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Documenting America’s Path to Recovery #240: May 5, 2021

Welcome to Documenting America’s Path to Recovery. Today we look at:

  • Changes in coronavirus restrictions in Delaware
  • A pause on reopening in Washington
  • COVID-19 policy changes from this time last year 

We are committed to keeping you updated on everything from mask requirements to curfews to vaccine-related policies. We will keep you abreast of major developments—especially those affecting your daily life. Want to know what we covered yesterday? Click here.

Since our last edition

What rules and restrictions are changing in each state? For a continually updated article, click here.

  • Delaware (Democratic trifecta): Gov. John Carney (D) announced the state will ease COVID-19 restrictions starting May 21. Capacity restrictions will end for places of worship and most businesses (including restaurants and retailers), allowing facilities to use as much capacity as social distancing allows. Social distancing requirements will also decrease from six to three feet. The indoor mask requirement will remain in place.
  • Indiana (Republican trifecta): On Tuesday, Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) vetoed Senate Bill 5, which would require county commissioners or city councils to approve local public health orders that impose additional restrictions to health orders issued by the governor. The House and Senate passed the bill 65-29 and 37-12, respectively, on April 21. The legislature can override Holcomb’s veto with a majority vote in both chambers. 
  • Montana (Republican trifecta): Gov. Greg Gianforte (R) announced the state will opt-out of all federal pandemic-related unemployment benefit programs and transition back to pre-pandemic eligibility and benefits by June 30. Montana will be the first state to fully opt-out of the federal unemployment programs. Gianforte also announced the state will offer $1,200 Return-to-Work bonuses for people who get off unemployment benefits after May 4 and complete four paid weeks of employment. For more information on the unemployment changes, click here. For more information on the Return-to-Work bonus initiative, click here.
  • Oregon (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Kate Brown (D) announced that effective May 7, 24 counties will be in the state’s High Risk level, four will be at Moderate Risk, and eight will have Lower Risk restrictions. In the current period from April 30 – May 6, 23 counties are in the state’s High Risk level, three are at Moderate Risk, and 10 have Lower Risk restrictions. To see restrictions in a specific county or risk level, click here.
  • Pennsylvania (divided government): Gov. Tom Wolf (D) announced all mitigation measures except the mask mandate (including capacity restrictions for businesses) will end May 31 at 12:01 a.m. Wolf said the mask mandate will end when 70% of residents age 18 and older are fully vaccinated. Localities will still be able to implement stricter measures. 
  • Washington (Democratic trifecta): On Tuesday, May 5, Gov. Jay Inslee (D) announced he was pausing the reopening plan for two weeks while officials evaluate COVID-19 data. The pause means that all counties will remain in their current phase of reopening.

This time last year: Wednesday, May 6, 2020

The first case of COVID-19 in the U.S. was confirmed on Jan. 21, 2020. But it wasn’t until March when the novel coronavirus upended life for most Americans. Throughout March and April, many states issued stay-at-home orders, closed schools, restricted travel, and changed election dates. Many of those policies remain in place today. Each week, we’ll look back at some of the defining policy responses of the early coronavirus pandemic.

Here’s what happened this time last year. To see a list of all policy changes in each category, click the links below.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020:

  • Stay-at-home orders:
    • Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) allowed the statewide stay-at-home order to expire. Stitt first issued the order on April 1. 
  • Travel restrictions
    • Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) lifted an April 4 order that restricted hotels and short-term rentals to essential workers. The order was enacted to discourage recreational travel into Arkansas.
  • Mask requirements:
    • A Massachusetts order requiring individuals to wear masks in public places where social distancing is not possible took effect. Gov. Charlie Baker (R) issued the order May 1. Massachusetts was the 12th state to issue a statewide mask mandate.  


U.S. Census Bureau releases congressional apportionment counts

Ballot Bulletin

Redistricting round-up: U.S. Census Bureau releases congressional apportionment counts, kicking off redistricting cycle

On April 26, the U.S. Census Bureau released congressional apportionment counts. Six states — Texas (two seats), Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina, and Oregon — gained seats. Seven states — California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia— each lost a seat.

Of the six states that gained congressional seats, three are Republican trifectas (Texas, Florida, and Montana), meaning Republicans control the governorship and majorities in both state legislative chambers in each. Two (Colorado and Oregon) are Democratic trifectas, and one (North Carolina) has a divided government.

