Election still undecided in New York’s 22nd Congressional District

Results in the Nov. 3 U.S. House election in New York’s 22nd Congressional District have not yet been certified. The latest vote count, completed on Dec. 30, showed former Rep. Claudia Tenney (R) with a 29-vote lead over incumbent Anthony Brindisi (D). This race was one of 56 U.S. House rematches from 2018, when Brindisi defeated Tenney 51% to 49%.

Litigation over the validity of certain absentee and affidavit ballots began the day following the election and is ongoing. Problems with mislaid ballots, missing documentation of ballot challenges, and errors in vote tabulation slowed the process.

Oswego County Supreme Court Justice Scott DelConte has not made a final ruling on these issues, and official results have not been certified. DelConte also asked both campaigns to file legal briefs by Jan. 14 on 2,418 voter registration applications submitted through the Department of Motor Vehicles that the county board of elections did not process before election day. These voters had the option to cast an affidavit ballot, but these ballots weren’t counted since it appeared the voters weren’t registered. At least 63 affidavit ballots from this group are being reviewed.

Final oral arguments on all court proceedings in the case are scheduled for Jan. 22.

Here are some other recent elections where the result was not confirmed until weeks after the elections:

  1. In 2018, the North Carolina Board of Elections did not certify the results in the 9th Congressional District race and voted unanimously to call for a new election on Feb. 21, 2019. Rep. Dan Bishop (R) won the special election on Sept. 10, 2019. 
  2. In the 2016 North Carolina governor’s race, incumbent Pat McCrory (R) conceded on Dec. 5, 2016, after a recount in Durham County verified that Roy Cooper (D) would remain ahead. 
  3. In 2014, Martha McSally (R) was declared the winner over incumbent Ron Barber (D) in Arizona’s 2nd Congressional District at the conclusion of a recount on Dec. 17, 2014.

U.S. Supreme Court grants review in 14 cases

On the evening of Jan. 8, 2021, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) granted review in 14 cases for a total of 12 hours of oral argument during its 2020-2021 term. The cases have not yet been scheduled for argument.

The following is a list of the cases granted review by SCOTUS and the lower courts from which they originated:

U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit

  • Sanchez v. Wolf
  • Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L.

U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit

  • United States v. Gary

U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit

  • City of San Antonio, Texas v., L.P.

U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit

  • United States v. Palomar-Santiago
  • Americans for Prosperity v. Becerra (Consolidated with Thomas More Law Center v. Becerra)

U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit

  • HollyFrontier Cheyenne Refining, LLC v. Renewable Fuels Association

 U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit

  • Greer v. United States
  • Terry v. United States

U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

  • Mnuchin v. Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation (Consolidated with Alaska Native Village Corporation Association v. Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation)
  • Guam v. United States

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit

  • Minerva Surgical Inc. v. Hologic Inc.

The Supreme Court began hearing cases for the term on Oct. 5, 2020. The court will hear a total of five hours of oral argument in six cases during its January sitting.

As of Jan. 11, the court had agreed to hear arguments in 60 cases during its 2020-2021 term. Of those, 12 were originally scheduled for the 2019-2020 term but were delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

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SCOTUS announces oral arguments to be conducted via teleconference for January sitting

On Jan. 5, 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it would hear oral arguments via teleconference during its January sitting, following the same format that was used during its October, November, and December sittings.

Under this format, all relevant counsel are called the morning of the case’s argument day and are briefed with instructions. At the time of argument, the justices enter the main conference call for argument. Chief Justice Roberts will call the first case and will prompt counsel to present their arguments. The chief justice will conduct initial questioning. Once complete, the associate justices are able to ask questions in turns in order of seniority.

The following is a list of the current Supreme Court justices in order of seniority:

  • Chief Justice John Roberts – Appointed by President George W. Bush (R) in 2005
  • Associate Justice Clarence Thomas – Appointed by President George H.W. Bush (R) in 1991
  • Associate Justice Stephen Breyer – Appointed by President Bill Clinton (D) in 1994
  • Associate Justice Samuel Alito – Appointed by President George W. Bush (R) in 2006
  • Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor – Appointed by President Barack Obama (D) in 2009
  • Associate Justice Elena Kagan – Appointed by President Barack Obama (D) in 2010
  • Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch – Appointed by President Donald Trump (R) in 2017
  • Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh – Appointed by President Donald Trump (R) in 2018
  • Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett – Appointed by President Donald Trump (R) in 2020

The court also announced that the oral arguments will be provided to the public via live audio stream. The audio files and argument transcripts for cases will be posted on the Court’s website following oral argument each day.

The Supreme Court began hearing cases for the term on Oct. 5, 2020. The court’s yearly term begins on the first Monday in October and lasts until the first Monday in October the following year.

As of Jan. 8, 2021, the court had agreed to hear 60 cases during its 2020-2021 term. Of those, 12 were originally scheduled for the 2019-2020 term but were delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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Federal Register weekly update: New year, new significant rules

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.

The Federal Register kicked off 2021 by publishing 1,736 pages during the week of Jan. 4 to Jan. 8. Over the same period in 2020, 2019, and 2018, the Federal Register published 418 pages, 34 pages, and 704 pages, respectively. As of Jan. 8, the 2021 total led the 2020 total by 1,318 pages, the 2019 total by 1,702 pages, and the 2018 total by 1,032 pages. 

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

This week’s Federal Register featured the following 486 documents:

  • 403 notices
  • seven presidential documents
  • 24 proposed rules
  • 52 final rules

One proposed rule concerning critical habitat designation for the ringed seal and two final rules regarding the determination of certain pension liabilities and corrections to holiday leave policies for U.S. personal services contractors were deemed significant under E.O. 12866—defined by the potential to have large impacts on the economy, environment, public health, or state or local governments. Significant actions may also conflict with presidential priorities or other agency rules. The Trump administration in 2021 has issued one significant proposed rule and two significant final rules.

Not all rules issued by the Trump administration are regulatory actions. Some rules are deregulatory actions pursuant to President Trump’s (R) Executive Order 13771, which requires federal agencies to eliminate two old significant regulations for each new significant regulation issued.

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.

Click here to find more information about weekly additions to the Federal Register in 2019, 2018, and 2017: Changes to the Federal Register

Click here to find yearly information about additions to the Federal Register from 1936 to 2018: Historical additions to the Federal Register, 1936-2018

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics releases December 2020 unemployment data

On January 8, 2021, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its unemployment data for December 2020. The unemployment rate for December was 6.7%, the same rate that was reported for November 2020. The year’s highest unemployment rate was recorded in April 2020 at 14.8%; the year’s lowest reported rate was 3.5% in both January and February 2020.

The average yearly unemployment rate for 2020 was 8.1%. This is the highest average yearly rate since 2012 when it also equaled 8.1%. The highest average yearly rate over the past decade (2010-2020) was 9.6% in 2010. The lowest average rate over the past decade was 3.7% in 2019.

The BLS began collecting monthly unemployment data in 1948. The bureau classifies people as unemployed if they do not have a job, have actively looked for a job in the past four weeks, and are available for work—or if they are waiting to be recalled to a job from which they were temporarily laid off. The BLS uses data from the monthly Current Population Survey (CPS) conducted by the United States Census Bureau. The survey collects data each month from 60,000 households—approximately 110,000 individuals—selected from a sample of 800 geographic areas designed by the Census Bureau to represent each state and the District of Columbia.

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U.S. Small Business Administration relaunches Paycheck Protection Program

On Friday, January 8, the Small Business Administration (SBA) announced the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) would make another round of loans available to new and some existing borrowers on January 11. Congress allocated $284 billion to the program in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, which President Donald Trump (R) signed into law on December 27, 2020.

The PPP, which Congress first authorized in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act on March 27, 2020, was created to provide forgivable loans to small businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

According to the SBA, beginning January 11, the new loans will only be available to first-time borrowers working with community financial institutions, which include banks and credit unions that focus on low-income and underserved borrowers. On January 13, community financial institutions can distribute loans to qualified borrowers who received PPP money last year. The SBA said the program would open to all other qualified first or second-time borrowers shortly thereafter.

The Consolidated Appropriations Act included a $900 billion coronavirus relief package that authorized a second round of direct stimulus payments, $20 billion in funding for coronavirus testing, and $28 billion towards acquiring and distributing doses of the vaccine. It also extended some policies, such as a moratorium on evictions and federal unemployment assistance.

Additional reading:

U.S. Senate returns 37 federal judicial nominations to president

On January 3, 2021, the United States Senate returned the nominations of 37 individuals to the president at the sine die adjournment of the 116th Congress. On the same day, President Donald Trump (R) resubmitted 17 judicial nominations to the Senate. 

The list of returned nominations included 22 nominees for the U.S. district courts, three nominees for the Court of Federal Claims, one for the Court of International Trade, one for the United States Tax Court, two for the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, one for the District Court of Guam, and seven for the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.

At the adjournment of the 116th Congress on January 3, seven of the nominees were awaiting a full Senate vote, one was awaiting a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee, and 29 were awaiting a committee hearing.

Any renominations are referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee. The committee may choose not to hold additional hearings for nominees who already received a hearing in the previous Congress. As such, the renominations are expected to continue in the confirmation process where they left off at the end of the 116th Congress.

The U.S. Senate has confirmed 234 of President Trump’s Article III judicial nominees—174 district court judges, 54 appeals court judges, three Supreme Court justices, and three international trade judges—since January 2017.

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)

Additional reading:

Trump has appointed second-most federal judges through December 31 of a president’s fourth year

Donald Trump has appointed and the U.S. Senate has confirmed 234 Article III federal judges through December 31, 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 261 of Carter’s appointees at this point in his term.

The average number of federal judges appointed by a president through December 31 of their fourth year in office is 205.

The median number of Supreme Court justices appointed is two. President Donald Trump (R) has appointed three Supreme Court justices. 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 56, and Presidents Clinton and Obama appointed the fewest with 30 each. Trump’s 54 appointments make up 30.2% 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 President Reagan appointed the fewest with 129. Trump has appointed 174 district court judges so far. Those appointments make up 25.7% of the 678 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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Democrats win control of U.S. Senate

Democrats won control of the U.S. Senate following two runoff elections in Georgia on January 5. Jon Ossoff (D) defeated David Perdue (R) in the regular runoff election. Raphael Warnock defeated Kelly Loeffler (R) in the special runoff election.

As of 5 p.m. Wednesday, Ossoff had 50.3% of the vote to Perdue’s 49.7%. Perdue was elected in 2014, and his term ended on January 3, 2021. 

In the special election, Warnock had 50.7% of the vote to Loeffler’s 49.3%. Gov. Brian Kemp (R) appointed Loeffler after Johnny Isakson (R) resigned at the end of 2019 for health reasons. Warnock will serve the remaining two years of the term Isakson won in 2016.

Once sworn in after runoff results are certified, Ossoff and Warnock will bring the Democratic caucus to 50 members, splitting the chamber with 50 Republicans. The vice president—Kamala Harris (D) as of January 20, 2021—has the tie-breaking vote in the chamber. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) has until January 22 to certify runoff results.

Democrats last controlled the Senate from 2007 to 2015. Democrats currently hold a majority of 222-211 in the U.S. House.

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