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Democrats Turn to Courts in Bid to Reclaim House

By    |   Friday, 08 May 2015 12:47 PM

If you can't win at the ballot box, try the courtroom.

That's the attack plan of Democrats who are challenging Republican-created redistricting plans in several states in hopes of picking up enough seats to overturn Republican victories and regain control of the House in 2016.

In several state and federal courts, Democrats have unleashed attorneys to challenge redistricting actions that they say have lessened their chances at winning at the polls, The Washington Post reports.

Redistricting plans in North Carolina, Virginia, Alabama, and Florida are being targeted by Democrats, who say those states' redistricting plans after the 2010 census violated the Voting Rights Act by cramming African-American voters into districts that limit their impact on elections.

Virginia's redistricting plan came under fire from a federal court, which gave the state's legislature until Sept. 1 to come up with a different plan.

In March, the U.S. Supreme Court instructed a lower court to take another look at Alabama's redistricting plan to see whether it similarly packs African-American voters into districts that minimize their influence on elections.

In Florida, the state Supreme Court is considering whether the state's redistricting plan constitutes gerrymandering.

In North Carolina, the state Supreme Court — in light of the U.S. Supreme Court's Alabama ruling — plans to hear arguments on Aug. 31 over whether it should reverse its earlier decision to uphold existing redistricting maps, the Winston-Salem Journal reports.

The U.S. Supreme Court sent a case challenging the redistricting maps back to North Carolina with instructions to reconsider its decision, the Burlington Times-News reports.

How effective these challenges may prove to be, even should all decisions go in Democrats' favor, remains open to question. Republicans are firmly in control in all four states, holding 10 of 13 seats in North Carolina, 17 out of 27 in Florida, eight of 11 in Virginia and six out of seven in Alabama, the Post reports.

Margaret Dickson, a former North Carolina legislator challenging the state's redistricting plan, told the Times-News, "We have always known that the current maps were unconstitutional, and are gratified that the Supreme Court of the United States has now set in motion a way forward for final disposition of this long-running and wrongly decided case."

Kelly Ward, head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, told the Post, "No question, 2010 redistricting hurt us."

As to whether Democrats could win the 218 seats needed to recapture the House, "There's always a chance, of course," she said.

Only 28 House seats are considered truly competitive, David Wasserman of the Cook Political Report told the Post, and Democrats already hold seven of those. Democrats would need to capture all of those seats, plus nine more solidly held by Republicans, to gain a House majority.

Michael McDonald, a redistricting expert at the University of Florida, told the Post, "We're only talking about fiddling around the margins here."

Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee spokeswoman Carolyn Fiddler told the Post, "In all these cases, Democrats need to win more seats in legislative chambers so we can prevent the kind of gerrymanders that are being declared unconstitutional by these courts."

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Democrats are challenging Republican-created redistricting plans in several states in hopes of picking up enough seats to overturn Republican victories and gain back control of the House in 2016.
democrats, house, redistricting, census, courts
Friday, 08 May 2015 12:47 PM
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