Our weekly summary of state & local news highlights New York City legislation allowing some noncitizens to vote and the Ohio Supreme Court strikes down legislative maps. Read all about it in this week’s edition of the State & Local Tap.
Ballot Measures Update
Sixty-four statewide measures have been certified for the 2022 ballot in 30 states so far. No new measures were certified for the ballot last week.
Signatures have been submitted and are pending verification for six additional initiatives in Alaska, Florida, Massachusetts, and Ohio:
- Alaska State Recognition of American Indian Tribes Initiative (2022)
- Florida Sports Betting Initiative (2022)
- Florida Casino Gaming Expansion Initiative (2022)
- Massachusetts App-Based Drivers as Contractors and Labor Policies Initiative (2022)
- Massachusetts Changes to Alcohol Retail Licensing Initiative (2022)
- Ohio Marijuana Legalization Initiative (2022)
States in session
Thirty-two state legislatures—Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia—are in regular session.
Twenty-six state legislative special elections have been scheduled in 13 states so far this year. Six specials have taken place already. Heading into those races, Democrats had previously controlled five of the seats, and Republicans previously controlled one.
- In special elections between 2011 and 2021, 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 85 seats were filled through special elections in each of the past six odd years (2011: 95, 2013: 84, 2015: 89, 2017:98, 2019: 77, 2021: 66).
Upcoming special elections include:
New Hampshire Secretary of State William Gardner retires
New Hampshire Secretary of State William Gardner (D) retired on Jan. 10.
Gardner is the longest-serving secretary of state, having held the office for 45 years. The state legislature first elected him as secretary in 1976. Before he became secretary, Gardner served as a member of the New Hampshire House of Representatives from 1973 to 1976.
Deputy Secretary of State David Scanlan (R) assumed office as acting secretary after Gardner resigned. According to the New Hampshire Constitution, the deputy secretary of state serves as acting secretary until both houses of the state legislature choose a permanent replacement.
Scanlan will serve the remainder of Gardner’s term, which was set to expire in December 2022.
Scanlan’s swearing-in created a Republican triplex in New Hampshire, meaning that Republicans or Republican-appointed officials control the executive offices of governor, attorney general, and secretary of state.
New York City legislation allowing certain noncitizens to vote becomes law
On Jan. 9, 2022, New York City Mayor Eric Adams (D) allowed Int. 1867-2020 to become law without his signature. Int. 1867-2020 will allow lawful permanent residents and other noncitizens authorized to work in the United States to vote in municipal elections conducted on or after Jan. 9, 2023. According to Politico, this will allow nearly a million noncitizens to vote.
The New York City Council passed the legislation by a 33-14 vote on Dec. 9, 2021. Then-Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) said he would not veto the legislation at the time of passage. Adams became mayor on Jan. 1, 2022.
This legislation made New York City the largest city in the nation to authorize voting by noncitizens. Fifteen municipalities across the country allowed noncitizens to vote in local elections as of January 2022. Eleven were located in Maryland, two were located in Vermont, one was New York City, and the other was San Francisco, California.
Redistricting update: Courts issue rulings in North Carolina and Ohio redistricting lawsuits
On Jan. 11, a three-judge panel on the Wake County Superior Court in North Carolina upheld congressional and state legislative maps passed by the Republican-controlled General Assembly. Plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against those maps alleging partisan and racial gerrymandering.
In the superior court ruling, the judges said that the maps were “a result of intentional, pro-Republican partisan redistricting,” but added that developing maps for partisan gain was not unconstitutional in North Carolina. The judges also ruled that plaintiffs failed to prove their claims of racial gerrymandering.
North Carolina’s primary elections were rescheduled from March 8 to May 17 and candidate filing for 2022 elections was paused as a result of this litigation. The panel also announced that candidate filing would resume on Feb. 24 and close on March 4.
The same day as the superior court’s ruling, plaintiffs filed a notice of appeal to the state supreme court, where Democrats hold a 4-3 majority.
In Ohio, the state’s supreme court ruled that the state legislative district maps approved by the Ohio Redistricting Commission were partisan gerrymanders in violation of the state constitution. The court struck down the maps on Jan. 12 and ordered the commission to draw new lines in accordance with the constitution within 10 days. The Republican-controlled commission voted 5-2 along party lines in favor of the maps on Sept. 16, 2021.
This is the first overturned redistricting map during the 2020 redistricting cycle. After the 2010 census, Ballotpedia tracked at least 14 states that had to redraw all or parts of their legislative maps following court orders.
In its ruling, the court cited a constitutional amendment approved by Ohio voters in 2015 that created a bipartisan commission responsible for drawing state legislative maps without partisan bias. Voters approved the amendment with 71% of the vote.
The amendment also includes a proportionality requirement, which directs the commission to try to match districts with statewide vote totals over the past decade. During the redistricting process, it was determined that, since 2010, Republicans had won 54% of the statewide vote to Democrats’ 46%. The court said that the commission’s maps favored Republicans in 68% of the House districts and 70% of the Senate districts, in violation of the amendment.
Virginia, Maryland declare new emergencies to combat coronavirus
On Jan. 10, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) issued a 30-day emergency order to expand hospital beds and increase hospital staffing in response to rising COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. Northam previously ended the statewide COVID-19 emergency on June 30, 2021.
Northam said, “Health care workers and hospitals are exhausted, and they are again facing increasing numbers of patients, affecting their ability to provide care.”
The order, which is scheduled to expire Feb. 11, allows the state health officer to authorize hospitals and nursing homes to add more beds and makes it easier for licensed healthcare workers in other states to practice in Virginia.
Virginia is only the latest state to declare a new emergency in response to rising coronavirus cases—last week, on Jan. 4, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) issued a 30-day emergency to expand hospital capacity. Hogan previously ended the statewide emergency on July 1, 2021.
As of Jan. 14, COVID-19 emergency orders have expired in 24 states and are active in 26 states.