Of the seven states that lost congressional seats, three (California, Illinois, and New York) are Democratic trifectas, two (Ohio and West Virginia) are Republican trifectas, and two (Michigan and Pennsylvania) have divided governments.

The release of apportionment counts marks the unofficial start of the 2021-2022 redistricting cycle. Throughout this year and next, policymakers (including state legislators, governors, and special redistricting commissions) will draft and implement new state legislative and congressional district maps, which will remain in force for the next 10 years.

Earlier: The Census Bureau was originally set to deliver apportionment counts by Dec. 31, 2020. However, on Nov. 19, 2020, Census Bureau Director Steve Dillingham announced that, “during post-collection processing, certain processing anomalies [had] been discovered.” Dillingham said that he had directed the bureau “to utilize all resources available to resolve this as expeditiously as possible,” suggesting a delay in delivering the apportionment counts.  On Jan. 27, 2021, Kathleen Styles, a Census Bureau official, announced that the final apportionment counts would be delivered by April 30.

The census and reapportionment: Every ten years, the nation conducts the census, a complete count of the U.S. population. The data gleaned from the census determines congressional apportionment. Apportionment is the process by which the 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives are allotted to the states on the basis of population, as required under Article I, Section 2, of the U.S. Constitution. A state can gain seats in the House if its population grows – or lose seats if its population decreases – relative to populations in other states.

The census and redistricting: Federal law requires that congressional and state legislative districts have equal populations (as nearly as practicable). To meet this requirement, redistricting authorities rely on detailed Census Bureau data. The Census Bureau was originally set to deliver redistricting data to the states by April 30. However, in light of the aforementioned processing issues and delays, the Census Bureau shifted the timeline. Upon announcing the 2020 apportionment counts, Acting Census Bureau Director Ron Jarmin said, “Our work doesn’t stop here. Now that the apportionment counts are delivered, we will begin the additional activities needed to create and deliver the redistricting data that were previously delayed due to COVID-19.” The Census Bureau expects to deliver the raw data to the states by Aug. 16. The “full redistricting data with toolkits for ease of us” will be delivered by Sept. 30.

Release of apportionment counts triggers lawsuits in Louisiana, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania 

On April 26, Democracy Docket filed three separate lawsuits on behalf of registered voters in three states, asking courts in Louisiana, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania to intervene and set up timelines for enacting court-drawn maps for the 2022 election cycle “in the near-certain event” that governors and legislatures in each state fail to do so. The substantive language used in the three suits is similar. All three allege that “there is no reasonable prospect that … political branches will reach consensus to enact” lawful district maps in a timely manner because the three states operate under divided governments (i.e., both the Democratic and Republican parties control at least one of the following: the governorship, the upper chamber of the state legislature, and the lower chamber). In the 2010-2011 redistricting cycle, Ballotpedia tracked redistricting lawsuits in 37 states. 

  • Case names and numbers

Oklahoma lawmakers unveil draft maps for state legislature 

On April 21, Oklahoma lawmakers released their proposed district maps for the state Senate and House of Representatives, making Oklahoma the first state in the 2021-2022 cycle to produce draft maps. In lieu of final 2020 census data, which has not yet been made available to the states, lawmakers used the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey data for 2015 through 2019 to draft their proposals. Click here to view an interactive presentation of the proposed maps.

New York Gov. Cuomo mulls legal challenge over loss of congressional seat 

On April 27, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) told reporters that he was considering the state’s “legal options” with respect to New York’s loss of one congressional seat to reapportionment. According to estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau, New York could have kept this seat if 89 additional residents had been counted in New York. Cuomo said, “Do I think it was accurate within 89? No. And we’re looking at legal options. Because when you’re talking about 89, that could be a minor mistake in counting.” According to Janna Johnson, an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota Humphrey School of Public Affairs, no state has ever succeeded in challenging apportionment counts in court.

Pennsylvania Supreme Court appoints chair of state legislative redistricting commission 

On May 3, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court announced the appointment of Mark Nordenberg as chair of the Pennsylvania Legislative Reapportionment Commission. Nordenberg, Chair of the University of Pittsburgh’s Institute of Politics, joins Sen. Majority Leader Kim Ward (R), Sen. Minority Leader Jay Costa (D), House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff (R), and House Minority Leader Joanna McClinton (D). The state supreme court appointed Nordenberg as chair after the four other members of the commission failed to agree on an appointment. The commission has the sole authority to draft and implement new state legislative district maps. 


