Author

Dave Beaudoin

Dave Beaudoin is a project director at Ballotpedia and can be reached at dave.beaudoin@ballotpedia.org

Previewing elections in Houston and Pennsylvania

The Daily Brew
Welcome to the Tuesday, October 29, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Twelve candidates running for Houston mayor 
  2. Pennsylvania voters to decide six statewide judges, one constitutional amendment, in addition to local races
  3. 43% of Brew readers surveyed have participated in a school board meeting

Twelve candidates running for Houston mayor 

Today is game 6 of the World Series in Houston. Today, our preview of key Nov. 5 elections focuses on the mayoral race in Houston—the fourth-largest city in the U.S. The 2013 census estimated that Houston’s population was 2.2 million with a city budget of $5.1 billion as of the 2017 fiscal year. According to the Legislative Budget Board, Texas’ state budget during the 2017 fiscal year was $209.4 billion. 

Voters will decide among 12 candidates for mayor—including incumbent Sylvester Turner—in the city’s general election. In addition, all 16 seats on the city council and the city controller. If no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote Nov. 5, the top two finishers will advance to a runoff election on December 14.

Policy debates have centered on Turner’s record during his first term, especially regarding the city’s budget and spending priorities. Turner has said his accomplishments in office include balancing the city’s budget, leading the recovery effort after Hurricane Harvey, reforming the city’s pension system, improving infrastructure, and strengthening the economy. His opponents have criticized him, saying he has not done enough to combat flooding, crime, and infrastructure deterioration.

Local media outlets have identified five major challengers to Turner—Kendall Baker, Dwight Boykins, Tony Buzbee, Bill King, and Sue Lovell. Baker, Boykins, and Lovell have criticized Turner’s budgetary opposition to Proposition B, a ballot referendum passed in 2018 requiring equal pay between firefighters and police officers. Buzbee and King both say corruption is creating inefficiency in Houston’s government.

Houston’s mayor serves as the city’s chief executive and is responsible for proposing a budget, signing legislation into law, appointing departmental directors, and overseeing the city’s day-to-day operations. He or she also presides over the city council with voting privileges. 

Although municipal elections in Houston are officially nonpartisan, Mayor Turner is a former Democratic member of the Texas House of Representatives, Baker ran as a Republican for the Texas House in 2016, Buzbee ran for the Texas House as a Democrat in 2002, and Lovell was elected as a member of the Democratic National Committee in 2000.

Currently, 62 mayors of the largest 100 cities by population are affiliated with the Democratic Party, 29 are affiliated with the Republican Party, four are independents, and five identify as nonpartisan or unaffiliated. 

Early voting throughout Texas runs from Oct. 21 through Nov. 1. All registered voters may vote at any early voting location in the county in which they are registered.

Learn more blank    blankblank   


 

Pennsylvania voters to decide six statewide judges, one constitutional amendment, in addition to local races

Pennsylvania voters will select six appellate court justices and decide a statewide constitutional amendment—in addition to local elections—Nov. 5. 

Four seats on the Pennsylvania Superior Court are up for election with two current justices facing retention elections and two open seats to be decided by partisan elections. Two Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court judges are also facing retention elections.

The Pennsylvania Superior Court reviews most of the civil and criminal cases that are appealed from the courts of common pleas in the state’s 67 counties. It consists of 15 judges who are elected to 10-year terms.  After serving an initial term, judges are then subject to a retention election. If cases at the superior court are appealed, they are heard by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

The current partisan composition of the Pennsylvania Superior Court is eight Republicans and six Democrats, based on official election results. One seat is vacant. One Republican and one Democratic judge are running for retention. Justice Paula Ott (R) did not file to run for re-election. 

The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court serves as an appellate court for cases involving state and local governments or regulatory agencies, or when the case relates to certain specific subject areas. The court also has original jurisdiction over all cases involving elections and when someone files a lawsuit against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. It consists of nine judges who are also elected to 10-year terms and who must stand for retention after his or her initial term. 

Judicial system

The current partisan composition of the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court is seven Republicans and two Democrats. Both judges running in this year’s retention elections are Republicans.

Pennsylvania voters will also decide a legislatively referred constitutional amendment to add specific rights of crime victims—together known as Marsy’s Law—to the Pennsylvania Constitution. These provisions have been approved by voters in 12 other states. Voters will also see a variety of local measures, including one in Pittsburgh to establish a Parks Trust Fund with revenue from a property tax and two measures in Philadelphia concerning a bond issue and competitive bidding.

There are also the following local races in Pennsylvania—in addition to other elections beyond our coverage scope:

  • general elections for five of nine city council seats and the city controller in Pittsburgh;

  • general elections for mayor, all 17 seats on the city council, all three seats on the city commission, county sheriff, register of wills, six trial court judges, and one municipal judge in Philadelphia;

  • retention elections for 11 trial court judges and six municipal judges in Philadelphia;

  • general elections for 10 of 15 seats on the county council, county controller, county executive, county district attorney, county treasurer, and six magisterial district judges in Allegheny County; 

  • General elections for four of nine seats on the Pittsburgh Public Schools school board.

Pennsylvania voters wishing to cast an absentee ballot must apply by today—Oct. 29—at 5 p.m. Absentee voting is only allowed under specific conditions in Pennsylvania. 

43% of Brew readers surveyed have participated in a school board meeting

Our last four What’s the Tea? questions asked whether Brew readers have attended meetings of a school board, local government, or served on a jury. Last week’s question was slightly different—I asked how many readers have participated in a school board meeting. Although I’ve attended several meetings of my local school board, I’ve never participated during one.

Forty-three percent of respondents said that they had, whether it was asking a question or sharing an opinion during a part of the meeting where the board sought input from attendees. 

School board meeting responses


 

 



Previewing the Nov. 5 elections in Virginia & Colorado

The Daily Brew
Welcome to the Monday, October 28, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Virginia voters to select all 140 state legislators Nov. 5
  2. Voters to decide two statewide ballot measures in Colorado
  3. Seven states have filing deadlines for 2020 candidates before the end of 2019

Virginia voters to select all 140 state legislators Nov. 5

We’re continuing to preview some of the key elections that voters will decide on November 5. The entire Virginia state legislature—40 state Senate and 100 House of Delegates seats—is up for election. Republicans currently hold two-seat majorities in each chamber. 

