Author

Dave Beaudoin

Dave Beaudoin is a project director at Ballotpedia. Contact us at editor@ballotpedia.org.

SCOTUS 2020 term reversal rate higher than average since 2007

Welcome to the Thursday, July 15, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. SCOTUS 2020 term reversal rate higher than average since 2007
  2. Redistricting review: Michigan Supreme Court declines to extend redistricting deadlines
  3. Keeping tabs on local filing deadlines

SCOTUS 2020 term reversal rate higher than average since 2007

During its most recent term, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed 55 of 69 lower court decisions (79.7%) and affirmed 14. This term’s reversal rate was nine percentage points higher than the average in all cases from 2007 to 2019 (70.7%). Sixteen cases originated from the Ninth Circuit, more than any other, including state courts. SCOTUS reversed the Ninth Circuit’s judgment in 15 of those cases.

SCOTUS decides an average of 76 cases each year. The court can either affirm a lower court’s ruling or reverse it. Most cases originate from a lower court—any one of the 13 federal appeals circuits, U.S. district courts, or state courts. Original jurisdiction cases, which typically involve disputes between two states, cannot be considered affirmed or reversed since SCOTUS is the first and only court that rules in the case.

Here’s a breakdown of all U.S. Supreme Court activity since 2007:

  • SCOTUS released opinions in 1,062 cases.
  • SCOTUS reversed a lower court decision 751 times (70.7%) and affirmed a lower court decision 303 times (28.5%)
  • 207 cases originated in the Ninth Circuit, more than any other. The Fifth Circuit was next with 79 cases.
  • SCOTUS overturned more cases from the Ninth Circuit (164) than any other, but it overturned the highest percentage of cases from the Sixth Circuit (81.1%, or 60 of 74 cases).

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Redistricting review: Michigan Supreme Court declines to extend redistricting deadlines

Here’s our weekly summary of news in the redistricting world.

Michigan: On July 9, the Michigan Supreme Court rejected the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission’s request to extend constitutional deadlines for adopting new redistricting plans. The deadlines to present redistricting plans to the public by Sept. 17 and adopt plans by Nov. 1 remain in effect.

New York: The New York Independent Redistricting Commission (NYIRC) announced on July 12 that public hearings would begin on July 20. A full list of hearing dates is available here. NYIRC also said it would release its first redistricting proposal on Sept. 15. 

Pennsylvania: On July 12, redistricting authorities in Pennsylvania launched a redistricting website and announced a schedule for public hearings on congressional redistricting. The first hearing will be on July 22. A full list of hearing dates is available here.

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Keeping tabs on local filing deadlines

We’ve got a handful of local election filing deadlines coming up. Here are the ones through July.

  • July 16: New Orleans, Louisiana, and Toledo, Ohio municipal candidates
  • July 19: Santa Fe, New Mexico publicly funded candidates
  • July 23: Manchester School District, New Hampshire candidates
  • July 26: Hialeah, Florida, and Annapolis, Maryland municipal candidates

Before we know it, we’ll be covering the first filing deadlines of 2022. Those deadlines are still being set, but the first five states’ filing deadlines (North Carolina, Kentucky, Mississippi, Maryland, and West Virginia) for 2020 primaries occurred between Dec. 20, 2019, and Jan. 25, 2020.

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31 statewide ballot measures certified for the 2021 ballot (so far)

Welcome to the Wednesday, July 14, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Comparing this year’s statewide ballot measures to previous odd-numbered years
  2. California judge rules Gov. Newsom will not have party designation on recall ballot
  3. Texas Democrats leave state ahead of expected vote on election-related legislation

Comparing this year’s statewide ballot measures to previous odd-numbered years

Now that we’ve moved into July, I thought it would be a good time to review the number of certified statewide ballot measures this year and how that compares with previous years. So far, voters decided 11 measures—four in Pennsylvania and seven in Rhode Island—and voters in at least five states will decide upwards of 20 measures in October and November. Here’s a quick recap of what lies ahead.

Louisiana voters will decide two legislatively-referred constitutional amendments on Oct. 9. 

  • One measure would remove the requirement that voters approve the assessment of property taxes in Louisiana’s levee districts that were created since 2006. Levee districts represent areas along Louisiana’s major waterways, and the boards of these districts take actions to control and prevent flooding in these areas. 
  • The other measure would increase the limit on funding changes the state could adopt during a projected budget deficit.

Voters in four states—Maine, New Jersey, New York, and Texas—will decide 18 measures on Nov. 3. 

Ballotpedia tracks potential statewide ballot measures that could still go before voters this year. This includes proposed initiatives that have been filed, are being reviewed, or have begun gathering signatures to earn a spot on the ballot. It also includes potential legislatively-referred measures that have progressed at least halfway through the legislative process. 

I spoke with our Ballot Measures editor, Josh Altic, regarding deadlines for states to certify additional measures. In Washington, supporters have until July 24—90 days after the legislature adjourned—to submit signatures for possible veto referendums. Supporters in Colorado have until Aug. 2 to submit signatures for three potential initiated state statutes. And legislatures in several states could still certify legislatively-referred measures. For example, Texas’ legislature is in a special session that is set to adjourn on Aug. 7.

The chart below shows the number of statewide measures appearing on the ballot in each odd-numbered year since 1987. Nationwide, voters decided 27 measures in 2017, the lowest number of certified measures in seventy years. Voters decided 36 measures in 2019.

