Future of Redistricting Cases at Stake: Ballots & Boundaries

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The final week of the US Supreme Court term will be a nail-biter in the world of redistricting as we await a decision that will guide what happens next in multiple states.

The key question: does the US Constitution grant state lawmakers near-exclusive authority to shape federal election rules — with little to no judicial review from state courts — or is the “independent state legislatures” theory too fringe to survive.

Taking state courts out of the mix would be a game-changer in states with one-party control, beginning in North Carolina, where the Democratic governor can’t veto maps and Republicans drew congressional lines that the state Supreme Court said were so partisan they violated the constitution.

Republican victories in North Carolina Supreme Court elections led to a reversal of that decision, so the US Supreme Court might not weigh in on this one, Moore v Harper, but more cases are pending. Greg Giroux explains and provides a quick look at where redistricting is in motion. READ MORE

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More of the investigations into the 2020 and 2022 elections have reached their denouements.

In Michigan, political consultants whose alleged a forgery scheme derailed the primary campaigns of half of the Republican field in last year’s governor’s race now face criminal charges for the debacle that left seven contenders off the August 2022 ballot.

Consultants Shawn Wilmoth, Jamie Wilmoth-Goodin, and Willie Reed are accused of defrauding five gubernatorial campaigns and three judicial candidates by charging more than $700,000 for signature collection and delivering thousands of forgeries. After tossing out the fakes, seven candidates didn’t have enough valid signatures to qualify for the primaries. “The methods these defendants used to disguise their fraud were sophomoric and transparent, and easily detected,” Attorney General Dana Nessel (D) said in a statement.

In Pennsylvania, the Luzerne County district attorney wrapped up a probe of a ballot paper shortage and concluded that the cause was high staff turnover and loss of institutional knowledge. “This would be about the stupidest way to try to criminally influence an election,” District Attorney Sam Sanguedolce said.

And in Georgia, where the allegations included the improper counting of ballots and forged ballots printed on different paper, the State Election Board ended a two-year investigation and dismissed claims about Democratic-heavy Fulton County, which had been targeted by former President Donald Trump in phone calls to public officials and in public comments. “False claims and knowingly false allegations made against these election workers have done tremendous harm,” Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said in a statement. — Alex Ebert, Spotlight PA, ABC News

MAIL-IN AND MORE: Voting Bills Vetoed
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) vetoed a bipartisan bill that would have expanded vote-by-mail access for people who are blind or paralyzed and need assistance marking their ballot.

In Arizona, Gov. Katie Hobbs (D) vetoed multiple Republican-written election bills, including ones that would have shortened the deadline to return mail-in ballots, would have allowed more tabulation of votes by hand, and would have made Arizona’s cast vote record available to the public.

And legislation moving through North Carolina‘s legislature would order ballot-counters to ignore postmarks and tabulate only the ones that arrive by Election Day. — Texas Tribune, Arizona Mirror, KNAU, Associated Press

HELP WANTED: Voting Law Enforcement
The Justice Department has posted an opening for a voting section chief, though there’s still no formal announcement of a retirement date for career executive T. Christian Herren, who supervises an office that was given greater priority and resources under Attorney General Merrick Garland. READ MORE from Ben Penn.

MICHIGAN: Work-Around Goes to Court
For years, lawmakers in Michigan have kept voter initiatives off the ballot by enacting them into law and then repealing or scaling back the new laws. Now the state Supreme Court is taking a look at the voter-thwarting maneuver known as “adopt and amend” in a case that kept a minimum wage initiative off the 2018 ballot. READ MORE from Alex Ebert.

MISSOURI: Abortion Measure Standoff
A drive to put a proposed abortion rights constitutional amendment on Missouri ballots will move forward after a judge broke a standoff between two Republican officials that had halted the process. Cole County Presiding Judge Jon Beetem wrote that the dispute had blocked the secretary of state from allowing the pro-abortion rights campaign to start gathering signatures for 50 days. A spokesperson said the attorney general’s office will appeal. — AP

Election ’24

UTAH: Convention Tomorrow
A huge Republican field for a soon-to-be-vacant Utah congressional district is about to shrink. Just one of 12 Republicans competing at a nominating convention will advance to a Sept. 5 primary, the key election in a GOP-friendly district Rep. Chris Stewart (R) is leaving open Sept. 15. The special election is Nov. 21.

Eight of the 12 convention candidates aren’t simultaneously exercising a fallback option of trying to collect 7,000 signatures of registered Republicans in the district by July 5. The convention-or-bust candidates include Greg Hughes, a former Utah Speaker; Jordan Hess, a former Senate aide and Utah GOP official; and Celeste Maloy, Stewart’s legislative counsel. The other four are hedging their bets by circulating petitions, while a 13th candidate, little-known Remy Bubba Jush, is just going the signature route.

Utah Republican officials expect 600 to 700 voting delegates at the convention. — Greg Giroux

OREGON: Atypical Rematch
Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer, a first-term Republican from a swing district, probably will face a familiar Democratic foe in 2024.

State Rep. Janelle Bynum, who defeated Chavez-DeRemer in state House elections in 2016 and again in 2018, said she’d try to unseat Chavez-DeRemer in Oregon’s 5th District. Bynum told Willamette Week that House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) asked her to run.

Chavez-DeRemer is among 18 Republicans from districts that President Joe Biden won in the 2020 election. In 2022, her victory margin was 51%-49%, helping the GOP take the majority. She’s the first Republican woman to represent Oregon in Congress, and one of her state’s first Hispanic representatives along with fellow Latina Andrea Salinas (D).

Bynum would be the first Black person to represent Oregon in Congress. —Greg Giroux

DEEPFAKES: Not Their Problem
The Federal Election Commission won’t even think about how to crack down on AI-generated “deepfake” campaign ads. “Instead of coming to us, they should take this up with Congress,” Commissioner Allen Dickerson said before the FEC deadlocked along party lines, preventing a first step toward trying to write rules. READ MORE from Karl Evers-Hillstrom

MANCHIN: Senate, White House, or Neither?
As Sen. Joe Manchin flirts with a third-party presidential campaign, the West Virginian’s fellow Democrats are taking the possibility seriously enough to try to talk him out of it. “Everybody’s getting so worked up and scared to death, and we’re a year and a half away,” he said. — Politico

Caught Our Eye


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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; Ben Penn in Washington at bpenn@bloomberglaw.com; Karl Evers-Hillstrom in Washington at kevershillstrom@bloombergindustry.com

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

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