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How the Trump era made redistricting a whole lot harder

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Republicans and Democrats charged with overseeing the redistricting process in states across the country now have to evaluate these changes as they embark on making once-in-a-decade adjustments to the districts that go a long way to determining the makeup — and control — of the House of Representatives.

“It’s the million-dollar question,” Michael Li, a senior counsel for the Brennan Center for Justice whose work focuses on redistricting and voting rights, said of whether the changes during Trump’s tenure will be permanent. “Map makers tend to be nothing if not cautious and the cautious thing to do is to assume that the changes that work against you or your party are permanent, while the changes that work in your favor are temporary.”

Congressional districts are redrawn every 10 years, using the latest Census data — along with data points ranging from education levels, wealth and historic voting patterns — to draw congressional seats. Republicans, because of their control of a majority of state legislatures, have been far more successful in drawing maps that favor their party.

Democrats have responded with a two-pronged approach with vastly different levels of success. First, operatives and lawyers have filed a number of successful lawsuits alleging that the other party is illegally engaging in gerrymandering, particularly along racial lines. Secondly, Democrats have looked to turn the redistricting process into a political issue, committing more millions to try to win back state legislatures ahead of the redistricting process. Those efforts have been far less successful.

In the majority of states, maps are redrawn and accepted by state legislatures, with many giving authority to the state’s governor to either approve or deny the new districts. Only a handful of states, including Arizona, Colorado and Michigan, rely on relatively independent commissions to determine new maps.

For those tasked with redistricting, especially in states with some political control, the pressure to get these calculations right is immense, given that the process could determine control of the House of Representatives for years to come. Adding pressure to these calculations are dramatic demographic shifts across the country, with states in the upper Midwest and northeast likely to lose seats in Congress, while states like Georgia, Texas, Florida and North Carolina are set to add seats because of growth largely fueled by minority voters.

“It is the question when it comes to redistricting this cycle,” Adam Kincaid, the head of the National Republican Redistricting Trust, said of how lasting the changes seen during the Trump administration may be. And it has forced people to ask themselves whether this is “the beginning of a new long term normal or at these temporary fluxes that we are feeling right now.”

“I don’t think anyone has the answer to that,” he said.

The states that lose, and those that win

Experts believe that a slate of upper Midwest and northeastern states, like Michigan, Minnesota, New York and Ohio, are likely to lose some seats once delayed census data is released later this year. That puts pressure on politicians in each state to ensure the seat that is lost does not come from their side of the aisle. While some of these states are guided by independent commissions, a state like Ohio is under Republican control, meaning conservatives in the state can work to ensure the district being lost hurts Democrats.

States in the so-called Sun Belt, including Arizona, Texas, Florida and North Carolina, are expected to gain the seats being lost by their counterparts to the North. While an independent commission determines Arizona’s districts, the process in Texas, Florida and North Carolina are all guided by their respective state legislature — which are all controlled by Republicans.

Republicans still have one big card to play this year

The impact of these changes will be felt across the country, in both major metropolitan areas and rural communities.

In New Mexico, where Democrats control both the state legislature and governor’s mansion, the party is expected to redraw the state’s 2nd Congressional District, a district that is currently Republican leaning and represented by Republican Yvette Herrell.

In Texas, Republicans are in total control of the process but confronting the reality that the explosive growth in the state is coming from the more competitive and diversifying suburbs around cities like Austin, Dallas and Houston, and not in the reliably Republican West Texas, whose population growth has not kept apace.

And in places like Ohio, a state that demographers expect will lose a congressional seat, Republicans are expected to use their near total control of the redistricting process to ensure that the congressional district does not come from their column.

According to Kelly Ward Burton, the president of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, the issue facing Republicans in growing states is that much of that growth, especially in the suburbs, have come from minority populations. If Republicans embark on cutting up these populations and combining them with more reliably Republican voters in exurbs and rural areas, the party will be opening themselves up to racial gerrymandering claims.

“The presumption that Republicans should get all of those new seats simply because they control the process is a presumption of gerrymandering,” Ward Burton said. “And that is illegal.”

For Republicans, said Li with the Brennan Center, the problem area is the South. The party has the most control of the process in states like Georgia, Texas and Florida, he said, but it is more difficult to gerrymander in those states without exposing the state to race based claims.

“(In the South) the problem with white Democrats is they tend to live near white Republicans, sometimes in the same house, so unless you’re gerrymandering down somebody’s bed … it’s really hard to gerrymander white Democrats when there aren’t that many of them,” said Li. “It’s much more efficient because of residential segregation to target communities of color. And so you really can’t politically gerrymander in the South without targeting communities of color, which gets you right into race-based claims.”

Battleground burbs

The nation’s suburbs figure to be the key battleground in these states, considering the bulk of changes in these areas have come from the diversifying suburbs around some of the nation’s biggest cities. In these Republican-controlled states, past redistricting fights have divided up metropolitan areas and joined them with more Republican exurban and rural areas, thereby diluting the Democratic advantage in these areas.

Each party would be working to spread out their supporters in different districts with or without the Trump era political changes. But those shifts have added yet another level of uncertainty to the process.

