The Daily Brew: So, how close were congressional elections in 2018?

The Daily Brew
Welcome to the Tuesday, June 11, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Five Senate and 44 House races in 2018 were decided by less than 5 percent
  2. Voters to decide at least 19 statewide ballot measures in five states this year
  3. Johnson elected Dallas mayor; Mayor Nirenberg wins re-election in San Antonio

Five Senate and 44 House races in 2018 were decided by less than 5 percent

Last year’s elections were held seven months ago. But we all know it is fun to look back and crunch the numbers every now and then. Today, we explore the margin-of-victory figures.

The average margin of victory in the 2018 elections was the smallest it had been in even-year congressional races since 2012.

Margin of victory—or MOV—is the difference between the share of votes cast for the winning candidate and the share cast for the losing one.

The table below shows the number of congressional elections won by each party in three categories—a margin of less than 5%, a margin between 5% and 15%, and a margin of greater than 15%.

Elections by margin of victory

Since it is June, the sixth month of the year, here are six more quick facts from our research:

  • Sixty-nine percent of 2018’s congressional races were decided by a margin of more than 15 percentage points.

  • In 2018’s 33 regularly-scheduled U.S. Senate elections, the average MOV was 16.8%. This was the smallest average since 2012 when that year’s Senate races averaged a 20% MOV.

  • Republican candidates who won Senate races had an average MOV of 14.3%, compared to an MOV of 16.8% in races won by Democratic candidates. Seventeen Senate races (more than half) were decided by a margin of victory greater than 15%.

  • The closest Senate race was in Florida, where then-Gov. Rick Scott (R) defeated incumbent Bill Nelson (D) by a margin of 0.12%—10,003 votes out of 8.2 million cast. The largest MOV was in Hawaii, where incumbent Mazie Hirono (D) won by 42.3%.

  • In 434 U.S. House elections, the average margin of victory was 30.2%. This was the smallest average since 2012 when the average MOV was 31.8%. Republican candidates who won did so by an average margin of 22.8%. The average margin in House races won by Democrats was 36.6%.

  • The closest House race was in Georgia’s 7th Congressional District where incumbent Rob Woodall (R) defeated Carolyn Bourdeaux (D) by 433 votes—a margin of 0.15%.

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Ballotpedia Events

Voters to decide at least 19 statewide ballot measures in five states this year

In the last few months, I’ve brought you stories about individual ballot initiatives that will be decided by voters in 2019. As we near the halfway point in the year, let’s take the temperature of where things stand so far.

19 statewide ballot measures have certified for the 2019 ballot in five states—Colorado (two), Kansas (one), Louisiana (four), Texas (10), and Washington (two). In Louisiana, the measures will appear on the October 12 primary election ballot. The other measures certified so far will be decided by voters on November 5.

Of the 19 measures, 18 were referred to the ballot by state legislatures and one was placed on the ballot via citizen initiative. That initiative, in Washington, seeks to limit annual license fees and taxes on motor vehicles.

Some of the topics which voters will address in these measures include transportation, taxes and tax exemptions, revenue allocation and budgets, the census, education, animal care, bonds, and the administration of government.

In the past four odd-numbered years, the average number of certified statewide measures by this date was between 16 and 17, and the average total number of statewide measures was 30. In 2017, 27 statewide measures were certified.

The Tuesday CountFour states—Colorado, Maine, Ohio, and Washington—allow for citizen-initiated ballot initiatives or veto referendums in elections in odd-numbered years. The next upcoming signature submission deadlines for citizen initiatives in those states are on July 3 (Ohio) and July 5 (Washington). Legislatively referred measures can also be approved in those four states in 2019. Other states that frequently feature statewide measures in odd-numbered years include Louisiana, New Jersey, New York, and Texas.

Johnson elected Dallas mayor; Mayor Nirenberg wins re-election in San Antonio

While much of the country was partaking in their usual weekend activities, voters in San Antonio and Dallas were electing new mayors. In case you missed it, here’s a quick rundown of who won the Saturday runoff elections.


