The US supreme court has ruled that states can appoint independent commissions to draw the boundaries of congressional districts, rejecting a challenge by Arizona Republicans in a decision that could have wide-ranging effects on the partisan congressional redistricting practice known as gerrymandering. The court’s decision affirms the constitutionality of an Arizona state ballot measure approved by voters in 2000, which allowed an independent commissioner to determine congressional districts in the state.Full Article: Supreme court upholds independent redistricting in blow to gerrymandering | US news | The Guardian.
Editorials: Supreme Court’s Redistricting Ruling Averts 2016 Chaos—But Will It End Gerrymandering? | Sahil Kapur/Bloomberg
Election-reform advocates breathed a sigh of relief Monday when the Supreme Court upheld a voter-approved independent redistricting commission in Arizona. The court’s 5-4 decision averted potential chaos in the 2016 elections, but whether it represents a significant victory for reformers trying to come up with antidotes to partisan gerrymandering remains to be seen. “We escaped not a bullet but a cannonball,” Michael P. McDonald, an election law expert who teaches political science at the University of Florida, said after the Supreme Court, meeting on the last day before its long summer recess, the opinion in the Arizona case, written by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the leader of the Court’s liberal wing. That’s because the case could have invalidated a host of election-law changes that have been made through statewide referenda, running the gamut from redistricting rules to voter ID laws. Ideologically, “it would’ve cut both ways. Some liberal-favored laws and conservative-favored laws would’ve been at risk,” McDonald said.Full Article: Supreme Court's Redistricting Ruling Averts 2016 Chaos—But Will It End Gerrymandering? - Bloomberg Politics.
President Obama is reported to be considering an important brake on the torrent of “dark money” already flooding the 2016 presidential campaign — an executive order requiring federal contractors to disclose their donations to political candidates. Mr. Obama should immediately sign such an order. In doing so he would expose some of the bigger players in today’s big money politics, while offering a healthy counterpoint to Republican efforts to squelch disclosure. In votes earlier this month, the House Appropriations Committee’s Republican majority quietly inserted an amendment in a spending bill that would block the Securities and Exchange Commission from crafting a rule requiring public companies to open up to their stockholders and voters about their political spending.Full Article: Dark Money’s Deepening Power - The New York Times.
Voting Blogs: The Arizona Decision: Constitutional Reasoning Within the Reform Model | More Soft Money Hard Law
The next few days of commentary on the Arizona redistricting decision will include the usual debate about which side had the better of the “legal argument.” And, in truth, both the majority opinion and the chief (Roberts) dissent can be defended. Each is effectively drawn, making the most of the materials available to it. Each also takes the usual liberties with the construction of precedent and the standards by which particular points—an example being the majority’s reliance on 2 U.S.C. §2(a)(c)—are deemed relevant. More interesting is the way that the majority weighs the reform objective. The majority in the Arizona case adheres to a model familiar in political reform arguments more generally, within and outside the Court. For this majority, the constitutional question cannot be considered apart from the reform objective served by the initiative creating the Independent Redistricting Commission. The “people” are seen to be taking urgent steps to protect against officeholder self-interestedness. So, as Justice Thomas points out in dissent, the Court here lauds the exercise of direct democracy, which at other times is given the back of its hand. The reason for the difference is simple: the objective that the tools of direct democracy have been in this case wielded to bring about.Full Article: The Arizona Decision: Constitutional Reasoning Within the Reform Model -.
Despite the uphill battle for District of Columbia statehood, Sen. Thomas R. Carper, D-Del., has reintroduced a statehood bill noting that the District’s unique political status is contrary to the American values celebrated on Independence Day. “These Americans serve in our military, die defending our country, serve on our juries, and pay federal taxes,” Carper said of District residents in a statement. “Yet, despite their civic contributions, they are not afforded a vote in either chamber of Congress. This situation is simply not fair, and it isn’t consistent with the values we celebrate as a country on July 4th every year.”Full Article: DC Statehood Bill a 'Take That' to Republicans.
Kansas: Supreme Court declines to hear Kobach appeal on proof of citizenship | Lawrence Journal World
People in Kansas can still register to vote in federal elections without showing proof of citizenship, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday. But whether those people will be allowed to vote in state and local elections remains an open question. The court on Monday refused to hear Kansas Secretary of State Kobach’s appeal in a case in which he asked that the U.S. Election Assistance Commission provide a federal voter registration form that comports with state law, which requires voters to show proof of citizenship. Last year, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Kobach, saying the EAC did not have to provide a revised federal form for use in Kansas. The Supreme Court’s decision Monday not to hear Kobach’s appeal means the 10th Circuit’s ruling will stand.Full Article: Supreme Court declines to hear Kobach appeal on proof of citizenship / LJWorld.com.