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California judge rules Gov. Newsom will not have party designation on recall ballot 

Sacramento County Superior Court Judge James P. Arguelles ruled on July 12 that California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s (D) party affiliation will not appear on the state’s recall ballot on Sept. 14. Here’s a quick recap of how we got here:

  • Newsom signed legislation in October 2019 specifying certain procedures surrounding recalls. Among other things, the law allows an official subject to a recall election to designate his or her party preference on the ballot.
  • Orrin Heatlie filed a recall petition against Newsom on Feb. 13, 2020.
  • In his official response to the recall on Feb. 20, 2020, Newsom did not file a form stating his party preference.
  • Newsom sued Secretary of State Shirley Weber (D) on June 28, 2021, after Weber ruled that Newsom would not have his party affiliation listed on the recall ballot.
  • Judge Arguelles held a hearing in the lawsuit on July 9, 2021.

In his ruling, Arguelles wrote: “Governor Newsom’s failure to designate a party preference will not result in a ballot identifying him as ‘Party Preference: None.’ Rather, there will be no reference to party preference next to his name one way or the other. Instead, the recall ballot will simply ask whether he should be recalled.”

The recall election will present voters with two questions. The first will ask whether Newsom should be recalled from the office of governor. The second will ask who should succeed Newsom if he is recalled. 

The deadline for candidates to file certain forms, such as their past five years’ tax returns, personal financial disclosures, nomination signatures, and a declaration of candidacy is July 16. The secretary of state’s office will publish the names of all official candidates on its website on July 17. 

California enacted legislation earlier this year authorizing counties to send mail ballots to all voters for any elections held in 2021. County election officials will begin mailing ballots to voters on Aug. 16.

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Texas Democrats leave state ahead of expected vote on election-related legislation

In case you haven’t come across it in your regular news following, here’s a summary of what is going on in Texas’ special legislative session.

At least 51 of 67 Democratic state representatives in Texas left the state on July 12, traveling to Washington D.C. ahead of expected votes on election-related legislation. Supporters say the legislation includes updates to improving election integrity. Opponents say the bills amount to voter suppression. 

It’s the second time Texas House Democrats have staged a walkout this year. The first took place on May 30, when all 67 members of the Democratic caucus left the chamber during consideration of another package of election-related legislation. This prevented the House from passing the legislation ahead of the regular session’s midnight deadline. 

The Texas House of Representatives requires 100 members—two-thirds of the 150 legislators—present to have a quorum. A quorum is the minimum number of members required to conduct official business. Democrats control 67 of the 150 state House seats in Texas. 

Ballotpedia has identified seven other noteworthy legislative walkouts—where legislators left the state for at least a week or received significant national media attention—since 2000, including the following:

  • 2021 (Oregon): All 11 Republican state senators were absent from the legislature and sent a letter to Gov. Kate Brown (D) saying the governor had ignored their proposals related to COVID-19. Those senators returned on March 2.
  • 2011 (Wisconsin): Fourteen Democratic members of the state Senate did not come to a scheduled session to prevent the passage of right-to-work legislation. The walkout ended after five weeks when Republicans removed fiscal provisions from the measure, which lowered the quorum required to hold a vote.
  • 2003 (Texas): Eleven Democratic members of the Texas Senate and 51 Democratic members of the Texas House of Representatives did not come to a scheduled legislative session to prevent the passage of a redistricting plan they claimed would have benefited Republicans. That walkout lasted for 43 days.

For more information about quorum requirements by state and other noteworthy walkouts by state legislators, click the link below.

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43 state legislative special elections scheduled so far this year

Welcome to the Tuesday, July 13, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Special elections update
  2. Citizens For A Safer Cleveland submits additional signatures to place police-related initiative on November ballot
  3. Washington initiative filing deadline passes with no campaigns submitting signatures

Special elections update

Today, June 13, five state legislative special elections are being held in three states. 

  • Alabama Senate District 14: On December 7, 2020, Gov. Kay Ivey (R) appointed the district’s previous incumbent, Cam Ward (R), to serve as director of the Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles. Republicans have a 26-8 majority in the state Senate.
  • Alabama House District 73: In November 2020, the district’s previous incumbent, Matt Fridy (R), was elected to the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals. Republicans have a 76-27 majority in the state House.
  • Georgia House District 34: On April 30, the district’s previous incumbent, Bert Reeves (R), resigned to become Georgia Institute of Technology’s vice president of university relations.
  • Georgia House District 156: On April 13, 2021, the district’s previous incumbent, Greg Morris (R), resigned to join the Georgia Department of Transportation’s State Transportation Board. Republicans have a 101-77 majority in the state House.
  • Wisconsin Assembly District 37: On April 23, 2021, the district’s previous incumbent, John Jagler (R), was sworn into the Wisconsin Senate. He won a special election for state Senate District 13 on April 6. Republicans have a 60-38 majority in the state Assembly.

These five special elections are part of the 43 state legislative special elections scheduled for this year in 17 states. In 2020, 59 special elections were held in 27 states. In 2019, 77 special elections were held in 24 states. Between 2011 and 2020, an average of 75 special elections took place each year. 

To view our full list of special legislative elections being held this year, as well as analysis, click the link below.

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Citizens For A Safer Cleveland submits additional signatures to place police-related initiative on November ballot

Last year, Ballotpedia identified 20 local police-related ballot measures on the ballot for the Nov. 3 election in response to the death of George Floyd on May 25, 2020. All 20 measures were approved, but at least one was overturned after the election.

We’re continuing our coverage of police-related ballot measures into this year. Here’s an update on one initiative in Cleveland that we’ve been watching.

