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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.