These are the last elections in Virginia before the state government redraws congressional and state legislative districts after the 2020 Census. If Democrats win control of both chambers, they will have a trifecta and full control of Virginia’s government during redistricting. If Republicans retain a majority in at least one chamber, Virginia will remain under divided government. District boundaries drawn by the legislature are subject to veto by Gov. Ralph Northam (D).

The 2019 House of Delegates elections will be the first ones conducted using a remedial map after a federal district court ruled in June 2018 that 11 state legislative districts were an illegal racial gerrymander. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld that decision—in Virginia House of Delegates v. Bethune-Hill—in June 2019. The state Senate elections will be held using district boundaries enacted in April 2011. Those maps were approved at that time by the state Senate 32-5 and signed into law by then-Gov. Bob McDonnell (R).

Republicans have a 21-19 majority in the state Senate. Ballotpedia has designated seven races as battleground elections. Of those, one is currently held by a Democrat and six by Republicans. Northam won 25 of the 40 senate districts during his 2017 gubernatorial election.

Republicans currently have a 51-49 majority in the state House. Democrats flipped 15 seats in the 2017 elections—their largest gains in the chamber since 1899. Ballotpedia has identified 27 battleground races—11 seats held by Democrats and 16 by Republicans.  

Twenty-five districts were affected by the redrawing—nine Republican-held seats and 16 Democratic-held seats. Using the 2016 presidential election, the House of Delegates map went from one where 51 districts voted for Hillary Clinton (D) and 49 districts voted for Donald Trump (R) to one where 56 districts voted for Clinton and 44 districts voted for Trump. 

Virginia does not allow no-excuse absentee voting or in-person early voting. Voters are required to present photo identification at the polls on Election Day.


Voters to decide two statewide ballot measures in Colorado

Voters in Colorado will decide two statewide ballot measures—Proposition CC and Proposition DD—on Nov. 5. Both are legislatively referred state statutes. In addition, a variety of local ballot measures will appear on municipal ballots.  

Proposition CC would allow the state to retain revenue above the state spending cap to provide funding for transportation and education. The state is currently required to refund the revenue under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR). The legislation which placed the measure on the ballot was approved by the state House along party lines with all Democrats voting in favor and all Republicans opposed. It passed by a 20-15 vote in the state Senate with all Democrats and one Republican voting to approve it and all votes against coming from Republicans. 

Proposition DD would authorize sports betting in Colorado and authorize the legislature to levy a tax of 10% on those conducting sports betting operations. Revenue generated from the tax on sports betting would be used to create and fund the Water Plan Implementation Cash Fund. It was placed on the ballot after passing the state House by a vote of 58-6 and the state Senate by a vote of 27-8.  

From 1995 through 2018, a total of 14 measures appeared on statewide ballots during odd-numbered years in Colorado. During this time, the approval rate for all measures was 41%.

Colorado uses a vote-by-mail system, meaning ballots are sent to voters through the mail and most are returned by mail, at designated drop boxes, or in person at designated locations. Ballots must be received by county clerks by 7:00 pm on Election Day. Coloradans may also cast ballots and register to vote in person at voter service and polling centers. Each county will have at least one such center open from Oct. 28 to Nov. 5—except for Sunday, Nov. 3.

In addition to ballot measures, we’re covering the following local elections taking place in Colorado (note: this isn’t a complete list of elections in the state):

  • general elections for mayor and five of 10 city council seats in Aurora

  • elections for 47 seats on 16 school boards that are among the 200 largest school districts in the nation or that overlap with the 100 largest cities by population

  • A recall election of the president of the Cripple Creek-Victor School District RE-1 school board

Seven states have filing deadlines for 2020 candidates before the end of 2019

The 2020 general election may be more than a year away—on November 3, 2020—but some states have their filing deadlines for congressional candidates in upcoming weeks. The following seven states have candidate filing deadlines before the end of 2019: 

  • Alabama: November 8

  • Arkansas: November 12

  • Illinois: December 2

  • California: December 6

  • Texas: December 9

  • Ohio: December 18

  • North Carolina: December 20

The remaining 43 states all have candidate filing deadlines in 2020. 

During the last presidential election cycle in 2016, five states—Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Texas, and Ohio—had candidate filing deadlines the year before the election. Both California and North Carolina moved their statewide primaries from June to March in 2020. 

As each filing deadline passes, we’ll provide updates on noteworthy candidate filings and possible battleground races. Click the link below for a chart showing all primary dates and candidate filing deadlines for the 2020 elections.

 



Bluegrass battles – Kentucky voters to determine state’s triplex status

The Daily Brew

Welcome to the Friday, Oct. 25, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Cameron, Stumbo face off in Kentucky attorney general race
  2. Washington voters to decide highest number of statewide ballot measures in more than two decades
  3. What’s the Tea?

Cameron, Stumbo face off in Kentucky attorney general race

Kentucky voters will choose a new attorney general Nov. 5, with Daniel Cameron (R) and Gregory Stumbo (D) vying for the office. 

Democrats have controlled the AG office in Kentucky since 1952. The state’s election history suggests this year’s contest will be competitive.

The AG position is open, as incumbent Andy Beshear is the Democratic nominee challenging incumbent Gov. Matt Bevin (R) in the gubernatorial race.

The 2015 attorney general race was decided by a margin of 0.2 percentage points—50.1% to 49.9%. Beshear defeated Whitney Westerfield (R) by 2,194 votes. In the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump (R) won Kentucky with 62.5% of the vote. Trump endorsed Cameron on July 29, 2019.

The race has attracted at least $5.75 million in spending from satellite groups—$3.25 million from the Republican Attorneys General Association supporting Cameron, and $2.5 million from the Democratic Attorneys General Association supporting Stumbo.