State Rep. Eric Johnson defeated City Councilmember Scott Griggs in the runoff election for mayor of Dallas. Johnson received 56 percent of the vote to Griggs’ 44 percent.

Johnson was first elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 2010. Although municipal elections in Dallas are officially nonpartisan, Johnson and outgoing Mayor Mike Rawlings are Democrats.

Saturday’s elections also featured runoffs for four seats on the Dallas City Council, whose members are up for election every two years. Of the ten council incumbents who sought re-election in 2019, two were defeated.

San Antonio

Incumbent Ron Nirenberg defeated council member Greg Brockhouse to win a second two-year term as mayor of San Antonio. Nirenberg received 51.1% of the vote and Brockhouse received 48.9%. Nirenberg has said he is not affiliated with any political party.

The total number of votes cast in Saturday’s runoff was 120,723, a 19% increase over the 101,277 votes cast in the May 4 general election. There have been five mayoral runoff elections in San Antonio since 1997, and in all but one, the total votes cast in the runoff exceeded the number cast in the general election.

In San Antonio’s city council elections this year, which concluded with three runoffs on Saturday, all seven incumbents who ran for re-election won another term.

The Daily Brew: Primary day tomorrow in Virginia-margin of control in each chamber is one seat


The Daily Brew

Welcome to the Monday, June 10, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Virginia state legislative primaries take place Tuesday
  2. One of five Kansas school districts covered by Ballotpedia to hold primary elections
  3. Presidential candidates must qualify for first Democratic debate this week
  4. Upcoming events

Virginia state legislative primaries take place Tuesday

A busy period of elections ends Tuesday as Virginia holds legislative primaries for both the state Senate and the House of Delegates.

Virginia has been under divided government since 2002. Gov. Ralph Northam is a Democrat while Republicans hold majorities in both chambers of the state legislature. If Republicans retain control of the Senate or the state House, Virginia will remain under divided government. If Democrats win both chambers of the legislature, they will have a trifecta and full control of the government during redistricting.

Republicans hold a 21-19 majority in the state Senate and a 51-49 majority in the state House. Fifteen incumbents—nine Democrats and six Republicans—face primary challengers.

According to data from the state Department of Elections and local parties, there will be at least 16 primaries for state Senate seats and at least 19 primaries for seats in the state House. Virginia uses a unique primary system in that local parties can hold party caucuses or nominating conventions in place of primary elections to select their nominees. In a caucus or convention, party members or delegates meet and choose a nominee according to defined rules. Ballotpedia has determined that parties in at least 28 districts in Virginia are selecting their state legislative nominee via convention in 2019.

Ballotpedia has identified 12 primaries as battleground races this year—seven seats held by Democrats and five held by Republicans. There are six battleground primaries each in the Senate and House. In all but one race, the incumbent is seeking re-election. 20 incumbents faced at least one primary opponent In the four House of Delegate elections since 2011. Four incumbents lost – meaning 16 incumbents80%—won their primary. In the two state Senate elections since 2011, five incumbents faced at least primary challenger and four of those, or 80%, won the primary.

This election will take place using court-ordered state House district maps redrawn by a special master earlier this year, which changed the boundaries of 25 districts. Under the old maps, Hillary Clinton won 51 districts in 2016 while Donald Trump won 49. Under the new maps, Clinton would have won 56 districts (7 currently held by Republicans) while Trump would have won 44 (none currently held by Democrats).

Click here to learn more about Virginia’s Democratic primaries  

Click here to learn more about Virginia’s Republican primaries

One of five Kansas school districts covered by Ballotpedia to hold primary elections

Primary elections in four Kansas school districts covered by Ballotpedia were canceled because two candidates or less filed to run for election. Of the 17 seats up for election in those districts, the outcome in six has already been decided since only one candidate is running for each seat.

In the school districts we cover in Kansas, one primary election will take place on August 6 for an at-large seat on the Wichita Public Schools Board of Education. School board president Sheril Logan faces three challengers for the at-large seat she has held since 2011.

Of the 20 school district seats in Kansas we’re covering, 14 feature incumbents running for re-election. Four of them are unopposed. General elections will be held on November 5.

