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Colorado school board recall moves forward

An effort to recall three of the five members of the Cripple Creek-Victor School District RE-1 school board in Colorado was approved to move forward on April 17. Board President Timothy Braun, Treasurer Dennis Jones, and Secretary Tonya Martin were targeted for recall due to “multiple violations of Colorado state statutes, school board policies and resolutions, Sunshine laws and the Colorado Open Records Act,” according to Patty Waddle, a leader of the recall effort.
 
Braun, Jones, and Martin disputed all of the claims listed on the recall petitions. Braun said Waddle was a disgruntled former employee. The three board members have until May 2 to file protests against the recall election. If they protest the recall, a hearing will be held on the validity of the petition signatures and the length of the ballot summary. If they do not file protests, the county will schedule a recall election within 60 days.
 
The recall petitions were approved for circulation by the Teller County Clerk and Recorder in January 2019. To get the recall on the ballot, recall supporters had to submit the petitions with 400 signatures from active, registered voters in the school district for each targeted board member by March 11. The county did not verify enough of the signatures that were first submitted, and recall supporters were given until April 10 to submit more signatures. They submitted the additional signatures, which the county approved on April 17.
 
Ballotpedia has tracked five school board recall efforts in 2019 targeting 10 board members. One recall effort against two board members was on the ballot so far this year. In 2018, Ballotpedia covered a total of 206 recall efforts against 299 elected officials. Of the 123 officials whose recalls made it to the ballot, 77 were recalled for a rate of 62.6 percent. That was higher than the 56.9 percent rate and 56.3 percent rate for 2017 and 2016 recalls, respectively.
 


Mayor-endorsed candidates for Newark school board win election for ninth consecutive year

Three at-large seats on the Newark Public Schools school board in New Jersey were up for general election on April 16. Incumbent Tave Padilla, A’Dorian Murray-Thomas, and Shayvonne Anderson ran together on the Moving Newark Schools Forward slate and were endorsed by Mayor Ras Baraka. They won the 2019 election and were the only candidates to receive double-digit percentages of the vote. This marked the ninth consecutive election where a slate endorsed by the mayor won. The board is comprised entirely of members who were backed by Baraka.
 
Incumbent Leah Owens, Denise Cole, and Saafir Jenkins ran together on the Children Over Politics team. The other candidates in the race—Maggie Freeman, Priscilla Garces, Arlene Ramsey, Yolanda Johnson, and Denise Ann Crawford—ran as independents. The third incumbent, Deborah Kim Thompson-Gaddy, did not file for re-election.
 
The 2019 election was the second since local control was returned to the district by the New Jersey State Board of Education on September 13, 2017. The state originally took over the district in 1995. The change in 2017 gave control to the Newark Board of Education to make decisions about finances, operations, curriculum, and programs in the district.
 


Honolulu voters choose different winner in April re-do of November election

A special election for District 4 on the Honolulu City Council was held on April 13, 2019. It was called after the Hawaii Supreme Court invalidated the results from the district’s regular election on November 6, 2018. Both candidates who ran in the regular election, Trevor Ozawa and Tommy Waters, were on the ballot in the special election.
 
Ozawa previously held the District 4 seat but was removed on January 2 pending the special election. A total of 34,005 votes were cast in the re-do election, with Waters receiving 51.4% of the vote to Ozawa’s 48.5%. In the November 2018 regular election, then-incumbent Ozawa had defeated Waters by 22 votes out of over 36,000 ballots cast, a margin of 0.06 percentage points.
 
Waters challenged the November results, arguing that some mailed absentee ballots should not have been counted. The court determined that 350 absentee mail-in ballots were received after the 6:00 pm election-day deadline and were incorrectly counted and added to the valid ballots. Because there was no way to distinguish between valid and invalid ballots and more ballots were incorrectly counted than the number of votes that separated the two candidates, the court called for a new election.
 
Waters and Ozawa previously faced off in the 2014 general election. In that race, Ozawa defeated Waters by 47 votes out of 37,162 ballots cast, a margin of 0.2 percentage points. Waters challenged those results and asked the Hawaii Supreme Court to call for a recount, but his request was rejected.
 
Honolulu is the largest city in Hawaii and the 53rd-largest city in the U.S. by population.
 


How many of the largest cities’ mayors are affiliated with a political party?

In most of the nation’s largest cities, mayoral elections are officially nonpartisan, though many officeholders and candidates are affiliated with political parties.
 
The mayors of 62 of the nation’s 100 largest cities are Democrats. There are 29 Republican mayors, four independents, four nonpartisan mayors, and one of unknown affiliation.
 
As part of Ballotpedia’s coverage of the 100 largest U.S. cities, we are tracking the 2019 mayoral elections in those cities and noting partisan changes that may occur. Thirty-one mayoral elections in those cities are being held in 2019. In 20 of those cities, the incumbent was Democratic at the start of 2019. Seven incumbents were Republican, three were independent, and the affiliation of one was unknown.
 
