CategoryLocal

3 Nebraska school board members keep seats in Jan. 11 recall elections

The Waverly and Leyton school districts in Nebraska held recall elections on Jan. 11 against a total of three school board members. A majority of voters cast ballots against all three recalls, keeping the board members in office.

Ward 4 representative Andy Grosshans was on the ballot in the Waverly School District 145. Recall supporters said they began the effort due to Grosshans’ vote to extend an emergency resolution giving the superintendent the power to “develop rules and regulations deemed necessary for the government and health of the district’s students and devise any means as may seem best to secure regular attendance and progress of students at school,” according to The Waverly News. The school board initially passed the emergency resolution in April 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In July 2021, the board voted to extend the resolution through the 2021-2022 school year.

In response to the recall effort, Grosshans said, “For 12+ years, I have worked hard to make well-informed decisions to provide the students of District 145 with a safe environment in which to receive an outstanding education. In these difficult times, I hope for continued understanding and patience as we use key resources and area experts to do what’s in the best interest of all students.”

Recall supporters had until Oct. 30 to collect 88 signatures to put the recall against Grosshans on the ballot. A total of 548 voters cast ballots against the recall, while 116 voted in favor.

Suzy Ernest and Roland Rushman were on the ballot in the Leyton school district. The recall petitions listed the district’s increased legal fees since January 2021 as reasons for the recall against both Ernest and Rushman. The petition against Ernest said she took action without the full board’s approval on two items: placing the superintendent on paid administrative leave and signing an acceptance for asbestos removal. The petition against Rushman said he failed to follow the Board Code of Ethics and slandered district administrators.

In response to the recall effort against her, Ernest said her action to place the superintendent on paid administrative leave was authorized in the superintendent’s contract. Both Ernest and Rushman said the decision to place the superintendent on paid administrative leave occurred after the board received serious complaints. They said those complaints were the reason behind the district’s increased legal fees. Ernest also said that she signed the acceptance for asbestos removal under the direction of the then-interim superintendent.

To get the recalls against Ernest and Rushman on the ballot, recall supporters had to collect 138 signatures for each member. A total of 246 voters cast ballots against recalling Ernest, while 196 voted in favor. In the recall election against Rushman, 264 voters voted against, and 179 voted in favor.

Ballotpedia tracked 91 school board recall efforts against 235 board members in 2021—the highest number of school board recall efforts we tracked in one year. The next-highest year was in 2010 with 38 recall efforts against 91 school board members.

In 2021, Ballotpedia covered a total of 346 recall efforts against 535 elected officials. This was the highest number of recall efforts and officials targeted since we started compiling data on recalls in 2012.

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Oregon school district to hold recall elections against two school board members Jan. 18

Recall elections against Dave Brown and Brian Shannon, the Zone 6 and 7 representatives on the Newberg School District school board in Oregon, respectively, are being held on Jan. 18. To get the recalls on the ballot, supporters had 90 days to collect signatures equal to 15% of the votes cast in the last gubernatorial election in the board members’ respective zones

The recall effort against Shannon started after the board voted 4-3 on Aug. 10 to remove Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ pride flags in district schools. The ban also included political signs, clothing, and other items. Shannon wrote the motion for the ban and was joined in voting to approve it by Brown, Trevor DeHart, and Renee Powell. The board voted 4-3 on Sept. 28 to approve a policy banning all political symbols and images from schools. The same four members voted to approve the policy. In the same meeting, the board rescinded the previous policy that specifically mentioned Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ flags. The recall petitions said in part, “Brian Shannon has overreached, driving his ideological agenda in a manner that is both ethically and legally questionable. He does not represent the majority of us. Brian Shannon must be recalled.”

At the school board meeting on Sept 28, Shannon said, “This policy is so innocuous. It just says that teachers can’t display political symbols at work while they’re on school time. That should not be controversial.” He also said that the district needed to support all students. “It still goes back to the fact that we have a lot of kids that are impacted by this positively or negatively,” Brown said. “As a school board, it’s our job to make decisions that are going to be there for every single kid at Newberg High School, not just the kids that are represented in just one group – it has to be all kids.”

