Halftime report: what states have done so far on election policy

Welcome to The Ballot Bulletin, where we track developments in election policy at the federal, state, and local levels. Each issue includes an in-depth feature—such as an interview or legislative analysis—and discussions of recent events relating to electoral and primary systems, redistricting, and voting provisions.

Halftime report: what states have done so far on election policy

With more than half of the states having wrapped up their legislative sessions for the year, here’s a summary of what states have done so far on election policy.

  • Redistricting legislation: So far this year, we’ve tracked 221 bills regarding redistricting policy. Seventeen of them have become law.
    • Examples of enacted legislation:
      • Mississippi JR202: Signed into law April 3, JR202 revised the boundaries of Mississippi State Senate Districts 13 and 22. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi had earlier ruled that District 22 constituted an illegal racial gerrymander.
      • Virginia HB2760: Signed into law March 22, HB2760 requires municipal clerks to transmit Geographic Information System (GIS) maps to local election boards, the secretary of the commonwealth, the state elections department, and the legislative services division when altering local electoral districts or precincts.
  • Electoral systems legislation: So far this year we’ve tracked 120 bills regarding electoral systems policy, addressing such issues as ranked-choice voting and the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. Eleven of them have become law.
    • Examples of enacted legislation:
      • New Mexico HB55: Signed into law March 12, HB55 entered New Mexico into the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. Member states agree to award their presidential electors to the winner of the national popular vote once states totaling at least 270 Electoral College votes have joined the compact.
      • Utah HB0277: Signed into law March 26, HB0277 amended provisions of Utah’s Municipal Alternative Voting Methods Pilot Project. Under the pilot project, municipalities can opt to conduct municipal elections using ranked-choice voting.
  • Primary systems legislation: We’ve tracked 11 bills this year regarding primary systems policy, addressing such issues as top-two primaries and open primaries. None of these 11 bills has become law.
    • Examples of proposed legislation:
      • Maine LD114: LD114 would have established a top-two primary system for elections for the offices of U.S. senator, U.S. representative, governor, state senator, and state representative. The bill died in committee.
      • North Carolina H994: H994 proposes establishing a top-four primary system for elections for any state or congressional office. H994 also proposes establishing ranked-choice voting for general elections for these offices. The bill is currently in committee.

In other election policy news

  • Electoral systems in Massachusetts: On May 15, the Easthampton City Council approved a charter amendment that would, if approved by voters, implement ranked-choice voting for municipal elections. The state Legislature must approve the amendment language before the measure can appear on the November ballot. If voters approve the charter amendment, ranked-choice voting would be used in Easthampton’s 2021 municipal elections. Amherst and Cambridge, Mass. have both adopted ranked-choice voting for their municipal elections.
  • Redistricting in Michigan and Ohio: On May 24, the U.S. Supreme Court stayed lower court orders in Michigan and Ohio that had struck down district plans as unconstitutional partisan gerrymanders. The court is expected to issue rulings in two partisan gerrymandering cases—Rucho v. Common Cause and Benisek v. Lamone—by the end of the month.
  • Redistricting in Nevada and Washington: In May, the governors of Nevada and Washington signed into law bills requiring state prison inmates be counted as residents of their home addresses for redistricting purposes. The U.S. Census Bureau, which provides the population data sets that form the foundation of redistricting and reapportionment efforts, counts prisoners as residents of the places where they are incarcerated. In addition to Nevada and Washington, four other states—California, Delaware, Maryland, and New York—have adopted legislation providing for adjusting the census data to reflect prisoners’ home addresses as their residences.

Legislation update: Redistricting, electoral systems, and primary systems bills

The maps below show which states are considering redistricting, electoral systems, and primary systems legislation. A darker shade of red indicates a greater number of relevant bills.

Redistricting legislation as of June 3, 2019

Electoral systems legislation as of June 3, 2019

Primary systems legislation as of June 3, 2019

Primary systems June 2019 map.png

The Daily Brew: At least one presidential candidate will be excluded from the first debate

Welcome to the Wednesday, June 5, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Bennett meets fundraising threshold, Biden & Warren release climate proposals
  2. New Jersey state Assemblyman loses primary for first time this decade
  3. Approaching the one-year anniversary of Janus 

Bennett meets fundraising threshold, Biden & Warren release climate proposals

Every day in this presidential primary cycle features a new public policy or political battle. Yesterday’s daily presidential briefing covered one of each.

First, Colorado Sen. Michael Bennett announced that he had met the fundraising threshold for the first set of Democratic presidential debates. This means he received campaign donations from at least 65,000 unique donors and a minimum of 200 unique donors per state in at least 20 states.

Bennett’s qualification means that 21 Democratic candidates have met the thresholds to participate in the first set of debates to be held on June 26 and 27 in Miami, Florida. Since the Democratic National Committee has said that only 20 candidates will participate, the following tie-breaking criteria will be applied, in order:

  1. Candidates who have achieved both the polling and fundraising thresholds,
  2. Candidates with the highest polling average in three national or early state polls, and
  3. Candidates with the highest number of contributors.

As we highlighted last week, 13 candidates have met both the polling and fundraising requirements and have therefore satisfied the first tiebreaker. The remaining candidates have until next week—two weeks before the first debate—to achieve the fundraising and polling thresholds.

The other lead story in yesterday’s newsletter was Joe Biden’s release of his climate change platform that sets a goal of net-zero emissions by 2050. He joined Elizabeth Warren in issuing climate proposals on Tuesday emphasizing federal spending on research and development to develop clean energy.

