Statewide ballot measure certifications lag behind recent even-numbered years

By: David Luchs

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

  1. Seventy-eight measures have been certified for statewide ballots this year
  2. Candidate Connection update: One race reached 100% completion in the past week
  3. Patricia Guerrero joins California Supreme Court

Statewide ballot measure certifications lag behind recent even-numbered years

Seventy-eight statewide measures have been certified for the ballot in 31 states so far this year, five less than the average number certified at this point in other even-numbered years from 2010 to 2020. 

Here’s an update on the latest ballot measure activity:

From 2010 to 2020, the average number of statewide ballot measures certified in an even-numbered year was 164. By this time during even-numbered years from 2010 through 2020, an average of 83 statewide measures had been certified for the ballot. 

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Candidate Connection update: One race reached 100% completion in the past week

Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey asks candidates for federal, state, and local office to share what motivates them on a personal and political level. We’ll be providing regular updates on how many races have a 100% survey completion rate in Thursday editions of the Brew this year.

As of March 29, 2022, we’re tracking 20 races with final candidate lists and a 100% Candidate Connection completion rate. One of those races, the Democratic primary for Georgia Insurance and Fire Safety Commissioner, reached 100% completion in the past week.

We use the term race to describe a primary, runoff, or general election for a single office or seat or for a single set of seats that are elected as a batch. For example, a school board general election for three at-large seats where each voter selects three candidates would be one race, while a school board general election for three seats elected by district where each voter is voting for one candidate would be three separate races.

Some other details about the 20 races with a 100% response rate:

  • As of this week, there are six states with at least one race with a 100% response rate.
  • Thirteen of the 20 races are taking place in Texas.
  • Three of the 20 races are general elections.
  • Of the 17 primaries and primary runoffs, 10 are for the Democratic nomination and seven are for the Republican nomination.
  • Ten of the 20 are races for U.S. House.

Three candidates are seeking the Democratic nomination for Georgia Insurance and Fire Safety Commissioner: Raphael Baker, Janice Laws Robinson, and Matthew Wilson. Three Republicans are also running for the office, including incumbent John King. The last time the office was up, in 2018, Jim Beck (R) defeated Laws Robinson 50.4% to 47.0%.

Georgia’s Insurance and Fire Safety Commissioner is responsible for managing the Office of Insurance and Fire Safety, which is charged with regulating Georgia’s insurance industry and ensuring fire safety. All 50 states have an insurance commissioner office, 11 of which hold elections for the position. Republicans hold an elected insurance commissioner office in eight states to Democrats’ three.

Here’s how the three candidates answered the question, “Who are you? Tell us about yourself.”

Raphael Baker:

“I am uniquely qualified to be Georgia’s Insurance Commissioner. I am a business owner, philanthropist, author, mentor, family man and friend. I have been in the insurance industry for almost two continuous decades and started my insurance career as a front desk receptionist for a small agency. I worked in many other capacities and one of my proudest moments was opening and owning my own agency for six years. During the last five years, I have been in a leadership position for a national insurance carrier and I have been recruiting, hiring, training and developing budding insurance agency owners.”

Janice Laws Robinson:

“I am a licensed insurance professional with over two decades of experience. As the managing partner and principal broker, I own a small specialty lines insurance agency, J. Laws & Associates, LLC. Born in Jamaica, I immigrated to the United States as a teenager with my family to follow the American Dream and became a proud United States citizen a few years later. My journey to serve Georgians is a result of my life experience as an award-winning insurance professional, published author, wife, devoted mother of two courageous daughters and small business owner. Over the past few years, I have expanded my public service into my immediate community of Newnan, serving on the board of the Coweta County Airport Authority, and founding the Coweta Democratic Women’s Council. In 2018, I ran for public office in the GA Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner race as the Democratic nominee to make a difference in the high rates of insurance premiums for Georgia’s everyday families and small businesses. In 2022, I made a commitment to continue the fight and officially announced that I would run again for the citizens of Georgia in the 2022 election cycle for GA Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner.”

Matthew Wilson:

“I am a trial lawyer, two-term state representative, and a proud product of Georgia public schools. I was born and raised in a working class family in Griffin, Georgia. When my dad was disabled on the job, my sister and I were just in kindergarten, and my mom worked night shifts at the local hospital to provide for our family. We had help from Georgia’s worker’s compensation program and Social Security Disability Insurance, so I understand the critical role insurance plays when families are at their most vulnerable. Thanks to the support of my neighbors and the HOPE scholarship, I graduated from the University of Georgia with both my undergraduate and law degrees. After college, I taught math and science to middle schoolers in a low-income community. Since 2019, I have served in the Georgia State House, representing DeKalb and Fulton counties, where I have led the progressive fights to end partisan gerrymandering, ensure ethics in government, stem the tide of gun violence, and ban the harmful practice of LGBTQ conversion therapy. I am proud to be one of Georgia’s seven openly LGBTQ legislators and will be even more proud to bring this representation to Georgia’s 2022 statewide ticket.”

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Patricia Guerrero joins California Supreme Court 

Patricia Guerrero was sworn in to the California Supreme Court on March 28, 2022. Founded in 1849, the California Supreme Court is the state’s court of last resort and has seven judgeships. Of the seven current justices, five were appointed by Democratic governors and two by a Republican governor. 

On Feb. 15, 2022, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) appointed Guerrero to a seat on the California Supreme Court to replace Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar. He resigned on Oct. 31, 2021, to become president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The Commission on Judicial Appointments confirmed Guerrero’s appointment on March 22, 2022, and she was sworn in on March 28. Prior to joining the court, Guerrero was a judge of the California Fourth District Court of Appeal, Division One, from 2017 to 2022.

The seven justices of the California Supreme Court are selected by gubernatorial appointment. The state bar’s Commission on Judicial Nominee Evaluation recommends candidates to the governor after examining their qualifications and fitness. If they wish to retain their seat for the remainder of the unexpired term, newly-appointed judges are required to participate in yes-no retention elections occurring at the time of the next gubernatorial race, which is held every four years. After the first election, subsequent retention elections are for full 12-year terms.

Ballotpedia examined the composition of the Calfornia Supreme Court in our Ballotpedia Courts: Determiners and Dissenters study. Five of the seven justices currently on the court were seated at the time of the study. We identified three of those five justices as Democrats and the other two as having indeterminate partisanship. We found that in 2020, the California Supreme Court decided 89.5% of cases in a unanimous ruling, the 22nd highest rate across the 52 courts of last resort we examined.

California is one of 46 states to fill supreme court vacancies via a form of gubernatorial appointment. In 18 of those states, including California, the governor appoints a candidate directly, while in the other 28 a nominating commission assists in developing a candidate list. Illinois fills vacancies via the state supreme court, while Louisiana uses the special election method. Virginia and South Carolina fill vacancies through legislative selections. 

This month, three vacancies opened on state supreme courts across the U.S. Utah Supreme Court Justice Deno Himonas retired effective March 2, followed by Maine Supreme Judicial Court Justice Ellen Gorman on March 18 and Virginia Supreme Court Justice William Mims today, March 31. Maine Gov. Janet Mills (D) nominated Rick Lawrence to fill the seat previously occupied by Gorman on March 7. Nominees have not been selected to fill the seats previously held by Himonas and Mims. 

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