The Daily Brew: Supermajority for tax ballot measures question to go before SD voters

Welcome to the Tuesday, March 9, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. South Dakota voters to decide in 2022 on supermajority requirement for tax measures
  2. Previewing Louisiana’s 5th Congressional District special election 
  3. MacDonald sworn in as N.H. Supreme Court chief justice

South Dakota voters to decide in 2022 on supermajority requirement for tax measures

On June 7, 2022, South Dakota voters will decide a constitutional amendment requiring three-fifths (60%) voter approval for any future ballot measures that would increase taxes or fees or require the state to appropriate $10 million or more in the first five fiscal years after enactment. Currently, all ballot measures in South Dakota require a simple majority vote for approval.

Two states have supermajority requirements for ballot measures on certain topics:

  • Washington requires three-fifths (60 percent) supermajority approval from all voters casting a ballot on initiatives or referendums related to gambling.
  • Utah requires a two-thirds (66.67%) supermajority vote for any initiative “allowing, limiting, or prohibiting the taking of wildlife or the season for or method of taking wildlife.”

Voters in 49 states—all except Delaware—must approve state constitutional amendments. Eleven states have supermajority requirements or approval requirements based on election turnout for all constitutional amendments.

  • New Hampshire requires two-thirds (66.67%) of voters to approve a constitutional amendment. 
  • In Florida, at least 60% of voters must approve either a legislatively referred or citizen-initiated amendment. In Illinois, legislatively referred constitutional amendments must receive 60% support or majority support from those who cast a ballot for any office in that election.
  • In Colorado, 55% of those voting must approve constitutional amendments (amendments that only remove language from the constitution are exempt).
  • Here are some other examples of states with different criteria:
    • In Nebraska, a constitutional amendment requires majority support and support from at least 35% of those voting in the election for any office.
    • In Wyoming, proposed constitutional amendments require majority approval from all voters casting a ballot in the election. In other words, leaving a constitutional amendment question blank on the ballot is equivalent to voting against it.

The South Dakota legislature can certify a constitutional amendment for the ballot if a simple majority approves it in the same session. Citizens can also initiate constitutional amendments.

The state House passed the supermajority measure—56 to 12—on Feb. 16. Fifty-six of the chamber’s 62 Republicans voted in favor, four voted against, and two were absent. All eight House Democrats voted against it. On March 2, the state Senate amended the bill to move the election date from November 2022 to June 2022 and passed it, 18 to 17. Eighteen Senate Republicans voted in favor. Fourteen Republicans and the chamber’s three Democrats opposed it. 

Legislation to enact or increase existing supermajority requirements for certain ballot measures has also been introduced this year in Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Missouri, and North Dakota.

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Previewing Louisiana’s 5th Congressional District special election 

Two congressional special elections will occur on March 20. Yesterday, we looked at Louisiana’s 2nd District race. As promised, today we’re previewing the state’s 5th District special election.

Luke Letlow (R) originally won this seat in a December runoff against Republican Lance Harris, 62% to 38%. Letlow subsequently died on Dec. 29 from complications related to COVID-19, before he was officially sworn into office.

Letlow received 33.1% of the vote in the November primary. Harris received 16.6%. Candy Christophe—the highest-finishing Democratic candidate—was third with 16.4%. 

Twelve candidates are running in the special election—nine Republicans, one Democrat, and two independents. Christophe and Julia Letlow (R), Luke Letlow’s widow, have received the most media attention.

The Louisiana Republican Party and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R) endorsed Letlow. The Louisiana Democratic Party endorsed Christophe.

Donald Trump (R) defeated Joe Biden (D) 65% to 34% in the 5th District in the 2020 presidential election. The 2017 Cook Partisan Voter Index for this district was R+15, meaning that in the previous two presidential elections, this district’s results were 15 percentage points more Republican than the national average.

In Louisiana, all candidates run in the same primary. Their partisan affiliations appear on the ballot. If a candidate receives more than 50% of the vote, they win outright. If no candidate does so, the top two vote recipients advance to a runoff election, regardless of their partisan affiliation. If needed, the runoff election will be held on April 24. 

Early voting began March 6 and ends March 13.

Ten special elections were held for the 116th Congress, and Democrats picked up one seat. Democrats won two previously Republican Senate seats (in Georgia and Arizona), and Republicans picked up California’s 25th Congressional District. In the 17 special elections for the 115th Congress, Democrats gained four seats. No partisan changes occurred in special elections for the 114th or 113th Congresses.

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MacDonald sworn in as N.H. Supreme Court chief justice

Former Attorney General Gordon MacDonald was sworn in as chief justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court on March 4. The New Hampshire Executive Council’s new Republican majority confirmed MacDonald in January. The previous Democratic majority had rejected his nomination to the position

This is the culmination of a years-long story in New Hampshire. Here’s how we got here.

  • June 5, 2019: Gov. Chris Sununu (R) nominated MacDonald to succeed Robert Lynn as chief justice. 
  • July 10, 2019: The council voted 3-2 along party lines to reject MacDonald’s nomination. 
  • Nov. 3, 2020: All five executive council seats were up for election, and Republican candidates defeated two Democratic incumbents. In executive council District 1, Joseph Kenney (R) defeated incumbent Michael Cryans (D), 52% to 48%. In District 5, Dave Wheeler (R) defeated incumbent Debora Pignatelli (D), 51% to 49%.
  • Jan. 7, 2021: Sununu renominated MacDonald. 
  • Jan. 22, 2021: The executive council voted 4-1 along party lines to confirm MacDonald. 

The executive council is a five-member state executive board that oversees the state budget and approves gubernatorial appointments, including to the state supreme court. 

Of the five current justices on the New Hampshire Supreme Court, Sununu appointed three and Gov. John Lynch (D) appointed two. MacDonald’s term ends in 2031, when he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 70 years.

Along with the executive council, New Hampshire Republicans gained control of both the state House of Representatives and state Senate in the 2020 elections, giving them a state government trifecta. New Hampshire had been under divided government since the 2018 elections. 

Jane Young, formerly the deputy attorney general, is serving as acting attorney general of New Hampshire.

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