May 22, 2019

Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee (D), a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, signed a bill on Tuesday that could prove crucial in the nation's gerrymandering debate going forward.

The bill effectively ends what is known as "prison gerrymandering," in Washington, making the Evergreen State the fifth to do so. Prison gerrymandering occurs when a state accounts for inmates in state prisons in their prisons' districts rather than their home communities.

In a statement released on Tuesday, the Prison Policy Initiative explained the decision's logic by pointing out that while all districts send people to prison, not all districts have prisons, which leads to "extra representation" for districts that do have prisons. Aleks Kajstura, the Legal Director of the Prison Policy Initiative said the law "offers Washington voters a fairer data set on which future districts will be drawn."

Washington joins California, Delaware, New York, and Maryland as the only states to expressly outlaw prison gerrymandering at the state-wide level, though a few others have measures in place at the local level. Tim O'Donnell

April 26, 2019

A federal three-judge panel ruled unanimously Thursday that Michigan's map of congressional and state legislative districts was unfairly drawn by the Republican-controlled legislature to give the GOP "a strong, systematic, and durable structural advantage in Michigan's elections and decidedly discriminates against Democrats."

The judges gave the GOP legislature until Aug. 1 to draw new maps acceptable to the state's new Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer. If they fail, or the map still violates the First Amendment rights of Democrats, the court will draw the new maps. The new districts must be ready by the 2020 election, the court found, and it ordered new state Senate elections in 2020, not 2022 as scheduled, in any gerrymandered district. A majority of Michigan's 14 congressional elections could be held in new districts next year, too.

"This court joins the growing chorus of federal courts that have, in recent years, held that partisan gerrymandering is unconstitutional," the judges wrote in their opinion. The case was brought by the League of Women Voters of Michigan. State GOP lawmakers said they will appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court, which may choose to suspend it until the high court hands down rulings on two other partisan gerrymandering cases in June.

"The decision is likely a boon for Democrats, who in 2018 failed to win a majority of the seats in the state House of Representatives, state Senate, or the state's U.S. congressional delegation despite winning the overall popular vote in all three cases," Reuters notes. Peter Weber

August 27, 2018

A three-judge federal panel ruled on Monday that because North Carolina's congressional districts were unconstitutionally gerrymandered to benefit Republicans over Democrats, new districts may have to be drawn ahead of the November elections.

North Carolina legislators put together a map where 10 of the state's 13 U.S. House districts are held by Republicans, and the federal judges said they are wary of giving lawmakers there another chance at drawing the congressional districts. Federal courts have twice ruled already that the districts violate parts of the Constitution, and the judges said that although North Carolina voters have already chosen candidates through primary elections, the court is not entirely comfortable allowing voting to take place in November with the current map.

Some state lawmakers were blatant with their agenda, The Washington Post reports, including state Rep. David Lewis (R), who told his fellow members of the North Carolina General Assembly in 2016 that he thinks "electing Republicans is better than electing Democrats. So I drew this map to help foster what I think is better for the country." Catherine Garcia

May 9, 2018

On Tuesday, Ohio voters overwhelmingly passed Issue 1, a plan to change how the state draws its congressional districts to prevent excessively partisan gerrymandering. Currently, there are "12 congressional seats safe for Republicans and four guaranteed for Democrats in the quintessential swing state that leans — not lunges — to the right," The Cincinnati Enquirer notes. The new plan — which takes effect in 2021, after the 2020 census determines how many congressional seats Ohio gets — was approved by the state legislature in February and is supported by both the Ohio Republican Party and Ohio Democratic Party.

Under the plan, the first of its kind, the 2021 map will be drawn by the state General Assembly but must be approved by 60 percent of lawmakers in the Ohio House and Senate, including half the members of the minority party. If lawmakers can't agree on a map, it goes to a commission made up of the governor, secretary of state, auditor, and two lawmakers from each major party. If they can't agree on a map, the General Assembly takes another crack, with a lower approval threshold, a four-year expiration date, and stricter guidelines to protect against gerrymandering. Ohio voters overwhelmingly approved an anti-gerrymander system for state legislative districts in 2015. Peter Weber

January 9, 2018

A panel of three federal judges on Tuesday ruled that North Carolina's congressional map is unconstitutionally gerrymandered, and said the state's General Assembly must redraw district lines before the 2018 midterm election.

This is the first time a federal court has ruled that a congressional map's boundaries violate the Constitution because they were drawn for partisan reasons — in this case, to benefit Republican candidates. North Carolina has until Jan. 24 to come up with a "remedial plan," but the court said if it found the new district lines to be partisan, the judges will make the new map.

Several organizations challenged the North Carolina map, including Common Cause. "Every American deserves representation in Washington, but the gerrymandered map struck down by the court today robbed much of the state of a representative voice in the nation's capital," the group's president, Karen Hobart, said in a statement, adding, "Today's decision is a victory for democracy." Catherine Garcia

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