In the 10 largest U.S. cities, eight mayors are Democrats, one is Republican, and one is independent.
 
2019 is a mayoral election year in six of those cities: Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Antonio, and Dallas, Texas. Five of those cities began the year with a Democratic mayor and one (San Antonio), with an independent mayor.
 
One partisan change has taken place in 2019. Voters in Phoenix elected Kate Gallego (D) in a nonpartisan mayoral runoff election on March 12, 2019. Gallego succeeded Thelda Williams, a Republican. The general election was held on November 6, 2018.
 
Democratic mayors oversaw 67 of the 100 largest cities at the beginning of 2016, 64 at the beginning of 2017, 63 at the start of 2018, and 61 at the start of 2019.
 
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Lawmakers and voters consider distribution requirements for initiative signature drives

Voters in at least two states, Arkansas and Montana, will decide ballot measures in 2020 concerning distribution requirements for future initiative signature petition drives. A distribution requirement is a rule requiring that petitions for a ballot measure or candidate must be signed by a minimum number or percent of voters from different political subdivisions in order for the ballot measure or candidate to qualify for the ballot.
 
In Arkansas, House Joint Resolution 1008 would amend the state constitution to require signature gathering to be spread out over at least 45 counties (three-fifths of the state’s 75) instead of the current requirement of 15 counties. HJR 1008 also proposes changes to many other aspects of direct democracy in Arkansas, such as increasing the majority required for the legislature to put an amendment on the ballot to three-fifths, eliminating a grace period for additional signature gathering, and moving the deadline for signature submission and legal challenges forward to earlier in an election year.  
 
In Montana, the two amendments on 2020 ballots would not change the currently enforced distribution requirement. Rather, they would codify in the state constitution the distribution requirement currently in effect because of a court ruling and an opinion by the state attorney general.
 
Going into 2019, 17 of the 26 states with an initiative or veto referendum process had a distribution requirement. Of the 17 with a distribution requirement, nine are Republican trifectas, five have divided government, and three are Democratic trifectas. Of the nine states with initiative or referendum processes but without a distribution requirement, four are Republican trifectas, and five are Democratic trifectas.  The most recent state to enact distribution requirements was Michigan in the state legislature’s 2018 lame duck session. The Idaho State Legislature passed a pair of bills earlier this month to increase the state’s initiative signature requirement and its distribution requirement, among other restrictions. Governor Brad Little (R) vetoed the bills, however, citing a fear that they would draw a lawsuit. Lawmakers in Arizona, Maine, and Missouri also considered or are considering distribution requirements during 2019 sessions.
 
Colorado was the state to most recently begin enforcing a distribution requirement. In 2016, voters approved Amendment 71, which was a citizen initiative enacting a distribution requirement (as well as a supermajority vote requirement) for initiated constitutional amendments requiring signature gathering to be spread out over all of the state’s 35 state senate districts. Since no initiated constitutional amendments were circulated in 2017, 2018 was the first election year in which the requirement was enforced. Three initiated constitutional amendments qualified for the 2018 ballot: (1) Amendment 73, designed to increase income taxes for higher income brackets to fund education; (2) Amendment 74, designed to require that property owners be compensated for any reduction in property value caused by state laws or regulations; and (3) Amendment 75, designed to increase campaign contribution limits if one candidate spends more than $1 million on his or her own campaign. None of the amendments were approved by voters. The average number of initiated constitutional amendments on the ballot in Colorado during even-numbered years since 2006 was four.
 
In the 17 states where there are distribution requirements for initiative petitions, the political jurisdiction upon which they are based varies. In seven states, the distribution requirement is spread out over a state’s counties (Arkansas, Massachusetts, Maryland, Nebraska, New Mexico, Ohio, and Wyoming). In five states, it is calculated based on state legislative districts (Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, and Utah). In the other five states with a distribution requirement, it is based on U.S. congressional districts (Florida, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, and Nevada). Washington, D.C., also has a distribution requirement based on city wards.
 
The 76 and 68 citizen-initiated measures across the country in 2016 and 2018, respectively, were well above the average of 49 per even-numbered year from 2008 through 2014. Moreover, new trends emerged such as elections policy and redistricting, Medicaid expansion, and renewable energy and were added to initiative staples such as marijuana, minimum wage, and taxes. With the increased initiative activity, state legislators have been giving the initiative process more attention, and one of the most common restrictions considered are distribution requirements.
 
Two factors go into determining how difficult a signature distribution requirement is to meet: (1) from what percentage of the jurisdictions must signatures be collected (i.e. from how much of the state must at least some signatures be collected) and (2) how large the requirement is in each jurisdiction (i.e. how evenly must the signature gathering be spread out across the state).
 
