Category Archives: Voting Rights

The Michigan Wild Card

Michigan Congressional Districts


By Jim Ellis

July 16, 2021 — For the third consecutive census, the Wolverine State of Michigan loses a congressional seat but this time it is more difficult to determine how the new map will be drawn and which of the state’s 14 US House members, comprised of seven Democrats and seven Republicans, will be the odd member out.

The big change is that for the first time a citizens’ commission, and not the state legislature, will draw the map. The 13-member commission has been conducting briefings to organizations around the state since April 3 and has public input meetings scheduled with those that began July 8 through Aug. 26.

What places Michigan in a wild card situation, however, won’t become clear until the US Census Bureau sends the state its individual tract data that will arrive on or around Aug. 15. At that point, the key question will be answered as to just how many people the city of Detroit has lost. This will be the critical factor in determining how the new congressional map is constructed.

Like every state, Michigan is bordered on all sides meaning the members with districts on the edge are typically in better defined position than those residing in the geographic middle. In this state’s case, the Great Lakes surround the split land masses on the north, east, and west, with Canada lying to its north and east, and Indiana and Ohio to the south.

Looking at the available public population data that only is current through July 1 of 2019, all current 14 districts must gain residents, hence the state losing a CD, with three most significantly holding the fewest people. Those three are the two Detroit seats, Districts 13 (Rep. Rashida Tlaib-D) and 14 (Rep. Brenda Lawrence-D), and the Flint-anchored seat, District 5 (Rep. Dan Kildee-D). All three are likely to need an influx of more than 100,000 people apiece.

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California’s Lost Seat

By Jim Ellis

July 7, 2021 — For the first time in history, California loses a congressional seat in reapportionment, and the public input session that was scheduled to begin yesterday continues the California Citizens Redistricting Commission’s Phase 2 process. This week, the commission members continue listening to testimony about how the districts should be drawn for the state’s congressional delegation and both houses of the Golden State’s legislature.

Sitting adjacent to each other are the following California congressional seats: CA-32 (Rep. Grace Napolitano; D-Norwalk), CA-38 (Rep. Linda Sanchez; D-Whittier), CA-40 (Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard; D-Downey), and CA-44 (Rep. Nanette Diaz-Barragan; D-San Pedro).

After California, along with the other 49 states, receives its census tract information after the Aug. 15 negotiated deadline, the five Democrats, five Republicans, and four non-affiliated CCRC members will study and organize the data until their Phase 3 line drawing process commences in September. The commission was created through a 2010 ballot proposition that removed redistricting power from the legislature and instituted a citizens panel to create the new post-census maps every 10 years. This is the body’s second redistricting cycle.

The commission timeline was crafted after the state of Ohio sued the Census Bureau to force a faster distribution of the state redistricting data. Originally, using COVID as their principal excuse, the Bureau leadership set Oct. 1 as their distribution deadline goal. In typical years, states would have received the census tract information months ago. The Ohio lawsuit was settled with the two sides agreeing on an Aug. 15 deadline that is now in effect for the whole country.

The commission members are now tasked with changing the state’s 53-member congressional delegation into a map that features only 52 seats. And now, the question of just which area will lose the district must be tackled.

Looking at the latest public district data, that through July 1, 2019, we see some patterns providing key clues. It is understood that the last year of the census is not included in these numbers, and reports suggest that the final 12 months of the 10-year cycle resulted in significant change for the state as the number of people leaving for other places substantially increased. In fact, for the first time, California actually has fewer people than it did in a preceding year.

The most significant loss appears to come in central Los Angeles County. Looking at the current 53 districts, the seat with the lowest population is Rep. Adam’s Schiff’s (D-Burbank) San Fernando Valley 28th CD. But the cluster of seats in the heart of Los Angeles suggests an area where two seats can easily be collapsed.

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SCOTUS Rules; Calif. Recall Scheduled

Current US Supreme Court

By Jim Ellis

July 6, 2021 — On their last day of the year’s early session last week, a Thursday, the Supreme Court of the United States issued rulings on the Arizona voting rights case and the California non-profit organization disclosure lawsuit.

In the Democratic National Committee v. Brnovich, the Supreme Court with Justice Samuel Alito writing for the 6-3 majority, ruled that the state of Arizona did not infringe upon minority voting rights or violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act in both prohibiting ballot harvesting with certain exceptions, and not counting provisional ballots cast from voters who do not reside in the particular precinct that the polling place covers.

The high court agreed with Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s (R) arguments that the laws are not racially motivated, nor do they intentionally discriminate against certain segments of the voting population, thus overturning the full 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling.

