Author

Samuel Wonacott

Samuel Wonacott is a staff writer at Ballotpedia. Contact us at editor@ballotpedia.org.

The Golden State’s 46 local ballot measures of 2021

Welcome to the Wednesday, January 12, Brew. 

By: Samuel Wonacott

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

  1. California voters decided 46 local ballot measures last year
  2. The 68 state legislators who ran for a different office in 2021
  3. U.S. Supreme Court adds three more cases to its 2021-2022 calendar

California voters decided 46 local ballot measures last year

California voters decided 46 local ballot measures on seven different election dates and ultimately approved 35 (76.1%) of them in 2021. Altogether, there were 57% fewer local measures in California last year than the average number of measures during the last three odd-year election cycles. In 2019, California voters decided 78 local measures, approving 62 (79.5%) of them. 

Let’s take a look at the issues California voters decided through local ballot measures last year. Most of California’s local measures—80%—dealt with taxes

  • 37 measures were related to taxes.
    • Parcel taxes (27 measures)
    • Sales taxes (3 measures)
    • Utility taxes and fees (3 measures)
    • Hotel taxes (2 measures)
    • Marijuana taxes (1 measure)
    • Real estate transfer taxes (1 measure)
  • Six were related to city governance, such as spending limits and election administration. 
  • One measure related to property and housing.
  • Two measures addressed other miscellaneous topics, like marijuana revenue. 

Eighteen of California’s 58 counties voted on at least one measure. Los Angeles County had the most measures of any county with seven.

To read more of our analysis of 2021 local ballot measures in California, click the link below. 

Keep reading

Sixty-eight state legislators ran for a different office in 2021 

Since 2018, we’ve compiled data on state and federal elected officials who run for other elected offices.  Last year, we tracked 68 state legislators across 18 states who ran for a different office than the one to which they were elected. Of those 68 legislators, 34% were elected to a new position. In 2019, 46% of the 69 state legislators who ran for other elected positions won their elections.

Democratic state legislators were more likely than Republicans to seek a different office. They were also more likely to lose. Overall, 47 Democrats and 21 Republicans ran for a different office, with 32% of Democrats and 38% of Republicans winning election to a new position. 

State representatives were more likely than state senators to run for a different office, and they were also more likely to win—12% of the 17 state senators and 41% of 51 state representatives who ran for another office were successful.

Legislators ran for a different office in 18 states, with a plurality (12) coming from New York. Eleven ran in Virginia and eight ran in both New Mexico and New Jersey (New Jersey and Virginia held regularly scheduled state legislative and state executive elections in 2021). 

The following table shows the positions that state legislators ran for in 2019 and 2021 and the results of those elections.

 In New York, the 12 legislators who sought a different office ran for a local office, all of which were concentrated in New York City (such as the New York City Council, the New York City Comptroller, or a borough president position). In Virginia, all 11 of the state legislators who sought a different office ran for a state executive office, like governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general.

To learn more about state legislators who sought a different office in 2021, click below. 

Keep reading 

U.S. Supreme Court accepts three cases for argument on Jan. 10

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) accepted three additional cases for argument during its 2021-2022 term on Jan. 10. Let’s walk through a short summary of each of those cases.

  • United States v. Washington: This case concerns state workers’ compensation laws and intergovernmental immunity. The question presented to the court is: “Whether a state workers’ compensation law that applies exclusively to federal contract workers who perform services at a specified federal facility is barred by principles of intergovernmental immunity, or is instead authorized by 40 U.S.C. 3172(a), which permits the application of state workers’ compensation laws to federal facilities ‘in the same way and to the same extent as if the premises were under the exclusive jurisdiction of the State.’” Washington originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.
  • Kemp v. United States: This case concerns the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure governing court procedures in civil cases. The court will decide: “Whether Rule 60(b)(1) authorizes relief based on a district court’s error of law.” Kemp came from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.
  • Siegel v. Fitzgerald: This case concerns the constitutionality of a law imposing different fees on Chapter 11 debtors based on the district in which the bankruptcy is filed. The court will decide: “Whether the Bankruptcy Judgeship Act violates the uniformity requirement of the Bankruptcy Clause by increasing quarterly fees solely in U.S. Trustee districts.” Siegel came from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit.

Thus far, the court has agreed to hear 59 cases during its 2021-2022 term. Four cases were dismissed, and one case was removed from the argument calendar. Eleven cases had not yet been scheduled for argument.

Keep reading



Sixty-eight state legislators ran for a different office in 2021

Sixty-eight state legislators ran for a different office in 2021 than the one to which they were elected. Of those 68 officials, 23 (34%) won election to a new position. In 2019, 69 state legislators who sought a different office. Thirty-two (46%) were successful in their elections. 

New York had the most legislators seeking another office, with 12, followed by Virginia, with 11. New Jersey and Ohio tied with eight apiece, followed by New Mexico, with five. 

Fifty-one percent of state representatives and 12% of state senators were successful in their bids for other elected office. Of the 68 state legislators, 21 were Republicans and 47 were Democrats. Republicans were more successful than Democrats at winning election to a new office, with 38% doing so compared to 32% of Democrats.

What follows is a breakdown of offices state legislators sought in 2021.

State Representatives

  • Twenty (39%) ran for a state senate seat.
  • Fourteen (27%) ran for a municipal office or school board seat.
  • Seven (14%) ran for U.S. House seat.
  • Seven (14%) ran for a non-gubernatorial state executive office (such as attorney general).
  • Three (6%) ran for governor.

State Senators 

  • Seven (41%) ran for a municipal office or school board seat.
  • Six (35.29%) ran for a U.S. House seat.
  • Two (12%) ran for governor.
  • One (6%) ran for a county seat.
  • One (6%) ran for a judicial office. 