“For people who did this stuff a decade ago, if they had known that Donald Trump was going to come along in 2016 and shift the American electorate, there’s at least a couple dozen seats around the country that would have been drawn differently than they were,” said Kincaid. “And that is the challenge for the next few years is trying to forecast out how much this realignment is permanent versus temporary.”

Democrats over the last decade have grown more focused on redistricting and gerrymandering and this year they are most focused on states where Republicans are not only in control but are gaining the power that come with redrawing another seat.

More aggressive actions by Democrats, along with changes in states to make the redistricting process less partisan, have made it harder for Republicans to protect their past redistricting work in some states. That’s why people like Ward Burton and other Democrats focused on redistricting believe the party will try to do whatever they can in places like Florida, Georgia and Texas to gain seats.

The latest redistricting process is also playing out at a time where Democrats are drawing considerably more attention to gerrymandering, making it an important political issue, especially to minority communities who are often the most hurt by partisan redistricting.

Jasmine Burney-Clark, who runs the Equal Ground Education Fund in Florida, recently began preparing activists to lobby on the redistricting process, teaching a range of community and faith leaders about what role they could play in advocating for fair redistricting in a state where the process is controlled by Republicans. The effort comes years after a drawn-out process in 2010 led to numerous lawsuits and a drawn-out process.

“We’re definitely preparing for what could possibly come, because we’ve seen this before,” Burney-Clark said. “Our hope is that they’ve learned a lesson and attempt to do that this time around with black and Brown folks, but we know that they will try to squeeze anything they can out to it as advantageous as possible.”

This story has been updated to include Kelly Ward Burton’s full married name.

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The Trump Organization bullish on Indian real estate: Donald Trump Jr

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New Delhi: The Trump Organization is bullish on the Indian real estate, which is its biggest residential market outside the North America, its Executive Vice-President Donald Trump Jr. said on Saturday.

New York-based The Trump Organization, which is a venture of former US President Donald Trump, entered into Indian real estate market through a partnership with Mumbai-based Tribeca Developers.

The US firm and Tribeca have tied up with local developers, including the Lodha group, to build luxury projects under ‘Trump’ brand. So far, four luxury projects have been announced, of which one in Pune is already complete.

“I have been bullish on the (Indian) market for a long time,” Donald Trump Jr said when asked about his future projects in India.

He was appearing as a guest in a talk show with Kalpesh Mehta, the founder of Tribeca Developers, being organised by Alchemist.

Trump Jr did not disclose about the company’s future projects in India.

The Trump Organization and its India partner are developing luxury residential properties of global quality and standards, he said.

Amid the global pandemic COVID-19, Trump Jr said there has been a “dynamic shift” in real estate globally, especially in office market because of work from home and remotely.

He said one has to see how it plays out post pandemic.

When asked about the current market scenario, Mehta said the Indian real estate sector was reviving after the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic but the recovery process has taken a hit because of this second wave.

Maharashtra property markets had a strong recovery compared to the other markets, he said.

Mehta said the real estate market will see a sharp growth once the pandemic gets over.

In India, The Trump Organization has already completed a luxury project in Pune partnering with Panchshil Realty.

It tied up with Lodha group in 2014 for housing project in Mumbai which is currently under construction.

In November 2017, Trump Tower was launched in Kolkata comprising 140 ultra-luxury apartments and being developed by Unimark Group, RDB Group and Tribeca Developers.

The fourth housing project at Gurugram, Haryana, launched in 2018, is being developed by realty firm M3M.

Besides Trump Towers, Tribeca is independently developing few projects in partnership with other builders.

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.

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A second chance for Hillsborough’s youthful offenders, plus more good news from around the state

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This article represents the opinion of the Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board.

The highs and lows from Tampa Bay and beyond, including a bipartisan victory for juvenile offenders, a curious bill signing and some sound advice on raising taxes.

The right kind of justice reform. Good to see Hillsborough County’s bipartisan support for expanding its civil citations program for juveniles. Giving young first-time offenders a way to avoid an arrest — and all the life-changing implications that follow — is another step along the road to a more efficient and just system. Hillsborough is following the lead of other counties, including Pinellas, that have had more robust citation programs for longer — and have benefited from the results. The citations will be mandatory for all misdemeanors except in a few extraordinary circumstances. “Our kids, our deputies, our police officers and our community have made this program a success, so we are able to take these next steps,” said Sheriff Chad Chronister, a Republican. Juveniles sometimes engage in youthful transgressions. This smart new policy acknowledges that reality.

Capitol opening. The state Capitol was closed to the public for the two-month legislative session that ended last week. Gov. Ron DeSantis and other prominent state leaders insisted on opening many other aspects of society, but curiously left the Capitol off limits to Joe and Jane Taxpayer. On the bright side, Senate President Wilton Simpson announced Monday that the Capitol will be open in time for the special session on gambling scheduled for May 17-23. Government is best done in the sunshine — and in view of the public.