For an example of the first factor, Arkansas’ current requirement of 15 counties is 20 percent of the state’s total 75 counties, and HJR 1008 would increase that to 60 percent. Across the 17 states with initiative distribution requirement, the first factor ranges from 20 percent to 100 percent of the relevant jurisdictions. Michigan’s newly enacted distribution requirement features 50 percent distribution because it requires signatures to be collected from a minimum of seven out of 14 congressional districts.
 
The second factor concerning how evenly gathering must be spread out can be represented by how many of the total number of signatures required is needed to meet the distribution requirement. For example, to qualify for the Alaska 2020 ballot, a minimum of 14,963 signatures are required to just meet the distribution requirement in the state, which is 52.5 percent of the total signature requirement of 28,501. While in Arkansas, the current 2020 requirement mandates a rate of 10 percent for this second factor, and HJR 1008 would change that to 30 percent. This rate ranges from 10 percent to 100 percent among all 17 states with initiative distribution requirements.
 
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California: April 22 deadline to register to vote in May 7 local elections

April 22 is the deadline to register to vote in local California elections taking place May 7. Voters in nine counties across the state are set to decide on local ballot measures at the special election.
 
Issues on the ballot include a residential care facility initiative for Solana Beach voters in San Diego County and a school district parcel transfer for district voters in San Mateo County. Inverness Public Utility District voters in Marin County will decide on an increase to the appropriations limit, and the remaining measures are parcel tax questions for district voters in Calaveras, Lake, Placer, Plumas, San Joaquin, and Santa Clara counties. Voters may visit their county elections websites for more information on voting and voter registration.


President Donald Trump issues second veto of his presidency

President Donald Trump (R) vetoed a Congressional resolution directing the removal of U.S. troops from Yemen Tuesday. It was his second veto since taking office.
 
The measure, which had been proposed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), passed 54-46 in the Senate, with seven Republicans joining Democrats to vote in favor. It passed the House 247-175 with 16 Republicans in favor. It would require 67 votes in the Senate and 290 in the House to override the President’s veto.
 
This marked the second veto of Trump’s presidency. The first was issued on March 15, 2019, of a resolution overriding his declaration of a national emergency on the border with Mexico.
 
At this point in their first terms, both Barack Obama (D) and Bill Clinton (D) had issued two vetoes. George H.W. Bush (R) had issued 20 vetoes while Ronald Reagan (R) had issued 16. George W. Bush (R) did not issue any vetoes until his second term.
 
Barack Obama (D) and George W. Bush (R) each issued 12 vetoes over the course of their two terms—the least of any president since World War II. The record for number of vetoes issued is 635, held by Franklin D. Roosevelt (D).
 
In U.S. history, 2,576 vetoes have been issued and 111 of those have been overridden by a two-thirds vote of both houses of Congress. Seven presidents issued no vetoes during their time in office. The most recent was James Garfield (R), who served until his assassination in 1881.
 


North Dakota voters will decide in 2020 whether the state legislature should get a second look at voter-approved constitutional amendments

The North Dakota state legislature referred a 2020 constitutional amendment to voters that would require future citizen-initiated constitutional amendments approved by voters to be submitted to the legislature at the next legislative session for the their approval or rejection. If the legislature approves an initiated constitutional amendment by a simple majority vote, it would be enacted. If the legislature rejects the constitutional amendment, it would be placed on the ballot again at the next statewide election and would become effective if approved by voters a second time. Currently, citizen-initiated constitutional amendments become effective in North Dakota once they are approved by voters at a statewide election.
 
 
The amendment was sponsored by Senators David Hogue (R-38), Dick Dever (R-32), and Gary Lee (R-22); and Representatives Ben Koppelman (R-16), Mike Nathe (R-30), and Scott Louser (R-5). Chief sponsor David Hogue said, “This is an opportunity to let the people decide how they wish to govern themselves.” Democratic Senator Tim Mathern, who opposed the measure, said lawmakers shouldn’t “impede the rights of the people.”
 
The measure passed in the legislature with all Democrats voting in opposition. In the House, 63 Republicans voted yes and 15 Republicans joined all 15 Democrats in voting no. In the Senate, 31 Republicans voted yes and five Republicans joined all 10 Democrats in voting no.
 
Currently, Nevada is the only state requiring voter approval of initiated constitutional amendments at two statewide elections before it they are enacted. In Nevada, however, there is no legislative involvement in between the elections.
 
Also on North Dakota’s 2020 ballot is a legislatively referred constitutional amendment that would increase the membership of the State Board of Higher Education from eight to 15; increase members’ term length from four years to six; and prohibit state employees, officials, legislators, from being members. Between 1996 and 2018, an average of six measures appeared on the ballot in North Dakota during even-numbered election years. Between 1996 and 2018, about 56 percent (40 of 71) of the total number of measures that appeared on statewide ballots were approved, and about 44 percent (31 of 71) were defeated.
 