Subscribe to our Daily Presidential News Briefing to follow-along with other policy proposals as they are released.

If you sign up in time to get this morning’s edition, you’ll receive one of my favorite weekly features—a look at which candidates made the top five in spending on Facebook advertising the previous week. It’s a great snapshot of one of the campaign tactics these candidates.


Subscribe here

New Jersey state Assemblyman loses primary for first time this decade

New Jersey held statewide primaries yesterday for all 80 seats in the state Assembly. The General Assembly is comprised of 40 multi-member districts, with two representatives from each district. In the primaries, the top two candidates from each party advance to the general election.

Four of the 80 incumbent members of the state Assemblyone Democrat and three Republicansdid not seek re-election. Twenty-five incumbents faced at least one primary challenger. Twenty-four incumbentsfrom 13 districtswon their respective primaries and advanced to the general election.

In District 8, Jean Stanfield won the Republican primary over incumbent Joe Howarth. Howarth, who was initially elected to the Assembly in 2015, is the first incumbent to be defeated in a state Assembly primary this decade.

The New Jersey General Assembly currently has 54 Democrats and 26 Republicans. There are no Assembly districts currently under split party control-that is, represented by one Democrat and one Republican.

Learn more 

Approaching the one-year anniversary of Janus

The one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s issuance of its decision in Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees is later this month. The Court held that public sector unions cannot require non-member employees to pay agency fees covering the costs of non-political union activities, thus overturning the precedent established in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education in 1977.

Typically, when SCOTUS rules on a case, a chain reaction occurs based on the ruling. One aftermath will often be how state legislatures pass legislation in response.

Since Janus, we’ve been closely following the state-level responses. If you subscribe to our Union Station newsletter, you are familiar with that coverage.

Twenty-eight states have adjourned their state legislative sessions in 2019, with legislatures in another six states expected to adjourn in June.

We’re currently tracking 101 pieces of legislation dealing with public-sector employee union policy in our free weekly newsletter, Union Station. Each edition keeps you abreast of legislation, court decisions, and national trends that affect public-sector unions.

For example, the Connecticut state House passed a bill last week that would make several changes to the state’s public-sector labor laws. The measure would, among other things, require public employers to furnish unions with information about newly hired and current employees, who would then have to consent to provide their personal contact information to unions. The bill is awaiting action by the state Senate and governor. The Connecticut legislature is scheduled to adjourn at midnight tonight.

On June 26, join us for a webinar discussing the court case and its effects, including our analysis of how it affected union membership in the past year. It figures to be a really interesting discussion on how the Court’s ruling has impacted a nationwide policy issue. Click the link below to register!

Register now!

Bennet becomes 21st Democrat to qualify for primary debate

June 4, 2019: Michael Bennet received 1 percent support in his third qualifying polling for the first primary debate. Joe Biden released his $5 trillion climate change platform.

Here’s the latest from the campaign trail.

Trivia Tuesday

Which third party candidate received the highest share of the popular vote?

  1. George Wallace→
  2. Robert LaFollette→
  3. Theodore Roosevelt→
  4. Ross Perot→

Notable Quote of the Day

“The maneuvering [in Democratic-leaning states] underscores how Trump is trying to capitalize on his vast financial and organizational advantage over Democrats. Yet it also illustrates how the president, whose own polling shows him falling behind in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, is seeking out additional routes to a second term.”

– Alex Isenstadt, Politico reporter


  • Michael Bennet qualified for the first Democratic presidential primary by receiving 1 percent in a third qualifying poll. He is the 21st candidate to qualify for the 20 spots on stage.
  • Joe Biden released his $5 trillion climate change platform that sets a goal of net-zero emissions by 2050. His plan also calls for an investment of $400 billion in clean energy research and innovation.
  • Bill de Blasio visited Albany, New York, to outline his legislative priorities for New York City, including updating rent protection laws, marijuana legalization, and changing specialized high school admissions to address racial disparities.
  • New York Magazine surveyed the early and large Iowa campaign operations of Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren
  • Steve Bullock will be in San Francisco, California, for a fundraiser Tuesday.
  • In an NBC News interview, Pete Buttigieg said he wanted to depoliticize the Supreme Court by expanding the court to 15 members: five Democrats, five Republicans, and five others who are chosen by the 10 partisan justices. He also participated in a town hall on MSNBC Monday night.
  • Julián Castro released his policy platform on policing Monday. He called for establishing national standards for law enforcement conduct, increasing federal oversight of excessive force, and demilitarizing the police to improve community relations.
  • Kirsten Gillibrand defended her call for Al Franken’s resignation in 2018 after Buttigieg said in a town hall that “would not have applied that pressure at that time before we knew more” about sexual misconduct allegations against him.
  • In an interview on Press Play, John Hickenlooper discussed moving towards a public option for health insurance, working with the oil and gas industry, and marijuana legalization.
  • Jay Inslee wrote a letter to Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez calling for a debate dedicated exclusively to climate change.
  • Beto O’Rourke has hired 37 new staff members in Iowa, bringing his team in the state up to 44.
  • Tim Ryan released a statement clarifying his position on impeachment. While Ryan said he did not expect a conviction due to Republican leadership, he called the inquiry necessary to “begin to cut the cancer of corruption out of government.”
  • Bernie Sanders wrote an op-ed in The New York Times detailing his family’s financial struggles and his position on wealth inequality.
  • Eric Swalwell appeared on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah Monday night.
  • Warren is expanding her operation in Iowa. State communications director Jason Noble said new hires would be announced June 15 with at least 60 staff members on the payroll.
  • Marianne Williamson will campaign in Nashua, New Hampshire, Tuesday.


