Live coverage: June 18 primaries in Oklahoma and Virginia, plus runoffs in Georgia

Downballot primaries continue tonight with races in three states, with the first polls closing at 7 PM ET in Georgia and Virginia. We'll be liveblogging the results here and also covering the returns closely on X.

UPDATE: Wednesday, Jun 19, 2024 · 12:39:54 AM +00:00 · David Nir

VA-05 (R): The “percentage of vote” counted is just an estimate, and as such, it’s subject to revisions, both up and down. Over the last several minutes, the AP’s estimate has dropped from greater than 95% to 88% to 84% to (now) 79%. Meanwhile, they’ve still been adding votes for both candidates. McGuire is up 52-48 (about 1,100 votes), but suddenly, there’s a lot more runway.

UPDATE: Wednesday, Jun 19, 2024 · 12:35:29 AM +00:00 · David Nir

OK-04 (R): Rep. Tom Cole and his allies sure seemed freaked, but the AP just called the race for the longtime Republican congressman, who is leading challenger Paul Bondar by a giant 68-21 margin. Cole & co. spent a ton to protect the incumbent, but evidently, there was no need. Would love to see the internal polling that had them so panicked, though.

UPDATE: Wednesday, Jun 19, 2024 · 12:29:02 AM +00:00 · David Nir

VA-10 (D): We could have a very close race brewing here. Suhas Subramanyam is up 31-26 on Dan Helmer with about 80% reporting, but Subramanyam’s base in Loudon County appears to have finished county. Helmer is leading in everywhere else in the district, though he still would have to make up another 2,000+ votes to close the gap.

UPDATE: Wednesday, Jun 19, 2024 · 12:23:02 AM +00:00 · David Nir

VA-05 (R): This is turning into a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it primary. Good and McGuire have traded leads repeatedly in the last few minutes. At this precise second, McGuire is back up 51.5 to 48.5 with an estimated 79% of the vote reporting, but that could truly change at any second.

UPDATE: Wednesday, Jun 19, 2024 · 12:17:41 AM +00:00 · David Nir

OK-04 (R): We should note that polls closed about a quarter of an hour ago in Oklahoma, where veteran GOP Rep. Tom Cole faces an expensive challenge from a guy who’s so new to the state that he literally voted in the Texas primaries in March. Only a trickle of votes so far, though.

UPDATE: Wednesday, Jun 19, 2024 · 12:15:56 AM +00:00 · David Nir

VA-05 (R): Well this is most unexpected. Rep. Bob Good has now moved into a narrow lead of less than 1 point over his challenger, John McGuire. Geoffrey Skelley of 538 does some back-of-the-envelope math and suggests that Good—who had looked like the underdog for the longest time—could actually survive, particularly because most of Campbell County (Good’s home turf) has yet to report.

UPDATE: Wednesday, Jun 19, 2024 · 12:11:12 AM +00:00 · David Nir

VA-07 (D): No surprise: Former National Security Council adviser Eugene Vindman has won the Democratic nomination in a walk, per the AP, which has called the race with Vindman up 51-14 on his closest opponent. Vindman benefitted from his close association with his identical twin brother, Alexander, who was a key figure in Donald Trump’s first impeachment in 2019. That allowed Vindman to raise enormous sums in the form of small-dollar donations from progressives, something local elected officials just could not match.

It’s not clear yet who his Republican opponent will be for this swingy seat, but Army veteran Derek Anderson is leading right now.

UPDATE: Wednesday, Jun 19, 2024 · 12:07:42 AM +00:00 · David Nir

VA-02 (D): The AP has called the Dem primary for Navy veteran Missy Cotter Smasal, who now heads to a general election against freshman GOP Rep. Jen Kiggans. Joe Biden carried the 2nd, which is based in the Hampton Roads suburbs, by a slender 50-48 margin, so this should be a competitive race.

UPDATE: Wednesday, Jun 19, 2024 · 12:04:10 AM +00:00 · David Nir

VA-05 (R): If you’re watching a live AP tally, the results have been going haywire. At the moment, McGuire is up 53-47 with 42% counted, but at least twice, the AP shot all the way to 69% (and gave McGuire a 40-point lead). That appears to have been based on an error, though.

UPDATE: Tuesday, Jun 18, 2024 · 11:59:17 PM +00:00 · David Nir

VA-07 (D & R): We’ve finally crossed the 10% mark in the Dem primary, where former National Security Council adviser Eugene Vindman has a giant 54-14 lead on his nearest opponent, former Del. Elizabeth Guzman, with 12% reporting. On the GOP side (where the AP says almost half of all votes are tallied), Army veteran Derrick Anderson 47-37 on former Navy SEAL Cameron Hamilton.

This race is for the right to succeed Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger, who announced her retirement to focus on her 2025 bid for governor.

UPDATE: Tuesday, Jun 18, 2024 · 11:55:37 PM +00:00 · David Nir

VA-02 (D): We just shot up to 19% reporting, and Navy veteran Missy Cotter Smasal has a commanding 68-32 lead on attorney Jeremiah Denton. In a rare move, the DCCC decided to back Cotter Smasal (who lost a competitive race for the state Senate in 2019) ahead of the primary. Dems are eager to unseat first-term GOP Rep. Jennifer Kiggans, who defeated Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria in 2022 in this swingy district.

UPDATE: Tuesday, Jun 18, 2024 · 11:53:08 PM +00:00 · David Nir

GA-03 (R): The AP has called this runoff for Brian Jack, a former Trump aide who will now be on a glide path to Congress given this district’s deep red lean. The guy he’s replacing, incidentally, is retiring GOP Rep. Drew Ferguson, who is bailing on Congress at the age of just 57 after only four terms. Another sign of how lovely life must be in the Republican caucus.

UPDATE: Tuesday, Jun 18, 2024 · 11:43:11 PM +00:00 · David Nir

VA-07 (D & R): This open seat in the exurbs south of D.C. is extremely swingy and therefore both parties’ primaries tonight are high on everyone’s watch list. But there’s something strange going on here, too. The AP thinks that 30% of the vote has been tallied for the GOP but just 4% for Democrats. It’s hard to understand what the thinking is here, but we’re gonna hold off a bit so that we delve into this more.

UPDATE: Tuesday, Jun 18, 2024 · 11:39:27 PM +00:00 · David Nir

VA-10 (D): Subramanyam has now legged out to a much larger 34-21 lead on Helmer with more than a third reporting, on the strength of a good showing (comparable to his overall lead) in Loudon County.

UPDATE: Tuesday, Jun 18, 2024 · 11:35:39 PM +00:00 · David Nir

VA-05 (R): Things are, as expected, looking rough for GOP Rep. Bob Good in the 5th District. He trails state Sen. John McGuire 52-48 with an estimate 12% reporting, but this appears to be the advance vote (ie, mail and/or early voting). McGuire, who has Donald Trump’s endorsement, is likely to do even better with Election Day voters, since the MAGA base hates mail voting. (In case you were wondering what’s got Trump so upset, Good, who chairs the House Freedom Caucus, committed the unforgivable sin of endorsing Ron DeSantis in the presidential race.)

UPDATE: Tuesday, Jun 18, 2024 · 11:32:57 PM +00:00 · David Nir

VA-Sen (R): The AP has called this race for Navy veteran Hung Cao, who ran a reasonably creditable campaign for the House last cycle in the 10th District but now will be a massive underdog against Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine.

UPDATE: Tuesday, Jun 18, 2024 · 11:29:38 PM +00:00 · David Nir

VA-10 (D & R): We’re at our threshold in Northern Virginia’s open 10th District, a once-Republican seat that has swung sharply toward Dems in the Trump era. State Sen. Suhas Subramanyam, who has the backing of retiring Rep. Jennifer Wexton for the Democratic nod, is up 26-21 on Del. Dan Helmer, who is the best-funded candidate in the race. Former state Education Secretary Atif Qarni is in third with 15%, but this one could be volatile.

A bit oddly, the AP is saying 18% of votes have been counted on the Dem side but 48% have already been tallied for the GOP. That would imply a huge turnout disparity, which is not impossible but bears keeping an eye on (the AP often shifts its estimates of the vote reporting). Republican Mike Clancy has a massive lead.

UPDATE: Tuesday, Jun 18, 2024 · 11:23:49 PM +00:00 · David Nir

GA-03 (R): In the runoff for Georgia’s open (and very conservative) 3rd District, former Trump aide Brian Jack has jumped out to an early 63-37 lead on former state Sen. Mike Dugan with around 14% reporting. Jack had the endorsement of his old boss and also had a wide lead in the first round, so a victory for him is quite likely.

UPDATE: Tuesday, Jun 18, 2024 · 11:09:45 PM +00:00 · David Nir

Good evening, everyone! We have a tiny trickle of votes in Georgia, but nothing worth discussing yet. As is our practice, we always wait until we have at least 10% of the estimated vote tallied before we talk about any results.

But as keen election watchers know, things can change a lot even once that threshold is hit. That’s especially true on primary nights, where different areas report in at different times—and when different candidates often have regional bases of support. In addition, mail and early votes often behave differently from votes cast in-person on election day, and the former are usually counted first. So strap in!

Why it seems like the entire GOP wants this Republican to lose his primary

Three states are holding major primaries on Tuesday, headlined by Virginia, where Donald Trump and Kevin McCarthy are both working to punish the chair of the Freedom Caucus for his disloyalty. Oklahoma is also on tap, while Georgia is holding runoffs in contests where no one earned a majority of the vote in the first round of voting on May 21.

Below, you'll find our guide to all of the top races to watch, arranged chronologically by each state’s poll closing times. When it’s available, we'll tell you about any reliable polling that exists for each race, but if we don't mention any numbers, it means no recent surveys have been made public.

To help you follow along, you can find interactive maps from Dave's Redistricting App for Georgia, Oklahoma, and Virginia. You can find Daily Kos Elections' 2020 presidential results for each congressional district here, as well as our geographic descriptions for each seat. You’ll also want to bookmark our primary calendar, which includes the dates for primaries in all 50 states.

We'll be liveblogging all of these races at Daily Kos Elections on Tuesday night, starting when the first polls close at 7:00 PM ET. Join us for our complete coverage!  


Polls close at 7 PM ET.

• GA-03 (R) (64-34 Trump): Brian Jack, a former Donald Trump aide who has his old boss' endorsement, outpaced former state Sen. Mike Dugan 47-25 in the first round, making him the favorite to succeed retiring Republican Rep. Drew Ferguson in this seat in Atlanta's southwestern exurbs.

Jack consolidated his position by earning the backing of the third- and fourth-place finishers, Mike Crane and Philip Singleton, who took a combined 23% of the vote in the first round. Outside groups, including the crypto-aligned Defend American Jobs, have also deployed over $800,000 to help Jack in the runoff, while there's been no serious spending for Dugan.


Polls close at 7 PM ET.

• VA-02 (D) (50-48 Biden): Two Democrats vying to take on Republican Rep. Jen Kiggans, who flipped a swing district based in Virginia Beach last cycle and will likely be a top Democratic target this year.

Navy veteran Missy Cotter Smasal, who lost a competitive race for the state Senate in 2019, has the support of the DCCC and all six members of Virginia's Democratic House delegation. Her rival is Jake Denton, an attorney whose late grandfather, Jeremiah Denton, represented Alabama in the Senate as a Republican in the 1980s.

Smasal has decisively outraised Denton, and there's been no outside spending in the primary.

• VA-05 (R) (53-45 Trump): Rep. Bob Good has spent his tenure as chair of the far-right House Freedom Caucus antagonizing GOP leaders and rank-and-file Republicans alike. Now, thanks to all the grief he's caused, the two-term congressman faces an uphill primary against state Sen. John McGuire for the right to keep representing this conservative district in central and southwest Virginia.

Good knows all about bitter intra-party battles: He first got to Congress by wresting the GOP nomination from then-Rep. Denver Riggleman at a Republican convention in 2020. But now a similar fate looms for him. Good infuriated Trump last year by endorsing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' doomed presidential campaign, prompting Trump to exact his revenge last month by endorsing McGuire.

Good also was one of eight House Republicans who last fall voted to end the speakership of Kevin McCarthy, who's now looking to get even. On top of that, several conservative megadonors close to the party's current leadership are tired of Good's antics and want him gone. All of this has led outside groups to throw down close to $6 million to attack Good and promote McGuire.

But Good's allies, including the hardline Club for Growth and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul's Protect Freedom PAC, haven't given up. They've spent almost $5 million on messaging arguing that Good, unlike McGuire, is an ardent conservative.

• VA-07 (D & R) (53-46 Biden): Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger decided not to seek reelection so she could focus on her 2025 bid for governor, spurring busy primaries on both sides for her district based in the southern exurbs of Washington, D.C.

The frontrunner in the seven-way Democratic contest is former National Security Council adviser Eugene Vindman, who, along with his identical twin brother, Alexander, was at the center of the scandal that led to Donald Trump's first impeachment in 2019.

Thanks to the siblings' high profile during that affair, Vindman has been one of the strongest fundraisers among House candidates in the nation. Vindman has also benefited from about $1.3 million in outside spending from a pair of super PACs: VoteVets, which promotes Democratic veterans, and Protect Progress, a group with ties to the crypto industry. The Washington Post, which has a large readership in Northern Virginia, is supporting him as well.

Vindman faces four current and former elected officials who have faulted him for not being active in politics in what's long been a competitive region and for sometimes displaying a lack of knowledge about local matters. However, the members of this quartet—Prince William County Supervisors Andrea Bailey and Margaret Franklin, Del. Briana Sewell, and Elizabeth Guzman—have each raised just a fraction ​of the money Vindman has at his disposal.

The only other third-party spending of note has come from a super PAC called Casa In Action, which has deployed $200,000 to promote Guzman, who would be the first Hispanic person to represent Virginia in Congress.

A late May internal poll for Vindman showed him beating Bailey 43-10, with his rivals taking single-digit support. No one has released any data to contradict the idea that Vindman is well-positioned to triumph in a contest where none of his many opponents have established themselves as the clear alternative.

Republicans, meanwhile, are hoping that Spanberger's absence will give them a chance to flip this seat. The main contender in the five-candidate field appears to be Green Beret veteran Derrick Anderson, who lost a close primary for this seat in 2022 and has House Speaker Mike Johnson's endorsement for his second try.

The other notable Republican is former Navy SEAL Cameron Hamilton, who has the support of much of the Freedom Caucus. Both veterans have been attacking the other from the right, and their allies have spent well over $1 million on behalf of each man. Anderson's main support has come from the American Patriots PAC, which is funded by Republican megadonors Ken Griffin and Paul Singer, while Rand Paul's network is supporting Hamilton.

• VA-10 (D) (58-40 Biden): A dozen Democrats are campaigning to replace retiring Rep. Jennifer Wexton in a district based in the southwestern suburbs and exurbs of Washington, D.C.

Wexton is backing state Sen. Suhas Subramanyam, who would be both Virginia's first Indian American and Hindu member of the House. Subramanyam has raised more money than most of his many opponents and has also gotten more than $500,000 in support from the Indian American Impact Fund.

Del. Dan Helmer, though, still enjoys a huge financial advantage over Subramanyam and the rest of this busy field. Helmer, an Army veteran and the top fundraiser in the race, has been the beneficiary of well over $5 million in outside spending. His largest ally is the crypto-aligned Protect Progress, while VoteVets is also spending to help him. In addition, the Washington Post has endorsed Helmer

However, few of Helmer's current constituents live in the congressional district he wants to represent, though he may have more serious concerns to worry about.

Four current and former officials in the Loudoun County Democratic Committee put out a statement during the final week of the race publicly accusing Helmer of engaging in "inappropriate behavior" with one of their number in 2018. One signatory told NOTUS that the committee's sexual harassment policy was adopted as a "direct result" of his actions. The candidate responded by denying what he called "baseless claims."

The race also includes four other current and former members of the state legislature: state Sen. Jennifer Boysko, Dels. Michelle Maldonado and David Reid, and former state House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn. But while Filler-Corn has raised considerably more than the rest of this foursome, her old legislative seat doesn't overlap with Wexton's district at all. Boysko has the same problem, while Maldonado and Reid have struggled to raise money.

Two other names to watch are defense contractor Krystle Kaul, who has self-funded much of her campaign, and former state Education Secretary Atif Qarni. Kaul would be the state's first Indian American or Sikh member of Congress, while Qarni would be both its first Pakistani American and Muslim representative.

The only survey we've seen here in recent weeks was a Qarni internal poll from mid-May that showed Helmer edging out Subramanyam 17-16, with Qarni and Filler-Corn respectively at 12% and 9%. That survey, however, was conducted with almost a month left to go before the primary.


Polls close at 8 PM ET/7 PM local time. An Aug. 27 runoff would take place in any races where no candidate wins a majority of the vote.

• OK-04 (R) (65-33 Trump): Rep. Tom Cole faces an unexpectedly expensive primary battle thanks to the arrival of businessman Paul Bondar, who has spent over $5 million of his own money to portray the appropriations chairman as an insider who "voted with Democrats for billions in new deficit spending."

The 11-term incumbent, though, has benefited from almost $4 million in support from third-party groups. Those include the American Action Network, a nonprofit with ties to the House GOP leadership, which has been airing TV ads on the congressman's behalf. Cole and his allies have spent the campaign both touting his support from Trump and reminding voters that Bondar did not register to vote in Oklahoma until April—a month after he cast a ballot in the Texas primaries.