The effort to recall Brown began after the board voted 4-3 to fire Superintendent Joe Morelock without cause. Brown initiated the motion and voted in favor of firing Morelock. Morelock had been under contract through June 30, 2024. Recall supporters said the decision to fire Morelock “will cost the district hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

When asked about his decision to vote to fire Superintendent Joe Morelock, Brown talked about the number of students who were leaving the school district. “We’re well past 250 on our way to 300 students, minimum, and it’s growing,” Brown said. He said the district loses approximately $9,000 to $11,000 for each student who leaves. “For a lot of people who have left our school district – they’re a part of this bigger portion that doesn’t feel like they’re being listened to or talked to. And I feel like the culture is going to be the best thing for the student, staff member or parent,” Brown said.

Both Brown and Shannon were elected to the seven-member board in 2019.

Ballotpedia tracked 91 school board recall efforts against 235 board members in 2021—the highest number of school board recall efforts we tracked in one year. The next-highest year was in 2010 with 38 recall efforts against 91 school board members.

In 2021, Ballotpedia covered a total of 346 recall efforts against 535 elected officials. This was the highest number of recall efforts and officials targeted since we started compiling data on recalls in 2012.

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New York City legislation allowing certain noncitizens to vote becomes law

On Jan. 9, 2022, New York City Mayor Eric Adams (D) allowed Int. 1867-2020 to become law without his signature. Int. 1867-2020 will allow lawful permanent residents and other noncitizens authorized to work in the United States to vote in municipal elections conducted on or after Jan. 9, 2023. According to Politico, this will allow nearly a million noncitizens to vote.

The New York City Council passed the legislation by a 33-14 vote on Dec. 9, 2021. Then-Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) said he would not veto the legislation at the time of passage. Adams became mayor on Jan. 1, 2022.

This legislation made New York City the largest city in the nation to authorize voting by noncitizens. Fifteen municipalities across the country allowed noncitizens to vote in local elections as of January 2022. Eleven were located in Maryland, two were located in Vermont, one was New York City, and the other was San Francisco, California.

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State and Local Tap: 171 state legislative vacancies occurred in 2021

Happy New Year! Our weekly summary of state & local news highlights an overview of last year’s state legislative vacancies and an update on California’s mask mandate. Read all about it in this week’s edition of the State & Local Tap.

Ballot Measures Update

Sixty-four statewide measures have been certified for the 2022 ballot in 30 states so far. One new measure was certified for the ballot last week:

Signatures have been submitted and are pending verification for four additional initiatives in Florida and Massachusetts:

States in session

Fourteen state legislatures—California, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont—are in regular session. New Jersey’s 2021 state legislative session is scheduled to adjourn on Jan. 11, 2022.

Special Elections

Nineteen state legislative special elections have been scheduled in 12 states so far this year. Two of those specials were canceled due to lack of opposition.

  • In special elections between 2011 and 2021, one party (either Republicans or Democrats) saw an average net gain of four seats nationally each year.
  • An average of 57 seats were filled through special elections in each of the past six even years (2010: 30, 2012: 46, 2014: 40, 2016: 65, 2018: 99, 2020: 59).
  • An average of 85 seats were filled through special elections in each of the past six odd years (2011: 95, 2013: 84, 2015: 89, 2017:99, 2019: 77, 2021: 66).

Upcoming special elections include:

Jan. 11

Jan. 18

Jan. 25

171 state legislative vacancies occurred in 2021

Ballotpedia identified 171 state legislative vacancies across 43 states in 2021. One hundred and twenty-nine (129) of those vacancies have been filled. 

One hundred and twenty-four (124) vacancies occurred in state Houses and 47 occurred in state Senates. Ninety (90) of the vacant seats were originally held by Democrats and 81 were originally held by Republicans.

Seventy-nine (79) vacancies occurred in states that fill vacancies through appointments, 81 occurred in states that fill vacancies through special elections, and 11 occurred in states that fill vacancies through a hybrid system that uses both appointments and special elections.

Arizona had the highest number of vacancies (13), followed by New Hampshire (11) and Oregon (10).

The most common reasons for a state legislative vacancy include an officeholder resigning, dying, leaving for a new job, being elected or appointed to a different office, or receiving a legal conviction. In 2021, Ballotpedia identified 90 state legislative vacancies that were caused by resignations, 52 caused by officeholders being appointed or elected to other offices, 25 caused by deaths, and four caused by removal.

Ballotpedia identified 146 state legislative vacancies in 42 states in 2020 and 177 vacancies in 45 states in 2019.

Two Nebraska school districts to hold recall elections Jan. 11

The Waverly and Leyton school districts in Nebraska are holding recall elections on Jan. 11 against a total of three school board members. Voters will be asked whether they are in favor of recalling the members from office with the option of voting yes or no.