Ballotpedia covers the 200 largest school districts in the nation and those districts that overlap with the 100 largest cities by population in the United States. All of the Kansas school districts covered are in the area surrounding Wichita. These five Kansas school districts served a combined total of 71,240 students during the 2016-2017 school year.

From 2014 to 2016, Ballotpedia analyzed school board election statistics in America’s 1,000 largest school districts. We found that:

  • between 32 percent and 36 percent of elections were unopposed each year, and
  • incumbents who sought re-election won between 81 percent and 83 percent of the time.

Click the link below for more findings from that analysis.

Learn more

Presidential candidates must qualify for first Democratic debate this week

Democratic presidential candidates have until June 12 to qualify for the first set of presidential debates held on June 26-27 in Miami, Florida. This will be the first of 12 Democratic primary debates scheduled for the 2020 presidential election.

Thirteen candidates have already qualified under both criteria and seven others have met the polling threshold only. Four notable candidates have not yet announced whether they have met either criterion.

No more than 20 candidates—10 per night—will participate in these debates. The Democratic National Committee announced last month that the candidates will be divided into two groups—those above and those below a polling average of 2 percent. These two groups will be randomly and equally divided between both nights of the debate to avoid one debate being classified as an undercard event.

Candidates can qualify by receiving 1 percent support or more in three national or early state polls—Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and/or Nevada—publicly released since January 1, 2019. Any candidate’s three qualifying polls must be conducted by different organizations, or if by the same organization, must be in different geographical areas.

Candidates may also qualify for the debate by providing verifiable evidence that they received donations from at least 65,000 unique donors with a minimum of 200 donors per state in at least 20 states.

In the event that more than 20 candidates qualify, preference will be given to those who have reached both the polling and fundraising thresholds. The following chart shows which Democratic presidential candidates have qualified for the debate and by which method.

Click here to learn more about the first set of Democratic presidential debates—and the link below to subscribe to our free Daily Presidential News Briefing newsletter about the 2020 presidential campaign.

Subscribe to the Daily Presidential News Briefing

Upcoming events

This month Ballotpedia is hosting the following events. I’d love for you to join us!

June 20th: Join us for a discussion about fear in politics with Dr. Stevan Hobfoll as we discuss his new book Tribalism: The Evolutionary Origins of Fear Politics

Grab a spot→

June 26th: With the one year anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling in Janus, Ballotpedia is taking a deep dive into how the case has impacted unions across the United States.

Register here→

Nineteen Dems head to Iowa Sunday

June 7, 2019: Nineteen Democrats are headed to Iowa Sunday to speak at the Democrats Hall of Fame induction event. The Democratic National Committee clarified its polling criteria for the first two debates, moving Bullock from the qualified to unqualified category for now.

Here’s the latest from the campaign trail.

Each Friday, we’ll highlight a presidential candidate’s key campaign staffer.


Faiz Shakir is a long-time Democratic staffer who has worked with leadership figures including Nancy Pelosi (D) and Harry Reid (D).

Previous campaign work:

  • 2004 John Kerry presidential campaign, research team

Other experience:

  • 2017-2019: American Civil Liberties Union, political director
  • 2013-2017: Office of Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), senior advisor
  • 2012-2013: Office of Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), new media director and senior advisor
  • 2005-2012: Center for American Progress, vice president

What he says about Sanders:

“He pushes the Democratic Party. He pushes it to be better…He has no concerns about raising issues on trade where he thinks the party has not fought aggressively enough. He has fought on economic justice issues, trying to raise the fact that billionaires control a lot of pieces not only of the Democratic Party but of the Republican Party.”

Notable Quote of the Day

“Among Democrats 65 or older, only 13 percent wanted the candidate they agreed with if the candidate would have a hard time beating Trump. But among Democrats younger than 50, 42 percent were willing to take a chance on the less electable candidate.

The cause and effect is difficult to sort out. Maybe younger voters deemphasize electability because they’re more liberal and think the concept is being used to prop up more moderate, establishment friendly candidates like Biden.

