Tag Archives: US Supreme Court

The Pre-Redistricting Wars

redistricting-2018By Jim Ellis

Jan. 23, 2018 — Though we are in the fourth election cycle of the decade, the 2011 redistricting fights are still continuing. The US Supreme Court has been dealing with redistricting cases from five states, but it all could come to a head soon.

The lawsuits first break down into the familiar racial gerrymandering claims, which have been in the courts in some fashion or another since the Voting Rights Act was created in 1965. Currently, the topic of political gerrymandering is hot as both parties are pursuing live complaints against their opponents for drawing congressional and state legislative boundaries to maximize the political standing of one party to the unfair detriment of the other.

The major political gerrymandering case comes from Wisconsin and will likely set the tone for other such suits in Michigan, North Carolina, Texas, and possibly Maryland. Democrats are bringing the action in the first four states, while Republicans are challenging Maryland’s 6th Congressional District.

Obviously, the high court is getting involved to craft a new set of rulings relating to both racial and political gerrymandering before the entire country goes into a 50-state redistricting round upon completion of the 2020 census. Therefore, election results in 2018 and 2020 to establish incumbency both in the House of Representatives and the state legislatures become critically important.

Last week, the US Supreme Court stayed the most recent North Carolina lower court redistricting ruling. The three-judge panel invalidated the maps, determining that majority Republicans engaged in political gerrymandering. In the last election cycle the Tar Heel State boundaries were also re-drawn to remedy what the panel cited as racial gerrymandering reasons, but the Democrats were unable to make a dent in the Republicans’ 10R-3D delegation advantage.

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Texas Redistricting Recap

texas-congressional-districts-27-35By Jim Ellis

Jan. 16, 2018 — Late last week, the US Supreme Court agreed to hear the Texas Republicans’ appeal of a San Antonio three-judge panel’s ruling that declared two of the state’s districts: TX-27 (Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi) and TX-35 (Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin) unconstitutional for racial gerrymandering reasons.

Though we have now entered the decade’s fourth election cycle, we see four separate gerrymandering cases from the 2011 redistricting cycle still before the nation’s high court. It’s possible the top judicial panel has agreed to hear these cases, two brought by Republicans and two by Democrats, in order to make clear redistricting statements before the 2020 census sends us into the next full national redistricting cycle, a 50-state procedure that will consume most of 2021.

The major lawsuit that the court has already heard but has not yet announced a ruling, is the Wisconsin political gerrymandering case. There, Democrats claimed majority Republicans discriminated against them when the lines were drawn for partisan political reasons. The Supreme Court has never before ruled that political gerrymandering is unconstitutional. It is unknown exactly when the court’s ruling will be announced, but it is a virtual certainty that the release date will come before the current term ends at the end of June.

For the second time in two consecutive election cycles, the North Carolina lines have been invalidated. The congressional boundaries were re-drawn before the 2016 election for racial gerrymandering reasons. Now, the Democrats are returning with their political gerrymandering case. In the last re-draw, the state’s 10R-3D congressional delegation partisan ratio remained in tact.

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Arizona Senate Activity;
North Carolina Map … Again

Former Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio

Former Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 11, 2018 — Former Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio made a political move regarding the open Senate race on Tuesday, just as Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson) was scheduling a series of statewide “events” for Friday.

The controversial ex-sheriff, who President Trump pardoned earlier in the year just before his sentencing for a contempt of court conviction, announced his candidacy for Sen. Jeff Flake’s (R) open seat. Many, however, including Sen. Flake himself, do not believe that Arpaio will follow through with his candidacy. The former sheriff, who was defeated for re-election in 2016, has frequently said he was going to launch a statewide campaign but ultimately backed away from doing so. As an aside, should Arpaio be elected at 85 years of age, he would become the oldest freshman senator in American history.

Rep. McSally’s Friday appearances are reported to be a Senate announcement tour. Since Sen. Flake announced his retirement, it has been expected that McSally would become a Senate candidate.

Ironically, should Arpaio run, the big beneficiary might actually be McSally. With ex-state Sen. Kelli Ward in position to attract the more conservative Arizona primary voter, Sheriff Arpaio’s presence, complete with his virtually universal name identification and well-known border protection positions, would clearly split the former legislator’s political base. In a state with no secondary run-off election system, this would likely allow McSally the opportunity of winning the nomination without having to secure a majority vote.

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Texas Redistricting – The Redux

By Jim Ellis

March 16, 2017 — After the 2003 Texas redistricting saga became synonymous with internal partisan political strife, a three-judge federal panel appears to have ordered the state to again become engulfed in another such battle.

