Colorado recall election moves forward

In Colorado, the Idaho Springs City Council has voted to schedule the recall election against Mayor Mike Hillman on April 7. The deadline for candidates to file to run against Hillman is February 3.

The recall effort, organized by residents Amanda Kowalewski, Janet Diederichs, and Candace Voisard, was initiated in November 2019. Recall petitions included the following language explaining the allegations against Hillman:

  • “Significant erosion of public confidence in city government during Hillman’s administration;
  • Failure to adequately supervise planning staff, and, by failing to do so, allowing decisions to be made at staff level without public input or review that profoundly impact the property rights and quality of life of Idaho Springs residents; and
  • Allowing unresolved conflicts of interest by City Council members to occur.”

Hillman responded to the recall effort, saying the petitioners were unhappy with residential development in Idaho Springs. He added, “I have poured out my life for the job. They are trying to bring down the (city) council and trying to bring me down. They are trying to break down our community.”

The number of valid signatures required to force a recall election is 25 percent of the votes cast in the last election for the official being recalled. Petitioners were required to submit 77 valid signatures to put the recall on the ballot. There were 150 signatures submitted for verification on December 6. On January 13, after the signatures were verified, the Idaho Springs City Council voted to have the recall election take place on April 7.

In 2019, Ballotpedia covered a total of 151 recall efforts against 230 elected officials. Of the 66 officials whose recalls made it to the ballot, 34 were recalled for a rate of 52%. That was lower than the 63% rate and 57% rate for 2018 and 2017 recalls, respectively.

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Additional reading:
Laws governing recall in Colorado
Political recall efforts, 2020

Evans resigns from Washington D.C., city council

Washington D.C., City Council Member Jack Evans (D) resigned on January 17, 2020, after serving on the council for 30 years. Evans’ resignation came after the council spent a year investigating Evans and reprimanding him for possible ethical violations stemming from his work as an attorney.

On December 10, 2019, the city council approved a report that recommended Evans be expelled from the council. A vote to expel Evans had been set for January 21.

A special election will be held to replace Evans on the council on June 16, 2020. The primary for this special election will be held on June 2, 2020.

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27% drop in recall efforts in 2019

This year, fewer state and local recall efforts were started or reached the ballot compared to 2018. Ballotpedia covered 151 recall efforts against 230 officials in 2019. In comparison, 206 recall efforts targeted 299 officials in 2018. Since Ballotpedia released its first annual recall report in 2012, a minimum of 151 efforts (2019) and a maximum of 282 efforts (2016) have been covered each year.

In addition to having fewer recalls overall, 2019 also saw a lower success rate for recalls that made the ballot. Of the 66 officials whose recalls reached the ballot, 34 (52%) were recalled and 32 remained in office. Recall efforts in 2017 and 2018 both had a higher success rate, 56% and 63% respectively.

In other ways, however, 2019 was similar to previous years. As in 2016, 2017, and 2018, city council officials drew more recall petitions than any other group. A total of 90 city council members were targeted in 2019. Mayors and vice-mayors faced the second-most recall efforts with 45. In comparison, 93 city council officials and 39 mayors and vice-mayors were targeted in 2018.

California led the way with the highest number of officials targeted for recall with 37. The state previously had the most recall efforts in 2015 (80), 2016 (79), and 2017 (61). Colorado (28) and Idaho (23) were second and third in total recall efforts in 2019.

Of the recall efforts covered in 2019, 20% were still underway as of December 17 and another 6% had recall elections scheduled. A total of 40% of the efforts did not make it to the ballot.

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Additional reading:
Recall overview
Political recall efforts, 2019

Second recount for $569 million Midland Independent School District bond happening this week

On November 5, 2019, Midland Independent School District voters in Midland County, Texas, voted on a $569 million bond to build new facilities and improve existing schools. According to the first count of votes, the measure had failed by 25 votes, triggering a manual recount of paper ballots, which flipped the results to show the measure had passed by 11 votes.


Last week, a box with 836 uncounted paper ballots was found at the Midland County Elections office. On Monday, Midland County officials opened the box to begin a second recount. Bond supporters We Choose Our Future and opponents Better Bond for Midland filed to contest the election results.


Because the results of the first recount were already canvassed (made official) by County Judge Terry Johnson, it is unclear whether or not the second recount will change the outcome.


The Texas Secretary of State is advising Midland County officials as the situation proceeds.

The Midland Independent School District in Texas had over 25,000 students as of the 2017-2018 school year and had spent about $11,000 per student per year according to data from 2015-2016, 86% of which came from local revenue sources.


