Posted by Joan Hanna on December 18, 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. You can read previous editions of our 2016 Election News Roundup right here at its headquarters.

New York permits new absentee ballot counting and reporting tool

Earlier this week, the New York State Board of Elections voted to approve ClearCount, a new absentee ballot counting and reporting tool, created by Clear Ballot. Over the past three years, ClearCount has been tested five times in the Monroe, Saratoga, Schenectady counties in the State of New York, with great success. Voting by absentee ballot is expected to rise in coming years and implementing this new technology will improve the way absentee ballots are counted, both in accuracy and speed. Absentee voting is critical to the electoral process since it allows people to continue to exercise their right to vote who may be disabled, ill, elderly, away at college and for those who serve in the military. Read more about New York here.


Michigan state legislature eliminates straight-ticket ballot option 

Last week, two bills in the Michigan state legislature were up for debate and a  vote this week. The first bill, SB 13, would effectively eliminate the straight-ticket voting option found on ballots, while the second bill, HB 4724, aimed to enact a ballot measure that would allow voters to use an absentee ballot for any reason. Proponents of SB 13 argue that 40 other states have already made this a state law, but opponents cite disenfranchisement and longer lines at the polls as inevitable outcomes if straight ticket voting was no longer an option. Originally, these two bills were tied together and either both or neither would pass. However, on Wednesday evening after a long and contentious negotiation, the Republican controlled Senate made a move to pass the the SB 13 while removing a tie bar on the absentee voting measure, which was sent back to the committee it came from without the promise of a vote. Soon after, the House also passed it the measure sending the bill to take away the option of straight ticket voting to Governor Snyder’s desk. Read more about Michigan here.


Supreme Court case could change redistricting rules in the U.S.

Last week, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments for Evenwel v. Abbott, a Texas case that could radically change how states draw lines for legislative districts. Since the 1960s, states have created districts having roughly the same number of people to accommodate for city and suburb residents. Contenders of this status quo believe that it’s unconstitutional and they would like to redefine the way districts are drawn, based off of the number of eligible voters, not just population. This would eliminate children and immigrants being counted from some districts, significantly impacting the Hispanic populations of Texas. Conversely, the prospect of this type of change has the potential to eliminate some districts all together, leaving some elected officials out of a job. Whatever the Court decides, it could very well completely change how redistricting is administered. Read more about Texas here.


Federal panel of judges suggests the Supreme Court weigh in over redistricting 

In 2012, legislators unconstitutionally packed additional black voters into the third congressional district in Virginia, twice ruled on by a federal panel of three judges. While they are in favor of redrawing the congressional lines, U.S. District Judge Robert Payne, Judge Liam O’Grady and Judge Albert Diaz of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals hired an expert to recommend solutions to this situation. However, the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case. Complicating matters, Virginia’s next congressional elections will be held in just under one year, meaning the Court will be racing against the clock to make a decision for Virginia voters. Read more about Virginia here.