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A voting site in Houston was crowded with signs and campaign workers last November. Federal judges declined to place Texas elections under federal oversight despite finding intentional discrimination in the drawing of legislative districts.

Texas survives suit demanding its elections be subject to Washington oversight

Elections in Texas will not be placed under Justice Department supervision, a panel of three federal judges has ruled, despite finding that election maps drawn for the state in 2011 were intentionally discriminatory against black and Latino people.

Texas had been one of the states where any changes in voting processes required federal approval, called "preclearance," because of a history of discriminatory practices. That ended in 2013 when the Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutionally antiquated the system for deciding which places were to be put under federal oversight. However, another part of the Voting Rights Act permits the federal government to impose preclearance requirements for as long as 10 years in places where intentional racial discrimination is found.

The decision, announced Wednesday, said the congressional and state legislative boundaries drawn in 2011 were sufficiently discriminatory for Texas to be placed under supervision. But the judges decided not to impose that sanction, known as "bail-in" — at least not yet.

Judge Xavier Rodriguez wrote for the panel that, when state officials were asked if they would commit to conducting future redistricting proceedings in an "open and fair process," the officials asked how those terms were defined. "That response is disappointing," he wrote.

Rodriguez concluded that no matter what the court had decided this time, redistricting after the 2020 census will face judicial scrutiny — "with the understanding that consideration of bail-in is always an option."

Black and Latino voters, civil rights groups, and Democratic lawmakers had sued to put Texas back under federal supervision right away, alleging racial gerrymandering to dilute the voting heft of voters of color. The case was complicated by the fact that the 2011 maps were somewhat altered two years later as a result of another lawsuit.

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Open Government
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FEC Chairwoman Ellen Weintraub

The struggle is real: FEC stalled on regulations for online political ads

The Federal Election Commission has once again punted on establishing rules for identifying who is sponsoring online political advertisements. Thursday marked the fourth consecutive meeting in which the topic fell to the wayside without a clear path forward.

FEC Chairwoman Ellen Weintraub revived debate on the topic in June when she introduced a proposal on how to regulate online political ads. In her proposal, she said the growing threat of misinformation meant that requiring transparency for political ads was "a small but necessary step."

Vice Chairman Matthew Petersen and Commissioner Caroline Hunter put forth their own proposal soon after Weintraub, but the commissioners have failed to find any middle ground. At Thursday's meeting, a decision on the agenda item was pushed off to a later date.

Weintraub's proposal says the funding source should be clearly visible on the face of the ad, with some allowance for abbreviations. But Petersen and Hunter want to allow more flexibility for tiny ads that cannot accommodate these disclaimers due to space.

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Open Government
Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images

California's Supreme Court is expediting President Trump's challenge to a new state law that would require him to release five years of tax returns in order to get on the state ballot for the 2020 election.

California court expedites Trump challenge to new tax returns requirement

The California Supreme Court is fast-tracking its review of a challenge to a new law that would require President Trump to make public his tax returns in order to get on the state's ballot for the 2020 election.

A lawsuit seeking to block implementation of the law was filed August 6 by the California Republican Party against Secretary of State Alex Padilla. It claims the law violates California's constitution.

Two other challenges, one filed by Trump's personal lawyers, are pending in federal court.

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