ExperienceVoting Rights & Redistricting
A representative sample of the many jurisdictions that Nielsen Merksamer advised on redistricting during the 2021-2022 cycle includes:
States (congressional and legislative)
- New Mexico Citizen Redistricting Committee
- San Diego County Independent Redistricting Commission
- Kern County Board of Supervisors
- Marin County Board of Supervisors
- Merced County Board of Supervisors
- Monterey County Board of Supervisors
- San Benito County Board of Supervisors
- Tulare County Board of Supervisors & Redistricting Advisory Committee
- Atascadero City Council
- Covina City Council
- Encinitas City Council
- Fresno City Council
- Los Banos City Council
- Moreno Valley City Council
- Ontario City Council
- Orange City Council
- Palm Desert City Council
- San Luis Obispo City Council
- San Mateo City Council
- San Rafael City Council
- Santa Barbara City Council
- Sunnyvale City Council
- Victorville City Council
- Bakersfield City School District
- Cajon Valley Elementary School District
- Coast Community College District
- College of the Sequoias
- Cutler-Orosi Joint Unified School District
- El Tejon School District
- Fresno Unified School District
- Grossmont Union High School District
- Kern County Board of Education
- Kern High School District
- Lakeside Union School District (Kern County)
- MiraCosta Community College District
- Norris School District
- Orange County Board of Education
- Panama-Buena Vista School District
- Richland Elementary School District
- San Diego Community College District
- San Diego County Board of Education
- San Jose-Evergreen Community College District
- Santa Clarita Community College District
- Tehachapi Elementary School District
- West Hills Community College District
- Central Basin Municipal Water District
- Central Contra Costa County Sanitary District
- Goleta West Sanitary District
- Kings River Conservation District
- Merced Irrigation District
- Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District
- Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority
- Santa Clara Valley Water District
- Washington Hospital District
- Water Replenishment District of Southern Cal.
- West Basin Water District
The firm also has extensive experience in litigating voting rights cases in the federal and state courts. For example:
- The firm has represented well over a dozen jurisdictions in suits under the California Voting Rights Act (“CVRA”), including, among others, the Tulare Local Healthcare District, the City of Anaheim, the City of Bellflower, the City of Camarillo, the City of Compton, the City of Fullerton, the City of Orange, the City of Ontario, the City of Palmdale, the City of Palm Desert, the City of Santa Barbara, the City of Santa Clarita, the City of Whittier, the Santa Clarita Community College District, the Glendale Community College District, and the Cerritos Community College District.
- The firm has also advised hundreds more jurisdictions regarding their responses to possible or threatened litigation under the CVRA.
- In 2018-2020, the firm successfully defended the City of Martinez against a suit alleging that its new council district map, adopted as part of its transition from at-large to district-based voting, was a illegal gerrymander in violation of the Elections Code, Sanchez v. City of Martinez, Case No. C-18-02219 (Contra Costa County Superior Court).
- In 2022, represented members of the local community in the City of Morgan Hill in successfully challenging the map adopted by the City Council on the ground that it violated California’s FAIR MAPS Act, Tate v. City of Morgan Hill, Case No. 22CV396857 (Santa Clara County Superior Court).
- In 2022, successfully challenge the district map adopted by the Arcadia City Council against a claim that it violated the FAIR MAPS Act, HQH Chinese Am. Equalization Assn., et al. v. City of Arcadia, Case No. 22STCP01878 (Los Angeles County Superior Court).
- In Arizona Legislature v. Ariz. Independent Redistricting Comm’n, 576 U.S. 787, 135 S. Ct. 2652, 192 L. Ed. 2d 704 (2015), the firm filed an amicus curiae brief on behalf of former California Governors George Deukmejian, Pete Wilson & Arnold Schwarzenegger; the California Chamber of Commerce; Charles Munger, Jr.; and Bill Mundell, successfully arguing that the text, history and structure of the Elections Clause of the U.S. Constitution confirm the constitutionality of states giving authority over congressional redistricting to an independent commission; the majority opinion quoted (without attribution) a passage from the firm’s brief discussing the original meaning of the term “Legislature” as reflected in founding-era dictionaries.
