Well, the recaps of the 2023 legislative system are in and they all seem to say, “This year was pretty bad, but it could have been worse.”
And news of happenings in Tennessee and Arizona indicate that’s true.
Three Tennessee legislators joined in chants with kids who crowded into the floor demonstrating for action preventing school killings. Those legislators even happened to have a megaphone handy so they could give speeches.
Six days after the demonstration, Republicans controlling the House voted to oust two of its 13 black members. Ousting is serious because it punishes not only the wrongdoer, but also the thousands who voted for him or her.
In Idaho legislators have been ousted by a bipartisan majority for committing crimes, but most rule infractions result in a public apology or dismissal from committee assignments,
The reaction in Tennessee to the ouster was strong. It didn’t help that the third demonstrator–a white woman–was not ousted. Or that Nashville was already fighting the legislature's attempts to cut its council membership in half. Or that legislators threatened to withdraw funding from projects near Memphis if its council didn’t accept the expulsion.
Both the Memphis and the Nashville local councils voted to reinstate the two young men.
And, in the end, Speaker Cameron Sexton may be the one ousted. There'd been some media coverage about Sexton being from a district 120 miles from the capital where his family actually lives. Voters accepted that he had homes in both places. But recent media coverage revealed that since moving to Nashville, Sexton had billed Tennessee $78,756 for travel and pay for temporary lodgings in Nashville.
Arizona’s problem is quite different. According to Democracy Docket, over five months after the 2022 midterm elections, Arizona has 20 voting and elections lawsuits still ongoing.
The most ridiculous is that of Mark Finchem whose opponent got 120,000 more votes than he did. A trial court dismissed the lawsuit in December and imposed sanctions on him for filing a “frivolous suit.” Still he’s fighting on at the Arizona Court of Appeals.
Gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake lost by 17,000 ballots–a substantial number, but still less than 1% of the vote. In court Lake claimed that the Maricopa County elections were chaotic with both ballot printers and the tabulator failing. The appellate court ruled that the voters were able to cast their ballots, the votes were counted correctly, and there was no basis to set aside election results. The Supreme Court accepted one of Lake’s six allegations and sent the question of errors in signature matching on absentee ballots to a lower court. The chances of that affecting 17,000 ballots, however, are nil.
Attorney general candidate Abe Hamadeh lost by only 280 votes. There was a recount and a court case that Hamadeh didn’t appeal..Now, however, Hamadeh claims he has new evidence. Oral arguments in trial court are scheduled for May 16.
Yes, things could be worse here–and soon they may be. The Supreme Court has two cases on redistricting before it. Results could be announced today or tomorrow–or weeks from now.
Merrill vs. Mulligan could decide 21 cases pending on the Court’s decision about the Voting Rights Act forbidding gerrymandering on the basis of race.
In Moore vs Harper, North Carolina legislators argue that the U.S. Constitution gave legislatures unfettered power in reapportioning districts. That is, laws and courts cannot stop them from gerrymandering all they want to.
If the Court says legislators can ignore the Idaho Constitution, we’ll see redistricting slice Democratic areas like pie next year.