Welcome to the Wednesday, May 23, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:
- Texas voters to decide constitutional amendment prohibiting a state income tax
- We’re collecting maps to improve your sample ballot
- More of Tuesday’s election results from Kentucky and Pennsylvania
Texas voters to decide constitutional amendment prohibiting a state income tax
Voters in Texas will decide a constitutional amendment in November 2019 to prohibit the state from levying an income tax on individuals. Texas is one of seven states without a personal income tax.
The measure would ban the adoption of a personal income tax and would require a subsequent constitutional amendment to enact one in the future. This requires the approval of two-thirds of the members of each legislative chamber in addition to being approved by voters. Under current law, voters in Texas must approve an income tax as a statewide referendum but only a majority vote in each chamber is necessary to place it on the ballot. These provisions were established when voters approved Proposition 4 in 1993. Proposition 4 also specifies that if an income tax is enacted, any revenues raised would be dedicated to education and would also be used to limit local school tax rates.
Twenty Democrats joined 80 Republicans in voting to approve the 2019 amendment in the state House. One hundred votes were needed in that chamber to pass. All 42 votes opposing the amendment were cast by Democrats, and three Republicans and five Democrats were absent or didn’t vote. In the state Senate, 21 votes were needed for passage. All 19 Republicans joined three Democrats in approving the amendment and all 9 votes opposing the measure were cast by Democrats.
Seven statewide ballot measures have been certified for the November 2019 ballot in Texas. The state legislature is expected to adjourn on May 27 and could refer additional constitutional amendments before they adjourn. An average of 13 measures appeared on odd-year statewide ballots in Texas between 1995 and 2017. Voters approved 91 percent—145 out of 159—of the constitutional amendments during this 22-year period.
Across the country, 12 statewide ballot measures in four states have been certified to appear before voters in 2019.
We’re collecting maps to improve your sample ballot
One of our primary aims here at Ballotpedia is filling the ballot information gap. The further down the ballot you go, the more the ballot information gap widens. At the most local level, voters typically have little information about who or what they’re voting for. We will consider ourselves many steps closer to achieving our mission when we can offer a comprehensive sample ballot.
Ballotpedia currently offers two lookup tools for voters: a preview of your ballot, and a tool to find out your current representatives. These tools are partly powered by digital maps, and so are limited by the maps that are available. We’ve faced a variety of challenges in getting maps for city council seats and county commission seats. Without these maps, voters cannot view a sample ballot specific to these local districts.
Our goal: to be able to place each address in the country correctly inside their respective districts. This would be the first step toward being able to show every voter in the country a list of candidates through their most local elections, including school boards and special districts. That’s what we mean when we talk about offering a comprehensive sample ballot.
Earlier this year, we conducted a study evaluating how we can get all the maps we need to provide a comprehensive, accurate, and specific sample ballot. We hope that we will be able to build off this work and start bringing you more ballot information, state by state.
If we are successful in comprehensively gathering and building these maps, we will be meeting voters needs in a way they haven’t been met before. Any voter in the United States could search their address and find a list of candidates for their local school board, or the names of the individuals representing a special district in their area. That is what the future looks like when we succeed in our mission of providing a comprehensive, universal sample ballot.
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More of Tuesday’s election results from Kentucky and Pennsylvania
Yesterday’s Brew highlighted the results of Kentucky’s Democratic and Republican gubernatorial primaries. Here’s a wrap-up of some of the other races we were following on Tuesday:
State Rep. Fred Keller (R) defeated college professor Marc Friedenberg (D) in a special election to fill the vacant U.S. House seat representing Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District. Unofficial returns showed Keller receiving 68% of the vote to Friedenberg’s 32%.
The vacancy occurred when former Rep. Tom Marino (R) resigned in January. Marino beat Friedenberg by 32 points in November 2018 and Donald Trump (R) carried the district by 36 points in the 2016 presidential election.
This was the first special election to fill a vacancy in the 116th Congress. Two special elections—in North Carolina’s 3rd and 9th Congressional Districts—will occur on September 10.
Incumbent James Kenney defeated former City Controller Alan Butkovitz and state Sen. Anthony Williams in the Democratic primary for mayor of Philadelphia. Kenney received 67% of the vote to Williams’ 24% and Butkovitz’ 9%. Kenney, who served 23 years on the city council before his election as mayor in 2015, was endorsed by the Philadelphia Inquirer, Gov. Tom Wolf (D), Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D), and all three of Philadelphia’s representatives in the U.S. House.
Kenney will face attorney Billy Ciancaglini (R) and any independent or third-party candidates in the November 5 general election. Since 1951, no incumbent Philadelphia mayor has lost a re-election bid, and no Republican has won a Philadelphia mayoral election since 1947.
Philadelphia voters also approved four charter amendments on Tuesday, according to election night results. Voters approved changing gender-specific references in the city charter to gender-neutral ones, making the city’s Office of Immigrant Affairs permanent, and creating a new class of law enforcement officers to assist with regulating traffic but that are not allowed to carry firearms. Voters also approved a charter amendment asking the Pennsylvania legislature to increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2025. This measure does not actually affect Philadelphia’s minimum wage since Pennsylvania has preempted local governments, such as cities, from setting their own minimum wage standards. All charter amendments on Tuesday’s ballot were approved by at least 68% of voters.
Amanda Green-Hawkins and Beth Tarasi were the top two finishers in the Democratic primary for two open seats on the Pennsylvania Superior Court. Megan McCarthy King and Christylee Peck were the top two finishers for the Republican nomination for those seats.
The Pennsylvania Superior Court is one of Pennsylvania’s two statewide intermediate appellate courts. It reviews most of the civil and criminal cases that are appealed from the courts of common pleas in the state’s 67 counties. Judges of the superior court are chosen in partisan elections to 10-year terms. Existing judges are subject to retention elections to win successive 10-year terms.
Voters selected nominees for five down-ballot state executive offices in Kentucky—attorney general, secretary of state, agriculture commissioner, state auditor, and state treasurer. Republican incumbents Ryan Quarles, Mike Harmon, and Allison Ball won their primaries for agriculture commissioner, state auditor, and state treasurer, respectively. All three were first elected in 2015.
Daniel Cameron defeated Wil Schroder in the Republican primary for the open-seat race for attorney general. Former state Attorney General Greg Stumbo won the Democratic nomination unopposed. Incumbent Attorney General Andy Beshear (D) won his party’s nomination for governor. Heather French Henry (D) and Michael Adams (R) won their party’s primaries for Kentucky Secretary of State to succeed incumbent Alison Lundergan Grimes (D), who is term-limited.