In 2019, the 69 legislators who sought another office came from 19 states. Republican state legislators who ran for other offices were more successful than Democrats that year. Eighteen out of 34 (53%) Republican state legislators who ran for another office won election to a new position, while 14 out of 35 (40%) of Democratic state legislators who ran for another office were successful.



2021 saw the most state executive officials leave office early since 2012

Welcome to the Monday, January 10, Brew. 

By: Samuel Wonacott

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

  1. Thirty-nine state executive officials left office early in 2021
  2.  Top-ballot statewide elections in 2022 
  3. New Jersey’s state supreme court vacancy

39 state executives left office early last year—the most since at least 2012

When an official leaves office early we call that an irregular office change. This can happen for a variety of reasons, such as resignation, death, etc. In 2021, we identified 39 state executive officials who left office early—the most since we started tracking these changes in 2012

In 2021: 

  • 18 state executive officials resigned—including New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), who stepped down following allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior
  •  9 were appointed to a different office 
  • 4 left for the private sector
  • 4 left for political reasons
  • 2 retired
  • 1 died
  • 1 (Kathy Hochul) succeeded to the office of Governor of New York

Nineteen of the 39 officials were nonpartisan, while 11 were Democrats and nine were Republican. Out of all the offices vacated, attorney general, secretary of state, and public service commissioner had the most frequent resignations (each with six). The next-highest office was treasurer, with three.

Between 2012 and 2021, there were 29 irregular changes in public service commissioner offices—the most of any office. This is followed by the office of lieutenant governor, which had 19 irregular changes, and superintendent of public instruction, with 15 changes.

The three years with the most irregular office changes since 2012 followed a presidential election. We tracked 36 irregular office changes in 2013, 23 irregular office changes in 2017, and 39 irregular office changes in 2021.

Click below to read more about irregular office changes. 

Keep reading

36 states hold two or more top-ballot statewide elections in 2022 

In 2022, 36 states are holding elections for two or more top-ballot statewide offices. We define those offices to include: U.S. Senate, governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, and secretary of state. Twenty-six states are holding elections for governor—the top state executive position—and a U.S. Senator. 

Let’s take a look at the details:

  • 16 states are holding elections for all five top-level statewide offices.
  • 11 states are holding elections for four of the offices.
  • 5 states are holding elections for three of the offices.
  • 4 states are holding elections for two of the offices.

In 11 states with more than two top-level statewide elections, the current incumbents belong to different parties. In the table below, blue cells correspond to the Democratic Party, while red cells correspond to the Republican Party. 

Keep reading 

Here’s some information on New Jersey’s upcoming state supreme court vacancy

Speaking of vacancies and turnover, let’s take a closer look at State Supreme Courts. When New Jersey Supreme Court Justice Faustino J. Fernandez-Vina turns 70 on Feb. 15, he’ll hit the state’s mandatory retirement age—leading to a vacancy on the court. Governor Phil Murphy’s (D) will choose Fernandez-Vina’s replacement. So far, Murphy has nominated two justices to the seven-member supreme court. 

Governor Chris Christie (R) appointed Justice Fernandez-Vina, who officially joined the court on Nov. 19, 2013. Before beginning his tenure, Fernandez-Vina served as a legal associate and as a partner with private law firms. He received a B.A. in history from Widener University in 1974 and a J.D. from Rutgers University in 1978. After law school, Fernandez-Vina clerked for New Jersey Superior Court Judge E. Stevenson Fluharty.

States use different methods for selecting state justices. In New Jersey, the governor directly appoints state supreme court justices without the use of a nominating commission. As of Jan. 4, there are five states that use this method for selecting justices. 

There are currently four supreme court vacancies pending in three of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. The vacancies are all due to  retirements. Three of the vacancies—in Maryland and Wyoming—are in states where a Republican governor appoints the replacement. One vacancy—in New Jersey—is in a state where a Democratic governor appoints the replacement. 

Click here to read more about the gubernatorial appointment of judges, or click the link below to learn more about New Jersey’s state supreme court vacancy. 

Keep reading



Twenty one states increased their minimum wage on January 1

Welcome to the Wednesday, January 5, Brew. 

By: Samuel Wonacott

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

  1. The 21 states that increased their minimum wage on New Year’s Day
  2. Redistricting roundup
  3. Illinois Rep. Bobby Rush (D) won’t seek re-election

The statewide minimum wage increased in 21 states on New Year’s Day

It’s a new year—and for many states, that means a new minimum wage. On Jan. 1, as the clocks chimed midnight and people toasted to 2022 (or—like me—slept peacefully in their beds), the minimum wage increased in 21 states. Technically, the minimum wage increased in New York on Dec. 31, 2021, but that’s close enough to New Year’s Day to count for our purposes.  

Here’s a summary of our annual analysis of statewide minimum wage increases in the coming year:

  • In 2022, 25 states and Washington D.C. will see an increase in the statewide minimum wage.
  • In 21 states, the minimum wage increased at the start of 2022.
  • In Connecticut, Nevada, and Oregon, the minimum wage increase will take effect on July 1. 
  • The minimum wage will increase in Florida on Sept. 30. 

State lawmakers approved legislation increasing the minimum wage in 12 of the 21 states with hikes taking effect Jan. 1. In the eight other states, voters approved ballot initiatives that caused the 2022 increases. 

