Posted by Shadi Matar on February 05, 2016 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.


Massachusetts Candidates Have More Cash Thanks to Finance Law

In 2014, the Massachusetts state legislature passed a bill permitting increasing the individual contribution limit to candidates to $1,000 instead of the $500, which has been the cap for the past 20 years. The bill was signed by former Democratic Governor Deval Patrick before he left office last year. Those who benefited in 2015 were current Republican Governor Charlie Baker, who raked in $2.8 million in his freshman year in office, and Democratic legislators Robert DeLeo and Stan Rosenberg, earning 14 and 23 percent of their total donations from the individual $1,000 contributions. The two year old bill is proving to have an impact on the 2016 races already. With the bump, Massachusetts’ contributions now reflect the national average for individual contributions to State races. Read more about Massachusetts here


Virginia’s Redistricting Problem is Solved, or is it?

Earlier this week, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that the new Virginia congressional district lines set by a federal court will be used for the upcoming federal elections. The Justices’ decision effectively denies a lower court petition to keep the previous  district lines for 2016 voting. The old district map, created by the Virginia legislature after the most recent census, was criticized because of the way the 3rd district was drawn to include large communities of black voters in one district. Under the new map, over 1million voters have a new district designation. The Supreme Court is still considering the constitutionality of the old district map, and if a decision is issued later this year finding the old map is found to be legal it may cause mass confusion. Such a scenario would have Virginia officials scrambling to put together a third congressional election this year or to cause mass electoral confusion if the justices revert their decision later this year. Read more about Virginia here


Maryland Officials Weigh Voting Plan in Wake of Programming Error

Two years ago, early voters accounted for 21 percent of total primary voters, and since this year is a presidential election year, that number is expected to rise. Maryland officials are caught in a dilemma – stay the course and continue to use touch-screen voting machines, which were found to have a serious formatting error, or switch to paper ballots which will inevitably result in longer lines. In 2012, experts estimate that long lines accounted for somewhere between 500,000-700,000 lost votes. In Maryland paper ballots, candidate’s last names beginning with a letter in the second half of the alphabet do not show up on the first page of candidates, making the programming error significant. Election officials will have to act quickly to ensure a smooth April 26th primary. Read more about Maryland here


Former U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia Seeks Comeback 

Joe Garcia, former U.S. Representative of Florida’s 26th District,  has decided to run for Congress again this year and will seek his old seat. The decision comes after the newly redrawn district lines included more democrats in the 26th district's borders. Perhaps another contributing factor to his decision is that Democrats usually turn out in significantly higher numbers during presidential election years. Garcia served one term in the U.S. House of Representatives from 2012-2014 before losing to Republican Carlos Curbelo (R, FL-26). Garcia has built his early platform around his efforts to increase funding toward restoration of the Everglades and requiring federal government investment in job-training programs. Read more about Florida here


Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) Gains Large Fundraising Advantage Against Opponent

Incumbent Ohio State Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), has amassed over $15 million in campaign funds for his re-election race this year. Portman is outpacing his Democratic opponent, former Governor Ted Strickland 6-to-1 in campaign funds with large help from super PAC Fighting for Ohio Fund, who has raised $2.3 million in donations just last year. Strickland is also support by super PAC New Leadership for Ohio which raised $735,000 for him. Past polling has shown that even with less funds, Strickland leads Portman 46% to 40 %. Read more about Ohio here



Michigan Officials Now Able to Discuss Ballot Proposals with Constituents

The Michigan House Elections Committee just passed a fix to SB 571 which restricted local officials from using public resources such as radio, television, mass mailings, or phone messages to discuss ballot initiates within 60 days an election. The law was first passed without any public hearings or debate in the last session of December 2015 and was meant to be a small part of a larger series of election laws. The new bill will allow officials to educate voters about ballot proposals as long as the information presented is “factual and strictly neutral”. Michigan State Representative Jeff Irwin (D-53) voted against the legislation citing that it was too vague and that it could cost tax payers more money if legal action could result from the ambiguity. Read more about Michigan here