Three little-known candidates are also on the ballot, so it's possible that neither Cole nor Bondar will capture a majority of the vote on Tuesday. Bondar has been airing ads featuring that trio saying they'd back him in a hypothetical runoff.

The Downballot: Monster flip in Virginia + reredistricting preview (transcript)

Hell yeah! Election season is here, and it's already off to an amazing start with Democrats' huge flip of a critical seat in the Virginia state Senate, which kicks off this week's episode of The Downballot. Co-hosts David Nir and David Beard dissect what Aaron Rouse's victory means for November (abortion is still issue number one!) when every seat in the legislature will be on the ballot. They also discuss big goings-on in two U.S. Senate races: California, where Rep. Katie Porter just became the first Democrat to kick off a bid despite Sen. Dianne Feinstein's lack of a decision about her own future, and Michigan, which just saw veteran Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow announce her retirement.

The Davids also delve back into a topic that frequently came up last year: redistricting. “Didn't every state just draw new maps?” you might ask. Yes! But many have to do so again thanks to court rulings. Unfortunately, this gives Republicans in North Carolina and Ohio the opportunity to gerrymander once more, though there's an outside chance some Southern states could be required to draw new congressional districts where Black voters can elect their candidates of choice.

This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

David Beard:

Hello and welcome. I'm David Beard, contributing editor for Daily Kos Elections.

David Nir:

And I'm David Nir, political director of Daily Kos. The Downballot is a weekly podcast dedicated to the many elections that take place below the presidency, from Senate to city council. Please subscribe to The Downballot wherever you listen to podcasts, and leave us a five-star rating and review.

David Beard:

What are we going to be talking about this week, Nir?

David Nir:

Well, we kicked off the brand-new year with a freaking awesome special election flip in the Virginia state Senate. We are going to dive deep into that. We also want to talk about the United States Senate. We have some action in two key states, California and Michigan. We also need to talk about what's going on at the legislative level in Michigan; of course, we flipped both chambers of the legislature last year and Democrats are now moving forward with a fantastic progressive agenda, so we're going to talk about the implications of that. Then finally, we are going to discuss an old favorite topic: redistricting. Redistricting isn't done. Even though every state drew new maps in 2022, many have to do so again thanks to court orders in 2023. So we are going to preview what we can expect as new lines are drawn once more in the reredistricting process. Please stay with us.

David Beard:

Even though it's not even halfway through January, we already have an election for 2023 to talk about. Down in Virginia, we had a state Senate special that was pretty competitive, so tell us about that one.

David Nir:

Beard, man, I am so stoked. This was such a great way to kick off 2023. It was already a great year with all the Kevin McCarthy nonsense, but we flipped a state Senate seat in Virginia in a Republican-held district. Democrat Aaron Rouse, who's a Virginia Beach city councilman, beat Republican Kevin Adams by just about 1 point. And this was a district held by Republican state Sen. Jen Kiggans. Unfortunately, in November, she beat Congresswoman Elaine Luria in the 2nd District, but it also meant she had to give up her state Senate seat. And this was very competitive turf. This was a district that Joe Biden won by 10 points in 2020, but the following year, Republican Glenn Youngkin in the race for governor carried this district in the Virginia Beach area by 4 points.

And in 2019, this was an open seat. Jen Kiggans, the new congresswoman, she won this district by 1 point in the regular November general election, a time when Democrats were quite pumped up. Trump was in the White House, and in fact on that night, Democrats actually flipped the Virginia state Senate in 2019, but they didn't take this seat. So Democrats did better in a special election in the middle of January coming straight off the holidays than they did at a normal election when everyone is accustomed to voting.

Aaron Rouse—he is a former NFL player, also perhaps more importantly, a former Virginia Tech football star, and he is also adamantly pro-choice, and this is really the crux of the election. Going into this race, Democrats had just a 21-19 advantage in the state Senate, and the problem is that one of those 21 Democrats is someone we've mentioned before on this show, Joe Morrissey, who is a total scumbag. He has been just scandal-ridden his entire career, but on top of all that, he calls himself "pro-life" and there's always a possibility that he would screw over his party and decide to join with Republicans to pass some sort of abortion ban, which Republicans, including Gov. Youngkin, have been really eager to pass.

And if Morrissey were to do that, well then that 21-19 majority turns to 20-20, it's a tie, and then the far-right lieutenant governor Republican Winsome Sears would be able to break a tie in favor of an abortion ban. That can't happen now. Now the Democratic majority is 22-18, and no matter what Joe Morrissey tries to do, no matter what stunts he tries to pull, it doesn't matter: Democrats have a solid 21 vote pro-choice majority, and that includes Aaron Rouse.

I should also add this district actually is going to be much bluer come November when every member of the legislature is up for reelection, both in the House and the state Senate. This district was held under the old lines, like I said, Biden plus 10. The new lines are more like Biden plus 20, so Rouse definitely should be the favorite for reelection. He is going to almost certainly be facing Adams in a rematch. We will be talking about the overall picture for both the state House where Republicans have a narrow advantage; Democrats are going to be trying to undo that. And the state Senate where, of course Democrats have this four-seat advantage and they will be trying to defend that in an upcoming episode. But man, I love starting a new year with a flip of a major, major seat.

David Beard:

Yeah, it's great to kick off 2023 like this and continue the relative success of 2022. I think a couple of points that we can take away from this special: one, I think we've seen continually now that as coalitions have changed and the Democratic Party has become more and more the home of more educated voters who tend to vote in these specials, the drop off that we used to see ... particularly when there was a Democrat in the White House. Obviously when we had Trump or later in the Bush years, there was always great Dem enthusiasm. But what we're seeing is even with a Democratic president, Democratic turnout is holding up reasonably well in special elections. In large part, I think because we have a lot more better-educated voters who make an effort to make sure that they go and vote in these special elections. So that's good news for us. As these special elections go along, we don't have as much to fear from them as we once did under a Democratic president.

I also think this is obviously a big swing area of Virginia as a whole, particularly as we've seen northern Virginia get bluer and bluer. The swing area of the state has really become the Richmond suburbs and the southeast Virginia/Virginia Beach area. So the fact that we are able to take this seat, put up a good margin compared to what it could've been had we had a bad result, I think that portends well for the fall 2023 elections. Like you said, we're going to talk about that a lot between now and then, but the Senate and the House are both up and so I think this is a good starting point to kick off victories in hopefully both those chambers.

David Nir:

I also want to circle back to the number one topic of 2022, which is also going to be the number one topic of 2023, and that is abortion. I talked about Joe Morrissey, but I want to make it clear, Aaron Rouse campaigned heavily on abortion rights. He ran ads about it, and Adams, the Republican, he tried to sidestep the issue, as Republicans did throughout 2022. So I think it still bears repeating: We are in a post-Dobbs world, and we talked about this after the midterms; the pundit conventional wisdom was, "Oh, well it'll fade." I'm certain that it hasn't, and it certainly didn't fade in November and I don't think it's faded now, come January. I think this is going to remain potent for a long time to come.

David Beard:

2024 has already started when it comes to Senate races, we had a couple of big developments in the past week and we're going to hit both of those. I'm going to start us off with California Senate where incumbent Sen. Dianne Feinstein has not officially said that she's not going to seek reelection in 2024. But due to her advanced age—she's 89 now and somewhat declining health—that's led many to anticipate that she's not going to run again, that that decision is essentially inevitable. So there are many Democrats that are making moves toward running in 2024.

One of the big names that went ahead and made that move, and officially announced that she was running for Senate, is Rep. Katie Porter. She announced her Senate bid on Tuesday and she also said later in the day that she was in, whether or not Sen. Feinstein ran again. Which again is not expected to be the case, but is one of those brash moves where I think others are waiting for Feinstein to say that she won't seek reelection before announcing and giving that sense of respect and deferral. Katie Porter is saying, "I'm in, I'm running for Senate, whether or not the senator decides to run for reelection or not, that doesn't matter. I'm in."

What that does do, that gives her a little bit of a head start. She gets to go, she gets to start campaigning and raising money. She doesn't have to wait on the senator to make an official announcement, but it's also possible that some people may see that as somewhat of a sign of disrespect. Now, I mentioned that there are a lot of people looking at this race. Another prominent candidate is Rep. Barbara Lee, a longtime, very progressive member of Congress from the Bay Area. She reportedly told the Congressional Black Caucus that she was going to run, but to a reporter, she later said that she'd make an official announcement "when it's appropriate." So she's clearly somebody who is likely going to wait until Feinstein officially announces that she's retiring before making any sort of public announcement or campaign launch.

Rep. Adam Schiff is another person who's widely expected to run. And some of his folks criticized Rep. Porter for her announcement because of the floods that are currently taking place in California, saying that it wasn't an appropriate time to make this sort of announcement and start raising money when many people in California are being affected by this natural disaster. This is just the start of what's probably going to be a very long, very messy campaign once all these candidates get in. But we'll just have to wait and see how it develops as we head towards the 2024 California primary, which will give us two candidates of course, because of their top two system. And then likely even more mess if those top two candidates are Democrats and we'll have that very strange idea of two Democrats competing in a general election with no Republican candidate.

David Nir:

That's exactly what happened the last time California had an open Senate seat, back in 2016 when Kamala Harris beat Loretta Sanchez, and those Dem-on-Dem statewide races in California can be weird and difficult to handicap. Porter released a poll of her own, showing that she would be leading in a hypothetical primary and also leading Adam Schiff in a one-on-one general election. But the reason why she's leading Adam Schiff is, believe it or not, because she's doing much better with Republicans.

Now, many Republicans would probably undervote; they would skip the race if it were between two Democrats, we've seen that before. But Katie Porter is this huge liberal icon, but so is Adam Schiff, perhaps even more so thanks to all of Trump's attacks during the impeachment. So again, it's going to be pretty tricky to figure out who might actually pick up those independent or Republican votes if we do have a Dem-on-Dem race. But there is so much game left to be played until we get to that point, so I don't even want to begin to guess how this one is going to unfold.

David Beard:

Yeah, this definitely feels like the first mile of a marathon. It's going to be a very long, very complicated race.

David Nir:

Well, we have another Senate seat that definitely is going to be open in 2024 that we need to talk about, and that is in Michigan where veteran Democrat Debbie Stabenow announced her retirement after four terms. And as you would expect in a swing state like this, there are tons of candidates on both sides who are reportedly considering, who actually have said they're considering, who have been mentioned by the proverbial Great Mentioner, just names that get floated in newspaper articles without any quote attached to them whatsoever. Some of the best known Democrats whose names have come up so far are Congresswomen Elissa Slotkin, Debbie Dingell, and Haley Stevens; Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist also hasn't ruled out a campaign. He would be Michigan's first Black senator if he were to prevail.

For Republicans, they also have a bunch of names. Maybe the most prominent is actually freshman Congressman John James, who like Garlin Gilchrist, would also be the state's first Black senator. However, James, who ran twice for this seat unsuccessfully before, only just barely squeaked into the House in November after being expected by just about everyone, including the party organizations, to absolutely dominate. I think he won by maybe just like 1% or so. So he might prefer to actually spend some time getting familiar with his district and trying to secure reelection as opposed to immediately seeking a promotion when he kind of entered office in a pretty shaky way. Again, this is one where there is so much left to unfold, but unlike in California, we have traditional primaries in Michigan. Those typically take place in August of the election year, which is very, very late. So it could be quite a long time before we have nominees in that race too.

It's so hard to know what Michigan is going to do in a general election. Trump obviously won it in 2016. It was absolutely heartbreaking. More than heartbreaking. It was devastating. But Biden came back and won it by 3 points in 2020. And then Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, the Democratic incumbent, she won reelection last fall by an 11-point margin. So is Michigan really a solidly blue-leaning state or is it a swing state? Does it matter if it's a state-level election or a federal election? I guess we'll really have to see, but I am sure that Republicans will try really, really hard to win this seat, especially since they have a very favorable map overall where Democrats are in defense throughout most of the country. And of course we will be talking about the 2024 Senate playing field extensively in upcoming episodes.

David Beard:

And of course, we all know that the top of the ticket affects the Senate races when it's a presidential year. So that's obviously going to be a factor, particularly now that this is going to be an open seat. How Michigan goes at the presidential level will definitely have an effect on this Senate race. Though we've certainly also seen circumstances where really strong or really weak candidates can change that dynamic and you could have a Republican win, even if Biden is reelected or vice versa if there's some other scenario. So that's a big factor that we're going to have to watch as we go on. But candidate quality as we saw in 2022, even in a presidential year that's coming in 2024, candidate quality really matters. So we're going to have to see who comes out of these primaries.

David Nir:

It absolutely does. And I was thinking as you were saying that, Beard, Democrats don't really have any weak candidates. I mean, yeah, sure, I suppose someone could emerge and sneak through that we're not expecting, but all the names that have surfaced so far and beyond just those that I rattled off earlier, they would all be good in one way or another. Republicans have so many disaster candidates, any one of whom could win a primary. I mean, what if Tudor Dixon, the candidate who lost to Whitmer by double-digits in November, decides to run again? Anything is possible with them.

David Beard:

Yeah. And we've seen as the Republican Party continues to fail in these races that they think they should be doing better in, it largely chalks up to the fact that they nominate bad candidates. Democrats have nominated really strong candidates in recent years, and as a result, Democrats do better than you would expect on a race-by-race basis because of our good candidates. So we can only hope that continues. As long as the Republican Party is like this, we have to take advantage of the fact that we have such better candidates than they do.

David Nir:

I'm totally loving it. And speaking of better candidates leading to great success, there is a great success that is on the way in Michigan—still talking about Michigan—that we just have to talk about because it directly stems from one of the best Democratic victories of 2022.

David Beard:

Yes. In case you somehow weren't with us in 2022 and missed this, Democrats took control of both the Michigan state House and state Senate last year, giving them the first trifecta in the state along with Gov. Whitmer for the first time in decades. Which means that they're going to be able to pass legislation without any support of Republican members in either chamber, which is great news because they're going to be able to do some really, really good things for Michigan.

Now, obviously, we don't usually get a lot into the weeds of various state-level legislation here, but it's good to see the positive actual outcomes that result when we elect Democrats in a state like Michigan, then they're actually able to take power. So Michigan Democratic legislative leaders released a list of bills that they're going to take up first and hopefully pass quickly, and that includes some really great legislation including LGBT anti-discrimination protections, and restoring the prevailing wage, which is something that ensures that state workers on construction projects are paid a good wage.

And then ending right to work. Right to work is something that we've talked about a little bit. When a state is "right to work," it allows someone who's in a job that would be unionized to not pay anything to the union that represents them on legal issues and on collective bargaining and all of this stuff. And conservatives like to frame it as this freedom idea. But what it really does is weaken the unions because unions are forced to represent all of the workers whether they pay anything or not. And so in states that don't have “right to work,” all workers represented by the union have to pay a fair share fee, specifically just on that legal and bargaining representation. And so when right to work is in effect, the union has to pay to represent all these workers who aren't a part of it without any compensation.

And so getting rid of right to work is both fair in terms of what people are getting for this fair share fee that they pay. It gives the unions a stronger footing in terms of bargaining, and then also in terms of fighting for workers' rights at the political level. And that's why Republicans always go after it. They want to weaken the unions because the unions fight back against the Republicans’ attacks on workers. And so we've seen Republicans go after and pass right to work whenever they take over a state. And now that Democrats have taken over Michigan, one of the strongest union states in the country, they're going to be able to end right to work, strengthen unions, strengthen workers' rights, and make a level playing field once again.

We're also seeing that the Democrats are going to repeal the abortion criminalization statute, even though it's not in effect. Obviously, it's good to officially repeal it and make sure no changes in the judicial system or anything in Michigan or the Constitution would result in somehow that ever coming into effect. And they're also going to enact some progressive tax changes. So just good policy after good policy that we're hopefully going to see passed really soon here in Michigan.

David Nir:

Well, that does it for our weekly hits. Coming up, we are going to be discussing redistricting. I know you're thinking, "Didn't we just finish up with redistricting last year?" Absolutely not. A whole bunch of states have to draw maps once more, and we are going to be taking a deep dive to find out what we can expect in the new reredistricting process this year. Stay with us.

So Beard, we got to talk about redistricting. Even though every single state in the nation redrew its congressional map and almost every single state in the nation redrew their legislative maps, a whole bunch have to do it all over again in almost every case because of some sort of court ruling saying that, "You did something wrong. You passed an illegal map. You didn't follow proper procedures. There is something that you have to do over." And we are therefore going to see a whole bunch of new maps across the country, both at the congressional level and at the legislative level. And some we know for certain are coming; others, we are still waiting on the outcome of various lawsuits. But at the top of the list is a state that we definitely know will be drawing a new congressional map and also one new legislative map. And that is your home state, David Beard.

David Beard:

Yes. Redistricting is really a never-ending process for some states, and North Carolina has definitely been one of those over the years. Though as we'll talk about, once this final process happens, they may stick with those maps for the rest of the decade. The North Carolina Supreme Court struck down both the congressional map and the state Senate map, and for the congressional map, they used a court ordered map in 2022 that was only in effect for 2022. So the state legislature will have to draw a new map for 2024.