Originally in 2016, Brnovich won at the district court level and on the first appeal to a three-judge panel from the 9th Circuit. The DNC requested an en banc review of the original appellate ruling that agreed with Brnovich, and the entire 9th Circuit membership overturned the decision, siding with the plaintiff. At that point, AG Brnovich petitioned the Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case. (Hearing cases en banc allows the full circuit court to overturn a decision reached by a three–judge panel. Due to the decreasing probability of U.S. Supreme Court intervention, the circuit court is often the court of last resort in the ordinary life of a case, thereby amplifying the importance of en banc review.)

In his ruling, Justice Alito stated that “every voting rule imposes a burden of some sort,” and that “mere inconvenience cannot be enough to demonstrate a violation of Section 2.” He also cautioned that, “what are at bottom very small differences should not be artificially magnified.”

While agreeing that holding free and open elections is a “valid and important state interest,” he also addressed the voter fraud argument, clearly stating that attempting to prevent such abuses is also a “strong and entirely legitimate state interest.”

In her article discussing these rulings, Supreme Court expert Amy Howe, in her Howe on the Court article that was published on the SCOTUS blog, offered that the Brnovich ruling “will make it more difficult to contest election regulations under the Voting Rights Act,” and thus likely means fewer voting rights cases coming through the courts. She further categorized this decision as a “major ruling.”

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Voting Poll — Some Surprising Responses Re: Voter Supression

By Jim Ellis

June 25, 2021 — New Jersey’s Monmouth University ran a national political survey (June 9-14; 810 US adults, live interviews) about the proposals being considered to change voting procedures at the national level and in many states. The result from several of the polling questions proved surprising.

As we know, the S.1/HR-1 legislation could not amass enough votes to invoke cloture against a Republican filibuster, thus killing it at least for a time. It is highly unlikely this measure could pass as currently written, but it is not out of the realm of possibility that another version of the voting bill will be considered later in the session. Additionally, election-oriented bills are alive in many states where legislatures have not yet adjourned for the year.

National political survey results of 810 US adults polled …

Monmouth tested the national sampling universe on a series of voting proposals and ideas, and their research effort may be one of the more extensive surveys published about the subject. Most of the responses were expected: people overwhelmingly favor enhanced mail voting, making the voting system more “user friendly”, and proof of identity.

Perhaps the most onerous provision in the S.1/HR-1 concept was the national prohibition of election officials asking for identity proof. The main argument is that the voter ID procedures “suppress” minority turnout. Monmouth’s surprising result, however, finds their labeled category of minority voters actually support the ID requirement in a larger proportion than the non-Hispanic white respondents.

The 31st polling survey question asked, “In general, do you support or oppose requiring voters to show a photo I.D. in order to vote?” The overall response was 80 percent in favor and 18 percent opposed. Among those identified as Hispanic-Black-Asian-Other in the Monmouth crosstabs, the positive ratio rose to 84:13 percent.

This type of polling result shoots a major hole in the Democrats’ argument against the issue.

Their main opposition talking point is to suggest that many in the minority community cannot obtain an ID card, and thus the individual’s right to vote is suppressed, or denied. It is clear when analyzing this poll’s responses that a robust majority of these citizens don’t agree with such a characterization.

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Mail Voting Polarization

By Jim Ellis

COVID-19 virus

May 4, 2020 — The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly affected everyday life, going even so far as touching American voting procedures. Before the pandemic hit, for example, just four states conducted their elections exclusively through the mail (Oregon, Washington) or predominantly so, meaning having few polling places (California, Colorado).

With so many early primary states postponing their primary elections in conjunction with the disease precautions, we now see either all-mail systems, or including the mail option for all voters, being utilized for upcoming primary elections in 20 additional states, and the list keeps growing.

Predictably, progressive left voter organizations are using the pandemic as a catalyst to push for their long-term election systemic goals. Lawsuits around the country are being filed in such places as Indiana, Pennsylvania, Texas, and several other states, to expand the all-mail option from the primaries into the general election. And, once the all-mail system has been instituted in places around the country, thus establishing it as an electoral fixture, the process becomes much easier to make permanent.

Additionally, we are seeing further lawsuits filed to include automatic voter registration, prohibiting the purging of registration names of people who consistently haven’t voted in multiple elections, and the controversial ballot harvesting idea that allows any voter to collect ballots and deliver them to election authorities.

The Pew Research Center just completed a nationwide survey, testing the population about their attitudes and perceptions of these types of procedural issues. It came as no surprise that the survey results produced rather polarizing responses from the self-identified affiliates of the two major political parties, since virtually every contemporary issue yields deep divides between the partisans.

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