A long wait for representation. U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings died April 6. His successor in the heavily Democratic seat in Broward and Palm Beach counties won’t take over until January, when Gov. DeSantis scheduled the special election. Nine months is too long for about 800,000 residents to go without representation in one branch of Congress. It only took five months to replace Pinellas Republican Rep. Bill Young when he died in October 2013. Could the discrepancy be any more obvious?

Speaking of obvious … The optics of DeSantis’ recent signing of a voting bill say a lot about the motivations behind the controversial changes. DeSantis chose to do it in front of a fan club of former President Donald Trump in West Palm Beach. He also barred reporters, except for a TV crew from DeSantis-friendly Fox News. Opponents of the changes, which include altering voting by mail rules and limiting ballot drop boxes, have said the moves are an attempt to suppress Democratic turnout. DeSantis’ cherry-picked setting for the bill signing did little to assuage those concerns.

Taxing decisions. Pinellas County is exploring how to raise more money for transportation, from maintaining sidewalks to increasing public transit options. The solutions include raising the county’s gas tax from 7 cents to up to 12 cents and asking voters to agree to a new sales tax to fund transportation infrastructure. A hat tip to Republican Commissioner Karen Seel for stating what should be obvious: “We’re trying to evaluate if it’s the appropriate time to do a transit surtax, and you don’t want to do both at the same time.” Good advice.

Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Editor of Editorials Graham Brink, Sherri Day, Sebastian Dortch, John Hill, Jim Verhulst and Chairman and CEO Paul Tash. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news.

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Gaetz, Greene take mantle of Trump’s populism at rally

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THE VILLAGES, Fla. – U.S. Reps. Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene, two of the Republican Party’s most controversial figures, kicked off their “America First Rally” roadshow Friday with a Trump-centric revival of sorts for the MAGA faithful at a Florida retirement community.

The gathering appeared to be an attempt to position the two conservatives as successors to the former president’s populism.

“Tell me, who is your president?”” Greene shouted after walking out onto a ballroom stage in front of hundreds of supporters wearing “Trump” T-shirts and “Make America Great Again” red ballcaps.

“Trump!” the mask-less crowd of retirees wearing MAGA red yelled back.

Joking that he was a “marked man in Congress … but a Florida man,” Gaetz called former President Donald Trump “the undisputed leader of the Republican Party.”

“Today, we send a strong message to the weak establishment in both parties: America First isn’t going away. We are going on tour,” Gaetz said. “It’s no longer the red team against the blue team. It’s the establishment against the rest of us.”

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Gaetz held up himself and Greene as challengers to the establishment and successors to Trump’s populism.

“They lie about us because we tell the truth about them,” Gaetz said of the establishment.

The indoor rally took place with just a week until Gaetz associate Joel Greenberg faces a deadline to enter a plea deal that could lead to damaging information against the Florida congressman. Gaetz alluded to the investigation by referencing what he said were distorted descriptions of himself as someone who has wild parties with beautiful women.

Both Republican members of the House of Representatives have come under fire in recent months, though for different reasons.

What began as an inquiry into sex trafficking allegations and whether Gaetz paid women and an underage girl in exchange for sex has grown into a larger review of public corruption. Federal investigators are looking at whether Gaetz and his associates tried to secure government jobs for some of the women. They are also scrutinizing Gaetz’s connections to the medical marijuana sector.

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Greenberg, a former local tax collector, has been accused of trafficking a minor for sex and faces a May 15 deadline to strike a plea deal with prosecutors. If he does, Greenberg may be pressed to cooperate with federal investigators and deliver damaging information against Gaetz.

Greene, a congresswoman from Georgia, was stripped of her congressional assignments last February for incendiary social media posts expressing racist views, pushing absurd conspiracy theories and endorsing threats of violence against elected officials

The controversies made no difference to the 300 supporters, mostly retirees, who packed into a hotel ballroom to listen them. A long line trailed outside the hotel with people who couldn’t get in once the ballroom reached capacity. The Villages, which was the fastest growing U.S. metro area last year, has been a Republican bastion for decades and is often a must-stop destination for Republican presidential candidates.

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Inside the ballroom, the supporters danced and clapped to Laura Branigan’s “Gloria” and other 1980s hits and waved their arms, loudly chanting the lyrics of Queen’s “We Are the Champions,” before the politicians took the stage.

At least a half dozen muscled security guards in identical olive shirts stood around the room.

John Peil was in the crowd. He described the rally as a great way to cap off a day of golfing.

Of Greene, Peil said, she was “a great woman” who wasn’t afraid to take on Democratic lawmakers in Congress. There was a double standard between when Democrats run into controversies and when Republicans do, he said.

“They’re using a double standard on the two of them too,” Peil said, referring to the two House members. “It’s always the conservatives that get the dirt, and it’s always the liberals that speed away free.”

Zach Hussein and Josh Labasbas held up a black banner that said “Antifacist Action” in front of the hotel where the rally was held until a police officer politely asked them to leave at the request of the property owner. A passerby told them, “Go back to Cuba.”

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This version corrects the spelling of Marjorie Taylor Greene’s first name.

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Follow Mike Schneider on Twitter at https://twitter.com/MikeSchneiderAP

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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