The Daily Brew: Highlights from April 6 elections

Ballotpedia's Daily Brew

Welcome to the Thursday, April 8, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Summary of April 6 election results
  2. North Las Vegas mayor changes party affiliation to Republican
  3. The 17th Amendment celebrates its 108th birthday

Summary of April 6 election results

We covered elections in nine states on April 6. It was the 4th-largest election day for our team, with more than 200 races within our coverage scope. Here’s a summary of results from some of the races we followed closely.

  • Wisconsin superintendent of public instruction: Jill Underly defeated Deborah Kerr in the nonpartisan election for this office. As of Wednesday afternoon, Underly had received 58% of the vote to Kerr’s 42%. Underly will succeed Carolyn Stanford Taylor. Gov. Tony Evers (D) appointed Taylor after he resigned as superintendent to become governor. 

As of Wednesday afternoon, 912,678 votes had been counted in the superintendent’s race. Here’s how that compares to turnout in the biggest statewide races held in Wisconsin’s spring elections back to 2016.

  • Milwaukee school board: Milwaukee voters elected four new members to serve on the Milwaukee Board of School Directors. Four of the board’s nine seats were up for election. All four seats were open after three incumbents did not file for re-election and the fourth, Annie Woodward, did not submit the required number of signatures to appear on the ballot (as we wrote about here). Two of the four seats were uncontested. 

As a result of the election, the number of board members endorsed by the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association (MTEA) decreased from nine to six. MTEA issued endorsements in three of the four 2021 races. Their preferred candidates in the two contested elections lost.

  • Ballot measures: Ballotpedia covered 25 local ballot measures before voters on April 6. Here are just a few of those results:
    • Kansas City and St. Louis voters renewed the cities’ 1% earnings taxes for five years. St. Louis voters approved Proposition E by 79% to 21% according to unofficial results. Kansas City voters approved Question 1 by 77% to 23%.
    • Voters in Madison, Wisconsin, advised the city to set term limits and maintain the size of the Common Council (Madison’s city council). Voters rejected two other ballot questions. All four questions were non-binding advisory questions.

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North Las Vegas mayor changes affiliation to Republican

North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee announced on April 6 he is switching his party affiliation from Democratic to Republican. The mayoral office is officially nonpartisan.

We haven’t comprehensively tracked mayoral partisan switches over time, but we can say this isn’t something we see much of. (We do track party switches among state legislators. Our staff have counted 141 state legislators—39 state senators and 102 state representatives—who have switched parties since 1994. Seventy-three legislators have switched from Democratic to Republican, and 19 have switched from Republican to Democratic.) 

Lee said in a statement, “In the Democratic Party of Nevada, they had an election recently for leadership, and four of the five people were card-carrying members of the socialistic (sic) party. … It’s not the party that I grew up with 25 years ago in this environment and it’s not the party that I can stand with anymore.” Lee said the leadership elections “made me realize that what was happening in the national discussion was actually living itself out in the state of Nevada.”

As we wrote about last month, Democratic Socialists of America-endorsed candidates won all five posts in the state Democratic Party’s leadership elections.

That includes state party chair Judith Whitmer. Whitmer said Lee, “who claims to have voted for Donald Trump twice, has an A+ rating from the National Rifle Association, and has always opposed a woman’s right to choose, has long been out of step with the core values of the Democratic Party, even as he has used our ballot line time and again to run for and win election to public office.”

With Lee’s switch, there are now 63 Democratic mayors, 26 Republicans, and 11 who are independent or nonpartisan among the 100 largest cities. Most mayoral offices in the nation’s 100 largest cities are nonpartisan, but we’ve identified and tracked partisanship data for these mayors going back to 2016. We use (1) direct communication from the officeholder, (2) current or previous candidacy for partisan office, or (3) identification of partisan affiliation by multiple media outlets to identify partisanship.

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The 17th Amendment celebrates its 108th birthday

On April 8, 1913—108 years ago today—Connecticut approved the Seventeenth Amendment, giving it the three-fourths majority needed to become part of the U.S. Constitution. The amendment provided for the popular election of U.S. senators.

Before 1913, Article I, Section 3 of the Constitution read, “The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each state, chosen by the legislature thereof for six Years.”  According to the United States Senate website, “The framers believed that in electing senators, state legislatures would cement their tie with the national government, which would increase the chances for ratifying the Constitution. They also expected that senators elected by state legislatures would be able to concentrate on the business at hand without pressure from the populace.”

The Seventeenth Amendment changed “chosen by the Legislature thereof” to “elected by the people thereof.”

Around the time of the Civil War, conflicts within state legislatures led to prolonged Senate vacancies. The Senate website says that “45 deadlocks occurred in 20 states between 1891 and 1905, resulting in numerous delays in seating senators. In 1899 problems in electing a senator in Delaware were so acute that the state legislature did not send a senator to Washington for four years.”

The shift to popular elections for senators began on a state-by-state basis, starting with Oregon in 1907. “By 1912, as many as 29 states elected senators either as nominees of their party’s primary or in a general election,” the Senate website says. The Senate passed a resolution in 1911 proposing a constitutional amendment, and the House passed it in 1912. With Connecticut’s approval in 1913, the Seventeenth Amendment became part of the U.S. Constitution, going into effect for the 1914 elections.

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