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Megan Feeney

Megan Feeney is a staff writer at Ballotpedia. Contact us at editor@ballotpedia.org.

U.S. Supreme Court releases argument calendar for February, March

The U.S. Supreme Court has released its argument calendar for February and March of the 2020-2021 term. The court will hear eight hours of oral argument in eight cases between February 22 and March 3.

So far, the court has agreed to hear 48 cases during its 2020-2021 term.

February 22, 2021

  • Trump v. Sierra Club
  • Florida v. Georgia

February 23, 2021

  • Barr v. Dai (Consolidated with Barr v. Alcaraz-Enriquez)

February 24, 2021

  • Lange v. California

March 1, 2021

  • Wolf v. Innovation Law Lab
  • United States v. Arthrex Inc. (Consolidated with Smith & Nephew Inc. v. Arthrex Inc. and Arthrex Inc. v. Smith & Nephew Inc.)

March 2, 2021

  • Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee (Consolidated with Arizona Republican Party v. Democratic National Committee)

March 3, 2021

  • Carr v. Saul (Consolidated with Davis v. Saul)

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California State Senate special election filing deadline is Jan. 7, 2021

Candidates interested in running in the special election for California State Senate District 30 have until January 7, 2021, to file. The primary is scheduled for March 2, and the general election is set for May 4.

The special election was called after Holly Mitchell (D) left office when she was elected to represent District 2 on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. Mitchell served in the state Senate from 2013 to 2020.

As of December 2020, 11 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2021 in eight states. Between 2011 and 2019, an average of 77 special elections took place each year. California held 31 state legislative special elections from 2010 to 2019.

Entering 2021, the California State Senate has 30 Democrats, nine Republicans, and one vacancy. A majority in the chamber requires 21 seats. California has a Democratic state government trifecta. A state government trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and both state legislative chambers. 

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Guajardo defeats McComb in Corpus Christi, Texas, mayoral runoff

The general runoff election in Corpus Christi, Texas, was held on December 15, 2020. In the nonpartisan mayoral race, Paulette Guajardo defeated incumbent Joe McComb, earning 56% of the vote to McComb’s 44%.

The general election in Corpus Christi was held on November 3. If no candidate earned a majority of the vote in the general election, the top two vote-getters advanced to a runoff.

Corpus Christi also held runoffs for two city council seats. Billy Lerma won the District 1 race, earning 56% of the vote and defeating Rachel Ann Caballero. In the District 4 race, incumbent Greg Smith won re-election, defeating Kaylynn Paxson by a margin of 63% to 37%. City council elections in Corpus Christi are nonpartisan.

Corpus Christi is the eighth-largest city in Texas by population and the 59th-largest in the United States.

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Georgia governor appoints LaGrua to state supreme court

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) appointed Shawn LaGrua to the Georgia Supreme Court on December 1, 2020. LaGrua succeeded Justice Keith Blackwell, who retired on November 18, 2020. LaGrua is Kemp’s second nominee to the nine-member supreme court.

Under Georgia law, state supreme court justices are selected through nonpartisan elections. Justices serve six-year terms. Vacancies on the court are filled through the assisted appointment method. The governor chooses an appointee from a list of candidates submitted by the judicial nominating commission. 

Before her appointment to the state supreme court, LaGrua was a judge for the Atlanta Judicial Circuit of Georgia’s 5th Superior Court District. She joined the court in 2010. Before that, she was the inspector general for the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office.

LaGrua earned a B.A. in political science from the University of Georgia in 1984, and received her J.D. from Georgia State University College of Law in 1987.

The Georgia Supreme Court is the state’s court of last resort. As of December 10, 2020, eight judges on the court were appointed by a Republican governor, no judges were appointed by a Democratic governor, and one judge was elected.

In 2020, there have been 23 supreme court vacancies in 16 of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. One vacancy occurred when a chief justice died, another occurred when a justice was not retained, and 21 vacancies were caused by retirements.

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Trump has appointed second-most federal judges through December 1 of a president’s fourth year

Donald Trump has appointed and the Senate has confirmed 227 Article III federal judges through December 1, 2020, his fourth year in office. This is the second-most Article III judicial appointments through this point in all presidencies since Jimmy Carter (D). The Senate had confirmed 260 of Carter’s appointees at this point in his term.

The average number of federal judges appointed by a president through December 1 of their fourth year in office is 201.

The median number of Supreme Court justices appointed is two. President Trump appointed the most with three. Presidents Barack Obama (D), Bill Clinton (D), and George H.W. Bush (R) had each appointed two Supreme Court justices at this point in their first terms. Ronald Reagan (R) had appointed one, while Carter and George W. Bush (R) had not appointed any.

The median number of United States Court of Appeals appointees is 35. Carter appointed the most with 55, while Clinton and Obama appointed the fewest with 30. Trump has appointed 53. Trump’s 53 appointments make up 30% of the total 179 judgeships across the courts of appeal.

The median number of United States District Court appointees is 168. Carter appointed the most with 202, and Obama appointed the fewest with 128. Trump has appointed 168 district court judges. Those appointments make up 25% of the 677 judgeships across the district courts.

