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Buckle up, election watchers, we’re headed toward a busy week with both ballot-box and courthouse action coming our way.
Georgia’s Republican-drawn congressional and state legislative district lines go to trial on Tuesday. US District Judge Steve C. Jones blocked off about two weeks to hear arguments over whether the maps violate the Voting Rights Act’s Section 2, which bars election rules that discriminate on the basis of race. And a three-judge federal panel in Alabama is about to rule on whether a remedial Republican congressional map violated Section 2 by failing to create two districts where Black voters are a majority or close to it.
“Our case is basically trying to show, like the litigants in Alabama are trying to show, that the state could have drawn a greater number of Black-majority districts that allowed Black voters to elect candidates of their choice,” said Rahul Garabadu, a Georgia-based ACLU voting-rights lawyer who’s representing plaintiffs challenging the state legislative maps.
At issue in Pendergrass v. Raffensperger is whether Black population growth in the 2010s — accounting for 47.3% of the state’s overall population gain — warranted the creation of an additional Black-majority district in the metropolitan Atlanta area. Plaintiffs contend the GOP map packs Black voters in the 13th District of Rep. David Scott (D-Ga.) and spreads Black voters across other districts to dilute their power.
Republican defendants note that Black House members already hold five of Georgia’s 14 seats: Democrats Sanford Bishop, Hank Johnson, Nikema Williams, Lucy McBath, and Scott. A new Black-majority district would favor Democrats. But even if plaintiffs ultimately prevail and new lines are ordered in time for Georgia’s May 2024 primary, the Republican legislature could avoid a net seat loss by converting McBath’s 7th District into a Black-majority district. — Greg Giroux
SPECIAL ELECTIONS: Rhode Island, Utah
Go ahead and learn the names of the winners of special primary elections Tuesday in Rhode Island and Utah. Both congressional districts are one-party dominated, so the general election is almost certain to be anti-climatic.
In Rhode Island’s 1st District, the Democratic primary is the key contest. The contenders there include Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos, the early front-runner backed by Emily’s List, and ex-state Rep. Aaron Regunberg, who’s supported by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), and a super-PAC primarily funded by Regunberg’s father-in-law. Other contenders include Gabe Amo, a veteran of the Biden and Obama White Houses backed by ex-Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.), and state Sen. Sandra Cano.
In Utah’s 2nd District, the winner of a three-candidate Republican primary will be in prime position to succeed Rep. Chris Stewart in a Nov. 21 election.
Ex-state Rep. Becky Edwards led in name recognition, fundraising, and early polling. Celeste Maloy, Stewart’s former legislative counsel, ran on her familiarity with district-specific issues such as public-land and water policy. Bruce Hough, a wealthy businessman and former Utah Republican Party chair, touted his votes for Donald Trump in 2016 and 2020 and attacked Edwards for opposing Trump and voting for Joe Biden. — Greg Giroux
READ MORE about the race to complete the term of ex-Rep. David Cicilline (D), who resigned in the spring to take a private-sector job, and the contest to pick a successor for Stewart, who’s resigning Sept. 15 because of his wife’s health:
- Democrats Road Test ‘24 Themes in Rhode Island Special Election
- ‘Dancing With the Stars’ Dad Jabs House Race Rival on Biden Vote
NORTH CAROLINA: Anticipation
No, we haven’t seen new North Carolina’ congressional lines yet. But preparing a candidacy takes time and some Republican hopefuls aren’t wasting a minute.
In anticipation of a new GOP-friendly map, at least three Republicans have announced challenges to first-term Rep. Wiley Nickel (D), who won by 3 percentage points in 2022 in a competitive Raleigh-area district that the Republican-controlled legislature will reconfigure.
And Pat Harrigan, a West Point graduate and Green Beret combat veteran, announced a rematch against first-term Rep. Jeff Jackson (D) in the 14th District, for now a Charlotte-area district that leans Democratic. Jackson, who beat Harrigan by 15 points in 2022, has freely acknowledged he’s a top target of GOP mapmakers.
Democrats and Republicans each won 7 districts under an interim, court-adopted map used for the 2022 election only. The GOP legislature’s preferred map probably will favor Republicans in at least 10 districts, aiding the national GOP bid to defend its slim House majority. — Greg Giroux
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OHIO: Wording Challenged
The group behind a proposal to bake reproductive rights into the Ohio Constitution wants the state Supreme Court to make sure voters see the actual language of their proposal instead of a “verbose, misleading, and prejudicial” summary crafted by opponents. A complaint filed by the group Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights says the Ballot Board violated its duties. — Eric Heisig
Former Arizona candidate Kari Lake is headed to court later this month. Maricopa County Superior Court Judge John Hannah set Sept. 21 and 25 as the trial dates for her bid to review the signatures of about 1.3 million people who voted early last year.
The key question: are the signatures on the outside envelopes a public record, as Lake (R) argues. The county says that state law is clear on what isn’t available to the public: voters’ birth month and day, Social Security number, driver’s license number and other records, including “the records containing a voter’s signature and a voter’s email address.” — Arizona Republic
WISCONSIN: ‘Rigged’ Recusal
The new justice who tipped the Wisconsin Supreme Court to a liberal majority is being called on to recuse herself from partisan gerrymandering cases before she hears any arguments. Republicans claim her campaign rhetoric crossed ethical lines.
Pointing to her comments that the state’s GOP-favoring political districts were “rigged,” Republican politicians in two separate cases before the court have demanded that Justice Janet Protasiewicz not take part in the litigation. Gerrymandering and abortion were the two driving themes of her record-cash-haul campaign, and her absence from the court could doom Democrats’ opportunity to redraw lines before April 2024 state Legislature campaign filing deadlines. — Alex Ebert
MICHIGAN: Maybe Meijer
Sharp-eyed reporters at the Detroit Free Press spotted a filing for a “Meijer for Senate Exploratory Committee”. The submission is step No.1 for former one-term Rep. Peter Meijer (R-Mich.) as he tests his prospects in a potential run for the seat of retiring Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D).
Last week’s edition of Ballots & Boundaries included an item about a challenge to Florida’s congressional map. The proper title for the court hearing that case is the 2nd Judicial Circuit.
- Our past coverage: BGOV Archive and BLAW Archive
- Tracking Departures in the US House and Senate
- Litigation Trackers: Loyola Law School and Brennan Center
- BGOV OnPoint: US Senate Elections
- BGOV OnPoint: US House Elections
- BGOV OnPoint: Gubernatorial Elections
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To contact the reporters on this story: Greg Giroux in Washington at email@example.com; Alex Ebert in Madison, Wisconsin at firstname.lastname@example.org; Eric Heisig in Ohio at email@example.com