But it’s at least possible that some of the causality runs the other way: Younger voters are more liberal because their lived experience gives them less reason to think there’s an electoral penalty for liberalism.”

– Nate Silver, FiveThirtyEight founder


  • Michael Bennet hired Brian Peters to run his Iowa state campaign. Peters has worked on campaigns in Indiana, Michigan, and Arkansas.
  • Reversing course from earlier this week, Joe Biden said he no longer supports the Hyde Amendment Thursday night, citing women’s decreased access to abortion.
  • Bill de Blasio will campaign in Iowa over the weekend, including stops in Hiawatha, Ames, and Waterloo.
  • Cory Booker will campaign in Iowa over the weekend, marking his fifth trip to the state. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy will also travel to the state June 11 to campaign for Booker.
  • The Democratic National Committee announced Thursday that candidates could not use two ABC News/Washington Post polls with an open-ended question to qualify for the debate. Without that poll, Steve Bullock now has only two of three necessary polls to qualify for the debate.
  • Pete Buttigieg, Beto O’Rourke, Tim Ryan, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Andrew Yang, and thirteen other Democratic candidates will make brief pitches at the Democrats Hall of Fame induction event in Iowa Sunday.
  • Julián Castro will visit Flint, Michigan, on Saturday. He previously visited the city while serving as the secretary of housing and urban development in 2016.
  • In an op-ed in The Washington Post, John Delaney called Medicare for All “political suicide for Democrats.”
  • Tulsi Gabbard is campaigning in New York over the weekend.
  • Kirsten Gillibrand tweeted that she was 5,000 donors away from crossing the fundraising threshold to secure her spot on the debate stage later this month. She has already met the polling requirements.
  • New Orleans City Council President Helena Moreno and state Rep. Ted James will serve as co-chairs of Kamala HarrisLouisiana state campaign.
  • John Hickenlooper spoke against socialism in an interview on The Michael Smerconish Program.
  • Jay Inslee will join Iowa state Sen. Rob Hogg for a conversation on climate change Saturday.
  • Amy Klobuchar will campaign in Iowa Sunday and New Hampshire Monday.
  • Wayne Messam said FEC rules on leftover campaign funds favored members of Congress over local officials. “It shows how the system because it’s actually stacked to favor Washingtonians who have federal laws and the ability to transfer their other congressional accounts to a presidential campaign,” he said.
  • Eric Swalwell will campaign in New Hampshire Saturday, including a New Hampshire Senate Democratic Caucus “End of Session Reception” and meet and greets.
  • Marianne Williamson moved to Des Moines, Iowa. “It’s been about showing her commitment to the Iowa caucuses,” her state director, Brent Roske said. “The Iowa caucuses are one of the last bastions of personal democracy. She agrees with that. We want to support the caucuses.”


  • The pro-Donald Trump Great America PAC and the Committee to Defend the President PAC announced they are working together to register one million new voters. The first phase of the project will target an initial spend of more than $1 million, both nationally and in the key battleground states of Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania. The second phase of the project will expand to Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, and New Hampshire, including national bus tours,” they said in a statement.

What We’re Reading

Flashback: June 7, 2015

Rick Santorum argued against Fox News limiting the number of spots in its August 2015 debate to the 10 top-polling candidates. He said in an interview, “Is that what campaigns should be about, measuring whether we meet some criteria in a debate?”

DNC declines to hold climate change debate

June 6, 2019: The Democratic National Committee announced it will not hold a climate change debate. Jay Inslee released another climate change proposal, this one focused on global leadership.

Here’s the latest from the campaign trail.

Poll Spotlight

Notable Quote of the Day

“That’s why [the Democratic] field is likely to be much smaller by Halloween or Thanksgiving: Once a candidate misses qualifying for a debate or two, they are ignored and their candidacies just wither and die on the vine. This is a cold and cruel process; there are going to be very bright and talented people, some of them arguably highly qualified to be president, who simply aren’t going to get more than a passing glance by Democratic voters. As President Kennedy once said, ‘Life is unfair.’”