Ward 4 Rep. Andy Grosshans is on the ballot in the Waverly school district. Recall supporters said they began the effort due to Grosshans’ vote to extend an emergency resolution giving the superintendent the power to “develop rules and regulations deemed necessary for the government and health of the district’s students and devise any means as may seem best to secure regular attendance and progress of students at school,” according to The Waverly News. The school board initially passed the emergency resolution in April 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In July 2021, the board voted to extend the resolution through the 2021-2022 school year.

In response to the recall effort, Grosshans said, “For 12+ years, I have worked hard to make well-informed decisions to provide the students of District 145 with a safe environment in which to receive an outstanding education. In these difficult times, I hope for continued understanding and patience as we use key resources and area experts to do what’s in the best interest of all students.”

Suzy Ernest and Roland Rushman are on the ballot in the Leyton school district. The recall petitions listed the district’s increased legal fees since January 2021 as reasons for the recall against both Ernest and Rushman. The petition against Ernest said she took action without the full board’s approval on two items: placing the superintendent on paid administrative leave and signing an acceptance for asbestos removal. The petition against Rushman said he failed to follow the Board Code of Ethics and slandered district administrators.

In response to the recall effort against her, Ernest said her action to place the superintendent on paid administrative leave was authorized in the superintendent’s contract. Both Ernest and Rushman said the decision to place the superintendent on paid administrative leave occurred after the board received serious complaints. They said those complaints were the reason behind the district’s increased legal fees. Ernest also said that she signed the acceptance for asbestos removal under the direction of the then-interim superintendent.

Ballotpedia tracked 91 school board recall efforts against 235 board members in 2021—the highest number of school board recall efforts we tracked in one year. The next-highest year was in 2010 with 38 recall efforts against 91 school board members.

In 2021, Ballotpedia covered a total of 339 recall efforts against 529 elected officials. This was the highest number of recall efforts and officials targeted since we started compiling data on recalls in 2012.

Redistricting update: New Mexico enacts new state Senate map

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) signed a new state Senate map into law on Jan. 6, 2022, which will take effect for New Mexico’s 2022 legislative elections. The New Mexico State Senate voted 25-13 to approve the map on Dec. 16, 2021, and the New Mexico House of Representatives approved the map 38-22 on Dec. 17. State Sens. Daniel Ivey-Soto (D) and Linda Lopez (D) introduced the map bill on December 8 during a special session of the state legislature.

Lujan Grisham previously signed a new state House map into law on Dec. 29. New Mexico was the second state this cycle to approve a state House map on a different date than its state Senate map. The first was Connecticut, which approved its House map on Nov. 18, and its Senate map on Nov. 23. New Mexico completed its congressional redistricting on Dec. 17.

As of Jan. 7, 29 states have adopted new state legislative maps for both chambers and 21 states have not yet adopted state legislative maps. As of Jan. 7, 2012, 32 states had enacted legislative redistricting plans after the 2010 census. Nationwide, state legislative redistricting has been completed for 1,120 of 1,972 state Senate seats (56.8%) and 2,776 of 5,411 state House seats (51.3%).

The New York Independent Redistricting Commission voted 5-5 on two sets of congressional and legislative map proposals on Jan. 3 and submitted both sets of proposed district boundaries to the state legislature. The Democrats on the commission had proposed one set of maps and the Republicans on the commission proposed the other. New York law requires that the commission submit a redistricting plan to the legislature “on or before January 1, 2022, or as soon as practicable thereafter, but no later than January 15, 2022.”

New York voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2014 revising the state’s redistricting procedures and establishing a 10-member commission to approve congressional and legislative district boundaries. The majority and minority leaders of each chamber of the legislature appoint two members each and those eight commissioners appoint two additional members that are not enrolled in either of the top two major political parties in the state.

If the New York legislature does not approve the initial redistricting plan or the governor vetoes it, the commission has 15 days to submit a second plan for consideration. This second plan must be submitted to the legislature no later than Feb. 28.

Kentucky enacted legislation on Jan. 6 extending the deadline for congressional, legislative, judicial, and local candidates to file to run for election this year from Jan. 7 to Jan. 25. The state House passed the legislation on Jan. 5, and Gov. Steve Beshear (D) signed it after the state Senate passed it on Jan. 6.