On July 7, the group Citizens for a Safer Cleveland submitted 3,208 additional signatures to the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections after its initial submission of about 13,000 signatures was short by 384. A total of 6,270 valid signatures is needed to qualify for the Cleveland ballot in November. The group had 15 additional days to collect enough valid signatures to make up the difference. The board of elections will announce in the next few days whether the initiative has qualified.

The initiative would: 

  • repeal and replace sections of the Cleveland City Charter concerning the organization and oversight of the Cleveland Police Department,
  • grant the chief of police the authority to discipline police officers in any reasonably justifiable way, including demotion, suspension, or termination,
  • restructure the Office of Professional Standards to report to the Civilian Police Review Board rather than the executive head of the police department,
  • bar current or former police officers from serving as the administrator of the office, and 
  • require that the police chief (and the force at large) comply with any requests for information that the office makes within 30 days.

The initiative would also change the nine-member Civilian Police Review Board and create a 13-member Community Police Commission.

Ballotpedia is covering a selection of notable police-related ballot measures in 2021. Click the link below to learn about them all.

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Washington initiative filing deadline passes with no campaigns submitting signatures

On July 2, the signature submission deadline for Initiatives to the People (ITP) passed in Washington with no campaigns submitting signatures. It’s the third consecutive year that no ITPs appeared on the statewide ballot. The 2020 election was the first presidential election year since 1928 in which the Washington ballot did not have an ITP.

ITP is what the state calls initiatives that go directly to voters in Washington. To qualify for the ballot, proponents needed to submit 324,516 valid signatures. Five sponsors filed a total of 136 ITPs. Those initiatives concerned a range of topics, including taxes, affirmative action, drug policy, marijuana, civil rights, and time standards.

Citizens of Washington may initiate legislation as either a direct state statute—called Initiative to the People—or an indirect state statute—called Initiative to the Legislature (ITL). Citizens also have the power to repeal legislation through veto referendums. Citizens may not initiate constitutional amendments.

ITPs were last on the ballot in 2018. In the ten-year period from 2009 to 2019, six ITPs were on the ballot in odd-numbered years: one in 2009, three in 2011, and two in 2015.

A total of 61 measures appeared on the statewide ballot in Washington during odd years from the 20-year period between 1999 and 2019. 56% (34) were approved, and 44% (27) were defeated.

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The highest and lowest governor’s salaries of 2020

Welcome to the Monday, July 12, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. How much did your governor make last year?
  2. Tracking August mayoral elections
  3. COVID-19 policy changes and events one year ago this week

How much did your governor make last year?

Eighteen states paid their governor more last year than in 2019, according to the Council of State Governments’ Book of the States. Gubernatorial salaries in 2020 ranged from a low of $70,000 in Maine to a high of $225,000 in New York, with the average governor making $145,370. In the 18 states where a governor’s salary increased, the average increase was $6,604, or 4.3%. Washington was the only state to decrease its governor’s salary, registering a 0.5% decrease over the 2019 rate.

The states with the five highest gubernatorial salaries in 2020 were New York ($225,000), California ($209,747), Pennsylvania ($201,729), Tennessee ($198,780), and Massachusetts ($185,000). The states with the five lowest gubernatorial salaries were Maine ($70,000), Colorado ($92,700), Arizona ($95,000), Oregon ($98,600), and Nebraska ($105,000). Arizona, Colorado, Maine, and Oregon have been in the bottom five states for gubernatorial compensation since at least 2010. Only New York has been in the top five in every year since 2010. New York was also the state with the largest increase in gubernatorial salary in 2020, with a $25,000 increase relative to 2019.

Gubernatorial salaries are typically determined either by a state’s constitution or by statute. Most often, the salary portion of a governor’s compensation is defined by law, but additional benefits (insurance, official residence, and other work-related equipment) may be established by state agencies, custom, or other factors. For instance, 45 states subsidize the governor’s travel and 45 states have official gubernatorial residences.

In some cases, salaries automatically increase each year either at the rate of inflation or by another percentage chosen by the legislature. In other states, the legislature must pass salary increases for the governor. Five states have increased their governor’s salaries in each of the past three years: Arkansas, California, Hawaii, Kentucky, and Vermont.

Find out how your governor’s salary compares to others’ at the link below.

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Tracking August mayoral elections

Although July tends to see a decrease in election-related activity, it never fully halts. And already, we’re looking to quickly-approaching August elections. Today, I wanted to give you a rundown of the mayoral races happening on Aug. 3. Let’s take a look at five races in particular.

  • Topeka, Kansas: Five candidates are running in the nonpartisan primary. Incumbent Michelle De La Isla is not running for re-election. She has served as mayor since 2018.
  • Detroit, Michigan: Ten candidates are running in the nonpartisan primary. Incumbent Mike Duggan is running for re-election. He has served as mayor since 2014. Economic development and public safety have been major issues in the race.
  • Lansing, Michigan: Six candidates are running in the nonpartisan primary, including incumbent Andy Schor. Schor has served as mayor since 2018.
  • Seattle, Washington: Fifteen candidates are running in the nonpartisan top-two primary. Incumbent Jenny Durkan is not running for re-election. Durkan has served as mayor since 2017. Each candidate has argued that their background best equips them to address issues including pandemic recovery, policing and public safety, affordable housing and homelessness, and transit.

The mayors of 63 of the country’s 100 largest cities are affiliated with the Democratic Party. Twenty-six mayors are affiliated with the Republican Party, four are Independent, and seven are nonpartisan or have no known affiliation.

To track all upcoming races, click below to view our elections calendar.

