The State and Local Tap: New York enacts new COVID-19 disaster emergency

Our weekly summary of state & local news highlights New York’s new COVID-19 disaster emergency and the Atlanta mayoral runoff results. Read all about it in this week’s edition of the State & Local Tap.

Ballot Measures Update

2021 review

Voters in nine states decided 39 statewide ballot measures on four different election dates in 2021. Twenty-six were approved and 13 were defeated. Four of the measures were citizen initiatives, three were advisory questions about taxes in Washington, eight were bond issues, one was a legislatively referred statute, and the remaining 23 were legislatively referred constitutional amendments.

2022 ballot measures

Sixty-three statewide measures have been certified for the 2022 ballot in 30 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:

  • Dec. 11 – Louisiana: Voters in New Orleans will decide two property tax measures to fund housing and libraries, respectively.
  • Nov. 13 – Louisiana: Voters in Baton Rouge approved 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 108 were approved, at least 46 were defeated, and the remaining two were too close to call or were subject to a recount as of Dec. 3.

Special Elections

Sixty-six state legislative special elections have been scheduled in 21 states so far this year. Sixty-two specials have taken place already. Heading into those races, Democrats had previously controlled 32 of the seats and Republicans previously controlled 30. Three seats flipped from Democratic control to Republican control, and three 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:

Dec. 7

Dec. 14

Special general election to be held Dec. 7 for New Hampshire House of Representatives Rockingham 6

The special general election for the Rockingham 6 District in the New Hampshire House of Representatives is on Dec. 7. Mary Eisner (D) and Jodi Nelson (R) are competing in the special election. 

Nelson advanced from the Republican primary on Oct. 19, earning 78% of the vote. Eisner was unopposed in the Democratic primary. The filing deadline to run passed Aug. 27.

The special election was called after Anne Copp (R) resigned on Aug. 5 in order to move out of the district. Copp represented Rockingham 6 in the state House from 2020 to 2021. She represented the Merrimack 1 District from 2016 to 2018.

As of December 2021, 66 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2021 in 21 states. Between 2011 and 2020, an average of 75 special elections took place each year. New Hampshire held 29 special elections from 2010 to 2020.

Andre Dickens defeats Felicia Moore in Atlanta mayoral runoff election

On Nov. 30, City Councilman Andre Dickens (D) defeated City Council President Felicia Moore (D) in the general runoff election for mayor of Atlanta, Georgia, receiving 64% of the vote to Moore’s 36%. 

Dickens and Moore advanced to a runoff after placing second and first, respectively, in the Nov. 2  general election. In that race, Moore received 41% of the vote followed by Dickens with 23%. This was the city’s seventh mayoral runoff since 1973.

Dickens was first elected to the Atlanta City Council in 2013 and won re-election in 2017. During the mayoral race, he promoted his SAFE Streets Atlanta plan, a series of public safety proposals in response to voter concerns regarding crime. He received endorsements from incumbent Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (D), former Mayors Shirley Jackson (D) and Andrew Young (D), and U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams (D). 

The number of votes cast in the Nov. 30 runoff represented a decrease of 18.1% compared to the votes cast in the Nov. 2 general election, making this the largest such decrease since the 1993 mayoral contest between Bill Campbell and Michael Lomax. 2021 was also the second time since at least 1981 where the second-place finisher in the general election went on to win the runoff.

Redistricting update: Arkansas approves final legislative maps

The Arkansas Board of Apportionment voted 3-0 on Nov. 29 to accept final maps of the state’s House and Senate districts. The board, which is made up of Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R), Attorney General Leslie Rutledge (R), and Secretary of State John Thurston (R), previously accepted maps on Oct. 29, beginning a 30-day public comment period. Barring any legal challenges, these maps will go into effect on Dec. 30.

The Associated Press’ Andrew DeMillo wrote that the maps kept the number of majority-Black Senate districts the same, reduced the number of majority-Black House districts by one, and created the state’s first majority-Hispanic legislative district.

Also, three states—Maryland, New Mexico, and South Carolina—will hold special legislative sessions during the week of Dec. 6 to consider redistricting plans in each state. Maryland’s and New Mexico’s sessions will commence on Dec. 6. The South Carolina House began its special session on Dec. 1 while the state Senate will start work on Dec. 6.

New York enacts new COVID-19 disaster emergency 

On Nov. 26, Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) declared a disaster emergency in response to the COVID-19 omicron variant, five months after New York ended its first COVID-19 emergency. Hochul’s order was scheduled to last through Jan. 15, 2022. 

In a tweet, Hochul said she was issuing the order to prepare for a possible spike in cases caused by the new variant. 

Governors across the country declared active emergencies at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, including former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who first declared a COVID-19 disaster emergency on March 7, 2020. He ended the emergency on June 24, 2021. State codes generally allow governors to declare a state of emergency in response to natural disasters, disease epidemics, and other dangers to public health. These emergency orders allowed officials to access resources unavailable to them during non-emergencies, like stockpiles of medical goods and equipment, and temporarily waive or suspend certain rules and regulations. They also formed the basis of lockdown and stay-at-home orders, mask mandates, and other restrictions on businesses and individuals.

Currently, COVID-19 emergencies are active in 25 states. Twenty-five states have ended their emergencies. 

Checking in on 2021 state legislative vacancies

With four weeks left in the calendar year, there have been 145 state legislative vacancies this year across 45 states.

Seventy-four (74) vacancies have occurred in seats held by Republicans, and 72 vacancies have occurred in seats held by Democrats. No vacancies have occurred in seats held by independents.

States with the highest number of vacancies include Arizona (11), New Hampshire (8), Oregon (8), Maryland (7), and Illinois (6).

One hundred and eight (108) of the vacancies have been filled so far. The process for filling state legislative vacancies varies from state to state. Twenty-five states require special elections, 10 states require the governor to appoint, seven states require the board of county commissioners to appoint, three states require the state’s political party to appoint, three states have a hybrid system, and one state requires the legislative chamber to vote on a replacement.