29 SCOTUS decisions down, 35 to go

Welcome to the Friday, May 20, Brew. 

By: Douglas Kronaizl

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

  1. Looking at the two most recent SCOTUS decisions
  2. Arkansas’ upcoming statewide primaries
  3. #FridayTrivia: How many U.S. House incumbents have lost in primaries so far?

Looking at the two most recent SCOTUS decisions

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) is approaching its summer recess in late June or early July quickly, and that means we are entering peak opinion season. The court traditionally issues the bulk of its decisions before leaving for the summer.

SCOTUS issued its two most recent decisions on May 16 in Federal Election Commission v. Ted Cruz for Senate and Patel v. Garland. Let’s take a closer look.

In Federal Election Commission v. Ted Cruz for Senate, the court struck down a campaign finance law that limited the monetary amount of post-election contributions a candidate could use to pay back personal loans made to their campaign in a 6-3 ruling.

With Chief Justice John Roberts writing the majority opinion, the court found that such a limitation violated the First Amendment by impermissibly burdening a candidate’s political speech without proper justification. Roberts was joined in the majority by Justices Amy Coney Barrett, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Clarence Thomas.

Justice Elena Kagan filed a dissenting opinion, joined by Justices Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor. In her dissent, Kagan wrote, “The majority says [the law in question] violates the candidate’s First Amendment rights by interfering with his ability to ‘self-fund’ his campaign … The law impedes only his ability to use other people’s money to finance his campaign—much as standard (and permissible) contribution limits do.”

In Patel v. Garland, the court held 5-4 that federal courts do not have jurisdiction to review facts found during discretionary-relief proceedings under federal immigration law. Discretionary-relief proceedings are those in which the law grants immigration judges discretion over the type of relief they can award. Justice Barrett wrote the court’s opinion. Justice Gorsuch joined Justices Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan in dissent.

In his dissent, Gorsuch wrote, “Today, the Court holds that a federal bureaucracy can make an obvious factual error … and nothing can be done about it. … It is a bold claim promising dire consequences for countless lawful immigrants.”

So far in the 2021-2022 term, the court has issued opinions in 29 cases, three of which were decided without argument. The court accepted 66 cases for argument during the term and heard 61 after dismissing four and removing one from its calendar. This leaves 35 opinions yet to be decided for the current term. 

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Arkansas’ upcoming statewide primaries

Three states are holding statewide primaries for federal and state offices on May 24—Alabama, Arkansas, and Georga—plus Texas is holding primary runoffs. Today, let’s take a closer look at Arkansas, the races on the ballot, and how their primaries work.

U.S. Sen. John Boozman (R) is running in a contested primary against three challengers with three candidates seeking the Democratic nomination. Boozman was first elected in 2010 and was re-elected in 2016.

Arkansas is also holding elections for its four congressional districts. The four incumbents—all Republicans—are seeking re-election. Three of those incumbents are facing contested primaries. Each district has one Democratic candidate running, so no primaries will be held on that side.

Seven state executive offices are also up for election. Two incumbents—Secretary of State John Thurston (R) and Public Lands Commissioner Tommy Land (R)—are running for re-election with Thurston the only one facing a contested primary of the two. The remaining five incumbents—including Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) and Attorney General Leslie Rutledge (R)—are term-limited.

The Arkansas Supreme Court and Court of Appeals are holding nonpartisan general elections on May 24. All three incumbent supreme court justices are seeking re-election, two of whom are facing challengers. Two of the four judges on the court of appeals are also seeking re-election, but neither faces challengers. Only one spot on that court will be contested. If no candidate receives a majority vote in the general election, the top two vote-getters will advance to a runoff on Nov. 8.

All 135 state legislative districts—35 in the Senate and 100 in the House—are holding elections. Republicans currently hold a 27-7-1 majority in the Senate and a 78-22 majority in the House. 

There are more contested state legislative primaries in Arkansas this year than at any point since 2014. The total number of contested primaries in Arkansas increased 195% in 2022 compared to 2020. That’s the largest increase for any state apart from North Dakota so far this cycle.

Oregon is using partisan primaries in all of its races apart from those for judicial positions. In partisan primaries, candidates from the same party compete against one another to win their party’s nomination.

In Oregon, candidates must win at least 50% of the vote to advance directly to the general election. If no candidate in a primary meets that threshold, the top two vote-getters will advance to a primary runoff on June 21.

If you have primaries coming up, use Ballotpedia’s Sample Ballot Lookup to see what’s on your ballot and bring your choices to the polls with our My Vote app!

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#FridayTrivia: How many U.S. House incumbents have lost in primaries so far?

All 435 seats in the United States House of Representatives are up for election this year. Over the past five cycles, from 2012 to 2020, 6.8 U.S. House incumbents have lost a primary on average with the largest number—12—coming in 2012, the most recent post-redistricting cycle. Ten states have already held U.S. House primaries this year.

How many U.S. House incumbents have lost in primaries so far?

  1. 8
  2. 3
  3. 13
  4. 0