Here are the 21 states where the minimum wage increased on Jan. 1:

Here are some of the highlights from the year:

  • The largest minimum wage increases based on state laws are $1.50 in Virginia ($9.50 to $11) and $1.25 in Delaware ($9.25 to $10.5).
  • Six states will increase their minimum wage rates by $1 per hour in 2022: California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, and New Mexico.
  • Nine states have passed laws or ballot measures increasing their statewide minimum wage rates incrementally to $15 per hour. California is the first of those states to reach $15 per hour in 2022.
  • In nine states, the minimum wage increase is tied to inflation. In 16 states, the minimum wage is rising incrementally to a target rate.
  • The average increase based on inflation in 2022 is $0.51 per hour. In 2021, the average increase based on inflation was $0.16 per hour.
  • New York and Oregon divide the states into different regions with different minimum wage rates.

Click below to read more about statewide minimum wage increases in 2022.

Keep reading

Redistricting Roundup 

There’s been a whirl of redistricting activity since our last update on Dec. 21. Since then, six states have adopted congressional or legislative redistricting plans (or both!)—California, Georgia, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, and Virginia. 

As of Jan. 5, 24 states have adopted congressional district maps, two states have approved congressional district boundaries that have not yet taken effect. Six states were apportioned one congressional district (so no congressional redistricting is required). Eighteen states have not yet adopted congressional redistricting plans. Congressional redistricting has been completed for 274 of the 435 seats (63%) in U.S. House Districts.

Here’s a look at what happened since Dec. 21:

  • California: The California Citizens Redistricting Commission voted 14-0 in favor of new congressional and legislative maps on Dec. 20 and they were enacted when the commission delivered them to the secretary of state on Dec. 27.
  • Georgia: Gov. Brian Kemp (R) signed legislation on Dec. 30 enacting new congressional and legislative district boundaries. Both chambers of the state legislature had approved the redistricting plans in November.
  • Michigan: The Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission (MICRC) approved new congressional and legislative district boundaries on Dec. 28.
  • New Jersey: The New Jersey Congressional Redistricting Commission enacted new congressional district boundaries on Dec. 22. The commission voted 7-6 to approve a map proposed by Democrats. All six Democratic commissioners voted to approve, and all six Republican members voted against. The tie breaking vote on the commission was former New Jersey Supreme Court Judge John Wallace, who voted to approve the map.
  • New Mexico: Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) signed legislation adopting new district boundaries for the state House of Representatives on Dec. 29. The state House had approved the plan 43-23 on Dec. 10, and the state Senate approved the bill 24-13 on Dec. 16.
  • Virginia: The Virginia Supreme Court unanimously approved congressional and legislative maps for the state on Dec. 28. 

Click below to read more about the status of state legislative and congressional redistricting. 

Keep reading 

Illinois Rep. Bobby Rush (D) announces retirement

As of Jan. 4, 42 members of Congress—six members of the U.S. Senate and 36 members of the U.S. House—have announced they will not seek re-election. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) announced he would not seek a 16th term in the House. Rush was first elected in 1992. 

Twenty-seven members—six senators and 21 representatives—have announced their retirements, while 15 U.S. House members are running for other offices.

  • Four Republicans and four Democrats are seeking seats in the U.S. Senate
  • One Republican and two Democrats are running for governor
  • One Republican is running for secretary of state
  • One Democrat is running for mayor, and one Democrat and one Republican are running for attorney general.

Click below to read more about congressional retirements in 2022. 

Keep reading



Another day, another round of redistricting maps

Welcome to the Wednesday, December 22, Brew. 

By: Samuel Wonacott

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

  1. Redistricting roundup—California and New Mexico
  2. California Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D) will not seek re-election
  3. The Tenth Day of Ballotpedia: Sample Ballot Lookup Tool

The latest redistricting news

Over the last week, one state—New Mexico—enacted a new congressional map, while no new state legislative maps were approved. California’s redistricting commission approved final congressional and state legislative maps, which the secretary of state must certify by Dec. 27. 

Currently, 23 states have not yet adopted congressional maps and 27 states have not yet adopted state legislative maps. 

Here’s a look at California’s and New Mexico’s latest redistricting news. 

California

The California Citizens Redistricting Commission (CCRC) unanimously approved final maps for the state’s congressional and legislative districts on Dec. 20. California’s constitution requires a three-day comment period before the maps are enacted.

Politico’s Jeremy B. White writes that the new congressional boundaries “create more challenging districts for Republican incumbents without substantially undermining the prospects of vulnerable Democrats. While Democrats are poised to absorb California’s overall loss of a House seat due to declining population, the emerging map could point to Democrats holding ground or picking up seats.”

The CCRC was created by the passage of Proposition 11 in 2008 to draw boundary lines for the state’s legislative districts. In 2010, California voters approved Proposition 20, which gave the commission authority to redraw the state’s congressional district boundaries. 

The CCRC is composed of five Democrats, five Republicans, and four people not affiliated with either party.

New Mexico

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) signed the state’s new congressional map into law on Dec. 17. The map will take effect for New Mexico’s 2022 elections. 

The state Senate approved the redistricting plan 25-15 on Dec. 10, and the state House of Representatives approved it 44-24 on Dec. 11. Both votes were largely along party lines—all Democrats voted in favor and 38 Republicans and one Democrat voted against. The Santa Fe New Mexican’s Robert Nott writes that the proposal “gives Democrats a comfortable lead in all three congressional districts.”

State Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth (D) said, “The new congressional map creates districts where we have to work together — rural and urban, north and south, and Democrats, Republicans and independents. That is a good thing.” 

The New Mexico Republican Party’s Steve Pearce criticized the map, saying: “these maps are far from fair representation, and they are a disservice to constituents. The real losers are the rural voices of New Mexico, conservative Democrats, Republicans, and independents.”

New Mexico is the 20th state to complete congressional redistricting after the 2020 census. By this date after the 2010 census, 28 states had completed drawing new congressional district boundaries.

