CategoryState

One-vote victory margin challenged in Mississippi State Senate primary

On August 6, Mississippi held its statewide primary. In the Republican primary for the District 50 seat in the state Senate, candidate Scott DeLano’s vote totals initially led his opponent’s, Dixie Newman. After the affidavit ballots were counted, Newman took the lead with one vote. The totals were then certified and the primary was called in favor of Newman, but DeLano contested the results. Following a recount, the results were upheld with the one-vote margin intact.
 
On August 26, DeLano filed a petition with the Republican County Executive Committee of Harrison County, Mississippi, officially contesting the certified race results. He cited his concern that not all votes cast in the district were counted. DeLano stated his intention to take his case to the circuit court if the committee did not rule on the matter.
 
After the recount’s results were announced, Newman wrote on her campaign’s Facebook page, “We have now completed the recount of votes and this process has proven there was no tampering with the election and the numbers still have me in the lead. Thank you to our Circuit Clerk, Connie Ladner and her office for conducting a seamless and thorough process. Now, we can all rest assured.”
 
In District 50, incumbent Tommy Gollott (R) did not file for re-election and retired before the end of his term on July 1, 2019. The filing deadline for candidates passed on March 1, 2019, and the general election for this race was canceled since no Democratic candidates filed to run for the seat. The winner of the Republican primary will automatically win the District 50 seat.
 
Entering the election, the Mississippi State Senate had 18 Democrats, 31 Republicans, and three vacancies. All 52 seats are up for election. A majority in the chamber requires 27 seats. Mississippi has had a Republican trifecta since the beginning of the 2012 legislative session. A state government trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and both state legislative chambers.
 
Mississippi is also holding elections for governor and all 122 state House seats in 2019. The general election date is November 5.
 


California Assembly passes constitutional amendments to lower the voting age

Since returning from recess on August 12, the state legislature’s lower house has passed two constitutional amendments designed to reduce the voting age. ACA 4 would allow 17-year-olds who will be 18 at the time of the next general election to vote in that year’s primaries and special elections. As of August 2019, 16 states allow 17-year-olds who will be at at the time of the next general election to vote in that year’s primaries. Unlike ACA 4, the second constitutional amendment would make California the first state in the nation to not just lower the voting age for primaries but for general elections. ACA 8 would allow 17-year-olds to vote in elections. ACA 4 and ACA 8 could appear on the ballot in March 2020, and ACA 8 could be implemented in time for the general election on November 3, 2020, should voters approve the constitutional amendment.
 
Both ACA 4 and ACA 8 had the support of most Democrats—56 of 61 to allow 17-year-olds to vote in primaries and 54 of 61 to allow 17-year-olds to vote in all elections. Most Republicans opposed the constitutional amendments—2 of 18 supported allowing 17-year-olds to vote in primaries and 3 of 18 supported allowing 17-year-olds to vote in all elections. The constitutional amendments needed 53 votes in the Assembly.
 
According to a California Assembly Floor Analysis, published on August 16, 2019, “Because the US Constitution only addresses abridging the right to vote and this measure expands voting rights there appears to be no conflict with the federal constitution. In an opinion dated April 12, 2004, the Legislative Counsel opined that an amendment to the California Constitution to permit a person under the age of 18 to vote would not violate federal law.”
 
With approval in the state Assembly, the question of whether ACA 4, ACA 8, or both will go before voters is in the hands of the state Senate. The 40-member state Senate is composed of 29 Democrats and 11 Republicans. At least 27 votes are needed in the Senate to pass a constitutional amendment. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s (D) signature is not required to refer a constitutional amendment to the ballot for voter consideration.
 
Between 1995 and 2018, the California State Legislature has asked voters to decide 32 constitutional amendments. Voters approved 84.4 percent of the constitutional amendments.


Lt. Gov. Reeves wins Republican nomination for governor of Mississippi

Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves (R) defeated former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr. (R) to win the Republican nomination for governor of Mississippi in Tuesday’s runoff election. As of 9 p.m. Central time on August 27, Reeves had received 55.5% of the vote to Waller’s 44.5% with 66% of precincts reporting.
 