– Charlie Cook, political analyst


  • The Democratic National Committee announced that it would not hold a primary debate dedicated exclusively to climate change. “While climate change is at the top of our list, the DNC will not be holding entire debates on a single issue area because we want to make sure voters have the ability to hear from candidates on dozens of issues of importance to American voters,” the group said in a statement.
  • In an interview on PBS NewsHour, Michael Bennet said that Biden did not represent the future of the party and that Americans in the middle of the country did not understand the party’s principles. “I don’t think the base of the Democratic Party is anywhere near where the Twitter base of the Democratic Party is,” he said.
  • The Joe Biden campaign said the former vice president supports the Hyde Amendment, which restricts federal funding of abortions.
  • Cory Booker and Pete Buttigieg are speaking at the African-American Leadership Council Summit in Atlanta Thursday. Biden and Beto O’Rourke are also attending a party fundraiser in Georgia. During the trip, Buttigieg and O’Rourke are scheduled to meet with Stacey Abrams.
  • In an interview on MSNBC, Steve Bullock said that he would require political non-profits and super PACs to certify that no foreign contributions will be used in U.S. elections.
  • In a Fox News interview, John Delaney discussed his conflict with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez over Medicare for All. “Intolerance to different ideas is part of the problem. And that is something I think that is getting very dangerous and concerning in the Democratic Party right now,” he said.
  • Kirsten Gillibrand called for the decriminalization of marijuana use and taxation of nonprescription marijuana products. These funds would be used to offer small business programs and job training in communities disproportionately affected by marijuana laws.
  • The New York Times profiled Mike Gravel’s Twitter-driven presidential run. Campaign manager Henry Williams said, “Trump was the first postmodern politician. I like to think Gravel is the second.”
  • Kamala Harris will expand her Iowa campaign, pledging to increase the staff count to 65 staffers. Her campaign is also developing a program called “Kamala Captains” for precinct-level leaders.
  • Jay Inslee released a proposal for how he says the United States can lead on global climate change issues. He called for rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement, raising the ceiling for refugee admissions, adjusting trade policies to support carbon-free outcomes, and prohibiting the financing of fossil fuel projects.
  • Amy Klobuchar will campaign in Duluth, touring redeveloped waterfront communities in the Minnesota Slip.
  • Seth Moulton said he would seek to retroactively upgrade dishonorable discharges to honorable for people dismissed on the basis of their sexual orientation.
  • Tim Ryan announced Peter Mellinger would act as his New Hampshire state director. Mellinger was Hillary Clinton’s organizing director in the state in 2016.
  • Bernie Sanders is on the cover of the latest TIME Magazine with a piece on his second presidential bid.
  • Elizabeth Warren’s staff became the fourth presidential campaign to unionize. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 2320 will represent the campaign workers.
  • During a town hall on MSNBC Wednesday night, Warren discussed the Hyde Amendment and impeachment.
  • Andrew Yang will appear on Real Time with Bill Maher Friday.


  • Reuters reported on Republican efforts to boost Donald Trump’s re-election campaign in Ohio, including developing a central database for voter information collected by volunteers.
  • Bill Weld said he supported impeachment proceedings against Trump. “I won’t say past time. But it’s time for the House Judiciary Committee, not the whole House to launch an inquiry, not take a vote but an inquiry into impeachment of this president,” Weld said.

What We’re Reading

Flashback: June 6, 2015

Seven Republicans spoke at the inaugural Roast and Ride in Iowa, an event hosted by Sen. Joni Ernst. Scott Walker joined Ernst in riding a motorcycle at the event.

The Daily Brew: Your donation to Ballotpedia today will be matched!

Welcome to the Friday, June 7, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. There’s a special reason to contribute on the final day of our membership drive
  2. Louisiana to decide abortion-related constitutional amendment in 2020
  3. Dallas, San Antonio mayoral runoffs headline Saturday Texas elections

There’s a special reason to become a Ballotpedia supporter today!

Today is the last day of the Ballotpedia Society membership drive! We sincerely appreciate everyone who has already signed up to support Ballotpedia with a monthly membership.

