George Gascón defeats incumbent Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey

George Gascón defeated incumbent Jackie Lacey in the nonpartisan general election for Los Angeles County District Attorney, the nation’s largest local prosecutorial district.

Gascón served two terms as San Francisco District Attorney, winning election to succeed Kamala Harris in 2011 and winning re-election unopposed in 2015. He did not seek election to a third term in 2019. Lacey was first elected as Los Angeles County District Attorney in 2012 and was re-elected unopposed in 2016.

Lacey was the first-place finisher in the March 3 nonpartisan primary, winning 49% of the vote to Gascón’s 28%. Preliminary returns suggest Gascón won 54% of the general election vote to Lacey’s 47%.

Washington, D.C. voters approved Initiative 81 76% to 24% according to unofficial election night results

Initiative 81 declares that police shall treat the non-commercial cultivation, distribution, possession, and use of entheogenic plants and fungi as among the lowest law enforcement priorities. Examples of decriminalized substances include psilocybin mushrooms, also known as magic mushrooms or shrooms, peyote, and iboga. This makes D.C. the fifth city after Oakland and Santa Cruz, California; Denver, Colorado; and Ann Arbor, Michigan, to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms.

Oregon is the first state to create a program to legalize psilocybin services after approving Measure 109 in the 2020 election.

Voters to decide recall of fire district board member in Arizona on Nov. 3

A recall election seeking to remove Bruce Speirs from his position as chair of the three-member Sherwood Forest Estates Fire District Board in Arizona is on the ballot on November 3, 2020. Walter Krushinsky filed to run against Speirs in the recall election.

Recall supporters said that Speirs’ actions while on the board had “demoralized the department, divided the community, inhibited recruitment efforts and resulted in reduced participation of volunteer firefighters.”

Speirs responded to the recall effort, saying “Most of the accusations against me actually reflect the unethical behaviors of the FORMER Fire Chief, including holding secret neighborhood meetings to pit developments within our Fire District against one another and protect the illusion of his management.”

Recall supporters needed to submit 18 signatures to get the recall on the ballot. They submitted 49, and the county verified 43. Speirs had the option to resign by July 1 or face the recall election. He did not resign, and the election was scheduled for November 3. The filing deadline for candidates was September 4.

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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How can I check the status of my ballot?

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

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

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

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

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Mayor and city council recall effort underway in Lincoln, Nebraska

An effort is underway in Lincoln, Nebraska, to recall Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird and city council members James Michael Bowers, Richard Meginnis, Jane Raybould, and Tammy Ward. Petitions were filed with the Lancaster County election commissioner on October 26. Each official is given 20 days to submit a statement of defense, after which the election commissioner has five days to approve the petitions for circulation. Recall organizers will then have 30 days to gather signatures.

The recall effort is organized by a group called LNK Recall in response to the appointment of Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Director Pat Lopez on August 17, 2020. The Lincoln City Council suspended city charter rules that give the public an opportunity to weigh in on the appointment, allowing for an immediate vote to appoint Lopez as health director.

Petition language against Baird states, “Mayor Baird sought out and obtained open-ended authoritarian control and used it to attack our liberty, usurp legislative authority, silence our voices, misuse our police, destroy our small businesses, sow discord in our community and allowed vandalism in our city. We the people do hereby intend to stop her assault on the citizens and Good Life of Lincoln.”

Petition language against the council members states, “City Council ignored them (Lincoln citizens) and voted to suspend councils own rules anyway, in order to cancel the remaining required hearing and vote immediately, silencing the voice of Lincoln citizens.”

In response to the recall effort, Baird said, “I am focused every minute on doing the job that the people of Lincoln elected me to do. Right now, that includes working with the City Council and our Health Department to lead the city through an unprecedented global pandemic. I am not going to be distracted by a small group of people who want to divide our community.”

