The Daily Brew: How district maps shape the way governments run elections

Welcome to the Thursday, June 6, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. How data technology is used in voting
  2. Denver mayor wins re-election in Tuesday’s runoff
  3. Quiz: Which state constitution has been amended more than 800 times?

How data technology is used in voting

Have you ever wondered how your local elections precinct knows which ballot to give you on election day? I never knew the technology behind it until I started working at Ballotpedia.

Earlier this year, Virginia adopted legislation that requires municipal clerks to transmit Geographic Information System (GIS) maps to local election boards and the state when they alter local electoral districts or precincts. GIS is a way of capturing, managing, and storing spatial or geographic data. It’s currently used in everything from mapping to scientific analysis to navigation.

At Ballotpedia, we’re gathering GIS information nationwide to improve our sample ballot tool. I spoke with Margaret Koenig, one of our database specialists, about this measure and how she thinks it will affect this information’s availability.

“This type of legislation is a step forward for increased education and analysis around local politics. It is an opportunity for increased precision in local election practices as well as for observers like Ballotpedia to provide highly specific and accurate voter information. My hope is that Virginia and other states will see the value in making this information readily and freely available online for the good of all citizens. It will be fascinating to watch their process and standards for this work develop.”

When voters use our sample ballot tool, we want them to see the most precise and accurate information as possible. We’re committed to placing each address correctly inside their respective districts using GIS data so we can offer a comprehensive sample ballot for everyone in the country.

Including that Virginia legislation, Ballotpedia has tracked 352 state-level bills regarding redistricting and electoral systems policy in state legislatures this year. Twenty-eight of these measures have become law. Here are some other highlights:

  • The Mississippi legislature revised the boundaries of two state Senate districts after a federal court ruled that one of them constituted an illegal racial gerrymander.
  • Colorado, Delaware, and New Mexico all enacted legislation entering their respective states into the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC). As I’ve discussed previously, the NPVIC is an interstate agreement to award each member state’s presidential electors to the winner of the national popular vote.
  • Utah amended provisions of a pilot project that allows municipalities to conduct municipal elections using ranked-choice voting.

Learn more about stories like this in our Ballot Bulletin, our free newsletter which tracks developments in election policy. Our June issue just came out yesterday.

June’s issue of Ballot Bulletin also discusses the status of the Michigan and Ohio redistricting cases at the Supreme Court in addition to redistricting legislation in Nevada and Washington that adjusts the census data in those states to reflect where prison inmates are counted.

Click here to read this month’s edition.

Denver mayor wins re-election in Tuesday’s runoff

Yesterday’s Brew included the results from New Jersey’s primary elections for the state Assembly. Here are results from other Tuesday elections in Colorado and California that were decided later that evening:

Denver

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock defeated development consultant Jamie Giellis to win a third and final term (Denver mayors face term limits of three terms). Giellis and Hancock were the top two finishers among a six-candidate field in the May 7 general election. Hancock received 55.8% of the vote to Giellis’ 44.2%.

Hancock was first elected in 2011 after having served seven years on the city council. A prominent issue during the campaign was the city’s response to population growth and development. Although the election was officially nonpartisan, both Hancock and Giellis are members of the Democratic Party.

Denver voters also approved Initiated Ordinance 302, which prohibits the city and county from using public funds in connection with future Olympic Games unless a majority of voters approve such funds. The measure was proposed during the city’s ultimately unsuccessful bid to host the 2030 Winter Olympic Games. Unofficial results show the initiative was approved by 79 percent of city voters.

Los Angeles

Los Angeles Unified School District voters defeated Measure EE, which would have enacted an annual parcel tax—a kind of property tax based on units of property rather than assessed value—for 12 years to fund educational improvements, instruction, and programs. According to election night results, 54% of voters were against the measure and 46% were in favor. It required a two-thirds supermajority vote to pass.

In 2019, local California voters have approved ten parcel tax measures and defeated three. Since 1983, there have been 708 local parcel tax measures on ballots in California—425 (60%) were approved, and 283 (40%) were defeated.

In another Los Angeles race, John Lee and Loraine Lundquist advanced from a 15-candidate field in the special primary election to fill a vacancy on the Los Angeles City Council. Lee and Lundquist will oppose each other in the general election August 13. Lee was endorsed by a PAC sponsored by the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce. Lundquist was endorsed by The Los Angeles Times and the Green Party of Los Angeles County.

Learn more

Quiz: Which state constitution has been amended more than 800 times?

In a story from earlier this week, I noted that one particular state constitution had been amended more than 800 times. This state’s constitution is considered the longest constitution in the world.

Name that state:

  1. Alabama
  2. Arizona
  3. Arkansas
  4. California



About the author

Dave Beaudoin

Dave Beaudoin is a project director at Ballotpedia and can be reached at dave.beaudoin@ballotpedia.org

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