If you haven’t joined yet, there is still time. In fact, today is a really great day to join because a very generous donor will be matching annual pledges today!

Our matching donor will give Ballotpedia a one time gift equal to your monthly contribution…times 12! So if you make a $20 monthly gift, our donor will multiply it by 12 and match it.

Your monthly gift will support everything we dofrom providing the Daily Brew you’re reading right now, to researching and writing the next pages in our ever-expanding encyclopedia of American politics.

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Louisiana to decide abortion-related constitutional amendment in 2020

The Louisiana legislature approved a bill last month designed to ban abortion when a fetal heartbeat is present, except in certain medical emergencies. The measure had bipartisan support, as seven Democrats joined all 24 Republicans to pass the bill in the state Senate and 17 Democrats and 59 Republicans voted in favor in the state House. It was signed into law by the state’s Democratic governor, John Bel Edwards.

Next year, voters will decide a state constitutional amendment stating “To protect human life, nothing in this constitution shall be construed to secure or protect a right to abortion or require the funding of abortion.”

The state Senate approved the amendment 33-5. All 25 Senate Republicans and eight Senate Democrats voting in favor of the amendment. Five Democrats voting against it. The state House approved the measure 78-21 with 59 Republicans, 16 Democrats, and three Independents voting in favor and 20 Democrats and one Independent opposed. A two-thirds vote is required in both chambers to refer a constitutional amendment to the ballot.

According to the Louisiana Pro-Life Amendment Coalition, which is campaigning in support of the ballot measure, the constitutional amendment would preclude a state court from ruling that the Louisiana Constitution provides a right to abortion.

Alabama and West Virginia voters approved ballot measures in 2018 declaring their state constitutions did not secure or protect a right to abortion. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) signed a bill into law May 15 prohibiting all abortions in the state except those necessary to prevent a serious health risk to the woman. A West Virginia law in existence since 1882 that includes jail time for performing or receiving an abortion has been ruled unconstitutional by a federal court.

Learn more

Dallas, San Antonio mayoral runoffs headline June 8 Texas elections

We’re in a busy election period, with statewide elections in New Jersey on June 4 and Virginia’s state legislative primaries June 11. And as a bonus, there are even more elections across Texas on Saturday.

Two cities that are among the 10 largest in the country—Dallas and San Antonio—are holding runoff elections for mayor. Dallas’ runoff is an open-seat race while San Antonio’s incumbent mayor is seeking re-election.

In Dallas, the race is between state Rep. Eric Johnson and city councilmember Scott Griggs, who were the top two finishers among nine candidates in the May 4 general election. Johnson won 20.3% of the vote and Griggs 18.5%. Johnson has served in the state House since 2010 and Griggs was first elected to the Dallas City Council in 2011.

San Antonio’s mayoral runoff election features incumbent Ron Nirenberg and City Councilmember Greg Brockhouse. Nirenberg—who defeated incumbent Mayor Ivy Taylor in 2017—finished first in the May 4 general election with 48.7% of the vote. Brockhouse—who was first elected to the city council in 2017—finished second in the general with 45.5%.

We’re also covering runoff elections in Texas on June 8 for one seat on the Arlington City Council, two seats on the Plano City Council, and one seat on the Dallas Independent School District Board of Trustees.

Click here for more information on Dallas’ mayoral race    

Click here for more information on San Antonio’s mayoral race

The Daily Brew: How district maps shape the way governments run elections

Welcome to the Thursday, June 6, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. How data technology is used in voting
  2. Denver mayor wins re-election in Tuesday’s runoff
  3. Quiz: Which state constitution has been amended more than 800 times?

How data technology is used in voting

Have you ever wondered how your local elections precinct knows which ballot to give you on election day? I never knew the technology behind it until I started working at Ballotpedia.

Earlier this year, Virginia adopted legislation that requires municipal clerks to transmit Geographic Information System (GIS) maps to local election boards and the state when they alter local electoral districts or precincts. GIS is a way of capturing, managing, and storing spatial or geographic data. It’s currently used in everything from mapping to scientific analysis to navigation.

