Welcome to the Friday, July 16, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:
- Louisiana state Representative leaves Democratic Party
- Ballotpedia’s analysis of federal judicial vacancies shows 8.9% of seats were open at the end of June
- Read our two studies examining partisanship on state supreme courts
Louisiana state Representative leaves Democratic Party
Louisiana state Rep. Malinda White switched from the Democratic Party to no party on July 1. According to a text White sent to The Advocate, “This decision came after many years of consideration for the people I represent. It was not a snap decision but one I have struggled with for a while.” The current partisan composition of the Louisiana House is 68 Republicans, 33 Democrats, three independents, and one vacancy.
White was first elected to the Louisiana House in 2015, defeating Chuck Nassauer (D), 65% to 35%. She defeated Phillipp Bedwell (R), 64% to 36%, to win re-election in 2019. White ran in both elections as a Democrat.
Ballotpedia has identified 143 state legislators—39 state senators and 104 state representatives—who have switched parties since 1994. White is the 13th state legislator in Louisiana we’ve identified who has switched parties and is the only one to switch to independent. The other 12 became Republicans.
White is the ninth state legislator to switch parties this year. Seven state legislators switched parties last year, and 12 switched in 2019.
Nationwide, 74 state lawmakers switched from Democrat to Republican, and 19 switched from Republican to Democrat since 1994. The others switched to or from being independent or other parties.
In December 2019, U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew (N.J. – 2) announced he was switching his party affiliation from Democratic to Republican. Van Drew was re-elected to the U.S. House last year as a Republican, defeating Amy Kennedy (D) 52% to 46%.
The Washington Post reported that Van Drew was the 10th member of Congress—two Senators and eight U.S. Representatives—to switch parties since 2000. Six switched from Democrats to Republicans, and three switched from Republicans to Democrats. Rep. Justin Amash left the Republican Party to become an independent in July 2019.
Ballotpedia’s analysis of federal judicial vacancies shows 8.9% of seats were open at the end of June
Ballotpedia’s monthly tracking of federal court vacancies showed 8.9% of judgeships were open as of June 30. There are 77 vacancies out of 870 active Article III judicial positions, including seven on U.S. Appeals Courts, 68 on U.S. District Courts, and two on the U.S. Court of International Trade.
Two U.S. District Court judges left active status, and the Senate confirmed seven of President Joe Biden’s (D) judicial nominees—two appeals court judges and five district court judges—last month. Those judicial confirmations are the first of Biden’s presidency. Since taking office, Biden has nominated 30 individuals to federal judgeships.
The chart below shows federal court vacancies since April 2011:
Read our two studies examining partisanship on state supreme courts
An article earlier this week in Axios highlighted the findings of Ballotpedia’s recently completed state supreme court study. If this topic intrigues you, let me explain our work in a little more detail.
The first phase of our study established the partisan balance on each of the 52 state supreme courts. We gathered data on 341 active state supreme court justices to evaluate how much each was affiliated with either the Democratic or Republican parties at the time of their selection.
As of June 2020, 178 (52.2%) state supreme court justices were affiliated with the Republican Party, 114 (33.4%) were affiliated with the Democratic Party, and 49 (14.4%) had an indeterminate affiliation.
We released the second phase of our study—titled Determiners and Dissenters—in May. In it, we determined the partisan balance on all 52 state supreme courts. We tracked each justice’s position in every case decided last year and counted the number of times the justices ruled together.
What were some notable highlights from this research? The most divided state supreme court in the country last year was the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which issued unanimous rulings in 43% of cases. It heard 116 cases, and at least one justice dissented—or concurred in part and dissented in part—in 66 of them. The state supreme court with the highest rate of unanimous decisions? Massachusetts and Nebraska, at more than 98%.
Want to explore both studies? Here are the links to Ballotpedia Courts: State Partisanship and Ballotpedia Courts: Determiners and Dissenters. Happy reading!