The Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, and Stephen Wolf, with additional contributions from the Daily Kos Elections team.
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● AL Redistricting: Republican Gov. Kay Ivey suggested in a statement on Friday evening that Alabama's new congressional map, which her fellow Republicans in the legislature passed earlier in the day, was intended to defy a federal court order that the state create two districts where Black voters could elect their preferred candidates.
"The Legislature knows our state, our people and our districts better than the federal courts or activist groups," Ivey said after signing the map into law, "and I am pleased that they answered the call, remained focused and produced new districts ahead of the court deadline." The comments echoed a racist trope of segregationists, who would falsely blame unrest on "outside agitators" much as Ivey singled out "activist groups"; plaintiffs are Black Alabamians and include members of the state legislature.
Likewise, Ivey's implication that Republican lawmakers were free to disregard an unambiguous directive from a federal court—one affirmed by the Supreme Court—harkened back to Southern politicians' pledges of "massive resistance" to court orders to desegregate. That stance, however, is only likely to engender hostility from the three-judge panel overseeing the lawsuit against Alabama's map.
Plaintiffs had already said that they intend to challenge the new plan, and Ivey's remarks will add fuel to their arguments that this latest map once again does not comply with the Voting Rights Act. As a result, the court may step in to draw its own map to be used starting in next year's elections, which could see a Black Democrat replace a white Republican in the state's House delegation.
Last year, after concluding the state's prior map likely violated the VRA, the court instructed lawmakers to establish a second district where Black voters would be able to elect their candidates of choice. Mindful of the state's long history of deeply polarized voting patterns—white voters heavily support Republicans while African Americans overwhelmingly back Democrats—the court explained that any replacement map would "need to include two districts in which Black voters either comprise a voting-age majority or something quite close to it."
While the judges did not specify an exact proportion, Black residents of voting age make up just 39.9% of the GOP's newly created 2nd District, which you can see on the right-hand side of the illustration below. (A larger version may be found here and an interactive version here.) With whites still constituting a 52% majority, Donald Trump would have carried the district by a 54-45 margin in 2020, according to Dave's Redistricting App.
It would therefore be very difficult for the candidate preferred by Black voters to win, since that candidate would almost certainly be a Black Democrat. (The state's lone district where Black voters already make up a majority, the Birmingham-based 7th, has continuously elected Black Democrats since it took on its current form in 1992—also thanks to litigation under the VRA—and is currently represented by one, Terri Sewell.)
Democrats have sharply objected to the map and similar earlier versions, criticizing Republicans for a rushed process that gave them no opportunity for input and arguing that the plan fails to adhere to the VRA. One Democratic leader even speculated that Republicans deliberately sought to pass a non-compliant plan because they actually prefer to see the panel impose its own map.
"This map suggests to me that whoever drew it just didn't want to, you know, choose winners or losers, and they wanted the court to draw a map," said Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton, according to the Alabama Reflector. Such an outcome would, at least in theory, absolve GOP lawmakers from having to decide which of their party's own members of Congress should walk the plank.
The map's Republican sponsor also openly suggested that partisanship may have played a role. "I did hear from Speaker [Kevin] McCarthy," state Sen. Steve Livingston told the Reflector's Bryan Lyman. "It was quite simple. He said, 'I'm interested in keeping my majority.' That was basically his conversation."
Others have speculated that Republicans may simply be hoping to drag out the dispute, but the court has said it is "acutely aware that these proceedings are time-sensitive." It previously set an accelerated timetable for resolving any complaints about the legislature's new map, directing all briefs be filed by Aug. 7 and setting a hearing for Aug. 14, if necessary. The judges have also made preparations to tap outside experts to craft new lines, should they be needed.
Given the exigencies—the court noted that GOP Secretary of State Wes Allen said a new map should be in place by Oct. 1 in order to give officials sufficient time to prepare for the 2024 elections—it's likely that the judges will act soon thereafter. It's possible Republicans could appeal to the Supreme Court once more, but given the justices' recent ruling upholding the lower court in almost every particular, they aren't likely to meet with greater success there.
● NC Redistricting: Republican state House Speaker Tim Moore has said he expects legislators to hold a special session beginning in late-September or early October to redraw the state's congressional and legislative maps for next year's elections. Earlier this year, the state Supreme Court's new Republican majority overturned the court's prior ruling that had deemed partisan gerrymandering to violate North Carolina's constitution, clearing the way for Republicans to draw new gerrymanders.