At Ballotpedia, we’re gathering GIS information nationwide to improve our sample ballot tool. I spoke with Margaret Koenig, one of our database specialists, about this measure and how she thinks it will affect this information’s availability.

“This type of legislation is a step forward for increased education and analysis around local politics. It is an opportunity for increased precision in local election practices as well as for observers like Ballotpedia to provide highly specific and accurate voter information. My hope is that Virginia and other states will see the value in making this information readily and freely available online for the good of all citizens. It will be fascinating to watch their process and standards for this work develop.”

When voters use our sample ballot tool, we want them to see the most precise and accurate information as possible. We’re committed to placing each address correctly inside their respective districts using GIS data so we can offer a comprehensive sample ballot for everyone in the country.

Including that Virginia legislation, Ballotpedia has tracked 352 state-level bills regarding redistricting and electoral systems policy in state legislatures this year. Twenty-eight of these measures have become law. Here are some other highlights:

  • The Mississippi legislature revised the boundaries of two state Senate districts after a federal court ruled that one of them constituted an illegal racial gerrymander.
  • Colorado, Delaware, and New Mexico all enacted legislation entering their respective states into the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC). As I’ve discussed previously, the NPVIC is an interstate agreement to award each member state’s presidential electors to the winner of the national popular vote.
  • Utah amended provisions of a pilot project that allows municipalities to conduct municipal elections using ranked-choice voting.

Learn more about stories like this in our Ballot Bulletin, our free newsletter which tracks developments in election policy. Our June issue just came out yesterday.

June’s issue of Ballot Bulletin also discusses the status of the Michigan and Ohio redistricting cases at the Supreme Court in addition to redistricting legislation in Nevada and Washington that adjusts the census data in those states to reflect where prison inmates are counted.

Click here to read this month’s edition.

Denver mayor wins re-election in Tuesday’s runoff

Yesterday’s Brew included the results from New Jersey’s primary elections for the state Assembly. Here are results from other Tuesday elections in Colorado and California that were decided later that evening:


Denver Mayor Michael Hancock defeated development consultant Jamie Giellis to win a third and final term (Denver mayors face term limits of three terms). Giellis and Hancock were the top two finishers among a six-candidate field in the May 7 general election. Hancock received 55.8% of the vote to Giellis’ 44.2%.

Hancock was first elected in 2011 after having served seven years on the city council. A prominent issue during the campaign was the city’s response to population growth and development. Although the election was officially nonpartisan, both Hancock and Giellis are members of the Democratic Party.

Denver voters also approved Initiated Ordinance 302, which prohibits the city and county from using public funds in connection with future Olympic Games unless a majority of voters approve such funds. The measure was proposed during the city’s ultimately unsuccessful bid to host the 2030 Winter Olympic Games. Unofficial results show the initiative was approved by 79 percent of city voters.

Los Angeles

Los Angeles Unified School District voters defeated Measure EE, which would have enacted an annual 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. According to election night results, 54% of voters were against the measure and 46% were in favor. It required a two-thirds supermajority vote to pass.

In 2019, local California voters have approved ten parcel tax measures and defeated three. Since 1983, there have been 708 local parcel tax measures on ballots in California—425 (60%) were approved, and 283 (40%) were defeated.

In another Los Angeles race, John Lee and Loraine Lundquist advanced from a 15-candidate field in the special primary election to fill a vacancy on the Los Angeles City Council. Lee and Lundquist will oppose each other in the general election August 13. Lee was endorsed by a PAC sponsored by the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce. Lundquist was endorsed by The Los Angeles Times and the Green Party of Los Angeles County.

Learn more

Quiz: Which state constitution has been amended more than 800 times?

In a story from earlier this week, I noted that one particular state constitution had been amended more than 800 times. This state’s constitution is considered the longest constitution in the world.

Name that state:

  1. Alabama
  2. Arizona
  3. Arkansas
  4. California

Warren releases climate change platform

June 5, 2019: Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, and Beto O’Rourke made major policy proposals on climate change, housing, and voting access, respectively.

Here’s the latest from the campaign trail.