  • Donald Trump is targeting New Hampshire, New Mexico, and Nevada—none of which have been won by a Republican presidential nominee since 2004—with campaign staff sent to each state.

What We’re Reading

Flashback: June 4, 2015

Rick Perry launched his presidential campaign in Texas. He previously ran for president in 2012.

The Daily Brew: Only or every in the state constitution—Alabama voters will have their say in 2020

Welcome to the Tuesday, June 4, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Alabama voters to decide a constitutional amendment in 2020 that requires voters be citizens
  2. Federal Register totals 25,492 pages so far in 2019
  3. Denver mayoral runoff headlines Tuesday’s elections

Alabama voters to decide a constitutional amendment in 2020 that requires voters be citizens

Alabama voters will decide in 2020 whether to amend the state constitution to state that “only a citizen of the United States,” rather than “every citizen of the United States,” has the right to vote in Alabama.  

According to and, the word every refers to the individual members of a group or set without exception whereas the word only means just the specific members of a particular group or category.

Joshua Jones of Citizen Voters, a group advocating for similar amendments in other states, told the Alabama Political Reporter, “Most people don’t realize cities around the country are already opening municipal elections to non-citizen voters. This constitutional amendment will ensure that trend never comes to Alabama.”

Senate President Del Marsh (R) introduced the amendment. The state Senate approved it unanimously with eight members—three Democrats and five Republicans—absent or not voting. The state House also passed the measure unanimously with 14 Democratic members abstaining and three members—two Democrats and one Republican—absent or not voting. Republicans have a 27-8 majority in the state Senate and a 76-28 majority in the state House.

Voters in North Dakota approved a similar initiative in 2018. Measure 2 amended the North Dakota Constitution to state that “only a citizen” rather than “every citizen” of the U.S. can vote in federal, state, and local elections. It passed by a vote of 66% to 34%. Similar initiatives have been proposed in Colorado and Florida targeting the 2019 and 2020 ballots, respectively.

Neither Alabama nor any of the state’s local jurisdictions currently allow non-citizens to vote in elections. Congress passed a law in 1996 prohibiting non-citizens from voting in federal electionssuch as for president, the U.S. House, or U.S. Senatebut did not address state or local elections. San Francisco and several local governments in Maryland have permitted non-citizens to vote in certain local elections.

During this year’s legislative session, the Alabama Legislature referred a total of five constitutional amendments to the 2020 ballot. The legislature may also approve constitutional amendments during its 2020 session which voters will also decide in 2020. In Alabama, a 60 percent vote is needed in each chamber of the legislature to refer a constitutional amendment to the ballot for voter consideration.

The legislature may also refer additional amendments to the 2020 ballot during that year’s legislative session. Since 1997, the legislature has placed an average of eight measures per year on the ballot in even-numbered years and 81% have been approved during this time. According to law professor Susan Pace Hamill—in an article on the Encyclopedia of Alabama—the Alabama state constitution has been amended more than 800 times since 1901 and is the longest constitution in the world.

Learn more

Federal Register totals 25,492 pages so far in 2019

Last week, the number of pages in the Federal Register increased by 1,130 pages, bringing the year-to-date total to 25,492 pages. It featured a total of 432 documents, including 347 notices, four presidential documents, 40 proposed rules, and 41 final 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.

During the same week in 2018, the number of pages in the Federal Register increased by 1,148 pages. As of May 31, the 2019 total trailed the 2018 total by 52 pages.

The Trump administration has added an average of 1,159 pages to the Federal Register each week in 2019 as of May 31. In 2018, the Trump administration added an average of 1,301 pages to the Federal Register each week. Over the course of the Obama administration, the Federal Register increased by an average of 1,658 pages per week.

Click here to find yearly information about additions to the Federal Register from 1936 to 2016

Ballotpedia maintains page counts and other information about the Federal Register as part of its Administrative State Project. It includes information about the administrative and regulatory activities of the United States government., as well as concepts, laws, court cases, executive orders, scholarly work, and other material related to the administrative state.

To stay up to date on actions at the federal and state level related to rulemaking, the separation of powers, and due process, subscribe to our free monthly Checks and Balances newsletter.

Learn more

Denver mayoral runoff headlines Tuesday’s elections

Today is Tuesday, which normally means it’s Election Day in multiple states across the country. Believe it or not, but last week was the first Tuesday without an election for our team since January. We’re excited to be back at our computers tonight when we’re covering elections in California, Colorado, New Jersey, and Wisconsin. Here are some highlights:


Two state Senate districts are holding general elections between the top two finishers from primaries that were held on March 26. In District 1, two Republicans are looking to succeed Ted Gaines (R), who was elected to the California State Board of Equalization in 2018.

In District 33, Lena Gonzalez (D) and Jack Guerrero (R) finished first and second, respectively, out of a 12-candidate field in the primary election. The seat became vacant after Ricardo Lara (D) was elected last November to serve as California’s insurance commissioner.

Los Angeles

Voters will elect a successor to Mitchell Englander—who had been the only Republican on the Los Angeles City Council and who resigned last year. Fifteen candidates are running to succeed him. If no candidate receives a majority of the vote, a general election between the top two finishers will be held on August 13.

