The Supreme Court is casting a skeptical eye on voter-approved commissions that draw a state’s congressional district boundaries. The justices heard arguments Monday in an appeal from Arizona Republicans who object to the state’s independent redistricting commission that voters created to reduce political influence in the process. A decision against the commission also would threaten a similar system in neighboring California and could affect commissions in an additional 11 states. The big issue before the court is whether voters can take away the power given by the U.S. Constitution to elected state legislatures to decide how members of the U.S. House are elected.
Editorials: Our election system’s anti-minority bias is even worse than you think | Sean McElwee/Salon.com
In the wake of the recent gutting of the Voting Rights Act, partisans were quick to jump on the opportunity to restrict unfavorable voters. Across the country, conservatives in particular have debated fiercely whether to pursue voter suppression to remain competitive in an increasingly diverse electorate. There was, however, another way out, as I’ve argued before: Socially and economically conservative values are not unpopular, and if conservatives were to cease supporting people who made speeches at KKK rallies, they could garner enough votes to remain competitive. I worried, though, that the temptation of voter suppression would be too great. And, indeed, a new paper by Ian Vandewalker and Keith Bentele indicates that partisans have chosen the path of voter suppression to an even greater extent than previous thought.
Voting Blogs: Supreme Court Looks to Endanger Citizen Redistricting Commissions and MORE | Richard Hasen/Election Law Blog
I have now had a chance to review the transcript in Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission and the news is not good. It appears that the conservative Justices may be ready to hold that citizen redistricting commissions which have no role for state legislatures in drawing congressional districts are unconstitutional. What’s worse, such a ruling would endanger other election laws passed by voter initiative trying to regulate congressional elections, such as open primaries. For those who don’t like campaign finance laws because they could protect incumbents, this is a ruling that could make incumbency protection all the worse, removing the crucial legislative bypass which is the initiative process (for congressional elections). The question in the case arises from the Constitution’s Elections Clause, giving each state “legislature” the power to set the rules for Congressional elections if Congress does not act. The key question is whether the people, acting through a state’s initiative process as lawmakers, are acting as the legislature for purpose of this clause. If not, redistricting done without the involvement of the legislature would be unconstitutional. (Before the Court agreed to take the case, it seemed settled that Legislature could include the initiative process of a state.)
The possibility that the U.S. Supreme Court will return congressional redistricting power to the Arizona Legislature has Democrats on edge and some Republicans giddy at the prospect of a new, GOP-drawn map. Under the current map, drawn by the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, Republicans hold five U.S. House seats and Democrats hold four. Three of the state’s nine congressional districts — held by Democratic Reps. Ann Kirkpatrick and Kyrsten Sinema and Republican Martha McSally — are among the most competitive in the country, while the other six are lopsided in favor of either Republicans or Democrats.
Given Arizona’s history of turnover in the governor’s office, the state would benefit from having a lieutenant governor who runs on the same ticket, a state lawmaker says. Rep. J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, has introduced two pieces of legislation to create the office, to require a party’s candidates for lieutenant governor and governor to run as a team and to put the lieutenant governor first in the line of succession. Some of the proposed changes would require approval by Arizona voters. Mesnard said having the governor and lieutenant governor run on the same ticket would be helpful for voters because it would mirror the way the president and vice president are elected. He said many voters don’t realize that the secretary of state is the next in line for the governor’s office.
The Pope County Election Commission discussed budget problems with Treasurer Donna Wall during a called meeting Friday. Wall presented commissioners and Election Coordinator Sherry Polsgrove with a detailed budget report thatshowed a commission balance of around $27 — less than 1 percent of its 2015 budget — as of Friday morning. New Commissioner Freddie Harris asked for clarification. “Are you saying that we’ve already used up the whole budget and we’re not even through February?” she asked. Wall referred to the printout.
Just last November, California voters experienced a bracing novelty — a handful of competitive state assembly elections — after decades of blatant gerrymandering in which the legislature drew lines that lopsidedly favored the party in power or willfully protected incumbents on both sides of the aisle. One big reason for the change: a bipartisan citizens redistricting commission created by a statewide ballot initiative to govern state electoral boundaries and later expanded to cover congressional seats. No longer are districts here tailored to protect friends and family — as they infamously were 35 years ago when the late Rep. Philip Burton, a Democratic power broker, engineered a congressional district for his brother, John, that included parts of four counties and was connected in some places only by waterways and rail yards.
California: Opponents of L.A. election date measures worry only special interests will benefit | MyNewsLA
Opponents of two Los Angeles ballot measures calling for city and school district elections to be held in the same years as gubernatorial and presidential races were joined by several City Council candidates at City Hall Monday to make a final push against the measures. While billed as a way to improve voter turnout, Charter Amendment 1 and Charter Amendment 2 would only benefit deep-pocketed special interests like billboard companies and developers, who are major supporters of the measures, according to Hans Johnson of the group Save Our City Elections. The measures would “tip the playing field dramatically in favor of” special interests that “want a stronger hand in picking winners and losers in our nonpartisan races,” Johnson said, with voter engagement actually decreasing because candidates and local issues for city elections would be buried at the bottom of lengthy ballots and mostly ignored.
