The drawing of legislative districts is supposed to be a once-a-decade process, completed shortly after the U.S. Census Bureau provides updated population numbers. But in some states, the map-drawing based on the 2010 count—the most litigious in recent memory—is still dragging on. Courts will likely draw maps for Florida and Virginia after legislators in those states failed to agree on new maps to replace earlier ones thrown out by judges. Alabama may need to redraw its district lines after the Legislative Black Caucus went to court arguing that Republican state legislators drew them to reduce the voice of minority voters. Democrats in Wisconsin are arguing that GOP lawmakers did the same to their voters. And a case in Texas could change the “one man, one vote” standard. Though in some states commissions are responsible for drawing U.S. congressional and state legislative maps, in most it is up to state legislators to do the job.
The Voting News
The Republican National Committee, in a move designed to box in Donald Trump and prevent him from a third-party run, on Wednesday asked the party’s presidential candidates to sign a loyalty statement vowing not to run as an independent or third-party candidate in the general election. Trump and RNC Chairman Reince Priebus plan to meet Thursday in New York, according to a Trump campaign spokeswoman. Trump has scheduled a 2 p.m. news conference where he could make an announcement about the RNC pledge. All summer, Republican leaders have been trying to prevent Trump, the billionaire businessman who has rocketed to the top of GOP polls, from running as an independent candidate if he does not win the Republican nomination.
Californians will have an easier time determining who is giving money to political candidates and causes starting Thursday, when a new tool becomes available on the secretary of state’s website. The antiquated CalAccess system, which shows political donations and lobbying information on the site, is clunky and difficult to use, especially for searching and sorting the data. A new search engine has been added to help users see more fully and easily, for example, the money received by candidates and ballot-measure campaigns. It will also be easier to see where industries and other special interests are concentrating their money.
Kansas: Kris Kobach’s plan to delete more than 30,000 voter registration applications in Kansas draws dissent, praise | Topeka Capital-Journal
The Shawnee County election commissioner and representatives of advocacy groups clashed Wednesday over merits of the Kansas secretary of state’s plan to purge more than 32,000 voter registration applications for failure to document citizenship. Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who championed the 2011 law mandating new registrants document citizenship, has been saddled with oversight responsibility of applications held “in suspense” specifically because individuals had yet to provide evidence they were a U.S. citizen. A total of 36,000 applications are in limbo, but nine in 10 are tied to the citizenship requirement. Kobach proposed an administrative rule — not a state law — ordering county election officers to shred all registration applications if not completed within 90 days. Currently, Kansas sets no time limit on the process.
A federal court has rejected Montana’s request to rehear its defense of state campaign contribution limits. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Tuesday that none of its 44 judges moved to reconsider the case that the court already decided was tried on out-of-date standards. A panel of three federal judges ruled in May that a state District Court must re-examine the constitutionality of Montana’s contribution limits based on legal tests outlined in the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling. “That last hearing was hasty, just before the (2012) election, and as you can see from this decision the legal standards it was reviewed by were murky,” Commissioner of Political Practices Jonathan Motl said of the original decision by U.S. District Judge Charles Lovell of Helena.
Nebraska will implement a new system of online voter registration this month, easing the registration process and opening the door to larger voter turnout. “We hope to improve registration and turnout,” Secretary of State John Gale said in announcing a rollout scheduled for Sept. 22. Sen. Adam Morfeld of Lincoln, founder and executive director of Nebraskans for Civic Reform, said the new system implements a modern registration process his organization has been urging the state to adopt since 2008.
New Mexico: House speaker: Committee to investigate charges against Duran | The Santa Fe New Mexican
New Mexico House Speaker Don Tripp on Wednesday notified legislative leaders and state Attorney General Hector Balderas that he plans to form a committee to begin the process of impeaching Secretary of State Dianna Duran, whom Balderas charged late last week with 64 criminal counts, including embezzlement, fraud and tampering with public records. This “special committee,” said Tripp, a Socorro Republican, will try to determine whether there is enough evidence to impeach Duran, who is in her second term overseeing the office that administers election and campaign finance laws, among other duties. The case against Duran, filed late last week by Balderas, centers on allegations that she illegally transferred thousands of dollars in campaign funds to her personal bank accounts and falsified her own campaign finance reports. Tripp asked Balderas to share his case file on Duran with the committee after it is formed.
Texas: Voting Rights Act Sections 2 and 5: Texas Two-Steps All Over Voting Rights | Richard Hasen/Slate
n 1965, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act, one of the most important pieces of legislation in U.S. history. It contained key protections for minority voters, especially blacks, who had been effectively disenfranchised in the South. The act was a remarkable success, increasing minority voter registration and turnout rates within a few years. In 1982, an important amendment made it much easier for minority voters to elect candidates of their choice. Then, following the contested 2000 elections, states started passing new voting rules along partisan lines. As part of these voting wars, conservative states began passing laws making it harder to register and vote, restrictions that seemed to fall most on poor and minority voters. In the midst of all of this, the Supreme Court in 2013 struck down a key component of the Voting Rights Act. It had required states and jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination in voting to get permission from the federal government before making a voting change by proving that the proposed change would not make it harder for minority voters to vote and to elect their preferred candidates.
Wisconsin: Government Accountability Board moves toward use of electronic pollbooks | Wisconsin State Journal
Wisconsin’s Government Accountability Board has edged closer to embracing electronic pollbooks, voting Tuesday to develop ground rules for their use. The board also voted to ask state lawmakers to decide when Wisconsin lobbyists should be permitted to donate to presidential candidates, including Gov. Scott Walker. The board — made up of six former judges tasked with overseeing the state’s campaign finance, elections, ethics, and lobbying laws — voted 4-2 for the electronic pollbook motion at its regular meeting. The motion authorizes board staff to develop standards and procedures for the use of e-pollbooks, which are laptops or tablets that replace paper pollbooks.
Belarus: Presidential Elections in Belarus: Why the West Should Not Hold Its Breath | Belarus Digest
On 1 September the Central Elections Committee of Belarus announced that four presidential candidates had submitted enough signatures to run in elections scheduled for 11 October this year. Although few question the outcome of this elections and the official victory of the incumbent President Alexander Lukashenka, the elections take place in a very different geopolitical context. In the 2010 presidential elections, the authorities saw the Belarusian opposition as the main threat and crushed protests, putting several presidential candidates in jail. After the recent events in Ukraine the authorities seem to view Russia as a more serious threat although they would not publicly admit it. Belarus only had real elections during a brief period of competitive politics in the early 1990s, prior to the election of current President Alexander Lukashenka in 1994. This is why for many Belarusians, particularly older generations, elections are not an opportunity to change their leadership but something of an old ritual.