The Supreme Court heard oral argument—yet again—in two cases arguing it should adopt a standard for when partisan gerrymandering is unconstitutional. Before argument court watchers were focused on Chief Justice Roberts, but during argument Justice Kavanaugh stole the show.

In 1986 in Davis v. Bandemer six Supreme Court Justices agreed that some amount of partisan gerrymandering is unconstitutional. But the Court has never laid out a test for making the determination.

Most recently, last term, with Justice Kennedy still on the bench, the Supreme Court again failed to articulate a standard for unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering. The two cases before the Court today came from North Carolina and Maryland favoring Republicans and Democrats, respectively. By almost any measure the gerrymanders were unapologetic and extreme.   

Now that the Court has five solidly conservative members many have speculated that these Justices will rule that partisan gerrymandering claims raise non-justiciable political questions, effectively ending litigation over this question.

CSG Midwest
With few exceptions, the Midwest’s legislatures have more women serving in them this year than in 2018. And in six of the region’s states — Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Nebraska, North Dakota and Ohio — the numbers are at historic highs.
Why the jump? Why is there a gender gap in politics? What kind of effect does more female representation have on policymaking? Those questions have been the subject of much political science research over decades, and the answers are sometimes simple, sometimes complex. Here is what CSG Midwest learned in a interview with Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.
CSG Midwest
The only state in the Midwest that does not automatically restore the voting rights of people with criminal felony convictions is considering a change in this policy, via an amendment to its Constitution. Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds proposed the idea in her Condition of the State address, and it has since been the subject of legislative committee hearings.
According to the Des Moines Register, Iowa and Kentucky are currently the only two U.S. states where a felon is permanently disenfranchised, minus an action taken by the governor or president.
CSG Midwest
In future Michigan elections, getting initiatives on the ballot will require more than simply gathering enough valid signatures from anywhere in the state. HB 6595, signed into law in late December, requires what its supporters have called “geographic diversity.” No more than 15 percent of the signatures used to determine the validity of an initiative petition can come from a single congressional district. Michigan has 14 congressional districts. This new law applies to voter-initiated constitutional amendments, statutes and veto referenda.

In 1986 a majority of the Supreme Court agreed that partisan gerrymandering may be unconstitutional in certain circumstances. But in that case and since then the Court has failed to agree on a standard for when partisan gerrymandering crosses the line.

Last term in Gill v. Whitford the Supreme Court again failed to articulate a standard for unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering. Instead, it held that the challengers failed to demonstrate they had standing to bring their case.

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear two partisan gerrymandering cases this term.

The Council of State Governments hosted its 2018 National Conference from Dec. 5th - Dec. 8th in Northern Kentucky/Greater Cincinnati.

The meeting provided state leaders with a full agenda structured to tackle some of the most pressing issues facing state governments. If you would like to review the agendas and speakers, or get copies of the presentations and related materials, please

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CSG Midwest

Key developments include shifts in partisan control in one of the region's legislatures and four governor's offices, Michigan's legalization of recreational marijuana and the state's redistricting overhaul, and Nebraska's Medicaid expansion.

Ballot measures to expand Medicaid eligibility in Idaho, Nebraska and Utah passed in the mid-term elections. Montana voters rejected a measure to continue the expansion in their state.

As we enter election season, it's critical for voters to know the key issues of the day and where their representatives stand on them. That civic duty can be inhibited when the language of a legislative text becomes lengthy, ambiguous or just plain bad.
The complexity of the legal jargon found on voter ballots isn’t a new issue. Just last year, both Ballotpedia and political scientists from Georgia State University (GSU) conducted assessments to analyze just how complicated the average ballot reads. Both parties used the Flesch-Kincaid readability test, which measures how many words are in a sentence and how many syllables are in those words. Both studies found that the average ballot question requires at least some college-level education. Ballotpedia found that the average question required a graduate-level education.

State elections officials around the country are expressing confidence that they’re ready to protect the November 2018 vote from potential cyber threats and, if necessary, deploy new tools and communications protocols put in place since the 2016 election, which saw 21 states targeted by Russian hackers.

“Yes, we feel confident that we’re in good shape,” said Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos. “But I will also say that cybersecurity … is like the race without a finish line. It’s a never-ending proposition. This is the new normal. We will always be focused on cybersecurity.”

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