With their 247 seats in the House, the largest GOP majority since 1930, Republicans should have no problem pushing their agenda and agreeing upon a speaker to lead them. But here’s the rub: The Republicans are victims of their own success – gerrymandering success. Their commanding majority in the House is to some extent artificial. Only a few House Republicans represent districts where they hear divergent views, a situation that reinforces their mistaken belief that a majority of Americans agree with them and their agenda for the nation. A recent Pew Research Center survey showed more Americans believe the Democrats are better able to handle domestic policy issues and only 32% of Americans have a favorable view of the Republican Party. Another Pew poll showed that only 23% of Americans identify as Republicans. More than 40% of voter csonsider themselves independents, and when they are asked to say which party they lean toward more often and are included with strong partisans, only 39% of Americans say they favor GOP views versus 48% who agree with Democrats.
Editorials: The Supreme Court should seize the chance to strike down voter discrimination | Nina Perales/The Washington Post
Texas has a long history of voting discrimination against racial minorities. As Supreme Court rulings invalidated the Texas white primaries in 1944, the poll tax in 1966 and Texas’s system of multi-member state House districts in 1973, Texas turned to redistricting to dilute minority voting strength. The federal Voting Rights Act is the bulwark against unfair redistricting in Texas. Nationwide, the Voting Rights Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of race and, for certain jurisdictions with a history of voting discrimination (including Texas), until 2013 it required federal preapproval of voting-related changes. In every decade since the 1970s, courts or the U.S. Justice Department have relied on the Voting Rights Act to block one or more unjust statewide redistricting plans enacted in Texas.
Arizona’s Independent Redistricting Commission would expand to nine members from five if a ballot measure filed last week gets voter approval. The “5 to 9” committee, headed by former lawmaker Doug Quelland, would also limit any political party to three seats on the panel, as well as a three-seat limit on individuals not registered with a party. Currently, the commission is comprised of two Democrats, two Republicans and one independent. In the wake of controversy surrounding this decade’s redistricting commission, critics argued if the panel had more members there would be broader representation and less concentrated power in the chairman.
You can lead citizens to register, but can’t make them vote. Soon, every eligible Californian who passes through a Department of Motor Vehicles office will be registered to vote unless they explicitly decline, the product of legislation intended to reverse a downward spiral of voter participation rates. The effort could add millions of new voters to the rolls, reshaping the electorate and recalibrating how campaigns are conducted. But supporters acknowledge that the law will accomplish little unless those newly registered multitudes actually cast votes. Whether they avail themselves of that right will stand as the true test of Assembly Bill 1461’s ambitious aim of bringing disengaged and disaffected citizens into civic life. “There’s a lot of work left to be done,” said Mindy Romero, a UC Davis professor who studies voter engagement. “These are people who by definition are disconnected from the political process,” and now, “they need to be reached out to and mobilized.”
Confusion and controversy continued to swamp the redistricting discussions Wednesday as one Senate Republican leader said he had “lost confidence” in the legal team while the redistricting chairman selected a draft map that several lawmakers said could be rejected by the courts as incumbency protection. “I just don’t find any consistency in this. I think I’ve lost confidence,” said Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, after listening to answers from the Senate’s legal team during the second day of hearings on Senate redistricting. After the six-hour hearing, Senate Reapportionment Committee Chairman Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, filed a proposed map, S9084, that will serve as the Senate’s starting point Friday, when the committee attempts to vote out a map. It was similar to S9078, one of six draft maps drawn by House and Senate staff in advance of the redistricting session that began on Monday.
Of the 239 million American people who are of voting age, a little more than half—only about 142 million—were registered to vote in 2014. For people in the state of Kansas, their voter registration process is a bit more difficult in the lead up to this election season, thanks in part to the Secure and Fair Elections Act, also known as the SAFE Act. The law, sponsored by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, requires potential voters to provide proof of U.S. citizenship when registering. In all states, voting in federal elections is limited to U.S. citizens, but requirements for voting vary state by state. In the least restrictive states, like New Jersey, for instance, a signature verification is the only requirement for registration. Other states are stricter—Texas requires a government-issued photo ID like a driver’s license.
As we look back to the future this week, the problems of congressional and legislative redistricting are not new in Maryland, and potential solutions aren’t particularly new either. Maryland’s Constitutional Convention of 1967 dealt with the same issues Gov. Larry Hogan’s Redistricting Reform Commission is grappling with this week: what kind of group should draw the lines, who should serve on it, what standards for the districts should they follow and even whether all the members of the House of Delegates should serve in single-member districts. Maryland’s 1867 constitution was rewritten a hundred years later after a long-involved process by elected convention delegates much like the current General Assembly. But voters ultimately rejected the entire document which had political opposition on many fronts, including its proposal for single-member delegate districts.
Montana Secretary of State Linda McCulloch — the chief elections official for Montana — announced on Monday that she is directing all Montana counties with American Indian reservations to work with Tribal Governments to establish satellite election offices to increase access to voting and registration if required under the Federal Voting Rights Act. The directive builds on similar guidance issue by McCulloch in 2014. In a press release, McCulloch said, “I will continue to fight for access for American Indians and all eligible voters, as I have done for my entire career. Our vote is our voice and we need to work together to ensure equal access to the election process for all citizens, and especially those with a history of being denied equal access, such as our Tribal nations.”
