Ballotpedia’s Daily Brew: How often do state legislative recalls actually make it to the ballot?

Today’s Brew highlights the status of recalls against Colorado state legislators + an appeals court panel reverses a lower court ruling that blocked three presidential executive orders  
 The Daily Brew

Welcome to the Thursday, July 18, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Colorado state Senator becomes eighth legislator targeted for recall in that state this year
  2. D.C. Appeals panel reverses district court ruling that blocked Trump’s civil service executive orders
  3. Quiz: How many retired Supreme Court justices are still alive

Colorado state Senator becomes eighth legislator targeted for recall in that state this year

Recall efforts are always underway somewhere and that has been particularly true in Colorado in 2019. As described in our Mid-Year Report, Colorado has had the second-most officials targeted for recall through the end of June.

Here’s a recent example. An effort to recall a Colorado state Senator—Pete Lee (D)—was approved for circulation July 12. Supporters have until September 10 to collect 11,304 signatures to force a recall election. Another recall petition targeting another state Senator—Brittany Pettersen (D)—was also approved by the secretary of state July 12 but was withdrawn by petitioners days later. According to The Denver Post, supporters plan to resubmit it.

Recall supporters are targeting Lee because he supported legislation related to firearms, oil and gas, the national popular vote, and sex education during the 2019 legislative session, according to the recall petition.  All four bills were signed into law by Gov. Jared Polis (D) in 2019. Polis himself is facing a recall effort regarding the same legislation. According to The Gazette, both recalls are being supported by the Resist Polis political action committee.

Two other Colorado state representatives—Tom Sullivan (D) and Rochelle Galindo (D)—were targeted by recall campaigns earlier this year over the same legislation. The recall targeting Rep. Galindo (D) ended when she resigned her seat in May 2019. The recall targeting state Rep. Sullivan (D) ended in June 2019 after recall supporters halted the effort. 

Since 2011, 83 recall petitions—13 in Colorado—have been filed against state lawmakers. Nine recalls were successful, nine were defeated at the ballot, 57 did not go to a vote, and eight are still ongoing. California state Sen. Josh Newman (D) was recalled in 2018. Two Colorado state Senators were successfully recalled in 2013.

Colorado became a Democratic trifecta in 2019 after Democrats gained control of the state Senate in 2018. Democrats control the state House by a 41-24 margin and the state Senate by a 19-16 margin.

Learn more


We are excited to guide you on a path of discovery around judicial review. Join us on this three-part series discussing how the judicial branch interprets the law and has the power to overturn government actions.

D.C. Appeals panel reverses district court ruling that blocked Trump’s civil service executive orders 

A three-judge panel of the D.C. Court of Appeals unanimously reversed and vacated a lower court decision that had blocked provisions of three civil service executive orders issued by President Trump (R). The judges held in their July 16 ruling that the lower court did not have jurisdiction and that the plaintiffs should have brought the case before the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) as required by the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute (FSLMRS).

Trump issued the civil service executive orders in May 2018. They included proposals aimed at facilitating the removal of poor-performing federal employees and streamlining collective bargaining procedures.

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) and 16 other federal labor unions challenged the executive orders in four consolidated lawsuits. The unions argued that:

  • the president does not have the authority to issue executive orders impacting labor relations, 
  • the executive orders violate the Constitution’s Take Care Clause and the First Amendment right to freedom of association, and 
  • the executive orders violate provisions of the FSLMRS.

The lower court ruled in August 2018 that it had jurisdiction over the case. It upheld the president’s authority to issue executive orders in the field of labor relations but enjoined Trump administration officials from implementing nine provisions of the executive orders that the judge claimed unlawfully restricted the use of union official time in violation of the FSLMRS.

In reversing the lower court decision, the D.C. Circuit panel stated that “the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction. The unions must pursue their claims through the scheme established by the Statute, which provides for administrative review by the FLRA followed by judicial review in the courts of appeals.” 

Thomas Griffith—who was appointed to the D.C. Court of Appeals by George W. Bush in 2005—wrote the panel’s opinion. He was joined by Justice Srikanth Srinivasan—who was appointed by Barack Obama in 2013—and Senior Justice Arthur Randolph—who was appointed by George H.W. Bush in 1990.

The National Federation of Federal Employees, one of the plaintiffs in the case, responded that the ruling on the merits “did not give the Trump administration a stamp of approval.” The plaintiffs can choose to seek a rehearing before the full D.C. Circuit or appeal the case to the United States Supreme Court.

Learn more→



How many retired Supreme Court justices are still alive?

Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens died Tuesday at the age of 99. He was appointed by Gerald Ford (R) in 1975 to succeed Justice William O. Douglas and was Ford’s only appointment to the court. He served for more than 34 years until assuming senior status in June 2010. Barack Obama (D) appointed Justice Elena Kagan to succeed Stevens. 

With Stevens’ death, how many retired U.S. Supreme Court Justices are still alive?

A.  1 
C.  3