39 days until SCOTUS begins its new term

Welcome to the Thursday, August 26, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Five interesting facts about the U.S. Supreme Court’s previous term
  2. Idaho Supreme Court rules law changing state’s ballot measure signature distribution requirement is unconstitutional
  3. Results from Tuesday’s mayoral elections in Birmingham, Alabama, and St. Petersburg, Florida

Five interesting facts about the U.S. Supreme Court’s previous term

There are 39 days until the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) begins its next term on Oct. 4. Since the Court has released the final opinions of its previous term on July 2, it announced which cases it will hear oral arguments for in both October and November. The court will hear nine cases from Oct. 4 to Oct. 13 and nine cases between Nov. 1 and Nov. 10. So far, the Court has agreed to hear 33 cases during its 2021-2022 term. At this point last year, the Court had agreed to hear 31 cases during its 2020-2021 term. 

While we wait (excitedly!) for the Supreme Court’s new term to start, here are five interesting facts about its last term:

  • The Court issued 67 opinions during its 2020-2021 term. Two cases were decided in one consolidated opinion. Ten cases were decided without argument.
  • The court heard all oral arguments remotely via teleconference and provided live audio streams of the argument sessions. This was done in accordance with public health guidance in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The Court heard more cases on appeal—14—from the Ninth Circuit than any other circuit. The Ninth Circuit is the largest federal appellate court and has jurisdiction over the district courts in nine western states, including California. Seven of the 33 cases the Court has so far agreed to hear in its upcoming term are on appeal from the Ninth Circuit. The Court heard six cases each from three other appellate courts—the Third Circuit, Fifth Circuit, and District of Columbia Circuit. 
  • The Supreme Court reversed the ruling of a lower court in 79.7% of cases last term. Since 2007, it has reversed a lower court decision 70.7% of the time.
  • The Court issued 29 unanimous rulings last term, and 10 rulings where a lone justice dissented. The Court issued 10 decisions where the majority opinion was supported by five justices—eight 5-4 rulings and two 5-3 decisions.

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Idaho Supreme Court rules law changing state’s ballot measure signature distribution requirement is unconstitutional 

It’s been a busy week for court rulings on prominent ballot measures and processes. As we covered in Tuesday’s Brew, a California judge ruled on Aug. 20 that last year’s Proposition 22—which defined app-based transportation and delivery drivers as independent contractors—is unconstitutional. This week—on Aug. 23—the Idaho Supreme Court ruled that a law changing the state’s distribution requirement for ballot measure signatures was unconstitutional. 

A distribution requirement is a statutory or constitutional mandate requiring that a certain number or percentage of a ballot measure’s petition signatures come from different political subdivisions, rather than from the state as a whole.

The law changed the state’s distribution requirement to require signatures from 6% of voters from all 35 legislative districts for ballot initiatives and veto referendums. In its ruling, the Court said the state had no compelling interest to increase the distribution requirement and reinstated the existing requirement of collecting signatures from 6% of voters in 18 state legislative districts. 

Seventeen states have distribution requirements for initiative or veto referendum signatures. Michigan’s attorney general has blocked enforcement of that state’s distribution requirement law. Idaho is one of five states that bases its distribution requirement on state legislative districts. In seven states, the distribution requirement is based on counties. Four states base their requirement on congressional districts.

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Results from Tuesday’s mayoral elections in Birmingham, Alabama, and St. Petersburg, Florida 

Voters cast ballots in mayoral elections on Aug. 24 in two cities that are among America’s 100 largest cities by population. Here are the results of those races:

Birmingham, Alabama

Voters in Birmingham, Alabama, re-elected incumbent Randall Woodfin to a second term as mayor. Based on unofficial results, Woodfin received 64% of the vote against seven challengers. Jefferson County Commissioner Lashunda Scales came in second, receiving 21%. 

Woodfin, who had previously served on the Birmingham City School Board, was first elected mayor in 2017. While mayoral elections in Birmingham are officially nonpartisan, Woodfin, Scales, and third-place finisher and former Mayor William Bell are all affiliated with the Democratic Party. 

St. Petersburg, Florida

Former Pinellas County Commissioner Kenneth Welch and city council member Robert Blackmon advanced to the Nov. 2 general election for mayor of St. Petersburg, Florida. Welch finished first in Tuesday’s nonpartisan, top-two primary with 39%, and Blackmon was second with 29%. 

Welch has run for office as a Democrat, and Blackmon is a registered Republican. Incumbent Rick Kriseman, who was first elected in 2013 and re-elected in 2017, was term-limited and unable to run for re-election. Kriseman is a Democrat. 

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