The campaign to pass Issue 1 doesn’t have much money, and there have been reports of internal issues, but it does have wide-ranging support and no organized opposition. The AFL-CIO, Columbus Chamber of Commerce, Ohio Farm Bureau and Fraternal Order of Police of Ohio gathered on Tuesday to voice their support for the proposed constitutional amendment on legislative redistricting. “When trying to address pressing issues in our communities through the legislative process, the FOP has been stymied by partisan politics that result from the current gerrymandered districts,” said Gary Wolske, vice president of the FOP of Ohio. Issue 1 seeks to change Ohio’s hyper-partisan process for drawing legislative districts, in which the majority party gerrymanders the lines for its own benefit. The process leads to few competitive districts and a Statehouse that doesn’t necessarily reflect the political leanings of the voting public.
Wisconsin: Assembly approves splitting GAB into elections and ethics agencies | Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
Assembly Republicans on Wednesday approved legislation to loosen campaign finance restrictions and to split the state ethics and elections agency in two, but the measures face an uncertain future in the GOP Senate. Democrats declined to vote on the campaign finance legislation, contending lawmakers were ethically prohibited from taking up a measure that would help their campaigns. Republicans dismissed the Democrats’ refusal to vote as a stunt, and the bill passed 61-0. On a nearly party-line 58-39 vote, the Assembly voted to disband the state Government Accountability Board and replace it with an elections commission and an ethics commission. The accountability board consists of six former judges, while the new commissions would each be made up equally of Democrats and Republicans selected by the state’s most powerful politicians. The bills next go to the Senate, but Republicans who control that house don’t yet have the votes to approve them, lawmakers said.
Wisconsin: Kennedy, Local Clerks Reject Plan To Dismantle Government Accountability Board | Wisconsin Public Radio
The leader of the Government Accountability Board and some municipal election clerks spoke out on Tuesday against a Republican-backed bill designed to eliminate the agency. State lawmakers want the GAB, a nonpartisan board that now oversees elections and ethics in Wisconsin, split up into two separate commissions dealing with ethics and elections and made up of political appointees. Legislators were taking up a bill to do that on Wednesday. Under the proposal, six retired judges would be replaced with partisan appointees. GAB executive director Kevin Kennedy would also be gone.
Local observing organisations issued a report stating that the elections saw some violations mostly involving the buying of votes and voters being unable to cast ballots for various reasons. The report came on Tuesday after Egyptians in 14 governorates cast their votes in the first phase of the parliamentary elections on Sunday and Monday. The cabinet’s control room, which was formed to observe the electoral process, said that during the second day they received 15 complaints and found 31 violations. The main violations include the arrest of two men who attempted to vote with IDs that did not belong to them, MENA reported.
Egypt’s ongoing parliamentary elections – farcical in every sense, with a turnout so far of only 2 percent – are further proof that Egypt is witnessing the solidification of a quasi-authoritarian system of government, not a democratic revival. Most of Egypt’s new parliamentarians will be wealthy, elite, sympathetic to the nation’s current military president, and vehemently opposed to the Muslim Brotherhood, which governed Egypt during a brief democratic transition in 2012 and 2013. In short, this will be a rubber stamp parliament, one that will serve as a tool for – rather than a check against – Egypt’s current president, Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi. Al-Sisi recently passed a new election law that effectively cancels out the influence of Egypt’s political parties. According to the law, nearly 80 percent of parliamentary seats will be allotted to individuals. This individual system, which helped Egypt’s former dictator Hosni Mubarak consolidate power in the 1980s and 1990s, privileges wealthy elites with ties to the Egyptian establishment, of which Al-Sisi is a card-carrying member.
Róbert Berény in the background. That particular painting had been missing since 1928 and was worth ar
When Myanmar votes next month in what has been billed as its first free and fair election in 25 years, Tun Lin, and around 4 million of his fellow citizens, won’t be taking part. Most, like the 33-year-old fisherman, are working overseas and have been unable to register, but voter lists riddled with errors and the cancellation of polling in areas affected by ethnic violence could also dent the credibility of the election. “I think that the government is not doing what it needs to do to make sure that all Burmese citizens are able to vote everywhere they are,” said Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division. “These people are largely going to be disenfranchised because the system doesn’t encourage their participation.”
Poland’s general election on Sunday may propel a new nationalist-minded government into European politics, deepening divisions over the migration crisis and straining relations with Berlin, Brussels and Moscow. The Eurosceptic Law and Justice party (PiS), led by former prime minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, has toned down its anti-EU rhetoric since its first time in power in 2005-07, but diplomats in Brussels are worried that EU decision-making may soon be obstructed by a returning member of the awkward squad. The staunchly conservative Kaczynski has nominated a less combative politician, Beata Szydlo, to be prime minister to lure disgruntled voters of the outgoing pro-European government. But his deep distrust of big European powers, particularly Germany, remains intact and analysts say he is still expected to pull the strings.
Since Petro Poroshenko assumed the presidency of Ukraine, the majority of discussions about the future of Ukrainian democracy have been consumed by external factors. This has been for good reason. Russian troops invaded, then annexed Crimea in early 2014; at the same time, Russia initiated another war front in eastern Ukraine, which claimed over 6,000 thousand lives and has displaced over one million Ukrainians. In addition to a severe human cost, the Russian war carried a huge economic cost by bringing to a halt various industrial enterprises in the Donbas region. However, the political fate of the country is equally dependent on internal factors particularly the improvement of procedural democracy. Ukrainian local elections, scheduled for October 25th 2015, are another important step for the development of Ukraine’s democratic politics. First, local elections will be held according to their regular five-year election cycle; the elections are an important step in the decentralisation process being discussed by President Poroshenko. Second, they will be conducted according to a new set of electoral laws that look to increase representativeness and strengthen the role of political parties. However, this latest round of elections is unlikely to introduce higher levels of transparency into the electoral process or bolster the role or function of political parties in Ukraine.