Posted by Joan Hanna on November 07, 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 and 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.
Redistricting Reform Wins in Ohio
Last Tuesday, Ohio voters took an important stand against political gerrymandering by approving an amendment, called "Issue 1", which changes the current redistricting commission and the process for redrawing Ohio’s voting districts to force bipartisan agreement and cooperation. The passage of Issue 1 expands the redistricting commission from five to seven members, insuring that both the majority and minority party will have at least two seats at the negotiating table. The two newly appointed members do not have to be elected officials which is meant to encourage both parties to elect qualified party members to do the job. Another change Issue 1 will usher in will be a stricter set of rules regarding how district lines are drawn, thus reducing instances of gerrymandering by any party in a legally enforceable way. The final provision of Issue 1 mandates that in order for a new district map approved for a 10-year period at least two members of the majority and minority party must approve it. If the commission is not able to reach a minimal bipartisan agreement, the map will only be valid for four years. Read more about Ohio.
Democrats Surprisingly Sweep Pennsylvania Elections
Pennsylvania voters elected to significantly change the makeup of the highest courts in the state on election night. The seven candidates running to become one of three Justices in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court race spent an incredible $15.8 million combined, a new national record. Democrats faired exceptionally well, sweeping the three open seats in the Supreme Court, nabbing an additional seat in the Superior Court, and securing a Commonwealth Court seat. The next time these Justices and Judges will be up for election is in 10 years, with a simple yes-or-no retention vote. This phenomenon will ultimately change the course of Pennsylvania’s court decisions for years to come. Read more about Pennsylvania.
Arab Americans Who Ran in 2016
A little over thirty years ago, Arab Americans were politically marginalized; not only did we lack strong mobilization efforts to empower our community, either by registering to vote or to run for political office, but we also experienced candidates returning campaign contributions for fear of accepting “Arab money.” Today, things have changed – Arab Americans are more empowered than ever – we are running for political office and winning, even in off-year elections like 2015. This past November 3rd, there were 12 Arab Americans on the ballot and an incredible 75% of the candidates won their elections. Michigan will welcome two new Arab American City Council members, Wassim “Dave” Abdallah won a seat for Dearborn Heights City Council and Saad Almasmari led a successful campaign for Hamtramck City Council. Another win for Arab Americans occurred in Massachusetts, with Annissa Essaibi George winning a seat on Boston’s City Council and Nadeem Mazen being elected into Cambridge’s City Council. Philippe Nassif took on three challengers, including the two-term incumbent, for Houston, Texas’s At-Large Position 5 City Council race. Nassif lost, but ran a respectable campaign, even garnering an endorsement from the Houston Chronicle. With 2016 quickly approaching, as well as an increased voter turnout for the presidential elections, more Arab Americans will be empowered to run, thanks in part to these Arab American candidates helping to pave the way.
For more information about Arab American candidates, check out our 2015 election results here.
Republican Candidates & Issues Win Across the Country
Despite the many Democratic victories in Pennsylvania, the Republican Party candidates won the majority of races and were able to defeat several key Democratic social issues that were on the ballot in many states. Many credit this to effective voter mobilization and turnout among Republicans. A few notable wins include: In Kentucky, Tea Party favorite Matt Bevin triumphed over his Democratic opponent Attorney General Jack Conway by a margin of nine points for the Governorship. In Virginia, Governor Terry McAuliffe’s efforts to turn some purple districts blue all but failed. Republicans won enough seats to remain in charge of the Virginia state Senate despite outside money coming in from a pro-gun control organization affiliated with former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Adding to the list of liberal agenda defeats, Ohio’s ballot measure for legalizing marijuana failed by popular vote. Voters in Houston, Texas voted against the "Houston's Equal Rights Ordinance," or HERO, a non-discrimination initiative that aimed to protect the rights of LGBT individuals.