Keep reading

Incumbents not running for re-election  

As of Dec. 21, 2021, 40 members of Congress—six Senators and 34 Representatives—have announced they will not seek re-election. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.) announced her retirement from the House on Dec. 21. 

Roybal-Allard, who represents California’s 40th Congressional District, said “After thirty years in the House of Representatives, the time has come for me to spend more time with my family. Therefore, I have decided not to seek reelection.” Roybal-Allard was first elected in 1992. She won re-election in 2020 against C. Antonio Delgado (R) 73%-27%.

Four other U.S. House members of Congress, Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.), Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), and Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), also announced in December that they will not run for re-election. 

Of the 40 members not seeking re-election in 2022, 25 members—six senators and 19 representatives—have announced their retirement. Five retiring Senate members are Republicans and one is a Democrat, and of the retiring House members, 14 are Democrats and five are Republicans.

Fifteen of the 40 congressional members not seeking re-election in 2022—all in the House—are running for other offices: 

  • Four Republicans and four Democrats are seeking seats in the U.S. Senate.
  • One Republican and two Democrats are running for governor.
  • One Republican is running for secretary of state. 
  • One Democrat is running for mayor.
  • One Democrat and one Republican are running for attorney general. 

Click the link below to find out more about congressional incumbents who aren’t running for re-election.

Keep reading 

The Tenth Day of Ballotpedia: Sample Ballot Lookup Tool

Besides the top races, many voters don’t know who or what is on their ballot, and don’t have an easy way to find out. We’re working to change that. Instead of opening 30 different web pages from 20 different websites to find out what district you’re in, what races are up for election and what a yes vote on that ballot measure would really mean… 

We provide all that information you need in one spot: our Sample Ballot Lookup Tool

There, you can read encyclopedic articles, analyze candidate views, and decide how YOU should vote. We also offer unique ways to learn about your candidates, such as survey questions that help you get to know the person behind the campaign ad.

The sample ballot tool is powered by digital maps. This means you can click through to our articles on each candidate and ballot measure, arming you with the information you need to cast an informed vote at the polls. From presidential races to school board elections—and all the state ballot measures in between—our sample ballot pulls from the tens of thousands of candidates running in the thousands of elections we cover to show you what’s on the ballot for your registered address.

More and more voters are recognizing how powerful this tool is. And it’s popular—more than 21 million people have used our Sample Ballot Lookup Tool to become informed about the candidates and issues they would see at the polls.

When voters use the Sample Ballot Lookup Tool, they depend on the trustworthy and free information Ballotpedia provides to make good choices about the issues and races that most immediately affect their lives.

Support Ballotpedia



Alert: Sugar cookie recalled from office!

Welcome to the Monday, December 20, Brew. 

By: Samuel Wonacott

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

  1. Your 2021 Cookie Election winner
  2. And on the Sixth Day … Local coverage
  3. Federal Register weekly update

And your 2021 Cookie Election winner is…. 

Our 2020 incumbent Sugar Cookie has been recalled in the Official Holiday Cookie election. The recall election was open to voters from Dec. 13 to Dec. 17. 

With 69.5% of voters in favor of the recall and 33.2% of the replacement vote, Chocolate Chip Cookie was elected as the 2021 Official Holiday Cookie, and was immediately sworn into office.

When the results were made public, recall supporters celebrated, calling their victory “as sweet as it can get.” The mood among recall opponents was downcast, however, with one voter saying, “we fought hard and ran a campaign—you might call it a refined campaign—we’re proud of. But in the end, this is how the cookie crumbled.”

Voters had to decide two questions: whether Sugar Cookie should be recalled, and, if so, which cookie should replace it. Five cookies ran in the election—Chocolate Chip, Chocolate Peppermint Bark, Gingerbread, Peanut Butter Blossom, and Snickerdoodle. A majority vote was required for Sugar Cookie to be recalled. 

Voters supporting the recall cited the lack of sugar in this year’s batch of sugar cookies. One recall supporter said, “Biting into a giant sugar cookie only to get a mouth full of salt is a disaster I wouldn’t wish on my worst political opponent.” Recall opponents cited the deliciousness of last year’s batch when asking voters to give the sugar cookie another chance. “We promise a full audit of how 2021’s catastrophic sugar-salt mix-up happened and guarantee that changes to the by-laws will prevent this issue in the future.”

See the full election results below!

Keep reading 

And on the Eighth Day…Local Coverage

It is the Eighth Day of the 12 Days of Ballotpedia!

Each day, we have showcased the different ways Ballotpedia helps people get the information they need about politics and policy. This includes providing coverage for ballot measures and school board elections. The more people understand the issues and candidates on their ballots, the more informed their choices will be. 

But our work is not free to produce and we need your help to raise $100,000 in December so we can give all Americans more of the information they need to prepare for the 2022 election season.

Today, we’re highlighting our local coverage

Just 20 years ago, local news sources provided coverage of local issues. The internet, however, has changed the game. Today, news about politics and elections comes not only from traditional newspapers, but from educational organizations, watchdog groups, political action committees, and of course, from reliable, nonpartisan information resources such as Ballotpedia. 

Even so, the internet is not a cure-all. There is a critical gap in our nation today, and it begins with the lack of accessible information at the local level. 

Ballotpedia works hard to offer every voter in the country ballot information on presidential candidates down through state legislative races. But there are 14,000 school districts, 19,000 cities or towns and 3,200 counties nationwide. Together, they add up to about 585,000 elected positions, and our goal is to cover them all within the next five years! 

That’s why Ballotpedia is focusing so much on local elections. State, county, and municipal elections. School districts. Ballot initiatives. Primary races. These are the laboratories of democracy, the places where civic engagement is happening today. 

Too often, these local races are overlooked, and with your support we are determined to make the information voters need at every level of government accessible!