The delay in the filing deadline was necessary as the state has not yet approved new district boundaries after the 2020 census. Joe Sonka of the Louisville Courier-Journal wrote that “Both chambers are scheduled to remain in session Saturday [Jan. 8] to give final passage to several redistricting bills crafted by the Republican supermajority, including ones making new maps for the state House and Senate, Kentucky’s U.S. House districts and the Kentucky Supreme Court.” 

California extends indoor mask mandate

On Jan. 5, the California Department of Health extended the state’s indoor mask requirement through Feb. 15. The California Department of Health first instituted the new statewide indoor mask requirement for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals on Dec. 15, 2021. 

California is one of nine states with statewide mask orders for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals. One state—has a statewide mask order that applies only to unvaccinated individuals. All 10 states have Democratic governors. 

Since the start of the pandemic, 39 states have issued statewide mask requirements, and 32 states (16 states with Republican governors and 16 states with Democratic governors) have allowed statewide orders to expire. Four states—Louisiana, Rhode Island, Illinois, and Oregon—that allowed a statewide order to fully expire later reinstated a mask order.



Two Nebraska school districts to hold recall elections Jan. 11

The Waverly and Leyton school districts in Nebraska are holding recall elections on Jan. 11 against a total of three school board members. Voters will be asked whether they are in favor of recalling the members from office with the option of voting yes or no.

Ward 4 representative Andy Grosshans is on the ballot in the Waverly school district. Recall supporters said they began the effort due to Grosshans’ vote to extend an emergency resolution giving the superintendent the power to “develop rules and regulations deemed necessary for the government and health of the district’s students and devise any means as may seem best to secure regular attendance and progress of students at school,” according to The Waverly News. The school board initially passed the emergency resolution in April 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In July 2021, the board voted to extend the resolution through the 2021-2022 school year.

In response to the recall effort, Grosshans said, “For 12+ years, I have worked hard to make well-informed decisions to provide the students of District 145 with a safe environment in which to receive an outstanding education. In these difficult times, I hope for continued understanding and patience as we use key resources and area experts to do what’s in the best interest of all students.”

Recall supporters had until Oct. 30 to collect 88 signatures to put the recall against Grosshans on the ballot.

Suzy Ernest and Roland Rushman are on the ballot in the Leyton school district. The recall petitions listed the district’s increased legal fees since January 2021 as reasons for the recall against both Ernest and Rushman. The petition against Ernest said she took action without the full board’s approval on two items: placing the superintendent on paid administrative leave and signing an acceptance for asbestos removal. The petition against Rushman said he failed to follow the Board Code of Ethics and slandered district administrators.

In response to the recall effort against her, Ernest said her action to place the superintendent on paid administrative leave was authorized in the superintendent’s contract. Both Ernest and Rushman said the decision to place the superintendent on paid administrative leave occurred after the board received serious complaints. They said those complaints were the reason behind the district’s increased legal fees. Ernest also said that she signed the acceptance for asbestos removal under the direction of the then-interim superintendent.

To get the recalls against Ernest and Rushman on the ballot, recall supporters had to collect 138 signatures for each member.

Ballotpedia tracked 90 school board recall efforts against 233 board members in 2021—the highest number of school board recall efforts we tracked in one year. The next-highest year was in 2010 with 38 recall efforts against 91 school board members.

In 2021, Ballotpedia covered a total of 339 recall efforts against 529 elected officials. This was the highest number of recall efforts and officials targeted since we started compiling data on recalls in 2012.

Additional reading:



Seven candidates file to run in special election for Austin City Council District 4 seat

Candidates interested in running in the nonpartisan special election for Austin City Council District 4 had until Dec. 16 to file. The special general election is scheduled for Jan. 25. If needed, a general runoff election is scheduled for March 22.

Seven candidates filed to run in the special election by the deadline: Isa Boonto, Monica Guzmán, Jade Lovera, Amanda Rios, Melinda Schiera, Ramesses II Setepenre, and José “Chito” Vela. The candidate withdrawal deadline passed on Dec. 21.

The special election was called after incumbent Greg Casar announced his intention to run for Texas’ 35th Congressional District in 2022. Casar began serving on the 11-member Austin City Council in 2015 and stated he intends to continue serving as a council member until the winner of the special election is sworn into office. 

The winner of the special election will serve the unexpired portion of Casar’s term, which ends in 2025.

Austin is the fourth-largest city in Texas and the 11th-largest city in the U.S. by population.

