Welcome to the Wednesday, December 15, Brew.
By: Samuel Wonacott
Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:
- A Dec. 16 school board election in Wisconsin
- A redistricting update from across the country
- The seven states that decided 24 constitutional amendments in 2021
Recall election to be held Dec. 16 against Wisconsin school board member
On Dec. 16, voters will decide whether to recall Gary Mertig, one of the five members of the Butternut School District school board in Wisconsin. Nate Pritzl filed to run against Mertig in the election. At the time the recall began, Mertig had served on the board for 31 years.
Here’s a quick FAQ on recalls.
- The recall petition required 126 signatures to qualify for the ballot. One-hundred and thirty district residents signed it.
- The number of valid signatures required for a recall election in Wisconsin is 25% of the number of people who voted in the last preceding election for the office of governor within the targeted official’s electoral district.
- Election officials must provide a “certificate of sufficiency” or a “certificate of insufficiency” within 31 days after recall organizers have submitted the signatures on the recall petition.
What people are saying about the recall
- Recall supporters said Mertig lied when he said community members would have input on the school district’s COVID-19 policies. Supporters said they were promised a meeting with all parties involved but that when the meeting was held, parents were not allowed to offer comments or ask questions.
- Mertig said the community was allowed to speak at two out of the three meetings on the policies. The third meeting did not allow public comment because it was not listed on the agenda. “You have to be careful with the law. If it’s not on the agenda, you can’t talk about it,” Mertig said.
About the district
- In the 2020-2021 school year, Butternut School District had approximately 179 students.
- Butternut School District is in Ashland County, in the northern part of the state.
Additional news about the recall
- Mertig alleged that the way the recall signatures were collected violated state law. He submitted a letter to the Wisconsin Election Commission saying that at least eight residents who signed the recall were not witnessed by the petition circulator and that at least five people who signed were not residents of the school district. Mertig said those signatures should not have been counted, which would have stopped the recall election from being scheduled.
- Wisconsin Election Commission Administrator Megan Wolf ruled that the recall election could proceed because Mertig did not file his complaints against the petition with the school district within the 10-day time period set by state law.
- Ballotpedia has tracked 90 school board recall efforts against 233 school board members so far in 2021—the highest number of school board recall efforts we have tracked in one year. The next-highest year was in 2010 with 38 recall efforts against 91 school board members.
- 57.8% of the school board recalls we’ve tracked this year are related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the first half of 2021, Ballotpedia tracked 165 recall efforts against 263 officials. This was the most recall efforts for this point in the year since the first half of 2016, when we tracked 189 recall efforts against 265 officials. In comparison, we tracked between 72 and 155 efforts by the midpoints of 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020.
The redistricting process shows no signs of slowing down as we head toward the end of the year. This week, we’ve got updates from Alaska, Connecticut, New Mexico, and South Carolina.
The cities of Skagway and Valdez, the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, and three Anchorage residents filed four lawsuits challenging Alaska’s legislative redistricting plan. The deadline to file challenges was Dec. 10 All four lawsuits request the Alaska Redistricting Board revise its Nov. 10 map.
Three of the challenges allege the redistricting plan does not adhere to the state’s requirement that each district contains an “integrated socio-economic area.” The Matanuska-Susitna Borough lawsuit contends that each of the borough’s state House districts is overpopulated and dilutes the borough’s votes.
Alaska has had a five-member independent redistricting commission since 1998. Two commissioners are appointed by the governor, one by the state Senate majority leader, one by the state House majority leader, and one by the chief justice of the Alaska Supreme Court. The commission voted 3-2 to approve the maps. The three Republican-appointed members voted in favor of the maps, while the two members without a party affiliation voted against.
On Dec. 9, the Connecticut Supreme Court granted the state Reapportionment Commission’s petition to extend the deadline for congressional redistricting to Dec. 21. On Dec. 1, the commission voted 9-0 to request a three-week extension to Connecticut’s Nov. 30 congressional map deadline. The commission submitted the request to the state supreme court, which took control of the redistricting process after the deadline passed.
The nine-member commission consists of four Democratic state lawmakers, four Republican state lawmakers, and one Republican former state representative who the other commission members selected. The commission took over the redistricting process after the state’s eight-member Reapportionment Committee did not meet its Sept. 15 deadline. Unlike the committee, the Reapportionment Commission’s maps did not need approval from the General Assembly. The commission unanimously approved state legislative maps in November.
The New Mexico legislature approved new boundaries for the state’s three congressional districts strictly along party lines, sending the proposal to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D). The state Senate approved the maps on Dec. 10 and the state House approved them on Dec. 11 with all Democrats voting in favor and all Republicans voting against. Robert Nott of the Santa Fe New Mexican wrote that the proposal “gives Democrats a comfortable lead in all three congressional districts.” The current party affiliation of New Mexico’s U.S. House members is two Democrats and one Republican.
South Carolina enacted new state legislative district maps on Dec. 10, 2021, when Gov. Henry McMaster (R) signed a proposal approved by the South Carolina House and Senate into law. The South Carolina Senate approved House and Senate map proposals in a 43-1 vote on Dec. 7, and the House approved the new districts in a 75-27 vote on Dec. 9. Gov. McMaster signed the bill into law the next day. This map will take effect for South Carolina’s 2022 state legislative elections.
Rep. Wendy Brawley (D) said the proposal was “highly gerrymandered…to the disadvantage of most Democrats and to the disadvantage of many minorities — it protects Republicans.” Rep. Jay Jordan (R) said, “We worked very hard to make sure that was not the case, and I feel very comfortable in saying that was not the case.”
Voters in seven states decided on 24 constitutional amendments in 2021, adopting 16 of them
In 2021, voters in seven states decided 24 constitutional amendments. Of those proposed amendments, state legislatures referred 23 to the ballot, and a signature petition drive was used to initiate one in Colorado. Sixteen of the 24 (66.66%) were approved. The seven states with constitutional amendments in 2021 were:
- Colorado – 1
- Louisiana – 4
- Maine – 1
- New Jersey – 2
- New York – 5
- Pennsylvania – 3
- Texas – 8
Below are some of the notable amendments approved in 2021:
- Maine voters enacted a first-of-its-kind constitutional right to produce, harvest, and consume food.
- New York voters enacted a constitutional right to clean air, clean water, and a healthful environment.
- Pennsylvania voters approved two amendments providing limits to and giving the legislature additional authority over the governor’s emergency declaration powers. Both were put on the ballot in response to conflict over responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Texas voters also approved two constitutional amendments in response to COVID-19: an amendment to prohibit the state or any political subdivision from enacting a law, rule, order, or proclamation that limits religious services or organizations; and an amendment creating a constitutional right for residents of nursing homes to designate an essential caregiver that may not be prohibited from visiting the resident.
From 2006 through 2021, voters decided 1,040 constitutional amendments. This data only includes constitutional amendments put on the ballot for a statewide vote. It does not include certain state constitutional amendments that only apply to local jurisdictions and were voted on only by residents of particular local jurisdictions. It also does not include constitutional amendments in Delaware that weren’t subject to voter ratification. Of this total, voters approved 749 (72%) proposed changes to state constitutions.
Click below to learn more about how constitutional amendments can be proposed and put on the ballot in most states.