Legislation that would provide a sweeping overhaul of New Jersey’s outdated voting rights laws was approved by the Senate on Monday. The bill, designated S-50 in honor of the 50th Anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, includes plans to allow early voting, online and automatic voter registration, increased accessibility and protections, and an end to wasteful special elections. The legislation is sponsored by Senator Nia Gill (D-Essex/Passaic), Senator Ronald Rice (D-Essex), Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester) and Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen). Already approved by the Assembly, the measure now goes to the governor following the Senate vote of 24 to 16.Full Article: S50: ‘Democracy Act’ Approved By Senate | New Jersey News, Politics, Opinion, and Analysis.
The state elections board has mailed postcards to nearly 100,000 registered voters in Wisconsin who have not cast ballots in the past four years. The state Government Accountability Board on Monday says the postcard titled “Notice of Suspension” is one of the steps it takes to ensure that inactive voters are removed from the statewide voter list.Full Article: Postcards mailed to inactive voters in Wisconsin.
Burundians are voting Monday in parliamentary elections marked by an opposition boycott and violence as police battle anti-government protesters in the capital. In the Musaga neighborhood, which has seen violent protests against President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term, few civilians were seen at the polls as mostly police and soldiers lined up to vote. The voting is taking place despite calls by the international community for a postponement until there is a peaceful environment for credible elections. The African Union said on Sunday that it would not observe the polls because the necessary conditions have not been met for free and fair elections. The European Union said Burundi’s decision to ignore U.N. and other international demands to delay voting further was a “serious matter” and could lead to withholding more aid.Full Article: Violence Mars Burundi Election | Al Jazeera America.
As Friday night became Saturday morning, with sidewalk cafes still bustling in central Athens, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras abruptly appeared on national television. Mr. Tsipras, only 40, had spent his five months in office locked in increasingly acrimonious negotiations with Greece’s creditors. Belittled by critics, and facing the prospect of default, he was under intense pressure to sign a deal. Instead, Mr. Tsipras tossed a grenade. With much of Europe sound asleep, Mr. Tsipras stared into the camera and shattered the careful decorum of European Union diplomacy. Declaring that creditors were demanding “strict and humiliating austerity,” Mr. Tsipras announced a national referendum on July 5, so voters could decide for themselves.Full Article: Greek Referendum Plan by Alexis Tsipras Tests His Power and Conviction - The New York Times.
“You must vote Yes, independently of the question asked”, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker told the Greek people on Monday (29 June). It sounds like a wild statement. But in fact, Greek voters will indeed not know precisely what they are voting on in the referendum on Sunday. Shortly after Juncker spoke on Monday the Greek government published the referendum ballot, with a long question. “Should the proposal that was submitted by the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund at the Eurogroup of 25 June 2015, which consists of two parts that together constitute their comprehensive proposal, be accepted? The first document is titled ‘Reforms for the completion of the Current Programme and beyond’ and the second ‘Preliminary Debt Sustainability Analysis’,” the ballot reads on the left-hand side.
On the right are the two possible answers: “Not agreed/No” on top, and “Agreed/Yes” underneath. The No is the answer Alexis Tsipras’ government and Syriza party are campaigning for. “No, for democracy and dignity,” reads the referendum poster issued by Syriza. But the question asked to Greek voters itself raises two questions.
Firstly, what documents does it refer to? Secondly, how can voters take an informed decision on the content?
The two documents mentioned on the ballot are the agreement proposal put forward by Greece’s creditors last week, and an analysis of Greek debt by the creditors’ institutions.
Full Article: Greek referendum question poses problems.Full Article: Greek referendum question poses problems.
The new, pro-European Union mayor of Moldova’s capital called Monday for the former Soviet republic to renew efforts to form a pro-European government. Dorin Chirtoaca, who is also deputy chairman of the Liberal Party, told Radio Chisinau that Moldova should have a new government in place by the end of August to avoid an early election. Parliament has until Sept. 12 to approve a new government after former Prime Minister Chiril Gaburici resigned June 12 amid a probe into the authenticity of his high school and university degrees.Full Article: Pro-European candidate calls for new govt to be formed - StarTribune.com.
Sri Lanka’s president dissolved parliament on Friday, a government spokesman said, in an effort to consolidate power and push through political reforms. Two government officials said elections will be held to elect a new parliament on 17 August. The president, Maithripala Sirisena, who was elected on 8 January, needs parliamentary support to push through reforms he has promised, including limits on the powers of the executive presidency. The timing of the parliamentary elections is also important. The United Nations Human Rights Council is expected to release a report in September on human rights abuses during the final phase of the war against the Tamil insurgency in 2009.Full Article: Sri Lanka’s president dissolves parliament, clearing way for early election | World news | The Guardian.
