In 2020, Democrats will have the chance to win power in Minnesota and North Carolina, particularly if courts in the Tar Heel State strike down the GOP's legislative gerrymanders, which appears a strong likelihood. Democrats also have a shot at pulling off upsets and winning majorities in Pennsylvania in 2020, but if not, they would have to wait until after the next round of redistricting following the 2020 census.
Democrats could also flip both chambers in Arizona next year, although they would still have to contend with GOP Gov. Doug Ducey’s veto. However, Ducey faces term limits in 2022, and Democrats could conceivably gain control of government that year. Furthermore, post-2020 redistricting will almost certainly help level the playing field for Democrats in Michigan and Pennsylvania, where GOP gerrymanders are set to be replaced with much fairer maps. If Democrats keep their hold on the governor's office in both states that year, they would gain unified control.
All of the states mentioned above currently have a majority of 274 electoral votes. That number is projected to decline by three EVs following congressional reapportionment in 2020, but it would still leave the compact over the 270 mark, thus providing a path to attaining a majority in time for 2024.
It’s still a tight path, and reapportionment could yield slightly different math once the final census numbers are known. However, it’s also possible that Republican Gov. Chris Sununu will either retire or lose re-election in 2020 or 2022 in New Hampshire, which could give Democrats another four EVs for the compact to cushion against further reapportionment blows.It’s easy, though, to run through hypotheticals like these; actually crossing the 270-vote threshold will take an intense amount of work. And even if Democrats win all of the necessary elections and their state lawmakers vote to join the compact, it will likely unleash a torrent of intense legal challenges, not to mention towering GOP apoplexy. But if proponents successfully defend against them, the U.S. could finally join nearly every other presidential democracy in the world in directly electing its head of state.
● Idaho: A GOP-backed bill that would have paved the way for Republicans to gerrymander Idaho's election districts after 2020 has been sent back to committee after the the party's state House majority leader expressed opposition to the proposed constitutional amendment. Had this measure become law, it would have given Republicans a tie-breaking vote on Idaho's bipartisan redistricting commission, which currently is evenly split between the two parties.
● Mississippi: On Wednesday, a federal district court struck down the 22nd District in Mississippi's Republican-gerrymandered state Senate for violating the Voting Rights Act. The court agreed with plaintiffs that the district's slim black majority needs to be increased ahead of November's election because low turnout helps prevent black voters from electing their preferred candidate (in this case a Democrat, and likely a black Democrat) in the existing district. Republicans have not said whether they will appeal, but the GOP-run legislature would get a first crack at redrawing the lines to comply with the court's ruling.
● Connecticut: Following the expansion of Connecticut Democrats' once-tenuous legislative majorities last year, Democratic Secretary of State Denise Merrill has unveiled several proposals this month to expand voting access. In addition to a constitutional amendment we previously covered that would allow early and no-excuse absentee voting, Merrill is also backing a separate amendment to let 16- and 17-year-olds "pre-register" to vote so that they're automatically added to the rolls when they turn 18.
Merrill has further proposed expanding online voter registration to voters beyond just those who have an ID from the state Department of Motor Vehicles, as well as restoring voting rights to those who are on parole for a felony conviction. Finally, Merrill is sponsoring legislation to audit the election records of every town to make sure that voters aren't casting ballots in the wrong congressional or state legislative district. (Elections in Connecticut are administered at the town, rather than county, level; there are 169 towns in the state, many very small.)
Democrats are well-positioned to pass the measures that are simply statutory. However, constitutional amendments will either need to win over enough Republicans to meet three-fourths supermajorities to go before voters in a referendum in 2020. In the likely event they can't obtain such supermajorities, though, Democrats can still pass the same amendments both before and after the 2020 elections in order to place them on the ballot in 2022.
● New Mexico: Bills enabling same-day and automatic voter registration have now advanced to the full floor in New Mexico's state House, where the chamber's large Democratic majority will likely pass the proposals.
● South Dakota: South Dakota Republicans have backed off a more aggressive plan to slash early voting availability to just two weeks after a state House committee instead advanced a bill that would cut the early voting period from 46 days, which is the longest in the country, to roughly one month. Republicans hold huge legislative majorities, meaning the bill stands a good chance of becoming law.
● New Hampshire: The ACLU has filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging a voter suppression law passed by New Hampshire Republicans last year that targeted out-of-state college students with what is effectively a poll tax under the guise of voter residency restrictions.
Before the GOP passed the challenged law, New Hampshirites only had to be "domiciled" in the state to be eligible to vote—in other words, they just had to live most of their day-to-day lives in the state and offer proof of residency, such as a utility bill. But the new law requires voters to instead be "residents," meaning they intend to remain in-state indefinitely. Legally, that requires voters to do things like obtain a state driver's license and register their cars in New Hampshire, both of which cost money and time.
Opponents of the law suffered a defeat in state court last year when New Hampshire's Supreme Court issued a three-to-two advisory opinion saying the measure doesn't violate the state constitution's language conferring voting rights to all "inhabitants" of the state. However, the plaintiffs may have better luck in federal court, since the U.S. Constitution's 24th Amendment bans poll taxes, and the 1979 U.S. Supreme Court ruling Symm v. United States guaranteed college students the right to vote at their schools if they live there.
Democratic legislators in a state House committee have also voted to repeal this law and a similar 2017 voter suppression residency restriction that targeted young voters more generally. However, Republican Gov. Chris Sununu would almost certainly veto the repeal of these measures if they were to reach his desk.
● Colorado: Colorado's state House will soon vote on whether to join the National Popular Vote Compact for the Electoral College after Democrats passed the measure out of committee earlier this week. The state Senate has already approved the plan, and it's likely to become law with Democrats in full control of state government.
● South Carolina: A federal district court judge has rejected a lawsuit that argued South Carolina's paperless voting machines were so unreliable that they endangered voters' constitutional right to ensure their votes are counted. The plaintiffs had sought to require South Carolina to adopt a more secure and reliable voting method that left a paper trail. However, GOP legislators have already signaled they're considering implementing such a system ahead of the 2020 elections.
● Maryland: Legislative Democrats are considering a bill that would enable Montgomery County to switch to instant-runoff voting for local elections, and it's already gained the unanimous support of the county's delegation in the state House. This heavily Democratic county is Maryland's largest, with more than 1 million people, and county-level government is particularly strong in Maryland, meaning this change could be particularly consequential for local politics if it becomes law.
● Census: On Friday, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the Trump administration's appeal of a lower court ruling that blocked it from going ahead with a plan to add a question about citizenship status on the 2020 census, a ruling that determined the Trump administration violated federal law by using pretext to hide its true motives. Oral arguments will take place in April. As we've previously detailed, this case would have disastrous effects on the accuracy of the census if the Supreme Court overturns the lower court's decision.
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