Posted by Joan Hanna on May 13, 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.

The Trump Effect in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania, a swing state, will play a critical role in the General Election. If Donald Trump becomes the official GOP candidate, there will be a range of effects across Pennsylvania. One factor, cites Franklin & Marshall College political analyst, G. Terry Madonna, is whether Democrats utilize straight ticket voting at the polls, a tactic they’ve exercised in the past two presidential election cycles. If that happens, a Trump candidacy will be more of a factor.

Republican Senator Pat Toomey, whose seat is ranked among the most vulnerable, will face off against Democrat Katie McGinty. Toomey, who voted for Senator Ted Cruz in the primary, is “inclined” to support Trump but is wary not only because Clinton leads Trump in statewide polls but also because:  

Toomey called Trump's candidacy "highly problematic"; wrote that he objects to "much of" Trump's manner and policies; and said that Trump's "vulgarity, particularly toward women, is appalling."

Yet the senator is "inclined" to be with Trump, might split if differences become "irreconcilable," yet added, "I hope that doesn't happen."

With the race for the Attorney General’s seat open, it comes down to voter participation. If Democrats have a good turnout on Election Day, Josh Shapiro, chairman of the Montgomery County commissioners, will benefit from that turnout, hurting Republican State Sen. John Rafferty’s chances.  Although most Pennsylvania U.S. House seats will feel less of an impact from the top of the ticket, there are a couple of races that could be affected by Trump: the 6th and 16th Congressional Districts. First term Rep. Ryan Costello may not be well known to all of his constituents in the 6th District, which, combined with his support of Trump, could boost Democrat Mike Parrish’s chances of taking away votes. However, Costello has excelled in fundraising, heading into the election with at least $1.2 million on hand. For the open race in 16th Congressional District, the bottom line will most likely be history. Republicans have held this seat all but once in the past century. State senator Lloyd Smucker, a Republican, will have the odds in his favor, but his challenger, Democrat Christina Hartman has thus far out raised him. The 7th and 15th Congressional Districts will most likely not be affected by Trump’s candidacy. Republicans far exceed Democrats in the 7th District and Representative Charlie Dent (R -15) has a strong safety net with $1.2 million on hand. Read more about Pennsylvania here.


California Senate Candidates Debate

Earlier this week five candidates for California’s U.S. Senate seat participated in their second debate in San Diego. Attorney General Kamala Harris, who leads in many polls, said she backs a plan to raise California’s minimum wage to $15 by 2022. She also said she would fight for comprehensive immigration reform in the Senate. One opponent, Representative Loretta Sanchez (D-CA 46), agreed with Harris on these points while also advocating for free community college and a program for refinancing college loans. Republicans Tom Del Baccaro and Duf Sundheim voiced opposition to raising the minimum wage and said they would support more refugees entering the state if the FBI can vet them more thoroughly. Another Republican Ron Unz supported gradually raising the minimum wage to $12. Both Harris and Sanchez said the state should be more welcoming to refugees coming into the state. Sanchez represents Anaheim, which has a large Arab American population with a section of the city called “Little Arabia”.The California primary is June 7 and the top two vote getters regardless of party affiliation, will advance to the November election. The seat had been previously held by Senator Barbara Boxer who announced last year she would retire at the end of her current term. Read more about California here.

Felon Voting Rights Still Controversial in Virginia

In the past couple of weeks, there were two important developments in Virginia: previously convicted felons who have completed parole and probation will have their voting rights restored and Governor Terry McAuliffe has been sued by some Republicans over the legality of his executive order. To counter some of the backlash, McAuliffe’s office released a new study showing the demographic makeup of those who will be affected: 51 percent are white, while 46 percent are African American. The overall majority of those who will soon be allowed to more fully participate in civic society are white, middle-aged men, who served out their sentences more than 10 years ago. Nearly 80 percent were convicted of nonviolent crimes. State Republicans are challenging McAuliffe’s study, asking for the data to be released. The administration has denied the data request on the basis that releasing such information will “fuel the demonization and demagoguery that has characterized much of the response from certain quarters to this act of executive clemency so far.” Read more about Virginia here.


Angela Corey Seeks Third Term as Florida State Attorney

Arab American Florida State Attorney Angela Corey is running for her third term against two other Republicans, Wesley White and Melissa Nelson. The winner of the August 30 primary will appear on the Nov 8 general election ballot uncontested because no Democrat filed to run for the position which includes Duval, Nassau and Clay counties—including Jacksonville and the core of its metropolitan area. A fourth candidate, Kenny Leigh, will run as a write-in, which also closes the primary under Florida law. Had Leigh not run as a write-in, the primary would have been open meaning both Republicans and Democrats could vote. Under the closed primary only 320,000 registered Republicans are eligible to vote. Some have accused Corey of rigging the closed primary by enlisting Leigh to run as a write-in candidate. Corey has denied the claims. Read more about Florida here.


Nick Khouri Warns About School District Exhausting Funds by August

Michigan’s Treasurer, Arab American Nick Khouri, released a memo last week saying the Detroit Public School System will run out of money by August if the state legislature maintains the same spending package it has proposed. Khouri’s memo said the package of bills currently passed by the Michigan House of Representatives would produce a deficit of $22 million which would grow to $80 million by September 2016. The state Senate passed a spending bill in March which is vastly different than the House’s version but included more money for the school system to pay off its debts. Both versions of the bill have proposed splitting the district in half to allow one half to pay off the debt and the other to pay for the day-to-day operations of the school district. Khouri was appointed as Michigan’s Treasurer in 2015 and is the only Arab American in Governor Rick Snyder’s cabinet. Read more about Michigan here.


NYC’s Affidavit Ballots Still in Question

New York City’s April 19th primary was riddled with issues, including the rejection of almost 90,000 affidavit votes, three-quarters of all affidavit ballots cast. Board of Elections officials say the rejected affidavit ballots could be registrants’ fault because of improper registration. Another explanation for the number of rejections may stem from activists encouraging Independents to vote in the closed primary. Election Justice USA is heading the fight against the Board of Elections, suing them over this issue. They’re also asking voters not to wait for mail notification about their affidavit vote but to actively check its status online. The rejected affidavit ballots will be set aside for two years in case a judge orders a review, but the Board’s officials say they are done reviewing and inspecting them. Read more about New York here.