North Dakota allows citizen initiatives in the form of initiated state statutes, initiated constitutional amendments, and veto referendums. In North Dakota, petitioners may only circulate a petition for one year following the secretary of state’s initial approval. The completed petition must be submitted at least 120 days prior to the election. Supporters must submit 26,904 valid signatures by July 6, 2020, in order to qualify initiated constitutional amendments for the 2020 ballot, and 13,452 signatures are required to qualify initiated state statutes and veto referendums.
 
As of April 16, 2019, 22 statewide ballot measures had been certified for the 2020 ballot in 11 states.
 


North Carolina governor taps two for state court of appeals

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) appointed Reuben Young and Christopher Brook to fill two vacancies on the 15-member state Court of Appeals. Young and Brook are both registered with the Democratic Party.
 
The North Carolina Court of Appeals is the intermediate appellate court in North Carolina. The court has 15 judges who hear cases in panels of three. Judges are selected in partisan elections to serve eight-year terms. These elections were nonpartisan from 2004 until a law passed in 2016 made them partisan again, beginning in 2018.
 
Of the 15 judges, the breakdown of partisanship is as follows after the new appointments:
  • Appointed by Democratic governor: 5
  • Appointed by Republican governor: 2
  • Elected Democrats: 3
  • Elected Republicans: 5
Thus, the overall balance on the Court of Appeals following these appointments is 8-7 with eight judges having been either elected as Democrats or appointed by a Democratic governor.
 
The justices already on the court prior to Gov. Cooper’s appointments are:
  • Linda McGee – Initially appointed by Gov. Jim Hunt (D)
  • Wanda Bryant – Initially appointed by Gov. Mike Easley (D)
  • John Arrowood – Initially appointed by Gov. Roy Cooper (D)
  • Richard Dietz – Initially appointed by Gov. Pat McCrory (R)
  • Valerie Johnson Zachary – Initially appointed by Gov. Pat McCrory (R)
  • Donna Stroud – Elected (R)
  • Hunter Murphy – Elected (R)
  • John Marsh Tyson – Elected (R)
  • Chris Dillon – Elected (R)
  • Phil Berger, Jr. – Elected (R)
  • Lucy Inman – Elected (D)
  • Tony Hampson – Elected (D)
  • Allegra Collins – Elected (D)
Young and Brook must run for election in 2020 to remain on the bench. Bryant, McGee, and Dillon are also up for election in 2020.
 
Young was the chief deputy secretary for adult corrections and juvenile justice from 2017 to 2019. Before that, he was a special superior court judge for the North Carolina Superior Courts from 2012 to 2017. Gov. Bev Perdue (D) appointed him to that position on December 31, 2012. Young also worked for the state’s Department of Justice and for Gov. Mike Easley as chief legal counsel. He received his undergraduate degree from Howard University and his J.D. from the North Carolina Central University School of Law.
 
Brook was the legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of North Carolina from 2012 to 2019. He worked as an attorney for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice from 2008 to 2012. From 2005 to 2008, Brook was an attorney in private practice. He received his undergraduate degree and J.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. While in law school, Brook was a legal intern at the UNC Center for Civil Rights, director of the Carolina Law Pro Bono Program, and managing editor of the North Carolina Journal of International Law and Commercial Regulation.
 


Connecticut holds sixth state legislative special election in 2019

On Tuesday, Tammy Exum (D) defeated Robert Margolis (R) to win the vacant District 19 seat in the Connecticut House of Representatives. She won with 64.6% of the vote, according to the unofficial election night tally. No primary was held in the race – both Exum and Margolis were both nominated by their respective political party committees in early March.
 
This was Connecticut’s sixth special state legislative election held so far in 2019; three state Senate and two state House seats were up for special election on February 26. All five of those races were caused by Democratic officeholders resigning to take positions in Gov. Ned Lamont’s (D) administration. The state House’s District 19 seat was vacated by Derek Slap (D) after he won the Connecticut State Senate’s District 5 special election earlier this year.
 
All six of the state legislative seats up for special election so far previously had Democratic officeholders; Republicans won control of two of those seats on February 26. A seventh position, District 130 in the state House, is up for special election on May 7. It was vacated by Ezequiel Santiago (D), who died on March 15, 2019.
 
Following the special election, the Connecticut House of Representatives has 90 Democrats, 60 Republicans, and one vacancy. A majority in the chamber requires 76 seats. Connecticut has a Democratic trifecta. A state government trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and both state legislative chambers.
 
As of April, 52 state legislative special elections have been scheduled or held in 20 states. Between 2011 and 2018, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.
 


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