Keep reading 

Federal Register update: 21 significant documents added

From Dec. 13 through Dec. 17, the Federal Register grew by 1,104 pages for a year-to-date total of 71,792 pages.

The Federal Register is a daily journal of federal government activity that includes presidential documents, proposed and final rules, and public notices. It is a common measure of an administration’s regulatory activity, accounting for both regulatory and deregulatory actions.

The Federal Register hit an all-time high of 95,894 pages in 2016.

This week’s Federal Register featured the following 553 documents:

  • 422 notices
  • 7 presidential documents
  • 50 proposed rules
  • 74 final rules

Nine proposed rules and 12 final rules were deemed significant under Executive Order 12866—defined as having the potential to have large impacts on the economy, environment, public health, or state or local governments. The rules included proposed federal management regulations for real estate acquisition from the General Services Administration and a final rule relating to the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP), which assists overseas service members and citizens with registering to vote. \

The Biden administration has issued 117 significant proposed rules, 148 significant final rules, and four significant notices as of Dec. 17.

Ballotpedia maintains page counts and other information about the Federal Register as part of its Administrative State Project. The project is a neutral, nonpartisan encyclopedic resource that defines and analyzes the administrative state, including its philosophical origins, legal and judicial precedents, and scholarly examinations of its consequences. The project also monitors and reports on measures of federal government activity. 

Keep reading



Tomorrow’s school board recall election in Wisconsin

Welcome to the Wednesday, December 15, Brew. 

By: Samuel Wonacott

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

  1. A Dec. 16 school board election in Wisconsin
  2. A redistricting update from across the country
  3. The seven states that decided 24 constitutional amendments in 2021

Recall election to be held Dec. 16 against Wisconsin school board member

On Dec. 16, voters will decide whether to recall Gary Mertig, one of the five members of the Butternut School District school board in Wisconsin. Nate Pritzl filed to run against Mertig in the election. At the time the recall began, Mertig had served on the board for 31 years.

Here’s a quick FAQ on recalls.

How recalls work in Wisconsin

  • The recall petition required 126 signatures to qualify for the ballot. One-hundred and thirty district residents signed it.
  • The number of valid signatures required for a recall election in Wisconsin is 25% of the number of people who voted in the last preceding election for the office of governor within the targeted official’s electoral district.
  • Election officials must provide a “certificate of sufficiency” or a “certificate of insufficiency” within 31 days after recall organizers have submitted the signatures on the recall petition.

What people are saying about the recall

  • Recall supporters said Mertig lied when he said community members would have input on the school district’s COVID-19 policies. Supporters said they were promised a meeting with all parties involved but that when the meeting was held, parents were not allowed to offer comments or ask questions.
  • Mertig said the community was allowed to speak at two out of the three meetings on the policies. The third meeting did not allow public comment because it was not listed on the agenda. “You have to be careful with the law. If it’s not on the agenda, you can’t talk about it,” Mertig said.

About the district

  • In the 2020-2021 school year, Butternut School District had approximately 179 students. 
  • Butternut School District is in Ashland County, in the northern part of the state.

Additional news about the recall

  • Mertig alleged that the way the recall signatures were collected violated state law. He submitted a letter to the Wisconsin Election Commission saying that at least eight residents who signed the recall were not witnessed by the petition circulator and that at least five people who signed were not residents of the school district. Mertig said those signatures should not have been counted, which would have stopped the recall election from being scheduled.
  • Wisconsin Election Commission Administrator Megan Wolf ruled that the recall election could proceed because Mertig did not file his complaints against the petition with the school district within the 10-day time period set by state law.

Recall context

  • Ballotpedia has tracked 90 school board recall efforts against 233 school board members so far in 2021—the highest number of school board recall efforts we have tracked in one year. The next-highest year was in 2010 with 38 recall efforts against 91 school board members.
  • 57.8% of the school board recalls we’ve tracked this year are related to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In the first half of 2021, Ballotpedia tracked 165 recall efforts against 263 officials. This was the most recall efforts for this point in the year since the first half of 2016, when we tracked 189 recall efforts against 265 officials. In comparison, we tracked between 72 and 155 efforts by the midpoints of 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020.

Keep reading

Redistricting Roundup 

The redistricting process shows no signs of slowing down as we head toward the end of the year. This week, we’ve got updates from Alaska, Connecticut, New Mexico, and South Carolina. 

Alaska

The cities of Skagway and Valdez, the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, and three Anchorage residents filed four lawsuits challenging Alaska’s legislative redistricting plan. The deadline to file challenges was Dec. 10 All four lawsuits request the Alaska Redistricting Board revise its Nov. 10 map.  

Three of the challenges allege the redistricting plan does not adhere to the state’s requirement that each district contains an “integrated socio-economic area.” The Matanuska-Susitna Borough lawsuit contends that each of the borough’s state House districts is overpopulated and dilutes the borough’s votes. 

Alaska has had a five-member independent redistricting commission since 1998. Two commissioners are appointed by the governor, one by the state Senate majority leader, one by the state House majority leader, and one by the chief justice of the Alaska Supreme Court. The commission voted 3-2 to approve the maps. The three Republican-appointed members voted in favor of the maps, while the two members without a party affiliation voted against.  

Connecticut

On Dec. 9, the Connecticut Supreme Court granted the state Reapportionment Commission’s petition to extend the deadline for congressional redistricting to Dec. 21. On Dec. 1, the commission voted 9-0 to request a three-week extension to Connecticut’s Nov. 30  congressional map deadline. The commission submitted the request to the state supreme court, which took control of the redistricting process after the deadline passed. 

The nine-member commission consists of four Democratic state lawmakers, four Republican state lawmakers, and one Republican former state representative who the other commission members selected. The commission took over the redistricting process after the state’s eight-member Reapportionment Committee did not meet its Sept. 15 deadline. Unlike the committee, the Reapportionment Commission’s maps did not need approval from the General Assembly. The commission unanimously approved state legislative maps in November.

New Mexico

The New Mexico legislature approved new boundaries for the state’s three congressional districts strictly along party lines, sending the proposal to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D). The state Senate approved the maps on Dec. 10 and the state House approved them on Dec. 11 with all Democrats voting in favor and all Republicans voting against. Robert Nott of the Santa Fe New Mexican wrote that the proposal “gives Democrats a comfortable lead in all three congressional districts.” The current party affiliation of New Mexico’s U.S. House members is two Democrats and one Republican.

South Carolina

South Carolina enacted new state legislative district maps on Dec. 10, 2021, when Gov. Henry McMaster (R) signed a proposal approved by the South Carolina House and Senate into law. The South Carolina Senate approved House and Senate map proposals in a 43-1 vote on Dec. 7, and the House approved the new districts in a 75-27 vote on Dec. 9. Gov. McMaster signed the bill into law the next day. This map will take effect for South Carolina’s 2022 state legislative elections.

Rep. Wendy Brawley (D) said the proposal was “highly gerrymandered…to the disadvantage of most Democrats and to the disadvantage of many minorities — it protects Republicans.” Rep. Jay Jordan (R) said, “We worked very hard to make sure that was not the case, and I feel very comfortable in saying that was not the case.”

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Voters in seven states decided on 24 constitutional amendments in 2021, adopting 16 of them

In 2021, voters in seven states decided 24 constitutional amendments. Of those proposed amendments, state legislatures referred 23 to the ballot, and a signature petition drive was used to initiate one in Colorado. Sixteen of the 24 (66.66%) were approved. The seven states with constitutional amendments in 2021 were:

  • Colorado – 1
  • Louisiana – 4
  • Maine – 1
  • New Jersey – 2
  • New York – 5
  • Pennsylvania – 3
  • Texas – 8

Below are some of the notable amendments approved in 2021:

  • Maine voters enacted a first-of-its-kind constitutional right to produce, harvest, and consume food.
  • New York voters enacted a constitutional right to clean air, clean water, and a healthful environment.
  • Pennsylvania voters approved two amendments providing limits to and giving the legislature additional authority over the governor’s emergency declaration powers. Both were put on the ballot in response to conflict over responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Texas voters also approved two constitutional amendments in response to COVID-19: an amendment to prohibit the state or any political subdivision from enacting a law, rule, order, or proclamation that limits religious services or organizations; and an amendment creating a constitutional right for residents of nursing homes to designate an essential caregiver that may not be prohibited from visiting the resident.

From 2006 through 2021, voters decided 1,040 constitutional amendments. This data only includes constitutional amendments put on the ballot for a statewide vote. It does not include certain state constitutional amendments that only apply to local jurisdictions and were voted on only by residents of particular local jurisdictions. It also does not include constitutional amendments in Delaware that weren’t subject to voter ratification. Of this total, voters approved 749 (72%) proposed changes to state constitutions.

Click below to learn more about how constitutional amendments can be proposed and put on the ballot in most states.

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The 12 Days of Ballotpedia are here!

Welcome to the Monday, December 13, Brew. 

By: Samuel Wonacott

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

  1. The 12 Days of Ballotpedia are upon us!
  2. Maryland enacts new congressional map
  3. All local ballot measures Ballotpedia covered on Nov. 2 have been decided

Welcome to the 12 Days of Ballotpedia!

Happy holidays! We’re excited to welcome you to the 12 Days of Ballotpedia! 

Each day we will celebrate a different part of Ballotpedia’s mission to showcase how our work to educate people about politics and policy- without the spin- helps strengthen our democracy. We love what we do…but we need your help to make it all possible. That’s why we’re counting on you to help us raise $100,000 between now and the end of the year so we can keep providing the news, research, and insights people depend on us to deliver in 2022.

We hope this display of our work will inspire you to support us before the year’s end so that we can continue to produce this information for all who seek it. Be sure to check out our Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn pages to see the daily features through Dec. 25!

P.S. Did you know a temporary tax rule expiring at the end of the year allows for increased deductions for charitable contributions to nonprofits? Click here to make your tax-deductible contribution.  

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Maryland General Assembly overrides governor’s veto of new congressional district map 

On Dec. 9, Maryland enacted its new congressional district map after both chambers of the Democratic-controlled General Assembly voted to override Gov. Larry Hogan’s (R) veto of the plan. The House of Delegates voted 96-41 to override the veto, while the Senate voted 32-14 to do the same.

Maryland is one of 24 states where one party has a veto-proof majority in both chambers, and one of four states—including Kansas, Kentucky, and Massachusetts—where one party has a veto-proof majority in the legislature and the other party holds the governor’s office. Although all state constitutions empower the legislature to override gubernatorial vetoes, the vote threshold varies by state. Maryland is one of seven states that requires a three-fifths vote in both chambers. 

The Maryland General Assembly approved the Legislative Redistricting Advisory Commission’s map and rejected the proposal from Hogan’s Maryland Citizens Redistricting Commission. The House of Delegates passed the redistricting plan on Dec. 7, 97-42, with all ‘yes’ votes coming from Democrats and 41 Republicans and 1 Democrat voting ‘no.’ The state Senate approved the congressional map, 32-15, on Dec. 8 in a party-line vote. Hogan vetoed the plan on Dec. 9. 

According to David Collins of WBAL-TV, “The map allows Democrats to hold seven of the state’s eight congressional seats and the First District on the Eastern Shore, held by Republican Rep. Andy Harris, becomes more competitive.” 

