Author Archives: Jim Ellis

Voting Rights Act Goes Before Supreme Court

The Voting Rights Act lawsuit plaintiffs from Shelby County, Alabama, and many of the Republican legal and political class who support overturning the VRA, need to take a step back and briefly consider the adage: “be careful what you wish for, ’cause it might come true.”

The United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments for and against the Shelby County case on Wednesday. The complaint challenges the constitutionality of parts of Sections 4 and 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that Congress last renewed for a 25 year period in 2006.

Based upon the Justices’ questioning of the participants plus their recent past rulings and writings about the Voting Rights Act, the Shelby County plaintiffs have a reasonable chance for victory but not without unintended consequences. For it is unlikely that the petitioners and vocal Republicans who support overturning the VRA want the Democratic Party to regain control of southern state legislatures and re-assume majority status in the House of Representatives. Yet, such a result will almost assuredly happen.

The case’s main tenet attacks the Act’s outdated “triggering mechanism.” When the legislation was first enacted in 1965, jurisdictions that saw a voting age population turnout falling below the 1964 presidential election standard were placed under VRA supervision.

During the Nixon administration, the VRA was amended to designate 1968 and the then-upcoming 1972 as triggering presidential elections. Such is the last time Congress altered the criteria, which is the basis of Shelby County’s complaint. Their local election officials argue that 40-year-old political data is not representative of the region’s contemporary electoral status.

The government contends that because the legislation contains what is known as a  Continue reading >

Iowa’s Latham a No-Go for Senate Race

Rep. Tom Latham

Rep. Tom Latham

Rep. Tom Latham (R-IA-3) announced yesterday that he will not seek the open Iowa Senate seat next year. His decision is not particularly surprising. Iowa insiders had been indicating for more than a week that the 10-term congressman was leaning against launching a statewide bid.

In publicizing his decision, Latham indicated that he had just been re-elected to the House in a much different post-redistricting CD — in fact, 83 percent of the constituents are new to him — and a two-year statewide campaign would take him away from properly fulfilling his current responsibilities.

Politically, though he was commonly seen as the best general election candidate the Republicans could field, he faced a major obstacle in the GOP primary. Rep. Steve King (R-IA-4), fresh from his own convincing re-election victory over a strong and well-known Democratic opponent, commands the inside track to the Senate nomination. King is backed with vigorous Tea Party support and enjoys strong grassroots presence for his Republican nomination campaign, which are major factors.

Late January and early February polling provided us a quick glimpse into how the  Continue reading >

Robin Kelly Wins Democratic Primary in Illinois

As expected, ex-Cook County Chief Executive Officer Robin Kelly won the special Democratic congressional primary to replace resigned Illinois Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D) in the Chicago-anchored 2nd Congressional District. Kelly is now a lock to win the heavily Democratic seat in the special general election scheduled for April 9.

Kelly easily outdistanced former Rep. Debbie Halvorson (D-IL-11) 52-25 percent. The ex-congresswoman was making her second attempt at winning this district (losing to Jackson 29-71 percent in the CD-2 2012 regular Democratic primary) after suffering a re-election defeat in the 11th District two years ago. Prior to serving one term in the US House, Halvorson represented part of Will County in the state Senate for 12 years, rising to the position of Majority Leader.

In this special primary, the Chicago/Cook County vote coalesced around Kelly, thus giving her the inside track to victory. Halvorson’s only hope was to see the urban vote split among several candidates and thus allow her to solidify the more suburban and small rural constituency in the Will and Kankakee County areas of the district. Once the Chicago political establishment began to solidify behind Kelly, and other strong candidates began withdrawing and subsequently endorsing her, the race was effectively clinched.

Halvorson also had to endure a $2 million-plus pounding from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Independence USA PAC, which ran a series of attack ads against her vis-a-vis the gun control issue and her previous support from the National Rifle Association.

Placing third was Chicago Alderman Anthony Beale who scored 11 percent. A total of 16 Democratic candidates received votes in last night’s primary, with just three  Continue reading >

Wild Italian Election Results

We don’t often stray into the international world of campaigns and elections, but because the result of the important Italian election was even more unusual than predicted, we are.

Choosing the membership of the country’s new Parliament will have a great effect upon whether the Italian economy — Europe’s third-largest economic entity — stabilizes, and therefore all of the Eurozone. Certainly this region’s economic status has great effect upon the United States.

The underlying electoral conclusion is uncertain. With former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Freedom Party coalition apparently headed toward controlling a Senate plurality and the center-left coalition of Pier Luigi Bersani’s Democratic Party and current Prime Minister Mario Monti’s small Civic Choice Party claiming the majority in the Chamber of Deputies, the country will likely succumb to political stalemate. Both the CoD and Senate wield equal power.

Perhaps the biggest political story is the performance of comedian-turned-politician Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement Party. If the final vote tallies meet expectations, Grillo’s party will be the largest single entity in both houses and of similar size to both coalitions. Because Grillo was convicted of vehicular manslaughter in 1980, he was ineligible to run for Parliament, but he is the face of this insurgent political entity and will wield significant power behind the scenes.

Turnout was below the last election’s (2008) participation rate of 80 percent of the eligible voters. More than 50 million Italians were eligible to vote this year, and it appears over 75 percent participated. The election being held in February instead of the normal spring time, and heavy snow and rain falling throughout the country were factors in pushing the turnout downward.

Much is yet to happen as all sides maneuver for political position. The final resolution is anything but clear.

IL-2 Primaries Tomorrow

The first and most important step to replacing resigned Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D) occurs tomorrow as Democrats and Republicans go to the polls in Illinois to choose their respective nominees. Former Cook County CEO Robin Kelly appears best positioned to win the Democratic primary. Because this Chicago-anchored seat is so heavily Democratic (Obama ’12: 81 percent), tomorrow’s party primary is tantamount to victory in the April 9 special general election.

Originally, it appeared that the majority African-American Chicago vote could split among as many as four candidates, thus potentially allowing former Rep. Debbie Halvorson (D-IL-11) to construct a coalition of less liberal, suburban, and rural voters in order to cobble together a victorious plurality.

Kelly’s ability to coalesce Chicago political leaders, such as Reps. Bobby Rush (D-IL-1), Mike Quigley (D-IL-5), Danny Davis (D-IL-7), and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL-9), around her candidacy, and then winning state Sen. Napoleon Harris and Sen. Toi Hutchinson’s endorsements after they both withdrew as candidates, has clearly made her tomorrow’s electoral favorite. Getting the lion’s share of the Chicago vote will guarantee victory in the Democratic primary.
 Continue reading >