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Minnesota's 2016 elections show both the promise and limits of nonpartisan redistricting reform (December 8, 2016, 04:14 PM)

Minnesota is one of the rare states whose congressional and legislative districts were drawn in a nonpartisan way. Republicans controlled the legislature while Democrats held the governorship after the 2010 census, and the two sides were unable to reach a compromise on new maps. As a result, a court had to step in and draw the lines, and it did so without regard for the kind of partisan considerations that lawmakers would have put front and center. Consequently, an impressive five of the state?s eight congressional districts saw competitive races in 2016, a much higher proportion than we typically see elsewhere.

However, nonpartisan redistricting isn?t a perfect answer to gerrymandering, and as we??ll explain below, Minnesota illustrates how even a nonpartisan approach can give one party a majority of seats even if it receives fewer votes than the other party statewide.

Make no mistake, gerrymandering is a serious problem. After Republicans drew roughly 55 percent of congressional districts and Democrats just 10 percent in the most recent round of redistricting, Mitt Romney won a majority of congressional districts, even though President Obama won by nearly 4 percent nationally in 2012. Daily Kos Elections previously proposed nonpartisan congressional maps similar to Minnesota?s for every other state, and our analysis strongly suggests that gerrymandering cost Democrats control of the U.S. House in 2012. However, gerrymandering isn?t the entire root of the problem because geography matters, too.

That?s because Democrats are typically more geographically concentrated than Republicans. Cities like Minneapolis vote overwhelmingly Democratic, while rural areas and suburbs have a substantial yet more more modest Republican lean. Nonpartisan redistricting traditionally favors geographically compact districts, which means that such an approach can result in a handful of dark blue districts while a majority of seats favor Republicans by more modest margins.

And while gerrymandering is the graver problem, geography really does significantly hurt Democrats in certain states like Minnesota. Even though Donald Trump lost by 1.5 percent statewide, he still managed to carry five of the state's eight congressional districts?a majority?even with a non-gerrymandered map.

So let?s take a look at just how problematic it can be to have such a mismatch between which party wins the most votes and which wins the most districts.


Alaska just passed automatic voter registration at the ballot box. A ton of other states can, too. (December 8, 2016, 02:13 PM)

Five states (plus Washington, D.C.) recently passed laws or instituted new procedures to implement automatic voter registration, but when Alaska became the sixth such state last month, it was the first to do so at the ballot box. This success offers an important way forward for progressives, because Republicans have been almost implacably hostile to the concept of registering more voters. And with the GOP now dominating state governments at a rate not seen since the Civil War era, activists need to find creative ways to get around Republican obstructionism. But the good news is that many states could use ballot initiatives to overcome GOP opposition and implement automatic registration just like Alaska did.

A little history: In 2015, Oregon became the first state in the union to start automatically registering every eligible voter who interacts with a variety of state agencies, such as the department of motor vehicles, unless they affirmatively opt out. This approach doesn?t touch every unregistered voter, but it?s gone a long way toward expanding the registered voter pool. In fact, Oregon saw nearly 250,000 automatic voter registrations ahead of the 2016 elections, and more than 100,000 people registered that way turned out to vote.

Those are big numbers in a state with a voting-age population of about 3 million, but the potential reach of such laws could go much further. By some estimates, national automatic registration could add roughly 50 million voters to the rolls, and top Democratic leaders like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have endorsed it. Of course, Republican lawmakers stridently oppose automatic registration in a transparent effort to make voting more difficult. And their reasons are as cynical as they come: Eligible non-voters tend to have more progressive views than registered voters, so Republicans see higher turnout as a threat to their power, democracy be damned.

As you can see in the map at the top of this post, though, citizens can circumvent GOP intransigence in a whole lot of states. In fact, the 20 states shaded in green are home to 98 million people?almost a third of the entire country?and that includes battleground states like Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Ohio, and Nevada. These states alone would add millions of voters to the rolls if they implemented automatic registration.

Many of our peer democracies today automatically register everyone who is eligible, and even now, North Dakota doesn?t have voter registration. All that eligible voters have to do there is prove their residency and affirm their citizenship?and voter fraud in North Dakota is still practically nonexistent. When the incoming Trump administration has signaled its support for a new wave of voter suppression laws, automatic registration could go a long way toward make voting easier and would be an unquestionable boon for democracy.


