Texas Gov. Abbott appoints Evan Young as state supreme court justice

Our weekly summary of state & local news highlights Gov. Abbott’s state supreme court justice appointment and Louisiana’s upcoming primaries. Read all about it in this week’s edition of the State & Local Tap.

Ballot Measures Update

Nov. 13 preview

Voters in Louisiana will decide four statewide measures on Nov. 13.

Nov. 2 review

Voters in six states decided 24 statewide ballot measures on Nov. 2. Fourteen (14) measures were approved and 10 were defeated. Four of the measures were citizen initiatives, three were advisory questions about taxes in Washington, one was a bond issue for transportation, and the remaining 16 were legislatively referred constitutional amendments. Click here to see election results.

2022 ballot measures

Sixty-one (61) statewide measures have been certified for the 2022 ballot in 29 states so far.No new measures were certified for the ballot last week.

States in session

Seven state legislatures—Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin—are in regular session.

Local Ballot Measures: The Week in Review

In 2021, Ballotpedia is providing comprehensive coverage of elections in America’s 100 largest cities by population and all state capitals. This encompasses every office on the ballot in these cities, including their municipal elections, trial court elections, school board elections, and local ballot measures. Ballotpedia also covers all local recall elections, as well as all local ballot measures in California and a selection of notable local ballot measures about elections and police-related policies. Recent and upcoming local ballot measure elections are listed below:

  • Nov. 13 – Louisiana: Voters in Baton Rouge will decide on a property tax measure to fund public transportation.
  • Nov. 9 – Arkansas: Voters in Little Rock approved a property tax increase for libraries.
  • Nov. 2 – Ballotpedia covered 156 local ballot measures on the Nov. 2 ballot in 18 states. At least 100 were approved, at least 42 were defeated, and the remaining 14 were too close to call as of Nov. 11.

Special Elections

Sixty-six (66) state legislative special elections have been scheduled in 21 states so far this year. Fifty-eight (58) specials have taken place already. Heading into those races, Democrats had previously controlled 29 of the seats, and Republicans previously controlled 29. Three seats flipped from Democratic control to Republican control, and two seats flipped from Republican control to Democratic control.

  • In special elections between 2011 and 2020, one party (either Republicans or Democrats) saw an average net gain of four seats nationally each year.
  • An average of 57 seats were filled through special elections in each of the past six even years (2010: 30, 2012: 46, 2014: 40, 2016: 65, 2018: 99, 2020: 59).
  • An average of 88 seats were filled through special elections in each of the past five odd years (2011: 94, 2013: 84, 2015: 89, 2017: 98, 2019: 77).

Upcoming special elections include:

Nov. 13

Nov. 23

Nov. 30

Dec. 7

Signatures submitted to Loudoun County Circuit Court to recall school board member Brenda Sheridan

Supporters of a recall against six of the nine members of the Loudoun County Public Schools school board in Virginia submitted signatures against Chairwoman Brenda Sheridan on Nov. 9. Supporters said they filed 1,859 signatures. A total of 803 signatures are required to move the recall forward.

The signatures were submitted to the Loudoun County Circuit Court, where the petition will be reviewed by a judge. If the case is accepted, a trial will be held. At the trial, recall supporters must “demonstrate the officer engaged in neglect of duty, misuse of office, or incompetence in the performance” in order to remove Sheridan from office.

Five other members were also included in the recall effort. One member passed away in August, and another resigned in November before a trial could take place. Petitions against the other three members have not been filed.

The recall effort is sponsored by the Fight For Schools political action committee (PAC). Recall supporters said they launched the effort due to school board members’ involvement in a private Facebook group, which they said was a violation of Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act as well as the school board’s Code of Conduct because the members discussed public matters in a private setting. Recall supporters also alleged that the district was using Critical Race Theory in its employee training and student curriculum, which they opposed.

Interim Superintendent Scott Ziegler said the district uses a Culturally Responsive Framework that “speaks to providing a welcoming, affirming environment and developing cultural competence through culturally responsive instruction, deeper learning, equitable classroom practices and social-emotional needs for a focus on the whole child.” He said the district did not use Critical Race Theory in its staff training or student curriculum. 

A group called Loudoun For All formed a political action committee to counteract the recall effort. “There is no reason equity in our schools should be this controversial,” Rasha Saad, president of Loudoun For All, said in a statement.

Ballotpedia has tracked 84 school board recall efforts against 215 board members so far in 2021—the highest number of school board recall efforts we have tracked in one year.

Texas Gov. Abbott appoints Evan Young as state supreme court justice

Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott (R) appointed Evan Young (R) to the Texas State Supreme court on Nov. 1. Young assumed office on Nov. 9. Young was appointed to succeed Eva Guzman (R), who resigned from the court in June 2021 to run for Texas attorney general. 

Before he was appointed to the state supreme court, Young was a partner at the law firm Baker Botts LLP and a professor at the University of Texas School of Law.

Under Texas law, the governor appoints a replacement to the Texas Supreme Court in the event of a midterm vacancy. The Texas State Senate must then confirm the nominee. Appointees serve until the next general election, in which they must participate in a partisan election to remain on the bench for the remainder of the unexpired term.

In 2021, there have been 18 supreme court vacancies in 16 of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. Seventeen (17) of the vacancies have been caused by retirements, and one vacancy was caused by a justice’s death. To date, 14 of those vacancies have been filled.

