31 statewide ballot measures certified for the 2021 ballot (so far)

Welcome to the Wednesday, July 14, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Comparing this year’s statewide ballot measures to previous odd-numbered years
  2. California judge rules Gov. Newsom will not have party designation on recall ballot
  3. Texas Democrats leave state ahead of expected vote on election-related legislation

Comparing this year’s statewide ballot measures to previous odd-numbered years

Now that we’ve moved into July, I thought it would be a good time to review the number of certified statewide ballot measures this year and how that compares with previous years. So far, voters decided 11 measures—four in Pennsylvania and seven in Rhode Island—and voters in at least five states will decide upwards of 20 measures in October and November. Here’s a quick recap of what lies ahead.

Louisiana voters will decide two legislatively-referred constitutional amendments on Oct. 9. 

  • One measure would remove the requirement that voters approve the assessment of property taxes in Louisiana’s levee districts that were created since 2006. Levee districts represent areas along Louisiana’s major waterways, and the boards of these districts take actions to control and prevent flooding in these areas. 
  • The other measure would increase the limit on funding changes the state could adopt during a projected budget deficit.

Voters in four states—Maine, New Jersey, New York, and Texas—will decide 18 measures on Nov. 3. 

Ballotpedia tracks potential statewide ballot measures that could still go before voters this year. This includes proposed initiatives that have been filed, are being reviewed, or have begun gathering signatures to earn a spot on the ballot. It also includes potential legislatively-referred measures that have progressed at least halfway through the legislative process. 

I spoke with our Ballot Measures editor, Josh Altic, regarding deadlines for states to certify additional measures. In Washington, supporters have until July 24—90 days after the legislature adjourned—to submit signatures for possible veto referendums. Supporters in Colorado have until Aug. 2 to submit signatures for three potential initiated state statutes. And legislatures in several states could still certify legislatively-referred measures. For example, Texas’ legislature is in a special session that is set to adjourn on Aug. 7.

The chart below shows the number of statewide measures appearing on the ballot in each odd-numbered year since 1987. Nationwide, voters decided 27 measures in 2017, the lowest number of certified measures in seventy years. Voters decided 36 measures in 2019.

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California judge rules Gov. Newsom will not have party designation on recall ballot 

Sacramento County Superior Court Judge James P. Arguelles ruled on July 12 that California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s (D) party affiliation will not appear on the state’s recall ballot on Sept. 14. Here’s a quick recap of how we got here:

  • Newsom signed legislation in October 2019 specifying certain procedures surrounding recalls. Among other things, the law allows an official subject to a recall election to designate his or her party preference on the ballot.
  • Orrin Heatlie filed a recall petition against Newsom on Feb. 13, 2020.
  • In his official response to the recall on Feb. 20, 2020, Newsom did not file a form stating his party preference.
  • Newsom sued Secretary of State Shirley Weber (D) on June 28, 2021, after Weber ruled that Newsom would not have his party affiliation listed on the recall ballot.
  • Judge Arguelles held a hearing in the lawsuit on July 9, 2021.

In his ruling, Arguelles wrote: “Governor Newsom’s failure to designate a party preference will not result in a ballot identifying him as ‘Party Preference: None.’ Rather, there will be no reference to party preference next to his name one way or the other. Instead, the recall ballot will simply ask whether he should be recalled.”

The recall election will present voters with two questions. The first will ask whether Newsom should be recalled from the office of governor. The second will ask who should succeed Newsom if he is recalled. 

The deadline for candidates to file certain forms, such as their past five years’ tax returns, personal financial disclosures, nomination signatures, and a declaration of candidacy is July 16. The secretary of state’s office will publish the names of all official candidates on its website on July 17. 

California enacted legislation earlier this year authorizing counties to send mail ballots to all voters for any elections held in 2021. County election officials will begin mailing ballots to voters on Aug. 16.

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Texas Democrats leave state ahead of expected vote on election-related legislation

In case you haven’t come across it in your regular news following, here’s a summary of what is going on in Texas’ special legislative session.

At least 51 of 67 Democratic state representatives in Texas left the state on July 12, traveling to Washington D.C. ahead of expected votes on election-related legislation. Supporters say the legislation includes updates to improving election integrity. Opponents say the bills amount to voter suppression. 

It’s the second time Texas House Democrats have staged a walkout this year. The first took place on May 30, when all 67 members of the Democratic caucus left the chamber during consideration of another package of election-related legislation. This prevented the House from passing the legislation ahead of the regular session’s midnight deadline. 

The Texas House of Representatives requires 100 members—two-thirds of the 150 legislators—present to have a quorum. A quorum is the minimum number of members required to conduct official business. Democrats control 67 of the 150 state House seats in Texas. 

Ballotpedia has identified seven other noteworthy legislative walkouts—where legislators left the state for at least a week or received significant national media attention—since 2000, including the following:

  • 2021 (Oregon): All 11 Republican state senators were absent from the legislature and sent a letter to Gov. Kate Brown (D) saying the governor had ignored their proposals related to COVID-19. Those senators returned on March 2.
  • 2011 (Wisconsin): Fourteen Democratic members of the state Senate did not come to a scheduled session to prevent the passage of right-to-work legislation. The walkout ended after five weeks when Republicans removed fiscal provisions from the measure, which lowered the quorum required to hold a vote.
  • 2003 (Texas): Eleven Democratic members of the Texas Senate and 51 Democratic members of the Texas House of Representatives did not come to a scheduled legislative session to prevent the passage of a redistricting plan they claimed would have benefited Republicans. That walkout lasted for 43 days.

For more information about quorum requirements by state and other noteworthy walkouts by state legislators, click the link below.

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