Los Angeles school district voters will also decide whether to adopt a parcel tax—a kind of property tax based on units of property rather than assessed value—for 12 years to fund educational improvements, instruction, and programs. School district officials estimate that the tax would raise $500 million per year. A two-thirds (66.67 percent) supermajority vote is needed for approval.


Two-term incumbent Michael Hancock faces urban development consultant Jamie Giellis in the runoff election for mayor.

Denver voters will also decide runoffs for the office of city clerk and recorder, five seats on the city council, and Initiated Ordinance 302, which would prohibit the city and county from using public funds in connection with future Olympic Games unless a majority of voters approve at a municipal election.

New Jersey

New Jersey is holding statewide primary elections for all 80 seats in the state Assembly. Members of the state Senate are not up for election until 2021.

Seventy-six of 80 Assembly incumbents are running for re-election, meaning four seats—5%—are open. Twenty-six of those 76 incumbents have contested primaries. Since the state uses multi-member districts, these are cases where at least three candidates are running from the same party. No New Jersey state Assembly incumbents were defeated in primaries from 2011 to 2017.

Learn more

New Jersey lawmakers consider overriding veto of expanded donor disclosure requirements

New Jersey legislators are considering overriding the governor’s conditional veto of S1500, a bill that would require 501(c)(4)s, super PACs, and other entities to disclose donors who contribute $10,000 or more. A meeting scheduled for May 30 between lawmakers and the governor to discuss the bill was postponed. (Source:

  • What does the governor say? In his May 13 veto statement, Gov. Phil Murphy (D) said, “I commend my colleagues in the Legislature for seeking to ensure that so-called ‘dark money’ is brought out into the open. However, I am mindful that such efforts must be carefully balanced against constitutionally protected speech and association rights. Because certain provisions of Senate Bill No. 1500 (Fifth Reprint) may infringe on both, and because the bill does not go far enough in mandating disclosures of political activity that can be constitutionally required, I cannot support it in its current form.” With his conditional veto, Murphy stated his objections to the bill and proposed amendments to address them. This differs from an absolute veto, which is an outright gubernatorial rejection of a proposed law. Both are subject to the same override provisions.
  • What are lawmakers saying?
    • Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker (D), a primary sponsor of S1500, said, “We are actively discussing the possibility of a veto override. It is not my preference. But I do feel very strongly that this is a good government bill and we need to act now.”
    • Senator Troy Singleton (D), another S1500 sponsor, said, “I think the atmosphere was challenged a little bit by some of the governor’s comments. [We] took offense to the idea that what we sent was somehow weaker than what was sent back by the governor’s office … we didn’t want to have the discussion steeped in emotion. We’re trying to take a step back to see if there’s a path forward.”
  • How can the legislature override the veto? The legislature can, by a two-thirds majority vote in each chamber, override Murphy’s veto and enact the bill. This means 54 assembly members and 27 senators would have to vote in favor of an override. The Senate approved the bill 33-0, with seven members not voting. The Assembly approved the bill 60-1, with two members not voting and 17 abstaining. Democrats have a 26-14 majority in the Senate and a 54-26 majority in the Assembly. The Legislature’s last successful override of a gubernatorial veto was in 1997.
  • What does the legislation propose?
    • As adopted, S1500 would define an independent expenditure committee as any person or group of persons organized under sections 501(c)(4) or 527 of the Internal Revenue Code spending $3,000 or more annually to influence or provide political information about any of the following:
      • “the outcome of any election or the nomination, election, or defeat of any person to any state or local elective public office”
      • “the passage or defeat of any public question, legislation, or regulation”
    • Under S1500, independent expenditure committees would be required to disclose all expenditures exceeding $3,000. These committees would also be required to disclose the identities of donors contributing $10,000 or more.

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state: We’re currently tracking 72 pieces of legislation dealing with donor disclosure. On the map below, a darker shade of green indicates a greater number of relevant bills. Click here for a complete list of all the bills we’re tracking.

Number of relevant bills by current legislative status:

Number of relevant bills by partisan status of sponsor(s):

Recent legislative actions

Below is a complete list of legislative actions taken on relevant bills in the past two weeks. Bills are listed in alphabetical order, first by state then by bill number. Know of any legislation we’re missing? Please email us so we can include it on our tracking list.

  • New Hampshire SB105: This bill would establish disclosure requirements for certain contributions made to inaugural committees.
    • House Election Law Committee reported favorably May 21.
  • New Hampshire SB156: This bill would require that political contributions made by limited liability companies be allocated to individual members in order to determine whether individuals have exceeded contribution limits.
    • House Election Law Committee reported favorably May 21.

Connecticut House of Representatives approves omnibus public-sector union bill

On May 29, 2019, the Connecticut House of Representatives voted 83-58 to approve HB06935, an omnibus public-sector union bill.

  • What would the bill do? If approved, the bill would make several changes to the state’s public-sector labor laws:
    • It would require public employers to furnish unions with information about newly hired and current employees. Employees would have to consent to provide personal contact information to unions, such as home addresses and phone numbers.
    • It would require employers to grant unions access to new employee orientations. It would also authorize unions to use public facilities and resources in order to communicate with members.
    • It would authorize unions to maintain dues deduction authorization records. It would require employees to revoke or revise their authorizations directly with their unions.
    • It would prohibit employers from deterring or discouraging employees or applicants from joining or remaining in a union. It would also bar unions from contacting employees who have indicated that they do not want to be contacted.
  • What comes next? The bill now goes to the Connecticut State Senate. If the Senate approves the bill, it would then go to Gov. Ned Lamont (D) for his action. The General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn June 5.
    • Political context: Connecticut is a Democratic trifecta, meaning Democrats control the governorship and both chambers of the state legislature. Connecticut has been a Democratic trifecta since 2011.

