Welcome to The Ballot Bulletin, where we track developments in election policy at the federal, state, and local level. In this month’s issue:
- California becomes eighth state to implement universal, automatic mail-in voting
- Redistricting round-up: Oregon becomes the first state to enact congressional district maps after the 2020 census (and other news)
- Legislation update
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California becomes eighth state to implement universal, automatic mail-in voting
On Sept. 27, 2021, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed AB37 into law, making California the eighth state to provide for universal, automatic mail-in voting in all future elections. Under the new law, local election officials must automatically deliver mail-in ballots to all registered voters. In addition, AB37 modified the mail-in ballot return deadline. Ballots are considered “timely cast” if voted on or before Election Day and, when mailed, received by election officials no later than seven days after Election Day. Previously, the receipt deadline for ballots returned by mail was three days after Election Day. The law does not preclude people from voting in person.
On Sept. 2, 2021, the California Senate voted 30-7 to approve AB37. On Sept. 3, 2021, the California State Assembly followed suit, voting 60-17 in favor of the bill.
Secretary of State Shirley Weber (D) said: “Voters like having options for returning their ballot whether by mail, at a secure drop box, a voting center or at a traditional polling station. And the more people who participate in elections, the stronger our democracy and the more we have assurance that elections reflect the will of the people of California.”
Meanwhile, California GOP Chairwoman Jessica Millan Patterson said: “It’s no secret that Democrats have and will continue to try to manipulate election regulations for their political advantage. Republicans will hold them accountable through our election integrity operations – including litigation, where appropriate – and by recruiting and supporting candidates who will provide solutions to California’s numerous challenges.”
In the 2020 election cycle, California implemented universal, automatic mail-in voting on a temporary basis in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The state also implemented universal, automatic mail-in voting in this year’s gubernatorial recall.
Seven other states have implemented permanent all-mail voting systems: Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, and Washington.
Redistricting round-up: Oregon becomes the first state to enact congressional district maps after the 2020 census (and other news)
In today’s round-up, we take a look at the following recent developments:
- Oregon becomes the first state to enact congressional district maps after the 2020 census.
- Colorado redistricting commission approves final congressional map.
- Ohio redistricting commission approves state legislative district maps on party-line vote.
Oregon: Oregon becomes first state to enact congressional maps after 2020 census
On Sept. 27, Gov. Kate Brown (D) signed new congressional and state legislative district maps into law, making Oregon the first state to enact new congressional maps in the current redistricting cycle. The state Senate approved the new congressional map 18-6. The state House of Representatives approved the new map 33-16. The state Senate approved the new legislative map 18-11. The House approved the new map 31-18. According to The Oregonian, the new congressional map creates three safe Democratic districts, one safe Republican district, one district that leans Democratic, and one toss-up.
Brown said, “My office reviewed the maps contained in the bills passed by the Legislature after they were proposed this weekend. Redistricting is a process that necessarily involves compromise, and I appreciate the Legislature working to balance the various interests of all Oregonians.”
House Republican Leader Christine Drazan (R) criticized the maps, saying: “This is by no means over. The illegal congressional map adopted today, clearly drawn for partisan benefit, will not survive legal challenge. Political gerrymandering in Oregon is illegal and drawing congressional lines to ensure five out of six seats for your party long-term is gerrymandering.”
About redistricting in Oregon: In Oregon, the state legislature draws congressional and state legislative district maps. Maps are subject to veto by the governor.
If the legislature does not approve a redistricting plan for state legislative districts, the secretary of state draws the boundaries.
State law requires that congressional and state legislative districts meet the following criteria:
- Districts must be contiguous.
- Districts must “utilize existing geographic or political boundaries.”
- Districts should not “divide communities of common interest.”
- Districts should “be connected by transportation links.”
- Districts “must not be drawn for the purpose of favoring a political party, incumbent or other person.”
For more information about the current redistricting cycle in Oregon, click here.
Colorado: Redistricting commission approves final congressional map
On Sept. 28, the Colorado Independent Congressional Redistricting Commission approved a final congressional district map. Eleven of the 12 commissioners voted in favor of the final map, which was one of nine proposed. The commission ultimately selected a version of the third staff plan, as amended by Commissioner Martha Coleman (D).
The Denver Post’s Alex Burness said the approved map “gives comfortable advantages to each of Colorado’s seven incumbent members of Congress — Democrats Joe Neguse, Jason Crow, Diana DeGette, and Ed Perlmutter and Republicans Ken Buck, Lauren Boebert and Doug Lamborn.” Regarding the state’s new eighth district, Burness said, “Recent election results suggest the new 8th Congressional District will be a close race in 2022.”
About redistricting in Colorado: On Nov. 6, 2018, Colorado voters approved constitutional amendments Y and Z, establishing separate non-politician commissions for congressional and state legislative redistricting. Each commission has four members belonging to the state’s largest political party, four members belonging to the state’s second-largest party, and four members belonging to no party. Commission members are appointed by a panel of three judges selected by the Chief Justice of the Colorado Supreme Court. The amendment requires at least eight of the commission’s 12 members, including at least two members not belonging to any political party, to approve a map.
For more information about the current redistricting cycle in Colorado, click here.
Ohio: Redistricting commission approves state legislative district maps on party-line vote
On Sept. 16,the Ohio Redistricting Commission approved new state legislative district maps by a 5-2 vote. The two Democratic members of the commission, state Rep. Emilia Sykes (D) and state Sen. Vernon Sykes (D), dissented. Since the maps were approved along partisan lines, they will remain in force for four years as opposed to 10, as required under the 2015 constitutional amendment that created the commission. These maps take effect for Ohio’s 2022 legislative elections.
Senate President Matt Huffman (R), a member of the commission, estimated that the new maps would create 62 Republican seats and 37 Democratic seats in the House, and 23 Republican seats and 10 Democratic seats in the Senate. Cleveland.com reported that Democrats on the commission agreed with Huffman’s Senate estimates, but said the new House map would create 65 Republican seats and 34 Democratic seats.
For more information about the current redistricting cycle in Ohio, click here.
Legislation update: Redistricting, electoral systems, and primary systems bills
Redistricting legislation: So far this year, we’ve tracked at least 219 redistricting-related bills up for consideration in state legislatures.
Current as of Oct. 5, 2021
Electoral systems legislation: So far this year, we’ve tracked at least 147 bills dealing with electoral systems that are up for consideration in state legislatures.
Current as of Oct. 5, 2021
Primary systems legislation: So far this year, we’ve tracked at least 20 bills dealing with primary systems that are up for consideration in state legislatures.
Current as of Oct. 5, 2021