On the final day of the Supreme Court’s term on Monday, they will issue a ruling that could affect as many as one-third of congressional districts — possibly dramatically remaking the partisan makeup of the next Congress ahead of the 2016 elections. The case at hand, Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting, was brought by the Arizona legislature to try to be able to redraw their congressional districts. That task was instead given to an independent redistricting commission after a state referendum passed in 2000 in an effort to try to take political and partisan concerns out of the map-making process. But because other states also use similar commissions to redraw their congressional lines after each decennial reapportionment, states and districts far beyond the borders of Arizona could be affected.Full Article: One-Third Of Congressional Districts Could Be Affected By Supreme Court Ruling : It's All Politics : NPR.
Republican dominance of Arizona politics could be strengthened if the U.S. Supreme Court rules Monday that the state’s independent system for drawing congressional district boundaries is unconstitutional. The ruling is expected shortly after 7 a.m. Arizona time in what should be the court’s final public meeting of its current session. At issue is a state constitutional amendment passed by voters in 2000 as Proposition 106. It created the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, taking away the Legislature’s direct involvement in redrawing congressional boundaries every 10 years.Full Article: Supreme Court Rules Monday on Arizona Congressional Redistricting - Arizona Public Media.
Florida: New Okaloosa County voting equipment could cost as much as $1.2 million | Crestview News Bulletin
County taxpayers will soon have to buy as much as $1.2 million in new vote tabulators, software and related equipment. Though state law requires all voting be done by paper ballot by 2020, Okaloosa County Supervisor of Elections Paul Lux said he will ask the Board of County Commissioners to purchase new equipment this year. “The current equipment we’re using is 18 years old,” Lux said. “In the last election we had a noticeable failure of some of that equipment. The equipment has a lifetime of about 10-12 years. “It’s computerized. Are you still using the computer you bought in 1997?” Lux said.Full Article: New Okaloosa County voting equipment could cost as much as $1.2 million - Government - Crestview News Bulletin.
Gov. Chris Christie came out swinging Thursday evening against the so-called “Democracy Act,” the state Legislature’s latest effort to improve New Jersey’s dismal voter participation. The bill would, among other things, include automatic voter registration upon applying for a driver’s license. It was passed by the state Assembly on Thursday. State Senate Democrats hope to have it on Christie’s desk shortly. Speaking on his monthly radio show on New Jersey 101.5 FM, Christie was adamant: “I don’t think that people ought to be automatically registered to vote. … Is it really too much to ask to ask someone to fill out a form?”Full Article: Christie attacks N.J.'s 'Democracy Act' as DNC attempt to up voter fraud | NJ.com.
Federal and state lawsuits filed nearly two years ago challenging what’s in North Carolina’s election overhaul law are finally heading to trial starting next month. But unexpected moves on the way to the courthouse could break down arguments of plaintiffs seeking to overturn the law’s most high-profile component: a photo identification requirement to vote in person starting next year. Republicans who have defended robustly their 2013 law quickly passed through the General Assembly this month changes that could allow perhaps hundreds to vote in person without qualifying photo IDs.Full Article: Changes to NC voter ID rankle some, but could preserve law - Greensboro News & Record: North Carolina Ap.
Two years ago, North Carolina lawmakers approved one of the strictest — or worst, depending on your reading of events — voter identification laws in the nation. Last week, they sanded down some of the roughest edges of the law. Whether public pressure or the threat of legal action prompted the change, it is a good first step — but only one step — toward correcting a very bad piece of legislation. … Whatever the reasons, the new law addresses some of the obvious shortcomings of the old law. It lets voters present expired driver’s licenses at the polls. If prospective voters have no ID at all, they can sign an affidavit that says a “reasonable impediment” prevented them from getting one. Those eight statutory impediments include a lost or stolen ID, work or family responsibilities, disability or illness, lack of transportation or lack of a birth certificate or other documents needed to get a photo ID. To cast a provisional ballot on Election Day, voters would have to present their voting registration card or provide their birth date and last four digits of their Social Security number. If everything matches as it should — remember, instances of in-person voting fraud were essentially nil before all of these changes came down — local elections boards will have to count that vote.Full Article: Still not enough - Greensboro News & Record: N&R Editorials.
Virginia Republicans will hold a presidential primary next year, state party leaders decided Saturday, settling a long-contentious matter for now. The path was chosen on a secret ballot 42-39 vote of the party’s State Central Committee, with one abstention. Party members have clashed over the matter for years, with some favoring primaries to grow the party and others calling for conventions to nominate more conservative candidates. Saturday’s debate was hot, with one committee member saying she’d heard of people threatening to ruin people’s businesses if they didn’t vote the right way. There was a battle of parliamentary procedure and confusion over process in the early going.Full Article: Va. GOP goes with primary in 2016 - Daily Press.