Unfortunately, the Republican state legislature in North Carolina is who draws the map. The governor, who is a Democrat, doesn't have any role in redistricting in North Carolina. And so the only check on the legislature is the court system and the court that struck down that gerrymandered map was a Democratic-majority North Carolina Supreme Court. And due to the 2022 elections, it's now a Republican-majority state Supreme Court. So it's very unlikely that that court will strike down a gerrymandered map from the state legislature. So they will largely have carte blanche to draw whatever they want and be as aggressive as they want.

The results from 2022 ended up electing seven Democrats and seven Republicans from a 14-district map. That could easily be 9-5, 10-4. Obviously there are some Voting Rights Act considerations around African American districts in North Carolina, but beyond that, the state legislature can be as aggressive as they would like, which is really not good news for Democratic incumbents in North Carolina.

David Nir:

I think in a worst-case scenario, there are really four Democrats who could be targeted, and that includes three freshmen—Don Davis, Jeff Jackson, Wiley Nickel—and also Kathy Manning. So you could potentially see all four of those districts become unwinnable red. That alone would really add to the hurdle that Democrats face in taking back the House in 2024. That said, no matter what North Carolina Republicans do, I still feel very optimistic about our chances of flipping the House in two years’ time, but this could really suck.

David Beard:

Yeah, absolutely. And I don't want to write off anybody particularly, because, as we've seen, there are situations where Republicans put up a terrible candidate. You've got a strong incumbent, and I think a lot of these incumbents, even though they're freshmen, are pretty strong, and they can really outperform the district by quite a lot. We saw, of course, in Ohio, which we're going to talk about in a minute, Marcy Kaptur way outperform the partisanship of her district against a terrible Republican candidate. And so it's totally possible something like that would happen, but you have to admit it's more the exception than the rule. If they go after all four of these seats really aggressively, it would be great if we could hold one or two, but it would be almost impossible to hold all four if they go all out to go after these seats.

David Nir:

So yeah, let's talk about Ohio. That state was an absolute shit show. Republican maps, both for Congress and the legislature, were repeatedly struck down by the state Supreme Court for violating the state constitution's ban on partisan gerrymandering. But once again, just like in North Carolina, that court had a 4-3 anti-gerrymandering majority. It was three Democrats plus one moderate Republican who was the chief justice. She stepped down, and Republicans now have an outright majority on that court. And so, even though Republican legislators managed to run out the clock and use unconstitutional maps in 2022, now they get a chance to draw maps again, just like in North Carolina, and the only possible check on them is the Supreme Court, and it's very unlikely that these very partisan Republican justices will do anything to stop a more aggressive gerrymander. And, what, Beard, would you say there are probably three Democrats who could be targeted by Republicans if they go hog wild once again? You have two freshmen, Emilia Sykes and Greg Landsman, and plus also Marcy Kaptur, who you were mentioning. It's certainly possible that Republicans could try to strike at all three.

David Beard:

I do think there is slightly more of a question in Ohio about how aggressive Republicans will be at the congressional level, whereas we've seen North Carolina Republicans repeatedly go all out in terms of this sort of gerrymandered aggressiveness. We do have the recent thing that we talked about last week where a slightly more moderate Republican speaker of the House was elected on the backs of Democratic votes. And so there may be a situation where maybe they don't go to the absolute partisan wall to try to pass a new map, given the uncertain situation in the House. But we'll have to see. There are absolutely three seats that were very competitive in 2022. If this same map were somehow used again, it would absolutely be competitive again.

I think the person with the best chance to either have a seat they could win or maybe be left alone is Greg Landsman in Ohio's first district. It's based in Cincinnati. There are some rules in the Ohio Constitution that are pretty straightforward about how many times you can split a county, and so they can't split the county that holds Cincinnati more than once. And so you do have to put all those Democratic voters somewhere.

I think in some ways it would be easier just to give him Cincinnati in the way that there's a big Columbus district where they make a huge Democratic vote sink, and the same with Cleveland, where they make a huge Democratic vote sink, and just put the Democrats into that district rather than try to split it up. But we'll see. I do think Kaptur held a very Republican seat this past cycle. It wouldn't surprise me if hers got maybe slightly even worse. And then, Sykes in northeast Ohio, it's obviously difficult to tell because there's a lot of voters moving in different directions there. So it's hard to know exactly how they might want to change it, but they could absolutely go after her if they really want to.

David Nir:

Regarding that 1st District, the one in Cincinnati now held by Greg Landsman, one point that's worth making is that most incumbent lawmakers don't want to take on new territory. Not just because it might put them at risk in a general election, but also because it might put them at risk in a primary. You could always get a challenge from someone who represents the new turf that you haven't previously represented, and we saw this in particular play out in Missouri, where the far-right faction of the Republican Party there really, really, really wanted a congressional map that created seven Republican districts and just one Democratic district. But they wound up passing a 6-2 map, just as they had before, because in large part, a lot of these Republican incumbent congressmen simply didn't want their districts to change all that much.

So that is something we actually have seen in Ohio as well in the previous decade. When Ohio was dropping a district due to reapportionment, they actually carved up a district that belonged to a Republican congressman, a guy named Steve Austria, simply because they wanted to make sure that they could elect all the other Republicans safely. So that might be the one saving grace. Basically, the desire to protect incumbents could outweigh the desire to screw over Democrats. North Carolina. Man, those Republicans just don't seem to care. They will go absolutely balls to the wall no matter what, and incumbent protection, just, I don't know, either it doesn't matter to them or they've just figured it out so brilliantly with these perfect 55% Republican districts. But they never really seem to have any of those fears.

David Beard:

I do think because there are, on the whole, probably fewer swing voters in North Carolina than there are in Ohio, it is easier for them to be more aggressive because the numbers won't change that much. So if you think of the band of the range of outcomes in a lot of those North Carolina districts, they're a lot narrower than you were in some of these Ohio places, where we see a lot of swing voters. Obviously we've seen Republicans rack up some massive victories. We saw a relatively close Senate race. We saw Sherrod Brown win in 2018. So there is somewhat more swing voters, I think, in Ohio, than North Carolina, which is a factor.

And to go back to your point about how much does a Republican want to take on Democrats, in Hamilton County, which is the county that Cincinnati is in: the district that shares it with CD 1, where Landsman is the Democrat, is congressional district 8, held by Republican Warren Davidson. Now, he won comfortably, of course, in 2022. He won by about 19 points. Sure, he could take on a few Democrats, but the question is, how many Democrats does he really want to take on to try to make that seat a few points more Republican to potentially give himself a competitive race? Because right now it's a nothing race, and if it gets a few more points more Democrat, even if he'd still be favored, he might have to start raising a lot of money, doing a lot more campaigning, and he may not want to do that, which may mean that Landsman may have a slightly easier time, because they have to give any precincts in Hamilton County that go away from Landsman to CD 8, because they can only split it once.

David Nir:

Now, we should also talk about several legal challenges that are still underway, attacking Republican-drawn maps for violating the rights of Black voters. We talked about a couple of these cases last year. I want to highlight two in particular because they are very, very similar, from Alabama and Louisiana. In both of these cases, federal courts ruled that under the Voting Rights Act, the state was obligated to draw a second district where Black voters would be likely to elect their candidate of choice, who would almost certainly be a Black Democrat. In both Alabama and in Louisiana, there is a single Black district, and in both of these cases, plaintiffs sued and said there should be a second such district. And applying a set of criteria required by the Voting Rights Act, both courts held that, in both cases, the plaintiffs were right.

And I read both of these decisions. They were amazing decisions. Incredibly thoughtful. Very, very lengthy, dealing with absolutely every aspect of these cases with incredible thoroughness and seriousness. In some cases, these decisions were written by Trump-appointed judges, and in both of those two cases, the Supreme Court said, "It's a little too close to the election, so, we got to go with the existing GOP maps that only have one Black district apiece." And those rulings from the Supreme Court were just absolute garbage. There was plenty of time to draw new maps in both of those states. That's absolutely what should have happened. But these cases are still pending. So, what that means is that once there is a full trial on the merits, the case is adjudicated fully as opposed to in a preliminary fashion, then hopefully these courts will both rule the same way and, again, say, "Yes, like we said before, you need to draw a second Black district in both of these states." Of course, even if they do come to those conclusions, the Supreme Court could still overrule them on the merits.

Previously, they said, "No, we're putting this ruling on pause because there isn't enough time." But now, going forward, they could say, "We are simply overturning this ruling because you got it wrong." They absolutely didn't get it wrong. These judges wrote really tremendous rulings, as I said, but there is no way to know for sure. I'm not that optimistic about these cases standing up, but if they do, that would mean two more districts almost certain to elect Democrats in two otherwise dark red Southern states. And that would be a huge bonus for Democrats, but not just that, it would be a huge bonus for the cause of Black representation.

I mean, that's why the Voting Rights Act exists. It exists to further the cause of minority representation in this country. And the Voting Rights Act says you cannot try to dilute the strength of Black voters, of Latino voters, of other minority groups, language minority, other groups of voters of color. You cannot try to deprive them of the kind of representation they ought to have if you drew normal, sane, sensible maps, is more or less my layman's interpretation of what the VRA requires here, and I think that's basically right. So, we'll see what the Supreme Court does. Again, don't keep your fingers crossed on these, but that could be plus two to the upside for Democrats if those go the right way.

David Beard:

Yeah, and the Supreme Court heard this case. They specifically heard the Alabama case, which is Merrill v. Milligan. It will almost certainly control the Louisiana case that comes after it. That happened in October, so we could get a ruling anytime in the next few months. Obviously, people often take tea leaves from the oral arguments. It was largely not great for the side arguing for the additional Black districts in Alabama. It seemed like, unsurprisingly, the court really wanted an outcome that resulted in not an extra district. They sort of went around a lot of different ways to get there, whether to just make the requirements more difficult so that the plaintiffs wouldn't meet it, or to just strike down this whole aspect of the voting rights altogether. But either way, I think we would be really surprised if these Republican justices came and were like, "Actually, yes. There should be a second Black Democratic district," despite that being the obvious intent of the Voting Rights Act. And so, we're likely going to have to continue on with the districts as they are, is what I would expect.

David Nir:

There was also a similar ruling, actually, just in the past week, out of South Carolina, that held that the 1st Congressional District, this is a Republican seat along the coast, was an unconstitutional racial gerrymandered, meaning that Republican lawmakers overly relied on race when they drew that district. And what in fact they did was this was a seat that Democrats actually flipped in 2018. Republicans narrowly flipped it back in 2020 and after that, Republican lawmakers wanted to make it redder in order to protect the new incumbent, Nancy Mace. And they did just that, except they did so by deliberately moving Black voters from the 1st District to the neighboring 6th District where Black voters predominate. That is the state's one Democratic district. We'll see whether this ruling survives on appeal.

I honestly don't really expect too much change. Even if it does, because if Republicans have to draw a new map, they'll probably just be smarter the next time. We've seen that happen a number of cases where Republicans simply get busted for being just kind of stupid or overly aggressive or cocky about the way they drew maps in South Carolina.

They were really explicit about their target in terms of the percentage of Black voters they wanted in each district, and that just sets off alarm bells of overly relying on race in doing redistricting. And if you do something that's stupid then even a really hardcore Republican judge is kind of like, "Ugh, God, why did you give me this mess? I have to rule against you. You were just too dumb." And probably the next time they'll be a little bit smarter about this. But we'll see how aggressive they try to be. It'll still be a red-leaning district no matter what happens with this case, no matter what kind of new map we wind up seeing, if any.

But this is also an area, one of these better-educated suburban areas that seems to be trending Democrats’ way. So maybe further down the road, this is an opportunity for a pickup once again.

David Beard:

And of course, what they often do in cases like this is they pretend that they made these moves for partisan gain. The Republicans will say, "Oh, we were just doing this for partisan reasons and they just happened to all be Black people that we moved out of the district." What are the odds? When obviously there's also a very obvious clear racial element to this districting? One of the judges that ruled and wrote on this case said, and I quote, "If you see a turtle on top of a fence post, you know someone put it there." And I'm like, "That's pretty good because you can claim all sorts of things. But of course, ultimately someone put the turtle on the fence post. Somebody moved all these Black voters to the other district and you can claim it for all sorts of other things that were going on.”

David Nir:

The turtle got on top of the fence post for purely partisan reasons.

David Beard:

Of course. He was too partisan to not be on the fence post.

David Nir:

So there's one more state in this bucket that we need to talk about, and that's Florida. But the litigation that is ongoing there is in state court, and it relies on amendments to the state constitution that voters passed quite some time ago. These amendments try to crack down on partisan gerrymandering and they also prohibit undermining minority representation. And in fact, in 2016, litigants successfully used these amendments to get the state to draw a new congressional map.

In fact, one that was more favorable for Democrats because of course the map had been drawn by Republicans. The problem is that since that time, Florida's Supreme Court has undergone dramatic changes. Former Gov. Rick Scott appointed several members and the current Gov. Ron DeSantis has also appointed more justices to the court. The majority that wrote that previous decision that cracked down on partisan gerrymandering and also supported Black representation no longer exists.

And the map that Republicans passed last year which was drawn by DeSantis himself. He just told the legislature, "My way or the highway. You better pass this map." It was a really stunning self-aggrandization of power on the part of the governor and state lawmakers simply handed it over to DeSantis. They have just no self-respect. That map was an extreme partisan gerrymanderer, shredded a number of Democratic districts and also completely shattered a predominantly Black district in northern Florida that seemingly is protected by the state constitution, and in fact, a lower court originally ruled that it was, but that ruling was overturned on appeal, and I would expect the Florida Supreme Court to really basically ignore these amendments and say that they don't matter. They don't apply for whatever reason.

They'll wave their hands at it. The judicial reasoning doesn't really matter to them. So even though we had success a decade ago in overturning Florida's map, I'm not optimistic this time.

David Beard:

Yeah. I think outside of FL-05, which is the Black opportunity district that was dismantled, I would be shocked if any of the other districts got ruled against by the conservative Florida Supreme Court. And I also honestly don't expect the Florida Supreme Court to do anything about FL-05 either. There has been a case filed in federal court under the Voting Rights Act about the dismantling of Florida's 5th District, and it sort of remains to be seen. No ruling has taken place yet in that case. The 5th District was a Black opportunity district where African American voters could elect a representative of their choice, and then it was just ultimately destroyed and turned into a couple of districts where Republican-leaning white voters could elect congressmen of their choice.

So we haven't seen that really just brazenly taken place in other states, so we don't know how the conservative-leaning court federal courts will respond to that. It may be a case where they see this as a good opportunity to prove their supposed neutral bonafides and be like, "Oh yeah, we didn't let Alabama and Louisiana create second Black districts and all these other cases we ruled for the conservatives, but we will reinstate this one district in Florida to prove that we're fair."

So it wouldn't shock me if that sort of outcome resulted, but that's probably quite a ways away. I don't even know if we'll have that in time for 2024 because that case seems to be going much slower than the other cases and the rest of the districts in Florida, I don't think anybody should count on.

David Nir:

So we mentioned at the top of this segment, a number of state legislative maps also have to be redrawn, and we've alluded to a couple of them, the North Carolina Senate, both chambers in the Ohio legislature. The South Carolina State House already redrew its map, so they are definitely going to have a new map for 2024. The most interesting one though is Montana. I said at the start that almost every state redrew its legislative maps in 2022. The one exception was the state of Montana. This one is completely, completely bizarre. The issue in Montana is a totally nonsensical state law.

The state has an evenly divided bipartisan redistricting commission that has the authority to draw maps. That commission has to submit those maps to state lawmakers at the first regular session of the legislature after census figures are available. The problem is that that session of the legislature always ends in April, which means that there was absolutely no chance of the commission finishing a map in time before the end of the session.

In fact, it's almost always impossible for that to happen, but it was definitely impossible in 2021 because census data was so heavily delayed, particularly because of COVID. So that means that because the legislature only has a regular session every other year in odd-numbered years, that the next session of the legislature that the commission can submit maps to state lawmakers for the review is not until 2023, and that means that elections with the new maps couldn't possibly be held until 2024.

The reason why this is also completely cockamamie and stupid is that the same law doesn't actually give state lawmakers the power to make changes to these maps. All they get to do is review them and submit comments to the commission, and the commission can take them into account, or it cannot take them into account. The commission gets the final say on this.

The legislature doesn't have any power over the maps. So basically there is this two-year delay for a purely ministerial process that very likely won't affect the final maps. And this isn't just some sort of ticky-tack complaint. The districts that Montana has that were used in 2022 are completely out of whack. The population is totally imbalanced. Some districts have way too many people. Some districts have way too few people. So it was very probably unconstitutional, this law in Montana to wait a whole extra two years.

The thing is, no one sued about it. No one has ever sued, and I think that a lawsuit would very likely succeed if someone actually ever brought one. Maybe in the next decade someone will, but it's too late now. The commission's work is underway. They'll probably have maps finished soon, and we'll have new maps, but they're going to be two years late.

David Beard:

Yeah. It's a reminder that there's a ton of things out there that are probably illegal or unconstitutional, but due to the way that our justice system works, they only actually get stopped or changed if somebody files a lawsuit, shows harm, gets a ruling, that actually changes the issue. Otherwise, these things just sort of continue on weird relics of badly written constitutions.