The number of valid signatures required to force a recall election is 35% of the total votes cast for the office in the last general election. To put the recall elections on the ballot, petitioners would need 21,652 valid signatures against Baird, 4,864 valid signatures against Bowers, 8,009 valid signatures against Meginnis, 5,362 valid signatures against Raybould, and 2,495 valid signatures against Ward.

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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Jackie Lacey, George Gascón running in Los Angeles County’s district attorney election

Incumbent Jackie Lacey and George Gascón are running in the nonpartisan general election for Los Angeles district attorney on November 3, 2020. Both candidates completed Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey. To learn more about what motivates them on political and personal levels, click here.

Gascón worked as a police officer with the Los Angeles Police Department from 1978 to 2006 and San Francisco’s district attorney from 2011 to 2019. Lacey was a deputy district attorney with the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office from 1986 to 2012 and has served as Los Angeles’ district attorney since 2012. 

In the nonpartisan March 2020 primary, Lacey and Gascón advanced with 48.7% and 28.2% of the vote, respectively. In 2012, Lacey defeated Alan Jackson 55% to 45%. In 2016, she ran unopposed. Gascón was first elected as San Francisco district attorney in 2011 in a ranked-choice voting election, winning 62% to 38% in the third round of vote allocations. In 2015, he ran unopposed.

This race drew media attention following protests over use of force by law enforcement and the death of George Floyd. Both candidates mentioned the topic in their responses to Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey. Lacey said she “helped to train over 2,000 law enforcement officers on how to deescalate situations involving people with mental health problems.” Gascón said he would “hold law enforcement accountable to help rebuild the trust between the community and law enforcement officers.”

The Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office is the largest local prosecutorial office in the country. The Bernard Koteen Office of Public Interest Advising at Harvard Law School defined a prosecutor as “the government attorney who charges and tries cases against individuals accused of crimes.” Los Angeles’ district attorney prosecutes felonies in Los Angeles County and misdemeanors in unincorporated parts of the county and in all of the county’s cities, except Burbank, Hawthorne, Hermosa Beach, Inglewood, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Pasadena, Redondo Beach, Santa Monica, and Torrance.

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Ballotpedia to cover 2,449 local seats on November 3

Image of several stickers with the words "I voted"

There are 2,336 local seats on the ballot this November in America’s 100 largest cities based on population, the 200 largest school districts based on student enrollment, and Washington, D.C. Ballotpedia is also covering a cumulative 113 seats in Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and Puerto Rico. Incumbents are on the ballot for 1,869 seats out of the total 2,449 seats Ballotpedia is covering. Mayoral offices account for 118 seats. With 98 incumbent mayors in November 3 races, 20 mayorships will be won by non-incumbents. 

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Wheeler, Iannarone face off in Portland, Oregon, mayoral election

Image of City Hall in Portland, Oregon.

Incumbent Ted Wheeler and Sarah Iannarone are running for mayor of Portland, Oregon on November 3. Teressa Raiford is a write-in candidate.

Nineteen candidates ran in the May 19 primary. Wheeler received 49.1%—short of the majority needed to win the election outright. Iannarone received 24%, and Raiford received 8.5%. As the top two vote-getters, Wheeler and Iannarone advanced to the general election.

Wheeler says he has led on police reform and the city’s COVID-19 response. He says the city needs continued leadership to get through these challenges. Iannarone says Wheeler hasn’t shown leadership and describes herself as the progressive alternative.

Wheeler has support from United for Portland, a group that formed in October and includes the Services Employees International Union, the Portland Business Alliance, the Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association, and the Portland NAACP. Iannarone’s endorsers include Our Revolution and the Oregon Progressive Party.

Before being elected mayor, Wheeler served as Oregon’s Democratic state treasurer from 2010 to 2017. Iannarone is an urban policy consultant and has served on several City of Portland committees. 

The mayoral race is nonpartisan. As of October 2020, 63 mayors in the largest 100 cities by population are affiliated with the Democratic Party, 29 are affiliated with the Republican Party, three are independents, and five identify as nonpartisan or unaffiliated. While most mayoral elections in the 100 largest cities are nonpartisan, most officeholders are affiliated with a political party. 

