Tropical Storm Extends Hawaii Senate Primary
Tropical Storm Iselle provided an unexpected twist to Hawaii’s Democratic Senate primary. The storm hit the Big Island so hard that polls on August 9 were closed in the Puna District. At the same time, Senator Brian Schatz has such a small lead—around 1,600 votes—over Representative Colleen Hanabusa that enough voters live in the Puna District that they could theoretically put Representative Hanabuasa over the top. It is unlikely that she will prevail, but the Puna District will still have elections on Friday. She also claims that there have been “irregularities that have occurred in terms of access” and she hopes that state election officials will examine these claims. She had hoped that the Hawaii Office of Elections would decide approve voting by mail rather than in-person voting since many of the affected areas still need to be cleaned up. Both Representative Hanabusa and Senator Schatz have been aiding in relief efforts, although their campaigns acknowledge the difficulty in maintaining a distinction between humanitarian work and campaigning.
Florida Redraws Congressional District Map
The Florida legislature has redrawn its congressional district boundaries following a July ruling that the previous map violated the state constitution’s prohibition against gerrymandering. The Republican-controlled legislature passed the new plan along partisan lines in both chambers during a special summer session. Legislature Democrats still criticized the new plan, but their alternative was defeated. Judge Terry Lewis, who ruled against the original plan, will review the new one later this month.
Opinion: Building a Better Senate
This year marks the hundredth anniversary of the first national elections with a popularly elected Senate. Prior to the ratification of the 17th Amendment, state legislatures, not the people, elected Senators, but one of the major victories of the Progressive Era was to shift this power to the citizens. Veteran political forecaster Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia notes that as we remember this anniversary, it is also clear that the Senate needs additional reforms to function more effectively. For instance, small states are “overrepresented”. He suggests enlarging the Senate so that the least populous half of the states would retain their 2 Senators; the next 15 would receive an additional Senator, for a total of 3; and the top 10 would receive 2 more, for a total of 4. The Senate would then have 135. However, this is extremely unlikely to happen since the Constitution requires that each state consent to any changes in the proportions of representatives in the Senate.
So How Do You Get Your Portrait in the Capitol?
Well, one way is to have a high schooler paint your portrait and win the Congressional Art Competition. But another is to be a House Committee Chairman. One of the perks of being a House Committee Chairman is having a portrait hang in the Committee’s hearing room. It’s a practice that started in 1891 with a portrait of James Garfield, who was the first Representative to go straight to the White House. The House portraits are not financed with public funds. Rather, the Chairmen must establish private groups to raise money for the portrait. They usually cost between $25,000 and $50,000. Chairmen often collaborate with an artist to ensure that their visions for their portraits are carried out; for instance, a Chairman might instruct the artist to include an item symbolizing his home state or the Committee’s jurisdiction.
And for our latest post: Supreme Court on Recess Appointments: The President Loses, Congress Partially Wins