Daily Kos Elections Live Digest: 12/8 (December 8, 2016, 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


Morning Digest: Our least favorite Republican from 2012 is running against Sherrod Brown again (December 8, 2016, 08:00 AM)

Leading Off

? OH-Sen: As expected, Republican Josh Mandel, whose formal title is Ohio state treasurer but whose real job is running against Sherrod Brown every six years, has kicked off another bid for Senate. Mandel is a hyper-ambitious, mendacious piece of shit, but we aren't going to do a deep recap of his previous run since we know we'll have plenty of opportunities to discuss what a jagoff he is in the future. And here's one sign: He immediately earned the endorsement of the Senate Conservatives Fund, a nihilist group founded by former South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint that supports the most radical candidates it can possibly find and has even earned the ire of fellow Republicans for supporting challenges to sitting senators.

But while Mandel had no serious intra-party opposition back in 2012, this time, he very well might. Rap. Pat Tiberi, who was reportedly weighing a bid of his own, has now confirmed on the record that he's "pretty serious" in considering the race. And he's not the only congressman hovering over the contest. Rep. Jim Renacci now says he's "looking at options" for a "potential statewide run," and when asked specifically if he was eyeing the open governor's race, he refused to specify. (Tiberi represents a seat in the Columbus suburbs, Renacci one in the Cleveland suburbs.)

That said, a three-way primary battle between three sitting office-holders seems unlikely, though it's certainly happened before. (Georgia's 2014 GOP Senate primary featured just that.) Brown would certainly love to see Republicans whale on Mandel, and so would we.


The most mendacious Republican Senate candidate from 2012 is back for another try (December 7, 2016, 05:00 PM)

As expected, Republican Josh Mandel, whose formal title is Ohio state treasurer but whose real job is running against Sherrod Brown every six years, has kicked off another bid for Senate. Mandel is a hyper-ambitious, mendacious piece of shit, but we aren't going to do a deep recap of his previous run since we know we'll have plenty of opportunities to discuss what a jagoff he is in the future. And here's one sign: He immediately earned the endorsement of the Senate Conservatives Fund, a nihilist group founded by former South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint that supports the most radical candidates it can possibly find and has even earned the ire of fellow Republicans for supporting challenges to sitting senators.

But while Mandel had no serious intra-party opposition back in 2012, this time, he very well might. Rap. Pat Tiberi, who was reportedly weighing a bid of his own, has now confirmed on the record that he's "pretty serious" in considering the race. And he's not the only congressman hovering over the contest. Rep. Jim Renacci now says he's "looking at options" for a "potential statewide run," and when asked specifically if he was eyeing the open governor's race, he refused to specify.

That said, a three-way primary battle between three sitting office-holders seems unlikely, though it's certainly happened before. (Georgia's 2014 GOP Senate primary featured just that.) Brown would certainly love to see Republicans whale on Mandel, and so would we.


Daily Kos Elections Live Digest: 12/7 (December 7, 2016, 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


Morning Digest: Sen. Tom Carper could retire in 2018, and here's who might try to replace him (December 7, 2016, 08:00 AM)

Leading Off

Campaign Action

? DE-Sen: Democratic Sen. Tom Carper has served continuously in Delaware politics for 40 years, ever since he first won election as state treasurer in 1976. After that, he won a seat in the House in 1982, then became governor in 1992, and finally got elected to the Senate in 2000, defeating incumbent Republican Bill Roth in a 56-44 landslide.

But though he's twice won re-election with two-thirds of the vote, Carper hasn't yet made up his mind about whether to seek a fourth term in 2018; according to a statement from his office, the senator will make a decision "in the new year."

Should Carper opt to retire, the race to succeed him could be interesting. Most, if not all, of the action would be on the Democratic side, and progressives would be eager to replace the very centrist Carper with someone more liberal, though who that might be is an open question. Outgoing Gov. Jack Markell, who was term-limited, is just 56, and could be interested in a return to office. Markell would probably have the best chance to clear the field, though other First State Democrats could decide that a rare open Senate seat is worth fighting him over.

There are plenty of other Democrats who may be interested. Rep.-elect Lisa Blunt Rochester, who will represent the entire state in the House, hasn't even been sworn in yet, but she could nevertheless conceivably run (she certainly would not be the first House freshman to do so). State Attorney General Matt Denn was mentioned as a possible 2016 gubernatorial candidate before deferring to Rep. John Carney, and he could take a look at an open Senate seat. There's also a non-zero chance that Joe Biden, who clearly isn't quite ready to retire from politics, could seek to return to his longtime home in the Senate. But Carney, who will become governor in January, almost certainly won't start looking for a new job in D.C.

As for Republicans, they've been shut out on the federal level in Delaware for some time. Hillary Clinton carried the First State 53-42, and the last time the GOP won a Senate race there was in 1994, when Roth was re-elected for a fifth term. However, Republican Ken Simpler prevailed in a bid for state treasurer fairly decisively during the Republican wave two years ago and could try to go for broke in what would be another midterm election.