The attorney general election is occurring alongside Kentucky’s gubernatorial and secretary of state elections, meaning either party could gain triplex control in 2019. Kentucky is one of nine states where the governor and the attorney general are not from the same party, creating divided triplex control among Kentucky’s executives.

Washington voters to decide highest number of statewide ballot measures in more than two decades

As I mentioned yesterday, I’ll be highlighting some of the Nov. 5 elections we’re covering nationwide, as well as information on early voting and absentee voting deadlines.

The following is a list of elections taking place in Washington Nov. 5th: (note: this isn’t a comprehensive list of all local elections). 

  • Fifteen statewide ballot measures

  • Two state legislative elections

    • Washington State Senate District 40

    • Washington House of Representatives District 13-Position 2

  • Three seats on the Washington Court of Appeals

  • Four King County commissioners races

  • Seven seats on the Seattle City Council

  • Four board seats for Seattle Public Schools

  • King County Proposition 1, related to property taxes

Since Washington is a vote-by-mail state, ballots were mailed on Oct. 18 and Accessible Voting Units (AVUs) are available at voting centers. Voting will last through 8:00 p.m. Pacific Standard Time on Nov. 5.

Ballot measures

The fifteen statewide measures on the ballot Nov. 5 are the most since 1995. Here’s a quick rundown of three measures facing voters.

  • Initiative 976 would limit annual registration renewal fees to $30 for vehicles under 10,000 pounds and enact other restrictions on vehicle taxes and fees. 

  • Referendum 88 would allow the state to implement affirmative action policies without the use of preferential treatment or quotas in public employment, education, and contracting.

  • Senate Joint Resolution 8200 would authorize the legislature to pass laws to keep the government running during catastrophic events.

The other 12 measures are mandatory, non-binding advisory questions on bills passed in 2019 that increased tax revenue. The advisory vote measures were automatically referred to the ballot as required under Initiative 960, an initiative sponsored by Tim Eyman that was passed in 2007. I-960 requires an advisory vote to be referred to voters concerning any law passed by the legislature that creates or increases taxes or fees.

Seattle

The Seattle City Council elections are occurring a year after the repeal of the 2018 head tax proposal, which would have required businesses grossing at least $20 million to pay $275 per employee in order to fund affordable housing programs for the homeless. The city council voted to pass the head tax 9-0 in May 2018 but then repealed it by a 7-2 vote in June 2018. Of the three incumbents running for re-election, Kshama Sawant in District 3 voted against repealing the tax, while District 1’s Lisa Herbold and District 5’s Debora Juarez voted to repeal the tax. The races have seen $2.6 million in satellite spending. The Seattle Chamber of Commerce opposes the head tax, and its political action committee—Civic Alliance for a Sound Economy (CASE)— has spent around $1 million. Seattle-based Amazon has become involved in the elections, too, giving CASE $1.45 million. 

What's the tea?

We’re continuing to survey Brew readers on whether they’ve ever participated in or done certain things related to politics and policy—such as attending or speaking at governmental meetings or signing candidate or initiative petitions. We appreciate all your responses!

Here’s this week’s question: Have you ever participated during a school board meeting? This could mean either asking a question or presenting your opinion during the part of the meeting where they seek input from attendees.


 



Voters to decide constitutional amendments, Houston mayor among Texas elections Nov. 5

 The Daily Brew

Welcome to the Thursday, October 24, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Voters to decide constitutional amendments, Houston mayor among Texas elections Nov. 5
  2. Local roundup
  3. Kansas voters to decide statewide measure regarding legislative redistricting

Voters to decide constitutional amendments, Houston mayor among Texas elections Nov. 5

Election Day in all states holding statewide contests this year (except Louisiana) is less than two weeks away, on November 5. Between now and then, I’ll highlight some of the elections we’re covering nationwide, as well as information on early voting and absentee voting deadlines.

The following contests will take place in Texas—in addition to other elections beyond Ballotpedia’s coverage scope:

  • special elections in state House Districts 28, 100, and 148
  • general elections for mayor, controller, and all 16 city council seats in Houston 
  • a special election for a seat on the El Paso City Council
  • general elections for two seats on the San Antonio River Authority
  • general elections for three members of the Houston Community College Board of Trustees
  • general elections for 26 seats on eight school boards that are among the 200 largest school districts in the nation or that overlap with the 100 largest cities by population 

Ballot measures

Texas voters will also decide 10 constitutional amendments put on the ballot by the state legislature. These measures concern taxes, bonds, budgets, law enforcement animals, and municipal governance. Proposition 4 would prohibit the state from levying an income tax on individuals. Between 1995 and 2018, an average of 13 measures appeared on odd-year ballots in Texas. During this time, voters approved 91% of statewide constitutional amendments.

There are also a variety of local ballot measures in Irving, El Paso, Harris County, Tarrant County, and Travis County that fall within Ballotpedia’s coverage scope in 2019.

Houston

Incumbent Sylvester Turner and 11 challengers will compete in Houston’s mayoral election. If no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote, the top two finishers will participate in a runoff election on December 14. 

Houston Independent School District

The election of four out of nine seats on the Houston Independent School District (HISD) will take place as the school board faces the possibility of being replaced by a state-appointed board of managers. If appointed, the board of managers would assume the responsibilities of the elected board, while elected trustees would not have any power until they were reinstated. As of the 2018-2019 school year, HISD was the largest school district in Texas and the seventh-largest school district in the United States, serving 209,772 students in 280 schools with a budget of $2.04 billion.

Early voting in Texas runs from Oct. 21 through Nov. 1. All registered voters may vote at any early voting location in the county in which they are registered. According to the Texas Secretary of State’s office, an eligible voter may apply to vote by mail if his or her application is received by the early voting clerk by Oct. 25. To vote by mail in Texas, you must be at least 65 years old, disabled, out of the country, or in jail.

Do you want to learn more about Texas’ 10 statewide constitutional amendments? Click here to take Ballotpedia’s Learning Journey on this topic which guides you through how and why state legislators put these measures before voters and their potential impacts.