David Nir:

It really is a case of justice deferred as justice denied, because even if someone sues as we have seen in so many of these cases, like the ones we were just talking about in Louisiana and Alabama, these cases can take forever to play out in the courts. And Republicans know this. They know that delay benefits them, so they have no problem passing totally illegal maps because they'll benefit from them for at least one election. Maybe two, maybe three, maybe even more, maybe almost the whole decade. And if it eventually gets overturned, so what? You at least got three good elections out of it from the perspective of the GOP. Our approach to dealing with unconstitutional election maps is deeply flawed, as badly flawed as many of the maps themselves.

David Beard:

And as this may be the last full redistricting episode we have for a while, let me just put in one last call for a fair redistricting process nationwide, which Democrats do want to enact so that all states have fair redistricting maps and fair policies, but Republicans steadfastly oppose that. So we just need to take back the House, have a Senate that will get rid of the filibuster, and make fair redistricting happen.

David Nir:

And keep the White House.

David Beard:

Well, yes. Obviously, we need to keep the White House as well. That's all from us this week. The Downballot comes out every Thursday everywhere you listen to podcasts. You can reach out to us by emailing If you haven't already, please subscribe to The Downballot on Apple Podcast and leave us a five-star rating and review. Thanks to our producer, Cara Zelaya, editor Trever Jones. We'll be back next week with a new episode.

Chief justice temporarily blocks Title 42 end, indicates further action from court could come soon

Chief Justice John Roberts on Monday temporarily halted the Biden administration’s planned lifting of the anti-asylum Title 42 order, granting a so-called emergency appeal from a slate of Republican attorneys general. “So-called emergency appeal,” because the appeals court panel that had last week denied the GOP request noted that the group of 19 attorneys general had waited too long to file their request.

The Biden administration had planned to lift the debunked public health order that’s used the pandemic as an excuse to quickly deport asylum-seekers in violation of their rights Tuesday evening, following a lower court order. Roberts instructed the administration to respond by this evening, indicating more action could be imminent. Legal expert Mark Joseph Stern noted that Roberts’ administrative stay “does not hint at the eventual outcome.”

RELATED STORY: D.C. Court of Appeals panel rejects GOP effort trying to keep anti-asylum policy in place

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Republicans have simultaneously claimed that the Biden administration has an “open borders” policy while insisting that the Title 42 policy—which was implemented against the advice of public health experts by noted white supremacist Stephen Miller and Mike Pence at the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020—must stay in place indefinitely. They have also insisted this public health order remain as they’ve consistently challenged other pandemic-related orders by the administration.

“The Biden administration, for its part, has insisted it is prepared to lift Title 42, saying the restoration of regular immigration procedures, such expedited deportations, will allow the U.S. to gradually reduce migrant arrivals and the high rate of repeat crossings recorded during the pandemic,” CBS News reported.

That last part is crucial: Title 42 in fact led to an increase in apprehensions, because desperate people blocked from their asylum rights and expelled have had no choice but to try again. It’s a failed policy, and its lifting would put our country back on the side of respecting U.S. and international asylum law. In a statement, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said that as required by Roberts’ order, “the Title 42 public health order will remain in effect at this time and individuals who attempt to enter the United States unlawfully will continue to be expelled to Mexico.”

“While this stage of the litigation proceeds, we will continue our preparations to manage the border in a safe, orderly, and humane way when the Title 42 public health order lifts,” Mayorkas continued. “We urge Congress to use this time to provide the funds we have requested for border security and management and advance the comprehensive immigration measures President Biden proposed on his first day in office.”

House Republicans set to take power in the next Congress have indicated they’re serious about leading on immigration policy … by pushing a harebrained idea to impeach Mayorkas. Over what crimes? They haven’t figured that part out yet.

Vice President Kamala Harris similarly noted the need for lawmakers to lead on comprehensive immigration measures, and she called out for Republicans for failing to come to the table. They obsess on the issue of immigration only when it’s election season (my words, not hers). For example, a proposed framework that would have passed permanent relief for young immigrants in exchange for harsh border measures recently failed, derailed by Republicans’ “border first” excuses even though there was border stuff in there.

"I think that there is so much that needs to happen to address the issue," the vice president told NPR. "And sadly, what we have seen in particular, I am sad to say, from Republicans in Congress is an unwillingness to engage in any meaningful reform that could actually fix a lot of what we are witnessing.”


Biden admin set to lift anti-asylum Title 42 order next week, but GOP appeal may now delay that

'Arbitrary and capricious': In victory for asylum-seekers, judge orders end to Miller pandemic order

Testimony confirms Title 42 was never about public health, it was about deporting asylum-seekers

Voting Rights Roundup: The House’s new voting rights bill now curtails gerrymandering right away

Programming Note: The Voting Rights Roundup will be taking a break the week of March 13 but will return the following week.

Leading Off

Congress: On Wednesday, House Democrats voted 220-210 to once again pass H.R. 1, the “For the People Act,” the most important set of voting and election reforms since the historic Voting Rights Act was adopted in 1965. It also includes a major modification to provisions that would curtail gerrymandering, ensuring that they'll take effect right away. All Democrats except Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson voted for the bill, while all Republicans voted against it.

H.R. 1 would implement transformative changes to federal elections by (1) removing barriers to expanding access to voting and securing the integrity of the vote; (2) establishing public financing in House elections to level the playing field; and (3) banning congressional gerrymandering by requiring that every state create a nonpartisan redistricting commission subject to nonpartisan redistricting criteria.

These reforms, which House Democrats previously passed in 2019, face a challenging path in the Senate given Democrats’ narrow majority and uncertainty over whether they can overcome a GOP filibuster, but their adoption is critical for preserving American democracy amid unprecedented attack by Republican extremists both in and outside Congress. Senate Democrats have announced that they plan to hold hearings on the bill on March 24, and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has committed to holding an eventual floor vote.

Using Congress’ power to regulate Senate and House elections under the Elections Clause and enforce anti-discrimination laws under the 14th Amendment, the bill would:

  • Require states to establish nonpartisan redistricting commissions for congressional redistricting;
  • Establish nonpartisan redistricting criteria such as a partisan fairness provision that courts can enforce starting immediately no matter what institution draws the maps;
  • Establish automatic voter registration at an array of state agencies;
  • Establish same-day voter registration;
  • Allow online voter registration;
  • Allow 16- and 17-year-olds to pre-register so they'll be on the rolls when they turn 18;
  • Allow state colleges and universities to serve as registration agencies;
  • Ban states from purging eligible voters' registration simply for infrequent voting;
  • Establish two weeks of in-person early voting, including availability on Sundays and outside of normal business hours;
  • Standardize hours within states for opening and closing polling places on Election Day, with exceptions to let cities set longer hours in municipal races;
  • Require paper ballots filled by hand or machines that use them as official records and let voters verify their choices;
  • Grant funds to states to upgrade their election security infrastructure;
  • Provide prepaid postage on mail ballots;
  • Allow voters to turn in their mail ballot in person if they choose;
  • Allow voters to track their absentee mail ballots;
  • End prison gerrymandering by counting prisoners at their last address (rather than where they're incarcerated) for the purposes of redistricting;
  • End felony disenfranchisement for those on parole, probation, or post-sentence, and require such citizens to be supplied with registration forms and informed their voting rights have been restored;
  • Provide public financing for House campaigns in the form of matching small donations at a six-for-one rate;
  • Expand campaign finance disclosure requirements to mitigate Citizens United;
  • Ban corporations from spending for campaign purposes unless the corporation has established a process for determining the political will of its shareholders; and
  • Make it a crime to mislead voters with the intention of preventing them from voting.

Importantly, the bill that won approval on the full floor on Wednesday contained critical amendments strengthening its anti-gerrymandering provisions. While the original version would not have required states to use independent commissions and nonpartisan redistricting criteria until 2030, the revised bill would implement them right away. And even if states don't have enough time to set up new commissions ahead of the 2022 elections, they would still be banned from drawing maps that unduly favor a party, which a court could then enforce.​

Campaign Action

​Ending Republicans’ ability to gerrymander is of the utmost importance after Republicans won the power to redistrict two-to-three times as many congressional districts as Democrats after the 2020 elections. If congressional Democrats don’t act, Republican dominance in redistricting may practically guarantee that Republicans retake the House in 2022 even if Democrats once again win more votes, an outcome that could lead to congressional Republicans more seriously trying to overturn a Democratic victory in the 2024 Electoral College vote than they did in January, when two-thirds of the House caucus voted to overturn Biden's election.

If this bill becomes law, Republicans would lose that unfettered power to rig the House playing field to their advantage. Instead, reform proponents would gain the ability to challenge unfair maps in court over illegal partisan discrimination, and the bill would eventually require states to create independent redistricting commissions that would take the process out of the hands of self-interested legislators entirely.

Protecting the right to vote is just as paramount when Republican lawmakers across the country have introduced hundreds of bills to adopt new voting restrictions by furthering the lies Donald Trump told about the election that led directly to January's insurrection at the Capitol. With Republican legislatures likely to pass many of these bills into law—and the Supreme Court's conservative partisans poised to further undermine existing protections for voting rights—congressional action is an absolute must to protect the ability of voters to cast their ballots.

The most important remaining hurdle, however, is the legislative filibuster: The fate of these reforms will depend on Senate Democrats either abolishing or curtailing it. Progressive activists have relaunched a movement to eliminate the filibuster entirely, while some experts have suggested that Democrats could carve out an exception for voting rights legislation. Either way, Democrats will need to address the filibuster in some fashion, since Senate Republicans have made it clear they will not provide the support necessary to reach a 60-vote supermajority to pass H.R. 1 into law.


Minnesota: A group of Minnesota citizens, including a veteran redistricting expert and a former state supreme court justice, filed a lawsuit in state court seeking to prevent Minnesota's current congressional and legislative districts from being used next year if state lawmakers are unable to pass new districts by Feb. 15. That outcome is likely given that Democrats hold the state House and governorship while Republicans hold the state Senate. Similarly divided governments have led the courts to intervene to draw new maps in each of the last five decades.

New Mexico: A committee in New Mexico's Democratic-run state Senate has unanimously passed a bill that would establish a bipartisan advisory redistricting commission to handle redistricting for Congress, the state legislature, the state Public Regulation Commission, and the state Public Education Commission. Democratic state House Speaker Brian Egolf endorsed the proposal after previously opposing a competing reform measure that passed unanimously in state House committee in early February.

The Senate bill would create a commission with seven members, with four chosen by the leadership of both parties in each of the state's two legislative chambers, two unaffiliated members selected by the state Ethics Commission, and a final seventh member named by the Ethics Commission who would be a retired appellate judge and would serve as commission chair. No more than three commissioners could be members of the same party, and anyone who is or has served as an officeholder, candidate, or lobbyist (or whose close family members have) in the two years prior to redistricting could not participate.

Commissioners would devise three proposals for each type of office and hold public hearings to discuss them. Districts would have to be drawn according to the following criteria: equal population; legislative districts cannot split precincts; adherence to the federal Voting Rights Act and its protections of voters of color; compactness; preservation of communities of interest and local government jurisdictions; and preservation of the cores of existing districts. The criteria apparently do not prohibit mapmakers from considering partisanship or incumbency.

Once commissioners have come up with three different proposals for each office and held public hearings, they would submit the maps to the legislature for approval by lawmakers. The bill doesn't mention any prohibition on lawmakers amending the proposed districts, meaning this reform measure could nevertheless result in legislators adopting gerrymandered districts.

South Dakota: Last month, the League of Women Voters and other good-government organizations announced a plan to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot next year that would establish an independent redistricting commission. Supporters would need to file just under 34,000 signatures, roughly 10% of the total vote for governor in the most recent election, by this November in order to get onto the ballot.

Since South Dakota only has a single statewide congressional district, the proposal would only affect legislative redistricting. The measure would create a nine-member commission chosen by the state Board of Elections with no more than three members belonging to the same party, though the proposal is vague on the specifics of the selection process.

Mapmakers would have to adhere to several criteria, which prioritize compactness, followed by preserving communities of interest and keeping counties and cities undivided to the extent practicable. Commissioners would be barred from considering partisanship or incumbency. While Republican lawmakers would still have the opportunity to draw new districts for the 2022 elections even if the amendment passes, the commission would sweep into action immediately, crafting new maps in 2023 for the 2024 elections and then in years ending in "1" every 10 years afterward.

Voting Access Expansions

Congress: House members are set to introduce a bill with bipartisan support that would make Puerto Rico a state following a referendum last November in which voters backed statehood by a 52-48 margin. The bill's 48 sponsors in the House are mostly Democrats but also include around a dozen Republicans, several of whom are from Florida, which is home to a large Puerto Rican population. However, even if the House passes the bill, it will face a challenging path to overcoming a likely filibuster by Senate Republicans, as only Florida Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott are reportedly supporting the bill on the GOP side.

Delaware: Democratic state Rep. Bryan Shupe has announced he plans to introduce a bill later this month that would end Delaware's unusual system that requires voters to register twice: once for state and federal elections and separately for local races. This system regularly leads to situations where voters who are registered in state elections try to vote in their local elections only to find out on Election Day that they can't vote. Democrats hold both legislative chambers and the governor's office in Delaware.

Idaho: Idaho's Republican-run state Senate has unanimously passed a bill to set up a standardized process for requiring local election officials to contact voters and give them a chance to fix any errors with their absentee ballots such as a voter signature supposedly not matching the one on file.

Maryland: Maryland's Democratic-run state House has passed a bill to create a semi-permanent list that will automatically mail absentee ballots in all future elections to voters who opt in. A handful of other states have similar systems, though this proposal differs in that voters who don't vote in two consecutive election cycles would be removed from the list and have to reapply.

Meanwhile, state House Democrats passed a bill with some bipartisan support to strengthen voting access on college campuses, military bases, retirement homes, and other "large residential communities." Sites like these would be able to request an in-person voting location, and colleges would be required to establish voter registration efforts on campus and give students an excused absence to vote if needed. The bill would also let military service members register online using their identification smart cards issued by the Defense Department.

New Mexico: New Mexico's Democratic-run state House has unanimously passed a bill that aims to protect Native American voting access in a variety of ways. Among other provisions, the bill requires that every reservation or other Native community have an in-person polling place, which fills an important gap since many Native communities lack reliable postal service for mail voting and also have a large proportion of residents who lack a driver's license or access to other transportation options.

New York: Following its recent passage in the state Senate, a bill has been approved in committee by Assembly Democrats that would automatically restore voting rights to everyone who is not currently incarcerated, which would permanently end the disenfranchisement of parolees. Currently, many parolees are only able to vote because Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order two years ago to restore the rights of people on parole who were convicted of certain crimes, meaning their right to vote could be rescinded by a future governor unless this bill passes.

New Jersey: New Jersey's Democratic-run Assembly has passed a bill with bipartisan support to create an in-person early voting period after their counterparts in the state Senate passed similar legislation last week. The Assembly's bill would adopt 10 days of early voting for general elections starting in November, five days for presidential primaries, and three days for all other primaries and any municipal elections taking place in May. The measure would require each of New Jersey's 21 counties to establish between five and 10 early voting locations.

Utah: Utah's GOP-run legislature has unanimously passed a bill creating a system where voters can track the status of their mail ballots via email or text message. Utah is one of a handful of states that mails ballots to all active registered voters by default.

Virginia: Both chambers of Virginia's Democratic-run legislature have passed a constitutional amendment that would abolish felony disenfranchisement for everyone who is not currently incarcerated. Currently, state law imposes a lifetime ban on voting by anyone convicted of a felony, but that system has been curtailed because Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam and his Democratic predecessor issued executive orders to automatically restore voting rights upon completion of any prison, parole, or probation sentences. Those orders, however, could be rescinded by any future Republican governor.

To become law, legislators would have to pass this same amendment again after the 2021 elections before it would have to win approval in a November 2022 voter referendum. A separate amendment that would have abolished felony disenfranchisement entirely, including for people currently in prison, failed to advance before a key deadline.

Voter Suppression

Supreme Court: On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard a case over two Arizona voting restrictions that could deal a crippling blow to what remains of the Voting Rights Act after the high court's conservatives gutted a key part of the law in 2013. Observers widely agreed that the court's conservative majority was leaning toward upholding the Republican-backed voting restrictions, but it was unclear from oral arguments just how gravely the court could undermine the standards used to enforce the Voting Rights Act.

This case involves two Arizona laws that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals found had both the effect and intent of discriminating against Black, Latino, and Native American voters. If both findings are overturned, it may become impossible to challenge similar laws in the future.

Last year, the 9th Circuit blocked both measures: one that bars counting votes cast in the wrong precinct but in the right county, and another that limits who can turn in another person's absentee mail ballot on a voter's behalf.

Arizona had largely transitioned to mail voting even before the pandemic, but the 9th Circuit observed that only 18% of Native American voters receive mail service, and many living on remote reservations lack reliable transportation options. That led some voters to ask others in their community to turn their completed ballots in, which Republicans have sought to deride as "ballot harvesting" in an attempt to delegitimize the practice. The invalidated law had limited who could handle another person's mail ballot to just close relatives, caregivers, or postal service workers.

The 9th Circuit's ruling also invalidated a separate provision prohibiting out-of-precinct voting, in which a voter shows up and casts a ballot at the wrong polling place but in the right county on Election Day. Under the invalidated law, voters in such circumstances could only cast a provisional ballot, which were automatically rejected if it was later confirmed that the voter had indeed showed up at the wrong polling place.

