[Image via cardoneuniversity]
This morning’s news roundup brought a handful of stories that provide an opportunity (as the sign above hints at) to circle back on recent entries here:
In MAINE, a legislative committee considering legislation to respond to recent court rulings on ranked-choice voting failed to agree on a course of action, sending two conflicting bills to the full legislature on tie votes. The Press-Herald has more:
A committee of lawmakers was unable to reach a consensus recommendation Thursday on two ranked-choice voting bills submitted in response to legal questions about the first-in-the-nation system approved by voters in November.
In an often confusing work session, the Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee voted 6-6-1 on the bills. One sought to send a constitutional amendment to voters, and one proposed an outright repeal of the measure. The division means the full Legislature will have to decide which of five different options it likes best…
The committee in large part punted the problem, and to some degree the confusion, to the full Legislature by failing to offer lawmakers a clear recommendation on how to implement what many see as the “will of the voters.”
The options for the Legislature to consider will be an outright repeal of the new law; a change that would implement the law only for primary and congressional election; a delay in implementation of the law until the Legislature can pass and voters ratify an amendment to the state constitution; a delay in implementing parts of the law until 2019; and the option to pass a constitutional amendment now and send it to voters for ratification this fall.
The committee’s divisions did not fall strictly along partisan lines, although Republicans do appear to be more in favor of an outright repeal, saying that having two different voting systems for Maine could be both costly and confusing.
In NORTH CAROLINA, a trial court is signalling that – despite continued confusion abut who speaks for the state – it will move quickly to decide on potential special elections after the U.S. Supreme Court found that several of the state’s legislative districts violate the Voting Rights Act. The News-Observer has more:
The three federal judges who could decide whether North Carolina will have special elections this year in state legislative races issued notice Friday that they plan to act quickly.
The memorandum comes four days after the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling unanimously affirming that 28 of North Carolina’s districts used to elect members to the state Senate and state House of Representatives are illegal racial gerrymanders that diluted the overall power of black voters…
The challengers of the 2011 redistricting plan submitted a request on Thursday to the three-judge panel asking for quick resolution to fix the gerrymandered districts.
In their request, the challengers told the judges that legislative leaders were opposed to their request, that the state Board of Elections had no position on the matter, and “that the State of North Carolina ‘agrees that the public interest calls for a prompt decision on the possibility of a special election in 2017.’
Such a stance could raise new questions about who represents the state – the legislative branch or the executive branch.
Gov. Roy Cooper, the Democrat at the helm of the executive branch, called a special 14-day session this week for the legislative branch to draw new maps to correct the racial gerrymandered districts that have been used for the past three election cycles. The legislators quickly canceled the session.
“The parties are advised that the Court intends to act promptly on this matter upon obtaining jurisdiction from the Supreme Court,” the memorandum released on Friday states and asks the legislative leaders, the state elections board and “the state” to submit statements that address the concerns of the challengers “as expeditiously as possible.”
In the U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS, the long-running controversy over the election of Kevin Rodriguez is headed back to the Legislature after a federal appeals court said it was lawmakers’ duty to decide on whether he meets the Islands’ candidate residency requirements. The St. Thomas Source has more:
A Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruling handed down Friday put the ongoing legal battle waged these past few months by senator-elect Kevin Rodriguez back where it started: in the hands of the V.I. Legislature.
The ruling does not overturn any of the legal decisions made in the case so far, but it does say that a previous ruling from the District Court makes moot any injunctions put in place to keep Rodriquez from taking a Senate seat. The ruling also says that now that the Legislature has been sworn in, only its members can determine whether Rodriguez can be seated or not.
“This case centers on the question of who should determine Rodriguez’s qualifications to serve in the 32nd Legislature of the Virgin Islands,” the ruling said. “Specifically at issue here is who should decide whether Rodriguez satisfied the qualification that he has been a ‘bona fide resident’ of the Virgin Islands for at least three years … preceding the date of his election…”
According to the ruling, under the “plain language” of the Revised Organic Act, once the 32nd Legislature convened, it alone had the authority determine whether Rodriguez had the qualifications necessary to be a member.
“In sum, before the 32nd Legislature convened, the Board of Elections had the authority to review the qualifications of prospective members of the Legislature and because it is not a part of the Legislature or any other branch of the V.I. government, issues of separation of powers did not preclude a court from a viewing in the Board of Elections decisions concerning a candidate’s qualifications,” the ruling said. “But now that the 32nd Legislature has convened, only that body can determine the qualifications of its members and separation of powers principles require a court to decline weighing in on these issues.”
A careful reader will note that all three of these developments have at least one thing in common: they move each dispute to the next step but don’t actually resolve the issue. That’s not necessarily unusual; rather, it’s what many election officials across the country are used to when controversies like this arise. I’ll continue to watch each of these plot lines and share updates as they emerge.
Happy(?) Monday and stay tuned …