Notable Quote of the Day

“Of course, past Democratic presidential primaries are littered with failed candidates who appealed to liberal elites — Paul Tsongas in 1992, Bill Bradley in 2000 and Howard Dean in 2004. Swiss cheese-eating John Kerry managed to clinch the nomination in 2004, only to fall to regular guy George W. Bush in the general.

But in a crowded primary, winning the well-educated lane would be no minor feat. Indeed, behind the enthusiastic wonkery of Warren and Buttigieg is a clear-eyed political calculation. Highly educated voters tend to be more politically active and more likely to donate money to candidates. They also turn out to vote at higher rates than other constituencies.”

– Daniel Strauss, Politico politics reporter


  • Thirteen Democratic candidates submitted video messages to the American Jewish Committee’s 2019 Global Forum on issues ranging from anti-Semitism to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
  • Atlantic Monthly Press released Michael Bennet’s The Land of Flickering Lights: Restoring America in an Age of Broken Politics Tuesday. Bennet tweeted, “This isn’t a memoir. I couldn’t bear to read such a thing, much less expect you to. It’s my diagnosis of what’s broken in Washington and how we can come together to fix it.”
  • Joe Biden’s national finance committee has four tiers for bundlers raising $25,000, $50,000, $100,000, or a monthly target of $100 from 10 unique contributors each month.
  • The New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council endorsed Bill de Blasio Wednesday and will send members to campaign for him in New Hampshire, Iowa, South Carolina, and Nevada.
  • Cory Booker released his housing platform Wednesday, which would include a tax credit for renters filling the gap between 30 percent of the renter’s income and fair-market rent in their neighborhood.
  • Steve Bullock wrote an op-ed in The Des Moines Register about his opposition to Citizens United.
  • During a panel discussion in South Bend, Indiana, about access to capital, Pete Buttigieg said the local use of community development financial institutions could be one example of reparations.
  • In an interview on The Michael Smerconish Program, John Delaney discussed the negative reception he received at the California Democratic Party Convention when he said universal healthcare should include an option for private health insurance.
  • Kirsten Gillibrand is participating in a discussion at The Wing SoHo in New York City with Gloria Steinem.
  • Mike Gravel tweeted about Islamophobia and Israel: “We need a foreign policy that sees Jews and Muslims as equal citizens in Israel, and is willing to find a path to peace without condoning land grabs by Netanyahu. We need to stop funding the slaughter of Muslims in Yemen. And we need to end FBI domestic surveillance of Muslims.”
  • Kamala Harris will campaign in Alabama and South Carolina over the weekend with a stop in Birmingham Friday.
  • Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called Jay Inslee’s climate platform the “gold standard climate plan that we have right now.” She has not yet endorsed any presidential candidate.
  • Amy Klobuchar said that former special counsel Robert Mueller should testify in a House committing hearing.
  • Wayne Messam appeared in a radio segment on Miami’s 99Jamz.
  • Seth Moulton posted a series of 27 tweets on racism in the United States, mentioning Trump in a third of them.
  • Beto O’Rourke released his voting access platform, calling for automatic and same-day registration, expanded early voting, and making Election Day national holiday. The plan would also limit Supreme Court justices tenure on that court to 18 years.
  • Bernie Sanders will speak at the Walmart annual shareholders meeting in Arkansas and propose a minimum wage of $15/hour for the company.
  • In an interview on The View, Eric Swalwell discussed gun violence in schools and his plan to “ban and buy back every single assault weapon in America.”
  • During a town hall in Detroit, Elizabeth Warren announced her $2 trillion plan to create a clean energy economy. She would spend $1.5 trillion over a decade to develop and spread clean energy technology, create a National Institute of Clean Energy, and market clean energy products to other countries.
  • Marianne Williamson joined marchers protesting immigration policies in Manchester, New Hampshire.


  • The Trump administration ended cruise travel to Cuba, banning both cruise ships and educational travel programs.

What We’re Reading

Flashback: June 5, 2015

The Washington Post reported that Ben Carson’s campaign chairman, national finance chairman, deputy campaign manager, and general counsel had resigned.

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.