In a Thursday decision that rocked the North Carolina state capitol, The Fourth Circuit Court ruled that in 2011, Republican lawmakers unconstitutionally used race as the predominant factor when they drew district lines for the state legislature, resulting in 28 illegally racially gerrymandered districts. This is just the latest ruling criticizing North Carolina Republicans for racially gerrymandering districts in an effort to suppress typically Democratic voters. While these rigged districts will unfortunately be in place for the November election, the court ordered the next General Assembly, which takes office in 2017, to redraw the legislative maps. The plaintiffs argued that Republicans “over-applied the Voting Rights Act of 1965,” packing black voters into certain districts in an effort to minimize their voting power in other districts, while exaggerating the voting blocs’ influence in a select number of districts. Anita Earls, the Executive Directive for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, argued for the necessity of the Voting Rights Act but maintained that it “should not be used to pack black voters or minimize their influence in the political process,” and that by abusing the Act, North Carolina Republicans created “a recipe for permanent racial segregation.”
In Michigan,Democrats are looking to take advantage of Trump’s plunging poll numbers and campaign missteps to help restore Democratic control of the state House this November. In a recent poll, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has extended her lead to a 9-percentage-point advantage, with over 60% of likely voters agreeing that Donald Trump is not qualified to be commander in chief. Due to term limits, the Michigan general election ballot will see 42 open state House seats, with a majority of the competitive seats currently held by Republicans. The Republican-led legislature passed a measure earlier this year banning straight-ticket voting, which was recently blocked by a federal judge, citing concern that the Republican law would impede voting, disproportionately affect minority voters, and unfairly curb Democratic votes. Brian Began, of the Grassroots Midwest political consulting firm in Lansing who helped draw the district lines after the 2010 Census, noted that with straight-ticket voting now an option, “Republicans could lose eight or nine seats with Trump polling as bad as he is.”
In West Virginia, a Kanawha circuit judge issued a preliminary injunction blocking the enforcement of Republican’s new right-to-work law, ruling that the law could cause irreparable harm to unions and workers. In granting the injunction, Judge Jennifer Bailey commented on the law’s ability to negatively impact those who misunderstand its provisions: “I think when people are facing the possibility of criminal charges and civil damages, both of which are provided for in this law, it is quite serious.” The Republican-crafted legislation, if enacted, would severely undermine unions in West Virginia, causing a projected 20-percent drop in membership. In his testimony, Teamsters Local 175 president Ken Hall stated, “The whole purpose [of this law] is to weaken unions, which is to give advantage to corporate management.”
In New Hampshire, Republicans are struggling to hold on to the state House majority they only recently obtained in 2014. The chamber’s current partisan makeup has Republicans holding a 73-vote advantage, controlling 230 of 400 seats. Democrats hold 157 seats, one seat is held by a Libertarian, and 12 seats are currently vacant. However, Republicans have been having a hard time retaining and recruiting candidates, with multiple incumbents choosing not to seek re-election and the GOP fielding state House candidates in only 335 out of 400 races; Democrats will field candidates in 361 races. According to Senate Democratic Leader Jeff Woodburn, “[Republicans] have not been aggressive about finding candidates and it shows.” Sen. Woodburn attributes the lack of GOP candidates to the chaotic Republican presidential primary and Donald Trump’s negative down-ticket effect. With Democratic Governor Maggie Hassan polling well in her race to oust Republican U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte, New Hampshire Democrats will have strong top-of-the-ticket competitors to boost their opportunity to make sizable gains in the New Hampshire state legislature.
According to a Pew Charitable Trust analysis, Colorado had the highest voter registration rate in the United States in 2014. The 2014 Colorado midterms saw almost 87 percent of eligible Coloradans registered to vote and a turnout rate of 54 percent, up 3.8 percent from 2010 midterm turnout. Despite the state’s voter registration success, Republican state lawmakers have tried repeatedly to pass restrictive voting laws, such as measures strengthening voter ID requirements, since making gains in the 2014 midterm elections. In February 2016, GOP Senators attempted to restrict voting service center hours, and in March 2016, GOP state Senators passed a bill on a party line vote that would have eliminated utility bills, bank statements, paychecks, and Medicaid or Medicare cards as acceptable forms ID and proof residence for voter registration purposes. Democrats argued both bills would disenfranchise voters and both failed to make it out of the House Committee.