Buoyed by a Supreme Court ruling, opponents of gerrymandering want to get more state legislatures out of the business of drawing congressional districts. So it’s worth examining the performance of the independent redistricting commissions validated by the court on Monday. Arizona, via a ballot initiative in 2000, was one of the first states to entrust congressional boundaries to an independent commission, and California followed suit in 2010. Four other states have their congressional districts drawn by independent panels in an effort to make the process less partisan and yield more competitive districts. But those commissions were formed by their respective state legislatures and were not affected by Monday’s ruling.
Twenty-four hours after giving constitutional backing for Arizona’s use of an independent commission to draw new election district maps for its members of Congress, the Supreme Court on Tuesday took on a case complaining that the same state agency wrongly used race and partisanship in crafting state legislative district boundaries. This was one of five new cases in which the Court granted review in the final round of regular orders before the Justices began their summer recess. Other cases dealt with public employee unionism, states’ immunity from lawsuits in other states’ courts, federal courts’ authority to hear securities cases based on state law, and Indian tribes’ rights in contracting with the federal government over public services for tribal members. All will be heard in the new Term starting in October.
The Supreme Court said Tuesday it would take another look at an independent panel that draws Arizona’s electoral maps, a day after the court ruled states can use such commissions for redistricting. The high court’s Monday decision, which came on a 5-4 vote, focused on allowing states to use commissions to draw district boundaries for federal elections. The new case examines whether Arizona’s panel violated the law in how it set boundaries for state races beginning in 2012. A group of state voters brought the challenge, arguing the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission created districts with varying numbers of voters that diluted the power of Republican districts in favor of Democrats.
A monitor will oversee city elections through 2017, including the upcoming mayoral and city council primaries. Funding for the election monitor was included in a budget implementation bill approved Monday by the Senate and early Tuesday by the House in a special session. It was signed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on Tuesday. The bill calls for a monitor to “detect and prevent irregularity” in Hartford’s management of elections. State Rep. Matthew Ritter, D-Hartford, advocated for the funding after problems occurred in the November 2014 election that caused some Hartford polling places to open late.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach will officially have the power to prosecute voter fraud starting Wednesday. The power was granted to him through a bill signed into law by Gov. Sam Brownback in early June. Kobach has been a staunch advocate of strict voting laws, including Kansas’ controversial proof-of-citizenship requirements on state voter registration forms.
Massachusetts has launched a new voter registration system. People can now go online to sign up to vote, change their address for voting purposes, and switch party affiliation. Massachusetts is the 21st state to offer online voter registration, a system Secretary of State William Galvin, the state’s top election official, said will remove one more administrative impediment to registering to vote. The new system is available now to help people register for the first time, and allow people who have moved since the last general election to update their voter registration information.
Michigan: Supreme Court opens the door for independent redistricting, but it’s an unlikely idea for Michigan | MLive.com
The United States Supreme Court may have breathed new life into a quest for Michigan Democrats to change how districts are drawn. In a 5-4 decision Monday, the Supreme Court Justices ruled the independent redistricting commission created by Arizona voters in 2000 is legal. That commission takes power to draw district lines — creating the areas lawmakers represent — from the Arizona Legislature. Supporters say this limits partisan gerrymandering — the process of drawing electoral boundaries to the gain of one political party — while critics say it takes power away from state lawmakers who were assigned the task by the U.S. Constitution.
North Carolina: Supreme court decision may clear way for bi-partisan support for redistricting commission | Winston-Salem Journal
North Carolina – at least for now – is not likely to feel a ripple effect from Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding Arizona’s right to have an independent commission handle congressional redistricting. The court ruling affected 13 states – none in the Southeast – that use commissions as part of their congressional redistricting process every 10 years. The goal of the commissions is limiting partisan influence. By comparison, North Carolina redistricting is handled by the General Assembly, which has received criticism for being partisan in developing map lines, depending on which party controls the legislature.
A federal trial next month on several provisions of North Carolina’s 2013 elections law won’t consider challenges to the state’s upcoming voter identification requirement in light of recent changes to the mandate, a judge has ruled. U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Schroeder decided that claims against the photo ID provision set to begin in 2016 will be kept out of the July 13 trial in Winston-Salem and considered later. Schroeder’s order came barely a week after the legislature finalized a bill creating a method by which people who can’t obtain a photo ID before next year can cast a lawful ballot.
The state Democratic Party said it must abandon its traditional – but sometimes complex and confusing – primary process called the Texas Two-Step. The national party rejected the Texas plan last Friday, leaving state party leadership to revise the process in favor of a straightforward vote. The Texas primary next year falls on March 1 and is part of the Super Tuesday balloting, in which Texas will have the largest treasure trove of delegates among the 12 states voting.
The head of Fairfax County’s busy elections office is stepping down after four years of low employee morale and external criticism of a department that manages registration and ballots for an electorate of 700,000 voters. Cameron Quinn, whose four-year term expires Wednesday, submitted a letter to the county’s Electoral Board on Monday evening asking that she not be reappointed. Quinn, who took over Virginia’s busiest elections office in 2011, cited health problems and the stress of overseeing an office that coordinates elections in 241 precincts — pressure that is bound to increase during the 2016 presidential elections.
Gov. Scott Walker has signed a bill that revamps Wisconsin’s election recount fee structure. Currently recounts are free if the margin is less than 10 votes with fewer than 1,000 votes cast or less than half-a-percent in larger elections. Requesters pay $5 per ward if the margin is 10 votes in smaller elections or falls between half-a-percent and 2 percent in bigger contests. Requesters pay full costs if it’s greater than 2 percent.
Burundi: Votes counted in Burundi as Nkurunzia party eyes controversial win, and 10,000 flee country over the weekend | AFP
Burundi election officials finished vote-counting on Tuesday, a day after internationally condemned polls boycotted by the opposition, with the ruling party expected to win a sweeping victory. “The counting is completed in all the polling stations throughout Burundi,” election commission spokesman Prosper Ntahorwamiye told AFP, with those votes now being collated and taken to larger centres for final tallies before results can be announced. Voting on Monday was marked by grenade attacks, with the election commission claiming an “enormous” turnout despite many polling stations remaining quiet.
Wednesday’s clashes took place in the city’s Cibitoke district, a center of opposition protest against President Pierre Nkurunziza and his disputed bid for a third term on July 15. Police said five of those killed Wednesday were “criminals.” Residents said police shot persons who had “their hands in the air” during house-to-house searches. Polices spokesman Pierre Nkurikiye said “many, many” guns and grenades had been seized. Four other people had been arrested.
Canada: Groups seek court order to ease new voter ID rules for fall federal election | Winnipeg Free Press
A left-leaning advocacy organization and a national student group will be in Ontario Superior Court on Thursday and Friday hoping to relax voter identification rules for the looming federal election. The court factum prepared by the Council of Canadians and the Canadian Federation of Students argues that tens of thousands or more of eligible voters will be denied a ballot this October due to changes enacted last year by the Conservative government. The groups want the court to issue an interim injunction allowing Elections Canada to recognize as valid ID the voter identification cards that are mailed to everyone on the voters’ list.
Greece: Referendum Not in Line With European Standards, Council of Europe Says | Wall Street Journal
Greece’s referendum on the terms for an international bailout came under fresh scrutiny on Wednesday, after Europe’s rights watchdog said it didn’t meet European standards and journalists spotted a mistake in the translation of one of the documents at the center of the vote. “The referendum has been called on such a short notice that this in itself is a major problem,” Thorbjorn Jagland, the secretary-general of the Council of Europe, said in an interview with the Associated Press. The comments were confirmed by Mr. Jagland’s spokesman, Daniel Höltgen. The warning doesn’t have any legal consequences and doesn’t provide a basis for a legal challenge in the Council’s court, the European Court of Human Rights. But it raises further doubts over the vote, which was already been questioned by European politicians and Greek opposition leaders.
Russia’s Constitutional Court has upheld the legality of early parliamentary elections, clearing the way for lawmakers to vote on bringing forward next year’s State Duma elections by three months. The court said the initiative was constitutional so long as election dates were not regularly shifted. The effort to bring forward the 2016 elections, from December to September 18, is expected to come to a vote on July 3. The bill has strong backing from deputies for the United Russia, A Just Russia, and ultranationalist Liberal Democratic parties.