The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, Carolyn Fiddler, and Matt Booker, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.
● State Supreme Courts: Progressives just celebrated a decisive victory for the Wisconsin Supreme Court last week, one that sets them up to flip the court in just a few years and finally put them in a position to police Republicans' voter suppression tactics, including their extreme gerrymanders. Wisconsin, though, is by no means the only state Democrats should have on their target lists for 2020 when it comes to supreme courts.
As Stephen Wolf explains in a new story, progressives have the chance to make major gains—or even take outright majorities—on several other top courts this year, including those in Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, and Texas.
The federal judiciary has grown ever more hostile to voting rights during the Trump era, and the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to curtail partisan maps designed to entrench one-party rule. But at the same time, state courts have started striking down these gerrymanders—and crucially, these decisions rely on protections found in state constitutions, meaning that they're insulated from John Roberts' review.
Almost every state constitution, in fact, offers similar protections. The issue is who's interpreting them. But unlike federal judges, many state Supreme Court justices are elected to their posts, so progressives have the opportunity to replace conservative ideologues with independent-minded jurists.
That's critical in Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, and Texas—states that the GOP has gerrymandered at every level. If Democrats can roll back the right-wing stranglehold on the state courts, they can make great strides toward fairer maps for the coming decade. Read our full story for more details on the high courts in each of these four states and how progressives can win back judicial power in each of them.
Please bookmark our statewide 2020 primary calendar and our calendar of key downballot races, both of which we're updating continually as changes are finalized.
● Florida: Voting rights organizations have filed a lawsuit in federal court over Florida’s election procedures.
The plaintiffs are suing to require the state to extend the deadline to register to vote, return absentee mail ballots, and fix any issues with ballot envelope signatures not matching. This lawsuit also seeks to expand voter outreach efforts to unregistered voters; make it easier to register online; expand early voting; allow drop boxes for returning mail ballots; and establish alternative in-person voting methods such as curbside voting.
Meanwhile, election supervisors in populous Broward, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach Counties in southeast Florida have confirmed that they are planning to mail absentee ballot applications with prepaid return postage to all registered voters for the August primary and November general election, but they are asking county authorities to provide the funding for them to do so. Collectively, these three counties are home to one in four Florida voters.
● Kentucky: Republican Secretary of State Michael Adams announced that there will be "a significant expansion" of absentee voting for the June 23 primary, saying he and Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear are "pretty close in agreement" on how it'll work. The state Board of Elections will also meet on Friday to discuss a plan for the primary to allow almost everyone to vote by mail, which currently requires an excuse, though it would need both Beshear and Adams to sign off.
● Louisiana: Both chambers of Louisiana's heavily Republican legislature have passed a bill in committee to expand early and mail voting for the state’s July 11 elections, which include the presidential primaries and several municipal contests, and for any local runoffs that take place on Aug. 15. The legislation came after Republican Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin submitted a new emergency plan with more limited loosening of the excuse requirement for mail voting, which Ardoin did after GOP lawmakers rejected his first proposal. The AP writes that both chambers are expected to pass the bill, and Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards has already said he supports it despite having previously backed Ardoin's broader first proposal.
Instead of effectively waiving the excuse requirement by letting anyone vote absentee due to concerns over coronavirus, the GOP's legislation loosens the requirement only for people in certain medical situations. The bill would also let Ardoin extend early voting from seven days to 13 days and relocate polling places if needed.
● Massachusetts: Democratic Secretary of State Bill Galvin announced he is drafting legislation to enable no-excuse mail voting for the September state primary and to expand mail voting for the November general election with the aim of releasing the proposal in May. The heavily Democratic state legislature would need to pass Galvin’s plan for it to take effect. Galvin, though, said he opposed automatically mailing ballots to all registered voters despite some Democrats calling on the state to do so.
● Minnesota: On Tuesday, Democratic state senators proposed automatically sending all registered voters a ballot for this year's elections, but the chamber’s GOP majority quickly came out in opposition to the plan. Instead, Republican state Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer, who chairs the upper house’s Elections Committee, would only support expanding the state's existing no-excuse absentee mail voting option.