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state: We are currently tracking 101 pieces of legislation dealing with public-sector employee union policy. On the map below, a darker shade of green indicates a greater number of relevant bills. Click here for a complete list of all the bills we’re tracking.

Number of relevant bills by current legislative status:

Number of relevant bills by partisan status of sponsor(s):

Recent legislative actions

Below is a complete list of legislative actions taken in the last week. Bills are listed in alphabetical order, first by state then by bill number.

  • Connecticut HB06935: This bill would require public employers to provide unions with access to new employee orientations.
    • House approved amended bill May 29.
  • Massachusetts H3825: This bill would authorize employers to disclose personal employee information to unions. It would also permit unions to require non-members to pay for the costs associated with grievance and arbitration proceedings. It would require employers to provide unions with access to employees, and it would allow for dues deduction authorizations to be irrevocable for a period of up to one year.
    • Labor and Workforce Development Committee reported favorably and referred to House Ways and Means Committee May 30.
  • Nevada SB135: This bill would provide for collective bargaining rights for state employees.
    • Senate Finance Committee Hearing May 29.
  • Oregon HB2016: This bill would require public employers to grant paid time to employees participating in certain union activities. It would also require employers to furnish unions with access to employees.
    • Second reading in the Senate May 30.
  • Rhode Island S0712: This bill would authorize unions to impose fees on non-members for administrative costs. It would require employers to notify unions within five days of hiring new employees. It would also require employees to file written notice with the state controller in order to discontinue dues payroll deductions.
    • Senate Labor Committee reported substitute favorably May 29.

2020 Democrats gather in California for state convention

May 31, 2019: Fourteen Democratic presidential candidates will speak at the California Democratic Party State Convention. Donald Trump announced a 5 percent tariff rate on goods from Mexico.

Here’s the latest from the campaign trail.

Brad Parscale served as a digital media advisor to President Trump (R) during the 2016 campaign and was responsible for the campaign’s Facebook outreach that year.

Previous campaign work:

  • 2016 Donald Trump presidential campaign, digital and media advisor

Other experience:

  • 2005-2018: Parscale Media, owner
  • 2011-2017: Giles-Parscale, Inc., president

What he says about Trump:

“When the President and this campaign gets ready to go full speed again, the President will turn on every ignition switch that’s necessary to get the enthusiasm back. Anyone who doesn’t think that this president will go 5 million miles an hour, day and night, to bring enthusiasm back and talk about what he can do next — they don’t know him.”

Notable Quote of the Day

“Some Democratic presidential campaigns have dispatched staffers to comb through tape of the Republicans’ 2016 debates, studying ways to break through the noise, like a zinger-ready Carly Fiorina did, or to avoid getting embarrassed, like a robotic Marco Rubio.

Others have started blocking off time in their schedules to stand their candidate in a semi-circle with nine other people mock-jockeying for attention as practice. 

Others still have aides drilling candidates on the policy questions they’re most likely to face whenever they get a free second on the road. Some have simply thrown up their collective hands and decided it’s not worth doing any of this for a few more weeks.

But each of the 20-something campaign teams … has come to at least one joint conclusion. No one has any idea how on earth a candidate is supposed to be fully prepared for the first debates.”

– Gabriel Debenedetti, New York Magazine political reporter


  • Fourteen 2020 presidential candidates will speak at the California Democratic Party State Convention over the weekend: Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Julián Castro, John Delaney, Tulsi Gabbard, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, John Hickenlooper, Jay Inslee, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke, Bernie Sanders, Eric Swalwell, and Elizabeth Warren.
  • Michael Bennet will make his first presidential campaign visit to South Carolina Friday with stops in Columbia and Fort Mill.
  • In a CNN town hall Thursday night, Bennet said he opposed eliminating private insurers under Medicare for All and that Congress should not begin impeachment proceedings against Trump.
  • Joe Biden attended a Memorial Day service for Gold Star families in Delaware Thursday and spoke of his son Navy veteran Beau Biden, who died four years ago from brain cancer.
  • In an interview with ABC News, Bill de Blasio continued to criticize Biden for his defense of the 1994 crime bill.
  • The Senate Leadership Fund released a negative ad targeting Steve Bullock. “Steve Bullock’s running for president while Montana is still paying for his salary and for Montana Highway Patrol to travel on his out-of-state political trips,” the ad’s narrator says. “Would your boss pay for your next job search?”
  • Castro will participate in a Fox News town hall moderated by Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum and filmed live in Phoenix, Arizona, June 13.
  • Mike Gravel, along with Booker, Gabbard, and Harris, said that sex work should be decriminalized.
  • Greenpeace USA released its scores for the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates’ records on climate change and fossil fuels. Inslee received an A- grade, while Biden, Hickenlooper, and Tim Ryan received the lowest with grades of D-.
  • Klobuchar and Sanders added staff in South Carolina. Klobuchar hired Angela Kouters as her state director. Sanders brought on Charleston City Council member Kwadjo Campbell as his state director, along with five other hires in the state.
  • Seth Moulton tweeted his support for New Hampshire becoming the 21st state to abolish the death penalty.
  • During an appearance on The View, Warren discussed Mueller’s statement and childcare costs.


