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Posts Tagged ‘Supreme Court’

The Wacky 36th CD in Texas

In House on December 12, 2013 at 11:30 am
Texas' 36th Congressional District

Texas’ 36th Congressional District

When Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX-36) signed his official candidate documents to run against Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn, only hours remained in the candidate filing period. After the figurative dust cleared, Republican Party officials decided that there needed to be an extended opportunity for more individuals to enter the now incumbent-less 36th District congressional race. So after citing some legal technicalities in the way Rep. Stockman withdrew his previous filing from the House race, they extended the qualification period for this race alone through Monday, Dec. 16. But, the extra period is not open to all.
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Impact of NC Redistricting Upheld

In Redistricting on July 11, 2013 at 11:37 am

The special three-judge state panel hearing the redistricting challenge to the legislative and congressional maps unanimously, and with a mention that partisanship was left out of their decision, ruled in favor of the state of North Carolina. This means that the Republican-drawn maps will continue to stand.

The judicial panel was comprised of two Democrats and one Republican. The upheld maps sent nine Republicans and four Democrats to Washington from the congressional delegation; a state Senate consisting of 33 Republicans and 17 Democrats; and a state House comprised of 77 Republicans and just 43 Democrats. Prior to the 2010 elections and the subsequent redistricting, Democrats held an 8-5 advantage in the congressional delegation, a 30-20 margin in the state Senate, and commanded a 68-52 House majority.

The decision will undoubtedly be appealed to the state Supreme Court, but a panel with a Republican majority is unlikely to overturn a Democratic special court that found in the state’s favor.

There are two key practical effects from the ruling. First, as it relates to the US Supreme Court’s Shelby County v. Holder opinion, it is now highly unlikely that the maps will be redrawn prior to the next census. Thus, the Shelby County decision will not likely come into play here until 2021. Since North Carolina has live redistricting litigation ongoing, as does Florida, Arizona, and Kentucky, an overturn of the state’s map could have had a major effect upon any new court-mandated drawing.

Second, one of North Carolina’s remaining four Democratic seats, the 7th District of Rep. Mike McIntyre, saw the closest finish of any 2012 US House race. McIntyre was re-elected over former state Sen. David Rouzer with a mere 654-vote margin from more than 336,000 ballots cast. With Rouzer already running again and facing a mid-term turnout model without President Obama leading the Democratic ticket, it makes McIntyre the most endangered Democrat in Congress. A redraw would have greatly helped him. Now without such a boost, does McIntyre even run again? The coming weeks in the southeastern corner of  Continue reading >

What They’re Missing

In Courts, Redistricting on June 28, 2013 at 12:23 pm

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

In Courts, Senate on June 26, 2013 at 10:31 am

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 >

NJ Senate Poll; SCOTUS’ Arizona Ruling

In Courts, Senate on June 18, 2013 at 12:07 pm

New Jersey

Immediately upon New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) scheduling the special Senate election to replace the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D), both Quinnipiac University and Rutgers-Eagleton went into the field to measure the Garden State electorate. Both pollsters produced a similar conclusion — Newark Mayor Cory Booker is opening up a wide lead in the Democratic primary — but their samples sizes of less than 350 respondents were unacceptably low in a larger population state.

Now, Rasmussen Reports (June 12-13; 1,000 likely New Jersey voters) confirms that Booker does indeed have a huge lead derived from a much larger survey sample. Though the methodology does not specifically identify how many people (but undoubtedly larger than 350 individuals and presumably likely Democratic primary voters) were asked to choose among Mayor Booker, Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ-6) and Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ-12), and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, the results were almost identical to what Quinnipiac and Rutgers-Eagleton originally found.

According to RR, Booker would command support from 54 percent of the Democratic voters, followed by Holt with 11 percent, and Pallone at 8 percent. Oliver trailed the pack registering just 5 percent preference.

For the special general election, tested among all 1,000 respondents, Booker leads former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan (R) 50-33 percent.

The special primary is scheduled for Aug. 13, followed by the deciding vote on Oct. 16. The winner will serve the balance of Sen. Lautenberg’s final term, and is eligible to stand for election to a full six-year stint during the regular 2014 election.

Arizona

Yesterday, the US Supreme Court released its ruling on the Arizona v. The Arizona  Continue reading >

Voting Rights Act Goes Before Supreme Court

In Redistricting, Voting Rights on March 1, 2013 at 10:47 am

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 >

A Texas-Sized Supreme Court Ruling

In Redistricting on December 12, 2011 at 12:35 pm

The US Supreme Court stayed implementation of the San Antonio federal panel’s congressional and state legislative maps on Friday, thus making it a virtual certainty that the Texas primary, currently scheduled for Super Tuesday on March 6, will be moved. The Lone Star State vote was, until Friday, the first scheduled congressional primary in the nation.

The court ordered oral arguments for map changes to be presented on Jan. 9, far beyond the Dec. 15 candidate filing deadline. With a final ruling coming in late January at the earliest, the proscribed filing period would dictate that the March 6th nominating election for the House of Representatives and the state legislature, at a minimum, will not proceed as scheduled. Therefore, the Supreme Court’s action raises as many tangential political questions as it answered.

