The resignation this month of Devin Nunes before the end of his current term was a surprise – maybe. The rationale offered was his choice to become the CEO of the new media and technology company initiated by the former president and presently in development. The move has raised questions in part because the financing for the project has already come under SEC investigation and Nunes has no experience in the field.
Nunes’s announcement, however, received subsequent attention from news that the California Citizens Redistricting Commission was on the verge of releasing the finishing touches on new boundary maps for the Golden State. Former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was a major force in creating the redistricting commission.
For 19 years, Nunes has represented his district, with boundaries encompassing large rural swaths and its agricultural character echoing the long-term dairy business founded by the Nunes clan. The new maps, according to a New York Times article, will shake up eight or nine districts into more competitive ones, unsettling Democrats and Republicans alike, partially as a result of losing a congressional seat as a result of census data.
The new boundaries would now include a larger urban population centered around Fresno and its suburbs. Observers have noted that the new district includes a significant Latino population.
While the California commission bears some partisan structural identify with that in Virginia, the work of the commission is being received favorably. The midterm election results in 2022 will certainly contribute to increased examination of redistricting efforts, whether by commissions or by legislators.
So long, Devin.
The Tar Heel state also is experiencing redistricting conflicts, most recently due to intervention by its Supreme Court, which ruled that next year’s primary must be moved from March to May. The postponement is the result of a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of revised district boundaries drawn by the Republican-dominated legislature attempting to capitalize on a newly-gained congressional seat.
Eight Republicans and five Democrats comprise the current House delegation, while the proposed map creates a favorable distribution for Republicans in 10 of the 14 seats. Such result insults every voter, Democrat and Republican alike. Neither political party trusts voters, motivating those in control to select voters who, in turn, must appeal to state judiciaries for equity.
North Carolina’s neighbor, Virginia, witnessed a failure of a facially bipartisan commission having failed to find consensus and forced to allow the Commonwealth’s judiciary to draw maps under legislative mandate for 2022.
Kevin Strickland was just released after serving 43 year in prison on a wrongful murder conviction in 1979. Those years cannot be compensated under Missouri law because compensation may be claimed only where conviction is overturned by a finding of innocence. In Strickland’s case, there was no finding of innocence, only that the conviction was wrongfully obtained.
Thirty-seven states provide some restitution in these cases, while 13 provide none. Many states are content to roll the dice that their judicial systems are error-free and willing to risk substantial civil court penalties instead. In 2014, two North Carolina men were cleared of a 1983 rape and murder, later settling with the state for $75 million. Coerced confessions, often a sign of police or prosecutorial misconduct, will preclude restitution in some states, such as New Jersey.
Several states also provide medical treatment coverage in addition. Surprisingly, according to advocacy groups, Texas, the Lone Star State, has a model program providing $80,000 times the number of years served plus an annual $80,000 for life. Otherwise, prison releases for wrongful convictions may be pursued in civil court, where plaintiffs might face years of painful litigation. In any event, those released for wrongful conviction and imprisonment cannot recoup the time lost from family and friends.
Mr. Strickland is the beneficiary of a GoFundMe campaign, which has so far generated $1.7 million on his behalf (about $39,000 for each of his 43 years of incarceration). Sadly, the ultimate payor in these cases is the taxpayer, a fact well-known and understood by elected officials but not one to include in campaign material.
Empathy or remorse on the part of state officials? Only in some cases.