Congressional Redistricting: Florida Maps Propose New Hispanic Seats, Arizona Commission Back To Work

Redistricting fights are springing up nationwide as states grapple with the final stages of redrawing state legislative and congressional district lines.

Debates over political power take center stage as legislators look at the exact process used to draw the maps, and examine what the new districts will look like both politically and demographically.

Florida state legislators unveiled draft maps for the state's congressional and legislative districts on Monday that some observers claim represent incumbency protection strategies, the Miami Herald reported. The draft maps do create two Hispanic-majority districts in the state's central region, and Republicans have an edge in 14 of the 27 districts.

The congressional maps include two new seats Florida was awarded because of the state's 18 percent population growth over the last 10 years. Although the two seats appear to honor the 52 percent surge in Hispanic population, mainly in Central Florida, they don't create a new district for the second high-growth area in Southwest Florida.

That omission, and the fact that the maps perform in a way that is not likely to result in major shifts in congressional or state Senate composition, drew a swift rebuke from Florida Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith and Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich.

"Florida Republicans have taken a state -- which experts have long considered one of the most mal-apportioned states in the country -- and worsened it," Smith said in a statement. "In doing so, they have chosen to thwart the will of 63 percent of Florida voters by proposing maps that are aimed at incumbent protection and partisan advantage -- the very things which Florida's Constitution now prohibits."

The redistricting soap opera continues in Arizona as the state Supreme Court last week struck down Gov. Jan Brewer's (R) latest attempt to fire the head of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission. The court ruled against Brewer's request to stay a decision reinstating Colleen Coyle Mathis as the commission chairwoman pending a final opinion from the court regarding Mathis' reinstatement. Earlier this month, the court overruled Brewer and the Republican-controlled state Senate's decision to dismiss Mathis.

Back in the redistricting chair, Mathis has moved full speed ahead, calling for three commission meetings on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday to discuss the input from 31 public hearings around the state regarding the commission's proposed maps for Congress and the state legislature. In a statement, Mathis said the hearings will likely be eight hours a piece. Mathis has said she hopes for the commission to adopt final maps before Christmas to submit to the U.S. Department of Justice for approval.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott (R) has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a court-written redistricting plan, which some argue benefits Democratic and Hispanic politicians. Abbott said that the court should not have adopted the plan, and favors a map drawn by the Republican-controlled state legislature.

Members of the redistricting committee in the Connecticut state legislature have opened the door to the possibility of having the courts redraw the state's congressional districts. At stake is the crafting of five congressional districts in the Nutmeg State.

In Colorado, Republicans are calling for the end of new maps for state legislative districts, arguing the maps favor Democrats and pit too many incumbents against one another. The maps were drawn by an independent commission consisting of an equal number of Republicans and Democrats, as well as one independent voter.

In Missouri, the panel of appeals court judges charged with redrawing the state legislative districts has announced that they would not hold public meetings. The commission's chairwoman said the panel did not believe the state's public meetings law applied to the panel.