Following issues at polling places in Hartford this past Election Day, Secretary of the State Denise Merrill is proposing to scrap Connecticut’s partisan registrar system. But, the ideas are being met with opposition. Secretary Merrill is calling for Connecticut to do away with the current election oversight system where two people, typically one Republican and one Democrat, are elected as registrars in each town. The Democrat says problems exist across Connecticut although issues in Hartford and Bridgeport – where dysfunctional working relationships and an inadequate supply of ballots have gotten the most attention in recent years. “Right now we have towns where they sort of don’t fulfill the reporting requirements,” Merrill said. “They will fail to report their election results in a timely way. We have more like workplace situations where one will be able to do the job very well and the other just never comes in the office. At this point, because they’re both elected, there’s no one that can resolve those issues because they’re not directly responsible to the town management and they’re not directly responsible to my office.”
Sen. Karen Peterson, D-Stanton, has asked Attorney General Matt Denn to investigate possible voter fraud in last Tuesday’s referendum to raise property taxes in the Red Clay School District. Peterson said in a news release that she had received a report that a group of parents who had just voted at one polling place said they were going to vote again at a second polling place. The unofficial vote total released Tuesday was 6,395 for a tax increase, 5,515 against. Unlike general elections, voters are not assigned a specific polling place for school referendums so there’s no way for poll workers to know if someone voted multiple times, the release said.
Voting Blogs: Friday at 6pm: Another Example of Changes in Ohio’s Election Regulation | State of Elections
Ohio is no stranger to changes in election administration and regulation. The Supreme Court determined the constitutionality of Ohio’s voter ID laws. The Sixth Circuit recently permanently enjoined the enforcement of Ohio’s campaign fair practice law that prohibited making false statements in campaigns. Ohio was highlighted in the 2004 election for extraordinarily long lines at its polls, and just eleven days before the 2014 midterm, the Sixth Circuit reversed the Southern District of Ohio, denying the right to vote to persons incarcerated but not yet convicted. Upon conviction of a felony in Ohio, convicted persons lose their right to vote while incarcerated; however, people who are in jail at the time of the election but not yet convicted of a crime are still allowed to vote. The State Board of Elections accomplishes this by sending two representatives, one Democrat and one Republican, to the jail with absentee ballots. The incarcerated individual then fills out an absentee ballot and the team from the State Board delivers the ballot.
A left-leaning town in southern Vermont is taking up on Tuesday a referendum to extend the right to vote in local elections to teenagers as young as 16, but even if the measure passes it would still require the state legislature’s approval. The so-called “youth vote amendment” would lower the minimum voting age in Brattleboro, a town of about 12,000 people, to 16 from its current 18, the age minimum for state and federal elections. The amendment is part of slate of proposals being considered on Tuesday as part of Brattleboro’s annual town meeting.
Salvadoran President Salvador Sanchez Ceren expressed on Twitter his satisfaction with the municipal and legislative elections carried out on Sunday, and congratulated the people for exerting their right to vote, while the head of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE), Julio Oliva, said technical failures had caused a delay in voting results. Sanchez Ceren praised the peaceful elections by the Salvadoran people, who he said, believe in democracy. He also called on the citizenship to confide in the preliminary results that the electoral authorities will make public within the next few hours. Olivo called on the citizenship to be “tolerant and understanding,” explaining that reporting on results will depend on “how fast the vote-counting process takes in the 10,621 offices that receive the votes throughout the country.” He explained that computer specialists had been brought in to look into the technical difficulties experienced late Sunday night when preliminary results were expected to begin to flow.
Estonia’s prime minister was preparing to form a new government Monday, a day after his ruling Reform Party won parliamentary elections. Taavi Roivas’ center-right group, which includes the Social Democrats, lost seven seats in the vote and now has 45 lawmakers in the 101-seat Parliament, prompting negotiations with smaller parties to form a majority coalition. Roivas met the country’s head of state before discussions with other party leaders. At their meeting, President Toomas Hendrik Ilves suggested forming a broad coalition, saying the small nation of 1.3 million people “needs a responsible and capable government … (to) maintain Estonia’s security, governance and local government reforms.”
A group of political and financial figures in Taiwan, headed by former Democratic Progressive Party chair Shih Ming-teh, has initiated an unprecedented campaign to allow negative votes in elections. Voting rights in Taiwan remain incomplete, Shih argued Sunday at a function supporting the campaign after the group’s application for the establishment of a non-governmental organization, named Negative Vote Association, was approved by the Ministry of the Interior. The idea of allowing “no” votes in elections, which he described as “very progressive and original,” was first proposed by several “well-known intellectuals with successful careers,” Shih said in answering questions from reporters. “I was sold, and it is a brilliant idea,” he said. Shih said citizens of the Republic of China are endowed with the powers of election, recall, initiative and referendum, but since the ROC was established in 1911, “the only power that has been truly used is that of election.”
Apparent voting irregularities have been documented as Tajikistan held parliamentary elections, including widespread cases where one person was casting ballots for an entire family, a lack of election monitors, and instances where volunteer poll workers advised people who to vote for. The Central Election Commission said more than 82 percent of the 4.3 million registered voters had cast a ballot, well over the 50 percent turnout needed to make the election valid. The ballot comes after a campaign that international monitors described as flawed.
The chaotic queuing seen at some polling stations at the 2010 general election will not be repeated this time around, the head of the Electoral Commission has said. Jenny Watson said there was now a “safety valve” that meant people in a queue as polls closed could still vote. More than 1,200 people were left queuing as polls closed at 22:00 on election night in 2010. Police were called to deal with angry voters who had been turned away. Voters in Sheffield, Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, Newcastle, parts of London and Surrey were affected.