Keep reading 

COVID-19 policy changes and events one year ago this week

Stay-at-home orders and reopening plans: 

  • On July 13, 2020, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) reimposed some coronavirus restrictions due to increasing coronavirus cases, including once again prohibiting indoor dining at bars and restaurants. Indoor dining had been permitted since June 1. The state also closed state parks to out-of-state visitors and visitors who cannot prove their residency. The state’s mask requirement expanded to include anyone exercising in a public space.

Federal government responses: 

  • On July 16, acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf announced on Twitter that the Department of Homeland Security would extend its prohibition on nonessential travel with Canada and Mexico through Aug. 20.

School reopenings: 

  • On July 17, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) announced that counties on the state’s coronavirus watch list would begin the public school year with online education only. At the time of the announcement, 33 of the state’s 58 counties were on the watch list.

Mask requirements: 

  • On July 15, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D) announced a statewide mask order requiring individuals to wear masks inside certain businesses and at outdoor gatherings of greater than 50 people where social distancing was not possible. 

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3 congressional special elections in 4 weeks

Welcome to the Friday, July 9, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Voters to decide primaries, runoffs in three U.S. House races by Aug. 3
  2. Michigan Supreme Court to decide whether voters can cast ballots on Detroit’s proposed city charter
  3. Alaska governor appoints new state supreme court justice

Voters to decide primaries, runoffs in three U.S. House races by Aug. 3

This summer, voters will decide primary or runoff races in three U.S. House districts between now and Aug. 3. Here’s an update on all three elections:

  • Texas’ 6th Congressional District
  • Ohio’s 11th Congressional District
  • Ohio’s 15th Congressional District

Texas’ 6th Congressional District

A runoff election will take place on July 27 in this Dallas-area district between two Republicans—Jake Ellzey and Susan Wright. Both candidates advanced from a 23-candidate special election on May 1, where Wright received 19% of the vote to Ellzey’s 14%.

The previous incumbent, Ronald Wright (R), died from complications related to COVID-19 on Feb. 7. Susan Wright is his widow, and she has served as district director for two Republican state representatives. Ellzey is a state representative, first elected in 2020. In 2018, he ran against Ronald Wright in this district’s Republican primary, losing in the primary runoff, 52% to 48%.

The Club for Growth has spent more than $500,000 supporting Wright and opposing Ellzey. Former President Donald Trump (R) and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) endorsed Wright. Ellzey’s supporters include former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and the Texas Farm Bureau AGFUND.

Ohio’s 11th Congressional District

Voters will decide primary elections on Aug. 3 in this district which includes parts of Cleveland and Akron. The previous incumbent, Marcia Fudge (D), resigned in March after the Senate confirmed her as secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the Biden administration. Inside Elections rates the Nov. 2 special general election Solid Democratic.

Of the 13 candidates in the Democratic primary, Shontel Brown and Nina Turner have led in fundraising, endorsements, and media attention. Brown is a member of the Cuyahoga County Council and chair of the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party. Hillary Clinton endorsed her. Turner was a state senator and national co-chair of Bernie Sanders’ 2020 presidential primary campaign. Sanders endorsed Turner.

Ohio’s 15th Congressional District

Primary elections will also take place on Aug. 3 in this Columbus-area district.  Steve Stivers (R) resigned in May to become the President and CEO of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce. Inside Elections rates the Nov. 2 special general election Solid Republican.

Eleven candidates are running in the Aug. 3 special Republican primary. Mike Carey, Jeff LaRe, and Bob Peterson have led in endorsements and media attention. Stivers endorsed LaRe—a state representative since 2019— who has a background in law enforcement. President Trump endorsed Carey, who served in the Army National Guard and describes himself as a conservative outsider. Peterson is a state senator and former president of the Ohio Farm Bureau. The Ohio Right to Life PAC endorsed him.

Three special elections have already taken place to fill vacancies in the U.S. House this year. In all three, the special election winner was a member of the same party that previously held the seat. Fifty congressional special elections took place from 2013 through 2020. The table below details the net change in party affiliation in those elections:

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Michigan Supreme Court to decide whether voters can cast ballots on Detroit’s proposed city charter 

Here’s an interesting local ballot measure situation that I learned about recently when chatting with our ballot measures team.

The Michigan Supreme Court heard oral arguments on July 7 in a lawsuit challenging a Detroit ballot measure that would establish a new city charter. The measure, known as Proposal P, would replace Detroit’s current charter with one that changes city policies on broadband access, police practices and training, health care, taxes, reparations, and other topics. If the state supreme court rules the measure is valid, voters will decide whether to adopt it on Aug. 3. 

In 2018, Detroit voters approved Proposal R, a ballot measure authorizing a charter revision commission. City voters then elected nine members to the Detroit Charter Revision Commission in November 2018. The commission completed the 145-page draft charter earlier this year and approved the text of Measure P in March. Voters last approved Detroit’s city charter—which is 120 pages—in 2011. 

Four city residents filed lawsuits challenging the charter revision measure, arguing that Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) must approve the charter before it goes before voters. Whitmer provided comments to the charter revision commission but did not approve the measure. On June 4, the Michigan Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s ruling that the measure was invalid without the governor’s approval. The Michigan Supreme Court suspended both lower court decisions blocking Proposal P from the ballot.

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Alaska governor appoints new state supreme court justice

Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) appointed state superior court judge Jennifer Stuart Henderson to the Alaska Supreme Court yesterday—July 8. Henderson is Gov. Dunleavy’s second appointee to the five-member supreme court. She replaces former chief justice Joel Bolger, who retired on June 30 and had served as chief justice since 2018.