After vetoing the General Assembly’s map, Hogan said: “The congressional map drawn in back rooms by party bosses in Annapolis makes a mockery of our democracy, and it is an embarrassment to all that our state stands for. On behalf of all the people of Maryland who value fairness and integrity in our elections and in our political system, I am vetoing these disgracefully gerrymandered, illegal maps, which are a shameful violation of state and federal law.” 

Senate Majority Leader Nancy King (D) said, “Maryland’s geography is unique, and our population is varied. Taking all that into consideration, I am confident that this map is a fair one, and one that reflects the lived experience of Marylanders.”

As of Dec. 9, 19 states have adopted new congressional maps. One state’s legislature has approved congressional district maps that have not yet taken effect. Six states were apportioned one congressional district (so no congressional redistricting is required), and 24 states have not yet adopted new congressional maps. As of Dec. 9 in 2011, 27 states had enacted congressional redistricting plans.

So far, states have completed congressional redistricting for 165 of the 435 seats (37.9%) in the U.S. House of Representatives.

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With recount result in Colorado Springs complete, all Nov. 2 ballot measures called

On Dec. 6, the El Paso County, Colorado, Elections Department announced the conclusion of a recount on a Colorado Springs School District bond measure, Issue 4B. Issue 4B failed by 11 votes with 27,476 votes against and 27,465 votes in favor. It would have authorized the district to issue $350 million in bonds for school facility construction and capital improvements.

Issue 4B was the last measure to be called out of the 156 local ballot measures Ballotpedia covered in 18 different states on Nov. 2. Voters approved 109 measures and defeated 47.

Highlights from the local ballot measure results on Nov. 2 include:

  • Voters in Austin, Texas, defeated an initiative to establish minimum police staffing requirements resulting in the city having to hire additional police officers. The initiative would have required additional police officer training and created certain police hiring guidelines and incentives.
  • Voters in Minneapolis defeated an initiative to replace the city police department with a department of public safety.
  • Voters in Cleveland approved an initiative to make changes related to police oversight, discipline, and policies.
  • Voters in Albany, New York, approved a measure giving the existing Community Police Review Board more authority over investigation and oversight over complaints against police.
  • Voters in Detroit, Michigan, approved a measure to create a city reparations committee tasked with making recommendations for housing and economic development programs for Black Detroit residents.
  • Voters in Tucson, Arizona, approved a $15 per hour minimum wage initiative.
  • Voters in Broomfield, Colorado; Ann Arbor, Michigan; and Westbrook, Maine, approved measures to enact ranked-choice voting.

On Dec. 17, Ballotpedia will publish its year-end analysis of all 2021 local ballot measures in the top 100 largest cities and state capitals. This includes local measures that were on the ballot for more than 20 pre-November election dates. Notable topics among local measures this year included:

  • police oversight, budgets, structure, practices, and collective bargaining;
  • race and ethnicity;
  • minimum wage;
  • election policies, including ranked-choice voting and campaign finance;
  • public camping bans; and
  • bonds and taxes.

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A sneak peek at 2022 local elections

Welcome to the Wednesday, December 8, Brew. 

By: Samuel Wonacott

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

  1. Local elections in 2022—a sneak peek
  2. The Department of Justice sues Texas over its congressional, state legislative maps
  3. Biden’s Article III judicial nominations   

Looking ahead to 2022 local elections

Last week, we looked at 2022 statewide filing deadlines, so today we’re going to take a look at next year’s local elections. Local election dates and deadlines are often unavailable until a few months until the election. Hence, we’re in the process of completing our 2022 local election research, but here’s a sneak peek at a few dates on the horizon: 

  • Oklahoma: The deadline to run in school board elections will pass today, Dec. 8. Nonpartisan primary elections are scheduled for Feb. 8, and general elections will take place Apr. 5. The filing deadline to run in the mayoral election in Oklahoma City also passes on Dec. 8. 
  • Texas: The filing deadline to run in county elections in Bexar, Dallas, El Paso, Fort Bend, Harris, Travis, and Tarrant Counties passes on Dec. 13. The filing deadline to run in special city council elections in Houston and Austin passes on Dec. 16.
  • North Carolina: The filing deadline to run for several school districts, the mayor and city council in Charlotte and Greensboro, and county offices in Durham, Forsyth, Guilford, Mecklenburg, and Wake Counties will pass on Dec. 17.
  • Missouri: The deadline to fill to run in school board elections and city council elections in Jefferson City passes on Dec. 28.

In other election news this week, a panel of three judges on the North Carolina Court of Appeals temporarily suspended the start of candidate filing for state legislative and U.S. House elections on Dec. 6. The order came in response to a lawsuit alleging that North Carolina’s newly drawn district maps violate the right to free and fair elections by being gerrymandered in favor of Republican candidates. The court later reversed the suspension, re-opened candidate filing, and ordered that the full 15-member court rehear the case. The decision did not affect candidate filing for local elections.

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Justice Department sues over new district maps in Texas 

In case you missed it, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against Texas on Dec. 6, alleging the state’s newly enacted congressional and legislative maps violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. So far, we’ve tracked 34 redistricting-related lawsuits in 16 states. Seven of those lawsuits concern Texas’ redistricting process.  

“The Legislature refused to recognize the state’s growing minority electorate,” the Department of Justice’s complaint states. “Although the Texas congressional delegation expanded from 36 to 38 seats, Texas designed the two new seats to have Anglo voting majorities.”

In a press conference, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said, “The complaint we filed today alleges that Texas has violated Section Two by creating redistricting plans that deny or bridge the rights of Latino and Black voters to vote on account of their race, color or membership in a language-minority group.”

