By: Samuel Wonacott
Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:
- The latest redistricting news out of Maryland, Missouri, and Ohio
- Election spotlight—Nebraska gubernatorial Republican primary
- Local law enforcement on the ballot in 2022
Redistricting remains in action
Congressional redistricting has been completed for 84.8% U.S. House seats, 79.3% of state House seats, and 90.0% of state Senate seats. But there’s still a lot left to do. Here’s an update.
Let’s take a look at redistricting news out of Maryland, Missouri, and Ohio.
On March 15, the Maryland Court of Appeals postponed the state’s primary election from June 28 to July 19. The court also extended the filing deadline for all candidates from March 22 to April 15. The court said it had “received timely-filed petitions challenging the validity of the 2022 legislative districting plan enacted by the General Assembly” and that a court-appointed Special Magistrate would hold hearings on those cases through March 25 and file a report with the court on April 5.
Maryland adopted legislative maps on Jan. 27 when the state House voted 95-42 to approve the new boundaries. Earlier, the state Senate voted 32-14 to do the same.
In Maryland, the governor cannot veto legislative maps. Maryland has a divided government—Republicans hold the governorship while Democrats have majorities in both chambers of the legislature.
Missouri became the 43rd state to complete legislative redistricting on March 15, when the Judicial Redistricting Commission filed new state Senate district boundaries with the secretary of state. The House Independent Bipartisan Citizens Commission completed the state House’s district boundaries on Jan. 21.
The Judicial Redistricting Commission’s chair, Appeals Court Justice Cynthia Lynette Martin, said the commission’s work, “has been thorough and labor intensive, and was purposefully undertaken with the goal to file a constitutionally compliant plan and map well in advance of the commission’s constitutional deadline to avoid disenfranchising voters given the candidate filing deadline and the deadline for preparing ballots.”
The Missouri Supreme Court appointed a six-judge panel of state appeals court justices on Jan. 11 to conduct legislative redistricting after the Senate Independent Bipartisan Citizens Commission missed its deadline in late 2021 to submit a plan to the secretary of state’s office.
The Missouri Times’ Scott Faughn wrote, “The biggest difference in this map and that previous map is that it shifts the weight of some of the districts from rural weighted districts to evenly split districts and even enhances the suburban influence inside several republican seats.” Faughn also wrote, “the new map produces 7 solid democratic districts, and 3 likely democratic districts. On the republican side the new map produces 18 solid republican districts, and 3 more likely republican districts,” with two competitive districts when the current incumbents no longer seek office.
The Ohio Supreme Court ruled on March 16 that legislative district boundaries the Ohio Redistricting Commission had adopted on Feb. 24 were unconstitutional and gave the commission until March 28 to draft new maps.
In a 4-3 decision, the court said the revised maps violate sections 6 (A) and (B) of the state constitution. Those provisions, which came out of a 2015 voter-approved constitutional amendment establishing the redistricting commission, require legislative district boundaries not “be drawn primarily to favor or disfavor a political party.”
The court’s majority said, “we expect the commission to abide by its Article XI duty to draft a plan, not to simply adopt one drafted by legislative staff at the direction of members of one political party. While the dissenters may interpret the words of the Constitution that instruct the commission to draw a plan as meaning that members of one political party alone may draw the plan, we do not.”
In a dissent, Justices Sharon L. Kennedy and Pat DeWine wrote: “The majority decrees electoral chaos. It issues an order all but guaranteed to disrupt an impending election and bring Ohio to the brink of a constitutional crisis.” They said the 2015 amendment addressed what to do when a minority party doesn’t support a commission plan: “The Constitution…expressly provides that if the members fail to achieve bipartisan consensus, then the commission may introduce and adopt a General Assembly–district plan by a party-line majority vote, with the consequence being that the plan lasts for only four years.”
Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R) said on March 17 that county election officials are unable to perform certain primary election procedures associated with state legislative elections. He also said processes supporting the May 3 statewide, congressional, and local primaries are moving forward. Only the Legislature or a court order can change the primary date.
Election spotlight—Nebraska gubernatorial Republican primary
Let’s turn to Nebraska for a look at an upcoming gubernatorial primary battleground election.
Nine candidates are running in the Republican Party primary for governor of Nebraska on May 10. Incumbent Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) is term-limited. Nebraska is one of 36 states that subject governors to term limits.
Candidates Charles Herbster, Brett Lindstrom, and Jim Pillen lead in endorsements, funding, or media attention.
Herbster, who chaired former President Donald Trump’s (R) Agriculture and Rural Advisory Committee, says he is a “political outsider, businessman, and fifth-generation farmer and rancher.” Herbster says, “It is time for a Nebraska farmer and rancher to lead our great state toward successful solutions.” Trump endorsed Herbster in October 2021.
Lindstrom is a member of the Nebraska Senate. Lindstrom says he has “been at the forefront of tax reform, economic development and family issues” and has “passed legislation to make college more affordable for Nebraskans, defended the unborn, and led the fight against the opioid epidemic.”
Pillen, a University of Nebraska Regent, veterinarian, and the owner of Pillen Family Farms, said, “We have to fix our broken property tax system and cut taxes. We need to modernize our tax structure, expand broadband access, and improve infrastructure across our state.” Ricketts endorsed Pillen in January 2022.
Also running in the primary are Donna Nicole Carpenter, Michael Connely, Lela McNinch, Breland Ridenour, Theresa Thibodeau, and Troy Wentz.
Independent observers rate the general election as Solid/Safe Republican. Rickets was first elected in 2014 and won re-election in 2018, defeating state Sen. Bob Krist (D) 59%-41%. Republicans have held trifecta control of Nebraska state government since 1999.
There are gubernatorial elections in 36 states this year.
Local law enforcement on the ballot in 2022
Last week, we looked at statewide measures. Today, let’s look at a special category of local measures we’re tracking—local law enforcement.
Since 2020, we’ve tracked 36 notable local police-related ballot measures. In 2021 we covered 12 of them, of which voters approved seven and and defeated five. Those measures touched on a range of law enforcement topics, including police oversight, incarceration practices, budgets, training requirements, and body and dashboard camera policies. Among the approved measures was a ban on no-knock warrants in Pittsburgh. Voters approved it 81.16% to 18.84%.
Voters in Austin, Texas will decide a similar measure on May 7—The Austin Marijuana Decriminalization and Prohibit No-Knock Warrants Initiative.
The Austin City Council voted on Jan. 18 to put the initiative on the ballot after the Austin City Clerk announced supporters had met the threshold for valid signatures.
If approved, the initiative would (1) amend the Austin City Code to prohibit Austin police from issuing any citations or making any arrests for misdemeanor marijuana possession offenses and (2) prohibit Austin police from requesting, executing, or participating in a no-knock search warrant.
You can read the full text of the initiative here.
No-knock warrants are search warrants that exempt police from knocking and announcing their presence before entering the premises in certain circumstances. They came into widespread use in the 1970s and 1980s in executing raids for illicit drugs.
On March 15, Belleair, Florida residents approved the Vote Requirements to Abolish Municipal and Police Departments Amendment 80.47% to 19.53%. The measure amends the city’s charter to prohibit the town commission from abolishing any municipal department, including the police department, without unanimous approval. If the commissioners vote to abolish a department, the measure also requires at least 60% support from voters.
Click here to learn more about the local police-related measures we followed in 2021.
So far, 78 statewide ballot measures have been certified for the ballot in 31 states, and we’re tracking 268 other measures that could still make it on the ballot. We’re also tracking all local measures in California, as well as ballot issues in the top 100 largest cities and all state capitals.