U.S. Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R-Md.) into the Democratic column by centering it in the Baltimore County area.

The idea is to design a district where Baltimore County Executive C.A. "Dutch" Ruppersberger could mount a competitive challenge. But the plan could also persuade Ehrlich to enter the governor's race against one of the Democrat's rising national stars, Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.

The other plan involves splitting Montgomery County's 8th District into two Montgomery-centric and Democratic-leaning districts, while continuing to give Wynn a small slice of the liberal jurisdiction. That plan has the benefit of avoiding a bruising Democratic primary fight between Del. Mark K. Shriver (Montgomery) and state Sen. Christopher Van Hollen Jr. (Montgomery), two party up-and-comers who are vying to challenge Morella. One could challenge the Republican incumbent in a rejiggered, more heavily Democratic district, and one would get a free shot at an open seat.

But to pack both districts with enough Democrats, map drawers would probably have to snake one of them up to liberal Columbia, which is currently represented by U.S. Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.).

Cardin might not want to lose those Columbia liberals.

"I think it would be extremely difficult for Maryland Democrats to pick up two seats," he said, refusing to comment on specific plans.

The redistricting panel is expected to submit a draft plan within a few weeks, and Glendening must make a final decision by January.

top of  page

Copyright © 2001 The Center for Voting and Democracy
6930 Carroll Ave. Suite 901    Takoma Park, MD  20912
(301) 270-4616 ____  [email protected]