Posted by Shadi Matar on November 13, 2015 in Blog

AAI compiles a weekly roundup of election news from 12 states with the highest concentration of Arab Americans 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.  

Florida Supreme Court Redraws District Lines

This week the Florida Supreme Court heard the last oral arguments that would decide the final layout of what the district lines will be for the State’s 40 house districts. The case went to the state Supreme Court after state lawmakers could not agree on a new layout in a special three week redistricting session. This new layout will likely be used in the 2016 elections and would effect the outcome of key races in the state. The court ruled that the previous district map violated the state’s Fair District Amendment and was reflective of political gerrymandering. Lawmakers expect the court’s decision will significantly change the district lines and demographic composition of 27 districts in the state. Ultimately, the new redistricting map will likely shift the balance of power between the the Republican and Democratic parties locally and nationally. The trial dates has been set for December 14-18 with a ruling on the new district map to come out in early January. Read more about Florida.

Michigan Lawmakers Hope to End Straight Ticket Voting

Michigan lawmakers advanced Senate Bill 13 this week, that aims to end the option of straight ticket voting in state elections. The bill would eliminate the ability for voters to cast their vote for all candidates based on party affiliation across the ballot. Michigan is currently only 1 of 10 states that offers straight ticket voting as an option. Opponents of the bill argue that the change would cause longer delays on Election Day if every voter was forced to individually select candidates on the ballot. As we’ve seen in other states like Florida, long voting lines and wait times discourage people from coming to the poll booth. Senator Marty Knollenberg (R-MI13) argued that “It is time that Michigan’s election process become more about the people, less about political parties, and even less about how long it takes to exercise one of our most fundamental rights.” Lawmakers estimate that if the bill passes, voting would only take 30 seconds longer to complete a ballot. The legislation passed the State Senate and is now headed to the State House for review. Read more about Michigan.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie Vetoes Democracy Act

Last week, New Jersey Governor and Republican Presidential Candidate Chris Christie (R) vetoed legislation that would have added 1.6 million new voters in New Jersey. The bill called the “Democracy Act”, would automatically register people to vote when residents applied for a drivers license. The bill was vetoed by Governor Christie after it was passed by both chambers of the New Jersey Senate and supported by a broad coalition of civil rights organizations. Governor Christie cited that the bill would increase “opportunities for fraud” and that it would “recklessly replace New Jersey’s reliable and cost effective early voting process with a hasty and counterproductive system.” If passed, New Jersey would have been the third state to adopt similar automatic voter registration measures. The bill would have also required pre-election materials to be printed in multiple languages which state Democrats argue would increase voter turnout and benefit disenfranchised communities. Read more about New Jersey.

Maryland Senate Continues to Scare Democrats

The Senate race in Maryland was controversial from the outset when two  Democrats immediately announced their candidacy for the open seat – the progressive-backed Rep. Donna Edwards (D, MD-4) and the party insider Representative Chris Van Hollen (D, MD-8). This week Edwards blasted Van Hollen accuseing him of being a “Wall Street Democrat”. This accusation comes over a $30,000 campaign contribution that Van Hollen received by a Washington-based financial group. Tom Hucker, a Van Hollen supporter and co-founder of “Progressive Maryland”, responded by saying that it was an “incredibly unfair and inaccurate representation” and that “[Van Hollen] is not defined by anyone else, he’s defined himself successfully. It’s really insulting and inappropriate.” Polling shows that Edwards currently leads with 38 percent supporting her to Van Hollen’s 28 percent. However, polls show that a third candidate, the unannounced Representative Elijah Cummings (D, MD-7), would spoil the race for Edwards if her were to enter and steal progressive votes from her count. Rep. Cummings, should he enter the race, would have 33% support in the race, leaving Van Hollen and Edwards with a level 20 percent. Read more about Maryland.