The special panel ordered a re-draw of three districts, and the after-effects of reconstituting the seats will change several more adjoining CDs. The 35th District of Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin), which contains parts of Bexar (San Antonio), Caldwell, Comal, Guadalupe, Hays, and Travis (Austin) counties, was actually declared illegal back in 2011. The Supreme Court remanded that ruling back to the panel, and instructed them to take action. Now, after three elections cycles have already passed, the court has decided to move forward.

In addition to the Doggett seat, the 23rd (Rep. Will Hurd, R-San Antonio), and 27th (Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi) CDs have also been declared unconstitutional, and will need to be re-drawn if the ruling is upheld.

The Democratic plaintiffs argued that the districts illegally pack Latino voters and were done so because of race. Emails emanating from Republican staff members participating in the process, and the messages contained in them, lent credence to the Democrats’ case thus culminating in this court decision.

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Iowa Delegate Count;
Rep. Fincher Announces Retirement;
Virginia Lines Set

Feb. 4, 2016 — The Iowa delegate count released a day after the first-in-the-nation caucus concluded suggested that declaring a “winner” of the nominating event is a bit of a misnomer.

Though Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) finished first in the Republican race, his delegate take appears to be a grand total of eight. Second and third place finishers, Donald Trump and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) are awarded seven delegates apiece. Dr. Ben Carson receives three delegates, and all other participants get one apiece. Therefore, Cruz’s Iowa “victory” is netting him a one-delegate margin. He now needs 1,229 delegate votes to win the nomination, while Trump and Rubio both need 1,230, thus putting the Iowa Caucus vote into perspective.

The Democrats have a much more complicated delegate apportionment formula that rewards margin of victory in geographic regions. Therefore, despite Sen. Bernie Sanders (I/D-VT) pulling into a virtual tie with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton within the state delegate system (701-697), the national delegates break 29-21 in the latter’s favor. This being said, in the face of claims to the contrary, Clinton did actually place first in Iowa because she gained in the all-important national delegate count. Under the Democratic structure a candidate needs 2,383 delegate votes to win the presidential nomination. Continue reading

Retirements 2016: House Changes?

Jan. 12, 2016 — Just before Christmas, and including three more such announcements that occurred last week, five House members made public their intention not to seek re-election in the fall. The sudden jump in the number of congressmen choosing either to retire from politics or run for a different office now makes 2016 an average election cycle when examining the vacancy rate.

Representatives Richard Hanna (R-NY-22), Robert Hurt (R-VA-5), Jim McDermott (D-WA-7), Steve Israel (D-NY-3), and Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA-3) all making their political plans known in the last three weeks creates a total of 36 open seat elections for the coming year (21R-15D); an average number based upon 21st Century electoral trends, and a return to normalcy. The last two election cycles have yielded an unusually large open seat numbers: 62 in 2012, and 48 in 2014.

Interestingly, heavy competition appears to be building in only a small number of these incumbent-less US House campaigns. Based upon our internal calculations, only three of the 36 open seats are in the pure toss-up category, those of representatives Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ-1), Patrick Murphy (D-FL-18) and John Kline (R-MN-2). Another six, three for each party, can be considered in the “Lean” category. This means, at our early point in the campaign cycle, that only nine open districts, or one-quarter of the total number, are not definitively headed toward one party camp or the other.

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SCOTUS Hears Arizona Voter Law Today

ariz-birth-cert

It appears that the US Supreme Court will soon resolve several election law conflicts. On the heels of hearing Shelby County, Alabama’s challenge to the Voting Rights Act, America’s top nine Justices today listen to oral arguments in an important case that could lead to major changes in voter registration procedures. Both cases will likely be decided before the court’s current term adjourns at the end of June.

The Arizona voting public, via a 2004 ballot initiative, approved a measure that instituted proof of US citizenship requirements before beginning the voter registration process. The law differs from what many states have instituted relating to proving identity before voting because individuals in Arizona must document their citizenship even before registering.

The voter-passed law requires all registrants to prove their US citizenship either through presenting a driver’s license, passport, birth certificate, naturalization number or tribal card when the individual first registers to vote in the state. Lower courts have partially struck down the measure, ruling that the Arizona law conflicts with the National Voter Registration Act of 1994 because the latter merely requires affirmation of citizenship under penalty of perjury, but does not mandate presenting documentation. Therefore, the lower courts have said that the Arizona requirement cannot apply to federal elections.

The rulings are leading to a system of having separate state and federal registration forms, which has already caused confusion among Grand Canyon State election authorities according to a long Arizona Republic news article describing the situation. The federal registration form,  Continue reading >