15 stories for Ballotpedia’s 15th Anniversary

Welcome to the Wednesday, July 26, Brew. 

To celebrate Ballotpedia’s 15th Anniversary, this week, we are highlighting 15 of our favorite 2023 articles and analyses. We’ll focus on five stories in each of the next three issues of the Brew. Enjoy!

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

  1. How this year’s legislation will affect next year’s elections
  2. Helping you hear from candidates directly
  3. Where recalls stand halfway through 2023
  4. A weekly look at all things ballot measures
  5. Our first-of-its-kind comprehensive look at school board election results

How this year’s legislation will affect next year’s elections

Last month, we published our State of Election Administration Legislation report covering all election-related legislative activity from the first half of 2023.

This report highlights big-picture comparisons to last year, plus trends we’ve been watching related to things like election audits and photo ID requirements.

One item that caught our eye was an increase in legislation prohibiting ranked-choice voting at different levels of government. There were nine such bills introduced in 2022, compared to 15 during the first half of this year.

Idaho, Montana, and South Dakota approved new ranked-choice voting bans, joining Florida and Tennessee, which were the first to do so in 2022. All five states have Republican trifectas.

In Arizona and North Dakota, Republican-controlled legislatures passed bills prohibiting the system, but Govs. Katie Hobbs (D) and Doug Burgum (R) vetoed them, respectively. 

Neither state has any localities that currently use ranked-choice voting. But North Dakota’s measure would have also prohibited approval voting, currently used in Fargo, its largest city.

Alaska, Maine, and, in certain situations, Hawaii are the only three states that use ranked-choice voting in congressional elections. Seventeen other states have local jurisdictions that use the system.

To stay up-to-date with the latest news in election-related legislation, subscribe to The Ballot Bulletin, our weekly newsletter—dropping every Friday afternoon—delivering the latest updates on election policy. Every week, we provide updates on legislative activity, big-picture trends, recent news, and in-depth data from our Election Administration Legislation Tracker.

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Helping you hear from candidates directly

At the start of each year, we publish a report looking at the previous year’s replies to our Candidate Connection survey.

For the past five years, we’ve been making it easier for you to hear from candidates directly, giving every one of them the opportunity to fill out our survey explaining who they are and why they are running for office.

A total of 6,087 candidates responded to our survey in 2022, representing 19% of the candidates we covered throughout the year. That includes 5,995 candidates within our regular coverage scope and 92 candidates as part of our efforts to expand into more local elections.

It also represented a 26% increase from the number of completed surveys in 2020, and a 206% increase from the 2018 midterms, when we first introduced the survey.

For the first time in an even-year election cycle, state legislative candidates did not make up a majority of all responses, though they still represented the largest chunk, accounting for 49%. Congressional candidates made up the second-largest group at 24%.

We receive candidate survey responses every day. We’ve published hundreds for the 2023 and 2024 election cycles already – you can explore more here.

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Where recalls stand halfway through 2023

Last month, we released our 10th annual mid-year report looking at recall efforts through the first half of the year.

From Jan. 1 to June 21, we covered 149 recall efforts against 227 officials. This represents a slight decline from last year when we tallied 152 recall efforts against 240 officials by June.

The highest number of recall efforts we have tracked by mid-year was 189 in 2016, and the lowest was 72 in 2019.

Here are a few key takeaways:

School board recalls remain elevated compared to pre-pandemic years. We identified 30 school board recall efforts by mid-year involving 51 officials, which is already higher than the average of 27 such efforts we found per year between 2009 and 2020.

But, in a return to the historical norm, city council officials face the most recall attempts. A total of 105 such officials have faced recall campaigns in 2023, more than any other group and re-establishing a pattern seen between 2016 and 2020 and again in 2022.

In 2021, breaking from that norm, school board officials faced the most recall efforts by mid-year.

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A weekly look at all things ballot measures

Every Tuesday, our staff provides an updated look at the status of statewide ballot measures. 

Our Tuesday Count tracks the total number of ballot measures certified to appear on this year’s ballot. And, thanks to our research over the years, it also helps us compare this year to previous years.

As of July 23, 34 ballot measures have been certified for the ballot in eight states for elections in 2023.

That’s more at this point than in any other odd-numbered year since 2013.

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Our first-of-its-kind comprehensive look at school board election results

This year, Ballotpedia is covering every school board election in 10 states: Colorado, Kansas, Minnesota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.

The aim of this unique, comprehensive coverage is simple: to help close the knowledge gap about local races and candidates and to encourage voter participation.

After each state’s election, we put out a comprehensive report detailing items like open seats, incumbents defeated, and endorsement information.

Earlier this year, we published our first two reports in Oklahoma and Wisconsin.

Here’s a look at some of the things that jumped out at us in both states:

In Oklahoma, registered Republicans won 72% of seats overall, but registered Democrats won a majority of the handful of contested elections.

While Oklahoma’s school board elections are officially nonpartisan, Ballotpedia researched publicly-available voter files and candidate filing information to identify the partisan affiliation of the candidates running in this year’s elections.

Of the 556 seats up for election:

  • Registered Democrats won 24%;
  • Registered Republicans won 72%; and,
  • Registered independents or minor party candidates won 4%.

These totals include uncontested elections, which accounted for 79% of seats up for election. In these races, the April election was canceled because only one candidate was on the ballot. Registered Republicans again accounted for 72% of these winners.

This also includes intra-party elections, in which all the candidates on the ballot were from the same party. Intra-party elections made up 14% of the total number of elections. Registered Republicans won 93% of those races.

Finally, there were 41 inter-party elections, which had candidates from different political parties on the ballot, accounting for 7% of elections. Registered Democrats won 54% of those races.

The map below shows each district based on the party affiliation of the candidate or candidates who won.

In Wisconsin, top liberal endorsers had a 73% win rate compared to 48% for top conservative groups.

As part of this project, we are gathering descriptive endorsements, those that help describe the stances or policy positions of a candidate. Once we find an endorsement, we tag them as either liberal or conservative based on whether they are affiliated with a major party or support policies associated with a major party.

We tallied results to find the top five liberal and conservative endorsers in terms of total endorsements made.

All 10 endorsers made endorsements in uncontested races, where the endorsed candidate was guaranteed to win. For this analysis, only endorsements made in contested elections are included:

Our South Dakota report is coming next, and the remaining seven reports will be out after the elections in November.

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