  • Donald Trump announced Thursday that the U.S. would begin imposing a 5 percent tariff on all goods from Mexico beginning June 10. The tariff will increase up to a rate of 25 percent “until such time as illegal migrants coming through Mexico, and into our Country, STOP,” Trump tweeted.
  • In an interview on MSNBC, Bill Weld discussed the state of the Justice Department and the Mueller report.

What We’re Reading

Flashback: May 31, 2015

Bernie Sanders spoke to a crowd of 3,000 supporters in Minneapolis. For comparison, 13,000 people attended Sanders’ 2020 kickoff event in Brooklyn in March 2019.

The Daily Brew: A 50-state comparison of tobacco laws

Welcome to the Monday, June 3, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. With national legislation introduced, we take a 50-state look at tobacco laws
  2. Nevada and Maine reject efforts to join National Popular Vote Interstate Compact
  3. Fifteen candidates running Tuesday to succeed lone Republican on Los Angeles City Council

Just a reminder that on Tuesday I’ll be hosting a webinar with David Luchs—one of our staff writers—about the upcoming mayoral runoff elections on June 8 in Dallas and San Antonio and why local and mayoral races matter. The webinar will take place at noon ET and you can register for free here.

With national legislation introduced, we take a 50-state look at tobacco laws

Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) introduced a bill last month that would increase the federal minimum age from 18 to 21 to purchase or use tobacco products. The bill would also raise the minimum age to purchase e-cigarettes and would not prevent states and municipalities from passing more restrictive laws. The proposed legislation also requires states to pass laws raising their minimum age to purchase tobacco to 21 by 2021 as a condition for receiving federal substance abuse grants.

Given the national attention to the issue, we wondered what the state-level legal landscape looked like for tobacco legislation. Our team put together a 50-state comparison page. Here are three quick hits.

  • The minimum age to purchase or use of tobacco is currently 21 in six states—California, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon.
  • In three states—Alabama, Alaska, Utah—one must be 19 to purchase tobacco. The other 41 states have a minimum smoking age of 18.
  • Governor David Ige (D) signed legislation in June 2015 raising the minimum age to purchase tobacco in Hawaii to 21, making it the first state to do so in the 21st century. Since then, five other states have increased their smoking age to 21. Eight states have enacted similar legislation that has not yet taken effect.

New Jersey was the first state to restrict the sale and use of tobacco by age, setting a minimum age of 16 in 1883. By 1920, 46 of the 48 states had an age requirement for tobacco sales, including 14 with a minimum age of 21. During the period between the world wars, state laws generally lowered the minimum age to 18. The federal law setting a minimum age of 18 to purchase tobacco—the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act—was adopted in 2009.

Find out more about your state’s tobacco rules by clicking the link below.

Learn more

Nevada and Maine reject efforts to join National Popular Vote Interstate Compact

Last month I told you that New Mexico, Colorado, and Delaware had joined the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC)an interstate agreement to award each member state’s presidential electors to the winner of the national popular vote. Two additional states—Nevada and Maine—recently rejected legislative efforts to join.

Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) vetoed Assembly Bill 186 (AB 186), which would have made Nevada the 16th jurisdiction to join the NPVIC. Sisolak released a statement which said in part, “Once effective, the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact could diminish the role of smaller states like Nevada in national electoral contests and force Nevada’s electors to side with whoever wins the nationwide popular vote, rather than the candidate Nevadans choose.”

The Nevada State Assembly approved AB 186 by a 23-17 vote in April. All votes in favor were cast by Democrats and 12 Republicans were joined by five Democrats in opposition. The Nevada state Senate passed AB 186 by a vote of 12-8 along party lines. This was the first veto issued by Sisolak, who was elected in 2018. Nevada became a Democratic trifecta when Sisolak was elected governor; both houses of the state legislature have been controlled by Democrats since 2017.

Also last week, the Maine House of Representatives rejected a bill that would have joined Maine to the NPVIC by a 76-66 vote. Twenty-one Democrats joined 51 Republicans and four Independents in opposition to the bill. Sixty-four Democrats, one Independent, and one Common Sense Independent Party member voted in favor. The Maine Senate had voted to pass the bill by a 19-16 vote on May 14. All ‘yes’ votes were cast by Democrats and 14 Republicans and two Democrats voted to oppose the legislation.

The NPVIC would go into effect if states representing at least 270 electoral college vote to adopt it. It does not abolish the electoral college system; rather, it is designed to award all of the electoral votes from the member states to whichever presidential candidate receives the most votes nationwide. To date, 14 states and Washington, D.C.—representing 189 electoral votes—have joined.

Most states currently use a winner-take-all system for awarding their electoral votes in the Electoral College. Under this method, the presidential candidate that receives a plurality of the popular vote in a state receives all of that state’s electoral votes. In five of 58 presidential elections, the winner of the electoral college did not receive the most popular votes. This occurred most recently in the 2016 presidential election as Donald Trump received 304 electoral votes and Hillary Clinton had more total votes nationwide.

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Fifteen candidates running Tuesday to succeed lone Republican on Los Angeles City Council

Fifteen candidates are running in Tuesday’s special election for the District 12 seat on the Los Angeles City Council. The Los Angeles City Controller’s office estimates that the population of that district was 284,395 as of 2017.

