One last look at recalls in 2021

Welcome back to the Tuesday, January 4, Brew. 

By: Douglas Kronaizl

Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Number of recall efforts in 2021 was highest since 2012
  2. Eight states have candidate filing deadlines in the next two months
  3. Revisiting a decade of veto overrides

Number of recall efforts in 2021 was highest since 2012

According to our year-end recall analysis, Ballotpedia tracked more recall efforts in 2021 than any other year since we began compiling recall data in 2012. Across all levels of government, we identified 529 officials who faced recalls in 2021 compared to 301 in 2020 and 233 in 2019. The year with the second-most recalls was 2014 with 387 officials.

The total number of officials successfully removed from office was lower in 2021 than any other year since 2012. Twenty-five recall efforts were successful in 2021, compared to 35 in 2020 and 38 in 2019. Meanwhile, 42 recalls were defeated in 2021 and 342 efforts did not qualify for the ballot.

For the first time since Ballotpedia began tracking recalls, school board members faced more recalls than any other office type. A total of 233 school board members faced recall efforts, while city council members—who faced the most recall efforts from 2014 to 2020—had the second-most with 148.

By state, California had the most officials who faced recalls at 129 in 2021. Arizona and Michigan followed with 51 officials each. From 2016 to 2021, California had the most recall efforts in four of those five years. When the number of recalls is adjusted for state population, Nebraska was the recall leader in 2021, with 1.3 officials per 100,000 residents.

Ballotpedia closely followed several notable recalls in 2021. These include the recall election for California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), two recall efforts against San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin, and the recall election for Seattle City Councilwoman Kshama Sawant. Our analysis also highlighted school board recalls in Virginia’s Loudon County Public School District, Wisconsin’s Mequon-Thiensville School District, and California’s San Francisco Unified School District.

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Eight states have candidate filing deadlines in the next two months

The year may have just started, but the 2022 election cycle is already underway with candidates filing to run for office ahead of their respective deadlines. The process technically began with the Texas filing deadline on Dec. 13, 2021. Eight more states have filing deadlines in the next two months.

This will be the first election year following redistricting. Most states will see entirely new state legislative and congressional district lines. States must finish redistricting before their respective filing deadlines.

Kentucky’s filing deadline is currently set for Jan. 7, but the state has not yet finished its redistricting process. On Dec. 31, 2021, WFPL’s Ryland Barton reported that Republican leaders in the legislature intended to pass legislation moving the state’s filing deadline from Jan. 7 to Jan. 25.

One other state—North Carolina—has already postponed its candidate filing deadline due to redistricting challenges. On Dec. 8, 2021, the North Carolina Supreme Court issued an order that moved the state’s primary election from March 8 to May 17 as a result of two lawsuits challenging the state’s new district maps. The court also suspended candidate filing, which was originally scheduled to end on Dec. 17, 2021. A new filing deadline has not yet been announced, though the trial court responsible for the case must reach a ruling by Jan. 11, 2022.

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Revisiting a decade of veto overrides

Just like the federal government, every state has its own separation of powers. One of those powers belongs to the executive branch, which can veto bills from the legislative branch. Similarly, in all 50 states, the legislative branch can override a veto typically by a two-thirds vote from each chamber, though the exact numbers of votes required vary by state.

Between 2010 and 2020, Arkansas had the highest percentage of gubernatorial vetos overridden by the state legislature. During that time, Arkansas governors issued four vetos, three of which (75%) were overridden. Arkansas—along with Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, and West Virginia—is one of six states that require a majority vote to override a veto.

When looking at raw numbers, South Carolina tops the list for the state with the largest number of vetoes overridden at 138 followed by Maine and New York with 133 and 67, respectively. California had the largest difference with 1,695 vetoes issued, none of which were overridden.

Ballotpedia also tracks and records noteworthy veto overrides. In 2021, we wrote about 16 veto overrides in eight states. Among those include:

  • Arkansas’ Republican-controlled General Assembly overriding Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s (R) veto of a bill prohibiting gender reassignment treatment for minors; 
  • Indiana’s Republican-controlled General Assembly overriding Gov. Eric Holcomb’s (R) veto of a landlord-tenant bill. This was Holcomb’s first veto overridden since he assumed office in 2017; and,
  • Maryland’s Democratic-controlled General Assembly overriding Gov. Larry Hogan’s (R) veto of the state’s congressional redistricting map.

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