Michigan GOP Plans End Run Around Governor: Ballots & Boundaries

Bloomberg Government subscribers get the stories like this first. Act now and gain unlimited access to everything you need to know. Learn more.

Michigan Republicans can’t get ballot access restrictions past Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s veto, so they’re planning a maneuver that would let them do it without her.

The tactic, called adopt and amend, allows the Legislature to adopt ballot initiatives without a statewide election. The GOP-controlled House and Senate only need up-or-down votes, then the change becomes law. Republicans previously used the technique to repeal state mandated wages on construction projects and enact abortion restrictions, and to keep popular initiatives off the ballot, such as a minimum wage increase and paid leave mandate.

State GOP Chairman Ronald Weiser revealed the strategy for circumventing Whitmer (D) at a county Republican Club meeting after introduction of sure-to-be-vetoed election bills.

If lawmakers follow through with the plan Weiser outlined, look for protracted litigation, especially if the result would be to alter the same-day registration, no-excuse absentee voting, and other ballot-access provisions added to the Michigan Constitution in 2018. — Alex Ebert

CRITICAL IMAGES

There’s still a lot to unpack even though Georgia’s election-management changes (S.B. 202) have now become law.

You might have seen the video showing Rep. Park Cannon (D) being handcuffed and taken away after knocking on the office door of Gov. Brian Kemp (R) as she sought to watch the bill signing.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the arresting officer’s incident report says he was worried that other protesters would have been “emboldened” and that the Jan. 6 armed mob at the U.S. Capitol was on his mind.

If she had gotten inside, Cannon would have seen what Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Will Bunch noticed: Kemp, flanked by six white men, signing the bill under a painting of a Georgia slave-holding plantation.

Cannon’s arrest repeatedly came up during debate in Florida on a bill (H.B. 1) aimed at discouraging protests. “What I need you to understand is not all protesters are treated equally,” Rep. Fentrice Driskell (D) said.

That bill was passed along party lines and goes to Florida’s Senate, where the minority leader said it was “cut from the same racist cloth” as the law Kemp signed. Meanwhile, three lawsuits have been filed challenging the new Georgia law, and two big Atlanta brands face boycott threats. — Jennifer Kay

COMMUNITY OF VIN-TEREST

Napa Valley Vinters, the Winegrowers of Napa County, and the owner of Beckstoffer Vineyards are asking the California Redistricting Commission to keep wine country in a single congressional district. The region is currently in California’s 5th District, represented by Democrat Mike Thompson. — Tiffany Stecker

MORE EARLY VOTING IN KENTUCKY AND NEW JERSEY

Compromise legislation (H.B. 574) is headed for the desk of Gov. Andy Beshear (D) to add three days of early in-person voting, support an online mail-in ballot request portal, permit countywide voting centers, and outlaw collecting and submitting other people’s ballots.READ MORE from Alex Ebert.

And this is the day New Jersey gets a new law requiring every county to open three to seven polling places for pre-election voting. READ MORE from the New York Times.

TEXAS VOTING CURBS ADVANCE

A Texas state Senate committee has approved expansive changes to the state’s election laws that would curb voting hours, ban drive-thru voting, and stop counties from mass mailing unsolicited ballot-by-mail applications. The measure (S.B. 7) could come to the Senate floor as early as Tuesday. — Paul Stinson

WAIT, WHICH PARTY DO I BELONG TO?

Concerns about voter access and participation prompted Utah Gov. Spencer Cox (R) to let a bill (H.B. 197) banning last-minute party-switching become law without his signature. The measure would prohibit affiliation changes after March 31 of an election year. Cox said in a March 24 letter to the Utah Legislature that the measure could limit the ability of voters “who may not readily know their affiliation” from participating in the party primary of their choice. — Tripp Baltz

WHAT’S IN A DISTRICT?

It’s hard for would-be candidates to collect qualifying signatures when they don’t know what their districts will look like. An emergency measure (S.B. 1107) passed by the Arizona Legislature would offer some choices. Candidates could use legislative and congressional districts from the 2020 election, draft maps from the state’s independent commission, or any final or court-drawn maps. — Brenna Goth

NO DATA-NO WAITING

The U.S. Census Bureau’s delay in releasing data has paused redistricting preparations in some states. Not Illinois, though. “The Illinois Constitution is silent on data. We are continuing to weigh our options,” John Patterson, a spokesman for state Senate President Don Harmon (D), said in an email. — Stephen Joyce

CALIFORNIA NAMES REDISTRICTING LAW FIRMS

The California Redistricting Commission will vote Thursday to hire two law firms—Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher and Strumwasser & Woocher LLP—to counsel the commission as it draws the state’s new congressional and legislative districts. Strumwasser & Woocher, aided by elections expert David Becker, would ensure the commission complies with the Voting Rights Act, and both firms would represent the commission when maps are scrutinized in court.

Voting rights advocates and some commissioners have raised concerns about Gibson Dunn’s past political activities and current involvement in a California Voting Rights Act case. — Tiffany Stecker

Ballots & Boundaries is your check-in on what states are doing to change voting laws and reconfigure political boundaries in once-a-decade redistricting.

To contact the reporters on this story: Alex Ebert in Columbus, Ohio at aebert@bloomberglaw.com; Jennifer Kay in Miami at jkay@bloomberglaw.com; Stephen Joyce in Chicago at sjoyce@bloomberglaw.com; Tiffany Stecker in Sacramento, Calif. at tstecker@bgov.com; Tripp Baltz in Denver at abaltz@bloomberglaw.com; Brenna Goth in Phoenix at bgoth@bloomberglaw.com; Paul Stinson in Austin, Texas at pstinson@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Tina May at tmay@bloomberglaw.com

Stay informed with more news like this – from the largest team of reporters on Capitol Hill – subscribe to Bloomberg Government today. Learn more.

Top