Welcome to the Wednesday, February 16, Brew.
By: Samuel Wonacott
Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:
- Abortion-related statewide ballot measures: the most in 36 years
- Redistricting roundup
- Texas gubernatorial Republican primary
Abortion-related statewide ballot measures: the most in 36 years
Since 2000, there have been just two general election cycles without abortion-related statewide ballot measures—2002 and 2016.
That won’t be the case this year.
Currently, voters in Kansas, Kentucky, Montana, and Vermont are slated to decide at least four ballot measures addressing abortion—the most since 1986. If proponents of an abortion-related initiative in Michigan collect enough signatures to qualify for the ballot, 2022 will be the year with the most abortion-related measures on record.
Vermont’s abortion-related ballot measure, Proposal 5, is the first measure since Maryland’s 1992 Question 6 that has the support of pro-choice organizations. Maryland Question 6 prohibited state interference with a woman’s decision to have an abortion before the fetus is viable. Vermont Proposal 5, which is set for a vote on November 8, would enact a state constitutional amendment declaring “an individual’s right to personal reproductive autonomy.” In Michigan, a campaign backed by Planned Parenthood and the ACLU is collecting signatures for an initiated constitutional amendment to establish a state right to reproductive freedom, which the initiative would define to include abortion.
In Kansas and Kentucky, the ballot measures would declare there is no state constitutional right to abortion. The Montana Legislature put a measure on the ballot that would state in statute that “an infant born alive is a legal person” and that present healthcare providers shall provide “all medically appropriate and reasonable actions to preserve the [infant’s] life and health.”
Including the four 2022 measures, there have been 51 statewide ballot measures addressing abortion since 1970. Forty-three were designed to implement policies supported by pro-life campaigns. The remaining eight ballot measures were supported by pro-choice campaigns. Of the 47 measures that have been voted on since 1970, 15 were approved.
Five states adopt redistricting maps
We’ve been closely tracking new congressional and state legislative map updates since September 2021. Five months later, the redistricting process shows no sign of slowing down. Here’s a quick summary of where redistricting stands:
- 33 states have finished redistricting, pending legal challenges,
- 9 states need to complete one map, including states apportioned one congressional district so only legislative redistricting is required,
- 6 states need to complete both congressional and legislative redistricting, and
- 2 states have had one or both redistricting plans overturned by their state supreme court.
Read on to learn about the latest redistricting updates out of Connecticut, Kansas, Pennsylvania, and Washington.
Connecticut enacted new congressional district boundaries on Feb. 10 when the Connecticut Supreme Court adopted the court-appointed special master’s redistricting plan. The court appointed Nathaniel Persily, a political scientist, on Dec. 23, 2021. He submitted his proposed redistricting plan to the court on Jan. 18.
The state supreme court assumed control over Connecticut’s congressional redistricting on Dec. 21, 2021, after the state Reapportionment Commission failed to complete the process after the court had extended its deadline to that date. Under state law, the Reapportionment Commission took over congressional redistricting after the state’s Reapportionment Committee failed to meet its statutory Sept. 15, 2021, deadline due to delays in the release of census data.
The Connecticut Mirror’s Mark Pazniokas wrote that in the adopted plan, “Three of the five districts are solidly Democratic, but the 2nd and the 5th are competitive, while leaning Democratic. Republicans have carried those districts in statewide races, including the 2018 gubernatorial election.”
Kansas enacted new congressional district boundaries on Feb. 9 when the Legislature overrode Gov. Laura Kelly’s (D) veto of the Legislature’s redistricting plan. The Associated Press’s John Hanna wrote the congressional district plan “politically hurts the state’s only Democrat in Congress, likely plunging Kansas into a national legal brawl amid the contest for control of the U.S. House.”
The Kansas House of Representatives overrode Kelly’s veto 85-37. Thirty-six Democrats and one Republican voted against overriding the veto, while only Republicans voted to keep the veto. The Senate overrode Kelly’s veto 27-11 on Feb. 8 along party lines.
