Welcome to the Friday, June 30, Brew.
Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:
- 31 statewide measures certified for elections in 2023
- State supreme courts issue 392 opinions from June 12-25
- #FridayTrivia: Election Administration Legislation & Recalls
31 statewide measures certified for elections in 2023
Although there are fewer elections in off-cycle years like this one compared to mid-term or presidential election years, there’s plenty of ballot measure activity to keep things interesting at the state level. Let’s catch up on what’s happening now—and look ahead to 2024.
Currently, 31 statewide measures have been certified for the ballot in eight states for elections this year. That’s nine more measures than the average of 22 certified at this point in other odd-numbered years from 2011 to 2021. The 31 certified measures also tie with 2021 for the highest number of those years.
Signatures were verified for three indirect initiatives in Maine. The initiatives are now before legislators, who have until the end of the current legislative session to approve, reject, or take no action on the proposals (the latter two options send the initiatives to the November 2023 ballot):
- Maine Prohibit Foreign Spending in Elections Initiative
- Maine Voter Approval of Borrowing Above $1 Billion by State Entities and Electric Cooperatives Initiative
- Maine “Right to Repair Law” Vehicle Data Access Requirement Initiative
In Ohio, one initiative to legalize marijuana was certified to the legislature, which had four months to act on the proposal. Because the legislature didn’t act, a second 90-day signature-gathering period began on May 3. That measure could appear on the Nov. 7 ballot.
So far this year, voters have defeated one statewide measure (in Oklahoma) and approved three others (in Wisconsin). The next measure voters will decide is in Ohio on Aug. 8. It would require a 60% vote to approve future constitutional amendments. You can read more in the May 17 edition of this newsletter.
Although no new measures were certified for this year’s ballot last week, three measures were certified for 2024:
- Oregon Impeachment of Elected State Executives Amendment
- Oregon Independent Public Service Compensation Commission Amendment
- Oregon Ranked-Choice Voting for Federal and State Elections Measure
Additionally, campaigns submitted signatures for two initiatives in 2024:
- California Prohibit State Limitations on Local Rent Control Initiative (2024)
- Michigan $15 Minimum Wage Initiative (2024)
Overall, 44 measures have been certified for the 2024 ballot in 21 states—five more than the average number certified at this point from 2010 to 2022.
Click below for more information on 2023 ballot measures.
State supreme courts issue 392 opinions from June 12-25
This week, all eyes are on the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) as it releases decisions in some of the biggest cases of the term. You can follow along with our SCOTUS coverage, including summaries and analysis of cases, here.
It’s no surprise the nation’s court of last resort attracts as much attention as it does, but let’s not forget that every state has its own supreme court—or two, as in the case of Oklahoma and Texas. Let’s take a look at some recent state supreme court decisions in the interest of bringing attention to these sometimes overlooked judicial bodies.
Some of the opinions issued this year include those in:
- Arizona, where the court held that Ariz. Rev. Stat. 19-118.01 only prohibits per-signature compensation when people are paid to collect petition signatures;
- Colorado, where the court held that, “like any other hearsay statement, a defendant’s self-serving hearsay may be admissible if it satisfies a hearsay-rule exception in the Colorado Rules of Evidence.” The exception was the “excited utterance exception;” and,
- New York, where the court held that music producer Lukasz Gottwald “was a limited-purpose public figure” in a defamation case between Gottwald and singer Kesha Rose Sebert. Since the court determined Gottwald was a public figure, the court held that it would require “proof that the allegedly defamatory statements [against Gottwald] were made with actual malice.”
Between June 12-25, state supreme courts issued 392 opinions. The Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia issued the most opinions, with 82. Kentucky and Texas came next, having issued 31 and 20 opinions, respectively.
The last two weeks’ 392 opinions account for 12% of the year-to-date total of 3,408. West Virginia, again, leads with 310 opinions issued since Jan. 1, followed by Pennsylvania with 219 and Delaware with 197.
State supreme courts have been issuing an average of 136 opinions per week so far this year. This figure is less than the 2022 weekly average of 143. It’s also less than the average of 160 opinions issued per week in 2021.
Supreme courts in 10 states have issued fewer than 25 opinions since the start of the year.
Supreme courts in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Texas, and Delaware regularly end the year as some of the country’s most active courts. Collectively, they accounted for 26% of all opinions issued in 2021 and 2022, and, to date, 29% in 2023.
Every state and the District of Columbia have at least one supreme court, known as a court of last resort. Oklahoma and Texas have two courts of last resort, one for civil cases and one for criminal proceedings. Supreme courts do not hear trials of cases. Instead, they hear appeals of decisions made in lower courts. The number of justices on each state supreme court ranges between five and nine.
In 2020, we conducted a study identifying the partisan balance on every state supreme court. You can find that research here. We also identified which justices ruled together most often in our Determiners and Dissenters report found here.
Learn more about state supreme court opinions at the link below.
#FridayTrivia: Election Administration Legislation & Recalls
How many recall efforts have we tracked since Jan. 1?
Twice a year, we release a report on recall efforts at all levels of government—one that covers the first half of the year and another that covers the full year. Our 2023 mid-year report covers recall efforts since Jan. 1. Between 2010 and 2022, we tracked an average of 210 recall efforts each year.
How many election-related bills have lawmakers enacted since Jan. 1?
Yesterday, we released our inaugural State of Election Administration Legislation 2023. The report contains our observations and analysis regarding the election-related state legislation we’ve tracked in the first part of this year.