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Documenting America’s Path to Recovery #217: December 23, 2021

Welcome to Documenting America’s Path to Recovery. Today we look at an extended coronavirus emergency in Louisiana, a Georgia lawsuit against the Biden administration, and other news since Dec. 16.

We’ll also give the latest tracking on:

  • Lawsuits about state actions and policies 
  • Vaccine distribution
  • State-level mask requirements
  • COVID-19 emergency health orders
  • School mask requirements
  • State proof-of-vaccination requirements and policies

A note to readers: This is the last edition of the Documenting America’s Path to Recovery newsletter. Our first edition went out on April 27, 2020, and we want to thank you for following along with us—whether you’ve been with us since the start or subscribed along the way. Although this newsletter will end, our coronavirus coverage will not. We’ll continue tracking state, local, and federal COVID-19 and vaccine policy changes at Ballotpedia.org

We hope you have a safe and healthy rest of your 2021.

Since our last edition

What rules and restrictions are changing in each state? For a continually updated article, click here.

Federal:

  • On Dec. 22, President Joe Biden (D) signed an executive order extending the student loan repayment moratorium through May 1, 2022.
  • On Dec. 22, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized a Pfizer antivirus pill coronavirus treatment for individuals 12 and older.
  • On Dec. 17, Pfizer and BioNTech requested full approval for use of their coronavirus vaccine in individuals 12 and older. Currently, the vaccine is fully approved for individuals 16 and older, and authorized under an Emergency Use Authorization for individuals 12 and older.
  • On Dec. 17, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed a lower court’s stay on the federal government’s vaccine requirement for large businesses. The U.S. Department of Labor set Feb. 9, 2022, as the new vaccination deadline.

California (Democratic trifecta): On Dec. 22, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) announced the state would require healthcare workers to receive a booster vaccination by Feb. 1, 2022.

Georgia (Republican trifecta): On Dec. 21, Gov. Brian Kemp (R) announced Attorney General Chris Carr (R) sued the Biden Administration over its vaccine and masking mandate for Head Start program staff and students. The mandate requires that all Head Start staff and some contractors and volunteers be fully vaccinated by Jan. 21, 2022. The mandate also requires children older than two to wear face coverings. 

Louisiana (divided government): On Dec. 21, Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) extended the state’s coronavirus public health emergency.

Massachusetts (divided government): On Dec. 21, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health issued a mask advisory recommending people wear face coverings in indoor public settings regardless of vaccination status. 

Nevada (Democratic trifecta): On Dec. 21, the Legislative Commission voted 6-6 against extending the state’s requirements that college students and healthcare workers at state-run facilities get a COVID-19 vaccine. Six Republicans voted against continuing the mandates, while six Democrats voted in favor. The split means the mandates, which were enacted on a temporary basis in September, will expire. The Legislative Commission is composed of 12 members from both the state Senate and state Assembly and is charged with passing regulations when the legislature is not in session. 

Oregon (Democratic trifecta): On Dec. 21, Gov. Kate Brown (D) extended the state’s coronavirus state of emergency declaration through June 30, 2022.

Lawsuits about state actions and policies

To date, Ballotpedia has tracked 1,963 lawsuits in 50 states dealing in some way with the COVID-19 outbreak. Court orders have been issued, or settlements have been reached, in 609 of those lawsuits. 

  • On Dec. 22, the U.S. Supreme Court announced it would hear oral arguments in two sets of cases challenging federal vaccine policies. At issue in the first set of cases is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) policy requiring all employers with 100 or more employees to mandate that employees either be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or submit to weekly tests and wearing face coverings at the workplace. At issue in the second set of cases is a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) rule requiring healthcare workers at facilities that participate in the Medicare and Medicaid programs to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with exceptions for medical and religious reasons. The court will hear arguments in both sets of cases on Jan. 7, with one hour being allotted to each. In the meantime, the Biden administration has indicated it will not begin enforcing the OSHA rule until Jan. 10. The HHS rule remains in force in approximately half of the states (lower courts in the other states have suspended enforcement of the rule). 

Vaccine distribution

As of Dec. 22, the states with the highest vaccination rates as a percentage of total population (including children) were:

The states with the lowest rates were:

State mask requirements

Since Dec. 16, no states changed their statewide mask requirements. As of Dec. 23, masks were required in ten states with Democratic governors. Thirteen states with Democratic governors and all 27 states with Republican governors had no state-level mask requirements in effect.

