The Supreme Court may have knocked out the best-known challenge to existing congressional districts in a number of states on Monday, but maps still remain in flux for 2016 in three important, large battleground states: Florida, North Carolina and Virginia. Continued redistricting litigation — spearheaded mostly by Democrats, who were in the legislative minority in the three states after the 2010 Census, and their allies — involves 51 of the nation’s 435 congressional districts and could allow Democrats to make a dent in the GOP’s near-historic House majority in next year’s elections.
It wasn’t the biggest headline-grabber in a week full of pivotal U.S. Supreme Court rulings, but an order issued by the court handed a victory to voting rights advocates who have been battling suppressive state-imposed laws as next year’s presidential election draws near. In an unsigned order, the justices on Monday declined to review a lower court ruling barring Kansas and Arizona from requiring proof of citizenship on federal voter registration forms. The states can still impose the requirement on state-based voting forms, but they can’t force the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to do the same on registration forms for presidential and congressional elections in those states.
Just one day after it said the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission was legal, the Supreme Court on Tuesday said it will hear a challenge to the commission’s Statehouse district plans. The court agreed to hear a case brought by more than a dozen Arizona voters who accused the commission in 2012 of improperly drawing legislative district boundaries to favor Democrats. Specifically, the suit claims the commission “underpopulated” liberal-leaning districts while packing voters into GOP-leaning districts. That diluted votes in the “overpopulated” Republican districts, violating the one-person, one-vote rule, the lawsuit said. A lower court disagreed, but the Supreme Court said Tuesday it will review that decision after it reconvenes this fall.
California: Why the Supreme Court’s redistricting decision matters for California | Los Angeles Times
In one of its final decisions this term, the Supreme Court on Monday upheld the legality of Arizona’s citizen redistricting commission, which is responsible for redrawing congressional and legislative district lines. The case was closely watched by legal and political experts in California, some of whom feared that if the Arizona commission was struck down, California’s could be endangered, too. … Much like Arizona, California approved a ballot measure in 2010 that shifted redistricting authority for congressional seats from the state Legislature to an independent commission. Two years earlier, voters had created the panel, the California Citizens Redistricting Commission, and given it the job of determining state legislative boundaries. If the court had ruled differently, the authority of California’s own redistricting commission would have come under question.
When the U.S. Supreme Court opted Monday not to decide whether the federal voter-registration form must account for Kansas and Arizona laws requiring proof of citizenship, it was another major legal defeat for Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. Too bad the move, though welcome, won’t do much for voter participation in Kansas. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled last November that the U.S. Election Assistance Commission need not require would-be Kansas and Arizona voters using the federal registration form to provide proof of U.S. citizenship, as per the two states’ laws. The federal form only asks applicants to swear they are citizens. Ruling that the states “have not provided substantial evidence of noncitizens registering to vote using the federal form,” the appeals court had overturned a decision by Wichita-based U.S. District Court Judge Eric Melgren siding with Kansas and Arizona.
Ohio: U.S. Supreme Court ruling clears the way for Ohio congressional redistricting reform | Cleveland Plain Dealer
Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of Arizona’s redistricting commission means Ohio could act quickly to reform its process for drawing congressional district maps. Late last year, Ohio lawmakers passed revisions to the state legislative redistricting process with large bipartisan support in both chambers. Ohio Republicans then cited the Arizona case as the main reason for not also reforming the congressional redistricting process. Despite Monday’s decision, Ohio voters likely won’t vote on a congressional plan in November, when they will be asked to approve the revised state legislative redistricting process. Lawmakers plan to recess for the summer this week and don’t plan to return before the August deadline to put an issue on the November ballot.
South Dakota voters successfully referred two statewide laws passed by the Legislature earlier this year, meaning the laws will not go into effect until voters decide their fate in November 2016. The two laws would have become effective at midnight. One, Senate Bill 69, would have revamped a number of election-related matters and the other, Senate Bill 177, established a youth minimum wage that was one dollar less per hour than the minimum wage established by voters in the 2014 election. Corey Heidelberger, an Aberdeen-based political activist, sponsored both ballot drives. The state Democrats, which have found repeated success with statewide ballot measures, provided manpower to secure the 13,871 signatures needed to qualify for the ballot.
The Government Accountability Board is reaching out to inactive voters as it tries to clean up the state’s voter registration roll. Postcards are being mailed out to nearly 100,000 inactive registered voters in Wisconsin. “State law says that after every major November election you have to look back and see who didn’t vote in the last four years and then you have to contact them like we do with this postcard,” says Reid Magney with the GAB.
The parliament of Belarus decided Tuesday to set the next presidential election for Oct. 11, about a month earlier than originally planned. The decision intensified a debate among opposition parties on whether to put forward candidates for an election all but certain to be won by Alexander Lukashenko, who has ruled the former Soviet republic with an iron grip since 1994.
Burundians voted for a new parliament on Monday after a night of sporadic blasts and gunshots and weeks of violent protests against President Pierre Nkurunziza’s attempt to win a third term in office. Voting appeared slow in several districts for an election boycotted by the opposition and condemned by the international community as lacking the conditions to ensure it was fair. “We don’t see many people,” one diplomat said. The European Union, a major donor to the aid-reliant country, threatened on Monday to withhold more funds after Burundi ignored U.N. and African calls for a postponement of the parliamentary vote and a presidential election on July 15. In Washington, State Department Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner said there were “woefully inadequate conditions for free and fair elections” in Burundi and said the United States was “deeply disappointed” in the decision to go ahead with the vote.
Some seven months after Hong Kong police forcibly cleared pro-democracy street protesters from the streets, tens of thousands of people are expected to rally for free elections on Wednesday as the city marks the 18th anniversary of its return to China. A morning flag-raising ceremony will be attended by China’s most senior official in Hong Kong, Zhang Xiaoming, who said this week the city should shift its focus from political reform and concentrate instead on economic development. Thousands of police will be on standby for the annual march marking the 1997 handover from Britain to China, media said, as tensions remain high following clashes over the weekend between pro-democracy activists and supporters of the central government in Beijing.
In Greece’s July 5 referendum, as currently planned, voters will be asked to vote “no” or “yes” on a convoluted question about the country’s creditors’ conditions for further bailout aid. How voters make sense of the ballot question could be decisive in determining the outcome. The referendum campaign so far is largely a contest to define the meaning of the question. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his leftwing Syriza party are seeking to convince Greeks that a “no” to creditors’ proposals would safeguard national dignity and strengthen Athens’s bargaining position for the next round of negotiations, without triggering an exit from the euro.