2016 Election News Roundup: Week of July 27th

Posted by Kristin McCarthy on July 28, 2015 in Blog

AAI compiles a weekly roundup of election news tracking key races across the country as well as legislation that will impact voting rights ahead of the 2016 elections. For AAI’s coverage of presidential candidates races, make sure to check out our profiles over at #YallaVote’s Election Central. And for more state specific information, head over to our election map and click on your state.

Swing State Gerrymandering Loses in Florida, Elsewhere

Partisan driven gerrymandering has been part of American democracy since inception. Recent grassroots efforts to push back against obviously partisan (and consequently race-based) redistricting has won significant victories over the past few years, with states like California leading the way in adopting an independent redistricting commission to redraw districts that have been deemed unfit. Brilliantly, these reforms have by in large been brought about not by state legislatures, but by petitions - a “back to basics” approach to gathering signatures for state policy change. Florida is the latest state to make significant reform to de-politicize district mapping when the Florida Supreme Court ordered 8 districts to be redrawn ahead of next year’s election. Florida isn’t the only swing state that will be impacted by redistricting reform wins, Virginia is also looking to redraw voting maps after a ruling earlier this year invalidated the state’s district map, and ordered it to be redrawn by September 1st. While the victories are significant, most analysts do not expect redistricting to impact the overall national election outcome in 2016, though individual races will inevitably be impacted.  via Roll Call, The Miami Herald, and The Brennan Center for Justice

Illinois Is the First State to Sign Anti-BDS Bill into Law

Last week Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed a bill into law that explicitly punishes companies that participate in the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Movement. The law creates a list of companies that participate in BDS of Israel or Israeli controlled companies and then requires Illinois’s state pension funds to divest from those companies. The bill is a familiar formula for BDS watchdogs, and it has appeared in state legislatures across the country in various forms. There is even a federal move to discourage U.S. businesses from participating in BDS, with a bill being introduced this week by Reps. Engel (D, NY-16) and Royce (R, CA-39) that opposes BDS and supports state-led efforts to “enact measures that oppose politically motivated acts” of BDS of Israel. via Palestine Legal and Congress.gov

Virginia Voter Registration Changes Seek to Simplify Form

The Virginia Board of Elections is considering a change to their voter registration application to eliminate two check boxes from the form, one to indicate whether the applicant is a U.S. citizen and the other asking if the applicant has been charged with a felony. (Last year Virginia changed the laws governing when convicted felons are re-enfranchised after serving the court ordered term). Critics are concerned about a subsequent rise in voter fraud under the proposed changes. Proponents believe that voter registration would increase if applications are no longer thrown out simply because someone forgets to check a couple of boxes. Under the proposed changes, applicants will sign a statement verifying that he or she is a U.S. citizen, is of proper age and residency, have not been convicted of a felony, and are of sound mind. The Virginia Board of Elections could vote on this proposal as soon as September. via the Washington Post.

Grayson Heats Up Democrat’s Senate Primary in Florida

Despite forgetting to file the proper paperwork to become a candidate for Marco Rubio’s vacated Senate seat, Representative Alan Grayson is officially making a run for U.S. Senate. The Democrat state party, which has anointed Rep. Patrick Murphy as it’s chosen challenger, did not welcome the news. Now the muddy primary race is heating up – with democrats polling 33% in favor of Grayson, and 32% for Murphy with 35% undecided. The race is extremely important in the Democrat’s hopes of reclaiming the Senate, but a messy primary is the last thing the blue party wanted in the all important swing state. via The Tampa Bay Times and The Daily Beast