The runoff was triggered after neither candidate won a majority of the vote in the August 6 primary; Reeves received 48.9% of the vote to Waller’s 33.4%. The only other candidate was state Rep. Robert Foster (R), who endorsed Waller ahead of the runoff. Foster and Waller received a combined 51.1% of the vote. Reeves had been endorsed by term-limited incumbent Phil Bryant (R) and was endorsed by former Gov. Haley Barbour (R) the week before the runoff.
 
Reeves, who is in his second term as lieutenant governor after serving two terms as state treasurer, said that his experience in state government would make him an effective chief executive. He said that he was the more conservative of the two and criticized Waller for supporting Medicaid expansion and an increase in the state gas tax.
 
Waller said that he would win more support from Democratic and independent voters than Reeves would in the general election. He criticized the tone of Reeves’ campaign, saying that Reeves was more focused on attacking him than on proposing policies to address the problems Mississippi faces.
 
Reeves will face Attorney General Jim Hood (D) in the November 5 general election. In order to win election as governor of Mississippi, a candidate must win the statewide vote and carry a majority of the 122 state House districts. If no candidate does both, the state House decides the winner. A victory for Reeves would preserve Mississippi’s Republican trifecta while a victory for Hood would break it. No Democratic candidate has won election as governor of Mississippi since Ronnie Musgrove (D) in 1999.
 


Abbott fills vacancy on Texas Supreme Court

Gov. Greg Abbott (R) appointed Jane Bland to Place 6 on the Texas Supreme Court, filling the vacancy left by Justice Jeff Brown. Brown was confirmed to the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas in late July. Bland previously served on the Texas First District Court of Appeals from 2003 to 2018.
 
Typically, the Texas State Senate must confirm appointments to the state Supreme Court. The legislature is out of session, however, so the Senate did not have to confirm Bland’s appointment. Bland must stand for re-election in 2020 to remain on the court.
 
The Texas Supreme Court has nine justices. Of those, four were appointed by Gov. Rick Perry (R) and three were appointed by Gov. Abbott. The other two justices were initially chosen by voters in partisan elections.
 
This year, there have been 18 state supreme court vacancies across 12 of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. Thirteen of the vacancies were caused by retirements. Two former justices took jobs in the private sector. One vacancy occurred when a justice was elevated to chief justice of the court and two others occurred when the justices were elevated to federal judicial positions.


Six Missouri House special elections on the November ballot

Candidates had until August 22 to file to run for four vacant seats in the Missouri House of Representatives. The special elections are scheduled for November 5. The following candidates filed to run:
 
  • District 22: The seat became vacant after Rep. Brandon Ellington (D) was elected to be an at-large District 3 member of the Kansas City City Council in June 2019. He ran unopposed in the 2018 election. Yolanda Young (D), Tammy Louise Herrera (R), and Jeff Francis (G) filed to run for the vacant seat.
  • District 36: Rep. DaRon McGee (D) resigned his seat in April 2019 to take another job. He won re-election in 2018 with 78.1% of the vote. Mark Sharp (D) and Bob Voorhees (G) filed to run for the vacant seat.
  • District 74: The seat became vacant after Rep. Cora Walker (D) resigned on July 29, to take a job as a policy director for St. Louis County Executive Sam Page. Mike Person (D) and Nick Kasoff (L) filed for the seat.
  • District 78: Rep. Bruce Franks (D) resigned his seat on July 31. Rasheen Aldridge (D) is running unopposed in the special election.
 
Special elections in District 99 and District 158 of the state House are also scheduled for November 5. The filing deadline for those two special elections passed in May. The following candidates filed to run:
 
  • District 99: Rep. Jean Evans (R) stepped down from the seat in February 2019 to become the executive director of the Missouri GOP. She won re-election in 2018 with 53% of the vote. Trish Gunby (D) and Lee Ann Pitman (R) filed to run for the vacant seat.
  • District 158: This seat became vacant after Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick (R) became the state treasurer of Missouri in January 2019. He ran unopposed in the 2018 election. Lisa Kalp (D) and Scott Cupps (R) filed to run for the vacant seat.
 
As of August, 73 state legislative special elections have been scheduled or held in 24 states. Between 2011 and 2018, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.
 
