Celebri-Dad, House Aide Want Congress Seat: Ballots & Boundaries

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Utah Republicans are about a week away from deciding who gets an automatic place on a special-election primary ballot, who has to work a little harder, and who’s out of luck.

The wannabe successors to Rep. Chris Stewart (R) had the option of gathering signatures on nominating petitions on a tight deadline, competing at a party convention, or both.

Former Utah House speaker Greg Hughes is rolling the dice on coming out on top in the convention. If he doesn’t win on June 24, he’ll be out of the running. The same is true for Celeste Maloy, who’s Stewart’s legislative counsel.

Image from a video posted to Facebook page of Bruce Hough
Utah congressional candidate Bruce Hough, right, with his son Derek

Among the candidates hedging their bets by going both the signature and convention routes is the contest’s closest thing to a paparazzi magnet: Republican National Committee member and nutritional supplement company founder Bruce Hough.

He’s bound to attract some selfie-seekers if he campaigns with his offspring, TV dancers Julianne and Derek Hough. READ MORE from Greg Giroux.

And While We’re Talking About Utah

The configuration of congressional districts is under review by the Utah Supreme Court, which will hear oral arguments July 11.

The League of Women Voters of Utah and others allege the Republican legislature’s map is an “extreme partisan gerrymander” that splits pieces of Salt Lake County into four safely Republican districts. In response, GOP legislators wrote that “fixing partisan gerrymandering is a political, often partisan, task for political, partisan bodies, not courts.” — Greg Giroux

Redistricting Next Steps

The US Supreme Court’s decision invalidating an Alabama congressional map set the wheels in motion for new district lines in that state and perhaps others in time for the 2024 election.

On today’s schedule: the parties in the Alabama case, Allen v. Milligan, had a status conference before a three-judge federal panel to discuss next steps in drawing a new map that includes a second heavily Black district.

In Louisiana, the office of Republican state Attorney General Jeff Landry asked the Supreme Court to hear oral arguments and said it’s “impossible to constitutionally draw a map with two majority-minority districts.” Democratic lawyers want the high court to affirm a federal district court’s June 2022 ruling that struck down the Republican legislature’s map with just one Black-majority district. The Supreme Court paused that ruling and allowed the map to be used for the 2022 election as it weighed the Alabama case.

In Georgia, where Democrats are calling for a Black-majority district in suburban Atlanta, a three-judge federal panel asked the parties for supplemental legal briefs by June 23.

And Black voters in Arkansas want the Supreme Court to review a previously dismissed lawsuit challenging that state’s congressional map.

We’re also on the lookout for the Supreme Court to release a decision in Moore v. Harper, a North Carolina redistricting case that involves the role of state courts in setting federal election rules. Republican legislators want the Supreme Court to embrace the so-called independent state legislature theory, which holds that the Constitution gives state lawmakers near carte blanche to regulate federal elections without judicial interference.

The high court is unlikely to agree and may even moot the case after the North Carolina Supreme Court, in a highly unusual move, reversed its ruling that had thrown out the legislature’s map favoring Republicans. — Greg Giroux

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Power of Silence

A case that could wipe out a huge chunk of congressional redistricting lawsuits could come down to how a federal court decides to interpret silence from the US Supreme Court.

Last year a federal district court ruled that only the Justice Department—not voters or civil rights groups—can bring lawsuits under a key Voting Rights Act provision. If the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals upholds that decision, it would stymie redistricting and election law cases in a large chunk of the Midwest, and possibly spur a US Supreme Court clash.

The Arkansas NAACP and the DOJ argue that the US Supreme Court’s Allen v. Milligan ruling implicitly squashed this theory. The Republican-controlled Arkansas legislature argues that the high court’s “tacit assumption” that voters can bring claims doesn’t put the issue to rest.

Voters are asking the US Supreme Court to consider a separate case challenging an Arkansas map that helped elect four congressional Republicans, in part by lines splitting Democratic voters from metro Little Rock into three separate GOP-dominated districts. — Alex Ebert

Sanctioned in Michigan

The leader of the Michigan Republican Party and others who tried to halt ballot counting in 2022 and disqualify dozens of judges are now on the hook for nearly $60,000 in attorney fees.

A trial court said that the lawsuit that tried to stop the counting of absentee ballots in deep blue Detroit had no legal basis. “A clear example of the lack of facts supporting Plaintiffs’ position involved the allegation of lack of opportunity for anyone to observe those individuals depositing absentee ballots in ballot drop boxes in Detroit,” Third Circuit Judge Timothy M. Kenny wrote.

Testimony showed “video camera coverage consistent with Michigan election law” — information that “could easily have been obtained from the Detroit Clerk’s Office but was not.” — Alex Ebert

Ohio Vote Proceeds

A divided Ohio Supreme Court declined to block a proposed measure that would make it harder to amend the state constitution.

Today’s decision was 4-3, with all the Republican justices voting to dismiss the case, and the Democrats saying they would have ruled differently.

So voters in an Aug. 8 special election will decide whether to change the current simple-majority adoption of constitutional changes to a 60% threshold. READ MORE from Eric Heisig.

Connecticut now has a state-level Voting Rights Act. Legislation (H.B. 6941) signed by Gov. Ned Lamont (D) requires local governments to prove certain voting changes won’t harm voters of color before they take effect.

The language mirrors the now-defunct Section 5 of the federal VRA, requiring local jurisdictions with histories of voting discrimination to receive approval from the secretary of the state or the Superior Court for the Judicial District of Hartford before enacting any election laws or maps. — Associated Press

Swing-District Stances

Some House members from the most politically competitive districts showed independence from party leaders this week:

  • Rep. Jared Golden (Maine) was the lone Democratic vote for a Republican bill that would require congressional approval for any federal rules and regulations that could have a major effect on the economy.
  • Golden and Rep. Mary Peltola (Alaska) were the only Democrats who broke rank on a Republican bill that would overturn a federal rule classifying pistols with certain “stabilizing braces” as short-barreled rifles subject to stricter regulations. They represent substantial rural areas and are two of just five Democrats from districts President Joe Biden didn’t carry in 2020.
  • Suburban-district Reps. Tom Kean (N.J.) and Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.), who are among the 18 Republicans from districts Biden carried, were the only Republicans who voted against the gun bill. Kean and Fitzpatrick also were among the 20 Republicans, nine of them from Biden districts, who helped torpedo a resolution that would have censured former Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and called for him to be fined $16 million. Rep. George Santos (N.Y.), the most conspicuous Biden-district Republican, voted “present.” — Greg Giroux


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To contact the reporters on this story: Greg Giroux in Washington at ggiroux@bgov.com; Alex Ebert in Madison, Wisconsin at aebert@bloombergindustry.com; Eric Heisig in Ohio at eheisig@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Katherine Rizzo at krizzo@bgov.com; Bennett Roth at broth@bgov.com

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