This decision relied on Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits laws that have a discriminatory effect against racial minorities regardless of whether there was an intent to discriminate. The finding of a discriminatory effect is critical because it's often much more difficult if not impossible to prove that lawmakers acted with illicit intent, whereas statistical analysis can more readily prove that a law has a disparate negative impact on protected racial groups.

Consequently, it's this so-called "effects test" that is the key remaining plank of the Voting Rights Act following the Supreme Court's notorious 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder. Some legal observers remained optimistic that the worst may not come to pass, since Arizona Republicans' oral arguments did not touch on the constitutionality of the VRA's effects test. However, others have noted that even if the effects test isn't formally struck down, the Supreme Court could make it so difficult to comply with the requirements to prove discrimination that the VRA would nevertheless become meaningless.

In one revealing exchange, conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett asked Republican attorney Michael Carvin why the state GOP was even party to this case. Carvin responded with an admission that the 9th Circuit decision striking down the two voting restrictions "puts us at a competitive disadvantage relative to Democrats" because "every extra vote they get ... hurts us."

Arizona: Republicans in the Arizona Senate have passed a bill that could purge roughly 200,000 voters from the state's "permanent" mail voting list, which is supposed to automatically mail a ballot in all future elections to participating voters and has proven very popular since its implementation. The bill would remove anyone who doesn't vote in two consecutive election cycles, even if they still remain eligible to vote. Republicans only hold a two-seat majority in both the state House and Senate, so they would need every member on board to overcome Democratic opposition.

In the state House, meanwhile, Republicans have passed a bill that would require people and groups who register more than 25 voters in a given year to themselves register with the state, mandating that they put unique identifying numbers on every registration form they submit. Voter advocacy groups have condemned this bill and warn that it could lead to registration forms being rejected.

Alabama: Alabama House Republicans have passed a bill that would ban local election officials from establishing curbside voting or setting up voting machines outside of polling places, which would make it harder for people with disabilities and limited mobility to cast their ballots.

Arkansas: Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson has signed a bill into law that makes Arkansas' voter ID law much stricter, making it one of the first of many Republican-backed voting restrictions under consideration nationwide to become law following the 2020 elections. The bill removes the option for voters who lack an ID to vote by signing a sworn statement under penalty of perjury, instead mandating an ID in order to have one's vote counted.

Georgia: On Monday, state House Republicans passed a far-reaching bill to enact several new voting restrictions that would:

  • Require that voters provide the number on their driver's license, state ID, or a photocopy of their ID when requesting an absentee ballot and a photocopy of their ID when returning an absentee ballot;
  • Limit weekend early voting;
  • Restrict absentee ballot drop boxes to only the inside of early voting locations or county election offices, making them unavailable outside of regular business hours;
  • Set a minimum of one drop box per 200,000 registered voters (other states such as California require one drop box per 15,000 voters);
  • Shorten the runoff period in federal elections from nine weeks to four weeks, with the apparent intent of giving campaigns less time to mobilize voters (instant runoffs would be used for overseas civilian and military voters to avoid running afoul of federal law mandating that their ballots be sent out 45 days before an election);
  • Ban state officials from mailing unsolicited absentee ballot request forms to all voters after Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger did so in the 2020 primary;
  • Disqualify ballots that were cast in the wrong precinct but in the right county, which currently may be counted as provisional ballots;
  • Limit mobile early voting buses to only emergency situations;
  • Bar counties from receiving private funding to help administer elections; and
  • Block officials from distributing food and drinks to voters waiting in line to vote.

Meanwhile, in the state Senate, Republicans passed a bill in committee to end no-excuse absentee voting for voters under age 65, who typically lean more Democratic than older voters. Late last month, Republicans in the full Senate also passed a bill that would give the state the power to take over local election boards that supposedly fail to meet certain standards, which Democrats condemned as a way to let Republicans usurp control over election boards in Democratic-leaning counties.

Montana: State House Republicans have passed a bill over Democratic objections that would bar anyone who isn't a family or household member, caregiver, or an "acquaintance" who is a registered voter in the same county from turning in another person's ballot, thereby preventing voter advocacy groups or political campaigns from organizing ballot collection efforts.

A previous Republican-backed law imposing similar restrictions was blocked in court last year for discriminating against Native American voters, who often live on remote rural reservations where mail service and transportation access are limited. This latest bill may therefore also face difficulty surviving a likely lawsuit.

New Hampshire: New Hampshire's Republican-run state Senate has passed a bill along party lines to add a voter ID requirement for requesting and casting absentee ballots, sending it to the state House, which is also controlled by the GOP. New Hampshire is one of several states where Republicans are considering extending voter ID requirements to absentee ballots after Democrats disproportionately voted by mail in the 2020 elections.

Wyoming: State House Republicans have passed a bill establishing a voter ID requirement, sending it to the state Senate, where Republicans are also likely to pass it.

Ballot Measures

Idaho: Idaho's Republican-run state Senate has passed a bill that would make it all but impossible for progressive initiatives to get on the ballot by requiring proponents to submit voter signatures equivalent to 6% of registered voters in each of the state's 35 legislative districts instead of 18, the current requirement.

The bill, which would take effect immediately, would disproportionately impact progressives because left-leaning voters are heavily concentrated in a handful of denser urban districts. Liberal organizers would therefore have to canvas in rural districts where receptive voters are few and far between. Conservatives, by contrast, would have an easier time canvassing for signatures in cities because, even if right-leaning voters represent a relatively small proportion of voters, they live in closer proximity to one another.

Republicans in Idaho have advanced similar restrictions on initiatives in recent years as a reaction to successful efforts by progressives to expand Medicaid and increase public education funding at the ballot box during the last decade. Fearing a lawsuit, GOP Gov. Brad Little vetoed a similar bill in 2019 but the Senate passed this most recent bill with a veto-proof majority.

South Dakota: South Dakota's Republican-run legislature voted this week to put a constitutional amendment on the June 2022 primary ballot that would institute a 60% supermajority requirement for ballot initiatives that raise taxes or spend more than $10 million in public funds within a five-year period. The amendment would not, however, require a supermajority to cut taxes or spending. Democratic legislators blasted Republicans for trying to manipulate the election to their advantage by placing the amendment on the primary ballot instead of sending it before voters in the general election, noting that turnout in the 2020 primary was just one-third as high as it was last November.

Republicans have repeatedly tried to enact restrictions on ballot initiatives in recent years after voters approved an initiative in 2016 that would have placed strict limits on lobbying, created an independent ethics commission, and implemented a public campaign finance system that would have given each voter a voucher to donate to their preferred candidates.

In 2017, Republicans resorted to declaring an actual state of emergency to enable the legislature to immediately repeal the voter-approved ethics law and make it immune to a veto referendum, meaning supporters of the reform needed double the signatures to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot to restore the measure. Although they did just that in 2018, then-Republican Attorney General Marty Jackley gave the new amendment a ballot summary that said it would "likely be challenged on constitutional grounds," and voters rejected the second ethics commission amendment 55-45.

Electoral System Reform

Burlington, VT: Voters in Vermont's largest city of Burlington voted by 64-36 margin to approve a ballot measure that will adopt instant-runoff voting in City Council elections starting next year. This vote comes just over a decade after Burlington voters narrowly repealed instant-runoff voting for mayoral elections after it had been used to elect the mayor in 2006 and 2009. Before it can take effect, though, it must be approved by the Democratic-run legislature and Republican Gov. Phil Scott.

Senate Elections

Kentucky: Republican state senators have passed a bill that would require the governor to fill any future U.S. Senate vacancies with an appointee from the same party as the departing senator.

Currently, Kentucky's governor is Democrat Andy Beshear while both of its senators are Republicans, meaning this bill would prevent Beshear from replacing either McConnell or fellow Sen. Rand Paul with a Democrat if either were to leave office. Republicans easily hold enough seats to override a potential veto by Beshear. The bill would allow the party committee of the departing lawmaker to send a list of three names to the governor, who would be required to pick a replacement from that list.

Ever since Beshear's narrow 2019 win, Kentucky Republicans have advanced a series of moves to strip him of his executive power, and this proposal is part of the same partisan effort to constrain Beshear's authority. However, despite the GOP's self-interested motives, the proposed system is already used in many states for legislative vacancies and a handful of states for Senate vacancies and better ensures the will of voters is respected.

Judge Rules Virginia Board Of Elections’ Rule About Late Absentee Mail-In Ballots Was Illegal

In August of last year, a rule was made by the Virginia Board of Elections that would have allowed elections officials to count late mail-in ballots that arrived without a postmark up to three days after this past November’s presidential election. A judge reversed this on Monday, ruling that the board’s decision was illegal.

Virginia Judge Issues Ruling

Virginia Circuit Court Judge William Eldridge ruled that with this rule, the board violated state elections law, according to the Daily Caller. He issued an injunction that will stop Virginia from adopting this rule in future elections moving forward.

Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF), a legal group representing Frederick County electoral board member Thomas Reed in his case against the state mail-in ballot law, announced the judge’s decision.

“This is a big win for the Rule of Law,” said PILF President and General Counsel J. Christian Adams. “This consent decree gives Mr. Reed everything he requested – a permanent ban on accepting ballots without postmarks after Election Day and is a loss for the Virginia bureaucrats who said ballots could come in without these protections.”

Related: The Left And Deep State Eager To Turn ‘War On Terror’ Tools On The American People

Elections Board Reveals New Rule

On August 4 of last year, Virginia Board of Elections revealed the new rule, telling county boards that any ballots “received by the general registrar’s office by noon on the third day after the election … but does not have a postmark, or the postmark is missing or illegible” were not to be rendered invalid. A week later, the board added that these ballots should be counted.

Pilf fired back in October by filing a lawsuit against the board on the behalf of Reed, who claimed that this rule violated state law. The specific Virginia statute that he thinks it violated states, “Any absentee ballot returned to the general registrar after the closing of the polls on election day but before noon on the third day after the election and postmarked on or before the date of the election shall be counted.”

Related: Hillary Clinton, Pelosi Push Conspiracy Theory Suggesting Trump Updated Putin About The Capitol Riots, Demand 9/11-Style Investigation

The court agreed with Reed, issuing an order on October 28 preventing the state of Virginia from accepting and counting late absentee ballots that did not have postmarks. This meant that the ballots did not end up being counted in the presidential election, and thanks to the judge’s new ruling, they won’t be in the future either.

This piece was written by James Samson on January 27, 2021. It originally appeared in LifeZette and is used by permission.

Read more at LifeZette:
Katie Couric’s Calls To ‘Deprogram’ Trump Supporters Come Back To Haunt Her As She Prepares To Host ‘Jeopardy’
Democratic Senator Hirono Reveals Real Goal Behind Trump Impeachment Effort
Meghan McCain Blasts Katie Couric For Saying Republicans Need To Be ‘Deprogrammed’ – ‘Go To Hell’

The post Judge Rules Virginia Board Of Elections’ Rule About Late Absentee Mail-In Ballots Was Illegal appeared first on The Political Insider.

Voting Rights Roundup: Georgia Senate wins pave way for Democrats to pass historic election reforms

Leading Off

Congress: With victories in Georgia's Senate runoffs, congressional Democrats now have the opportunity to pass the most important set of voting and election reforms since the historic Voting Rights Act was adopted in 1965. These reforms face a challenging path to passage given Democrats' narrow majorities, but their adoption is critical for preserving American democracy amid unprecedented attacks upon it by Republican extremists both in and outside Congress.

Chief among these proposals is the reintroduction of H.R. 1, the "For the People Act," which House Democrats passed in 2019 and would enact groundbreaking reforms by (1) removing barriers to expanding access to voting and securing the integrity of the vote; (2) establishing public financing in House elections to level the playing field; and (3) banning congressional gerrymandering by requiring that every state create a nonpartisan redistricting commission subject to nonpartisan redistricting criteria.

Democrats have also called for enacting a new Voting Rights Act, which the House passed in 2019 and subsequently named after the late Georgia Rep. John Lewis, a hero of the civil rights movement who died last year. Finally, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has vowed to bring a bill to the floor to finally end the disenfranchisement of 700,000 Americans by making Washington, D.C. a state, which House Democrats also approved last year. We'll detail each of these major reforms below.

Pelosi has indicated that passing H.R. 1, symbolically named as the first bill of the session, will be a top priority for the new Congress. This bill would adopt the following reforms for federal elections:

  • Establish automatic voter registration at an array of state agencies;
  • Establish same-day voter registration;
  • Allow online voter registration;
  • Allow 16- and 17-year-olds to pre-register so they'll be on the rolls when they turn 18;
  • Allow state colleges and universities to serve as registration agencies;
  • Ban states from purging eligible voters' registration simply for infrequent voting;
  • Establish two weeks of in-person early voting, including availability on Sundays and outside of normal business hours;
  • Standardize hours within states for opening and closing polling places on Election Day, with exceptions to let cities set longer hours in municipal races;
  • Require paper ballots filled by hand or machines that use them as official records and let voters verify their choices;
  • Grant funds to states to upgrade their election security infrastructure;
  • Provide prepaid postage on mail ballots;
  • Allow voters to turn in their mail ballot in person if they choose;
  • Allow voters to track their absentee mail ballots;
  • Require states to establish nonpartisan redistricting commissions for congressional redistricting (likely not until 2030);
  • End prison gerrymandering by counting prisoners at their last address (rather than where they're incarcerated) for the purposes of redistricting;
  • End felony disenfranchisement for those on parole, probation, or post-sentence, and require such citizens to be supplied with registration forms and informed their voting rights have been restored;
  • Provide public financing for House campaigns in the form of matching small donations at a six-for-one rate;
  • Expand campaign finance disclosure requirements to mitigate Citizens United;
  • Ban corporations from spending for campaign purposes unless the corporation has established a process for determining the political will of its shareholders; and
  • Make it a crime to mislead voters with the intention of preventing them from voting.

The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, meanwhile, would restore the protections that the Supreme Court's conservatives eviscerated in an infamous 2013 decision. That ruling removed a requirement for a number of largely Southern states and localities with a pervasive history of racial discrimination to "preclear" all efforts to change voting laws and procedures with the Justice Department. The VRAA would establish new criteria for deciding which jurisdictions would fall under the preclearance requirement after the 2013 court ruling struck down the old formula.​

Campaign Action

​Under the new setup, any state where officials have committed at least 15 voting rights violations over a 25-year period would be required to obtain preclearance for 10 years. If the state itself, rather than localities within the state, is responsible for the violations, it would take only 10 violations to place it under preclearance. In addition, any particular locality could individually be subjected to preclearance if it commits at least three violations.

Based on this formula, the VRAA would put 11 states back under preclearance: Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia. While most of these states are still in the South (and also under Republican control), the list also includes the two largest Democratic-leaning states in the country, California and New York.

Lastly, the bill to grant statehood to D.C. would shrink the federal District of Columbia down to a handful of important federal buildings surrounding the National Mall while admitting the rest of the district as a new state. All but one House Democrat (who is now no longer in Congress) voted for D.C. statehood last summer, and 46 of the 50 incoming members of the Democratic Senate caucus either sponsored last year's bill or have expressed public support, while the remaining four have yet to take a firm position.

While Democrats winning full control of Congress and the presidency makes it possible to pass the above reforms, their success is far from guaranteed. For starters, Democrats would need unanimous support in the Senate and near-unanimous backing in the House given that every Republican is likely to oppose these reforms.

The most important hurdle, however, is the legislative filibuster, and the fate of these reforms will depend on Senate Democrats either abolishing or curtailing it. Progressive activists have relaunched a movement to eliminate the filibuster entirely following the Georgia victories, while some experts have suggested that Democrats could carve out an exception for voting rights legislation. Either way, Democrats will need to address the filibuster in some fashion, since Senate Republicans have made it clear they will not provide the support necessary to reach a 60-vote supermajority on any of these measures.

Voting Access

Connecticut: Democratic Secretary of State Denise Merrill and legislative Democrats are pushing to pass a series of voting reforms, including the adoption of no-excuse absentee voting, early voting, and automatic voter registration. Last year, lawmakers passed a statute to temporarily expand the definition of illness to allow all voters to cast absentee ballots without needing a specific excuse, and Democrats are considering passing similar legislation this year for upcoming local and special elections with the pandemic still ongoing.

Democrats may also try to permanently remove the excuse requirement by passing a constitutional amendment, as well as once again approving an amendment they passed in 2019 to allow up to three days of early voting. Unless the GOP has a change of heart and supplies enough votes for a three-fourths supermajority, amendments must pass in two sessions with an election in between before going to a voter referendum.

Delaware: Democratic lawmakers in Delaware have introduced two constitutional amendments to expand voting rights: The first would remove the excuse requirement to vote absentee by mail while the second would enable same-day voter registration. Last year, the state temporarily waived the excuse requirement due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Amendments in Delaware must pass the legislature with two-thirds supermajorities in two consecutive sessions, so lawmakers could enact the no-excuse absentee voting amendment this session since they passed it the first time in 2020. (The same-day registration amendment could not go into effect until the 2024 elections at the earliest.) However, since Democrats are just shy of the two-thirds mark in the state House, they will need at least two GOP votes in support. Uniquely among the 50 states, Delaware does not require constitutional amendments to be approved by voters.

District of Columbia: In late November, the Democratic-run Washington, D.C. Council advanced a bill to make permanent a measure temporarily adopted in 2020 that let voters cast ballots at any "vote center" citywide in 2020 instead of just their local polling place. Democratic Mayor Muriel Bowser has yet to sign the bill, which also requires a polling place at the city jail, into law.