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) said the lawsuit was the “Biden Administration’s latest ploy to control Texas voters” and he was “confident that our legislature’s redistricting decisions will be proven lawful, and this preposterous attempt to sway democracy will fail.”

The lawsuit is the first legal action the department has taken against a state in the 2020 redistricting cycle. We tracked lawsuits in 37 states related to redistricting following the 2010 census. So far, 22 states have adopted legislative district maps and 18 states have adopted congressional district maps.

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Biden has nominated 62 judges to Article III judgeships

President Joe Biden has nominated 62 judges to Article III judgeships, as of Dec. 1, 2021—316 days in office. Here’s how his predecessors stacked up at this point in their presidencies: 

  • President Donald Trump (R) had nominated 60 individuals, 35 of which were ultimately confirmed to their positions.
  • President Barack Obama (D) had nominated 29 individuals, 27 of which were confirmed. 
  • President George W. Bush (R) had nominated 104 individuals, 51 of which were confirmed.

Through Dec. 1, there were 890 authorized federal judicial posts and 78 vacancies. Seventy-four of those vacancies were for Article III judgeships. In the past month, no new judges have been confirmed and 11 new judges have been nominated.

The following data visualization tracks the number of Article III judicial nominations by president by days in office during the Biden, Trump, Obama, and W. Bush administrations (2001-present). This chart is limited to successful nominations, where the nominee was ultimately confirmed to their respective court:

The chart below counts all Article III nominations, including unsuccessful nominations (for example, the nomination was withdrawn or the U.S. Senate did not vote on the nomination), renominations of individuals to the same court, and recess appointments. A recess appointment is when the president appoints a federal official while the Senate is in recess.

 Click below to learn more about federal judicial vacancies!

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As we enter the midterms…let’s review the history of wave elections

Welcome to the Monday, December 6, Brew. 

By: Samuel Wonacott

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

  1. Defining wave elections
  2. U.S. House elections with multiple incumbents
  3. Learn about petition blocking

An introduction to wave elections

As we draw closer to the 2022 midterm elections, you might encounter the term wave election. The term is frequently used to describe an election in which one party makes significant electoral gains. But is there an objective definition of a wave election?

This was a question we sought to answer a few years ago. In 2018 we published a study in which we examined the results of the 50 election cycles between 1918 and 2016—spanning President Woodrow Wilson’s (D) second midterm in 1918 to Donald Trump’s (R) first presidential election in 2016. We defined wave elections as the 20 percent of elections in that period resulting in the greatest swing against the president’s party. According to this definition, a U.S. House election cycle qualifies as a wave election if the president’s party loses at least 48 seats.

Based on this definition, between 1918 and 2016, 11 wave elections took place in the U.S. House. Six of them occurred during a president’s first midterm election. There were four waves when a Democrat was president (Obama, Clinton, Johnson, and Truman) and two with a Republican president (Harding and Hoover). The president’s party lost an average of 58 seats in the U.S. House during these six elections.

There are currently 221 Democrats in the U.S. House. In an average wave election, Democrats would lose 48 members, leaving them with 173. Since the House was expanded to 435 members in 1913, Democrats have had fewer than 173 members twice: 131 during the 67th Congress (1921-1923) and 164 during the 71st Congress (1929-1931).

The 2018 U.S. House elections were the most recent first midterm election. Democrats won a majority in the chamber, winning 40 additional districts—eight less than needed to qualify as a wave election.

The entire House is up for election in 2022. Democrats currently hold a majority in the chamber with 221 seats to Republicans’ 213. In the U.S. Senate, 34 of the chamber’s 100 seats are up for election. Demcorats currently control the Senste, with 48 members plus two independents who caucus with them. Republicans hold the remaining 50 seats. Vice President Kamala Harris (D) serves as a tie-breaking vote. Of the 34 seats up for election, 14 are held by Democrats and 20 by Republicans.

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U.S. House elections with multiple incumbents

Every decade following the U.S. census, states redraw their congressional district boundaries. When that happens, it’s not uncommon to see some U.S. House races with multiple incumbents. This can happen because the home addresses of multiple incumbents were drawn in the same district or because multiple incumbents decide the new district boundaries are more favorable for re-election.

So far this year, we’ve identified three 2022 congressional races with multiple incumbents:

Twenty-five states are still in the process of redrawing their congressional district maps, so we could see yet more races with multiple incumbents in 2022. 

In 2012, there were 13 U.S. House races with multiple incumbents. 

Here’s a fact you can pocket for your next trivia night: U.S. Representatives aren’t required to live in the districts they represent. The Constitution does, however, stipulate that they must be residents of the state in which they’re elected. 

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What is petition blocking?

Here’s a quick deep dive into the world of ballot measures. In 2022, voters will decide not only thousands of federal, state, and local races but also a raft of ballot measures. So far, 63 statewide ballot measures have been certified in 30 states for the 2022 ballot. That number doesn’t, however, include the hundreds of potential measures that could still end up on the ballot. 

With all this activity, we thought it’d be a good idea to review the concept of petition blocking. Petition blocking refers to organized efforts to prevent citizen-initiated measures or candidates from collecting sufficient signatures to meet ballot access requirements. This can take several forms, including: 

  • Physical blockages
  • Financial incentives
  • Legal complaints and lawsuits
  • Administrative actions

Here’s a recent instance of petition blocking:

On Nov. 29, Politico reported: “The Seminole Tribe of Florida is paying petition gathering firms to not work in Florida during the 2022 midterms as part of an effort to block rival proposed gaming constitutional amendments — a strategy that also includes running a separate informal signature gathering operation and hiring workers that interfere with other petition gatherers.”

Click the link below to read more recent and historical examples of petition blocking.

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