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Esteban Bovo Jr., Daniella Levine Cava running in Miami-Dade County’s mayoral election

Esteban Bovo Jr. and Daniella Levine Cava are running in the nonpartisan general election for Mayor of Miami-Dade County on November 3, 2020. In the August nonpartisan primary, Bovo and Levine Cava advanced with 29.5% and 28.6% of the vote, respectively.

Though the race is nonpartisan, the candidates have received partisan support, with Republican organizations endorsing Bovo and Democratic organizations endorsing Levine Cava. The office was last held by a Democratic-aligned candidate in 2004. In 2016, incumbent Carlos Gimenez, a Republican, won re-election 48% to 32%.

Both candidates currently serve as Miami-Dade County commissioners. Bovo said his priorities include supporting small businesses during the coronavirus pandemic, investing in law enforcement, and investing in infrastructure and transportation projects. Levine Cava said her priorities include supporting working people during the coronavirus pandemic, addressing climate change, and investing in infrastructure.

According to the Miami-Dade County website, the mayor “is Miami-Dade’s highest-ranking elected official and chief administrator, who oversees a metropolitan government with 28,417 employees, an annual budget of approximately $8.9 billion, and serving 2.7 million residents.” The seat of the county is Miami.

Additional reading:
Mayoral election in Miami-Dade County, Florida (2020)
Municipal elections in Miami-Dade County, Florida (2020)

What happened in two redo elections in 2020?

In 2020, Ballotpedia has identified two elections where the results have been voided and a redo election scheduled in their place: a city council election in Paterson, New Jersey, and a sheriff election in Iron County, Missouri.

A redo election, also known as a revote or special election remedy, is the process of voiding election results and holding a new election. The specific reasons for calling a redo election vary, but might include deliberate efforts to obscure the results such as electoral fraud or mistakes like a broken voting machine.

Typically, states or courts call a redo election only after an interested party—normally a candidate, voter, or election official—contests the election results. While most states have provisions describing how to handle contested elections, these provisions do not normally specify what to do if fraud or mistakes occur.

Most redo elections, like the two described below, take place at the municipal or county level. The most recent redo election for a federal office took place in 2019 in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District. The last federal redo election before that was in 1974.

Paterson, N.J., city council election

Five candidates—incumbent councilman William McKoy, Chauncey Brown, Sharrieff Bugg, Alex Mendez, and Robyn Spencer—ran in the May 12 city council election for the 3rd Ward in Paterson, New Jersey. Initial results showed Mendez defeating McKoy with 1,595 votes to McKoy’s 1,350, a 245 vote margin. A recount narrowed the margin to 240 votes. Election officials conducted the election entirely by-mail due to the coronavirus pandemic.

On June 14, McKoy contested the election results alleging absentee/mail-in electoral fraud in the form of ballots submitted on behalf of voters who later alleged they never received absentee/mail-in ballots. During the May 12 election, election officials rejected 24% of absentee/mail-in ballots in the 3rd Ward compared to 10% s.

On Aug. 16, Passaic County Superior Court Judge Ernest Caposela voided the May 12 election and ordered a redo election for Nov. 3, 2020.

Iron County, Mo., sheriff election

Incumbent Roger Medley, Ryan Burkett, Brian Matthiesen, Ben Starnes, and James Womble participated in the Aug. 4 Republican primary for sheriff in Iron County, Missouri. Burkett defeated Medley by 73 votes.

Medley contested the election, alleging the usage of incorrect ballots, a voting machine missing part of its tally tape, and violations of state law such as the mother-in-law of one candidate working as an election judge.

On Aug. 27, Iron County Circuit Judge Kelly Parker voided the election results and set a redo primary election for Sept. 22. Burkett defeated Medley in the redo primary election receiving 42% of the vote to Medley’s 27%.