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“We will see a lot of lawsuits,” said Kathay Feng, the national redistricting director at the good government group Common Cause, chuckling at a question about how much litigation there will be this redistricting cycle. Redistricting, she said, “is always a breeding ground for people who are discontent with the results.”

But the litigation is starting well before the results are clear, and what is unusual this year is the focus on exactly what data is used and when it is released. Data from the decennial census has been delayed for months, due in part to the pandemic and the Trump administration’s handling of the count.

Apportionment data — the topline numbers that determine the number of House seats each state gets — was statutorily required to be released by Dec. 31, 2020, but it just arrived on Monday. Redistricting data, the more granular data that includes demographic information over small geographic areas, is not expected until later this summer.

That delay has upended the redistricting process in dozens of states that have deadlines that are incompatible with the new release calendar, which has sent states scrambling to the courts for relief.

The delay could also have a downstream effect on lawsuits that challenge the eventual map lines once they’re drawn.

“There’s a decent chance that a number of them won’t get resolved before the 2022 election,” said Jason Torchinsky, who is general counsel to the National Republican Redistricting Trust. “So the courts are going to either have to basically say ‘you filed late and I can’t issue any orders that affect 2022,’ or a court is going to have to really rush through to change something if it wants to affect 2022.”

So far, California asked for and received a redistricting extension from state courts last year, while Michigan redistricting officials recently asked courts to extend their redistricting window. Other states have sued the Census Bureau to try to force an earlier release of redistricting data.

Ohio was the first state to file a case, which was dismissed by federal district court, a decision the state appealed. Alabama also filed a federal lawsuit challenging both the release schedule and the use of “differential privacy,” a process that will blur demographic data on small geographic levels. The Census Bureau says it is necessary to protect any one individual from being identified, but mapmakers fear it makes the data functionally unusable.

Other states are considering using data other than the decennial count to draw their map lines — including data from the American Community Survey, another Census Bureau product that is independent of the decennial count and is based on a survey instead of a hard count, which would almost assuredly spawn legal challenges.

“It’s not that the ACS data is in itself wrong, but it is like grabbing a pair of sunglasses when you need to read the fine print,” Feng said. “It is not going to give you the sharp focus you need.”

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo also said he was “looking at legal options” after his state lost out on an additional House seat on Monday by 89 people. But courts have not acted on similar cases in the past, redistricting attorneys say, while noting the pandemic has introduced a new dimension of uncertainty.

“Courts or other processes are set up to treat that data as authoritative,” said Walter Olson, a senior fellow at the conservative Cato Institute who was appointed a co-chair of Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s advisory redistricting commission. “If I were a judge, I would be very reluctant to open a door … [that] inevitably is going to invite litigation and disputes, in other states and other census cycles, for a multiplicity of reasons.”

Going forward, major Supreme Court rulings issued over the last decade will shape challenges to the maps themselves: Shelby County v. Holder, which effectively ended the requirement that some states have map lines cleared by the Department of Justice or federal judges to ensure there’s no racial discrimination; and Rucho v. Common Cause, which held that the federal judiciary had no jurisdiction to police partisan gerrymandering, as opposed to racial gerrymandering.

“I think the Shelby County decision is a real impediment,” former Attorney General Eric Holder, who now spearheads the Democratic Party’s redistricting efforts, said in a Tuesday briefing. “It takes away a legal tool that the Biden Justice Department could have to protect voters.”

Plaintiffs can still bring racial gerrymandering cases in federal courts, but the success of state-based challenges to partisan maps over the last decade could point to the future of redistricting cases.

Thirty states have constitutions or laws with clauses protecting “free and equal” elections, which anti-gerrymandering advocates have used to fight partisan maps in several states, said Ben Williams, a redistricting specialist at the nonpartisan National Conference of State Legislatures. “I would imagine that you’ll see more of [those challenges] this decade, and that’ll be the biggest change. And then it just becomes a question of, are courts favorable to these claims?”

Democrats have gotten an early start on filing redistricting lawsuits. Marc Elias, who is the party’s most prominent elections attorney, and the National Redistricting Action Fund, an arm of the Holder-led National Democratic Redistricting Committee, backed three lawsuits in Pennsylvania, Minnesota and Louisiana — states where Republicans control one or both houses of the legislature but Democrats hold the governorship. The suits urged the courts to step in if (or when) there is an impasse in the mapmaking process.

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Guinea declares end to latest Ebola outbreak

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“I commend the affected communities, the government and people of Guinea, health workers, partners and everyone else whose dedicated efforts made it possible to contain this Ebola outbreak,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.

“Based on the lessons learned from the 2014–16 outbreak and through rapid, coordinated response efforts, community engagement, effective public health measures and the equitable use of vaccines, Guinea managed to control the outbreak and prevent its spread beyond its borders.” The U.N. said it will continue to provide post-illness care.

The CDC welcomed the news in a statement.

“I commend the government and first responders in Guinea for ending the country’s Ebola outbreak,” said CDC Director Rochelle Walensky. “Our heartfelt sympathies are with the people who lost loved ones to this disease. CDC remains committed to supporting survivor programs and helping strengthen global preparedness and response capacities that can prevent or extinguish future Ebola outbreaks.”

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Hard-line judiciary head wins Iran presidency amid low turnout

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In initial results, former Revolutionary Guard commander Mohsen Rezaei won 3.3 million votes and moderate Abdolnasser Hemmati got 2.4 million, said Jamal Orf, the head of Iran’s Interior Ministry election headquarters. The race’s fourth candidate, Amirhossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi, had around 1 million votes, Orf said.

Hemmati offered his congratulations on Instagram to Raisi early Saturday.

“I hope your administration provides causes for pride for the Islamic Republic of Iran, improves the economy and life with comfort and welfare for the great nation of Iran,” he wrote.

On Twitter, Rezaei praised Khamenei and the Iranian people for taking part in the vote.

“God willing, the decisive election of my esteemed brother, Ayatollah Dr. Seyyed Ebrahim Raisi, promises the establishment of a strong and popular government to solve the country’s problems,” Rezaei wrote.

The quick concessions, while not unusual in Iran’s previous elections, signaled what semiofficial news agencies inside Iran had been hinting at for hours: That the carefully controlled vote had been a blowout win for Raisi amid the boycott calls.

As night fell Friday, turnout appeared far lower than in Iran’s last presidential election in 2017. At one polling place inside a mosque in central Tehran, a Shiite cleric played soccer with a young boy as most of its workers napped in a courtyard. At another, officials watched videos on their mobile phones as state television blared beside them, offering only tight shots of locations around the country — as opposed to the long, snaking lines of past elections.

Balloting came to a close at 2.a.m. Saturday, after the government extended voting to accommodate what it called “crowding” at several polling places nationwide. Paper ballots, stuffed into large plastic boxes, were to be counted by hand through the night, and authorities said they expected to have initial results and turnout figures Saturday morning at the earliest.

“My vote will not change anything in this election, the number of people who are voting for Raisi is huge and Hemmati does not have the necessary skills for this,” said Hediyeh, a 25-year-old woman who gave only her first name while hurrying to a taxi in Haft-e Tir Square after avoiding the polls. “I have no candidate here.”

Iranian state television sought to downplay the turnout, pointing to the Gulf Arab sheikhdoms surrounding it ruled by hereditary leaders, and the lower participation in Western democracies. After a day of amplifying officials’ attempts to get out the vote, state TV broadcast scenes of jam-packed voting booths in several provinces overnight, seeking to portray a last-minute rush to the polls.

But since the 1979 revolution overthrew the shah, Iran’s theocracy has cited voter turnout as a sign of its legitimacy, beginning with its first referendum that won 98.2% support that simply asked whether or not people wanted an Islamic Republic.

The disqualifications affected reformists and those backing Rouhani, whose administration both reached the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and saw it disintegrate three years later with then-President Donald Trump’s unilateral withdrawal of America from the accord.

Voter apathy also has been fed by the devastated state of the economy and subdued campaigning amid months of surging coronavirus cases. Poll workers wore gloves and masks, and some wiped down ballot boxes with disinfectants.

If elected, Raisi would be the first serving Iranian president sanctioned by the U.S. government even before entering office over his involvement in the mass execution of political prisoners in 1988, as well as his time as the head of Iran’s internationally criticized judiciary — one of the world’s top executioners.

It also would put hard-liners firmly in control across the government as negotiations in Vienna continue to try to save a tattered deal meant to limit Iran’s nuclear program at a time when Tehran is enriching uranium at its highest levels ever, though it still remains short of weapons-grade levels. Tensions remain high with both the U.S. and Israel, which is believed to have carried out a series of attacks targeting Iranian nuclear sites as well as assassinating the scientist who created its military atomic program decades earlier.

Whoever wins will likely serve two four-year terms and thus could be at the helm at what could be one of the most crucial moments for the country in decades — the death of the 82-year-old Khamenei. Speculation already has begun that Raisi might be a contender for the position, along with Khamenei’s son, Mojtaba.

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Apathy greets Iran presidential vote dominated by hard-liner

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“My vote will not change anything in this election, the number of people who are voting for Raisi is huge and Hemmati does not have the necessary skills for this,” said Hediyeh, a 25-year-old woman who gave only her first name while hurrying to a taxi in Haft-e Tir Square after avoiding the polls. “I have no candidate here.”

Iranian state television sought to downplay the turnout, pointing to the Gulf Arab sheikhdoms surrounding it ruled by hereditary leaders and the lower participation in Western democracies. But since the 1979 revolution overthrew the shah, Iran’s theocracy has cited voter turnout as a sign of its legitimacy, beginning with its first referendum that won 98.2% support that simply asked whether or not people wanted an Islamic Republic.

The disqualifications affected reformists and those backing Rouhani, whose administration both reached the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and saw it disintegrate three years later with then-President Donald Trump’s unilateral withdrawal of America from the accord. Former hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, also blocked from running, said on social media he’d boycott the vote.

Voter apathy also has been fed by the devastated state of the economy and subdued campaigning amid months of surging coronavirus cases. Poll workers wore gloves and masks, and some wiped down ballot boxes with disinfectants.

If elected, Raisi would be the first serving Iranian president sanctioned by the U.S. government even before entering office over his involvement in the mass execution of political prisoners in 1988, as well as his time as the head of Iran’s internationally criticized judiciary — one of the world’s top executioners.

It also would put hard-liners firmly in control across the government as negotiations in Vienna continue to try to save a tattered deal meant to limit Iran’s nuclear program at a time when Tehran is enriching uranium at its highest levels ever, though it still remains short of weapons-grade levels. Tensions remain high with both the U.S. and Israel, which is believed to have carried out a series of attacks targeting Iranian nuclear sites as well as assassinating the scientist who created its military atomic program decades earlier.

Whoever wins will likely serve two four-year terms and thus could be at the helm at what could be one of the most crucial moments for the country in decades — the death of the 82-year-old Khamenei. Speculation already has begun that Raisi might be a contender for the position, along with Khamenei’s son, Mojtaba.

Khamenei cast the first vote from Tehran, urging the public to “go ahead, choose and vote.”

Raisi, wearing a black turban that identifies him in Shiite tradition as a direct descendant of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad, voted from a mosque in southern Tehran. The cleric acknowledged in comments afterward that some may be “so upset that they don’t want to vote.”

“I beg everyone, the lovely youths, and all Iranian men and women speaking in any accent or language from any region and with any political views, to go and vote and cast their ballots,” Raisi said.

But few appeared to heed the call. There are more than 59 million eligible voters in Iran, a nation of over 80 million people. However, the state-linked Iranian Student Polling Agency has estimated a turnout will be just 44%, which would be the lowest since the revolution. Officials gave no turnout figures Friday, though results could come Saturday.

Fears about a low turnout have some warning Iran may be turning away from being an Islamic Republic — a government with elected civilian leadership overseen by a supreme leader from its Shiite clergy — to a country more tightly governed by its supreme leader, who already has final say on all matters of state and oversees its defense and atomic program.

“This is not acceptable,” said former President Mohammad Khatami, a reformist who sought to change the theocracy from the inside during eight years in office. “How would this conform to being a republic or Islamic?”

For his part, Khamenei warned of “foreign plots” seeking to depress turnout in a speech Wednesday. A flyer handed out on the streets of Tehran by hard-liners echoed that and bore the image of Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in 2020. A polling station was set up by Soleimani’s grave on Friday.

Some voters appeared to echo that call.

“We cannot leave our destiny in the hands of foreigners and let them decide for us and create conditions that will be absolutely harmful for us,” said Tehran voter Shahla Pazouki.

Also hurting a moderate like Hemmati is the public anger aimed at Rouhani over the collapse of the deal, despite ongoing talks in Vienna to revive it. Iran’s already-ailing economy has suffered since, with double-digit inflation and mass unemployment.

“It is useless,” said Ali Hosseini, a 36-year-old unemployed resident in southern Tehran, about voting. “Anyone who wins the election after some time says he cannot solve problem of the economy because of intervention by influential people. He then forgets his promises and we poor people again remain disappointed.”

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