Hawaii: Hawaii election chief Scott Nago plans to ask the Democratic-dominated legislature to pass legislation giving voters more time to complete their ballots and to expand the number of in-person "vote centers," where any voter in a county can cast their ballot, to better accommodate voters who can't readily vote by mail or don't want to.

Additionally, voting rights advocates have announced that they will renew their push to ask lawmakers to adopt a bill enacting automatic voter registration through the state's driver's licensing agency and potentially other state agencies, too. The state Senate and House each passed separate bills to adopt automatic registration in 2019, but the proposal failed to become law after the two chambers couldn't agree on a single version.

Illinois: State House Democrats have passed legislation in committee that would make permanent some of the reforms lawmakers adopted in 2020 due to the pandemic, including: counting absentee mail ballots without postage; allowing officials to set up drop boxes for mail ballots; and continuing curbside voting for mobility-limited voters. However, the bill wouldn't extend the practice of sending applications for mail ballots to all voters who have cast ballots in recent election years.

Louisiana: Republican Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin has proposed an emergency voting plan for lawmakers to approve for upcoming local elections and the March 20 special elections for the 2nd and 5th Congressional Districts. Committees in the state Senate and House both advanced the proposal to their respective full chambers earlier this month.

The plan would let voters cast absentee ballots by mail if they are at higher risk for COVID-19, seeking a diagnosis for it, or are subject to a physician's isolation order or caring for someone under isolation. However, it would not waive the excuse requirement for all voters or expand the number of early voting days.

Maine: Democratic Secretary of State Shenna Bellows, who was elevated to the post by Maine's state legislature last month, will push for lawmakers to adopt online voter registration and prepaid absentee ballot postage. Meanwhile, several Democratic legislators have introduced various bills to codify the use of drop boxes, implement a system for letting voters track their absentee ballots, and let absentee ballots be counted earlier.

Maryland: Maryland Democrats have introduced legislation intended to strengthen voting access on college campuses, military bases, retirement homes, and other "large residential communities." Sites like these would be able to request an in-person voting location, and colleges would also be required to establish voter registration efforts on campus and give students an excused absence to vote if needed. The bill would let military service members register online using their identification smart cards issued by the Defense Department.

New Jersey: Committees in both chambers of New Jersey's Democratic-run legislature have declined to advance a measure that would have adopted two weeks of early voting for this year's state-level general elections and some municipal races in May. The New Jersey Globe reported that it was unclear why the bill failed to move forward but also noted that legislative leaders have yet to reach an agreement on the specifics of early voting, including whether to extend it to primaries, despite supporting the idea in principle. Committees in both chambers also passed early voting bills last year, but they did not advance further in 2020.

New York: The past three weeks have been a busy period for voting rights expansions in New York, beginning when Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law an automatic voter registration measure that will involve a variety of different state agencies. Democratic state senators also passed several other reforms this week, including measures to:

The proposals to enact same-day registration and permanently remove the absentee excuse requirement are constitutional amendments that previously passed both legislative chambers in 2019 and must pass again before they can appear on this November's ballot, while the other measures are all statutory and can become law if the Assembly and Cuomo sign off on them.

Oregon: Democratic Gov. Kate Brown has called for several voting reforms in her budget proposal to the Democratic legislature, including reinstituting same-day voter registration; counting mail ballots that are postmarked by Election Day instead of only those received by Election Day; increasing the number of mail ballot drop boxes; and expanding Oregon's automatic voter registration system from just the DMV to include other agencies.

Same-day voter registration would likely require lawmakers to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot thanks to an especially bizarre chapter in state history. Oregon previously offered same-day registration, but lawmakers amended the constitution to repeal it in 1986 after a religious cult called the Rajneeshees attempted large-scale voter fraud in concert with biological warfare that left hundreds of residents poisoned in their unsuccessful plot to take over rural Wasco County's commission in 1984. However, 21 states and D.C. use same-day registration today without problems.

Vermont: Both chambers of Vermont's Democratic-run legislature have passed a bill that lets municipalities decide whether to mail every active registered voter a ballot for the upcoming March 2 "Town Meeting Day" or let them postpone the elections to the spring if needed due to the pandemic. Town meetings are a form of direct democracy unique to New England, during which localities can hold public votes on budgetary and other matters.

Virginia: Virginia Democrats have introduced several major voting reforms, which would expand on the sweeping changes they passed in 2020. This year's measures include:

Democrats have full control of state government, but constitutional amendments must pass both legislative chambers in two consecutive sessions with a state election taking place in between before going to a voter referendum. The felony voter reforms, therefore, could not become law before 2022 at the soonest. While civil rights groups and progressive Democrats support the amendment that would outright abolish felony disenfranchisement, Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam backs the competing amendment that would keep those who are in prison, on parole, or on probation unable to vote.

Voter Suppression

Georgia: Republican state House Speaker David Ralston says he is open to considering removing oversight of Georgia's elections from Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger's office, and Ralston claims he wouldn't need a constitutional amendment to do it.

Raffensperger recently incurred the ire of fellow Republicans after he refused to go along with Trump's illegal efforts to steal the 2020 presidential election in Georgia, prompting Raffensperger to release a recording of an incriminating phone call early this month during which Trump had pressured him to "find" 12,000 fake votes that would allow Trump to claim victory. The New York Times reported on Friday that state prosecutors are increasingly likely to open a formal criminal investigation into Trump over the incident.

Separately, Republican Gov. Brian Kemp has called for adding a voter ID requirement to absentee voting, which Republicans exempted when they initially adopted a voter ID law in the mid-2000s. Up until 2020, absentee voting was disproportionately used by elderly Republican voters, but the GOP's push for new voting restrictions on the practice comes after mail voting heavily favored Democrats, both in November and the Jan. 5 Senate runoffs.

Many Georgia Republicans also want to reinstate the requirement that voters present an excuse in order to request an absentee ballot, along with calling for banning mail ballot drop boxes and restricting who can send ballot applications to voters. Ralston, however, says he opposes eliminating excuse-free absentee voting.

Kansas: The U.S. Supreme Court last month declined to take up Kansas Republicans' appeal of a 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling last year that had struck down a law requiring voters to provide documentary proof of citizenship in order to register to vote, effectively dooming the measure. The law was the signature legislative achievement of former Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a Republican who rose to national notoriety as the leader of Trump's bogus "voter fraud" commission.

By the time it was blocked in 2016, the Kansas law had led to one in seven new voter registrations being suspended for lack of documentation, affecting 30,000 would-be registrants in total—a group that was disproportionately young and Latino. The lower court that eventually struck down the law also eviscerated Kobach's credibility and seriously undermined his reputation even among Republicans.

Separately, Kobach's successor as secretary of state, fellow Republican Scott Schwab, reportedly won't implement a bipartisan 2019 voting reform until 2023. That law allows counties to replace traditional local polling places with countywide "vote centers" where any voter in a county may cast their ballot. A provision of the law requires it to first take effect for odd-year local elections before it can be implemented for even-year federal and state elections, so if Schwab's foot-dragging delays it past this year, it couldn't take full effect until 2023.

North Carolina: The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in December unanimously overturned a lower federal court ruling that had temporarily blocked a voter ID statute passed by North Carolina Republicans from taking effect last election cycle while the case proceeded on the merits. The appellate judges ruled that the lower court had "abused its discretion" by blocking the law.

The lower court had found that there were significant similarities between this law, which Republicans approved in a 2018 lame-duck session, and one they passed in 2013, which another federal court had struck down in 2016 for being part of a package of voting restrictions that they deemed had targeted Black voters "with almost surgical precision."

The 4th Circuit, however, held that the lower court had erred by not presuming that lawmakers had acted in "good faith" when passing the laws, despite the many times that Republican legislators have had their voting laws struck down in court for discrimination. The plaintiffs are in the process of filing a petition to ask the entire 4th Circuit to rehear their case over the preliminary injunction while the case proceeds on the merits.

However, even if they succeed at the 4th Circuit, there's a strong risk of the U.S. Supreme Court eventually reversing them, which is why voting rights advocates may have better odds of blocking the voter ID law in state court instead. Last year, in fact, a state court issued its own preliminary injunction that blocked the law for the November election, and that case is also still ongoing.

Unfortunately for voting advocates, though, the 2020 elections complicated their odds of success at the state level. Democrats suffered three close losses in last November's state Supreme Court elections, leaving them with a slim 4-3 advantage on the bench

The contest for control of the court and the narrowing of Democrats' majority may have implications not only for the voter ID dispute. It could also play a role in the resolution of ongoing litigation over a separate constitutional amendment that authorized the voter ID statute, as well as with cases over North Carolina's felony voter disenfranchisement law, and upcoming lawsuits over redistricting, where the court is the lone bulwark at the state level against renewed GOP gerrymandering.

Texas: The U.S. Supreme Court's right-wing majority has refused to take up state Democrats' appeal in a lawsuit that sought to overturn a Republican-backed restriction that's used in Texas and several other red states to require that only voters under the age of 65 must have an excuse to vote absentee by mail. By refusing to take up the case, the high court left in place a 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that upheld the Texas law in defiance of the 26th Amendment's ban on age discrimination by using logic that if applied to race would effectively result in the revival of Jim Crow voting laws.

Meanwhile, in the Texas state Senate, several GOP senators have introduced a bill that would ban the mailing of unsolicited absentee ballots applications. Populous Democratic-run counties such as Houston's Harris County sought to send applications to all voters in 2020 due to the pandemic, but Republicans convinced the GOP-dominated state Supreme Court to block them.

Existing Senate rules required 19 votes to bring bills to the floor, but after Republicans were reduced to just 18 seats following the November elections, they lowered that threshold for the third time in recent years so that they can overcome Democratic objections and pass new voting restrictions and gerrymanders.

Post Office: One key consequence of Joe Biden's victory and Democrats winning the Senate is that Biden will be able to appoint members of his choosing to the U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors, who in turn could fire Donald Trump's postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, who was instrumental in Trump's attempt to sabotage mail voting last year. With Mitch McConnell unable to block him, Biden can now fill three vacancies on the nine-member board, which currently has four Republicans and two Democrats, thereby giving it a new Democratic majority that could sack DeJoy.

Felony Disenfranchisement

Alabama: Federal District Judge Emily Marks, a Trump appointee, granted Republican defendants' motion for summary judgment in December in a lawsuit where the plaintiffs had sought to strike down a state law that serves as a de facto poll tax by requiring people with felony convictions who have served their sentences to also pay off any court fines and fees before regaining the right to vote. The plaintiffs say they are considering whether to appeal.

Minnesota: The ACLU is now asking a state appellate court to overturn a lower court's dismissal last August of their lawsuit that sought to strike down Minnesota's ban on voting for people serving out parole or probation for a felony conviction. If the effort succeeds, only people who are currently incarcerated would remain unable to vote.

Tennessee: Voting rights advocates have filed a federal lawsuit seeking to simplify Tennessee's cumbersome process for people with felony convictions who have completed their sentences to regain their voting rights. Plaintiffs in particular object to the GOP's de facto poll tax requirement that requires affected individuals to first pay off all court fines and fees, which they argue violates state law.

Redistricting and Reapportionment

Illinois: Democratic legislators have passed a bill in both chambers that will end the practice of "prison gerrymandering" for state legislative redistricting, sending it to Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker. The bill would count incarcerated people for redistricting purposes at their last known address instead of where they are imprisoned.

Iowa: The liberal blog Bleeding Heartland reports that top-ranking GOP state legislators won't rule out using their power to implement gerrymanders by amending the maps submitted to lawmakers by Iowa's nonpartisan redistricting agency. Republicans are in a position to do so because they hold unified control of state government in a redistricting year for the first time since the 1980s, when the nonpartisan agency first came into place.

Maryland: Republican Gov. Larry Hogan has issued an executive order to create an advisory commission that will propose new congressional and legislative maps for the upcoming round of redistricting. The nine commissioners will include three Democrats, three Republicans, and three independents, three of whom will be chosen by Hogan while the other six will be ordinary citizens who can apply here.

Hogan has the power to submit legislative maps to the Democratic-run legislature at the start of the legislative session, but if Democrats pass their own maps within 45 days, Hogan can't veto them. The commission's congressional map, meanwhile, would be strictly advisory in nature. While Hogan could veto new congressional districts, Democrats have the numbers to override him. The commission's proposal could nevertheless influence a court in the event of litigation.

New York: In addition to the voting access measures in our New York item above, Senate Democrats also passed a third constitutional amendment that would make it easier for Democrats to gerrymander new maps next year by lowering the threshold for overriding the state's new bipartisan redistricting commission from a two-thirds supermajority to just three-fifths. Democrats already passed this amendment in 2020, and it would also appear on the November ballot if Assembly Democrats again follow suit. However, it's possible that the lowered threshold won't even matter for the upcoming round of redistricting, since Senate Democrats gained a two-thirds supermajority in November.

The amendment also includes some nonpartisan redistricting reforms, including enshrining in the constitution an existing statutory ban on "prison gerrymandering"; freezing the number of state senators at 63; sharply limiting how cities can be split among Senate districts to prevent a repeated of the anti-urban gerrymandering that occurred when the GOP drew the lines after 2010; and authorizing state to conduct its own census if the federal count is tainted.

Pennsylvania: State House Republicans have passed a constitutional amendment out of committee by a single vote that would effectively gerrymander the state Supreme Court and Pennsylvania's two intermediate appellate courts by ending statewide judicial elections and replacing them with elections based on districts that GOP legislators would draw.

This move comes as retaliation for the state Supreme Court's Democratic majority striking down the GOP's congressional gerrymander in 2018 and protecting voting rights in 2020. Republicans could place it on the May primary ballot if it passes in both chambers for the second required time after the GOP approved the amendment in 2020.

2020 Census: The Trump administration has confirmed in federal court amid ongoing litigation that it will not release key data needed for Donald Trump to implement his attempt to unconstitutionally remove undocumented immigrants from the 2020 census population counts that will be used to reapportion congressional seats and Electoral College votes among the states. The Census Bureau said that it had in fact stopped work on producing those counts altogether.

Instead, the bureau won't compile that data until at least after Biden is sworn in, meaning the incoming president will have a chance to reverse Trump's memo ordering its production and release. The U.S. Supreme Court in December had overturned one of the three lower federal court rulings that had blocked Trump's executive memo, holding that it wasn't yet ripe for adjudication, but the delays will likely moot that litigation.

In addition to the postponed release of reapportionment data, the more granular data needed to conduct actual redistricting itself will likely be delayed past the existing March 31 deadline set by federal law. That could in turn cause several states to delay or even entirely postpone redistricting for elections taking place this year. Some states, however, have deadlines for redistricting written into their constitutions, meaning that late-arriving data could cause unpredictable legal havoc.

Electoral College

Electoral College: Republicans in three key states have proposed altering how their states allocate Electoral College votes in different ways that would have each given Donald Trump more electoral votes in 2020. It's unclear whether these plans have widespread GOP support, and two of them face long odds of passage, but they're by no means the first time that Republicans have floated efforts to manipulate the Electoral College for short-term partisan advantage, and they raise the specter that the GOP will one day go through with it.

In Michigan, GOP Congressman Bill Huizenga called for switching his state from winner-take-all to allocating electoral votes by congressional district, which of course happens to be gerrymandered by the GOP in a way that would have resulted in an 8-8 split in 2020 despite Joe Biden winning the state (Michigan Democrats in fact did this very same scheme way back in the 1892 election cycle). Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer could veto such a proposal if the GOP actually tries to pass it, but she faces a potentially competitive re-election contest in 2022 that could leave the GOP with full control of the state heading into the 2024 presidential election.

In Wisconsin, meanwhile, Republican state Rep. Gary Tauchen went further and actually introduced a bill that would similarly assign electoral votes by congressional districts that were gerrymandered by Republicans, a bill that would have given Trump a 6-4 majority in November even though Biden carried the state. As in Michigan, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers could veto the bill if the GOP were to make a serious push to pass it, but he could also be defeated next year, leaving Republicans with unfettered power.

Lastly, Republican state Sen. Julie Slama introduced a bill that would move Nebraska in the opposite direction by abolishing the allocation of electoral votes by congressional district after Joe Biden won the Omaha-based 2nd Congressional District and its lone electoral vote. Unlike in the other two states, Republicans already have full control over state government, but they narrowly lack a filibuster-proof two-thirds supermajority. However, the GOP could eliminate the filibuster rule with a simple majority.

These schemes may or may not work as intended and could even backfire on Republicans in the long term, especially if Wisconsin and Michigan one day turn reliably red. However, these proposals are all motivated solely by partisan self-interest rather than any good-faith concerns about the fairness of the Electoral College.

This is in fact the third straight election to which Republicans have reacted by putting forth plans to tilt the Electoral College in their favor, even though they benefited more from its skew in both 2016 and 2020 than in any elections in a century, according to one analysis.

Two-thirds of Republicans in the U.S. House and several in the Senate unsuccessfully voted last week to overturn Biden's Electoral College victory and steal the 2020 election for Trump mere hours after far-right insurrectionists incited by Trump ransacked the Capitol building itself. That followed an unsuccessful effort by Trump and his allies to agitate for disenfranchising countless voters by asking state legislatures to reject Biden's win and use their gerrymandered majorities to directly install a slate of Trump electors instead.

