On the first day of the 2019 legislative session, the New York State Legislature approved a seven-bill legislative package to change election policies.
The legislative package included two constitutional amendments. In New York, constitutional amendments require a simple majority vote of two successive state legislatures. The current 203rd New York State Legislature (2019-2020) passed the constitutional amendments, and the next 204th State Legislature (2021-2022) needs to approve them again to refer them to the ballot for voter consideration in 2021 or 2022.
Together, the constitutional amendments would authorize the legislature to pass statutes for no-excuse absentee voting and same-day voter registration. The governor’s signature is not required for amendments.
The five statutory bills would enact the following changes:
create a voter pre-registration process for 16- and 17-year olds,
require the state Board of Elections to transfer a voter’s registration to wherever the voter moves within New York State,
restrict campaign contributions from LLCs to $5,000 and require ownership of the LLC to be disclosed in campaign finance reports,
combine the federal non-presidential primary and state primary elections to a single date in June, and
establish a nine-day early-voting period, including two weekends, before general, primary, and special elections.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), following the votes, tweeted that he would “sign these reforms into law…”
The legislative package comes after Democrats gained trifecta control of the state government at the 2018 general election. Except for a period of Democratic control in 2009 and 2010, New York had a divided government since 1975. Before the election on November 6, 2018, Democrats controlled the state Assembly, but not the state Senate due to a coalition between Republicans and the Independent Democratic Conference. In 2018, Democrats won 40 seats in the 63-seat Senate.
The Alaska House did not have a 21-member majority to organize the chamber when the 2019 legislative session began Tuesday. Republicans won 23 of 40 seats in the 2018 elections, but four members—David Eastman (R), Gary Knopp (R), Gabrielle LeDoux (R), and Louise Stutes (R)—did not agree to caucus with the GOP, leaving the chamber without official leadership or the ability to conduct legislative business.
Eastman said he would likely join Republicans but may want a more conservative leader than current caucus leader David Talerico (R). Knopp left the Republican caucus in mid-December, saying that a 21-member House majority would be unstable and that he wanted to form a larger bipartisan group to run the House. LeDoux and Stutes caucused with a Democratic-led majority coalition from 2017 to 2018 and have expressed their desire to join another bipartisan coalition in 2019.
Without a majority in the chamber, Lieutenant Gov. Kevin Meyer (R) presided over the chamber and swore-in legislators (one of his few formal powers as a member of the executive branch). He was only able to swear-in 39 of the 40 legislators because Democrat Chris Tuck raised a point of order over Sharon Jackson (R) joining the House. Jackson was appointed to her seat by Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) in December to replace Rep.-elect Nancy Dahlstrom (R). Dunleavy appointed Dahlstrom as commissioner of the Department of Corrections earlier in the month. Tuck argued in his point of order that, as a member of the executive branch, Meyer is not permitted by the state constitution to receive the governor’s appointment notice.
Because no party controls the House, Alaska’s trifecta status is unknown. If Republicans organize a majority, the state will become a Republican trifecta. Otherwise, it will remain under divided government. There are currently 22 Republican trifectas, 14 Democratic trifectas, and 13 states under divided government.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) appointed Robert J. Luck as an associate justice of the Florida Supreme Court. DeSantis announced the appointment on Monday, January 14, effective immediately. Luck is DeSantis’ second supreme court appointee to the seven-member court, after the governor appointed Barbara Lagoa on January 9.
DeSantis entered office with three state supreme court seats to fill, as Justices Barbara Pariente, Fred Lewis, and Peggy Quince all retired after reaching the mandatory retirement age. Pariente and Lewis were appointed by Gov. Lawton Chiles (D) in 1997 and 1998, respectively. Quince’s appointment was a joint decision between Chiles and incoming Gov. Jeb Bush (R) in December 1998.
DeSantis’ appointments stand to impact the partisan balance of the court, which previously consisted of a three Chiles (D) appointees, three appointees from Gov. Charlie Crist, who was elected as a Republican but later switched to the Democratic Party, and one appointee from Gov. Rick Scott (R). The court’s six current members were all appointed by Republican governors.
Justice Luck served as a judge on the Florida Third District Court of Appeal from 2017 to 2019. Gov. Rick Scott (R) previously appointed Luck to the appellate court in February 2017. He was previously a judge on the 11th Circuit Court of Florida from 2013 to 2017, having been appointed to the court by Gov. Scott on June 26, 2013.
Prior to his judicial career, Luck was an assistant United States attorney for the Southern District of Florida, a legislative correspondent for two U.S. senators, and a law clerk and staff attorney to Judge Ed Carnes of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. Luck also worked for Greenberg Traurig as part of the appellate section from 2005 to 2006.
Luck received his bachelor’s degree in economics, with highest honors, from the University of Florida. He obtained his J.D., magna cum laude, from the University of Florida College of Law. During his legal studies, Luck served as editor-in-chief of the Florida Law Review.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) issued an executive order on January 9, 2019, that renewed a moratorium on regulatory rulemaking by state agencies for 2019. The moratorium is aimed at facilitating innovation and job growth in the state while curbing state government expansion, according to the governor’s office. Ducey has renewed the moratorium each year since he first issued the executive order after assuming office in 2015.
“As Arizonans navigate the free market, the last thing they need is for government to get in the way,” said Ducey in a press release. “Reducing regulatory burdens on businesses in Arizona is essential to growth, and I want all of our current and aspiring entrepreneurs to know that Arizona will continue to encourage your success, not stand in your way.”