Article III federal judges are appointed for life terms by the president of the United States and confirmed by the U.S. Senate per Article III of the United States Constitution. Article III judges include judges on the Supreme Court of the United States, U.S. courts of appeal, U.S. district courts, and the Court of International Trade.

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Colorado governor appoints Maria Berkenkotter to state supreme court

Photo of Colorado State Supreme Court building

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) appointed Maria Berkenkotter to the Colorado Supreme Court on November 20, 2020. Berkenkotter will succeed Chief Justice Nathan Coats, who is retiring in January 2021 when he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 72. Berkenkotter is Polis’s first nominee to the seven-member supreme court.

Under Colorado law, state supreme court justices are selected through the assisted appointment method. The governor chooses an appointee from a list of candidates submitted by the judicial nominating commission. Initial terms on the supreme court last at least two years, after which justices stand in retention elections. Subsequent terms last 10 years.

Berkenkotter was a judge for the Twentieth Judicial District Court in Colorado from 2006 to 2017. She was appointed by former Governor Bill Owens (R) and became chief judge in 2013. 

Prior to joining the Twentieth Judicial District Court, Berkenkotter ran the Antitrust, Consumer Protection, and Tobacco Litigation Units of the Attorney General’s office. Previously, she practiced law at Holmes & Starr, P.C. in Denver.

Berkenkotter earned a J.D. from the University of Denver Law School in 1987. 

The Colorado Supreme Court is the state’s court of last resort. As of November 2020, six judges on the court were appointed by a Democratic governor, and one judge was appointed by a Republican governor.

In 2020, there have been 22 supreme court vacancies in 16 of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. One vacancy occurred when a chief justice died, and 21 vacancies were caused by retirements.

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Kevin Lincoln defeats incumbent Michael Tubbs in Stockton mayoral race

The general election for Stockton, California, was held on November 3, 2020. The primary election was held on March 3, 2020, and the filing deadline to run passed on December 6, 2019.

In the mayoral race, Kevin Lincoln (R) defeated incumbent Michael Tubbs (D). As of November 19, Lincoln had earned 56.2% of the vote to Tubbs’s 43.9%. Mayoral elections in Stockton are nonpartisan, meaning that candidates’ party affiliations do not appear on the ballot.

Three seats on the seven-seat city council were up for nonpartisan election in 2020. The District 6 seat was on the ballot on November 3. As of November 19, Kimberly Warmsley led Gloria Allen with 70.1% of the vote to Allen’s 29.9%.

During the March 3 primary, incumbent Daniel Wright won the District 2 seat outright by earning more than 50% of the vote. In District 4, incumbent Susan Lenz was unopposed. 

Stockton is the 13th-largest city in California and the 63rd-largest city in the U.S. by population. 

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Wiley defeats Khanin in special election for Virginia House of Delegates District 29

A special general election was held for Virginia House of Delegates District 29 on November 3, 2020. Bill Wiley (R) defeated Irina Khanin (D), earning 63.7% of the vote to Khanin’s 36.2%. 

The special election was called after Chris Collins (R) resigned on June 28, 2020, to serve on the Virginia 26th Judicial District Court. Collins served from 2016 to 2020.

Virginia has a Democratic state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers. Following the special election, Democrats control the Virginia House of Delegates by a margin of 55-45.

As of November 2020, 59 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2020 in 27 states. Between 2011 and 2019, an average of 77 special elections took place each year. 

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Burgess defeats Lewis in special election for Florida State Senate District 20

Daniel Burgess (R) defeated Kathy Lewis (D) in the special general election for Florida State Senate District 20 on November 3. Burgess secured 54.9% of the vote to Lewis’s 45.1%. 

The special election was called after Tom Lee (R) announced his retirement, effective Nov. 3. Lee served from 2016 to 2020. 

Ballotpedia identified the Florida State Senate as a battleground chamber in the 2020 election. Democrats needed to gain four seats to overcome the 23-17 Republican majority. As of November 6, Democrats had not gained any seats, with one race remaining to be called in the chamber.

Florida has a Republican state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers. 

As of November, 59 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2020 in 27 states. Between 2011 and 2019, an average of 77 special elections took place each year. Florida held 24 state legislative special elections from 2010 to 2019.

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How can I check the status of my ballot?

As of October 30, voters have cast at least 53.7 million absentee/mail-in ballots according to the New York Times.

Forty-four states and the District of Columbia offer online ballot tracking for all voters. Texas and New York provide online ballot tracking only for military and overseas voters. Four states have no online ballot tracking at the state level. In those states, voters can contact their local elections office to request information on the status of their ballot.

Ballot tracking systems offer different information depending on the state, but many indicate when a ballot is in transit, when it has been received, and when it has been counted.

Some online ballot tracking systems notify voters when there is a problem with their mail ballot, such as a missing signature. Eighteen states are legally required to notify voters of such problems and provide an opportunity to fix them. This notification and correction process is called ballot curing

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