Posted by Kristin Mccarthy on August 21, 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.

Ohio Takes Up Constitutional Amendment on Legislative Redistricting

This November, Ohio voters will consider an amendment to the state constitution that, if passed, will change the way district maps are drawn in an effort to require bipartisan consensus on any changes. The bill, known as “Issue 1” has been endorsed by the Ohio Republican Party, the League of Women Voters, and a number of Democratic, progressive groups – but not yet by the Democratic party of Ohio who has concerns about whether the proposed system is the best model for reform. The proposal is also opposed by the Ohio State Bar (OSB), which issued a strong statement criticizing the bill’s design to have a 12-person panel vetted by appellate court judges, and under which the Ohio Supreme Court might have to step in should the panel be unable to reach agreement. The OSB cites these areas of judicial involvement in the political process as clear violation of constitutional safeguards on the separation of powers. Though supporters concede Issue 1 is not a “cure-all,” supporters point out that the bill moves towards ending political gerrymandering, creating more competitive districts, and helping the legislature be more reflective of the voting public. More news from Ohio.

Texas Supreme Court Rules on Voter Identification Law

On the eve of the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals that found the state’s voter identification requirement violated Section 2 of the VRA. Following the 2013 Supreme Court decision to strip the VRA of important voter protections, many states including Texas passed stringent laws requiring government-issued proof of identification. These laws have been found to place an unequal burden on low income and minority communities to acquire specific types of identification. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch released a statement praising the court’s ruling. The case might not be closed, however. Many officials in the Texas legislature and judicial system - including Governor Greg Abbott - expressed commitment to continuing to fight for voter identification laws in order to combat voter fraud. Texas has the option to appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court. More news from Texas.

Florida Redraws Legislative District Map, Arab American Gwen Graham Faces Tough Re-Election

In a special session, the Florida legislature is redrawing the legislative district map in the aftermath of the historic ruling earlier this year concluding that the map had been drawn using unconstitutional political gerrymandering. A draft of the new map has already been released, and is now pending approval by the state legislature and the Florida court. If adopted (reportedly a likely outcome, with only minimal changes), the new map has the potential to significantly impact at least four races, in districts 2 (Rep. Graham-D) 5 (Rep. Brown-D), 10 (Rep. Webster-R), and 13 (Rep. Jolley-R). Arab American Gwen Graham will lose a huge chunk of 2nd district minority voters, typically Democrats, to district 5 – and will have to consider whether to run again in her same district against a much more Republican voting base, or to challenge Rep. Corrine Brown for her 5th district seat. Rep. Webster on the other hand gained a significant number of minority voters and will face a more difficult race against his Democratic challenger because of it. In district 13, Rep. Jolley has left his seat to seek a Senate seat, and if former Governor Charlie Crist decides to run for Jolley’s seat, the Democrats might pick up a House seat with a Crist victory in the now Democratic-friendly district. More news from Florida.

Massachusetts Moves up Primary Date to be Early Nominating State

Secretary of State William Galvin announced the Massachusetts will hold party primaries on March 1st, making it one of the earliest nominating states in the country. Massachusetts is the only northern state to vote on March 1st, and will be a key bellwether for the prospects of democratic candidates due to Massachusetts’s democratic majority. It could also be important indicator of the appeal of GOP candidates to moderate voters. Massachusetts voting system allows un-enrolled voters to vote in the primary of their choosing, which is a hotly contested trove of votes for both parties. More news from Massachusetts.

Pennsylvania Now Considered True 2016 “Toss-Up”

Last week the well-respected Cook Political Report reclassified Pennsylvania as a “Toss-Up” state in the 2016 elections, moving the state from it’s previous category of “Lean Democrat” in years past. With President Obama having taken Pennsylvania’s electoral votes in 2008 and 2012, the new forecast only compounds the Democratic Party’s worries for a slew of important 2016 races in the state (see here and here). Pennsylvania’s 8th district race is just one of apocalyptic concern. Considered a must-win seat and the most competitive race in the state, the seat became available when Republican Rep. Mike Fitzgerald opted to adhere to his self-imposed term limit and not seek reelection. With only a slight Republican tilt, and having been won by a Democrat in 2006, two Democratic candidates are eyeing a run, state Representative Steve Santarsiero and DCCC-backed Shaughnessy Naughton. Hoping to avoid yet another internally divisive and costly primary, reports suggest the DCCC has asked Santarsiero to drop out citing lack of fundraising. Yet other reports suggest money is pouring into the 8th, with Santarsiero in the lead. On the Republican side, the GOP has successfully narrowed a field of candidates behind state Rep. Scott Petri, making the Republican primary unified – politically and monetarily. More news from Pennsylvania.