Austin, Texas, voters approve ballot measure for municipal ranked-choice voting, if state allows

On May 1, voters in Austin, Texas, voted 57.95%-42.05% in favor of Proposition E, amending the city’s charter “to provide for the use of ranked choice voting in city elections, if such voting is permitted by state law.” 

What does “if such voting is permitted by state law” mean? According to the Austin Law Department, ranked-choice voting is not currently permitted under Texas state law. A spokesperson for the department said, “Ranked-choice voting would not be implemented in Austin until or unless the Texas Constitution was amended and/or until the state Legislature amended the Texas Election Code to allow it.”

State law currently makes no mention of ranked-choice voting. Prior to 1985, the Texas Election Code did allow for “preferential voting” (i.e., ranked-choice voting) as an alternative electoral system. This provision was eliminated in 1985 during a major recodification of the state’s election laws.  

In a 2001 letter to Austin City Attorney John Steiner, then-Secretary of State Henry Cuellar said:

It is [this office’s] opinion that the meaning of the word “majority,” as the Texas Legislature has used it in the [Election] Code and as it has been interpreted by the courts, is majority in the “classic” or “traditional” sense, i.e., a majority vote consists of more than half of the original votes, as cast and not re-assigned by the voter’s secondary or tertiary intent, and if no candidate receives more than half the votes, a runoff election is required. Barring a conflict with the Texas Constitution, the Texas Legislature would need to amend state law, or to repeal the statutory conflict, in order to restore the city’s discretion to adopt preferential voting. 

What happens next? It remains to be seen whether Texas lawmakers will adopt a law permitting cities and counties to use ranked-choice voting. There is no legislation to that effect currently before the Texas Legislature. 

About ranked-choice voting: In a ranked-choice voting system (RCV), voters rank candidates by preference on their ballots. If a candidate wins a majority of first-preference votes, he or she is declared the winner. If no candidate wins a majority of first-preference votes, the candidate with the fewest first-preference votes is eliminated. First-preference votes cast for the failed candidate are eliminated, lifting the second-preference choices indicated on those ballots. A new tally is conducted to determine whether any candidate has won a majority of the adjusted votes. The process is repeated until a candidate wins an outright majority.

Ranked-choice voting is currently used, largely at the municipal level, in the following states: California, Colorado, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, and Utah. Maine is the only state that has thus far implemented ranked-choice voting at the statewide level. Alaska will begin using ranked-choice voting for federal and state general elections starting in the 2022 election cycle. 


Legislation update: Redistricting, electoral systems, and primary systems bills 

Redistricting legislation: So far this year, we’ve tracked at least 144 redistricting-related bills up for consideration in state legislatures. 

Redistricting legislation in the United States, 2021 
Current as of May 5, 2021

Electoral systems legislation: So far this year, we’ve tracked at least 143 bills dealing with electoral systems that are up for consideration in state legislatures. 

Electoral systems legislation in the United States, 2021 
Current as of May 5, 2021

Primary systems legislation: So far this year, we’ve tracked at least 19 bills dealing with primary systems that are up for consideration in state legislatures. 

Primary systems legislation in the United States, 2021 
Current as of May 5, 2021



Police-related ballot measure may be on Nov. 2021 Minneapolis ballot

Ballotpedia's Daily Brew

Minneapolis group submits signatures for initiative to replace police department with department of public safety

A Minneapolis group—Yes 4 Minneapolis—submitted over 20,000 signatures to the city clerk for an initiative to repeal and replace provisions in the city charter governing the police department. In order for the initiative to appear before voters in 2021, 11,906 signatures—5% of votes cast in Minneapolis in the last statewide general election—must be deemed valid. The city clerk has 10 days to verify signatures after the city’s charter review commission receives the measure at today’s scheduled meeting. If the city clerk finds that not enough signatures are valid, the group has ten days to file additional signatures.

The initiative would remove language concerning the city’s police department from the city charter, including provisions requiring minimum funding for the department and giving the mayor control over the department. It would replace the police department with a department of public safety. Under the initiative, the mayor would nominate—and the city council would appoint—the commissioner of the public safety department. The city council is also considering a potential 2021 charter amendment concerning the structure of the city’s police department.

