One week until Kentucky’s gubernatorial primary elections

Four Democrats and four Republicans are competing for their party’s nominations in Kentucky’s May 21 gubernatorial primaries. The general election will take place on November 5. The position last changed partisan hands in 2015, when current governor Matt Bevin (R) defeated Jack Conway (D).
The Democrats running are Kentucky House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins, state Attorney General Andy Beshear, former state Auditor Adam Edelen, and retired engineer Geoff Young. Edelen has led the group in fundraising and spending. Beshear has led in the one public poll conducted and several internal campaign polls released by the candidates. Fifteen televised ads have aired on behalf of candidates in this race.
On the Republican side, Gov. Bevin faces state Rep. Robert Goforth, Ike Lawrence, and William E. Woods. Bevin and Goforth are the only candidates to raise significant funds so far, with the two only about $50,000 apart. No public polls have been released in the race to this point. While he has not earned the endorsement of President Donald Trump (R), Bevin did hold a campaign event at which Vice President Mike Pence (R) spoke.
Secretary of State Alison Grimes (D) announced on May 2 that a record 3,421,796 Kentuckians were registered to vote in the gubernatorial primary. In 2015, 392,701 votes were cast in both primaries combined.
Heading into the election, Kentucky is a Republican trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers. Republicans control the governor’s office and both chambers of the Kentucky State Legislature. There are 22 Republican trifectas, 14 Democratic trifectas, and 13 divided governments where neither party holds trifecta control.

How much does it cost to register a car in each state?

As of May 2019, the range for vehicle registration costs in the 45 states with a fixed cost (rather than variable) was between $8 and $225. The cost for a title in those states ranged from $3 to $100. Five states had variable costs based on either the MSRP or the age and weight of the vehicle: Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, New Hampshire, and Utah.
Since May 2018, the cost to register a car increased in 13 states and decreased in five states. The cost to obtain a title increased in six states and decreased in seven states.
The five states with the most expensive registration fees were:
  • Florida ($225)
  • Montana ($217)
  • Indiana ($196)
  • Maryland ($135)
  • Oregon ($112)
The five states with the cheapest registration fees were:
  • Arizona ($8)
  • Arkansas ($17)
  • Missouri ($18.50)
  • Louisiana ($20)
  • Georgia ($20)
To read more about how much it costs to register a vehicle or obtain a title in your state, click the link below.

Control of 508 state legislative seats changed in the 2018 elections

On November 6, 2018, elections were held for 6,073 state legislative seats across 87 of the nation’s 99 state legislative chambers. Five hundred and eight elections (8.3%) resulted in control of a seat changing to a new party. Of the 508 flips, 391 (77.0%) were Republican seats that flipped to Democrats and 93 (18.2%) were Democratic seats that flipped to Republicans.
Democrats gained a net 308 seats as a result of the elections, while Republicans lost a net 294 seats. Third party and independent legislators lost a net 14 seats. Control of six state legislative chambers flipped to Democrats, including both chambers of New Hampshire’s General Court, the state senates of Colorado, Maine, and New York, and the Minnesota House of Representatives.
At least one seat changed party control in every state that held regularly-scheduled state legislative elections. New Hampshire had 77 seats flip, the most of any state. Of those, 67 were Republican-held seats that flipped to Democrats, while seven were Democratic-held seats that flipped to Republicans. Republicans flipped two seats from third party or independent legislators and Democrats flipped one. New Hampshire was followed by Maine with 26 flips and Pennsylvania with 22 flips.
Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, and Oklahoma were the only states where Republicans had a net gain of seats. In every other state, Democrats gained more seats or the two parties gained the same number.
An additional 16 seats changed party control during special elections in 2018. Twelve were Republican seats won by Democrats while the remaining four were Democratic seats won by Republicans. Six of the Republican-held seats that flipped to Democrats in special elections flipped back to Republicans in November 2018. There was also one seat where the special election took place on the same day as the regularly-scheduled election.
Including all special elections, then, 511 seats changed party control in calendar year 2018. Democrats gained a net 309 seats while Republicans lost a net 295 seats and third party and independent legislators lost a net 14 seats.
To see a complete list of state legislative seats that changed party control in 2018 state legislative elections, click the link below.