Delaware Sen. Tom Carper could retire in 2018, and here's who might try to replace him (December 6, 2016, 03:48 PM)

Democratic Sen. Tom Carper has served continuously in Delaware politics for 40 years, ever since he first won election as state treasurer in 1976. After that, he won a seat in the House in 1992, then became governor in 1992, and finally got elected to the Senate in 2000, defeating incumbent Republican Bill Roth in a 56-44 landslide. But though he's twice won re-election with two-thirds of the vote, Carper hasn't yet made up his mind about whether to seek a fourth term in 2018; according to a statement from his office, the senator will make a decision "in the new year."

Should Carper opt to retire, the race to succeed him could be interesting. Most, if not all, of the action would be on the Democratic side, and progressives would be eager to replace the very centrist Carney with someone more liberal, though who that might be is an open question. Outgoing Gov. Jack Markell, who was term-limited, is just 56, and could be interested in a return to office. Markell would probably have the best chance to clear the field, though other First State Democrats could decide that a rare open Senate seat is worth fighting him over.

There are plenty of other Democrats who may be interested. While Lisa Blunt Rochester, who was just elected as Delaware?s only House member, hasn't even been sworn in yet, she could nevertheless conceivably run (she certainly would not be the first House freshman to do so). State Attorney General Matt Denn was mentioned as a possible 2016 gubernatorial candidate before deferring to Rep. John Carney, and he could take a look at an open Senate seat. There?s also a non-zero chance that Joe Biden, who clearly isn?t quite ready to retire from politics, could seek to return to his longtime home in the Senate. But Carney, who will become governor in January, almost certainly won?t start looking for a new job in D.C.

As for Republicans, they've been shut out on the federal level in Delaware for some time. Hillary Clinton carried the First State 53-42, and the last time the GOP won a Senate race there was in 1994, when Roth was re-elected for a fifth term. However, Republican Ken Simpler prevailed in a bid for state treasurer fairly decisively during the Republican wave two years ago and could try to go for broke in what would be another midterm election.


Daily Kos Elections Live Digest: 12/6 (December 6, 2016, 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


Morning Digest: Facing reality, Pat McCrory finally concedes North Carolina governor's race (December 6, 2016, 08:00 AM)

Leading Off

? NC-Gov: On Monday afternoon, Republican Gov. Pat McCrory finally conceded defeat to Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper. Cooper led by 4,480 votes on election night and now is up by just over 10,000 ballots cast, or 0.22 percent. After a recount in heavily Democratic Durham County proved fruitless for McCrory, he finally threw in the towel, bringing to a close one of the most contentious races in the country in 2016.

It also saw the ugliest possible finish, all thanks to the GOP. Although Cooper's election night lead always looked solid, McCrory nonetheless filed countless protests with various state and county elections boards challenging the validity of hundreds of votes and baselessly alleging fraud, particularly in Durham. However, these challenges utterly lacked evidence, and even Republican election officials repeatedly ruled against the governor. Winning these spurious protests wasn't the point, though, since they were never going to overturn Cooper's lead. Rather, they were focused squarely on delegitimizing the results.

Democrats and nonpartisan observers alike began to fear that McCrory might use the specter of bogus voter fraud to claim the election was rigged and legally contest it before the GOP-held legislature. That would have allowed Republicans to crown McCrory the winner even if he'd lost the popular vote. Fortunately, that ugly scenario didn't come to fruition, but Republicans will likely use McCrory's cries of wolf to justify further voter suppression laws. And while they didn't have the stomach to undo the results of the gubernatorial election, Republicans might try to erase another by packing the state Supreme Court, which saw Democrats take a 4-3 majority thanks to another win last month. It never ends with these guys.

Whatever happens, though, Cooper's win is a huge one for Democrats, and one of the few bright spots on what was otherwise a dismal Election Day. North Carolina is the ninth-largest state, and fast-growing one, too. Tar Heel Republicans had tried to drive this purple state in a radically conservative direction and have now paid a price for their extremism. While the legislature remains firmly in GOP hands, Cooper?s presence in the governor mansion will make a huge difference going forward.

Senate

? IN-Sen: Republican Jim Banks won election to the House just last month, and hasn't even been sworn in yet, but already unnamed conservatives are talking him up for a Senate bid?and he's not ruling it out, telling the National Review, "You can never say never." Freshman Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly is up for re-election in 2018 and will be a top GOP target.