Minnesota enacted new congressional and legislative district boundaries on Feb. 15 when a special judicial redistricting panel issued an order adopting final maps. In its unanimous order, the panel wrote, “To afford counties and municipalities time to complete local redistricting, the statutory deadline for completing congressional and legislative redistricting is ’25 weeks before the state primary election in the year ending in two.’ In this decennium, that date is February 15, 2022. That date has arrived, and the legislature has not yet enacted a congressional redistricting plan. To avoid delaying the electoral process, the panel must now act.”
Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie Gildea established the five-judge special redistricting panel last year to hear legal challenges regarding redistricting and adopt maps should the legislature not agree on them. The panel consisted of two state court of appeals justices and three state district court judges. Republican governors originally appointed two of the five judges, Democratic governors originally appointed two, and former Gov. Jesse Ventura (Reform) originally appointed one justice.
After the panel issued its order, the Twin Cities Pioneer Press’s Dave Orrick of wrote, “The impacts of the new maps weren’t immediately clear…Since Minnesota averted losing a congressional seat, the state’s eight districts for U.S. House members don’t appear jarringly different from current maps.” This is the fifth redistricting cycle in a row that state courts have drawn the maps in Minnesota.
The Pennsylvania Legislative Reapportionment Commission voted 4-1 to enact new state legislative districts on Feb. 4. House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff (R) voted no, while Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward (R), state Rep. Joanna McClinton (D), state Sen. Jay Costa (D), and chairman Mark Nordenberg voted yes.
The five-member Pennsylvania Reapportionment Commission has existed since 1968. The majority and minority leaders of the state House and Senate appoint four members, who then appoint the fifth. However, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court appointed Nordenberg, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh, after the four other members deadlocked on a fifth member.
The Washington state Senate approved an amended version of the Washington State Redistricting Commission’s map proposal on Feb. 8. In Washington, a five-member commission—established in a 1983 amendment to the state constitution—draws congressional and state legislative district boundaries. The majority and minority leaders of the Washington state Senate and Washington House of Representatives each appoint one registered voter to the commission. These four commissioners appoint a fifth, non-voting member to serve as the commission’s chair.
The commission announced on Nov. 16 that it had missed its deadline to produce new maps. Following state law, the commission then submitted plans to the Washington Supreme Court for consideration. The court accepted the commission’s final map drafts, ruling that it had substantially complied with the deadline. The state House of Representatives approved the final proposal on Feb. 2 in an 88-7 vote, and the state Senate approved the plan on 35-14 on Feb. 8.
Race spotlight: Texas gubernatorial Republican primary
Early voting in Texas started Feb. 14 for the March 1 primaries, making Texas the first state in the 2022 election cycle to open the polls. Let’s take a look at one of the upcoming elections—the Republican primary for Texas governor.
Abbott’s opponents have pointed to his response to the coronavirus pandemic as a reason he should not be re-elected. Writing in the Houston Chronicle, Jeremy Wallace said, “Abbott was the target of GOP-led protests for his early moves to allow mask mandates and restrict business operations.” On June 1, 2021, former President Donald Trump (R) endorsed Abbott for re-election.
Let’s meet the candidates.
Abbot: First elected governor in 2014 and re-elected in 2018, Abbott has said he would continue “to build on his record as a strong conservative leader who fights to preserve Texas values.” Before becoming governor, Abbott served as Texas Attorney General from 2002-2015. He also served as a justice on the Texas Supreme Court from 1996-2001.
Huffines: A member of the Texas Senate from 2015 to 2019, Huffines owns a real-estate development company in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Huffines has said “Texans deserve a real leader who delivers actual results rather than lies,” adding that he would “finish the wall, secure our elections, and ban vaccine mandates.”
West: A former Florida congressman from 2011-2013, West resigned as the chairman of the Texas Republican Party in 2021 to run for governor. In his campaign announcement, West said “leadership in Austin was complicit in shutting down businesses, enforcing illegal mandates, and undermining the rights of Texans.”
No incumbent governor in Texas has failed to be renomination since 1978, when Gov. Dolph Briscoe (D) lost to then-Attorney General John Hill (D). Republicans have won every gubernatorial election in Texas from 1994 to 2018 by an average margin of 16.9 percentage points.
A candidate winning more than 50% of the vote automatically advances to the Nov. 8 general election. If no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote, the top two candidates will advance to a primary runoff. To read about the Democratic primary, click here.