If the GOP entirely gives up on trying to win the popular vote and instead focuses exclusively on translating its minority support into an Electoral College majority, it's likely only a matter of time before Republicans successfully overturn a Democratic presidential victory, whether through a vote in Congress or state-level schemes to manipulate electoral vote allocation even when Democrats win the popular vote. Doing so risks sparking a far worse crisis than the one America has been living through this past month.

Electoral Reform

Alaska: The Alaska Independence Party, a right-wing fringe party that advocates for the state to secede from the union, filed a lawsuit in state court last month seeking to overturn a statute enacted by voters at the ballot box in 2020 that replaces traditional party primaries with a "top-four" primary and instant-runoff general election. Republicans are considering whether to join the legal challenge.

New York City, NY: A state court rejected issuing a temporary restraining order last month that would have blocked the use of instant-runoff voting ahead of an upcoming City Council special election after opponents of the new law, approved in 2019, filed a lawsuit in early December. The plaintiffs have announced that they will appeal, arguing that the law will lead to confusion that disenfranchises voters in communities of color unless changes are made, a charge that other candidates of color dispute.


Pennsylvania: Democratic state Sen. Jim Brewster was finally seated by the Pennsylvania Senate's Republican majority after federal District Judge Nicholas Ranjan, a Trump appointee, upheld Brewster's narrow victory last year. Republicans sparked outrage after they had refused to let Brewster take the oath of office for another term even though election officials had certified his victory and the state Supreme Court had upheld it. GOP lawmakers even ejected Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman from presiding over the chamber after he had objected to their power grab.

Republicans rejected the legitimacy of several hundred mail ballots that lacked a handwritten date on the outer envelope, even though the Supreme Court said they were otherwise valid and should be counted. Mail ballots favored Democrats by a lopsided margin thanks to Trump's demagoguery against mail voting, even though it was Republican lawmakers who pushed for a state law that, among other things, removed the excuse requirement to vote by mail in 2019.

This ordeal is an example of state-level Republicans following the lead of Trump and their congressional counterparts in trying to reject the outcome of elections after they've lost. Particularly worrisome for the rule of law is that the GOP refused to abide by the decisions of Democratic state Supreme Court justices and election officials and only capitulated after a Trump-appointed judge rejected their ploy.

This Week in Statehouse Action: Wolverine-al Failure edition

Republican legislators in key swing states still aren’t ruling out elector-related shenanigans designed to steal the election for Donald Trump, but there’s still a pandemic on, and a bunch of domestic terrorists just got arrested for plotting to overthrow Michigan’s government, so I’m going to shift focus a little this week.

To me, my statehouse action!

(But for real, the guy who wrote the law review article that inspired all of this and helped establish Pennsylvania as a potential Ground Zero for legislator-instigated elector-related constitutional crisis still thinks that this scenario is very much in play. And given what I’ve learned from working in and writing about state legislative politics for the past decade or so, I do, too.)


Campaign Action

House of M: Michigan is hands-down the most action-packed state that hasn’t or isn’t about to play host to a vice/presidential debate.

  • First, late last week, the state Supreme Court struck down Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive authority to issue emergency orders, which she’s of course been doing to help her state fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
    • The decision was 4-3, which matters because
      • Conservatives have a 4-3 majority on the court
      • The decision was straight along partisan lines
      • Progressives have a chance this fall to flip the Michigan Supreme Court to a 4-3 conservative minority.
  • The retirement of a conservative justice has created an opportunity to shift the highest court in this key swing state away from the GOP.
    • Democrats have a lot of balls in the air right now for sure, but Republicans have a history of not sleeping on court elections.
    • Dems, on the other hand … have yet to really get their act together when it comes to investing in these incredibly important, high-stakes, and infrequent (state supreme court terms are at least six years; in Michigan, justices serve eight-year terms) races.
      • Daily Kos has endorsed progressive Michigan Supreme Court candidate Elizabeth Welch in this race, but it’s not clear that the Democratic establishment outside of the state is paying any attention at all.

le sigh

  • So, the state Supreme Court’s ruling against Whitmer’s emergency executive powers last Friday threw her coronavirus-related orders into legal limbo.

Good, right?

  • But given that the Senate majority leader is opposed to a statewide mask requirement, and
  • GOP House members are feigning outrage because the governor is working to help elect a Democratic majority to the state House (and never mind that Republican lawmakers have been fighting Whitmer on her coronavirus-related executive orders for many months already),
    • … the outlook for real progress on protecting the state from the pandemic looks less than rosy.

And this all brings us to Thursday, when 13 white guys (well …. probably white. I haven’t found an article yet that describes them as anything but, and in my experience, news outlets tend to not mention someone’s race unless they’re NOT white, in which case, they ALWAYS mention it. Please feel free to hit me up with any examples you find that contradict this) were charged for participating in an alleged domestic terrorism plot that involved kidnapping Michigan’s governor and possibly murdering her or other state leaders they perceived as “violating the U.S. Constitution.”

  • And these weren’t just a bunch of disgruntled assholes.
  • After their arrests were announced Thursday, Whitmer tied these men to
    • Trump’s failure last week to condemn white supremacist (with which which Michigan’s militias have flirted) and extreme right-wing groups and
    • Trump’s tweeted encouragement to “LIBERATE MICHIGAN” earlier this year in response to protests of the governor’s coronavirus safety measures.

Yes, let’s blame the victim

So, yeah, the Wolverine State is having a super normal one.

The Dark Keystone Saga: But just because Pennsylvania GOP legislative leaders aren’t currently, right at this moment, actively working to steal the state’s electors for Donald Trump, don’t think for a second there aren’t shenanigans afoot there.

  • A shady resolution (read: Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf can’t veto it) establishing a “Select Committee on Election Integrity” charged with investigating and reviewing “the regulation and conduct of the 2020 general election” still awaits a full House floor vote, which it may get as soon as Oct. 19, when the legislature reconvenes.
    • This committee will be made up of three Republicans and two Democrats, has subpoena power, and is authorized to “prepare and file pleadings and other legal documents” (emphasis mine).

… like, say, a certificate of ascertainment for Trump’s electors ..?

  • The subpoena and investigatory power the resolution endows this “Select Committee” with with the power to find supposed “facts” designed to demonstrate that the election was not run properly or fairly.
    • The resolution appeared “out of nowhere” on last week—literally a day after Trump claimed during the presidential debate (somehow that was JUST LAST WEEK) that “bad things happen in Philadelphia” (he also encouraged his supporters to intimidate voters at polls there, but that’s a whole other matter).
  • And speaking of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court …


  • If Democrats can flip one of Pennsylvania’s legislative chambers (28 R/21 D Senate, 109 R/92 D House [2 vacancies]) next month, this GOP power-grab will die a delicious and deserved death.

Age of Coronapocalypse: In Virginia, where lawmakers are still meeting in special session to deal with racial justice, police reform, and coronavirus-related budget issues, one Republican may have put her legislative colleagues in grave danger.

  • State Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel attended the Rose Garden event announcing the nomination of conservative Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court—an event now notorious for likely being responsible for numerous attendees’ subsequent COVID-19 diagnoses.
    • Just a couple of days after attending the gathering, at which photos reveal social distancing and mask-wearing guidelines were most definitely NOT followed, Vogel returned to Richmond for two days of in-person session with many of her Senate colleagues.
      • Vogel reports that she has since tested negative for COVID-19, but it’s not clear that those results came back before session last week—or that she even got tested before other Rose Garden event attendees’ coronavirus diagnoses came to light.
  • Vogel’s not alone in placing her colleagues in unnecessary danger when it comes to the coronavirus.

… just something to bear in mind the next time Republicans rail about “transparency” and “good faith.”

Welp, that’s a wrap for this week. (Better than a rap, because my rhymes would be almost as bad as my puns, and better than a rap sheet, because we’re not white domestic terrorists who’ve been arrested for plotting to overthrow state governments, hm?)

Hang in there. We have a few laps yet to put behind us before we cross anything resembling a finish line in this election.

Maybe you’re tired.




Something else entirely.

Some unfortunate combination of any of those things.

I see you. And I hope you’ll do something to take care of yourself this week.

Because you’re important.

And we need you.

This Week in Statehouse Action: Counterprogramming edition

I have a present for you.

It’s this.

You can read it instead of watching (or while watching, as a distraction) Trump’s RNC speech tonight.

I mean, let’s be real—it’s a much better use of your time all around.

This: Contains facts.

That: Contains outright lies.

This: Has bad jokes.

That: Has racisms.

This: Can be read to yourself in any voice you like (personally, I prefer Nathan Fillion as my internal narrator).

That: Can only be heard in Trump Yells.

Anyway, you get the idea.

Even though Republicans are holding their national convention this week, not all is sunshine and roses in GOP-land.

In fact, there’s some serious R-on-R violence astir in Ohio at the moment.

Campaign Action
  • And no, I’m not even talking about the state’s former governor who addressed last week’s Democratic convention.
  • Three GOP state House members have drawn up articles of impeachment against Republican Gov. Mike DeWine because they’re mad about how he’s been handing the coronavirus epidemic.
    • … which, frankly, he’s been doing a lot more competently than many of his fellow GOP governors.
  • GOP Reps. John Becker, Nino Vitale, and Paul Zeltwanger joined right-wing forces this week to sponsor an impeachment resolution detailing 10 specific articles against DeWine, including claims that he
    • Violated separation of powers by having the state health department issue orders “tantamount to creating new laws”
    • “Conspired” with the secretary of state to cancel the March 17 primary and move it to June (lawmakers eventually passed legislation setting an April 28 all-mail primary)
    • Unconstitutionally ordered businesses to close to prevent the spread of coronavirus, which “resulted in record-high unemployment,” which increased “poverty,” “depression,” “despair,” and “suicides” but also required state budget cuts
    • Usurped the state board of education’s power by ordering schools to shut down and then “violat[ing] students’ civil liberties” by requiring them to wear face coverings when schools reopened
    • “Prove[d] his incompetence” by providing “misleading COVID-19 data”
    • Violated Ohioans’ due process rights and civil liberties by issuing a stay-at-home order
    • Somehow violated the First Amendment by requiring Ohioans to wear face masks in houses of worship (and all other indoor spaces)
    • “Promote[d] fear” by issuing a face mask requirement.
  • These three genius lawmakers also set forth the inane lie that face coverings render the wearer somehow “more likely to infect themselves with COVID-19.”

Since both the state’s Democratic and Republican parties are denouncing the impeachment attempt, it’s fair to anticipate that these three extremists won’t be able to muster the House majority and Senate supermajority required to remove DeWine from office.

  • In fact, the Ohio GOP chair called the move “a baseless, feeble attempt at creating attention for themselves.”

… not that feeble, I guess. I’m not the only one writing about it.

  • Republican Rep. Nino Vitale made some other news this week, too.
    • Ohio’s GOP Secretary of State Frank LaRose filed a campaign finance complaint with the state elections commission accusing Vitale of, among other things,
      • Failing to keep a strict account of all campaign contributions
      • Failing to disclose all expenditures above $25
      • Failing to deposit all contributions into an account that wasn’t for personal or business use
      • Using campaign resources for his personal business when he
        • converted his campaign website, email marketing program, and social media accounts for his own use and
        • used his campaign account to pay for Facebook ads promoting his shooting classes on his personal gun range.
    • Vitale thinks LaRose is out to get him because of the impeachment resolution against DeWine.

let them fight dot gif

Elsewhere ...

  • The Milwaukee Bucks made some excellent headlines this week after their extremely righteous move to go on a sudden wildcat strike instead of taking the court for a playoff game in protest of racial injustice and police brutality in the wake of a Kenosha cop shooting an unarmed Black man seven times in the back last weekend.
    • Something that made fewer headlines, however, was the team’s substantive followup on their show-stopping activism.
      • The team also issued a statement on Wednesday calling out Wisconsin’s GOP-controlled legislature for “months of inaction” on bills addressing police accountability and criminal justice reform.
        • The state’s GOP leaders have said nothing in response to the Bucks’ call and have refused reporters’ requests for comment on the matter.
    • Relatedly, earlier this week, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers called a special session to convene this Monday specifically to consider nine bills related to police reforms and training he proposed back in June.
      • Lawmakers will meet, but the Republican-majority chambers could vote to adjourn as soon as they gavel in because they’re classy that way.
  • In Pennsylvania, the GOP-controlled legislature is responding to “glitches” in the state’s new mail-in voting law by … trying to make it harder to vote by mail.
    • Specifically, Republicans are pushing a proposal that would cut the amount of time voters have to request a mail-in ballot and limit the locations at which voters to hand-deliver their ballots prior to Election Day.

I mean, of course the GOP is trying to game the system in a closely-contested swing state like Pennsylvania.

It’s not clever, but it’s smart.

… but not everyone is up to no good.

  • Last week in Virginia, state lawmakers convened in a landmark special session and are continuing to advance legislation to reform police practices in the commonwealth.
    • But the session wasn’t noteworthy just because of the subject matter.
      • For the first time in over 400 years, the General Assembly tried a new way of convening.
      • Specifically, the House of Delegates held a virtual session.
        • The endeavor met with some hiccups, though—Republican members complained of lost connections and the system itself was described as “balky.”
        • But in light of the dangers posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Democratic-majority chamber was eager to try something new—despite GOP members’ foot dragging.
    • Because Republican delegates refused to immediately get on board with the change, legislative action in the House is off to a slow start.
      • The much smaller (40 vs. 100) state Senate opted to meet in person (with many precautions in place).
        • But that choice brought its own coronavirus-related consequence when GOP Sen. Bryce Reeves revealed this week that he’s tested positive for COVID-19.
          • Reeves reported experiencing “mild symptoms” during the special session’s three days last week.
      • Meanwhile, since Republican Sen. Amanda Chase refuses to wear a mask because of an alleged medical condition, Senate staffers constructed a Plexiglass box around her desk to keep her from potentially infecting her colleagues.
    • Despite all this drama, police reform legislation is actually making headway.
      • On Wednesday, the Senate approved (on a party-line vote) a measure allowing judges and juries to consider lesser offenses (i.e. misdemeanors) for someone who, say, shoves an officer (as opposed to the felony charge from a shooting or stabbing).
        • Currently, any “assault” on a cop is a felony that carries a mandatory six-month minimum sentence.
      • In the House, committees are advancing measures that would ban tear gas and rubber bullets, prohibit police departments from acquiring surplus military gear, and establish “community care teams” to accompany officers when responding to a mental health crisis.

While ending the garbage legal doctrine of qualified immunity for cops (which protects them from personal liability for their actions) is, sadly, not on the table in Virginia, stay tuned for some actual reforms to emerge from the newly-Democratic legislature in the coming weeks.

While some lawmakers are hard at work doing the business of the people in the middle of a pandemic, others are … hardly working.

  • Many are running for reelection, which, you know, makes sense, since we’re a couple of months away from Election Day.
    • But some Republicans would rather party with lobbyists on the beach than actually connect with their constituents or help their states deal with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic or work to address racism and police brutality.
  • This week, the Republican State Leadership Committee (the GOP party organization tasked with election Republican state legislators, lieutenant governors, secretaries of state, and judges across the country) met at a Georgia resort at Sea Island for their annual Summer Meeting.

These sorts of “meetings” are nothing new, and they certainly aren’t unique to the GOP.

  • In the middle of a pandemic, though, when you’re almost guaranteed to take germs you didn’t arrive with back to your respective home states?
  • In a huge COVID-19 hot spot?

Seems pretty clear that one party is actually taking the coronavirus seriously this election season, and it ain’t the GOP.

Welp, that’s a wrap for this week. Thanks for tuning in!

Now go do something nice for yourself.

A snack.

A beverage.

A stretch.

A call to someone special.

An animal ear-scratch.

A fitness.

Whatever floats your boat (including actually floating a boat).

Just take good care of you.

You’re important, and we need you.

Morning Digest: Nevada Democrats won big in 2018. Our new data shows they may again in 2020

The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, Carolyn Fiddler, and Matt Booker, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.

Leading Off

Senate-by-LD, Governor-by-LD: Nevada was a huge success story for Team Blue in 2018, with Democrats making big gains in both houses of the legislature at the same time that the party was flipping the U.S. Senate seat and governor's office. And as our new data, which was crunched for us by elections analyst Bill Coningsby, illustrates, Democrats have opportunities to pick up more seats this fall.

Democrats currently hold a 13-8 majority in the Senate, which is just one seat shy of the two-thirds majority needed to pass certain revenue-related measures that the GOP blocked in the previous sessions of the legislature without any GOP votes. In the state Assembly, though, Team Blue has a 29-13 supermajority.

We'll start with a look at the Senate, where half the chamber was up in 2018 while the rest of the seats will be on the ballot this fall. Democrat Jacky Rosen carried 15 of the 21 seats while she was unseating GOP Sen. Dean Heller 50-45, while Democrat Steve Sisolak took those very same districts while he was being elected governor 49-45 over Adam Laxalt. The median district backed Rosen by 53-43 and Sisolak by 52-44, placing it somewhat to the left of the state overall.