Democrats hold seat in Connecticut House special election

A special election for District 130 of the Connecticut House of Representatives was held on May 7. Unofficial results showed 23-year-old Antonio Felipe (D) winning with 47.2% of the vote. Felipe will be the youngest member in the state House. The second place finisher, Kate Rivera, earned 34.8% of the vote and was the first petition candidate running for the Connecticut General Assembly to qualify for full public campaign financing.
District 130 became vacant after Ezequiel Santiago (D) passed away on March 15, 2019. He had represented the district since 2009.
Following the special election, the Connecticut House of Representatives has 91 Democrats and 60 Republicans. A majority in the chamber requires 76 seats. Connecticut has a Democratic 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 May, 55 state legislative special elections have been scheduled or held in 22 states. Between 2011 and 2018, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.

Federal district court strikes down Ohio congressional district plan as unconstitutional partisan gerrymander

On May 3, 2019, a three-judge panel of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio ruled unanimously that Ohio’s congressional district plan constitutes an illegal partisan gerrymander. The court held that the plan, enacted in 2011 by a Republican legislature and governor, violates the First and Fourteenth Amendment rights of Democrats. The ruling applies to all 16 of the state’s congressional districts. 
The panel, comprised of Judges Karen Moore, appointed by Bill Clinton (D), Timothy Black, appointed by Barack Obama (D), and Michael Watson, appointed by George W. Bush (R), enjoined the state from conducting any future congressional elections under the 2011 plan.
The court ordered the state to enact a remedial plan by June 14, 2019. Should the state fail to meet this deadline, or should the state’s remedial plan fail to meet the approval of the court, the court may appoint a special master to draft a remedial plan. Ohio is a Republican trifecta, meaning Republicans control the governorship and both chambers of the state legislature.
This marks the second time in as many weeks that federal courts have struck down district plans as unconstitutional partisan gerrymanders. On April 25, 2019, a three-judge panel of the United District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan ruled unanimously that 34 Michigan congressional and state legislative districts had been subject to unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering, violating Democrats’ First Amendment associational rights. The court also found that 27 of the 34 challenged districts violated the Democrats’ First and Fourteenth Amendment rights by diluting the impact of their votes.
The phrase partisan gerrymandering refers to the practice of drawing electoral district maps with the intention of favoring one political party over another. In contrast with racial gerrymandering, on which issue the Supreme Court of the United States has made rulings in the past affirming that such practices violate federal law, the high court has not, to date, made a ruling establishing clear precedent on the question of partisan gerrymandering. Two partisan gerrymandering cases – Rucho v. Common Cause and Benisek v. Lamone – are pending before the high court this term. Rulings are expected by the end of June.

Vermont Supreme Court Justice Skoglund retiring on September 1

Vermont Supreme Court Justice Marilyn Skoglund is retiring on September 1, 2019.
Selection of Vermont Supreme Court justices occurs through assisted appointment. The governor appoints a justice from a list of names provided by a nominating commission. The appointed justice must be confirmed by the Vermont State Senate. Once confirmed, justices serve six-year terms. At the end of each term, justices face retention by a vote of the Vermont General Assembly. Skoglund’s replacement will be Gov. Phil Scott’s (R) second nominee to the five-member supreme court.
The Vermont Supreme Court is the court of last resort for the state. It currently includes the following justices:
  • Justice Marilyn Skoglund – Appointed by Gov. Howard Dean (D)
  • Justice Beth Robinson – Appointed by Gov. Peter Shumlin (D)
  • Justice Harold Eaton – Appointed by Gov. Peter Shumlin (D)
  • Justice Paul Reiber – Appointed by Gov. Jim Douglas (R)
  • Justice Karen Carroll – Appointed by Gov. Phil Scott (R)
Skoglund joined the Vermont Supreme Court on August 27, 1997. She was the second woman to serve as an associate justice of this court. Skoglund served on the Vermont district court from 1994 to 1997. She graduated from Southern Illinois University with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts in 1971. In lieu of attending law school, she completed a law-office clerkship at the Office of the Attorney General, where she served as assistant attorney general (1981-1989), chief of the Civil Law Division (1989-1993), and chief of the Public Protection Division (1993-1994).
In 2019, there have been 13 supreme court vacancies across eight of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. Of those 13 vacancies, ten are in states where a Republican governor appoints the replacement. Two vacancies occurred in a state where a Democratic governor fills vacancies, while another occurred in a state where a Republican-controlled legislature appoints replacements.