Last year, the Minneapolis city council approved a measure for the ballot to remove the police department from the city charter and replace it with a department of community safety and violence prevention. This measure would have given the city council, rather than the mayor, control of the department. The Minneapolis Charter Commission did not send the proposal back to the city council until after the city council’s deadline to add the measure to the November 2020 ballot, which prevented the measure from going before voters.

In 2021, Ballotpedia identified five certified local ballot measures concerning police oversight, the powers and structure of oversight commissions, police practices, law enforcement department structure and administration, reductions in or restrictions on law enforcement budgets, law enforcement training requirements, and body and dashboard camera footage.

Voters in Austin and San Antonio, Texas, decided police-related measures last Saturday, May 1. Austin voters approved a measure to authorize the city council to determine how the director of the Office of Police Oversight is appointed or removed. San Antonio voters rejected a measure that would have repealed local authority for collective bargaining with the San Antonio Police Officers Association to negotiate wages, healthcare, leave, and other policies. 

In 2020, Ballotpedia identified 20 notable police-related measures in 10 cities and four counties that qualified for the ballot after the death of George Floyd in May 2020. All 20 measures were approved.

Read on

Redistricting Review – a summary of this week’s map-making news 

The U.S. Census Bureau released the apportionment counts based on the 2020 census for the House of Representatives on April 26, which effectively began the 2021-2022 redistricting cycle. Six states—Texas, Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina, and Oregon—gained seats in the U.S. House. Texas gained two, and the rest gained one. Seven states—California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia—each lost a seat.

During this year and next, state legislators, governors, and special redistricting commissions will draft and implement new congressional and state legislative district maps that will be used for the next 10 years. We’ll bring you regular updates here in the Brew about all of the many redistricting ongoings. The pace is expected to be fast-and-furious in the coming months and year ahead. 

Louisiana, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania

  • The group Democracy Docket filed three separate lawsuits on April 26 asking courts in Louisiana, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania to intervene and set up timelines for enacting court-drawn maps for the 2022 election cycle “in the near-certain event” that governors and legislatures in each state fail to do so. All three lawsuits allege that “there is no reasonable prospect that … political branches will reach consensus to enact” lawful district maps in a timely manner because the three states operate under divided governments (i.e., both the Democratic and Republican parties control at least one of the following: the governorship, the upper chamber of the state legislature, and the lower chamber).

Oklahoma

  • State lawmakers released proposed district maps for the state senate and house on April 21, making Oklahoma the first state in the 2021-2022 cycle to produce draft maps. In lieu of final 2020 census data, which has not yet been made available to the states, lawmakers used the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey data for 2015 through 2019 to draft their proposals. 

New York

  • Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) told reporters on April 27 that he was considering the state’s “legal options” with respect to New York’s loss of one congressional seat to reapportionment. According to estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau, New York could have kept this seat if 89 additional residents had been counted in New York. According to Janna Johnson, an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota Humphrey School of Public Affairs, no state has ever succeeded in challenging apportionment counts in court.

Pennsylvania

  • The Pennsylvania Supreme Court announced the appointment of Mark Nordenberg as chair of the Pennsylvania Legislative Reapportionment Commission on May 3. Nordenberg joins Sen. Majority Leader Kim Ward (R), Sen. Minority Leader Jay Costa (D), House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff (R), and House Minority Leader Joanna McClinton (D). The state supreme court appointed Nordenberg as chair after the four other members of the commission failed to agree on an appointment. The commission has the sole authority to draft and implement new state legislative district maps.  

Read on 

Local roundup: Results from Saturday’s municipal elections in Texas

Tuesday’s Brew reviewed the results of Saturday’s local ballot measure elections in Austin, Dallas, Lubbock, and San Antonio. Voters also cast ballots in local and municipal elections across the state. Here are the highlights from those results:

San Antonio

  • Mayor Ron Nirenberg won re-election among a 14-candidate field, receiving 62% of the vote.  Greg Brockhouse, who lost the runoff election to Nirenberg in 2019, 51% to 49%, finished second with 31.5% of the vote. Nirenberg was first elected San Antonio mayor in 2017, defeating then-incumbent Ivy Taylor in a runoff. Media outlets have reported that Nirenberg identifies as an independent.

Fort Worth

  • Deborah Peoples and Mattie Parker advanced to a June 5 runoff from a 10-candidate field, with Peoples receiving 33.6% of the vote and Parker getting 30.8%. Brian Byrd, the third-place finisher, received 14.7%. Incumbent Betsy Price, who the Texas Tribune identifies as a Republican, did not run for re-election. Although municipal elections in Fort Worth are officially nonpartisan, Peoples is the chair of the Tarrant County Democratic Party. Parker has not previously held elected office. She received endorsements from Price and state Reps. Craig Goldman (R) and Phil King (R).

