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Voting Rights Roundup: Supreme Court agrees to take landmark case on partisan gerrymandering (June 23, 2017, 02:14 PM)

Leading Off

? Gerrymandering: On Monday, the Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal this fall of a lower court ruling that struck down Wisconsin?s Republican-drawn state Assembly map as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. Over the past three decades, the high court has repeatedly held that partisan gerrymandering could in theory run afoul of the Constitution, but it has never struck down any maps on these grounds because it?s never been able to decide upon a standard for when to do so. If, however, the Supreme Court changes course and sides with the district court, a ruling in this case could establish a sweeping precedent leading to a wave of lawsuits against partisan gerrymanders nationwide.?

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?Republicans aggressively gerrymandered Wisconsin after they gained full control of the state?s government following the 2010 GOP wave. Their Assembly lines were particularly effective: Republicans won a commanding majority in the chamber in 2012 even as Barack Obama carried Wisconsin by seven points and Democratic legislative candidates won more votes statewide than Republicans did. And as shown in the map at the top of this post, Republicans maintained a lopsided 64-35 majority in 2016, despite the fact that Donald Trump won the state by less than one percent of the vote.

While it has regularly invalidated maps for improper racial gerrymandering, the Supreme Court, as noted above, has never struck down a map for excessive partisanship despite 31 years of precedent that partisan gerrymandering could theoretically be unconstitutional. In a 2004 case on this topic, Justice Anthony Kennedy, as the deciding vote, refused to strike down the map at issue on the grounds that it represented an unfair partisan gerrymander. However, Kennedy effectively opened the door for future challengers if they could ever come up with a new standard for evaluating such claims?a standard that would have to satisfy the court?s perennial swing justice.

The plaintiffs in Wisconsin have sought to overcome this problem by proposing a mathematical test called the ?efficiency gap? that examines how many votes get ?wasted? in each election, which we have explained in detail here. Under this test, if one party routinely wins landslide victories in a minority of seats while the other party wins much more modest yet secure margins in the vast majority of districts, that could signify a gerrymander that has gone so far as to infringe upon the rights of voters to free speech and equal protection. Although this test is imperfect, it provides one of many tools a court could use to judge a map?s partisan distortion.


Here's what Georgia might have looked like in 2016 without GOP congressional gerrymandering (June 23, 2017, 10:01 AM)

Daily Kos Elections is taking a state-by-state look at the impact of Republican gerrymanders on the 2016 congressional elections. Read why in our introductory post, and click here for entries covering other states.

Georgia supported Donald Trump just 50-45 in 2016 and Mitt Romney 53-45 four years earlier, but following the 2010 census, Republicans efficiently gerrymandered the Peach State to consistently deliver a 10-to-4 GOP majority in the state?s congressional delegation. And even though the Atlanta metro area has seen explosive population growth among African-Americans, Latinos, and Asian-Americans, Republicans also failed to create a new, majority nonwhite district after the 2010 census.

Put another way, Republicans hold 71 percent of the state?s House seats while winning just half the vote at the top of the ticket. And all 10 of those Republican districts are very secure. As the hotly contested special election in the 6th District earlier this week showed, even under the most favorable of circumstances for Democrats, the GOP?s lines all but put victory out of reach.

It doesn?t have to be this way. At the top right, you?ll see a hypothetical map drafted with strictly nonpartisan aims in mind, which you can read more about here. These lines would instead likely lead to a nine-to-five or eight-to-six delegation in favor of the GOP?considerably closer to Georgia?s statewide political makeup. And it?s important to note that this map was not designed to increase Democratic performance?it?s simply a natural outgrowth of what happens when you ignore the purely partisan concerns that motivated GOP mapmakers to draw the lines that they did.

Our proposal (see here for a larger version) would create a geographically cohesive 7th District in Atlanta?s northeastern suburbs that would have voted 60-36 for Hillary Clinton and 53-46 Barack Obama. This very diverse seat would be 25 percent black, 20 percent Hispanic, and 11 percent Asian-American, meaning a person of color would be highly likely to win the Democratic nomination and thus the general election.

Of course, making the 7th bluer means another district has to become redder. Consequently, these lines shift the current 6th District, which is just north of Atlanta, from just a 48-47 Trump win to a 53-42 Trump victory, so under this map, the recent special election likely would never have become competitive. For Democrats, though, that would be a small price to pay in exchange for a solidly blue 7th.


Daily Kos Elections Live Digest: 6/23 (June 23, 2017, 09:00 AM)

Welcome to the Daily Kos Elections Live Digest, your liveblog of all of today's campaign news.