Heading into the election, Republicans have a 113-43 majority in the state House with seven vacancies. Missouri has a Republican state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers.
 


Mississippi Republican gubernatorial runoff between Tate Reeves and Bill Waller Jr. takes place Tuesday

The Republican nomination for governor of Mississippi will be decided by a primary runoff between Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr. Tuesday. Reeves and Waller were the top two finishers in the August 6 primary but neither won the majority of the vote necessary to win outright.
 
Reeves, who is in his second term as lieutenant governor after serving two terms as state treasurer, says that his experience in state government would make him an effective chief executive. He says that he is the more conservative of the two, and has criticized Waller for supporting Medicaid expansion and an increase in the state gas tax.
 
Waller calls himself a conservative Republican but says that he would win more support from Democratic and independent voters than Reeves would in the general election. He has criticized the tone of Reeves’ campaign, saying that Reeves is more focused on attacking him than on proposing policies to address the problems Mississippi faces.
 
Both candidates have secured new endorsements since the August 6 primary. Reeves, who already had the endorsement of term-limited incumbent Phil Bryant (R), was endorsed by a series of state officials including former Gov. Haley Barbour (R) and state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R). Waller was endorsed by third-place primary finisher Robert Foster (R). Foster and Waller received a combined 51.1% of the primary vote to Reeves’ 48.9%.
 
Campaign finance reports filed Tuesday show that Reeves spent $1.9 million and Waller spent $315,000 between July 28 and August 17. During the same period, Waller raised $550,000 to Reeves’ $300,000. The two met for a final debate Wednesday night.
 
Mississippi has open primaries, so the runoff is open to registered Democrats and independents who did not vote in the Democratic primary on August 6. The winner will face Attorney General Jim Hood (D) in the November 5 general election. In order to win the general election, a candidate must both win the statewide vote and carry a majority of the 122 state House districts. If no candidate does both, the state House will decide the winner. No Democrat has won election as governor of Mississippi since Ronnie Musgrove (D) in 1999.
 


Alabama House special primary runoff on Tuesday

On August 27, a special primary runoff is being held in District 74 of the Alabama House of Representatives. Republicans Charlotte Meadows and Michael Fritz are competing in the primary runoff after advancing from the June 11 primary with 46.7% and 19.1% of the vote, respectively. Rayford Mack ran unopposed in the Democratic primary. The general election is scheduled for November 12.
 
The seat was vacated when Dimitri Polizos (R) died of a heart attack on March 27. Polizos had represented the district since 2013. He last won re-election in 2018 with 60.5% of the vote.
 
Heading into the election, Republicans have a 75-28 majority in the Alabama House with two vacancies. Alabama has a Republican state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers.
 
As of August, 73 state legislative special elections have been scheduled or held in 24 states. Between 2011 and 2018, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.
 


10th Circuit Court of Appeals rules Colorado signature distribution requirements constitutional

Colorado voters approved Amendment 71 (sometimes referred to as the Raise the Bar initiative) in 2016. Amendment 71 required initiative petitioners to spread out signature gathering efforts across all of the state’s 35 senate districts, making it more difficult to collect enough signatures to qualify a constitutional amendment for the ballot.
 
Amendment 71 also enacted a 55% supermajority requirement for any constitutional amendment other than those designed to only delete language.
 
ColoradoCareYes and the Coalition for Colorado Universal Health Care, proponents of the defeated Amendment 69 of 2016, filed litigation against Amendment 71 in U.S. District Court on April 24, 2017. Secretary of State Wayne Williams (R) was named as the defendant.
 
Plaintiffs argued that the distribution requirement provisions of Amendment 71 violate the First Amendment and Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The lawsuit stated, “Voters in one district can thwart the will of a far greater number of voters in another, and prevent a popular initiative that might win majority support in the general election from appearing on the ballot.” Specifically, plaintiffs argued that Amendment 71 gives greater weight to rural voters than urban voters and therefore violates the one-person-one-vote principle.
 
On March 27, 2018, a federal judge ruled in favor of plaintiffs and overturned the provisions of Amendment 71 that established a distribution requirement for initiated constitutional amendment petitions. That ruling was appealed, and the distribution requirement was left in effect for the 2018 election cycle.
 