Two Republicans sit in Rosen/Sisolak seats, while no Democrats hold Heller/Laxalt districts. The only one of that pair of Republicans up this year is Heidi Gansert, who holds Senate District 15 in the Reno area. This constituency supported Rosen 51-45, while Sisolak took it 50-45; four years ago, the district also backed Hillary Clinton 47-44 while Gansert was winning by a convincing 53-42. This cycle, the Democrats are fielding Wendy Jauregui-Jackins, who lost a close primary for Washoe County assessor last cycle.

The other Republican on unfriendly turf is Keith Pickard, who won a four-year term in 2018 by 24 votes. That year, Rosen and Sisolak carried his SD-20 50-47 and 50-46, respectively.

Democrats do have a few potentially competitive seats to defend this year. Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro won SD-06 51-49 as Clinton was pulling off a 50-45 victory. Last cycle, though, the seat backed Rosen 53-44, while Sisolak took it by a similar 52-44 spread. Democrats will also be looking to keep the open SD-05, which supported Clinton just 48-46 but went for Rosen and Sisolak 53-43 and 52-44.

We'll turn to the 42-person Assembly, where members are elected to 2-year terms. Both Rosen and Sisolak carried the same 29 districts, while Heller and Laxalt took the remaining 13 districts. The two median districts backed Rosen by 54-42 and Sisolak by 53-41, placing them several points to the left of Nevada overall.

One assemblymember from each party holds a seat that was carried by the other side's statewide nominee. On the Democratic side, incumbent Skip Daly won 52-48 in a seat Heller and Laxalt took 49-47 and 49-45; Trump won by a larger 49-43 margin here in 2016. Meanwhile, Republican Assemblyman John Hambrick is termed-out of a seat that backed both Rosen and Sisolak 49-48 but where Trump prevailed 49-46.

We'll also take a quick look at the state's four congressional seats. The 3rd District, which is located in Las Vegas' southern suburbs, backed both Rosen and Sisolak 50-46, which was a shift to the left from Trump's 48-47 win. The 4th District supported Rosen 51-44, while Sisolak took it 50-44; the seat went for Clinton by a similar 50-45 margin in 2016. The 1st District went overwhelmingly for the Democratic ticket, while Republicans had no trouble carrying the 2nd District.

P.S. You can find our master list of statewide election results by congressional and legislative district here, which we'll be updating as we add new states. Additionally, you can find all our data from 2018 and past cycles here.

Election Changes

Please bookmark our litigation tracker spreadsheet for a compilation of the latest developments in major lawsuits over changes to election and voting procedures, along with our statewide 2020 primary calendar and our calendar of key downballot races, all of which we're updating continually as changes are finalized.

Alabama: Civil rights advocates have filed a lawsuit in state court seeking to loosen Alabama's restrictions on mail voting during the pendency of the pandemic. The plaintiffs want the court to order the state to suspend requirements that voters present an excuse to request an absentee ballot, have their ballot envelope notarized, and include a photocopy of their ID with their ballot. Additionally, the plaintiffs want 14 days of in-person early voting, which Alabama currently offers none of, along with drive-through voting and other measures to make voting safe for those not voting by mail.

Florida: Officials in Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties, which are home to the greater Tampa area and one in every nine registered voters in Florida, have announced that both counties will pay for postage on mail-in ballots. Officials in the southeastern Florida counties of Broward, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach, which are home to around a quarter of Florida voters, had previously announced measures to implement prepaid postage and also mail out applications for mail ballots to voters or households who had yet to request one.

Montana: Montana's Supreme Court has reversed a lower court ruling that had allowed absentee mail ballots to count if they were postmarked by Election Day and received within a few days afterward. As a result, voters in the June 2 primary, which is taking place almost entirely by mail, will have to make sure election officials receive their ballots by Election Day.

The Supreme Court, however, did not rule on the merits of the plaintiffs' request but rather explained that it was reinstating the original deadline to avoid voter confusion and disruption to election administration. Plaintiffs will still have a chance to make their case that the ballot receipt deadline should be extended for the November general election.

New Jersey: Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy has announced that he has no further plans to alter procedures for the July 7 primary. Murphy recently ordered the election to take place largely by mail with active registered voters belonging to a party being sent ballots and inactive or unaffiliated voters getting sent applications, while municipalities operate at least one in-person voting each.

New Mexico: Rep. Ben Ray Luján, who is the presumptive Democratic nominee for Senate in New Mexico, is urging Democratic Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver to delay the deadline to return absentee mail ballots, saying he has heard reports of voters failing to receive a mail ballot in time even though the primary is taking place just days away on June 2.

A spokesperson for Toulouse Oliver says that extending the deadline, which currently requires ballots to be received by Election Day rather than simply postmarked by that date, would require legislative action. However, the state legislature isn't in session, and there's no indication yet whether Luján or anyone else will file a last-minute lawsuit instead.

North Carolina: North Carolina's Republican-run state House has almost unanimously passed a bill that would make it easier to vote absentee by mail. In particular, the bill would ease—though not eliminate—the atypical requirement that absentee voters have a notary or two witnesses sign their ballot envelope by allowing only one witness instead.

However, the bill also makes it a felony for election officials to mail actual ballots to voters who haven't requested one, which would prevent Democratic officials in charge of running elections from conducting elections by mail. Activists had also called on lawmakers to make other changes such as prepaying the postage on mail ballots or making Election Day a state holiday, but Republican legislators refused.

Even if it becomes law, this bill is not likely to be the final word on voting changes in North Carolina. Two separate lawsuits at the federal and state levels are partially or wholly challenging the witness requirement, lack of prepaid postage, and other absentee voting procedures.

South Carolina: South Carolina's all-Republican state Supreme Court has rejected a Democratic lawsuit seeking to waive the requirement that voters under age 65 provide a specific excuse to vote absentee by mail in June's primary. The court ruled that the issue was moot after the Republican-run state legislature recently passed a law waiving the excuse requirement for the June 9 primary and June 23 runoffs. However, that waiver will expire in July, so Democrats are likely to continue pressing their claim in either state court or a separate federal lawsuit for November.

Texas: Texas' all-Republican Supreme Court has sided with Republican state Attorney General Ken Paxton in determining that lack of coronavirus immunity doesn't qualify as an excuse for requesting a mail ballot under the state's definition of "disability." Consequently, all voters must present an excuse to vote by mail except for those age 65 or older, a demographic that favors Republicans.

While the ruling did note that it's up to voters to decide whether or not to "apply to vote by mail based on a disability," that may not be much of a silver lining, because Paxton has repeatedly threatened activists with criminal prosecution for advising voters to request mail ballots. If campaigns and civic groups limit their outreach as a result of Paxton's threats, then even voters still entitled to mail ballots may not learn about the option.

However, in one positive development for voting access, the court ruled that Paxton couldn't tell officials in five counties not to send absentee ballots to voters citing disability even for coronavirus, since Texas' absentee application doesn't ask what a voter's disability is. In addition, separate federal litigation remains ongoing after a lower court blocked the absentee excuse requirement. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals is set to rule soon on whether to in turn block that ruling for the state's July 14 primary runoff.

Virginia: Conservatives filed a federal lawsuit earlier this month seeking to block Virginia from implementing its absentee voting plan for the state's June 23 primary, specifically targeting instructions that voters "may choose reason '2A My disability or illness' for absentee voting." Although a new law was passed this year to permanently remove the excuse requirement, it doesn't go into effect until July. Consequently, the plaintiffs argue that the current law is being impermissibly interpreted to let those concerned about coronavirus cite it as an excuse to obtain an absentee ballot when they aren't physically ill themselves and don't otherwise qualify.

Wisconsin: Wisconsin's bipartisan Elections Commission has unanimously voted to send applications for absentee mail ballots to all registered voters, which requires a photo ID. However, the commissioners still must decide on the wording of the letter sent to voters, and a deadlock over the language could prevent the commission from sending anything at all. Notably, the Republican commissioners' votes to mail applications comes after the major Democratic stronghold of Milwaukee and some other Democratic-leaning cities had already moved to do so, so the GOP may face pressure to extend the practice statewide.


GA-Sen-A: Investigative filmmaker Jon Ossoff talks about the murder of Ahmaud Arbery in his new ad for the June 9 Democratic primary. Ossoff tells the audience that his business involves investigating corruption, "And when a young black man in Georgia is shot dead in the street, but police and prosecutors look the other way? That's the worst kind of corruption." He continues by pledging to "work to reform our criminal justice system" in the Senate.

KS-Sen: On Thursday, just days ahead of the June 1 filing deadline, state Senate President Susan Wagle announced that she was dropping out of the August GOP primary. Wagle's move is good news for state and national party leaders, who are afraid that a crowded field will make it easier for former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach to win the primary.

Wagle's decision came weeks after Kansas GOP chair Mike Kuckelman asked her to leave the race in order "to allow our Party to coalesce behind a candidate who will not only win, but will help Republicans down the ballot this November." Wagle's campaign responded to Kuckelman's appeal at the time by saying she wasn't going anywhere and adding, "Others can speculate on his motives, but it may be as simple as he doesn't support strong, pro-life conservative women."

On Thursday, though, Wagle herself cited the party's need to avoid a "primary fight that will divide our party or hurts my colleagues in the state legislature" as one of her main reasons for dropping out. Wagle also argued that a competitive nomination fight would help Democratic state Sen. Barbara Bollier in the fall.

Wagle's departure came hours after Rep. Roger Marshall, who looks like Kobach's main rival, picked up an endorsement from Kansans For Life, a development the Kansas City Star's Bryan Lowry characterized as a major setback for Wagle.

The organization, which Lowry called the state's "leading anti-abortion group," notably backed both Kobach and then-Gov. Jeff Colyer in the 2018 gubernatorial primary. Kobach won that contest by less than 350 votes before losing the general election to Democrat Laura Kelly, and Lowry says that plenty of state Republican operatives believe things would have turned out very differently if KFL had only supported Colyer.

Meanwhile, Bollier's second TV ad touts her as a "sensible centrist" and a "leading moderate voice."

ME-Sen: A progressive group led by former Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling is out with a survey from Victory Geek that shows Democratic state House Speaker Sara Gideon leading GOP Sen. Susan Collins 51-42. The poll also tested 2018 gubernatorial candidate Betty Sweet, who is a longshot candidate in the July Democratic primary, and found her edging Collins 44-43; Strimling disclosed that he was close to Sweet and had contributed to her campaign.

This is the first poll we've ever seen from Victory Geek, a firm Strimling characterized as "a non-partisan data and telecom provider with mostly conservative clients." Strimling called this survey a "joint left/right partnership" between Victory Geek and his progressive organization, "Swing Hard. Run Fast. Turn Left!"

The is also the first poll we've seen here in close to three months, so we don't have a good sense if Collins really is badly trailing. Indeed, the only other numbers we've seen from Maine all year were a February SocialSphere poll that had Gideon up 43-42 and an early March survey from the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling that had her ahead 47-43. While it's very clear that Collins is in for the fight of her career, we need more data before we can call her an underdog.


MO-Gov: The conservative pollster We Ask America finds GOP Gov. Mike Parson leading Democrat Nicole Galloway 47-39, while Donald Trump edges Joe Biden 48-44. The only other poll we've seen here in the last month was a late April survey from the GOP firm Remington Research for the Missouri Scout tipsheet that showed Parson ahead 52-39.

VT-Gov: On Thursday, which was the candidate filing deadline, GOP Gov. Phil Scott confirmed that he'd seek a third two-year term. While Scott waited until now to make his plans official, there was never any serious talk about him stepping aside. Scott also pledged that he wouldn't bring on "a campaign staff or office, be raising money, or participating in normal campaign events" until the current state of emergency is over.


HI-02: On Thursday, VoteVets endorsed state Sen. Kai Kahele in the August Democratic primary. Kahele currently faces no serious intra-party opposition for this safely blue open seat, though it's always possible someone could launch a last-minute campaign before the filing deadline passes on Tuesday.

IA-04: Politico reports that Iowa Four PAC, a group run by former GOP state House Speaker Christopher Rants, has launched a $20,000 TV buy against white supremacist Rep. Steve King ahead of Tuesday's GOP primary. The commercial declares that it's "sad that Steve King lost his committee assignments in Congress and embarrassed Iowa." The narrator also says that "President Trump stopped allowing Steve King to fly on Air Force One." The rest of the ad touts state Sen. Randy Feenstra as a reliable Trump ally.

Meanwhile, 2018 Democratic nominee J.D. Scholten, who doesn't face any intra-party opposition next week, has launched what Inside Elections' Jacob Rubashkin reports is a $50,000 TV buy. The 60-second ad, which is narrated by "Field of Dreams" star Kevin Costner, is a shorter version of Scholten's launch video. The spot features images of western Iowa and its people and declares that the area is "rooted within us. Within him."

IN-01: Former Sen. Joe Donnelly endorsed Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott on Monday ahead of next week's Democratic primary. Meanwhile, the Voter Protection Project has announced that it will spend "six figures" on mailers supporting state Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon.

IN-05: The anti-tax Club for Growth began targeting former Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi a little while ago, and it recently went up with a commercial targeting businesswoman Beth Henderson, who is another candidate in next week's GOP primary. Roll Call's Jessica Wehrman writes that the Club, which backs state Sen. Victoria Spartz, has spent $400,000 on ads for this contest.

The ad shows an old clip of Henderson from just before the 2016 Indiana presidential primary saying of Donald Trump, "I don't like his outbursts and his inappropriateness with the public and … his scruples." The narrator goes on to argue that Henderson "even went on Facebook to support a liberal group that called for Trump's impeachment."

Spartz, who has self-funded most of her campaign, has decisively outspent her many opponents in this competitive open seat. A recent poll for the Club also showed her leading Brizzi 32-14 as Henderson took 13%, and no one has released any contradictory numbers.

Henderson is also acting like Spartz is the one to beat here. Henderson made sure to inform voters in a recent ad that she was born in the United States in what appears to be a not-very subtle shot at Spartz, who has discussed leaving her native Ukraine in her own commercials.

NY-24: 2018 nominee Dana Balter is out with her second TV spot ahead of the June 23 Democratic primary to face GOP Rep. John Katko.

Balter tells the audience that she has a pre-existing condition and continues, "I know the fear of living without insurance, so it's personal when John Katko repeatedly votes to sabotage Obamacare and put coverage for pre-existing conditions at risk." Balter declares that she came closer to defeating Katko last cycle than anyone ever has, and pledges "we'll finish the job so everyone has good healthcare."

NV-03: The conservative super PAC Ending Spending recently launched an ad against former state Treasurer Dan Schwartz ahead of the June 9 GOP primary, and Politico reports that the size of the buy for the TV and digital campaign is $300,000.

UT-04: Former Rep. Mia Love has endorsed state Rep. Kim Coleman in the June 30 GOP primary to take on freshman Rep. Ben McAdams.

DCCC: The DCCC has added another six contenders to its program for top candidates:

  • AK-AL: Alyse Galvin
  • AR-02: Joyce Elliott
  • MT-AL: Kathleen Williams
  • NC-08: Pat Timmons-Goodson
  • NE-02: Kara Eastman
  • OH-01: Kate Schroder

Kathleen Williams, who was the 2018 nominee for Montana’s only House seat, does face a primary on Tuesday against state Rep. Tom Winter. However, Winter has struggled with fundraising during the contest.


MI Supreme Court: On Tuesday, the Michigan Democratic Party announced its endorsements for the two state Supreme Court seats on the ballot in November, backing Chief Justice Bridget Mary McCormack and attorney Elizabeth Welch. Both Democratic-backed candidates will face off against two Republican-supported candidates in elections this fall that are nominally nonpartisan and let voters select up to two candidates elected by plurality winner. If McCormack is re-elected and Welch wins office to succeed a retiring GOP justice, Democrats would gain a 4-3 majority on the bench.

A Democratic majority would have major implications for battles over redistricting and voting access, two topics that are currently the subject of active lawsuits at both the state and federal levels in Michigan. While Michigan has a new independent redistricting commission, Republicans are currently suing in federal court to strike it down, something that isn't outside the realm of possibility given the conservative U.S. Supreme Court majority, but a Democratic state court could serve as a bulwark against unfair maps in such a scenario.

Grab Bag

Deaths: Former Rep. Sam Johnson, a Texas Republican who represented Dallas' northern suburbs from 1991 to 2019, died Wednesday at the age of 89. Johnson was the last Korean War veteran to serve in Congress, as well as a founding member of what later became the influential Republican Study Committee.

Johnson was serving as a fighter pilot in Vietnam in 1966 when his plane was shot down and he was captured by North Vietnamese forces. Johnson spent almost seven years as a prisoner of war, a period that included physical and mental torture. Johnson and another future Republican politician, John McCain, also shared a tiny cell for 18 months.

Johnson was released in 1973, and he went on to become a homebuilder back in Texas. Johnson was elected to the state House in 1984, and he sought an open U.S. House seat in a 1991 special election after Republican Steve Bartlett resigned to become mayor of Dallas. Johnson took second in the all-party primary against a fellow Vietnam veteran, former Reagan White House aide Tom Pauken, and the two met in an all-Republican general election. Johnson emphasized his military service and won 53-47, and he never had trouble winning re-election for the rest of his career.

In 2000, Johnson notably endorsed George W. Bush over McCain, saying of his former cellmate, "I know him pretty well … and I can tell you, he cannot hold a candle to George Bush." Three years later, though, McCain would say of the Texan, "I wasn't really as courageous as Sam Johnson." Johnson would ultimately back McCain in the 2008 primaries, arguing it was "time to get behind the front-runner."