Bolger is the only justice in Alaska’s history to have been appointed to all four levels of the state court system. Before joining the Alaska Supreme Court, Bolger was a judge of the Alaska Court of Appeals from 2008 to 2013, the Kodiak Superior Court from 2003 to 2008, and the Valdez District Court from 1997 to 2003. 

Republican governors have appointed four Alaska Supreme Court justices. Gov. Bill Walker (I) appointed the fifth.

When there is a midterm vacancy on the Alaska Supreme Court, the governor selects a nominee from a list compiled by the Alaska Judicial Council (AJC). The AJC is a seven-member body consisting of three attorneys, three people who are not attorneys, and the chief justice of the state supreme court.

Alaska is one of 22 states that fills supreme court vacancies using a method known as assisted appointment. In these states, the governor makes the final selection after a commission or board submits a list of names for consideration. 

The second part of Ballotpedia’s state supreme courts study determined that the Alaska Supreme Court issued 127 unanimous rulings in the 138 cases it ruled on last year. Want to know more facts about state supreme courts nationwide? Click here to read Ballotpedia Courts: Determiners and Dissenters.

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Biden signs three CRA bills repealing Trump-era rules

Welcome to the Thursday, July 8, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Biden signs three Congressional Review Act bills repealing Trump-era rules
  2. Redistricting review: Virginia House of Delegates candidate sues over 2021 elections using existing maps
  3. Lander wins Democratic primary for New York City comptroller

Biden signs three Congressional Review Act bills repealing Trump-era rules

President Joe Biden (D) signed three Congressional Review Act (CRA) bills on June 30, reversing three administrative rules implemented near the end of the Donald Trump (R) administration. 

Signing these bills brings the total number of rules repealed under the CRA to 20. These CRA bills are the first Congress has used to reverse regulatory actions taken by a Republican president.

  • The first bill, S.J.Res.13, reversed a Trump-era Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) rule that changed what information the agency would share with companies accused of discrimination.
  • The second bill, S.J.Res.14, reversed a Trump-era Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) methane rule and restored methane emissions standards set during the Barack Obama (D) administration.
  • The third bill, S.J.Res.15, reversed a Trump-era U.S. Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) rule that changed regulations governing banks that give money to third parties to lend to borrowers. 

The Congressional Review Act is a federal law passed in 1996 that creates a 60-day review period during which Congress, by passing a joint resolution of disapproval later signed by the president, can overturn a new federal agency rule.

The law defines days under the CRA as days where Congress is in continuous session, so the estimated window to block any end-of-term regulatory activity from the Trump administration was between Feb. 3 and April 4. Congress had until then to introduce CRA resolutions to block regulatory activity that occurred between Aug. 20, 2020, and Jan. 3, 2021. 

Since the law’s creation in 1996, Congress has used the CRA to successfully repeal 20 rules published in the Federal Register. Before 2017, Congress had used the CRA successfully one time, to overturn a rule on ergonomics in the workplace in 2001. In the first four months of his administration, President Trump signed 14 CRA resolutions from Congress undoing a variety of rules issued near the end of Barack Obama’s (D) presidency. Congress ultimately repealed 16 rules in total using the CRA during the Trump administration.

Interested in learning more about the Congressional Review Act? Click here to take our Learning Journey on the topic.

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Redistricting review: Virginia House of Delegates candidate sues over 2021 elections using existing maps

Here’s an update on what’s happening with redistricting across the country. Today, we’ll take a look at updates from Virginia, Utah, and Wisconsin.

Virginia: On June 28, Paul Goldman, a Democratic candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates, filed suit against Gov. Ralph Northam (D) and the Virginia State Board of Elections (among other state officials), asking that a U.S. District Court declare the Nov. 3, 2021, elections for the House of Delegates invalid, limit the terms of delegates elected in 2021 to one year, and order new elections to take place in 2022. Because members of the House of Delegates serve two-year terms, a court order to this effect would result in elections in three consecutive years: 2021, 2022, and 2023.

Because of the delayed release of U.S. Census redistricting data, redistricting authorities in Virginia were unable to draft new legislative district maps for this year’s elections. Consequently, existing maps will remain in force. Goldman argues that conducting the 2021 elections under the existing maps violates both the state and federal constitutions. Citing Cosner v. Dalton, a 1981 decision in which a federal court ordered the terms of delegates elected in 1981 under invalid maps be limited to one year, Goldman is asking that the court limit the terms of delegates elected in 2021 to one year and schedule elections under new maps in 2022.

Utah: On June 30, the Utah State Legislature announced an anticipated timeline for congressional and state legislative redistricting. Under that timeline, the Legislative Redistricting Committee will hold public hearings in September and October and adopt final maps before Thanksgiving.

Wisconsin: Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R) and Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R) petitioned the Wisconsin Supreme Court to reverse a lower court’s ruling that barred them from hiring private attorneys in anticipation of challenges to the redistricting process. The court set a July 8 deadline for briefs from all parties involved in the matter.

On April 29, Dane County Circuit Judge Stephen Ehlke ruled against Vos and LeMahieu and in favor of the plaintiffs, four Madison, Wisc., residents who argued that state law prohibits legislative leaders from hiring attorneys from outside the Wisconsin Department of Justice before a lawsuit has been filed. Vos and LeMahieu appealed that decision to a state appellate court, which declined to stay Ehlke’s original order. This prompted the present appeal pending before the state supreme court.

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Lander wins Democratic primary for New York City comptroller

We’re continuing our coverage of the June 22 New York City primaries with an update on the city comptroller race. Before we get to that, here’s a brief update on the city’s mayoral Democratic primary.