On August 20, 2019, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 to reverse the U.S. District Court’s ruling, leaving the distribution requirement in place. The majority wrote that “[n]o equal protection problem exists if votes are cast in state legislative districts that were drawn based on Census population data.” The majority based its decision on U.S. Supreme Court Case Evenwel v. Abbot in which justices ruled unanimously that a state or local government could draw legislative districts based on population.


Michigan GOP sues to block Proposal 2, arguing the member-selection process violates the party’s associational rights

On August 22, 2019, the Michigan Republican Party filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for Western Michigan seeking to block Proposal 2, which transferred the power to draw the state’s congressional and legislative districts from the state legislature to a 13-member independent redistricting commission. Voters approved Proposal 2, with 61 percent voting in favor of the constitutional amendment.
 
Laura Cox, chairperson of the state Republican Party, said Proposal 2 violated the party’s freedom of association as the amendment prevented parties from selecting their own members to serve on the redistricting commission.
 
Proposal 2 requires applicants for the redistricting commission to attest under oath regarding their partisan affiliation. However, Proposal 2 does not require the state department to confirm individuals’ partisan affiliation. As of 2019, voters in Michigan do not have an option to declare their partisan affiliation on voter registration forms.
 
Proposal 2 was designed to allow the legislative leaders from the two major parties to strike up to five applicants each (between the leaders, 20 strikeouts total) from the pool of 60 Republicans, 60 Democrats, and 80 non-affiliated applicants. Thereafter, a random selection from each partisan pool takes place, with four Republicans, four Democrats, and five non-affiliated applicants being selected.
 
The Michigan GOP’s legal complaint said applicants could self-affiliate with the Republican Party “without any involvement or consent of the applicable political party and without any specific consideration of the applicants’ past or current political activity, expression, or involvement.” The process, according to attorneys Gary Gordon and Charlie Spies, could allow Democrats to self-affiliate as Republicans “in an effort to alter the party’s selection process and weaken its representation on the commission by individuals who genuinely affiliate with MRP.” Stu Sandler, general counsel for the Michigan GOP, said, “In every other system that’s been created like this, political parties or legislative leaders have had the ability to select, or there’s been a strong history of voter registration so that you can tell who’s been a part of the party and who hasn’t.”
 
As of August 2019, six states have enacted laws for independent redistricting commissions for congressional districts. In Arizona, California, Colorado, and Idaho, registered voters can select to affiliate with a political party on their voter registration forms. Like Michigan, Washington does not have a party-affiliation option on voter registrations. The Washington process involves legislative leaders of the two major parties each selecting a member of the redistricting commission, and the four leader-appointed members appointing a fifth member.
 
Responding to the Michigan GOP filing the lawsuit, Attorney General Dana Nessel (D) said, “Our position on this matter has not changed. Our office will continue to vigorously defend Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and the legality of the redistricting commission, preserving the will of the people and their right to adopt amendments to Michigan’s Constitution at the polls.”
 
The Michigan GOP’s lawsuit is the second to be filed against Proposal 2. Another—Daunt v. Benson—argues that Proposal 2 unconstitutionally restricts who can serve on the commission by prohibiting individuals who, during the six years prior, were partisan candidates; partisan elected officials; officers of political parties; paid consultants or employees of candidates, officials, campaigns, or political action committees; state legislative employees; lobbyists; other specified state employees; and the parents and children of aforementioned persons from serving on the commission.
 


Trump campaigns for Bevin in Kentucky gubernatorial race

Last night, President Donald Trump (R) headlined a fundraiser in Louisville for Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin’s (R) re-election campaign. He also spoke at the American Veterans convention earlier in the day, where he told an audience, “We’ll get [Bevin and Sen. Mitch McConnell] both back in.”
 
Bevin, Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear (D), and John Hicks (L) are running in the the state’s gubernatorial general election on November 5. The race will decide the state’s trifecta status until at least the 2020 state legislative elections. If Bevin wins, Republicans will maintain their trifecta control of the state, while a Beshear or Hicks victory would result in neither party having trifecta control.
 
A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers. As of August 2019, there were 22 Republican trifectas, 14 Democratic trifectas, and 14 divided governments where neither party holds trifecta control.