Please note: This is a 2016 and 2020 Democratic presidential primary-free zone

Friday, Jun 23, 2017 · 3:48:27 PM +00:00 · Stephen Wolf

KS-Gov, KS-03: Ally Mutnick from National Journal recently reported on the lay of the land in Kansas for next year?s elections and gives us a few new tidbits about potential gubernatorial candidates. Republican state Attorney General Derek Schmidt previously hadn?t ruled out seeking the governor?s office, but Mutnick relays that unnamed GOP operatives say Schmidt is likely to just run for re-election instead. Meanwhile, GOP Rep. Kevin Yoder also hadn?t ruled out running for governor before, and Mutnick details that ?a source familiar with Yoder?s thinking? indicated there?s a 50-50 chance on whether he jumps into the race, with a decision likely sometime this summer. Yoder?s suburban Kansas City-area 3rd District could become instantly competitive if he runs for governor after the historically red seat flipped from 54-44 Romney to 47-46 Clinton.

Kansas? open-seat race to succeed term-limited GOP Gov. Sam Brownback in 2018 has already drawn intense attention from Republicans. Secretary of State Kris Kobach, businessman Wink Hartman, and ex-state Sen Jim Barnett, who was Team Red?s 2006 nominee, have already joined the Republican primary. Furthermore, Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer has said before that he?s considering it and is seen as a likely candidate.

Friday, Jun 23, 2017 · 3:59:19 PM +00:00 · Stephen Wolf

MO-Sen: Following a report on Wednesday that influential Missouri Republican mega-donor Sam Fox was trying to lock up donor support for his potential candidacy, GOP state Attorney General Josh Hawley once again refused to rule out running and now says he has ?no idea? when he?ll make a decision. Hawley only won his current position last fall, but major state Republicans have already tried to lure him into the race in a snub to Rep. Ann Wagner, who similarly hasn?t ruled it out but is seen as an almost certain candidate. Wagner is a prodigious fundraiser, and regardless of Fox?s efforts to secure donor backing for Hawley, a primary between the two Republicans could quickly become an expensive ordeal.


Morning Digest: Nevada Democrats land their first major candidate in pivotal 2018 gubernatorial race (June 23, 2017, 08:01 AM)

The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, and Carolyn Fiddler, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, and David Beard.

Leading Off

? NV-Gov: On Thursday, Democratic Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak announced he was running for governor in 2018, making him the first prominent candidate from either party to jump into the race to succeed term-limited Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval. Sisolak serves as chairman of the seven-member commission in a county that covers the greater Las Vegas area and over two-thirds of the Silver State's population, giving him a prominent springboard for higher office.?

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?Sisolak's commission record will also give opponents chances to attack him, though, particularly over a controversial $750 million hotel tax to pay for part of a new $1.9 billion football stadium to bring the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas. However, Sisolak starts the race with over $3 million in cash on hand since he can transfer leftover funds from his 2016 re-election campaign to a statewide contest.

Democrats regained both legislative chambers in 2016 amid Hillary Clinton's 48-46 victory statewide, and they quickly set about passing an ambitious progressive agenda only to see Sandoval veto measures such as a Medicaid buy-in health care public option and automatic voter registration. Consequently, if Democrats win the gubernatorial race next year for the first time since 1994, they could gain unified control over state government for the first time in over a quarter century, meaning the stakes are enormous in this evenly divided swing state.

Despite those high stakes, this race has been surprisingly slow to develop. Republican state Attorney General Adam Laxalt is widely expected to run and appears to be his party's front-runner at the moment, but he has yet to even acknowledge publicly that he's actively considering it. Laxalt released a poll in early June that had him leading Sisolak 46-37, but with practically no other polling of the race, it's hard to know where things stand. It's not even certain that both men will win their respective parties' nominations, since Republican state Treasurer Dan Schwartz has previously said he was considering it, while wealthy Democratic businessman Stephen Cloobeck has reportedly been quite interested too.


Steve Sisolak becomes first major Nevada Democrat to kick off a 2018 gubernatorial campaign (June 22, 2017, 03:30 PM)

On Thursday, Democratic Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak announced he was running for Nevada governor in 2018, making him the first prominent candidate from either party to jump into the race to succeed term-limited Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval. Sisolak serves as chairman of the seven-member commission in a county that covers the greater Las Vegas area and over two-thirds of the Silver State?s population, giving him a prominent springboard for higher office.

Sisolak?s commission record will also give opponents chances to attack him, though, particularly over a controversial $750 million hotel tax to pay for part of a new $1.9 billion football stadium to bring the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas. However, Sisolak starts the race with over $3 million in cash on hand since he can transfer leftover funds from his 2016 re-election campaign to a statewide contest.

Democrats regained both legislative chambers in 2016 amid Hillary Clinton?s 48-46 victory statewide, and quickly set about passing an ambitious progressive agenda only to see Sandoval veto measures such as a Medicaid buy-in health care public option and automatic voter registration. Consequently, if Democrats win the gubernatorial race next year for the first time since 1994, they could gain unified control over state government for the first time in over a quarter century, meaning the stakes are enormous in this evenly divided swing state.