Ducey is following in the steps of his predecessor, former Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R), who issued an executive order prohibiting new state regulations in 2009 and renewed the moratorium each year through 2014. In 2017, Ducey also launched a website that allows Arizona residents to provide input on improving or eliminating state regulations.
The Arizona state government eliminated or repealed 422 regulations in 2018 and 676 regulations in 2017. The 1,098 repealed regulations over the two-year period resulted in $79 million in cost savings for Arizona businesses, according to the governor’s office.
On January 8, 2019, Ron DeSantis (R) was sworn in as Florida’s 46th governor. DeSantis succeeds Rick Scott (R), who was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2018, as governor. His lieutenant governor is Jeanette Nunez (R).
DeSantis is a former United States Representative from Florida. He defeated Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum (D) in the gubernatorial election, which Ballotpedia designated as a 2018 battleground election.
Prior to the 2018 election, Florida was a Republican trifecta, and the state retained that status following the election. A state government trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and both state legislative chambers.
Colorado state legislators were sworn in on January 4, 2019, and for the first time since 2012, Democrats gained control of the state Senate. Since Democrats also maintained control of the state House and the governorship, the outcome of the 2018 election made Colorado into a Democratic trifecta. A state government trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and both state legislative chambers.
Seventeen of the Colorado Senate seats were up for election in 2018. Going into the election, Republicans held 18 seats, Democrats held 16, and one seat was held by an independent. Ballotpedia identified six battleground races where the incumbent had last won with less than 55 percent of the vote in 2014. These battleground races took place in Districts 5, 11, 16, 20, 22, and 24. Prior to the election, three of these battleground seats were held by Democrats (one of whom was term-limited in 2018), two by Republicans, and one by an independent (who was also term-limited in 2018). Democrats won all six of the battleground races and shifted the chamber’s partisan balance to 19 Democrats and 16 Republicans.
In addition to Colorado, five other states also became Democratic trifectas as a result of the 2018 elections: Illinois, Maine, Nevada, New Mexico, and New York.
On January 11, the filing deadline passed to run in the special primary on February 23 to fill vacancies in seven Louisiana House of Representatives districts: 12, 17, 18, 26, 27, 47, and 62. Louisiana’s filing deadline was the sixth special election filing deadline covered by Ballotpedia this year. If no candidate receives at least 50 percent of the vote in the primary, a general election will be held on March 30 between the top two vote recipients.
The special elections were triggered after three Democrats and four Republicans resigned from their seats to either take another job or serve in another elected position. Heading into 2019, the Louisiana House is controlled by the Republican Party, with 59 Republican members, 36 Democratic members, three independent members, and seven vacancies.
All 105 seats in the Louisiana House of Representatives are up for election in 2019. The primary is on October 12 and the general election will be held on November 16, if necessary. The regular candidate filing deadline is August 8, 2019.
A special election for Texas House of Representatives District 125 has been called for February 12, 2019. Candidates wishing to run in this election are required to file by January 14, 2019. Justin Rodriguez (D) vacated the seat after he was appointed in January 2019 to serve as the Precinct 2 representative on the Bexar County Commissioners Court. Rodriguez held the seat from 2013 to 2019.
Three special elections have already been called to fill vacancies in the Texas House of Representatives in 2019, and all three seats were previously held by Democratic representatives. By comparison, five special elections for the Texas State Legislature were called in 2018, three to replace Republican legislators and two to replace Democratic legislators. Texas did not hold any state legislative special elections in 2017.
As of January, 24 state legislative special elections have been scheduled or held in 12 states for 13 Democratic seats and 11 Republican seats. Between 2011 and 2018, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.
Following the November 2018 election, the Texas House of Representatives had 67 Democrats and 83 Republicans. A majority in the chamber requires 76 seats. Texas has a Republican trifecta. A state government trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and both state legislative chambers.
A special election has been called for the District 37 seat of the Pennsylvania State Senate on April 2, 2019. This is the third special state legislative election scheduled in Pennsylvania this year; Pennsylvania House Districts 114 and 190 are up for election on March 12.
District 37 was left vacant after its previous officeholder, Guy Reschenthaler (R), was elected to represent Pennsylvania’s 14th Congressional District in the U.S. House on November 6, 2018.
Candidates running for special elections in Pennsylvania are selected by their respective political parties. Independent candidates can file a petition with the state to run in a special election. The deadline for party nominations and independent petition filing is February 11, 2019.
The candidate filing deadline passed on January 8 for the special election in District 176 of the Georgia House of Representatives. Barbara Griffin (D), Barbara Seidman (D), James Burchett (R), and Franklin Patten (R) filed to run in the special election being held on February 12. If no candidate receives a majority of the vote, a runoff will be held between the top two candidates on March 12.
District 176 became vacant after Jason Shaw (R) was appointed to serve the remainder of H. Doug Everett’s term on the Georgia Public Service Commission, beginning January 1, 2019. Shaw was elected to District 176 in 2010, which was also the only year in which he faced general election opposition. He won in 2010 with 69 percent of the vote.
The Georgia House of Representatives currently has 64 Democrats, 112 Republicans, and four vacancies. Another special election is being held in District 5, which has gone to a runoff scheduled for February 5. Georgia has a Republican trifecta. A state government trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and both state legislative chambers.
In 2019, 21 state legislative special elections have been scheduled or held in 11 states. Between 2011 and 2018, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.