South Dakotans Decide Healthcare submits signatures for Medicaid expansion initiative

South Dakotans Decide Healthcare submitted 47,000 signatures for their Medicaid expansion initiative on Nov. 8. To qualify for the ballot, 33,921 valid signatures are required.

The measure would amend the constitution to require the state to provide Medicaid benefits to adults between ages 18 and 65 whose incomes are below 133% of the federal poverty level. Because the Affordable Care Act includes a 5% income disregard, this measure would effectively expand Medicaid to cover those with incomes at or below 138% of the federal poverty level.

As of November 2021, a total of 38 states and Washington, D.C. had expanded or voted to expand Medicaid, while 13 states had not. Six states have expanded Medicaid through citizen initiatives.

Dakotans 4 Health also circulated a Medicaid expansion initiated amendment but did not submit signatures by the deadline. Dakotans 4 Health filed a Medicaid expansion initiative to amend state law (rather than the state constitution). Since the deadlines for initiated measures that amend state law was extended to May 3, 2022, Dakotans 4 Health said they would collect signatures for that measure and would support South Dakotans Decide Healthcare’s constitutional amendment.

Alaska, South Dakota, North Dakota enact new legislative maps

Three states enacted new legislative maps this week.


The Alaska Redistricting Board adopted a new legislative map on Nov. 10 for the state’s 20 Senate and 40 House districts after the 2020 census. While the new map has been enacted, there will now be a 30-day period during which time interested parties may file legal challenges against the new map. The board’s three Republican-appointed members—John Binkley, Bethan Marcum, and Budd Simpson— voted in favor of the final map while the two nonpartisan members—Melanie Bahnke and Nicole Borromeo—voted against it.

KTOO’s Andrew Kitchenman reported that, since the new map largely altered the state’s Senate districts, 19 of the 20 districts will hold elections in 2022. Alaska normally staggers elections to its Senate, with half the chamber holding elections in one even-year cycle and the other half holding elections in the next, and all members would serve four-year terms. In 2022, certain districts will elect senators to two-year terms while others will elect them to four-year terms in order to restart the staggered process under the new district lines. Alaska’s House districts hold elections every two years.

North Dakota

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum (R) signed new state legislative maps into law on Nov. 11. The House approved the maps in a 73-18 vote on Nov. 9, and the Senate approved the maps in a 40-7 vote on Nov. 10. Since North Dakota was apportioned a single at-large U.S. House seat, they do not need to draft a congressional map.

The state legislature completed legislative redistricting during a special session that began on Nov. 8. The map was drafted by the Legislative Redistricting Committee, which had fourteen Republican members and two Democratic members. The state maintained its 47 legislative districts, but three new districts were placed near more populous areas and three districts were removed from less populous rural areas.

South Dakota

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) signed legislation enacting the state’s new legislative districts on Nov. 10. Both chambers of the legislature approved the final proposal, known as the Sparrow map, on that day. The state House approved the new districts by a 37-31 vote and the Senate by a vote of 30-2. The South Dakota legislature began a special session to consider redistricting proposals on Nov. 8. 

The Sparrow map was a compromise proposal between two other district plans that each chamber had previously passed. The two proposals mainly differed in their approach to Native American reservations and the rural areas around Rapid City. The Sparrow map preserves Native American districts and redraws the districts covering Rapid City. 

Voters in Dover to decide city council special election on Nov. 16

The city of Dover, D.E., is holding a nonpartisan special election for District 1 on the city council on Nov. 16. The filing deadline for this election was Nov. 1.

Julia Pillsbury and Brandy Walker are running in the special election. The special election was called after Matthew Lindell resigned from his seat on the nine-seat city council after deciding to move from the district. Lindell served from 2017 to 2021.

Dover is the capital city of Delaware and the second-largest city in the state. It had an estimated population of 39,403 in 2020, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Ballotpedia covers elections for mayor, city council, and district attorney in all capital cities in the U.S.

Louisiana to hold primaries ahead of the fall general election

Louisiana voters will decide four statewide ballot measures on Nov. 13. In addition to the ballot measures, special election primaries are being held for three seats in the Louisiana State Legislature. Ballotpedia is covering municipal elections in Baton Rouge and New Orleans. We are also covering a special election primary for a seat on the Caddo Parish Public Schools school board.

Four statewide ballot measures are certified to appear on the ballot. The measures concern taxes and the state budget. The Louisiana Constitution limits legislation and constitutional amendments in odd-numbered years to matters concerning the state’s budget, government finance, and taxation.

Special election primaries are being held for one seat in the Louisiana State Senate and two seats in the Louisiana House of Representatives. The winners of the special elections will serve until Jan. 8, 2024.

In New Orleans, primaries are being held for mayor, city council, sheriff, assessor, coroner, civil district court clerk, and criminal district court clerk. Two local judicial seats are on the ballot in Baton Rouge.

A special election primary is being held for one seat on the Caddo Parish Public Schools school board. The District 7 seat became vacant on Apr. 6 when Raymond Green resigned to spend more time with his family.

Louisiana elections use the majority-vote system. All candidates compete in the same primary, and a candidate can win the election outright by receiving more than 50% of the vote. If no candidate does, the top two vote recipients from the primary advance to the general election, regardless of their partisan affiliation.

Gov. Edwards signed an executive order on Sept. 9 postponing the state’s fall elections due to damage from Hurricane Ida. The primary, originally scheduled for Oct. 9, was changed to Nov. 13. The general election, originally scheduled for Nov. 13, was changed to Dec. 11.