Arlington

  • Jim Ross and Michael Glaspie advanced to a runoff from among seven candidates. Ross received 47.9% of the vote, and Glaspie received 21.3% of the vote. Incumbent Jeff Williams could not seek re-election due to term limits. Local news outlets identify Williams as a Republican. The Arlington Spectator, a local blog, posted a spreadsheet showing that Glaspie had voted in two of the previous six Republican primaries and that Ross had voted in two of the previous six Democratic primaries.

Read on



Ballotpedia releases federal judicial vacancy count for April 2021

In this month’s federal judicial vacancy count, Ballotpedia tracked nominations, confirmations, and vacancies to all United States Article III federal courts from April 1 to May 1, 2021. Ballotpedia publishes the federal judicial vacancy count at the start of each month.

HIGHLIGHTS

Vacancies: There have been six new judicial vacancies since the March 2021 report. There are 75 vacancies out of 870 active Article III judicial positions on courts covered in this report. Including the United States Court of Federal Claims and the United States territorial courts, 79 of 890 active federal judicial positions are vacant.

Nominations: There were three new nominations since the March 2021 report.

Confirmations: There have been no new confirmations since the March 2021 report.

New vacancies

There were 75 vacancies out of 870 active Article III judicial positions, a total vacancy percentage of 8.6.

• The nine-member U.S. Supreme Court does not have any vacancies.

• Seven (3.9%) of the 179 U.S. Appeals Court positions are vacant.

• 66 (9.8%) of the 673 U.S. District Court positions are vacant.*

• Two (22.2%) of the nine U.S. Court of International Trade positions are vacant.

*District court count does not include the territorial courts.

Six judges left active status, creating Article III life-term judicial vacancies, since the previous vacancy count. As Article III judicial positions, vacancies must be filled by a nomination from the president. Nominations are subject to confirmation on the advice and consent of the U.S. Senate.

• Judge Catherine Blake assumed senior status on the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland.

• Judge Emmet Sullivan assumed senior status on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

• Judge Amy Totenberg assumed senior status on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.

• Judge Timothy Stanceu assumed senior status on the U.S. Court of International Trade.

• Judge Colleen McMahon assumed senior status on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

• Judge George Daniels assumed senior status on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

U.S. Court of Appeals vacancies

The following chart tracks the number of vacancies on the United States Court of Appeals from the inauguration of President Joe Biden (D) to the date indicated on the chart.

File:US Court of Appeals vacancies chart 050121.png

The following maps show the number of vacancies on the United States Court of Appeals at the inauguration of President Joe Biden (D) and as of May 1, 2021.

File:UUbHy-court-of-appeals-vacancies-biden-inauguration-.png
File:T7YhD-court-of-appeals-vacancies-may-1-2021-.png

New nominations

President Joe Biden (D) has announced three new nominations since the March 2021 report.

New confirmations

As of May 1, 2021, there have been no federal judicial confirmations during the Biden administration.

Additional Reading:



Republicans lost a net 187 state legislative seats during the Trump presidency

During President Donald Trump’s (R) term, Republicans lost a net 187 state legislative seats. In 61 of the 99 state legislative chambers, the Democratic Party held more seats following the 2020 general election than it did after the general election in 2016.

Five chambers in four states flipped from Republican to Democratic control during the course of the Trump presidency: the Colorado State Senate, Maine State Senate, Minnesota House of Representatives, and both chambers in the Virginia General Assembly. In Colorado, Maine, and Virginia, these flips resulted in the creation of Democratic trifectas, where Democrats controlled both legislative chambers and the governorship. Republicans did not gain control of any chambers by the end of Trump’s presidency that they did not already control at its start.

Democrats saw positive margin changes in 34 states during Trump’s presidency, either by increasing an already-existing majority or narrowing/flipping a Republican majority. The largest shifts in Democrats’ favor came in Connecticut, Virginia, and Georgia. Republicans saw positive margin changes in 13 states. The largest shifts in Republicans’ favor came in Kentucky, West Virginia, and Louisiana. There were no shifts in Alaska or Nevada. Nebraska, which has a nonpartisan legislature, was excluded from this analysis.