COVID-19 emergency health orders

Governors and state agencies in all 50 states issued orders declaring active emergencies in response to the coronavirus pandemic. These orders allowed officials to access resources, like stockpiles of medical goods and equipment, unavailable to them during non-emergencies and temporarily waive or suspend certain rules and regulations. 

COVID-19 emergency orders have expired in 25 states. Emergency orders remain active in 25 states.

Since Dec. 16, no states have ended their statewide COVID-19 emergencies. Rhode Island extended its emergency order.

School mask requirements

Since Dec. 16, no states changed their school mask requirements.

State proof-of-vaccination requirements and policies

As COVID-19 vaccination rates have increased, state governments have enacted various rules around the use of proof-of-vaccination requirements in their states. In some cases, states have banned state or local governments from requiring that people show proof-of-vaccination. Other states have assisted in the creation of digital applications—sometimes known as vaccine passports—that allow people to prove their vaccination status and, in some cases, bypass COVID-19 restrictions.  

  • Twenty states have passed legislation or issued orders prohibiting proof-of-vaccination requirements at some or all levels of government. 
  • Five states have supported the creation of digital vaccination status applications.  

Since Dec. 16, no states have enacted policies related to proof-of-vaccination requirements or digital vaccination status applications.  

State employee and healthcare worker vaccine requirements

The Food and Drug Administration granted Emergency Use Authorization to several COVID-19 vaccines in late 2020 and early 2021. Since then, many states have required state employees and healthcare workers to get vaccinated. In some cases, states have allowed workers to opt for regular COVID-19 testing in lieu of getting a vaccine. 

  • Fifteen states have issued a COVID-19 vaccine requirement for healthcare workers. Two states—California and New Mexico—have required healthcare workers to get booster shots.
  • Twenty states have issued a COVID-19 vaccine requirement for state employees.

Since Dec. 16, no states have enacted policies related to healthcare worker vaccine requirements. One state—Nevada—voted against extending a requirement that state workers who interact with vulnerable populations get a COVID-19 vaccine.



Five candidates file to run in special election for Houston City Council District G seat

Candidates interested in running in the nonpartisan special election for Houston City Council District G had until Dec. 16 to file. The special general election is scheduled for Jan. 25.

Five candidates filed to run in the special election by the deadline: Mary Nan Huffman, Piper Madland, D. Duke Millard, Raul Reyes Jr., and Houshang Taghizadeh.

The special election was called after former incumbent Greg Travis resigned on Oct. 27 to run for the District 133 seat in the Texas House of Representatives. Travis served on the 16-member Houston City Council from 2016 to 2021. 

Houston is the largest city in Texas and the fourth-largest city in the U.S. by population.

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Voters defeat Wisconsin school board recall, keep member on board

A recall election against Gary Mertig, one of the five members of the Butternut School District school board in Wisconsin, was on the ballot on December 14, 2021. Nate Pritzl filed to run against Mertig in the election. Mertig received 53.7% of the votes in the election, defeating Pritzl and retaining his seat.

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.

The recall petition required 126 signatures to be put on the ballot. It was signed by 130 residents of the district.

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.

At the time the recall began, Mertig had been serving on the board for 31 years.

Ballotpedia has tracked 90 school board recall efforts against 233 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.

In our most recent recall report, which covered recalls from January to June 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.

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Kshama Sawant defeats recall effort

District 3 City Councilmember Kshama Sawant defeated a recall effort in Seattle, Washington. The election was held Dec. 7. As of Dec. 16, there were 306 more votes opposed to the recall than supporting it. Results will be certified Dec. 17. 

The Seattle Times reported, “Any challenged ballots resolved between the time votes were counted on Thursday afternoon and the 4:30 p.m. deadline — about a two-hour window — were to be added to the count before certification, according to King County Elections Chief of Staff Kendall Hodson. That number is unlikely to change the results.”

Recall organizers alleged that Sawant misused city funds in support of a ballot initiative, disregarded regulations related to COVID-19 by admitting people into City Hall for a rally, and misused her official position by disclosing Mayor Jenny Durkan’s residents to protesters. Sawant referred to the effort as a “right-wing recall” and called the charges dishonest. See our coverage below to read the full sample ballot and court filings from both parties.

Sawant is a member of the Socialist Alternative Party. The city council office is officially nonpartisan.

Additional reading: