Whether they meant to or not, the three federal judges overseeing the state’s redistricting litigation have already decided the maps are legal enough for three general elections. But they have never finally resolved all of the challenges initially made to Texas’ political maps back in May 2011, when lawyers who believe the maps are discriminatory and unfair went to court seeking a remedy. That’s what the courts are for, after all — to protect one party from harming another party. Or maybe that’s to protect one political party from harming another political party. The three-judge panel in charge of the case appears to be stuck; they have not acted since a hearing in 2014. And now that another election has passed, those lawyers ended 2016 with a new plea, asking the judges to wrap up their work by mid-month. In their filing last week, the lawyers wrote that they hope to get a ruling in time to finish this court fight before another federal census is done and another set of maps has been drawn by a Legislature that might have been elected using unfair political lines.
National: Blue-state lawmakers want to keep Trump off 2020 ballot unless he releases tax returns | The Washington Post
Lawmakers in several deep-blue states want to require presidential candidates to release their tax returns in order to appear on the ballot in those states, a sharp rebuke of President-elect Donald Trump’s ongoing refusal to make his tax records public. A pair of Maryland Democrats on Tuesday announced they would introduce a bill mandating the release of five years of tax returns, mirroring similar proposals in New York, Massachusetts, California and Maine. If approved, the proposals could keep Trump from appearing on some ballots in 2020 if he continues breaking with the decades-long tradition of financial transparency and decides to seek a second term. U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) in May introduced a federal bill requiring major-party candidates to release their returns, but that legislation didn’t advance in the Republican-controlled Congress.
A group of bipartisan senators is preparing a bill that would offer sanctions against Russia, lawmakers confirmed as the Senate convened a new session of Congress on Tuesday. Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters on Capitol Hill on Tuesday that he was working on the bill with a “broad group” of bipartisan senators. He said he hoped the bill would be released this week. “It will be a comprehensive bill that will provide congressional authorization for additional sanctions against Russia,” Cardin said.
How do you prove Russia meddled with the presidential election? That’s a question the U.S. government is facing, but may never fully answer, at least not publicly. Last week, the U.S. punished Russia, claiming the country’s cyberspies hacked Democratic groups and figures during the election season. However, missing from last week’s announcement was any new evidence — or a smoking gun — proving the Kremlin’s involvement. This isn’t sitting well with everyone in the security industry, especially since identifying the culprit of any cyberattack is no easy matter. “Maybe Russia did do it, but until we have sufficient evidence, it’s a mistake to move forward,” said Jeffrey Carr, a cybersecurity consultant. Carr isn’t the only skeptic. Incoming President Donald Trump has also been doubtful over Russia’s suspected role in the cyber-meddling. “Unless you catch ‘hackers’ in the act, it is very hard to determine who was doing the hacking,” tweeted Trump, who’s compared the problem to the U.S. incorrectly concluding that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction over a decade ago. Nevertheless, the outgoing administration of President Barack Obama remains convinced that the Kremlin directed the high-profile hacks in an effort to sway public opinion in the run-up to the election.
Alabama: N.A.A.C.P. President Arrested During Sit-In at Office of Jeff Sessions | The New York Times
Protesters from the N.A.A.C.P., including its national president, were arrested on Tuesday after an hourslong sit-in at the Mobile, Ala., office of Senator Jeff Sessions, where they demanded that he withdraw his name from consideration as President-elect Donald J. Trump’s attorney general. Almost two dozen civil rights activists occupied the office around 11 a.m. to denounce what they called the senator’s “hostile” attitude toward civil rights and the Voting Rights Act, which was weakened by a Supreme Court decision in 2013. The sit-in ended shortly after 6:30 p.m. when the protesters refused an order from the building’s management to leave the premises. It was not immediately clear how many people had been arrested, but a live-stream broadcast on Facebook by Lee Hedgepeth, a local journalist, showed at least six people agreeing to be arrested and kneeling before the police in prayer.
District of Columbia: Republican-led Congress denies D.C. delegate a vote. Again. | The Washington Post
On the first day of the 115th Congress, members buzzed Tuesday about the repeal of President Obama’s health-care law, tax reform and whether to gut the ethics office. All Eleanor Holmes Norton wanted to discuss was a vote. And a symbolic one at that. For the fourth consecutive session, Norton (D), the nonvoting D.C. representative, formally asked the speaker of the House for the ability to vote on amendments and procedural issues. Again, she was thwarted. This time, she brought D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) and a veterans advocate with her. Norton pushed for a vote in the Committee of the Whole as “a down payment on full voting rights for the more than 680,000 American citizens residing in the District of Columbia, who pay the highest federal income taxes per capita in the United States and have fought and died in every American war, yet have no vote on the floor of the House of Representatives, ‘the people’s house,’ ” she said.
Georgia Democrats hoping to prevent Republicans from controlling the 2020 redistricting process have pre-filed legislation that would remove the power of reapportionment from the General Assembly. Instead, under a bill authored by state Sen. Pat Gardner of Atlanta, reapportionment would be handled by an independent bipartisan commission. Congressional and statewide House and Senate districts are redrawn every 10 years based on new U.S. Census numbers. The majority political party in the legislature controls the redistricting process, and Republicans have held large majorities under Georgia’s gold dome for more than a decade.
North Carolina: Justice Roberts Sets New Filing Deadline In North Carolina Racial Gerrymandering Case | TPM
Chief Justice John Roberts requested on Tuesday that a response be filed to an emergency request by North Carolina late last month that the 2017 special elections ordered by a federal court be put off as the case that prompted them — a major racial gerrymandering lawsuit — is appealed. The move Tuesday was a fairly minor procedural move by Roberts, who oversees the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals where North Carolina resides, but the emergency request suggests an attempt to put off special elections where Republicans risk losing seats with the redrawn districts. The state officials’ legal moves are also part of a series of last-ditch efforts by North Carolina Republicans to undermine incoming Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.
Wisconsin: Jill Stein: $1.5 million refund could pay for new voter advocacy group | Wisconsin State Journal
Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein said a roughly $1.5 million refund from the Wisconsin recount could go toward a new voter advocacy effort in the state. Stein, who received about 1 percent of the vote and gained 66 votes in the recount, held a rally Tuesday at the state Capitol to address the results of the state’s historic recount, which her campaign paid $3.5 million to initiate, and launch Count My Vote Wisconsin. … Stein’s campaign raised more than $7 million in a short period to fund recounts in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Only the Wisconsin recount made it past court challenges seeking to halt all three.
The head of Gambia’s electoral commission has fled to Senegal due to threats to his safety after declaring that President Yahya Jammeh lost last month’s election, a defeat the ruler has refused to accept. Alieu Momarr Njai left the country on Friday, family members said on Tuesday. He had declared opposition leader Adama Barrow the winner of the Dec. 1 election, stunning many Gambians who were used to Jammeh who took power in a coup in 1994 and whose government gained a reputation for torturing and killing perceived opponents.
The Office of the National Electoral Litigation (BCEN) in Haiti on Monday ruled that while there had been irregularities in the tabulation of votes cast in the November 20 presidential elections last year, they did not “affect the electoral process”. One month after voters had cast ballots in the legislative and presidential elections, the BCEN had handed a lifeline to three political parties that had been challenging the victory of businessman Jovenelle Moise, when it ordered a review of the preliminary results.
The emphasis on electronic voter system is ignorance of what happens in Kenya, Attorney General Githu Muigai told a senate committee on Tuesday. The AG noted that many commentators on the amended election laws have misled Kenyans to think Kenya has an electronic voting system. Muigai, when he faced the Senate Legal Affairs Committee during the public hearing on contentious election laws, said the assertion was ‘far from the truth . He said Kenya has a manual voting system that is supported by an electronic system, and not the other way round.”In Kenya, we have a manual voting system with few electronic interventions. Voting largely remains manual,” he said.