? PA-Sen: So far, Pennsylvania Republicans have been fairly slow to signal interest in challenging Democratic Sen. Bob Casey in 2018, with only wealthy businessman Paul Addis putting his name on the list. But now, the Philadelphia Inquirer's Jonathan Tamari reports that GOP Rep. Pat Meehan "is open to the idea of running," according to an unnamed "source close to the congressman." Meehan, who just easily won a fourth term, would likely be a strong candidate, but if he sought a promotion, he'd have to give up a safe seat in the House?a bespoke district that was gerrymandered to within an inch of its life in order to ensure his re-election.

Gubernatorial

? GA-Gov: Even though GOP Rep. Lynn Westmoreland chose to retire from Congress this year, he may not be done with politics. Westmoreland says he's considering a bid for governor in 2018 and has even been traveling the state on some version of a proverbial listening tour to test the waters. (He's calling it a "reconnect tour," which is weird, because he's only ever served voters in the Atlanta suburbs, so who exactly is he reconnecting with?) The congressman also adds that he likely won't make a decision until after next year's legislative session, which is scheduled to end March 24.

Westmoreland claims he's waiting out of respect for incumbent Gov. Nathan Deal, who is term-limited. But Westmoreland also seems bizarrely uncomfortable with, well, politics, saying, "I don't want somebody coming up and going, 'oh, well the governor vetoed this bill or the governor said he's going to do this. What would you have done?' I don't want to get into that." Those kinds of questions won't come off the table in four months, and tons of other Republicans are looking at the race?many of whom won't have a problem answering these questions.

? OK-Gov: State House Minority Leader Scott Inman, who'd previously been mentioned as a possible Democratic candidate for governor, now confirms that he's considering a bid. Inman is termed out in 2018, as is GOP Gov. Mary Fallin, whose departure has prompted a wave of interest from fellow Republicans, since they'll be heavily favored to retain the governorship in dark-red Oklahoma.

? RI-Gov: Hi-diddley-ho, Ocean Staters! WPRI's Ted Nesi adds former state Supreme Court Justice Robert Flanders to the list of potential Republican candidates who could take on Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo in 2018. Flanders isn't ruling it out but says "it's premature at this point to comment on anything like that." Nesi notes that Flanders achieved some prominence a few years back when he was appointed the receiver of the small mill town of Central Falls, which declared bankruptcy in 2011 and came close to defaulting on its pension obligations.

Flanders oversaw steep cuts to those pension payments, saying, "Something was better than nothing, and a haircut looked a lot better than a beheading." But the move understandably left many angry, and while there might not have been better choices, "At least I didn't send you to the guillotine" might not be a winning campaign platform. At least two other Republicans are in contention: businessman Ken Block and Cranston Mayor Allan Fung.

House

? CA-07: After a third straight tight election, Republicans will likely take another run at unseating Democratic Rep. Ami Bera in 2018, but it sounds like they'll have to find someone else to carry their banner. Asked whether he'd try again, Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones, who lost to Bera 51-49, seemed pretty emphatic, saying, "Oh god no. I'm not sure if I have another one in me." While that second sentence might seem a bit ambiguous, Jones may have been referring to his current post as sheriff. He's up for re-election in 2018 and hasn't yet decided whether to seek another term.

? CA-34: When a safe, long-held House seat finally opens up, there's almost always a massive flurry of potential successors whose names float up, and the situation in California's 34th Congressional District is playing out exactly as you'd expect. Right after Gov. Jerry Brown announced he'd tap Rep. Xavier Becerra, who has represented this dark blue, majority-Hispanic seat in downtown Los Angeles since 1993, to replace Kamala Harris as state attorney general, former Assembly Speaker John Perez immediately jumped into the race, and now he's got company.

On Monday, Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez became the second Democrat to join the contest, and plenty more could follow. Here's a rundown:

? Los Angeles City Councilor Gil Cedillo (an aide says he's "exploring all of his options")

? Los Angeles Board of Education member Mónica García (reportedly being recruited by EMILY's List)

? Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina

? Ex-Los Angeles City Councilor Nick Pacheco

But several more have said no. Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar was one of the better-known potential contenders, but he's opted against a bid. State Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León said of Becerra, "I look forward to working with him side-by-side to defend California's progress every day for the next two years," so he's taken himself out of the running, too. And Assemblyman Michael Santiago offered almost the exact same phrasing, saying, "I look forward to serving side-by-side with him in my continued role in the state legislature."