The district put 38 bond issues on the ballot between 1947 and 2012. A total of 31 were passed by voters. The bonds were used for new schools, renovations and additions to older buildings, maintenance projects, new technological infrastructure, and new athletic facilities.
Between 1947 and 1974, every bond for the district was successful. Then, in 1979, the district’s $10.2 million bond for Midland and Lee High Schools failed to pass with 61.98% of voters casting ballots against the measure. From 1980 to 2012, a total of 18 bonds have appeared on the ballot, of which 12 were approved and six were defeated. The highest percent of votes cast in favor of a measure was 68.32% for the 1982 bond worth $9,475,000.

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Four Oregon public school employees sue union over resignation restrictions

On Dec. 5, four Oregon public school employees filed suit in U.S. District Court alleging that their union has unconstitutionally denied their resignation requests, continuing to collect dues against their wishes.

Who are the parties to the suit? Plaintiffs Dori Yates, Claudia Strickland, Tonya Sevilla, and Linda Newton work for Hillsboro United School District. They are being represented by attorneys from the Freedom Foundation, a nonprofit organization whose self-described aim is “to reverse the stranglehold government unions have on our state and local policymaking.”

The defendants are the American Federation of Teachers, the Oregon state chapter of the AFT, AFT Local 4671, and the school district. According to a report filed with the U.S. Department of Labor, the Oregon state chapter of the AFT had 9,085 full dues-paying members as of Sept. 28, 2018.

What is at issue? The union’s membership agreement states that members may only revoke their dues deduction authorization during a 30-day period in June each year. The membership agreement also states that members must pay dues for a minimum of one year before resigning. The plaintiffs allege these provisions constitute compelled speech and association, a violation of the First Amendment and the precedent established last year in Janus v. AFSCME.

In Janus v. AFSCME, the Supreme Court ruled that unions cannot require non-member employees to pay agency fees covering the costs of non-political union activities. This overturned a precedent, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, which held that non-members could be required to pay fees to a union if those fees were not used for political purposes.

What are the reactions? In a press release, Rebekah Millard, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said, “The issue is the union isn’t even following the terms of their own cards, which are contradictory. Instead of letting members out either a year after they signed a membership card or every June, they’re saying both rules apply and keeping people in for the maximum amount of time, which can be months longer than would be the case if they applied just one ‘window.'”

As of Dec. 15, neither union representatives nor school officials have publicly commented on the lawsuit.

Case information: The case name and number are Yates v. American Federation of Teachers, 3:19-cv-01975-SB. The case has been assigned to Judge Stacie Beckerman, a magistrate judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon.

Four partisan changes in 31 big-city mayoral elections in 2019

Thirty-one mayoral elections in the 100 largest cities were held in 2019. Four partisan changes took place. Democrats gained three mayorships, two from Republicans and one from an independent. Republicans won one seat held by an unaffiliated mayor. In 20 of the 31 cities, the incumbent was

Democratic at the start of 2019. Six incumbents were Republican, three were independent, one was unaffiliated, and the affiliation of one was unknown.

The following shows the change from the pre-election incumbent’s affiliation to the 2019 winner’s affiliation for the four races in which a change occurred.
  • Phoenix, Arizona: Republican to Democratic
  • Raleigh, North Carolina: Independent to Democratic
  • Wichita, Kansas: Republican to Democratic
  • Aurora, Colorado: Unaffiliated to Republican

In most of the nation’s largest cities, mayoral elections are officially nonpartisan, though many officeholders and candidates are affiliated with political parties. We determine affiliation through direct communication with the officeholder, current or previous candidacy for partisan office, and/or identification of partisan affiliation by multiple media outlets.

Democratic mayors oversaw 67 of the 100 largest cities at the beginning of 2016, 64 at the beginning of 2017, 63 at the start of 2018, and 61 at the start of 2019. At the end of 2019, there are 63 Democratic mayors to 30 Republican mayors (Wichita’s 2019 Democratic winner won’t be sworn in until January). Three mayors are independent and four are nonpartisan.

Visit our page on municipal partisanship for more information on the 31 mayoral elections that took place in the 100 largest cities in 2019, details about the partisan changes that occurred, summaries of battleground mayoral elections, and a look at the history and debate surrounding local nonpartisan elections.

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Incumbent Sylvester Turner defeats Tony Buzbee in Houston mayoral election

Incumbent Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner won re-election Saturday. He received 56% of the vote to former Texas A&M Board of Regents member Tony Buzbee’s 44% with 100% of precincts reporting.

Turner was first elected in 2015. In 2019, he campaigned on what he said were the accomplishments of his first term, including balancing the city’s budget, leading the recovery effort after Hurricane Harvey, reforming the city’s pension system, easing traffic congestion, filling potholes, creating jobs, and strengthening the economy. Buzbee accused Turner’s administration of corruption and proposed independent financial audits, process audits, and zero-based budgeting to improve the efficiency and transparency of the city’s resource allocation.

Houston’s mayoral race was one of 31 mayoral elections held in America’s 100 largest cities in 2019.