● MI-Sen: Mitchell Research has released a poll sponsored by MIRS News that finds Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin leading two potential GOP opponents for next year's Senate race but with a large share of voters still undecided. The poll shows Slotkin ahead 44-38 over former GOP Rep. Mike Rogers, who previously didn't rule out running and is reportedly considering the race, while she has a much wider 41-28 lead over former Rep. Peter Meijer, who likewise is reportedly interested.
There have been almost no other polls released here despite Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow's announcement at the start of the year that she wouldn't seek another term representing this swing state. The one other publicly available survey, which was from EPIC-MRA last month, found Slotkin up just 40-39 against former Detroit Police Chief James Craig, another Republican who has yet to join the race but has previously said he's considering it.
● TN-Sen: Politico reports that Democratic state Rep. Gloria Johnson, who earned national attention earlier this year after her GOP colleagues came just one vote short of expelling her from office, is planning to announce next month that she'll run for Senate against GOP incumbent Marsha Blackburn and had already spoken with the DSCC and EMILY's List. Johnson said she's considering the race and would decide this summer.
Any Democrat would have a difficult time giving the party its first statewide win since 2006, though Johnson may have access to a wide donor base. She, along with fellow state Reps. Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, was part of the "Tennessee Three" whom Republicans tried to remove from office for participating in a protest in favor of gun safety legislation on the chamber floor. Jones and Pearson, who are both Black, were expelled while Johnson, who is white, was not, and she told reporters afterward that the disparate treatment "might have to do with the color of our skin." Both Jones and Pearson returned to the legislature soon after their respective county governments reappointed them.
● KY-Gov: The Republican State Leadership Committee has released a poll conducted this month by GOP firm Public Opinion Strategies that shows Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear ahead just 49-45 against Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron, which appeared to be in response to the release of a late-June survey by the same pollster days earlier that showed Beshear up by a wider 52-42.
The Courier Journal's Joe Sonka on Tuesday had first reported the results of the June poll, which was taken for the education group Prichard Committee. Sonka described the sponsor as a "nonpartisan nonprofit," and most of the survey's questions concerned education and childcare issues, but the group said they didn't intend to release the results publicly.
One factor that may have contributed to the different results is that the June survey was of registered voters, whereas the July poll commissioned by Republicans looked at likely voters.
● NY-04: Democratic state Sen. Kevin Thomas has filed to run here, though he does not appear to have said anything publicly about his interest in the race since Newsday reported last month that he was thinking about challenging freshman GOP Rep. Anthony D'Esposito.
● UT-02: Businessman Quin Denning, one of several Republicans who lost last month's party convention to outgoing Rep. Chris Stewart's former chief legal counsel Celeste Maloy, has filed a lawsuit in state court seeking to remove her from the Sept. 5 special primary election ballot on the grounds that she was ineligible under state law because she was not an active Republican registered voter before filing to run.
The Salt Lake Tribune previously reported that Maloy last voted in Utah in 2018 before taking a job in D.C. working for Stewart, which led election officials to move her to inactive status. The candidate, who appears to have stopped maintaining a residence in the state after moving to Northern Virginia, had explained to KSL, "I didn't want my absentee ballot from out of state to get flagged as a fraudulent vote. I didn't want my boss to be answering any questions about my vote."
Local election officials were in the process of removing Maloy from Utah's voter rolls before June 15, when she submitted new information to return to active status that gave her sister's residence as her address. However, she only did so three days after she had filed to run.
State law says that candidates can't "file a declaration of candidacy for a registered political party of which the individual is not a member." Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson, who is Utah's top elections official, has said that Maloy was eligible to run, but other prominent Republicans have disagreed. Denning's lawsuit contends that Henderson and Maloy both concealed that she wasn't properly registered before the convention.
However, it may be too late for the courts to act, since some counties have already sent their ballots to be printed to ensure they can be mailed out on time (federal law requires that absentee ballots be mailed to military and overseas voters at least 45 days before a federal election). But if a court does grant Denning's request, his lawsuit seeks to have the state GOP central committee pick a replacement for Maloy on the primary ballot, which regardless will include former state Rep. Becky Edwards and former RNC member Bruce Hough, who had both gathered signatures to get onto the ballot.