Learn more

 

Local Roundup

At Ballotpedia, we provide election coverage of all officeholders in the nation’s 100 largest cities—including mayors, city council members, and other municipal officers. We also cover every election on the ballot in these cities, such as county officials, school board members, and local ballot measures.

Here’s our weekly summary of the local news we’re covering. Email me to suggest some interesting local election coverage in your area—I’d love to hear about it!

School Board elections

We provide in-depth coverage of school board elections in America’s largest school districts by enrollment. This includes school board member and candidate profiles, noteworthy election issues, district data, and election results

We’re covering Nov. 5 elections for 247 school board seats in 71 school districts across 17 states. Collectively, these districts served 2,665,278 students during the 2016-2017 school year—approximately 5.1% of all public school students in the U.S. 

In addition to the Houston Independent School District contests mentioned above, this includes races for seats on school boards with student enrollment greater than 90,000, based on 2016-17 figures:

  • Denver Public Schools in Colorado;
  • Jefferson County Public Schools in Kentucky; 
  • Albuquerque Public Schools in New Mexico; 
  • Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in North Carolina;
  • Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District in Harris County, Texas, and; 
  • Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia.

From 2014 to 2016, Ballotpedia conducted studies of school board election statistics in America’s 1,000 largest school districts. We found that between 32 percent and 36 percent of elections were unopposed each year; that incumbents won between 58 percent and 62 percent of seats each year; and that between 81 percent and 83 percent of incumbents who sought re-election won each year.

Kansas voters to decide statewide measure regarding legislative redistricting

Voters in Kansas will decide a legislatively referred constitutional amendment—Senate Concurrent Resolution 1605—on Nov. 5. This measure would end the state’s practice of adjusting the U.S. Census population regarding military personnel and students when redistricting the Kansas State Legislature. 

To make the ballot, the amendment required the approval of two-thirds of each chamber of the state legislature. It passed the state Senate unanimously and was approved in the state House by a vote of 117-7.  

The exact start dates for in-person early voting in Kansas varies between Oct. 16 and Oct. 29, depending on the county. Early voting ends in all counties at noon on Nov. 4. 

Voters wishing to cast an absentee ballot must apply by Oct. 29. The Kansas Secretary of State’s office says absentee ballots, also known as advance ballots, “must be postmarked on or before Election Day and received in the county election office no later than three days after the election. Advance ballots may be hand-delivered to the county election office or to any polling place within the county by close of polls.” 

The following contests will also take place in Kansas—in addition to other elections beyond Ballotpedia’s coverage scope:

  • general elections for mayor and three of six city council seats in Wichita 
  • elections for 19 seats on five school boards that are among the 200 largest school districts in the nation or that overlap with the 100 largest cities by population

Learn more→

 



Steyer leads presidential candidates in third-quarter fundraising and spending; Trump continues to lead for cycle

 The Daily Brew
Welcome to the Wednesday, Oct. 23, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Steyer leads presidential candidates in third-quarter fundraising and spending; Trump continues to lead for cycle
  2. SCOTUS to determine constitutionality of CFPB structure
  3. Join us for our Oct. 29 briefing on vulnerable trifectas in 2019

Steyer leads presidential candidates in third-quarter fundraising and spending, Trump continues to lead for cycle

Businessman Tom Steyer (D) led all presidential candidates in fundraising for the third quarter of 2019, according to financial reports filed with the Federal Elections Commission Oct. 15. Steyer raised $49.6 million during the quarter, including $47.6 million in self-funding. He spent $47.0 million overall, including $34.1 million on television, digital, and direct mail ads. He was followed in fundraising by President Trump (R), who raised $41.0 million, and in spending by Bernie Sanders (I), who spent $21.6 million. Sanders announced his first ad buy, totaling $1.3 million, on October 1.

Since the beginning of 2017, President Trump has raised $165 million—nearly twice the $92.5 million President Obama (D) had raised at this point in his 2012 re-election campaign. According to Republican National Committee (RNC) campaign finance reports, Trump and the RNC have raised a combined $659 million. At this point in the 2012 campaign cycle, Obama and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) had raised a combined $402 million. At this point in the 2016 campaign, Trump had raised $5.8 million.

Trump had the most cash on hand of any candidate with $83.2 million. Sanders followed with $33.8 million. Two other candidates had more than $20 million on hand: Elizabeth Warren (D) with $25.7 million and Pete Buttigieg (D) with $23.4 million.

The 19 noteworthy Democratic candidates have collectively raised $437 million this cycle to President Trump’s $165 million and reported $130 million cash on hand to Trump’s $83.2 million.

Learn more

 

SCOTUS to determine constitutionality of CFPB structure

On Oct. 18, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear Seila Law v. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), a case challenging the constitutionality of the bureau’s structure.

The CFPB is an independent agency created by the Dodd-Frank Act in 2010. Unlike other independent agencies of the federal government, which are generally headed by multi-member commissions, the CFPB is led by a single director who is only removable by the president for cause. The Supreme Court upheld cause removal protections for the multi-member commissions of independent agencies in the 1935 case Humphrey’s Executor v. United States, but the ruling did not apply to single agency heads. 

Seila Law, a national law firm, challenged the constitutionality of the bureau’s structure because the CFPB’s single director is only removable for cause. The firm contended that the director’s cause removal protections unconstitutionally prevent the president from unilaterally firing the agency’s head. The firm said in its petition, “the importance of the [separation of powers] question presented [by this case] cannot be overstated.”

On May 6, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the bureau’s structure was constitutional, concluding that the for-cause removal protections are similar to those of the Federal Trade Commission (upheld in Humphrey’s Executor v. United States).

In a brief filed with the court on Sept. 17, Solicitor General Noel Francisco on behalf of the CFPB agreed with Seila Law, claiming that the bureau’s structure violates the separation of powers doctrine because it prevents the president from unilaterally firing the agency’s single director.