- In Lopez v. Merced County, 473 F. Supp. 2d 1072 (E.D. Cal. 2007) & later unpublished opinions, the firm defeated multiple allegations that Merced County violated the “preclearance” provisions of Section 5 of the federal Voting Rights Act and ultimately obtained summary judgment in the County’s favor.
- In 2012, the firm represented Merced County in the first-ever successful “bailout” from Section 5 coverage in the State of California. Merced County was, by far, the largest jurisdiction ever to obtain bailout, covering the County itself, six cities, and nearly 100 school districts and special districts.
- In Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder, 570 U.S. 529, 133 S. Ct. 2612, 186 L. Ed. 2d 651 (2013), the firm filed an amicus curiae brief on behalf of the County of Merced, California, in support of no party, pre-emptively defending the County’s recent bailout from Section 5 coverage against anticipated attack on the basis that the Department of Justice permitted the bailout to save Section 5.
- In League of United Latin Am. Citizens v. Perry, 548 U.S. 399, 126 S. Ct. 2594, 165 L. Ed. 2d 609 (2006), the firm filed an amicus curiae brief successfully urging the Court to reject proposed rule that would have held voluntary mid-decade redistricting to be unconstitutional exercise of legislative authority.
- In 2003, we represented the City of Vista in connection with a USDOJ investigation of that jurisdiction under Section 2 of the federal Voting Rights Act. By conducting extensive independent analysis of demographic and voting patterns within that City, we ultimately persuaded USDOJ to end its investigation of the City of Vista, without filing suit.
- In 2001, Nielsen Merksamer represented the Upper San Gabriel Valley Water District in successfully defending against a Voting Rights Act suit filed by the Department of Justice against the District under Section 2.
Other Notable Matters
Other notable redistricting and voting rights representations include:
- Yes on Proposition 11 (2008): Represented the campaign regarding preclearance of Proposition 11, the 2008 ballot measure that established an independent commission for redistricting of state legislative offices in California.
- Yes on Proposition 20 (2010): Represented the campaign regarding preclearance of Proposition 20, the 2010 ballot measure that expanded the duties of Proposition 11’s independent commission for redistricting to congressional offices in California.
- Vandermost v. Bowen, 53 Cal. 4th 421 (2012): the firm represented Charles T. Munger, Jr., the leading proponent of Propositions 11 and 20, as amicus curiae, addressing the possible remedies that the Court could employ in the event that it concluded the Senate Map drawn by the Citizens Redistricting Commission could not be used in 2012 due to a pending referendum petition against the map.
- Proposition 14, the Top Two Candidate Open Primary Act: Following the passage of the State’s new open primary law in 2010, the firm successfully obtained preclearance for the measure under Section 5 of the federal Voting Rights Act. We also successfully defended the measure against a suit in federal court under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, in Brown v. Bowen, Case No. 2:12-cv-05547-PA-SPx (C.D. Cal. 2012).
- The State of Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (2001): Represented consultant to the Commission concerning all aspects of the 2001 first ever citizen-commission redistricting of the state’s Congressional and legislative districts including United States Attorney General preclearance under Section 5 of the federal Voting Rights Act.
- The Senate of the State of Florida (2001): Represented the Florida State Senate concerning all aspects of the state’s 2001 Congressional and state Senatorial redistricting including United States Attorney General preclearance under the federal Voting Rights Act; special litigation counsel in state and federal courts defending against constitutional and Voting Rights Act challenges to the plans.
- California Administrative Office of the Courts (1998): Represented the AOC in obtaining United States Attorney General preclearance for the unification of California’s trial courts.
- Wilson v. Eu , 1 Cal. 4th 707 (1991): the firm represented the California State Board of Equalization in connection with a court-drawn redistricting plan following the 1990 Census.
- Badham v. Eu , 694 F. Supp. 664 (N.D. Cal. 1988), aff’d, 488 U.S. 1024 (1989): the firm litigated one of the first partisan gerrymandering claims, in a case that extended the holding of the Supreme Court’s decision in Davis v. Bandemer—that such claims are justiciable under the equal protection clause—to congressional redistricting.