Voters will elect a successor to Mitchell Englander, who resigned to work in the private sector on December 31, 2018. Englander—the only Republican on the council—was first elected in 2011 and left office during his second term.

Tuesday’s primary election is nonpartisan. If no candidate receives a majority of the vote, a general election between the top two finishers will be held on August 13.

In November 2018, Los Angeles voters approved a charter amendment which aligns the city’s municipal elections with California’s primary and general elections. Seven of the council’s 15 city council seats—including the winner of this year’s special election—will be up for election in 2020.

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The Daily Brew: Want your city to host the Olympics? Denver voters may decide to put it to a vote


Welcome to the Friday, May 31, Brew. We are halfway through our Ballotpedia Society membership drive! If you haven’t already, please consider supporting the work we do through a monthly donation. You can find more information about the program here. Now, here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Denver ballot measure requires voters to approve spending public funds to host Olympics
  2. Illinois voters to choose whether to change state’s income tax from flat to graduated rate
  3. State regulation of plumbers in Texas to expire in September

Denver ballot measure requires voters to approve spending public funds to host Olympics

Denver voters will decide Tuesday whether a future attempt to bring the Olympics to the city will require citywide voter approval.

Initiated Ordinance 302 (I-302) would prohibit the city and county from using public funds in connection with future Olympic Games unless a majority of voters approve at a municipal election.

In 2018, the city of Denver proposed spending $1.9 billion to host the 2030 Winter Olympic Games in a bid to the United States Olympic Committee (USOC). The USOC identified Denver and Salt Lake City as its top two finalists and ultimately selected Salt Lake City as its choice to bid for the games before the International Olympic Committee.

After Denver’s USOC proposal, the group Let Denver Vote led the petition effort to place I-302 on the ballot. Proponents were required to collect 4,726 valid signatures or 5 percent of the votes cast for mayoral candidates in the preceding mayoral election.

Proponents of the measure submitted their arguments supporting it in the city’s official local ballot question guide, which included, “Hosting the Olympics brings significant financial risk and long-lasting impacts. Host cities are expected to cover the consistent (every year since 1968) cost overruns of the Olympic games, and Denver voters deserve a right to decide if they are comfortable writing a blank check to cover such overruns.”

Opponents submitted arguments against I-302 to the official ballot question guide, which included, “This seemingly innocuous initiative to ‘protect the taxpayer’ is dangerously broad, has extensive unintended consequences, and is brought by a group that is woefully misinformed about the risks, namely potential costs to the taxpayer of bidding and hosting an Olympic & Paralympic Games, that the ballot initiative seeks to mitigate.”

I-302 is the only local ballot measure being voted on in Denver on Tuesday. The city is also holding runoff elections for mayor, city clerk and recorder, and five seats on the city council, since no candidate in any of those races received a majority of the vote in the city’s municipal election on May 7.

Last month, Denver voters approved a measure that decriminalized the adult possession and use of psilocybin mushrooms and rejected a measure which would have allowed people to engage in activities such as resting and sheltering oneself in a non-obstructive mannerin outdoor public places without limits.

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Illinois voters to choose whether to change state’s income tax from flat to graduated rate  

Illinois—one of eight states that has a flat tax rate—may join the 33 states with a graduated income tax.

Voters in Illinois will decide on a constitutional amendment in 2020 that would repeal the current requirement that the state personal income tax be a flat rate and instead allow the state to enact legislation implementing a graduated income tax.

In 1970, Illinois held a constitutional convention and drafted a new state constitution, which voters approved on December 15, 1970. That document enabled the state to assess a flat-rate income tax but prohibits a graduated one. The constitution also set limits on the relationship between the tax rates imposed on corporations relative to individuals.

To approve the 2020 ballot measure, both chambers of the state legislature needed to approve it by a 60% supermajority. All 40 state Senate and 73 state House Democrats voted in favor, and all 19 Senate and 44 House Republicans voted against. In 2018, Democrats gained seven seats in the state House to achieve a supermajority in that chamber.

The ballot measure itself would not enact a graduated income tax, just allow for one. In 2018, the personal income tax in Illinois was a flat rate of 4.95 percent. On May 1, 2019, the state Senate passed Senate Bill 687 (SB 687), which would go into effect only if voters approve the constitutional amendment in 2020. SB 687 would change the state’s income tax from a flat rate to six graduated rates—ranging from 4.75 to 7.99 percent—beginning on January 1, 2021. It is estimated that the new tax rates would bring in $3.3 billion of additional state revenue. The state House has not yet passed SB 687.

House Speaker Michael Madigan (D)—a supporter of the measure—issued a statement which said, “Middle-class families bear too much of the burden under the current tax system, and a Fair Tax will enable us to make the wealthy pay their fair share to balance the budget and invest in critical resources like education and health care—all while providing relief for 97% of taxpayers.”

Republican representative Paul Schimpf (R), who opposed the initiative, told the Belleville News-Democrat, “Changing our taxing structure, without providing a means to limit spending or make it more difficult to raise taxes in the future, solves nothing. In fact, this plan will most likely only lead to more tax increases and higher spending in the future.”

In Illinois, a ballot measure amending the state constitution must be approved by either a 60 percent vote of those voting on the ballot measure or a simple majority vote of those voting in the election. The initiative allowing for a graduated income tax will be the 23rd constitutional amendment to be decided by state voters since 1970. Fourteen of the previous 22 amendments have been approved, while eight were rejected.

