Tag Archives: Florida

What They’re Missing

The analyses and coverage of the Supreme Court’s decision this week that invalidated Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) is typically missing a very subtle but highly important point.

As mentioned in many articles and interviews, now that the official formula determining whether a jurisdiction must adhere to US Justice Department supervision is invalid, the laws previously stayed through the denial of pre-clearance procedure have taken effect. A representative sampling of recent laws that failed the pre-clearance test but are now fully enforceable are several polling place voter identification statutes from various states.

In terms of political district map drawing, there is now another crucial factor present in some places. Most states have what is commonly described as a “county line law.” The statute typically says that a county must be kept whole unless more population is needed to reach the proper district target figure. Often times counties are split between or among two or more districts for purposes of adding more minorities to a congressional or legislative district in order to protect that seat under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Now that the elimination of Section 4 effectively debilitates Section 5, the county line laws will presumably be stronger than the VRA, the reverse of what had, heretofore, been the usual practice.

Florida could be the state most quickly affected by the county line situation. In 2010, voters passed a ballot initiative that defined new and additional redistricting criteria. One of the included items is the county line provision. Currently, the state is embroiled in live redistricting litigation, and apparently headed for a January trial in Leon County (Tallahassee). The Supreme Court’s opinion this week will likely bear major influence upon the state judge’s ultimate decision, and it is probable that the tables have turned in the plaintiffs favor. If they do in fact win at the lower and upper court levels, new congressional and legislative maps will likely be mandated, and that could happen as early as the 2014 election cycle.

Florida is particularly vulnerable on the county line issue. The state has seven counties that are larger than a congressional district. Within those seven counties is enough population to complete 10 CDs. The  Continue reading >

Voting Rights Act Altered; Markey Wins

Voting Rights Ruling

The Supreme Court, ruling for the plaintiffs in the Shelby County (AL) case on a 5-4 decision, struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) saying that the formula determining VRA jurisdiction is no longer applicable. In 2006, Congress renewed the Voting Rights Act for the succeeding 25 years but did not change the triggering election. Until yesterday, dropping below the turnout pattern dictated in the 1972 presidential election would bring a municipality, county, or state under VRA coverage. Had the court not acted, that triggering mechanism would have stayed in place at least until 2031, or almost 60 years.

The high court majority members made clear they are not striking down the Act itself, only the formula for determining which jurisdictions will come under federal supervision. Doing so eliminates the Department of Justice’s power to pre-clear election laws after a covered jurisdiction enacts statutory changes. Because the formula is now declared unconstitutional, all of the laws previously denied pre-clearance now take effect. This could greatly change matters in several states, and very quickly. In fact, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott (R), for example, announced that he would immediately begin enforcing the state’s voter identification law that had been previously stayed by the DoJ’s refusal to pre-clear the legislation.

The states that could be most affected by this ruling, even as early as the present election cycle, are the three hearing live redistricting litigation. The trio of states are Florida, North Carolina and Arizona. Depending upon the outcome of the various lawsuits, and yesterday’s ruling that strengthened the plaintiffs hands against their state in all instances, it is possible the congressional and state legislative lines could conceivably be re-drawn before the 2014 election.

Massachusetts

Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA-5), as we’ve been predicting for several weeks, successfully claimed Secretary of State John Kerry’s (D) former Massachusetts Senate seat, but his margin of victory was a bit under what a  Continue reading >

Markey Looking Strong; “Governor” Nelson?

Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA-5)

Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA-5)

As we turn into the home stretch for the special Democratic primary election to fill John Kerry’s vacated Senate seat in Massachusetts on Tuesday, Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA-5) continues to appear well positioned for claiming his party’s nomination over fellow Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA-8).

A new Public Policy Polling brushfire survey (April 23-25; 563 likely Massachusetts Democratic primary voters) conducted for the League of Conservation Voters, an organization supporting Markey, continues to show the 36-year congressional veteran with a substantial lead. According to the PPP data, Markey posts a 50-36 percent margin over Lynch. The winner of the Democratic primary becomes the prohibitive favorite in the June 25 special general election.

Both candidates scored strong favorability ratings from the sampling universe. Markey registers 66:23 percent favorable to unfavorable; Lynch 50:32 percent.

Earlier in the week, the Western New England University Polling Institute released their survey (April 11-18; 480 registered Massachusetts voters; 270 Democratic primary voters) that showed  Continue reading >

Governorships in the Balance

Gov. Rick Scott (R)

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R)

In the current 2013-14 election cycle, 38 of the 50 gubernatorial campaigns will occur. Though the Republican Party did poorly in the 2012 national election, they still claim their largest stable of governors in modern political history. Today, the Republicans control 30 state houses as compared to 19 for the Democrats. One state, Rhode Island, features an Independent governor. Lincoln Chafee was originally elected to the Senate as a Republican but, after his defeat from federal office, he chose to run for governor in 2010 as an Independent. Earlier in the year speculation grew that Chafee might seek re-election as a Democrat, bringing him full circle through the political party process if he follows through.

One state, Virginia, is among five states that elect chief executives in odd-numbered years. The Commonwealth also invokes a one-term limit, meaning an open race for the position every four years. Two states, Vermont and New Hampshire, maintain two-year terms for their respective governors. The other 48 states award four-year terms.

In looking at the 38 races, Republicans must defend 24 of the gubernatorial seats to the Democrats 13, in addition to the one Independent. Only six of the seats are open, five due to term limits. Massachusetts Gov.  Continue reading >

The “Sweet” Sixteen House Races

Continuing our sector review of the 16 most competitive political campaigns reflective of the NCAA College Basketball Tournament’s spirit, we today turn to the US House campaigns:

AZ-1: Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D) won a similar version of this seat in 2008, lost it in 2010, and reacquired it last November when incumbent Paul Gosar (R) decided to seek re-election in District 4. With a 2012 victory percentage of only 49 percent in a district that Mitt Romney carried, Kirkpatrick can again expect stiff competition in 2014.

AZ-2: Rep. Ron Barber (D) who replaced his former boss, then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords upon her resignation, had a closer than expected regular election contest against Republican Martha McSally. With Barber only scoring an even 50 percent of the 2012 vote, expect a strong re-match effort from retired Gulf War veteran McSally.

CA-26: When the California Citizens Redistricting Commission crafted this Ventura County district, they did so with the idea of making a marginal 50-50 seat. The goal was achieved, so freshman incumbent Julia Brownley (D) will continue to face strong competition likely for the rest of the decade. Former state senator Tony Strickland lost to Brownley in November and is considering seeking a re-match in 2014. Rep. Buck McKeon (R) deciding to retire in adjacent District 25, however, could attract Strickland to what would be an open seat.

CA-31: Rep. Gary Miller represents the strongest Obama district in the country (57 percent) that elected a Republican congressman. He was fortunate to draw another Republican in the 2012 general election, but will likely face a Democrat in 2014. Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar (D), who failed to qualify for the general election last year, is looking to run again. This will be a top Democratic conversion target.
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