This case is not the first time that the constitutionality of the CFPB’s structure has been challenged. In October 2016, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled 2-1 that the organizational structure of the CFPB was unconstitutional. The full D.C. Circuit—with then-Judge Brett Kavanaugh dissenting—went on to uphold the bureau’s constitutionality in January 2018. In June 2018, Judge Loretta Preska of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York also found the structure of the CFPB to be unconstitutional. Judge Preska’s ruling is pending appeal before the United States Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit.

Learn more→

Join us for our October 29 briefing on vulnerable trifectas in 2019

Trifecta control of the governorship and both legislative chambers in a state gives a political party the opportunity to advance its agenda. Five states are holding gubernatorial or state legislative elections in November that could cause changes in party control. Three of those states are currently under trifecta control Kentucky, Mississippi, and New Jersey. Louisiana and Virginia are under divided government. They could remain under divided government or become new trifectas. 

If this sounds interesting, register today for our free briefing to get an in-depth look at these upcoming elections and an overview of what’s at stake in each state. Ballotpedia staff writers David Luchs and Joel Williams will walk you through what you need to know — whether you’re a voter in one of these states, or simply want to be informed.

It’ll be worth your time — click the link below to register and join us.

Register today→

 



Early voting underway in several states ahead of November 5 election

 The Daily Brew
Welcome to the Tuesday, October 22, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Early voting underway in several states ahead of November 5 election
  2. Rep. Rooney (R-Fla.) is 24th U.S. House member to announce he’s not seeking re-election in 2020
  3. 72% of Brew readers have served on a jury

Early voting underway in several states ahead of November 5 election

Election Day in all states holding statewide contests this year (except Louisiana) is two weeks away, on November 5. Early voting periods in those states allow voters to cast in-person or absentee ballots without providing an excuse for being unable to vote on Election Day.

Thirty-six states and the District of Columbia permit no-excuse early voting. Another three states—Colorado, Oregon, and Washington—use all-mail voting systems, meaning ballots are sent to voters through the mail and most are returned by mail.

The following states permit early in-person voting and are holding statewide elections in November 2019.  

  • Kansas: Early voting begins between Oct. 16 and Oct. 29, varying by county. Early voting ends Nov. 4 at 12 p.m.
  • Maine: Voters may vote absentee 30 days before the election at their municipal clerk’s office until Oct. 31.
  • New Jersey: Voters may apply in person for a mail-in ballot at their county clerk’s office—known as in-person absentee voting—and submit the ballot in person. The deadline to apply in person is Nov. 4 at 3 p.m., and the deadline to return the ballot is Nov. 5 at 8 p.m.
  • Texas: Early voting began Oct. 21 and ends Nov. 1.
  • Colorado and Washington use all-mail voting. In both states, voters may drop off completed ballots or vote in person ahead of Election Day. Ballots were mailed out by Oct. 18.
  • Louisiana holds statewide general elections November 16. Early voting for those races begins Nov. 2 and ends Nov. 9. 

Learn more

Rep. Rooney (R-Fla.) is 24th U.S. House member to announce he’s not seeking re-election in 2020 

Rep. Francis Rooney (R-Fla.) announced October 19 that he would not seek re-election to the U.S. House in 2020. He was first elected to Congress after winning an open-seat race to replace Rep. Curt Clawson (R) in 2016. Rooney was re-elected in 2018 with 62.3% of the vote. 

In announcing his decision, Rooney said, “I’ve done what I came to do. And I want to be a model for term limits. […] I thought the idea was you came and did your public service and left, you accomplish what you want to accomplish and you left. And that’s what I want to be an example to do. And I’m also really tired of the intense partisanship that seems to stop us from solving the big questions that America needs solved.” 

Twenty-four U.S. House members—18 Republicans and six Democrats—have announced they will not seek re-election in 2020. Six of them—four Republicans and two Democrats—are running for another office.

The chart below shows the number of U.S. House members from each party who did not seek re-election between 2012 and 2018.

Not seeing reelection

Democrats hold a 234-197 majority in the U.S. House with three vacancies and one independent member. In November 2020, all 435 seats will be up for election. 

Learn more→

72% of Brew readers have served on a jury

I’ve really enjoyed the responses to our What’s the Tea? questions over the last few weeks. We’ve been asking Brew readers about their participation in politics and government. In the weeks ahead, we’ll ask whether you’ve ever signed a candidate or initiative petition or attended government meetings at the county, state, or federal level. 

Last week’s question asked whether you have ever served on a jury, and 72% of respondents said they had. It was one of our most-replied to questions since we started this feature, so thanks to everyone for participating! 

 

 



Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) dies

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) died October 17 due to complications from longstanding health challenges, according to a statement from his congressional office. He was first elected to Congress in 1996. Before that, Cummings served 14 terms in the Maryland House of Delegates and was the first African American in Maryland to be named Speaker Pro Tempore. He was the Chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
 
Cummings won re-election in 2018 with 76% of the vote. He received 91.5% of the vote in the 2018 Democratic primary for the 7th District in a five-candidate field.
 
Democrats currently hold a 234-197 majority in the House of Representatives, with one independent member and three vacancies. In November 2020, all 435 seats will be up for election.


Beto O’Rourke is second 2020 presidential candidate to complete Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey

The Daily Brew
Welcome to the Monday, October 21, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Beto O’Rourke is second 2020 presidential candidate to complete Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey
  2. Group files lawsuit to invalidate measure on November 5 ballots in Pennsylvania
  3. Quiz: Where will the next Democratic presidential debate be held?

Beto O’Rourke is second 2020 presidential candidate to complete Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey

Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke is the second 2020 presidential candidate to complete Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey, answering questions about his personal beliefs, professional background, and political priorities. On Friday, I shared Marianne Williamson’s survey replies. Today, let’s walk through some of O’Rourke’s answers. 

In his response, O’Rourke lists the first actions he would take in the Oval Office and explains his policy focus on strict gun regulations. He also describes why his family, the community of El Paso, and President Abraham Lincoln are his heroes.

Here are some of O’Rourke’s responses:

What should a 28th Amendment to the Constitution say?

“Beto believes that the 28th Amendment to the Constitution should be the Equal Rights Amendment. He believes the 29th Amendment should overturn Citizens’ United. The 30th Amendment should place term limits on Justices of the Supreme Court.”

What was your very first job? How long did you have it?

“Beto worked in his mother’s furniture store, a small business in El Paso. He would later work in the library during college and at a furniture moving business. Beto later started his own small technology business that brought high-skill, high-wage jobs to El Paso.”

What is the most important policy issue none of your competitors are talking about?

“The Democrat field all recognizes the urgency in enacting comprehensive gun control reform, and Beto appreciates the conversation that all of the candidates are having around this issue. But Beto has proposed going farther than any of the other candidates. Along with his plan to implement universal background checks, close every loophole, pass Extreme Risk Protection Orders, increase trauma support, and keep weapons of war off our streets by not only banning the sale of assault weapons but implementing a mandatory buyback of every single one of them, he has directly called on credit card companies to take steps to help prevent mass shootings. This includes calling on them to refuse to provide their services for the sale of assault weapons; refuse to provide their services for the sale of firearms online or at gun shows, where background checks are not required; and to stop doing business with gun or ammunition manufacturers who produce or sell assault weapons. He is the first, and so far the only candidate to directly call out credit card companies for their role in mass shootings and gun sales.” 

– – –

We will continue to highlight noteworthy responses to the Candidate Connection survey in the Brew. In Friday’s Brew, Marianne Williamson discussed the issue she supports that the majority of her party opposes. Williamson and O’Rourke are the first two noteworthy presidential candidates to complete the Ballotpedia Candidate Survey this cycle.

Our survey looks to find out what motivates candidates on both a political and personal level. It allows a candidate to share more than just stances on issues. It’s designed to elicit responses from candidates on what they care about, what they stand for, and what they hope to achieve. With it, we aim to enlighten voters on the candidates’ political philosophy and provide candidates with the chance to show who they really are.

We’re looking forward to hearing from more 2020 presidential candidates. You can encourage them to participate! Send the candidate(s) you want to know more about a link to our Candidate Connection survey today.

Governors are the leaders of their state’s executive branch. Next year, 11 states are holding elections for governor.


Group files lawsuit to invalidate measure on November 5 ballots in Pennsylvania 

Election Day in all states holding statewide contests—except Louisiana—is about two weeks away—on November 5. Early voting began Friday in Washington and jurisdictions nationwide have printed ballots and are preparing to count votes. 

In Pennsylvania, voters will see one state constitutional amendment on their ballots—a set of constitutional protections for crime victims known as Marsy’s Law. Earlier this month—on October 10—a state group filed a lawsuit before the election seeking to invalidate the measure.

The lawsuit filed by the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania (LWV) and Lorraine Haw argues that the measure violates the separate-vote requirement for constitutional amendments. It argues that because the Pennsylvania Constitution states, “When two or more amendments shall be submitted they shall be voted upon separately,” voters “cannot vote for the parts of the amendment she agrees with without voting for other things she disagrees with.” 

Pennsylvania’s Acting Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar (D)—named as the defendant in the lawsuit—said in her response that, “The Crime Victims’ Rights Amendment pertains to a single subject matter — securing victims’ rights in the criminal case in which they suffered direct harm. Every single subpart of the amendment advances this one goal.” The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court has scheduled a hearing on the lawsuit for October 23. 

The Pennsylvania State Legislature placed Marsy’s Law on the ballot after approving the proposal during two consecutive legislation sessions—in 2018 and 2019. The proposal received unanimous support in 2018. In 2019, the proposal received unanimous support in the state Senate, while seven Democrats and one Republican voted against the proposal in the 203-member state House. 

Henry Nicholas, whose sister Marsy was murdered in 1983, successfully advocated for the first Marsy’s Law initiative in California in 2008. These provisions have since been approved by voters in 11 other states, with six of those—Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Nevada, North Carolina, and Oklahoma—occurring in 2018. A Marsy’s Law initiative will be decided by Wisconsin voters in 2020.

Courts in two states—Kentucky and Montana—have struck down Marsy’s Law measures that were approved by voters. In Kentucky, the state Supreme Court ruled on June 12 that the ballot language did not provide enough information to communicate the amendment’s substance to voters. In Montana, where voters approved Marsy’s Law in 2016, the state Supreme Court ruled that the Marsy’s Law ballot measure violated the state’s separate-vote requirement.

Marsy's Law

#BallotTrivia

Where will the next Democratic presidential debate be held?

The Democratic Party held its fourth presidential primary debate at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio. ICYMI, here is a link to our coverage of the debate, featuring a link to the video, a link to the transcript, and highlights for each presidential candidate with a focus on policy. 

Also, the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) announced week the schedule of next year’s presidential and vice presidential debates ahead of the general election. Three 2020 presidential debates have been scheduled from Sept. 29 to Oct. 22, and a vice presidential debate is scheduled for October 7, 2020. 

Before we get to the general election, there are still eight more scheduled Democratic Party primary debates. Last week the Democratic National Committee announced the location of the fifth presidential primary debate, to take place November 20. In which state will the next Democratic primary debate be held?:

A.  Florida 
B.  Georgia 
C.  Minnesota 
D.  Missouri


 



Marianne Williamson is first 2020 presidential candidate to respond to Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey

The Daily Brew
Welcome to the Friday, Oct. 18, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Marianne Williamson is first 2020 presidential candidate to respond to Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey
  2. Voters in two states to elect state supreme court justices in November
  3. What’s the Tea?

Marianne Williamson is first 2020 presidential candidate to respond to Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey

Author Marianne Williamson is the first 2020 presidential candidate to complete Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey, answering questions about her personal beliefs, professional background, and political priorities.

Williamson describes the effect that the book, A Course in Miracles, had on her life and why she thinks the United States needs “a season of moral repair.” She also discusses reparations, money in politics, and the quality Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump have in common. 

Here are some of Williamson’s responses:

What legacy would you like to leave?

“A legacy of love that transforms politics and government to benefit We the People.”