On July 6, the New York City Board of Elections (BOE) released the second set of unofficial RCV results for the Democratic primary, which included a majority of the 125,000 absentee ballots not included in the first release. Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams defeated former New York City Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia in the eighth and final round by roughly 8,400 votes, 50.5% to 49.5%. Up to 3,699 defective ballots, if cured, remained to be counted. Click here to read more.

In the comptroller race, Brad Lander won the Democratic primary. The race was called after the New York City BOE released ranked-choice voting tabulations on July 6. Those tabulations included early voting ballots, election day ballots, and most absentee ballots. Voters were allowed to rank up to five candidates on their ballots.

As of Wednesday morning, Lander had 51.9% of the vote after 10 rounds of tabulation, followed by Corey Johnson at 48.1%, with 24,683 votes separating them. Johnson, whose endorsers included Democratic Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Ritchie Torres, along with the United Federation of Teachers, conceded the race Tuesday night.

Lander is a member of the New York City Council and a co-founder of the council’s Progressive Caucus. He received endorsements from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and The New York Times

The comptroller’s duties include performing audits of city agencies and managing five public pension funds. The next comptroller will also oversee how federal stimulus money issued in response to the pandemic is spent. The general election is on Nov. 2.

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Next steps in California’s gubernatorial recall

Welcome to the Wednesday, July 7, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. What’s next in the recall election of California Gov. Gavin Newsom
  2. Adams leads Garcia in latest release of ranked-choice voting results for New York’s Democratic mayoral primary
  3. New Maryland superintendent of schools took office on July 1

What’s next in the recall election of California Gov. Gavin Newsom

Last week—on July 1—California Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis (D) announced that the recall election of Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) will be held on Sept. 14. So what happens next? 

The recall election will present voters with two questions. The first will ask whether Newsom should be recalled, and the second will ask who should succeed Newsom if he is recalled. If a majority of voters approve the first question, Newsom will be recalled from office, and the candidate with the most votes on the second question becomes governor. In the 2003 recall of then-Gov. Gray Davis (D), Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) was chosen among 135 candidates as Davis’ replacement.

The secretary of state’s office issued a recall election calendar and a list of qualifications for running for governor in this election. Here are the highlights:

Anyone who wants to run as a candidate in the recall election must:

  • be a registered voter and U.S. citizen,
  • file copies of each federal income tax return from the last five years with the secretary of state’s office,
  • not have been convicted of felony charges of bribery, perjury, or theft of public money, and
  • have not already served as governor of the state for two terms.

In order to appear on the ballot, candidates must have either 1) paid a filing fee of $4,194.94—2% of the governor’s current salary—or 2) submitted signatures from 7,000 registered voters to their county elections office by yesterday—July 6. Candidates could also submit a combination of registered voters’ signatures to cover all or any prorated portion of the filing fee. 

The deadline for candidates to file other documentation, such as their past five years’ tax returns, personal financial disclosures, nomination signatures, and a declaration of candidacy is July 16. The secretary of state’s office will publish the names of all official candidates on its website on July 17. 

Gov. Newsom signed legislation in February authorizing counties to send mail ballots to all voters for any elections held this year. California enacted legislation in August 2020 to send mail-in ballots to all voters in last year’s general elections in response to the coronavirus pandemic. County election officials will begin mailing ballots on Aug. 16. Counties that are opening vote centers to allow in-person voting must have them open from Sept. 4 through Sept. 10. Voters may also cast ballots at vote centers or their county election offices on Sept. 14. Ballots postmarked by Election Day will still be counted if they are received by Sept. 21.

Recall efforts have taken place targeting 43 officeholders in California this year. Two efforts are underway to recall San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin. In each, recall organizers must submit at least 51,325 valid signatures to trigger a recall election. The deadline for the first effort is Aug. 11.

Keep reading

Adams leads Garcia in latest release of ranked-choice voting results for New York’s Democratic mayoral primary 

On Tuesday evening, the New York City Board of Elections released the second set of unofficial ranked-choice voting results for the Democratic mayoral primary. This batch of results included a majority of the 125,000 absentee ballots not factored into last week’s release.

As of 9 p.m. EST last night, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams led former New York City Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia after the eighth and final round by roughly 8,400 votes, 50.5% to 49.5%. CNN and the Associated Press projected Adams as the winner last night.

Up to 3,699 defective ballots, if cured, remain to be counted.

Last week, Adams, Garcia, and attorney Maya Wiley—who was eliminated in the seventh round—filed preliminary lawsuits to preserve their right to request a review of the ballots.

Follow our coverage at the link below for election results and the latest updates.

Keep reading 

New Maryland superintendent of schools took office on July 1

Mohammed Choudhury took office as the new Maryland superintendent of schools on July 1. The state board of education appointed Choudhury to a four-year term on May 29. He replaces Karen Salmon, who stepped down at the end of her term on June 30. Salmon’s term was originally set to end on June 30, 2020, but it was extended for one year due to the pandemic.

The superintendent of schools is a statewide office responsible for overseeing and coordinating the state’s elementary and secondary schools. The position exists in all 50 states —  it is elected in 12 and appointed in the remaining 38. Of those 38 states, the state board of education appoints the superintendent in 18, the governor appoints the position in 18, and the state board of regents appoints the superintendent in two. 

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How Biden’s first judicial appointments compare with previous presidents

Welcome to the Tuesday, July 6, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Senate has confirmed seven judges nominated by President Biden
  2. Redistricting review: Federal court rejects Alabama’s attempt to force early release of Census Bureau redistricting data
  3. New Mexico Supreme Court Justice Barbara Vigil retires

I hope you enjoyed your Independence Day weekend! 