Across all presidencies since 1921, the president’s party has lost a net average of 552 state legislative seats. Trump’s net loss of 187 Republican state legislative seats was the smallest loss of seats for the president’s party since Harry Truman’s (D) presidency, which saw a net loss of 138 Democratic seats. Two presidents—George H.W. Bush (R) and Ronald Reagan (R)—gained state legislative seats over the course of their presidencies. During the past century, the largest Republican losses occurred under the Herbert Hoover (R) administration with a net loss of 1,662 Republican seats from 1929 to 1933. The largest Democratic losses occurred under the Barack Obama (D) administration with a net loss of 948 Democratic seats from 2009 to 2017.

For more detailed information including additional historical comparisons, chamber-specific changes, and methodology, click here:

https://ballotpedia.org/Changes_in_state_legislative_seats_during_the_Trump_presidency



Here’s a round-up of this week’s redistricting news: May 5, 2021

Last week, the U.S. Census Bureau released apportionment counts for the U.S. House of Representatives, kicking off the 2021-2022 redistricting cycle. Throughout this year and next, policymakers (including state legislators, governors, and special redistricting commissions) will draft and implement new state legislative and congressional district maps, which will remain in force for the next 10 years. Beginning today, we will provide weekly updates on major redistricting events across all 50 states.

Oklahoma lawmakers unveil draft maps for state legislature: On April 21, Oklahoma lawmakers released their proposed district maps for the state senate and house of representatives, making Oklahoma the first state in the 2021-2022 cycle to produce draft maps. In lieu of final 2020 census data, which has not yet been made available to the states, lawmakers used the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey data for 2015 through 2019 to draft their proposals.

Release of apportionment counts triggers lawsuits in Louisiana, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania: On April 26, Democracy Docket filed three separate lawsuits on behalf of registered voters in three states, asking courts in Louisiana, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania to intervene and set up timelines for enacting court-drawn maps for the 2022 election cycle “in the near-certain event” that governors and legislatures in each state fail to do so. The substantive language used in the three suits is similar. All three allege that “there is no reasonable prospect that … political branches will reach consensus to enact” lawful district maps in a timely manner because the three states operate under divided governments (i.e., both the Democratic and Republican parties control at least one of the following: the governorship, the upper chamber of the state legislature, and the lower chamber).

New York Gov. Cuomo mulls legal challenge over loss of congressional seat: On April 27, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) told reporters that he was considering the state’s “legal options” with respect to New York’s loss of one congressional seat to reapportionment. According to estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau, the state could have kept the seat if 89 additional New York residents had been counted. Cuomo said, “Do I think it was accurate within 89? No. And we’re looking at legal options. Because when you’re talking about 89, that could be a minor mistake in counting.” According to Janna Johnson, an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota Humphrey School of Public Affairs, no state has ever succeeded in challenging apportionment counts in court.

Pennsylvania Supreme Court appoints chairman of state legislative redistricting commission: On May 3, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court announced the appointment of Mark Nordenberg as chairman of the Pennsylvania Legislative Reapportionment Commission. Nordenberg, Chair of the University of Pittsburgh’s Institute of Politics, joins Sen. Majority Leader Kim Ward (R), Sen. Minority Leader Jay Costa (D), House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff (R), and House Minority Leader Joanna McClinton (D). The state supreme court appointed Nordenberg as chairman after the four other members of the commission failed to agree on an appointment. The commission has the sole authority to draft and implement new state legislative district maps.

Additional Reading:



Alaska ends coronavirus state of emergency for second time

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) lifted the state’s coronavirus emergency order on April 30. Dunleavy’s emergency powers originally expired Feb. 14, causing his emergency declaration to end. But the emergency order’s expiration prevented the state from accessing an additional $8 million of federal food assistance benefits for April.

In response, the legislature passed House Bill 76, and Dunleavy signed the legislation on April 30. The bill retroactively extended the disaster emergency from Feb. 14 through the end of 2021. The retroactive extension allowed the state to access the federal food assistance benefits. 

The bill also allowed Department of Health and Social Services Director Adam Crump to issue a limited disaster emergency order April 30 to secure future federal assistance. After Gov. Dunleavy signed the legislation and Crump signed the limited order, the governor re-ended the state’s emergency order, effective April 30.

HB 76 passed the state Senate April 28. The state House approved the legislation April 29. The new law also enacts legal immunity for businesses against claims related to COVID-19.