What should a 28th Amendment to the Constitution say?

“Overturn Citizens United. Limit money in politics.”

What do you support that the majority of your party opposes?

“I am the first presidential candidate to advocate for reparations, and the only one with a plan for how to do it. 

In many ways, America has continued the process of racial reconciliation begun in the 1960’s. Yet in other ways, we have actually slipped backward. Yes, there are no more colored bathrooms and separate drinking fountains. But we now have mass incarceration; racial disparity in criminal sentencing; lost voting rights; outright voter suppression; and police brutality often focused on black populations.

Tepid solutions are not enough for the times in which we live; we need huge, strategized acts of righteousness, now. Just as Germany has paid $89 Billion in reparations to Jewish organizations since WW2, the United States should pay reparations for slavery. A debt unpaid is still a debt unpaid, even if it’s 150 years later. The legacy of that injustice lives on, with racist policies infused into our systems even to this day. From employment and housing discrimination, to equal access to quality education in underserved communities, to police brutality/prejudice, to lack of fair lending practices, to lack of access to quality healthcare, to insecure voting rights, America has not yet completed the task of healing our racial divide.

For that reason, I propose a $200 billion – $500 billion plan of reparations for slavery, the money to be disbursed over a period of twenty years. An esteemed council of African-American leaders would determine the educational and economic projects to which the money would be given.”

– – –

We will continue to highlight noteworthy responses to the Candidate Connection survey in the Brew. Up next in Monday’s edition, Beto O’Rourke shares his vision for a 28th, 29th, and 30th Amendment. Williamson and O’Rourke are the first two noteworthy presidential candidates to complete the Ballotpedia Candidate Survey this cycle.

Our survey looks to find out what motivates candidates on both a political and personal level. It doesn’t simply contain issue questions. It’s designed to elicit responses from candidates on what they care about, what they stand for, and what they hope to achieve. With it, we aim to enlighten voters on the candidates’ political philosophy and provide candidates with the chance to show who they really are.

We’re looking forward to hearing from more 2020 presidential candidates. You can encourage them to participate! Send the candidate(s) you want to know more about a link to our Candidate Connection survey today.

The 5 vulnerable trifectas


Voters in two states to elect state supreme court justices in November 

In November, voters in two states—Kentucky and Louisiana—will fill vacancies on their state supreme courts, choosing new justices in special elections. In a third—Wisconsin—voters elected appeals court justice Brian Hagedorn to a seat on that state’s Supreme Court in April. All told, there are 344 state supreme court justices nationwide. Here’s a quick rundown of the elections in Kentucky and Louisiana.

Kentucky

Voters in Kentucky will select a state supreme court justice Nov. 5 to replace Bill Cunningham, who retired Jan. 31. The winner will serve the remainder of Cunningham’s term, which expires in January 2023. A full term on the court is eight years. 

Under Kentucky law, if there is a midterm vacancy on the state supreme court, the governor appoints a successor from a list of three names provided by the Kentucky Judicial Nominating Commission. The justice Gov. Matt Bevin (R) appointed to the court in March to serve until the election—David Buckingham—is not running for the seat. 

Of the seven current members of the Kentucky Supreme Court, three judges were appointed by a Republican governor, one judge was appointed by a Democratic governor, and three judges were initially selected in nonpartisan elections. 

Louisiana

Voters in Louisiana will select a state supreme court justice to replace Greg Guidry, who was confirmed to a federal judgeship in June. Guidry won a second, 10-year term on the Louisiana court in 2018. The winner of this election will serve the remainder of his term, which expires in 2029.

The Louisiana Supreme Court is made up of seven justices who are elected in partisan elections from seven districts. In the event of a vacancy, the remaining justices appoint a temporary replacement until the special election. The supreme court justices appointed state appeals court judge Susan Chehardy to replace Guidry in July.

Four Republicans ran for this seat in the Oct. 12 primary election. Since no candidate received a majority of the vote, the top two finishers—appeals court judges William Crain and Hans Liljeberg—will meet in the Nov. 16 general election. The Louisiana Supreme Court currently has five Republican and two Democratic judges.

Most states do not hold elections in odd-numbered years. Pennsylvania has judicial elections exclusively in odd-numbered years and Wisconsin elects judges every year. Louisiana and Washington may have judicial elections in both even- and odd-numbered years. None of the state supreme court justices in Pennsylvania or Washington are up for election in 2019.

What's the tea?

We’re continuing to survey Brew readers on whether they’ve ever participated or done certain things related to politics and policy—such as attending or speaking at governmental meetings or signing candidate or initiative petitions. We appreciate all your responses!

I don’t want to forget about the judicial branch, so here’s this week’s question: Have you ever served on a jury? I’ve never been picked for a jury. I was called for jury duty as recently as two months ago, but there weren’t any trials starting that week so I wasn’t chosen.

If you were like me and selected for jury duty, but didn’t actually serve on one, I would consider that a ‘no.’ If you were selected to a jury—even if the case was settled before you were asked to reach a verdict— let’s call that a ‘yes.’

Have you ever served on a jury?


 



Ballotpedia’s 2019 ballot measure readability scores—How easy is it to understand what’s on your ballot?

The Daily Brew
Welcome to the Thursday, October 17, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Ballotpedia’s 2019 ballot measure readability scores—How easy is it to understand what’s on your ballot?
  2. Local Roundup
  3. Federal district courts block implementation of public charge rule

Ballotpedia’s 2019 ballot measure readability scores—How easy is it to understand what’s on your ballot?

I installed some new software the other day, and for once, I tried to understand the end-user license agreement that I had to approve before it would complete the installation. Some of it made sense, but there were other sections where I was pretty lost. That’s probably the case with any legal document.

I thought that some voters might feel the same way when faced with ballot measures when going to vote. It’s hard to be an informed citizen when you have trouble understanding what you’re reading. I was excited when our Ballot Measures editor told me it was time to publish our readability index.  

For the third year in a row, we’ve taken ballot measure language and run it through industry-standard assessment tools to assign a readability rating. We ran the 2019 ballot titles and summaries for all 36 statewide ballot measures through formulas designed to measure the readability of text. 