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.

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Blueford-Daniels and Allen win HISD runoff elections

Runoff elections for the District II and District IV open seats on the Houston Independent School District (HISD) school board were held Saturday, December 14, since no candidate in those districts received more than 50% of the vote during the November 5 general election. Katherine Blueford-Daniels defeated John Gibbs Sr. in District II, and Patricia Allen defeated Matthew Barnes in District IV. In the general election, incumbents Sergio Lira (District III) and Diana Davila (District VIII) lost their re-election bids outright to Daniela Hernandez and Judith Cruz, respectively.

On November 6, the day after the general election, Texas Commissioner of Education Mike Morath notified the district of his decision to appoint a board of managers to replace the elected school board. Morath cited a Texas Education Agency investigation into the board and a record of poor academic performance at one of the district’s high schools. A state-appointed board would take over governance of the district with the elected board functioning as non-voting members. Prior to Morath’s announcement, HISD lawyers filed a request for a preliminary injunction, asking the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas to prevent state intervention. A ruling has not yet been issued.

School board candidates and elected board members may apply to be on the state-appointed board. As of December 6, each of the runoff candidates other than Blueford-Daniels had either applied or said they would apply for a spot on the board. Members-elect Daniela Hernandez (District III) and Judith Cruz (District VIII) wrote in the Houston Chronicle, “In Districts 3 and 8, we have a clear mandate for change by winning 64 percent of the vote over the incumbent trustees. … We ask Gov. Greg Abbott and Morath to embrace democracy and uphold the voice of the voters and appoint us to serve on the board of managers.”

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.

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Oklahoma City voters approve sales tax measure Tuesday

Oklahoma City voters approved a 1% sales tax measure by 71.7% to 28.3 percent in a special election Tuesday. The tax revenue was earmarked to fund the city’s Metropolitan Area Projects (MAPS) 4 program of proposed city infrastructure and facility projects.
The MAPS 4 tax will expire in eight years and is expected to raise an estimated $978 million over that time. The three largest recipients of the tax proceeds will be city parks ($140 million), youth centers ($110 million), and the Chesapeake Energy Arena and related facilities ($115 million).
The tax will go into effect in April 2020, when the current 1% transportation sales tax expires. The city’s overall sales tax rate will remain unchanged at 8.625%. The state sales tax rate in Oklahoma is 4.5%. The total Oklahoma City sales tax rate is 4.125%. There are no county-wide or other local sales taxes in Oklahoma City. If voters had not approved the measure, Oklahoma City’s overall sales tax would have decreased to 7.625%.
The average total sales tax rate (state and local) in Oklahoma is 8.77%. State law allows additional local sales taxes of up to 6.5%, making the maximum total sales tax rate in the state 11%.
The first version of the city’s MAPS program—which was also funded by a 1% sales tax—was approved by voters on December 14, 1993, with the tax expiring on July 1, 1999, after generating about $309 million in revenue. MAPS 2 and MAPS 3 followed. The MAPS 3 tax expired in December 2017 and final projects are planned for completion in 2022.
The city council voted Sept. 24 to put the measure on the ballot. The council will have final authority over the administration of the program. A volunteer advisory board will have detailed oversight. Oklahoma City’s next regular municipal election—when four of the council’s eight seats are up for election—is in 2021.
Next year, voters could decide on another 0.125% sales tax measure to fund city park maintenance and operations. Former City Council Member Ed Shadid filed petitions for a citizen initiative proposing the measure on Dec. 2. If city officials verify the petitions have the 6,499 valid signatures needed to qualify for the ballot, voters could decide the initiative during the state’s presidential primary on March 3 or state legislative primaries June 30. The tax is expected to generate about $15 million per year.
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Recount decides Boston City Council seat by one vote

After a three-day recount, the Boston Election Commission announced on December 9 that the fourth at-large seat on the Boston City Council was won by Julia Mejia by a margin of one vote. The recount found that Mejia received 22,492 votes, and Alejandra St. Guillen received 22,491 votes.
In the November 5 general election, unofficial results showed Mejia had received 10 more votes than St. Guillen. At-large incumbents Michael Flaherty, Annissa Essaibi George, and Michelle Wu were all re-elected in the general election. At-large incumbent Althea Garrison was defeated in the general election.
After the recount results were announced, Mejia said that, “It feels incredibly overwhelming to win by one vote. It really goes to reinforce the message we’ve been promoting all along, that every vote matters.” St. Guillen tweeted out on December 10 that she would not be contesting the results. She said, “Last night, I believed that I owed it to my supporters and the voters to fully review the results from the recount before moving forward. After weighing all the options with my team and my family, I have come to the decision to not move forward with a court challenge.”
Mejia, a community activist, will take office in January. She will be the first Latina to serve on the city council.
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