Our PRIsm Redistricting Report tomorrow will cover the intricacies of the decision and what it means for the 2012 election, but the ramifications of what happens to the Texas primary goes far beyond changing the judicial panel’s political boundaries.

Many states have early stand-alone primaries for President and return later in the year to nominate candidates for Congress and state and local office. Texas, however, scheduled all of their races for Super Tuesday, with a run-off on May 22. The latter date now becomes the leading scheduling option for the new primary. State Attorney General Greg Abbott argued for such in his brief to the high court. Should the May date be chosen, it is likely that any required run-off would occur sometime in June.

So, what happens next and who decides? Now that the Supreme Court has, at least temporarily, removed redistricting jurisdiction from the San Antonio three-judge panel, we know that they will have no role in setting the primary. The Supreme Court or the legislature and governor will have the ultimate scheduling authority.

The next question is: will the primary be bifurcated? Theoretically, delegate selection for president could still move forward on March 6; ditto for the US Senate and local campaigns. A second primary could be then scheduled at a later time for the US House of Representatives and the state legislature. Since no money has been budgeted for an additional primary, this option would require action from the state legislature and governor or, at least, from the Legislative Budget Board (consisting of the governor, lieutenant governor, and Speaker of the House), the body that makes financial decisions while the legislature is not in session.

Meanwhile, presidential candidate and Texas Gov. Rick Perry finds himself in an interesting position. He has the power to call the legislature into special session to either move the primary or appropriate the necessary funds to conduct another election.

Perry himself could benefit greatly from moving the entire Texas primary to May, assuming he is still alive in the presidential contest after the early states vote. According to Republican National Committee rules, states may invoke a winner-take-all option if the nominating event is held post-Super Tuesday, so altering the date of the primary, which would allow the nominating system to change, obviously helps the governor since Texas has the second-largest contingent of delegates (155) to the Republican National Convention.

The primary scheduling decision greatly affects another person, too: Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst is the leading candidate for the Republican US Senate nomination. The earlier primary date favors him because polls show he has a chance to win the nomination outright on March 6. Delaying the vote for more than two months would give his top opponents, Dallas ex-Mayor Tom Leppert and Texas former Solicitor General Ted Cruz, more time to mount stronger challenges to Dewhurst and potentially force him into a run-off election.

As you can see, the Supreme Court is affecting much more than Texas redistricting with its decision to stay map implementation. In the end, when will the Texas congressional primary be held? Right now, we can be assured it will be on a date other than March 6. Beyond that, stay tuned.

The Supreme Court Rules in Nevada’s 2nd CD

In House on July 6, 2011 at 10:20 am

The Nevada state Supreme Court late yesterday clarified the state’s special election law. The court agreed, on a 6-1 vote, with the Republican objection to the Democratic Secretary of State’s scheduling of one federal special election to fill a vacancy and awarding all qualified candidates ballot placement regardless of party. The high court ruled that the political parties do have the right to nominate their own candidates.

This means that ex-Nevada Republican Party chairman Mark Amodei, also a former state legislator, will face Democratic state Treasurer Kate Marshall on Sept. 13. The winner will fill the unexpired term of former Rep. and current Sen. Dean Heller (R). Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) appointed Heller to replace Sen. John Ensign (R) when the latter resigned.

The special election will take place in the current NV-2, an expansive district that touches all 17 of the state’s counties. The winner will then run for a full term in the new 2nd district, whose boundaries will become known when the state completes its redistricting process. No map was passed during the regular legislative session, so a court will draw the lines from scratch. The addition of a new 4th district in Las Vegas means that the 2nd will become northern Nevada’s seat.

Much more on this race as the campaign develops.
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Wisconsin Judicial Race in Official Recount

In States on April 21, 2011 at 6:18 pm

Normally a state Supreme Court judicial race doesn’t have much national significance, but everything coming from Wisconsin these days does. Assistant Attorney General JoAnn Kloppenburg, yesterday, officially requested a taxpayer financed statewide recount of her election defeat to incumbent Justice David Prosser. The official difference between the two candidates is 7,316 votes. The margin was barely within the 0.05% difference that can trigger an official recount. Any amount over this percentage can be tallied again, but the requesting candidate must finance the action.

This particular race was characterized as a referendum on Gov. Scott Walker’s position opposite the public employee unions in a fight that, for a time, attracted almost non-stop national news media attention. Both the unions and conservative organizations invested big dollars, activated large numbers of people, and expended immense effort into winning the April 5th election for their respective candidate. The winner would tip the conservative/liberal balance on the seven-member court one way or the other; hence, the high political stakes. The new law that now curtails public employee union organizing privileges will eventually come before the high court to finally decide, thus heightening the resolve for both sides in this election.

Most of the electoral controversy comes from Waukesha County, located due west of Milwaukee, where one town of more than 14,000 voters was not included in the original count. On election night, it appeared that Kloppenburg had won the election by a scant 204 votes, and declared victory. It wasn’t until the next day that the Waukesha error was discovered, thus igniting the dispute. Though the election is close, finding 7,400 illegal or missed votes is a very high number. Thus, Prosser’s victory will likely stand and the outcome should be viewed as a huge victory for Walker and his allies.
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For further detailed insights, to sign up for my daily email updates, or to sign up to track specific issues or industries, please contact me at PRIsm@performanceandresults.com.