Overall, the average estimated number of years of U.S. education required to understand the text of ballot measure titles decreased compared to the last two years. We found that in 2019, 15 years of formal U.S. education is needed to understand ballot measure titles. That number was between 19 and 20 in 2018 and 20 in 2017.

Our ballot measures team used two formulas, the Flesch Reading Ease (FRE) and Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level (FKGL), to compute scores for the titles and summaries of ballot measures. The FKGL formula produces a score equivalent to the estimated number of years of U.S. education required to understand a text. The FRE formula produces a score between a negative number and 100, with the highest score (100) representing a 5th-grade equivalent reading level and scores at or below zero representing college graduate-equivalent reading level. Therefore, the higher the score, the easier the text is to read. Measurements used in calculating readability scores include the number of syllables, words, and sentences in a text. Other factors, such as the complexity of an idea in a text, are not reflected in readability scores. 

Here are some highlights from Ballotpedia’s 2019 ballot language readability report: 

  • The average Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level for the ballot titles of all 2019 ballot measures is 15 years of formal U.S. education. Scores ranged from 6 to 27 years. 

  • The average Flesch Reading Ease score for the 2019 ballot measure titles is 26. The scores ranged from -22 to 69.

  • The average Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level for the ballot summaries or explanations of all the 2019 statewide ballot measures that were given a summary or explanation is 15 years of formal U.S. education. The average Flesch Reading Ease score for ballot measure summaries is 25.

  • The states with the lowest average Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level scores for ballot titles or questions are Washington, Pennsylvania, and Maine with 9, 10, and 17, respectively. This means that they require less formal education to understand the meaning of the titles.

  • The states with the highest average Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level scores for ballot titles or questions are Colorado, Kansas, and Texas with 27, 23, and 20. The titles from these states require greater levels of formal education to understand the meaning of the titles.

  • Average ballot title grades were lowest for language written by the Washington Attorney General (9) and initiative petitioners (10). Average ballot title grades were highest for language written by state legislatures (20).

How does this compare to prior years?

  • In 2017, there were 27 statewide measures in nine states. The average Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level for ballot measure titles was 20. Scores ranged from seven to 42.

  • In 2018, there were 167 statewide measures in 38 states. The average Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level for ballot measure titles was between 19 and 20. Scores ranged from eight to 42.

Readability

Ballotpedia also measures the word length of ballot titles across states. The states with the longest ballot titles or questions on average are Kansas, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Colorado; all of these except New Jersey did not feature additional ballot summaries or explanations. The states with the shortest ballot titles or questions on average are Texas, Maine, Louisiana, and Washington.


Local Roundup 

At Ballotpedia, we provide election coverage of all officeholders in the nation’s 100 largest cities—including mayors, city council members, and other municipal officers. We also cover every election on the ballot in these cities, such as county officials and local ballot measures.

Here’s our weekly summary of the local news we’re covering. Email me to suggest some interesting local election coverage in your area—I’d love to hear about it!

Atlanta

Aretta Baldon defeated David Huntley—58% to 42%—in a special runoff election October 15 for a seat on the Atlanta Public Schools school board. Baldon and Huntley had advanced as the top two finishers from a nine-candidate field in the general election September 17, with Baldon finishing first with 31% of the vote and Huntley second with 25%.

The seat became vacant after Byron Amos—who had served on the board since 2011—resigned in January 2019 to run for a seat on the Atlanta City Council. With only eight current board members, the school board has had at least one vote—a plan to rate district schools—end up in a 4-4 tie. The winner of the special election will fill Amos’ unexpired term, which ends in 2021. 

Hickory, North Carolina

A spot in the general election for a seat on the Hickory City Council was determined by a coin toss after two candidates received the same number of votes for second place in the nonpartisan primary election October 9. Incumbent Danny Seaver finished first in the primary with 28 votes and Nathan Hefner and Daria Jackson both received 16 votes each. 

Under North Carolina law, tied elections with fewer than 5,000 votes cast are decided by random selection. In this instance, a coin toss was used to decide second place. Jackson called heads and the coin turned up tails, meaning Hefner advanced to the November 5 general election.

During the 2019 election cycle, Ballotpedia is expanding its coverage of North Carolina in order to provide voters with a comprehensive statewide sample ballot. This includes covering elections in the state for 503 cities, towns, and villages, nine school districts, and 17 special districts.


Federal district courts block implementation of public charge rule 

Three federal district court judges in New York, California, and Washington issued temporary injunctions on October 11 blocking a rule announced by the Trump administration that changes how the federal government screens immigrants who might become dependent on government services. A fourth federal judge in Chicago issued a similar injunction on October 14. The rule was set to take effect October 15. 

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced the final version of the rule—known as the public charge rule—on August 12. It would change how the federal government screens immigrants who might become dependent on government services. Agencies may deny immigrants a visa or a green card under the rule if they have used food stamps, Medicaid, housing subsidies, or other public benefits.

The rule amends a guidance document issued in 1999 that stipulated that only public cash assistance or long-term institutionalization at government expense qualified as evidence that an immigrant was at risk of being a public charge and could be denied legal status. The new rule expands the factors agencies may consider when deciding those cases. 

Twenty-one states, the District of Columbia, New York City, the government of Cook County, Illinois, and immigrant aid organizations formed coalitions that filed four separate lawsuits challenging the implementation of the rule.

The four judges that issued the injunctions ruled that the rule was arbitrary and capricious under the Administrative Procedure Act, failed to consider potential costs to state and local governments, and constituted an unsupported congressional delegation of authority to DHS, among other claims. All four justices were appointed by Democratic presidents—two by President Bill Clinton and two by President Barack Obama.

The White House and USCIS Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli issued separate statements on October 11 expressing disappointment with the decisions. “An objective judiciary will see that this rule lies squarely within long-held existing law,” Cuccinelli stated. 

The Trump administration can appeal the district court rulings to the federal appellate courts. Administration officials had yet to announce an appeal as of October 16.

 



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