The Supreme Court unanimously ruled on Monday that states may count all residents, whether or not they are eligible to vote, in drawing election districts. The decision was a major statement on the meaning of a fundamental principle of the American political system, that of “one person one vote.” “We hold, based on constitutional history, this court’s decisions and longstanding practice, that a state may draw its legislative districts based on total population,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for the court. As a practical matter, the ruling mostly helped Democrats and upheld the status quo. But until this decision, the court had never resolved whether voting districts should contain roughly the same number of people or the same number of eligible voters. Counting all people amplifies the voting power of places that have large numbers of residents who cannot vote legally — including immigrants who are here legally but are not citizens, illegal immigrants and children. Those places tend to be urban and to vote Democratic.
National: Conservative challenge to voting rights unanimously rejected by supreme court | The Guardian
The US supreme court on Monday unanimously rejected a conservative challenge to voting rights – ruling that states could count the total population, not just eligible voters, in drawing legislative districts. The case was brought before the court after conservative activists challenged the legal principle of “one person, one vote”, which has long established that election districts should be drawn to be equal in population. The two plaintiffs, both residents of Texas, argued the principle diluted the influence of those living in districts where a larger number of individuals were ineligible to vote. But shifting the method would most certainly lend greater power to states with wealthier populations with mostly white voters, and away from urban and more racially diverse areas. The lawsuit was opposed by the Obama administration, the state of Texas and civil rights groups across America.
National: How the Challenge to Legislative Redistricting in Evenwel v. Abbot Backfired | The Atlantic
If the Supreme Court were a stock market, the last few years have been as a bull market in conservative constitutional theories. With a tenuous but real 5-4 conservative majority in place, advocacy groups raced to get their pet theories before the Court. In some cases—campaign finance and gun rights, for example—the race paid off, producing 5-4 wins for radical shifts of doctrine. In others (think about public-employee unions) it has not. Bull markets tempt investors into unwise wagers. History, I suspect, will so regard the appellants in Evenwel v. Abbot, the “one-person-one-vote” (OPOV) case decided Monday. In Evenwel, the Court unanimously rejected an advocacy group’s invitation to throw American politics into turmoil, and in the process to shift power from immigrants to natives, from non-whites to whites, from young people to the aging, and, by coincidence, from the Democratic to the Republican Party. The needed votes, it now appears, were never there. The Court’s decision was unanimous; equally important, the majority opinion by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg attracted six of the Court’s eight justices, including Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy. Even more importantly, the six-justice majority not only decided against the conservative theory, it made it much harder for advocates to pursue the conservative theory in future cases.
It’s become an accepted truth of modern politics that Republican electoral prospects go up as the number of voters goes down. Conservatives have known this for a long time, which helps explain their intensifying efforts to make it harder to vote, or to eliminate large numbers of people from political representation entirely. On Monday, the Supreme Court unanimously rejected one of the more extreme attempts — a lawsuit from Texas that aimed to reverse longstanding practice and require that only eligible voters be counted in the drawing of state legislative districts.
Ever since the Supreme Court poked a hole in the Voting Rights Act, activists have been warning of devastating effects on average voters showing up at the polls. Last month they got their case in Arizona, where some voters said they waited in lines longer than five hours to vote in the primary elections after Maricopa County, one of the most sprawling in the country, cut its number of polling places from more than 400 in 2008 down to 60 this year. Other voters said they had their registration secretly changed without their knowledge, locking them out of the “closed” primary, in which voters had to have declared their affiliation in advance to be able to vote in either party’s contest. Supporters of Sen. Bernard Sanders alleged dirty tricks, saying the vast majority of secret switches were those who were changed from Democrat to independent. “We made some horrendous mistakes, and I apologize for that. I can’t go back and undo it. I wish that I could, but I cannot,” Helen Purcell, the Maricopa County recorder, told a state legislative investigation last week. “I can only say we felt we were using the best information that we had available to us.”
California: Supreme Court rejects voting-district challenge that would have weakened Los Angeles’ clout | Los Angeles Times
For the second time in two weeks, a conservative bid to shift the law to the right fizzled at the Supreme Court, when the justices on Monday upheld the current, widely-used method of counting every person—not just voters—when drawing election districts. The unanimous ruling rejected a constitutional claim that states and municipalities may count only eligible voters when dividing up districts. Had the court accepted such an interpretation, it would have shifted power away from cities with fast-growing communities of immigrants, including Los Angeles, Houston and Phoenix, and given more clout to suburban and rural areas. Doing so would have generally strengthened Republicans and undercut Democrats.
Utah Supreme Court justices poked at the Utah Republican Party’s interpretation of a controversial new state election law in a hearing Monday as hundreds of candidates work to get on the primary ballot. Though lawyers for the GOP, Utah Democratic Party or the state didn’t want to read the tea leaves afterward, questions from Justices Deno Himonas and Christine Durham might signal where the court is headed. Republican Party attorney Marcus Mumford argued that the state can’t tell political parties how to select their nominees for public office. “This statute doesn’t do that,” Durham said. Under the law, organizations that register with the state as a “qualified political party” — which the Utah Republican Party did — must allow candidates to gather petition signatures, go through the party’s convention or both to secure a place on the primary election ballot.