Senate has confirmed seven judges nominated by President Biden

President Joe Biden (D) has nominated 30 individuals to Article III judgeships, and the Senate has confirmed seven of them. Biden’s first successful federal judicial appointment was Regina Rodriguez to the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado on June 8. Biden announced the first federal judicial nominations of his presidency on March 30. 

We track judicial confirmations by president, so we thought the halfway point in the year would be a nice time to look back on how President Biden compares to his predecessors. 

President Donald Trump’s (R) first judicial confirmation was on April 7, 2017, when the Senate confirmed Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court. By the end of his first year in office, the Senate confirmed 16 of Trump’s judicial nominees. 

Here are some interesting facts regarding first-year judicial appointments since 1981: 

  • Before Trump, the president with the earliest judicial confirmation was George H.W. Bush (R). The Senate confirmed four of Bush’s nominees on May 18, 1989. By the end of his first year in office, the Senate had confirmed 15 judges that Bush had nominated.
  • Since 1981, the president with the latest first confirmation was Barack Obama (D). The Senate confirmed Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court on August 6, 2009. By the end of Obama’s first year, the Senate had confirmed 11 judges.
  • Bill Clinton (D) also had his administration’s first judicial confirmation in August of his first year—the Senate confirmed Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the Supreme Court on August 3, 1993. By the end of Clinton’s first year, the Senate had confirmed 28 judges.
  • Since 1981, Ronald Reagan (R) had the most Article III judges confirmed in his first year with 30. President Obama had the fewest. 

There are 77 current Article III judicial vacancies in the federal courts. 

  • 13 nominees are awaiting a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee
  • Eight nominees are awaiting a committee vote to be reported to the full U.S. Senate for confirmation.
  • Two nominees have been reported to the full Senate and are awaiting a confirmation vote.

Keep reading

Redistricting review: Federal court rejects Alabama’s attempt to force early release of Census Bureau redistricting data 

A three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama on June 29 rejected an attempt by Alabama state officials to force the U.S. Census Bureau to release redistricting data in advance of Aug. 16, the date by which the  Bureau has said it will release the data to the states. Alabama had sued the Census Bureau on Mar, 11 asking the court to direct the Census Bureau to deliver redistricting data to the states by Mar. 31.

The panel unanimously rejected Alabama’s request. Their opinion said, “The court cannot force the Bureau to do the impossible – that is, comply with an already-lapsed deadline.” The ruling also said that the “Plaintiffs have acknowledged that date (Aug. 16) suffices for them to be able to complete redistricting without injury.”

The three-judge panel consisted of 11th Circuit Court of Appeals justice Kevin Newsom and the two active judges in this district court—Emily Marks and R. Austin Huffaker. All three were appointed by President Trump (R). There is one current vacancy on this court.

Keep reading 

New Mexico Supreme Court Justice Barbara Vigil retires

New Mexico Supreme Court Justice Barbara Vigil retired on June 30. She joined the court in 2012 after winning election to an open seat and won a retention election for a full eight-year term in 2016. Before that, Vigil served as a state district court judge for 12 years.

All five New Mexico Supreme Court justices have been either elected as Democrats or appointed by a Democratic governor. Vigil’s replacement will be Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s (D) fourth nominee to the supreme court. Current Chief Justice Michael Vigil (no relation) was elected as a Democrat. 

Ballotpedia’s study of partisanship on state supreme courts identified two of New Mexico’s current state supreme court justices as strong Democrats and one as a mild Democrat. Justice Julie Vargas joined the court in January after our partisan study was completed. To explore our analysis of partisanship of state supreme courts in New Mexico and across the country, click here for the full study.

So far this year, there have been 14 supreme court vacancies—all caused by retirements—in 12 of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected.

Keep reading



And that’s a wrap – SCOTUS concludes term

Welcome to the Friday, July 2, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. SCOTUS issues final two opinions of term
  2. Support Information for All
  3. #FridayTrivia

California Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis (D) announced that a recall election seeking to remove Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) will take place on Sept. 14. Click here to read more about the recall effort.

We hope you have a happy and safe Independence Day weekend with family and friends! The Brew will be back in your inbox on Tuesday, July 6.

SCOTUS issues final two opinions of term

Yesterday, July 1, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its final two opinions of the October 2020-2021 term. These two decisions brought the total number of opinions issued this term to 66. 

The court will now be in recess until the start of the next term in October. Now that this term is wrapped up, let’s look quickly at some top-level numbers.

  • The court issued 31 reversals (47%) this term.
    • Last year, that number was 22 (35%).
  • The court issued eight 5-4 decisions this term.
    • Last year, that number was 13. The year before, it was 19.
  • Between 2007 and 2019, the Supreme Court released opinions in 993 cases, averaging 76 cases per year. During that period, the court reversed a lower court decision 696 times (70.1%) and affirmed a lower court decision 289 times (29%). This year’s reversal rate of 47% was lower than the average by 23 percentage points.

Here’s an overview of the two cases decided yesterday.

