Less than 0.5% decided these 2021 state legislative races

Welcome to the Thursday, January 6, Brew. 

By: David Luchs

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

  1. Average margin of victory in state legislative general elections last year was 23.6 percent
  2. Initiated amendment to expand Medicaid to appear on South Dakota November 2022 ballot
  3. Federal Register weekly update: 1,428 pages added

Average margin of victory in state legislative general elections last year was 23.6 percent

Three of the nation’s 99 state legislative chambers held regularly-scheduled elections for 220 seats on Nov. 2, 2021. In races where more than one candidate ran in the election, the average margin of victory was 23.6%. The margin of victory is the difference between the share of votes cast for the winning candidate and the second-place candidate in an election. In races with multiple seats up, like last year’s elections for the New Jersey General Assembly, the margin of victory is the difference between the vote shares of the winner with the fewest votes and the losing candidate with the most votes.

Major-party candidates won 46 seats by margins of 10% or less; Democrats won 24 of those seats to Republicans’ 22. That means that 21% of seats up for election were won by a margin of 10% or less.

Three races were decided by a margin of 0.5% or less. In New Jersey General Assembly District 11, Marilyn Piperno (R) and Kim Eulner (R) defeated incumbents Joann Downey (D) and Eric Houghtaling (D). The margin between Eulner and Downey was 347 votes, or 0.25%. In District 91 of the Virginia House of Delegates, Aijalon Cordoza (R) defeated incumbent Martha Mugler (D) by a margin of 94 votes, or 0.34%. In District 85 of the Virginia House, Karen Greenhalgh (R) defeated incumbent Alex Askew (D) by a margin of 127 votes, or 0.45%.

Although they were more than double the seats up in the previous odd-year election, we can compare these numbers to 2019. The average margin of victory for the 538 seats up that year was 26.0%, with 57 seats (10.6%) decided by a margin of 10% or less. Two races that year (0.3%) were decided by a margin of 0.5% or less. In 2018, when 6,073 seats were up for election, the average margin of victory was 25.8%. There were 1,078 seats (17.8%) decided by margins of 10% or less and 88 seats (1.4%) decided by margins of 0.5% or less.

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Initiated amendment to expand Medicaid to appear on South Dakota November 2022 ballot

The South Dakota Secretary of State’s office announced on Jan. 3 that an initiated constitutional amendment to expand Medicaid had qualified for the Nov. 3 ballot. South Dakotans Decide Healthcare reported submitting 47,000 signatures on Nov. 8, 2021, with 33,921 needed to qualify for the ballot.

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

Among the groups in support of the measure are the South Dakota State Medical Association and the South Dakota Nurses Association. As of this writing, Ballotpedia has not come across statements from groups opposed to the measure.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, was signed into law on March 23, 2010. The ACA provided for the expansion of Medicaid to cover all individuals earning incomes up to 138% of the federal poverty level, which amounted to $17,774 for an individual and $36,570 for a family of four in 2021. The law was designed to provide 100% of funding to cover the new recipients for the first three years and to cut off federal Medicaid funding to states that chose not to expand coverage. However, the United States Supreme Court ruled in National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius (2012) that the federal government could not withhold Medicaid funds from states that chose not to expand eligibility. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, this ruling had the practical effect of making Medicaid expansion optional for states.

To date, 38 states and Washington, D.C., have expanded Medicaid (six through ballot measures) while 12 states have not expanded Medicaid. Of the seven Medicaid expansion measures that appeared on a state’s statewide ballot, six were approved (Maine, Utah, Nebraska, Idaho, Oklahoma, and Missouri) and one (Montana) was defeated. The Montana measure combined Medicaid expansion with a tobacco tax increase.

The approval process for Amendment D will depend on the fate of Amendment C, which will appear before South Dakota voters on the June 7 ballot. Amendment C would require ballot measures (constitutional amendments and state statutes) placed on the ballot through citizen initiative or referred by the state legislature to receive the approval of a three-fifths majority of voters rather than the current 50%+1 requirement if they would increase existing taxes or fees or require the state to appropriate $10 million or more in the first five fiscal years after they are passed. 

As of Jan. 4, 2022, 64 measures had been certified in 30 for the statewide ballot this year. This is the second-highest number since Ballotpedia began tracking ballot measure certification dates in 2010.

Between 2000 and 2020, 67 measures appeared on the statewide ballot in South Dakota. During that period, about 43% of statewide ballot measures (29 out of 67) were approved by voters, and about 57% (38 of 67) were defeated. One measure was approved by voters but subsequently overturned by the courts, and one 2016 measure was approved but then repealed by the state legislature.

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Federal Register weekly update: 1,428 pages added

The Federal Register is a daily journal of federal government activity that includes presidential documents, proposed and final rules, and public notices. It is a common measure of an administration’s regulatory activity, accounting for both regulatory and deregulatory actions.

From December 27 through December 31, the Federal Register grew by 1,428 pages for a year-to-date total of 74,532 pages.

The Federal Register hit an all-time high of 95,894 pages in 2016.

This week’s Federal Register featured the following 427 documents:

  1. Three hundred and twenty-eight notices,
  2. Five presidential documents,
  3. Forty-two proposed rules, and
  4. Fifty-two final rules

Ballotpedia maintains page counts and other information about the Federal Register as part of its Administrative State Project. The project is a neutral, nonpartisan encyclopedic resource that defines and analyzes the administrative state, including its philosophical origins, legal and judicial precedents, and scholarly examinations of its consequences. The project also monitors and reports on measures of federal government activity.

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