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State regulation of plumbers in Texas to expire in September

The Texas Board of Plumbing Examiners will disband and the state’s plumbing regulations will cease to exist after the state legislature declined to approve sunset review legislation before it adjourned last Sunday. The state plumbing code will expire on September 1, 2019, and the state agency that enforced it will wind down operations by September 2020.

Sunset review legislation—a type of legislation that establishes a date on which an agency or law will expire without specific legislative action—was proposed to move the responsibilities of the plumbing board under the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation. Lawmakers who supported the bill stated that the move would improve efficiency, such as reducing the state’s eight-month processing period for issuing a plumbing license. Opponents stated that the lengthy licensing period and other alleged inefficiencies served to protect public health and safety in a specialized industry. A proposal to maintain existing plumbing regulations and delay the sunset review process to the next legislative session—which in Texas is not until 2021—was not voted upon.

The Texas Tribune reported that some plumbers have asked Governor Greg Abbott (R) to call a special legislative session to address plumbing oversight. While Abbott has not specifically commented about plumbing regulations, on Monday he tweeted his thanks to state legislators for their efforts during the session which included the phrase, “NO SPECIAL SESSION.”

In the 2017 session, the legislature did not pass reauthorizations for five government agencies, including the Texas Medical Board. Abbott called a special session where the legislature passed the reauthorizations and also considered additional legislation proposed by the governor. The additional bills were related to bathroom usage, property taxes, school finance, and mail-in ballot fraud.

In the absence of a state plumbing code, oversight of plumbers will occur at the local level through municipal plumbing regulations and ordinances.

To stay up to date on actions at the federal and state level related to rulemaking, the separation of powers, and due process, subscribe to our free monthly Checks and Balances newsletter.
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Booker, Buttigieg, and Gillibrand call for impeachment proceedings for the first time

May 30, 2019: The 2020 Democratic candidates respond to Robert Mueller’s statement. Beto O’Rourke released his immigration platform.

Here’s the latest from the campaign trail.

Poll Spotlight

Notable Quotes of the Day

“For the [Democratic primary] debates to be meaningful, they have to winnow down the participants. This is the uncomfortable reality both the DNC and the candidates have to face.”

–  Patti Solis Doyle, 2008 Clinton presidential campaign manager


“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to look at that criteria and know who’s going to get kicked out. It’s easy to see that the debates in the fall are going to be a bunch of white men and, if that’s the case, that’s a big misstep.”

– Jess Morales Rocketto, 2016 Clinton presidential campaign adviser


  • Following special counsel Robert Mueller’s statement about his investigation into potential foreign intervention in the 2016 presidential campaign and obstruction of justice, Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, and Kirsten Gillibrand said for the first time that impeachment proceedings should begin against Donald Trump.
  • Eric Swalwell said he was “preparing for impeachment” as a member of the House Judiciary Committee. “I’m the only candidate that has to try the case, so I want to make sure that I’m doing all I can as we go down this road,” Swalwell added.
  • Neither Joe Biden nor Bernie Sanders called for impeachment. Sanders said he would support the House Judiciary Committee if it initiated proceedings.
  • Michael Bennet joined four other presidential candidates in supporting the call for a Democratic primary debate dedicated to the issue of climate change.
  • Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings (D) endorsed Biden. Dallas is the ninth largest city in the country.
  • During an interview on The Gaggle podcast, Julián Castro discussed how his economic and immigration policies would affect Arizona.
  • The Center for Responsive Politics examined personal finance information from the 12 Democratic presidential candidates who have filed financial disclosures with the Office of Government Ethics. John Delaney had the highest net worth with an estimated $56 million to $280 million.
  • During a town hall in Greenville, South Carolina, Kamala Harris discussed increasing teacher pay, addressing gun violence, and the Mueller’s statement.
  • John Hickenlooper proposed increasing Title X funding by $700 million to expand access to long-acting reversible contraception like intrauterine devices.
  • Jay Inslee met with Washington state employees Wednesday to discuss ways to improve the safety, efficacy, and accountability of the workforce.
  • Amy Klobuchar will campaign in Nevada Thursday, including a meeting with the Nevada Democratic Veterans and Military Families Caucus.
  • Wayne Messam discussed his efforts to improve infrastructure in Miramar in Mass Transit Magazine.
  • Beto O’Rourke released his immigration platform proposal, including ending plans for a border wall, creating a pathway to citizenship for 11 million individuals residing in the United States without legal permission, and expanding naturalization and visa processes.
  • Sanders is campaigning in Nevada until Friday and California over the weekend. According to The Washington Post, Sanders is also developing a plan to mandate large businesses give a portion of their stocks to a fund paying out dividends for employees.
  • Elizabeth Warren will hold a town hall in Oakland, California, Friday.
  • Marianne Williamson will campaign in Santa Monica, California, Friday.
  • VICE News interviewed Andrew Yang during a campaign stop in South Carolina.


  • Donald Trump responded to Mueller’s press conference, tweeting, “Nothing changes from the Mueller Report. There was insufficient evidence and therefore, in our Country, a person is innocent. The case is closed! Thank you.”
  • Axios reported that the Trump campaign was developing digital micro-targeting operations for three demographic groups: black, Hispanic, and suburban women voters. The potential messaging would be criminal justice policy, school choice, and funding childhood cancer research for each respective group.


What We’re Reading

Flashback: May 30, 2015

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley announced he was running for president, joining Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Democratic primary.