Minneapolis group submits signatures for Nov. 2 initiative to replace police department with department of public safety

On April 30, Yes 4 Minneapolis submitted over 20,000 signatures for an initiative to repeal and replace provisions in the city charter governing the police department. This initiative would remove language concerning the city’s police department from the city charter, including provisions requiring minimum funding for the department and giving the mayor control over the department. It would replace the police department with a department of public safety. Under the initiative, the mayor would nominate—and the city council would appoint—the commissioner of the public safety department.

A total of 11,906 valid signatures—5% of votes cast in Minneapolis in the last statewide general election—are required to put the initiative on the Nov. 2 ballot. The city clerk has 10 days to verify signatures after the city’s charter review commission considers the measure at its May 5 meeting.

The city council is also considering a potential 2021 charter amendment concerning the structure of the city’s police department.

In 2020, the city council approved a measure for the ballot to remove the police department from the city charter and replace it with the department of community safety and violence prevention. The 2020 measure would have given the city council, rather than the mayor, control of the department. The Minneapolis Charter Commission did not send the proposal back to the city council until after the city council’s deadline to add the measure to the November 2020 ballot. This effectively blocked the measure.

In 2021, Ballotpedia is covering local ballot measures concerning police oversight, the powers and structure of oversight commissions, police practices, law enforcement department structure and administration, reductions in or restrictions on law enforcement budgets, law enforcement training requirements, and body and dashboard camera footage. Ballotpedia has tracked five certified measures in 2021 so far. 

Voters in Austin and San Antonio, Texas, decided police-related measures on May 1. Austin voters approved a measure to authorize the city council to determine how the director of the Office of Police Oversight is appointed or removed. San Antonio voters rejected a measure that would have repealed local authority for collective bargaining with the San Antonio Police Officers Association to negotiate wages, healthcare, leave, and other policies. 

In 2020, Ballotpedia identified 20 notable police-related measures in 10 cities and four counties within seven states that appeared on local ballots. All 20 were approved.

Additional Reading:



U.S. Supreme Court holds rare May sitting on May 4

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) held its May argument sitting on May 4, hearing one case in a one-hour session. In keeping with each sitting of this term, the court heard arguments remotely and provided live audio to the public.

Terry v. United States concerns sentencing reductions for crack cocaine offenses. In 2008, Tarahrick Terry was convicted of and pled guilty to possessing cocaine base, also referred to as crack cocaine, with the intent to distribute. In 2010, Congress passed the Fair Sentencing Act, modifying the weight limits for drug offenses. In 2018, Congress enacted the First Step Act, which defined covered offenses, including crack cocaine offenses, and set out rules for making relevant sentencing reductions. Terry petitioned the U.S. district court to reduce his sentence. The district court ruled that his offenses were not covered and were not eligible for reduction. On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit upheld the district court’s judgment. Terry petitioned the Supreme Court to review the lower court’s findings.

The case was originally scheduled for argument on April 20, 2021, but the session was postponed due to a change in legal counsel.

During the 2019-2020 term, the Supreme Court heard 10 hours of oral argument in 13 cases during its May argument session. Those cases had been postponed from the March and April sittings earlier in the term due to public health recommendations in response to COVID-19. According to SCOTUSblog, the last time the Supreme Court held a full May sitting was during the 1968 October Term.

Additional Reading:



April 2021 partisan composition of state legislative seats: 54.3% Republicans, 44.9% Democrats

Ballotpedia’s April partisan count of state legislative seats found that 54.29% of state legislators are Republicans and 44.94% are Democrats. 

At the end of every month, Ballotpedia tallies the partisan balance of state legislatures, which refers to which political party holds a majority of seats in each chamber. Republicans currently control 61 chambers, while Democrats control 37. One chamber, the Alaska House of Representatives, has a power-sharing agreement between the two parties.

At the end of April, Republicans held 1,091 of the 1,972 total state senate seats, while Democrats held 869. The Republicans gained two seats since March, while the Democrats’ number of seats remained the same. Republicans also held 2,917 of the 5,411 total state House seats (down one from last month), while Democrats controlled 2,449 (up two). Third-party or independent officeholders held 38 seats, and there were 19 vacancies.

In April, Democrats had a net gain of two seats, while Republicans have a net gain of one. Compared to April 2020, Democrats have lost 142 state legislative seats, while Republicans have gained 151 seats. 

Additional Reading: