It’s a good bet that recent court rulings on redistricting will embolden residents in other states to emulate Florida, Arizona, and California in adopting oversight measures and rules for redistricting or creating independent commissions to oversee the process. A Florida Supreme Court ruling last week ordering parts of the state’s congressional map to be redrawn affirmed the idea that, left unchecked, state legislatures will create uncompetitive districts and need oversight if the job is not to be taken away. The 5-2 ruling said that the state’s congressional map violates anti-gerrymandering provisions in Florida’s constitution by unfairly favoring Republicans and incumbent lawmakers. Not two weeks earlier, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of an independent redistricting commission, established by Arizona voters in 2000 through the ballot-initiative process.
With the release of The Future of Voting: End-to-End Verifiable Internet Voting Specification and Feasibility Assessment Study by US Vote Foundation, a new reference has been established for the security, usability and transparency requirements essential to the US in any consideration of Internet voting for public elections. Developed by a team of the nation´s leading experts in election integrity, election administration, high-assurance systems engineering, and cryptography, the report starts from the premise that public elections in the US are a matter of national security. The authors assert that Internet voting systems must be transparent and designed to run in a manner that embraces the constructs of end-to-end verifiability — a property missing from existing Internet voting systems.
Florida: The cost to taxpayers for failed redistricting maps? $8.1 million, and counting | Miami Herald
According to the latest tally by the Florida House and Senate, the cost to taxpayers for the Legislature’s defense of the redistricting maps that the Florida Supreme Court ruled invalid last week is $8.1 million. With a trial scheduled to begin in September over the challenge from Democrat-leaning voter groups to the state Senate map, the cost to the taxpayers is mounting. The House, which doesn’t face a legal challenge to its own maps, has spent the most — $4.2 million, through July 10. The Senate has spent $3.9 million — so far. What could that money be used for had lawmakers not relied on political operatives and illegally created a map with the intent to protect incumbents? It would be enough to pay $10,000 bonuses to 810 high-performing teachers. It’s enough to pay the average hospital stay for 4,050 uninsured. It’s even enough to expand the tax free back-to-school holiday another day.
Twice, Florida courts have rejected the Legislature’s attempts to redraw the map for congressional districts, saying that Republicans in power rigged the results to their advantage. This, after Florida voters overwhelmingly passed two amendments in 2010 aimed at keeping politics out of the process. Now, finally, can we get a nonpartisan independent commission to do what the politicians obviously can’t? On Thursday, the Florida Supreme Court upheld a circuit court’s finding that political operatives had worked behind the scenes to “taint” the state’s redistricting process with “improper partisan intent.” But the high court said Leon County Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis didn’t go far enough last summer when he ordered that two congressional districts be redrawn. Instead, the Supreme Court threw out eight districts that the Legislature drew up in 2012 — and gave the lawmakers just 100 days to create a new map of congressional districts, one that makes a decisive break with the state’s long history of partisan political gerrymandering.
Even as Gov. Bruce Rauner pushes for legislators to authorize a new way of drawing the state’s political map, a citizen-driven initiative is underway. As part of the bargain Rauner is trying to make with Democrats, he wants the legislature to agree to give up control for drawing district boundaries. Cindi Canary isn’t waiting around. “I don’t think that there is any chance that this will go through the legislature,” Canary said. “Our effort was established independently, before he jumped into this. And our thinking is that it has to be bipartisan, citizen’s effort to actually get this on the ballot and get people to vote on it.” Canary recently took over as head of the Independent Map Amendment coalition, which is a privately-funded effort to take map-drawing out of politicians’ hands, and give control to a commission.
Montana: New panel to consider redrawing Montana’s judicial districts for first time since 1929 | Associated Press
A newly appointed panel will consider whether to redraw Montana’s judicial districts for the first time in more than 80 years. Legislative leaders, Montana’s chief justice and other legal institutions picked the seven members of the Judicial Redistricting Commission ahead of a July 31 deadline. Montana has 22 judicial districts. They have been split, but not redrawn, since 1929. A state Supreme Court review last year identified major discrepancies in judges’ workloads from one district to another. Overall, the review found Montana’s 46 district court judges and four standing masters are meeting the caseload and travel demands of more than 65 people.
North Carolina: Sides Dispute Basis of North Carolina Voting Laws as Trial Contesting Them Opens | The New York Times
A trial over North Carolina’s voting laws opened in a federal courtroom here on Monday, with civil rights groups and the Justice Department arguing that the state had turned back the clock with sweeping changes to its election laws, while the state said the revisions applied equally to all and left its voting rules well within the national mainstream. “The history of North Carolina is not on trial here,” said Butch Bowers, a lawyer representing Gov. Pat McCrory, in an opening statement. “We will show that there is no discrimination, intentional or otherwise.” The plaintiffs in the case said the legislation, enacted in 2013, was deliberately drafted to reduce voting by African-Americans. They say the legacy of past racism in North Carolina, including the social and economic disparities between black and white citizens, is deeply relevant.
North Carolina: Voting rights trial in North Carolina begins: ‘This is our Selma’ | Los Angeles Times
Lawyers in North Carolina sparred over whether the state illegally weakened minorities’ strength at the polls during what is expected to become a significant test of the voting rights laws. The proceedings, which began in a Winston-Salem federal courtroom Monday, are expected to last several weeks. North Carolina argues that the changes were needed to protect the voting process from fraud. Civil rights activists, with the support of the U.S. Department of Justice, maintain that the law was designed to dilute the power of African Americans and Latinos in the GOP-controlled state. The case is one of several coming after a 2013 U.S. Supreme Court decision invalidated provisions of the federal Voting Rights Act that gave the Department of Justice final say over voting in areas with histories of racial discrimination. The 1965 law was considered a civil rights landmark by helping to ensure minority participation in a political process controlled by the white ruling structure that had evolved from legal segregation in the South.
Key Assembly Republicans renewed their call Friday for overhauling the state’s elections and ethics board after The Wall Street Journal reported the agency had been in touch with the Internal Revenue Service as it investigated conservative groups. “Nothing should be more important than free speech and it’s outrageous that there’s a coordinated effort to undermine this basic constitutional right,” said a joint statement issued by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and Rep. Dean Knudson (R-Hudson). “Now that the state budget is complete, it’s time to double down on finalizing the necessary reforms for the (Government Accountability Board) so the bill can be ready for consideration this fall. Those reforms will include a means to change the way the GAB operates. The agency leadership needs to be accountable to the GAB board and the board needs to be accountable to the Legislature and the citizens of Wisconsin.”
Australia: Tony Abbott lines up double-dissolution election over workplace relations | Australian Financial Review
The Abbott government plans to give itself the option of calling a double-dissolution election based on trade union corruption when Parliament resumes in mid-August. Banking on its Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption inflicting reputational damage on Labor leader Bill Shorten, the government will use the resumption of Parliament to put two bills before the Senate that seek to curb union excess. The bills would restore the powers of the Australian Building and Construction Commission, which were diluted by the previous Labor government, and subject corrupt officials of unions and employers’ groups to the same penalties that apply to corrupt business executives.
Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza may find an election victory he is assured of this month swiftly overshadowed by the emergence of an armed insurgency in a nation at the heart of one of Africa’s most combustible regions. After weeks of protests against the president’s bid for a third term, a general involved in a failed coup says he is mobilizing troops, grenade attacks echo round the capital and armed clashes have erupted in the north of a nation still scarred by civil war. “We are heading for trouble,” said one senior Western diplomat, warning of a “slide back into a low-level conflict” after ethnically charged fighting ended just a decade ago. Opponents say another five-year term is unconstitutional and are boycotting the July 21 vote, thereby assuring Nkurunziza of victory. Western donors and African neighbors have urged him to step aside. Yet the rebel-turned-president has shrugged off the pressure, citing a court ruling saying he can run again.
Myanmar has set November 8 as the date for a landmark general election, the country’s election commission said. The vote will be the first to be held under the country’s military-backed, quasi-civilian government, which has been pushing through expansive political and economic reforms since 2011, bringing the country out of decades of authoritarian rule and international isolation. It is expected to be the freest, fairest vote seen in the country, also known as Burma, since 1990, when the first multi-party election in decades was held. That election was won convincingly by Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD), but the country’s ruling military junta refused to recognize the results.
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has approved the awarding to Smartmatic-Total Information Management (TIM) of the contract to lease 23,000 optical mark reader (OMR) machines for the 2016 polls. In Resolution No. 2015-004, the Comelec Special Bids and Awards Committee -1 (SBAC-1) has recommended the issuance of the “Notice of Award” to the joint venture for its bid offer of more than P1.7 billion. “SBAC-1 resolves to recommend to the head of the procuring entity the issuance of the Notice of Award (to the joint venture) as the bidder with the lowest calculated responsive bid for the lease with option to purchase of election management system and precinct-based OMR or optical scan system,” the committee said. The project has an approved budget of P2.5 billion, but Smartmatic-TIM’s bid offer was only P1.72 billion.
Sri Lanka’s political parties intend to contest the parliamentary elections next month submitted their lists of candidates for the fray today to the relevant district secretaries. Acceptance of nominations for the General Election scheduled to be held on 17 August 2015, ended today at 12.00 noon, the Elections Department announced. The nomination list of the government party, United National Party (UNP), which formed a common front yesterday with several other political parties against the former Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa, included UPFA members Minister Champika Ranawaka and Western Provincial Councilor Hirunika Premachandra.