West Virginia doesn’t have a whole lot in common with Oregon or California. The Mountain State is nestled in Appalachia, while the Beaver and the Golden states are on the Pacific coast, and would take about 35 hours to reach if you drove nonstop from Charleston, W.Va. They have different industries, vastly different heritages and wildly different demographic makeups – California is one of the most diverse states in the country, while West Virginia is one of the least. They also diverge politically: President Obama only took 35 percent of the vote in West Virginia during his successful 2012 re-election bid, while comfortably winning California and Oregon by 60 percent and 54 percent, respectively. West Virginia will almost certainly remain red in this year’s presidential contest, while it would take a seismic shift of epic proportions for either Oregon or California to take on a reddish hue.
Bernie Sanders’ backers worry Scott Walker’s new voter ID law could give Hillary Clinton a boost in Wisconsin by keeping enthusiastic college students away from the polls. The law, which Walker signed in 2011 and is just now being fully implemented after the conclusion of a court battle, requires that voters show a state-issued photo ID at the polls—a hurdle that can be especially tough for college students who don’t have drivers’ licenses. Progressives have long held that the Republican legislature made these changes as part of an effort to depress the votes of African-Americans, college students, and other core Democratic constituencies. But progressives say that on Tuesday, one of the law’s top benefactors may be Hillary Clinton. That’s because of the unique challenges it makes for college kids, who vote overwhelmingly for Sanders. U.S. citizens who have lived in Wisconsin for at least 28 days are eligible to vote there—but the I.D. rules are especially tricky for college students who moved there from other states.
A referendum on whether to have four-year fixed parliamentary terms in Queensland has officially passed, with the state’s Electoral Commission (ECQ) declaring the vote. Of the 80 per cent of ballots counted, 51 per cent of voters favoured the change compared to 46 per cent who opposed it. The informal vote for the March 19 poll was 3 per cent. Legislation will be introduced to Queensland Parliament that will change the current three-year variable terms to a fixed date, the last Saturday of October, every four years.
Iceland’s prime minister is this week expected to face calls in parliament for a snap election after the Panama Papers revealed he is among several leading politicians around the world with links to secretive companies in offshore tax havens. The financial affairs of Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson and his wife have come under scrutiny because of details revealed in documents from a Panamanian law firm that helps clients protect their wealth in secretive offshore tax regimes. The files from Mossack Fonseca form the biggest ever data leak to journalists. Opposition leaders have this weekend been discussing a motion calling for a general election – in effect a confidence vote in the prime minister. On Monday, Gunnlaugsson is expected to face allegations from opponents that he has hidden a major financial conflict of interest from voters ever since he was elected an MP seven years ago.
The dividing lines of the referendum are clearly drawn. Supporters say a yes vote will deliver security and trade; opponents see a chance to wrest back control from the so-called undemocratic forces of Brussels. Accusations of lies and spin are batted around on both sides. Many voters are confused or indifferent. This is not Britain, but the Netherlands. On Wednesday the Dutch will take part in the other referendum that is sending shivers through the EU establishment, a vote that has exposed bitter rifts in attitudes towards Brussels – and Moscow. It is the country’s first referendum since 2005, when voters rejected the EU constitution. This time, unlike their British counterparts, the Dutch will not be voting on whether to leave or remain in the EU, but on the more obscure issue of an association agreement with Ukraine that aims to deepen trade and cooperation.
The Electoral Commission of South Africa has postponed all by-elections in the light of continued uncertainty regarding the validity of the voters’ roll where voters’ addresses are not in the possession of the Electoral Commission. The Commission on Monday said this also includes by-elections scheduled for 6 April 2016. “The Electoral Commission made the decision in the interest of free and fair elections following the recent order by the Electoral Court to postpone by-elections in Tlokwe scheduled for 24 February 2016,” the Commission said. The Electoral Commission on 23 February 2016 postponed all 12 by-elections scheduled for the following day in KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, North West and the Western Cape.
United Kingdom: Cameron’s purge of young voters from the electoral register could cost him the referendum | openDemocracy
David Cameron has spoken of his “fear” that Britain will vote to break with Brussels because of a low turnout. The Prime Minister’s sleep patterns will not have been helped then by Sunday’s Observer poll that put the Leave campaign ahead by 4 points. The poll also found that the group most supportive of remaining part of the EU are people in the 18-34 age group. Remain campaigns will say they have the future on their side. But as Freddie Sayers, YouGov’s editor-in-chief, says “the single most important driver of turnout is age.” And over 65s are more both more likely to be eurosceptic and more likely to vote. The Observer poll found 52 per cent of younger people were certain to vote, compared to 81 per cent of older voters. So Cameron now depends on the people least likely to have voted for his Conservative government to keep him in Downing Street. But crudely partisan attempts to make it more difficult for Labour and other left-wing parties to mobilise their supporters against the Conservatives may now come back to haunt him.