Posted by Joan Hanna on June 24, 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.



D.C. Board of Elections Posted Voter Info Online

The D.C. Board of Elections posted voter files including names, addresses, voting history and political affiliations on their website a few weeks before the June 14th primary election – and it was completely legal. They are facing criticism over how much information they should have shared online. Normally, other states have information like this accessible, sometimes with the help of a staffer, at the statehouse or in a public library. Many are uneasy and concerned about the Board’s decision to post names and addresses online, which may make it easier to find victims of sexual assault, stalking and domestic violence. The law allowing the online publication of this information is somewhat disputed. The Board argues  this type of transparency discourages voter fraud. The complicated issue of how much information should be made available online versus voters’ privacy remains an important question -- especially ahead of the November election. Read more about DC here.


New York Takes a Hard Line Against BDS

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo andState Senator Jack Martins have been making headlines over their opposition to the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. Almost three weeks ago, Cuomo took executive action by mandating New York agencies divest from companies and organizations that participate in the BDS movement against Israel. More recently, Martins introduced legislation banning university funding being used from groups like Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and other pro-BDS organizations. A Republican, Martins is running to replace Representative Steve Israel, who is retiring, for his 3rd District seat. Supporters of BDS, such as Palestine Legal, argue passing the bill would be “an unequivocally unconstitutional attack on First Amendment freedoms that strikes at New York’s college students…Should this bill become law, it would undoubtedly face legal challenges.” The measure did pass the State Senate. However, the Assembly was not able to bring it to a vote because they ran out of time before their session ended. Determined about his opposition to the movement, Martins said, “You have the right to say whatever you want, but the taxpayers of New York should not have to support it.” Read more about New York here.


Massachusetts House Votes to Improve Campaign Finance Laws

Three bills targeting campaign financing laws passed the state House this week, H. 541, H. 542, and H. 543. All three bills received significant support, one passing unanimously, another passing with one person in opposition and the third with 10 voting against. H. 541 calls for state, city and town political committees that donate in-kind contributions to disclose what candidate they are supporting or opposing within one week of the contribution. As it stands, political committees have until the end of the year to report. The next bill aims to address political contributions for special election candidates. H. 542 mandates a limit of $1,000 per donor before  special election and the same limit for the general. The idea is to level the playing field for candidates who run in a special election and then face a general election in the same calendar year. The final bill, H. 543, requires donors who contribute more than $5,000 to fund a television or print ad, direct mailings and/or billboards, to be listed in or on the advertisement. This is aimed at capping organizations who are not transparent about where their funding comes from. The bills now head to the state Senate for a vote. Read more about Massachusetts here.


Arab Americans Win Big in California 

Every year many Arab Americans decide to run for public office and this year is no exception. In last week's California Primary many Arab Americans won their elections. Judge James A. Kaddo won his re-election for Los Angeles County Superior Court. Kaddo had been endorsed by the Los Angeles Times and Arab Americans such as Assemblyman Matt Dababneh and former Los Angeles City Councilmember Dennis Zine. In northern California, Basim Elkarra won his bid for Twin Rivers School Board. San Jose City Councilman Johnny Khamis won re-election. Khamis earned endorsements from San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, Foster City Councilmember and Arab American Sam Hindi, and many more. Congressman Darrell Issa won his primary and may to be headed into a tighter race in November. Read more about California here.


Florida Community Comes Together After Tragedy 

The LGBTQ, Arab American, American Muslim, and Latino community came together after the mass shooting that took the lives of 49 people at the Pulse nightclub. From blood donation lines stretching around the block, to crowdfunding pages with more than $6 million donated to support the victims’ families, communities came together to mourn. Arab American and Muslim community leader Rasha Mubarak spoke about the strength of Floridians: “There is power to pain. There is mercy in tragedy. There is hope in grievance. As a Muslim, Palestinian, Floridian, American - I am proud of the Orlando community for the outpour of Unified benevolence. Let us not be transactional and let us move forward together and rebuild.” Read AAI’s statement here.


Senator Mark Kirk Distancing Himself from GOP Nominee

Republican U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) said that he would not support Donald Trump as the GOP’s presidential nominee. He cited Trump’s “past attacks on Hispanics, women, and the disabled like me” as some of the reasons why he has chosen not to offer his endorsement. Kirk joins many other Republicans such as South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham and Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, Arab American Congressman Richard Hanna (NY) who have chosen not to back Trump. His opponent, Representative Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) has been trying to link Kirk to Trump. Kirk has also spent a substantial amount of money to demonstrate his belief in bipartisanship. Kirk and Duckworth were within points of each other in April and Kirk has been trying to pivot left to appeal to a broader group of Illinois’ voters. Read more about Illinois here.