  • Americans for Prosperity v. Bonta: In a 6-3 opinion, the Supreme Court reversed the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit’s ruling and remanded the case for further proceedings, holding that the district court was correct in entering judgment in favor of the petitioners and permanently enjoining the California attorney general from collecting their Schedule B forms, and that the Ninth Circuit erred when it vacated those injunctions and directed the entry of judgment for the attorney general.
    • The case: Two conservative advocacy groups, the Thomas More Law Center and Americans for Prosperity, challenged a California policy requirement that tax-exempt §501(c)(3) charitable organizations must disclose the names and addresses of major donors. The groups argued that the policy violated the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled in favor of the state.
  • Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee: In a 6-3 opinion, the Supreme Court reversed the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit’s ruling and remanded the case for further proceedings, holding that Arizona’s out-of-precinct policy and HB 2023 did not violate §2 of the Voting Rights Act, and that HB 2023 was not enacted with a racially discriminatory purpose.
    • The case: In 2016, several arms of the Democratic Party (ongoing referred to as the DNC) sued Arizona, saying its out-of-precinct policy and its ballot-collection law violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. The U.S. District Court denied the DNC’s petition, which a divided panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit affirmed. In an en banc rehearing, the 9th Circuit granted a preliminary injunction, which the U.S. Supreme Court stayed the next day.

We have much more data about this year’s term on Ballotpedia. Click the link below to explore it all.

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Support Information for All

James Madison once said: “What spectacle can be more edifying or more seasonable than that of Liberty and Learning, each leaning on the other for mutual support.”

Informed citizens are the foundation of our democracy, and it is essential that voters have a source they can go to for accurate, truthful, and trustworthy information. 

This Independence Day, help us celebrate 245 years of democracy with a donation to our Freedom for All. Information for All initiative. 

Our nation needs a resource it can trust to stay informed. Donate today and give all Americans the gift of information.

Donate to support Freedom for All. Information for All.

#FridayTrivia

On Tuesday, I wrote about the first Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential election cycle, which took place two years ago this week. The debate featured 20 candidates, including Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.

For today’s question, I’m asking: How many Democratic primary presidential debates took place during the 2020 election?

  1. 12
  2. 9
  3. 7
  4. 11


Freedom for All. Information for All

Welcome to the Thursday, July 1, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Freedom for All. Information for All.
  2. The latest on NYC’s mayoral primary
  3. An update on statewide ballot measures

The Supreme Court is expected to issue opinions for the two remaining cases heard this term today (July 1). Click here to read more about these remaining cases or to catch up on all the rulings this term! 

Freedom for All. Information for All.

How are you celebrating the 4th of July this weekend? 

We’ll be alongside you for the parades, the fireworks, and the hot dogs, but we also want to give you one more way to show your support of the red, white, and blue.

Make a donation to Ballotpedia today as we celebrate Freedom for All and Information for All. 

Your donation will support our efforts to provide accurate information about American politics and policy to all who seek it.

As we think about our Declaration of Independence, a document signed 245 years ago, we reflect on the first time in history, a people collectively decided to abdicate a government based on force and embrace a government based on liberty and freedom. 

The Declaration laid the foundation for a democracy that would hold its government accountable to ensure it would act with the peoples’ best interest at heart. 

You and I know that informed voters are the foundation of that democracy. Our nation needs a resource it can trust to stay informed. 

Ballotpedia is dedicated to producing timely, unbiased, and trustworthy information regarding politics and policy. But there is still much to be done. 

Your support today will be instrumental in keeping voters informed, updated, and engaged. 

Donate to support Freedom for All. Information for All.

The latest on NYC’s mayoral primary

We’ve been following the results of the mayoral primary in New York City. ICYMI, here’s an update on the race.

  • On June 29, the New York City Board of Elections released an unofficial round of ranked-choice voting (RCV) results for the Democratic primary, but later issued a statement saying it had erroneously counted 135,000 sample ballot images as votes. 
  • The board posted revised results on June 30 showing Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams (D) leading former New York City Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia (D), 51.1% to 48.9%, after the ninth and final round of vote tabulations. Attorney Maya Wiley (D) was eliminated in the eighth round.

Adams leads Garcia by approximately 14,700 votes. More than 207,000 absentee ballots were distributed in the Democratic primary. As of June 29 approximately 125,000 absentee ballots—which were not included in this first set of unofficial RCV results—had been returned.

Thirteen Democrats ran in the June 22 primary. In the Republican primary, Curtis Sliwa defeated Fernando Mateo.

The primary featured the first use of ranked-choice voting for a mayoral primary in the city’s history. Official tabulations are not expected until the week of July 12 due to the deadlines for voters to submit absentee ballots and fix ballot issues.

Bookmark the page at the link below to follow along with us as we track the election results.

Keep reading 

An update on statewide ballot measures

Yesterday, I wrote about the local police-related ballot measures that have been certified so far. There have also been some interesting statewide ballot measures that were recently certified. Here’s a brief overview.

  • Arizona: 
    • At the 2022 general election, voters will decide a constitutional amendment to require that citizen-initiated ballot measures embrace a single subject. The ballot measure would also require the initiative’s subject to be expressed in the ballot title, or else the missing subject would be considered void. 
    • Also in 2022, voters will decide a ballot measure to allow the state legislature to amend or repeal voter-approved ballot initiatives in cases where the Arizona Supreme Court or U.S. Supreme Court declare that a portion of the ballot initiative is unconstitutional or illegal. In Arizona, the legislature must propose a ballot measure to amend or repeal voter-approved ballot initiatives. Initiatives often include severability clauses, meaning that if the courts declare a provision to be unconstitutional, other provisions can remain valid. 
  • Oregon: At the 2022 general election, voters will decide a constitutional amendment that would remove language that allows slavery or involuntary servitude for duly convicted individuals. The amendment would also add language to authorize an Oregon court or a probation or parole agency to order alternatives to incarceration for a convicted individual as part of their sentencing.

So far, 56 statewide measures have been certified for the 2022 ballot. Click the link below for an overview of the 2022 ballot measure landscape.

Keep reading