In a major blow to Michigan GOP lawmakers’ efforts to make voting more difficult, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a bid from state Republicans to reinstate its ban on straight-ticket voting. The justices upheld the decision by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, which found that instating the ban would disproportionately affect African Americans and lead to longer lines at the polls in November. In 2015, Republican lawmakers passed Senate Bill 13 to ban straight-ticket voting, despite Michigan voters’ previous rejections of attempts to end the longstanding practice (since 1891). This recent decision adds to the growing list of defeats of Republican laws meant to restrict poll access.
Maine Governor LePage has had a rough few weeks, damaging not only LePage himself, but also his fellow Republican state lawmakers and their November election prospects. During an interview, LePage commented, “I expect to lose the Senate. The lack of action over the past two years, I think that’s going to hurt us.” Down-ballot Maine Republicans will have to face both their lack of legislative action to address issues hurting middle class families in Maine AND Trump and LePage drag at the polls. LePage’s latest controversial tirade began early last week and resulted in a legislator attempting to invoke Article 5, Section 15 of the state constitution to remove LePage from office due to mental incompetency. LePage recently claimed the majority of drug dealers in Maine are black or Hispanic and later claimed, “The enemy right now, the overwhelming majority of people coming in, are people of color, are people of Hispanic origin.” LePage also left an obscene voicemail for Democratic state Rep. Drew Gattine and later threatened the lawmaker, saying he would like to duel with the Democrat, so he could shoot Rep. Gattine between the eyes. Senate President Mike Thibodeau (R) admitted that the state party is “very concerned” that the governor’s behavior will affect the November elections, saying: “This is not what you want going on 70 days before an election. It is not something you want going on anytime, so there’s no question it’s going to have an impact.”
In California, the Democratic-majority state legislature made massive progress during the recent session, passing legislation to combat global warming, help patients with unexpected medical bills, and expand family leave. California lawmakers also passed legislation extending paid overtime to farm workers, who were previously ineligible for overtime pay under a 1938 law. While the exclusion has not yet been corrected on a federal level, the California legislation, sponsored by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D), will gradually increase overtime pay for farm workers, requiring employers to pay time-and-a-half for more than eight hours worked in a day, or 40 hours per week. Farm workers that clock more than 12 hours a day will also now be eligible to receive double pay. When urging his Senate colleagues to pass the bill, Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de Leon (D) framed the bill’s passage as a way to do right by those who labor in the sun to bring produce to Californians: “Their strength, their sweat and their determination for a better life have driven our state's $54-billion annual agricultural economy.”
This week, North Carolina Republican officials continued their coordinated attack on minority voting rights. After the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a Republican law restricting ballot access was designed to "target African Americans with almost surgical precision" and the U.S. Supreme Court refused Republican appeals to reinstate its bigoted voter-ID law, GOP officials launched a new plan to restrict opportunities for North Carolinians to vote. Earlier this week, the executive director of the North Carolina GOP sent a memo to Republican-appointed local election board members pushing them to act “in the best interest of the party” and limit early voting. Disappointingly, 23 GOP-controlled local elections boards chose to cut early voting, and nine eliminated Sunday voting, giving voters fewer opportunities to vote than they had four years ago.
With multiple open legislative seats and Donald Trump dragging down the Republican ticket, Arizona Democrats are optimistic they can make gains in the state Senate this November. Chad Campbell, the former House Democratic leader, commented, “It’s a legitimate scenario where you have a split Senate next year…It’s the most legitimate scenario we’ve seen for quite some time.” Democrats would only need to pick up three seats to create a 15-15 split in the state’s upper chamber, something that has not happened since 2002. With Hillary Clinton and Democratic voter advocacy groups like Mi Familia Vota and Promise Arizona focusing on mobilizing the Latino vote in traditionally red states, Antonio Gonzalez, president of the Southwest Voter Registration and Education Project, believes that the power of this voting bloc can be harnessed, noting, “Arizona has comparable growth among Latino registration and voting with zippo investment…Just think of what they could do with some investment. These people are overperforming.”