The Daily Brew: Recall rate down 50 percent compared to 2016-2018

Today’s Brew summarizes our semiannual recall election analysis and discusses state legislative walkouts  
The Daily Brew

Welcome to the Friday, June 28, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. This year’s recall efforts down by half compared to last three years
  2. So, what exactly is a state legislative walkout?
  3. Supreme Court rules on partisan gerrymandering claims

Recall efforts down by half compared to prior three years

I look forward to this day each June – the day we release our mid-year figures on political recalls.

During the first half of 2019, Ballotpedia’s recalls coverage discovered a 50 percent decline in the total number of recall efforts compared to the same times in 2016, 2017, and 2018. 

The figure below depicts the total recall efforts through the first 6 months of the calendar year:

Recall successThere has been a higher amount of recall efforts targeting state legislators so far this year compared to the previous three years. In 2016, there were seven recall efforts targeting state legislators. 2017 saw three, and 2018 saw four. In the first half of 2019, however, nine state legislative recalls have accounted for 8% of the year’s recall efforts.

2019 did match previous years’ recall statistics in other ways. As in 2016, 2017, and 2018, California led the way in the highest number of officials targeted for recall in 2019, and city council officials also drew the focus of more recall petitions than any other group.

Of the recall efforts covered in the first half of 2019, 37% are still underway as of June 27 and another 11% have recall elections scheduled. A total of 17% of the efforts have not gone to the ballot. Of those that have made it to the ballot, 15% were approved and 10% were defeated.

Dig deeper for more recall data in the full report below.

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Oregon Senate Republicans are currently out of state. What is a state legislative walkout?

On June 20, 2019, the 11-member Republican minority of the Oregon State Senate did not come to a scheduled legislative session to discuss HB2020, a cap-and-trade bill. With only 18 Democratic members, the chamber fell short of the 20 members needed for quorum and business halted. Although Senate President Peter Courtney announced June 25 that HB2020 did not have the votes necessary to pass, Republicans have remained out of state away from the legislature.

We’ve seen legislative walkouts before, so we thought this would be a good time to set the landscape on the subject.

Quorum requirements for legislatures to conduct official business are laid out in state constitutions. In many states, there are also statutory requirements for quorum if a bill involves taxes or state finances. Forty-five states require a majority of legislators present for quorum. Four states, including Oregon, require two-thirds of legislators be present for quorum. Massachusetts requires two-fifths of state senators or three-eighths of state representatives to be present for quorum.

Oregon’s Republican legislators are the most recent example of a state legislative walkout, where minority party members leaving the capitol, or the state, to prevent legislative action. Listed below are three examples of state legislative walkouts that occurred prior to 2019.

  • In February 2011, 37 Democratic members of the Indiana House of Representatives did not come to a scheduled legislative session, citing right-to-work legislation as the reason.

  • Also in February 2011, 14 Democratic members of the Wisconsin State Senate did not come to a scheduled legislative session to prevent a vote on right-to-work legislation.

  • In May 2003, 11 Democratic members of the Texas State Senate did not come to a scheduled legislative session to prevent the passage of a redistricting plan they said would have benefited Republicans. Republicans held 20 seats, one short of the 21 members needed for quorum.


U.S. Supreme Court finds partisan gerrymandering claims are beyond jurisdiction of federal courts

The U.S. Supreme Court issued two rulings Thursday on partisan gerrymandering.  The 5-4 decisions in Rucho v. Common Cause (North Carolina) and Lamone v. Benisek (Maryland) held that partisan gerrymandering claims present political questions that fall beyond the jurisdiction of the federal judiciary. The high court combined the cases and issued a single joint decision covering both.

Chief Justice John Roberts penned a majority opinion, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, and Brett Kavanaugh. Roberts noted that the Framers, “aware of electoral districting problems … [assigned] the issue to the state legislatures, expressly checked and balanced by the Federal Congress, with no suggestion that the federal courts had a role to play.” 

Justice Elena Kagan wrote a dissent, joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, and Sonia Sotomayor. Kagan wrote: “The partisan gerrymanders in these cases deprived citizens of the most fundamental of their constitutional rights…In so doing, the partisan gerrymanders here debased and dishonored our democracy, turning upside-down the core American idea that all governmental power derives from the people.”

The high court remanded both cases to the respective lower courts with instructions to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction. The lower court decisions had thrown out existing congressional district plans as impermissible partisan gerrymanders. As a result of Thursday’s decisions, those district maps will remain in place for the 2020 congressional elections.  

Stay tuned Monday for our full SCOTUS roundup of the 2018-2019 term. Subscribe to Bold Justice to get that delivered straight to your inbox, free.

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