● Nevada: True the Vote, a conservative organization that pushes voting restrictions in the name of supposed voter fraud and has been accused of trying to intimidate black and Latino voters into not voting, has filed a federal lawsuit opposing Republican Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske's plan to hold the June primary under universal mail voting. The lawsuit claims without sufficient evidence that it would "all but ensure an election replete with ballot fraud" even though five states already mail every registered voter a ballot by default and have seen only vanishingly rare cases of voter fraud.
● Pennsylvania: Democrats have filed a lawsuit in state court seeking to require that Pennsylvania prepay the postage for all mail-in ballots, count ballots if they are postmarked by Election Day instead of only if they're received by Election Day, give voters a chance to correct problems with their ballot signature, and let third-party groups collect and return mail ballots. Meanwhile, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf is encouraging all registered voters to apply for mail-in ballots for the June primary and has sent out postcards with relevant information.
● South Carolina: On Wednesday, Democrats filed a lawsuit with South Carolina's Supreme Court to allow anyone to vote absentee by mail this year due to concerns over coronavirus. Civil rights groups shortly thereafter filed a separate lawsuit in federal court seeking to both relax the excuse requirement and eliminate the need for voters to have a witness sign their mail ballot envelope. South Carolina currently requires an excuse to vote absentee for all voters under age 65 and doesn't offer in-person early voting.
● West Virginia: Democratic members in both chambers of the heavily GOP legislature have urged Republican Gov. Jim Justice to make the June primary take place near-entirely via mail by sending every registered voter a ballot automatically and limiting in-person voting. West Virginia already implemented a plan to mail absentee ballot applications to all voters, but voters still have to return the application and have it processed by election workers before getting mailed a ballot, which universal mail voting would render unnecessary.
● Wisconsin: The Milwaukee Common Council (the equivalent of the city council) has unanimously voted to create a program to send absentee mail ballot applications out by mail to all 300,000 of the heavily Democratic city's registered voters. Both Democratic Mayor Tom Barrett and Gov. Tony Evers support it, and if other Democratic-leaning local jurisdictions follow suit, Republicans may feel pressured to expand absentee voting statewide to avoid putting GOP-leaning areas at a disadvantage.
● AZ-Sen: The Democratic group Advancing Arizona is up with a Spanish-language ad hitting GOP Sen. Martha McSally on healthcare. Politico reports that the size of the buy is $700,000.
● CO-Sen: On Tuesday, Denver District Court Judge Christopher Baumann ordered businesswoman Michelle Ferrigno Warren onto the June Democratic primary ballot to take on GOP Sen. Cory Gardner. Democratic Secretary of State Jena Griswold has three days to appeal the decision from the time it was issued, but she has not yet said if she'll do so.
Ferrigno Warren only submitted about half of the 10,500 petitions needed, but Baumann noted that she "had to collect petition signatures in the shadow of a global pandemic and looming public health emergency." Baumann also wrote that the candidate's ability to collect about 5,400 petitions "suggests Ms. Ferrigno Warren has a 'significant modicum' of support for her candidacy."
Two other Democrats, climate activist Diana Bray and nonprofit head Lorena Garcia, are also suing to make the ballot. Ferrigno Warren had just $22,000 to spend at the end of March, though, while Bray and Garcia had even less, so they'd all have a very tough time getting their names out. The two main candidates are former Gov. John Hickenlooper and former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff.
● KY-Sen: Advertising Analytics reports that Ditch Fund, which opposes Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, has reserved $648,000 for a TV ad campaign that will run from Oct. 20 to Election Day.
● MN-05: Rep. Ilhan Omar, who has been one of the most high-profile members of the freshman Democratic class, picked up a primary challenge back in December from attorney Antone Melton-Meaux. Melton-Meaux's campaign hasn't earned much national attention so far, but he did end March with almost $200,000 in the bank. Omar, though, had a hefty $1.32 million available to defend herself in the August primary for this safely blue Minneapolis seat.
Melton-Meaux kicked off his campaign last year by saying, "I think there's a deep hunger from residents of this district for someone who is deeply engaged and has experience building community and coalitions and being effective," but he didn't go into any more detail at the time about why Omar should be ousted. This month, though, Melton-Meaux wrote a piece in the Star Tribune arguing that Omar "failed to find time to even visit all of her district" and "appears to be more focused on her own celebrity than on serving the district."