Despite those stakes, this race has been surprisingly slow to develop. Republican state Attorney General Adam Laxalt is widely expected to run and appears to be his party?s front-runner at the moment, but he has yet to even acknowledge publicly that he?s actively considering it. Laxalt released a poll in early June that had him leading Sisolak 46-37, but with practically no other polling of the race, it?s hard to know where things stand. It?s not even certain that both men will win their respective parties? nominations, since Republican state Treasurer Dan Schwartz has previously said he was considering it, while wealthy Democratic businessman Stephen Cloobeck has reportedly been quite interested too.


Daily Kos Elections Live Digest: 6/22 (June 22, 2017, 09:01 AM)

Welcome to the Daily Kos Elections Live Digest, your liveblog of all of today's campaign news.

Please note: This is a 2016 and 2020 Democratic presidential primary-free zone


Morning Digest: Democrats lead in the first independent poll since Virginia's gubernatorial primary (June 22, 2017, 08:01 AM)

The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, and Carolyn Fiddler, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, and David Beard.

Leading Off

? VA-Gov: Quinnipiac is out with their first post-primary poll of the Virginia governor's race, and they have Democratic nominee Ralph Northam leading Republican Ed Gillespie 47-39. Back in April, Quinnipiac gave Northam a larger 44-33 edge in what was then a hypothetical matchup. This poll gives Democratic incumbent Terry McAuliffe, who is termed out of office, a 47-37 approval rating, though that's also a drop from his 52-32 score two months ago.

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?We've only seen a few polls here recently. The only other independent poll we've seen in months, an Abt Associates poll for the Washington Post in May, gave Northam a 49-38 lead. Shortly after the primary, Gillespie's team released a Public Opinion Strategies poll giving him a 46-45 lead over Northam. Days later Harper Polling, a GOP group that doesn't seem to have been polling for a client, showed a 46-46 tie.

Democrats have plenty of reasons for optimism, especially with Trump likely to be a drag on Gillespie in a state that backed Clinton 50-44. However, we still have relatively little data to work with, and both parties are certain to spend heavily here. And no matter what, wary Democrats should remember that polls gave Team Blue clear leads in the 2013 gubernatorial race and the 2014 Senate race, but the Democrats only narrowly won each race. It's far from guaranteed anything like that will happen this fall, but it's a good incentive for Democrats not to take anything for granted.


Quinnipiac gives Virginia Democrat Ralph Northam a 47-39 lead in this fall's governor's race (June 21, 2017, 03:56 PM)

Quinnipiac is out with their first post-primary poll of the Virginia governor?s race, and they have Democratic nominee Ralph Northam leading Republican Ed Gillespie 47-39. Back in April, Quinnipiac gave Northam a larger 44-33 edge in what was then a hypothetical matchup. This poll gives Democratic incumbent Terry McAuliffe, who is termed out of office, a 47-37 approval rating, though that?s also a drop from his 52-32 score two months ago.

We?ve only seen a few polls here recently. The only other independent poll we?ve seen in months, an Abt Associates poll for the Washington Post in May, gave Northam a 49-38 lead. Shortly after the primary, Gillespie?s team released a Public Opinion Strategies poll giving him a 46-45 lead over Northam. Days later Harper Polling, a GOP group that doesn?t seem to have been polling for a client, showed a 46-46 tie.

Democrats have plenty of reasons for optimism, especially with Trump likely to be a drag on Gillespie in a state that backed Clinton 50-44. However, we still have relatively little data to work with, and both parties are certain to spend heavily here. And no matter what, wary Democrats should remember that polls gave Team Blue clear leads in the 2013 gubernatorial race and the 2014 Senate race, but the Democrats only narrowly won each race. It?s far from guaranteed anything like that will happen this fall, but it?s a good incentive for Democrats not to take anything for granted.


Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett launches GOP primary campaign against Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (June 21, 2017, 03:00 PM)

On Tuesday, Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett announced that he would seek the GOP nomination for governor of Iowa next year. Thankfully, Corbett does not appear to have broken out into song this time, but we have a long campaign ahead of us. Corbett will face incumbent Kim Reynolds, who became governor last month when incumbent Terry Branstad resigned to become ambassador to China, in the GOP primary.

Corbett, who served as speaker of the state House in the 1990s, is arguing that there has been a ?lack of leadership? in state government, a shot at both Branstad and Reynolds. While Reynolds recently became Iowa?s first GOP governor not named Terry Branstad since 1983, the former lieutenant governor has Branstad?s support for 2018, and Corbett?s allies hope that what they?ve termed as ?Branstad fatigue? extends to her. However, it?s unclear if enough GOP primary voters are actually exhausted with Branstad and Reynolds. As mayor, Corbett has pushed for union-friendly agreements, which also could be a huge liability with conservatives.


Daily Kos Elections Live Digest: 6/21 (June 21, 2017, 09:01 AM)

Welcome to the Daily Kos Elections Live Digest, your liveblog of all of today's campaign news.

Please note: This is a 2016 and 2020 Democratic presidential primary-free zone


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