State Sen. Holly Mitchell has also ruled out the contest and threw her backing to Perez, who has racked up quite a string of early endorsements. Half a dozen sitting members of Congress have come out for Perez, including Reps. Julia Brownley, Ted Lieu, Jared Huffman, Karen Bass, Scott Peters, and Judy Chu, as have a number of other notable elected officials. While these kinds of endorsements don't move votes, they do signal establishment support, which can mean quite a bit when it comes to raising money and motivating groups capable of turning out actual voters (like unions).

And in a special election, with its compressed timeframe and small electorate, that kind of help can really matter. That's of particular importance to Perez, who doesn't have a lot of local name recognition, according to a new PPP poll commissioned by local Democratic operative Michael Trujillo. Trujillo tells us that he paid for this poll out of his own personal interest and adds that doesn't have a rooting interest in this race, though he notes that he's worked for Huizar in the past.

Speaking of Huizar, the survey was taken before he declined, but he'd have started out in front, with 22 percent, with Garcia at 14, Gomez taking 10, Pacheco at 5, and Perez with just 3. Of course, that still leaves a ton of undecideds?46 percent?and with Huizar out, that means the race is even less settled. But in a head-to-head with Garcia, Perez would trail 38-23. (Other matchups weren't tested.) And right now, it's just a two-way race between Perez and Gomez, with a lot of game left to play.

? MN-01, MN-07: Two unheralded Minnesota Republicans who came close to pulling off major upsets last month both say they're running again in 2018. In the 1st District that runs along the state's southern border, businessman Jim Hagedorn will run again Democratic Rep. Tim Walz a third straight time; in November, he Hagedorn held the incumbent to a scary 50.4 to 49.6 win, though if anything, it was Walz who pulled off the miracle, after the district swung violently from 50-48 Obama to 53-38 Trump.

Meanwhile, in the 7th, Some Dude Dave Hughes lost to Rep. Colin Peterson 52.5 to 47.5, and Hughes has already kicked off a rematch. If anything, Peterson's victory might have been even more miraculous, as Trump carried his already-conservative rural seat in Minnesota's northwest by a 62-31 margin.

It'll be a while, though, before we know whether either of these matchups will take place as planned. Walz hasn't ruled out a bid for governor, while Peterson has flirted with retirement in recent cycles and sounds pretty pissed about how liberal the Democratic Party is these days. Meanwhile, now that Hagedorn and Hughes have shown how vulnerable these two districts are, they may get shunted aside by stronger politicians. That's not a given, though, because Minnesota's unusual system of party endorsements often favors candidates from outside the establishment, and many if not most contenders who fail to earn that endorsement decline to run in the subsequent primary.

Grab Bag

? Pres-by-CD: We touch down in Iowa for our project to calculate the presidential election results by congressional district. We have a chart of all 435 congressional districts here, which also includes results from 2012. That's the page you'll want to bookmark, since we're updating it continuously. We'll be pushing out new data on a rolling basis as the results are officially certified and the precinct-level election results we need for our calculations become available. (Ballotpedia has a list of state certification deadlines.)

Safe to say, Iowa was an ugly state for Democrats in 2016. While Barack Obama carried the Hawkeye State 52-46 in 2012, Donald Trump won it 52-42. And though Obama carried three of the state's four congressional districts, Trump took all four this time.

The 1st District, which includes Cedar Rapids and Dubuque, swerved from 56-43 Obama to 49-45 Trump. Democrats targeted freshman Rep. Rod Blum in 2016, but he defeated Monica Vernon 54-46, running quite a bit ahead of the top of the ticket.

The 2nd District, which includes Iowa City, also swung from 56-43 Obama to 49-45 Trump. Rep. Dave Loebsack is the only Democrat left in Iowa's congressional delegation, and he defeated a Some Dude opponent 54-46. Let this be a warning flare, then: Loebsack had close calls in both 2010 and 2014, and it's a good bet that the GOP will field a stronger challenger next time.

The Des Moines-area 3rd District went from 51-47 Obama to also 49-45 Trump. Democrats targeted freshman Republican Rep. David Young, but he defeated Democrat Jim Mowrer 53-40. The 4th District, represented by the infamous GOP Rep. Steve King, went 53-45 for Mitt Romney four years ago, and Trump utterly dominated 61-34 here.

? Voting: Daily Kos Elections is pleased to present our newest regular feature, our weekly Voting Rights Roundup. Every Saturday, Stephen Wolf will take a look at the most important recent news concerning voting rights and election law. This week's major developments include key redistricting court cases in Wisconsin and North Carolina that could lead to national Supreme Court precedents curtailing gerrymandering; a voter ID law proposed by Michigan Republicans; and efforts by the New Hampshire GOP to end same-day voter registration. To receive our new roundup by email, click here.


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