Noteworthy election recounts in the United States

An election recount is a process by which votes cast in an election are re-tabulated to verify the accuracy of the original results. Recounts typically occur in the event of a close margin of victory, accusations of election fraud, or the possibility of administrative errors. Recounts can either occur automatically or be requested by a candidate or voters. Twenty states have statutory provisions providing for automatic recalls, and 43 have a provision allowing for recounts to be requested.
According to a report published by the organization FairVote, 27 recounts occurred in statewide elections between 2000 and 2015. Of those, 15 were held when the original margin of victory was of 0.15 percent or less. Three of the 27 recounts resulted in a reversal of the original election result.
Since 2017, five noteworthy recounts have taken place at the state legislative level. Those five recounts resulted in two reversals of the initial election result, one of which became a tie. There were also three noteworthy recounts in statewide races in 2018, though none resulted in a change of the initial result.
Click below to learn how recounts can occur in your state.

Maryland House of Delegates selects Adrienne Jones (D) as speaker

The Maryland House of Delegates voted 139-1 to make Adrienne Jones (D) the speaker of the house in a special session on Wednesday. She replaces Michael Busch (D), who passed away on April 7 after developing pneumonia. Busch had served as speaker since 2003 and was the longest serving speaker in Maryland history.
Jones, who was first elected in 1996, is the state’s first woman speaker and first black speaker. She emerged as a compromise candidate Wednesday afternoon after the Democratic caucus split between Maggie McIntosh (D) and Dereck Davis (D). According to the Washington Post, McIntosh was the more liberal candidate for speaker, and Davis was the more centrist candidate. Moreover, a majority of the 45-member Legislative Black Caucus (LBC) endorsed Davis, who is black, in a non-binding vote.
A candidate needed 70 votes on the floor to be elected. McIntosh won a Democratic caucus vote Wednesday, 58-40, but Republicans pledged to give Davis all of their 42 votes on the floor. Davis could have been elected by a cross-party coalition with over 70 votes if at least 28 of the 40 Democrats who supported him in caucus voted for him on the floor.
After the caucus vote, Democrats reconvened and unanimously decided to elevate Jones to the speakership over both declared candidates. After she was elected, Jones said, “Discussion went back and forth within our caucus in terms of who could get the [votes], and because of these two individuals that put unity of this House before their own ambition … they both came and talked with me separately that they would want me to be that person.”
Jones had been formally running for speaker prior to April 26, but she dropped out of the race, endorsed Davis, and called for members of the LBC to form an alliance to elect the first black speaker in state history.
Democrats hold a 98-42 majority in the Maryland House with Busch’s seat still vacant. The state is under divided government with Larry Hogan (R) as governor and Democratic control of the legislature.
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April 2019 state legislative seat breakdown: 52.3% Republican, 47.0% Democratic

April’s partisan count of the 7,383 state legislators shows 52 percent of all state legislators are Republicans and 47 percent are Democrats.
Ballotpedia completes a count of the partisan balance of state legislatures at the end of every month. The partisan composition of state legislatures refers to which political party holds the majority of seats in the state Senate and state House. Republicans hold a majority in 61 chambers, and Democrats hold the majority in 37 chambers. One chamber (Alaska’s state house) shares power between the two parties. Altogether, there are 1,972 state senators and 5,411 state representatives.
Of the 7,383 state legislative seats in the country, Republicans held 1,084 state Senate seats and 2,779 state House seats. Democrats held 3,467 of the 7,383 state legislative seats–877 state Senate seats and 2,589 state House seats. Independent or third-party legislators held 31 seats, and 22 seats were vacant.
At the time of the 2018 elections, 7,280 state legislators were affiliated with either the Republican or Democratic parties. There were 3,257 Democratic state legislators, 4,023 Republican state legislators, 35 independent or third-party state legislators, and 68 vacancies.

Arizona Gov. Ducey (R) makes fourth appointment to Arizona Supreme Court

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey (R) appointed appeals judge James Beene to the Arizona Supreme Court on April 26, 2019. Beene became Ducey’s fourth appointment to the seven-member court, and the ninth state supreme court justice appointed by a governor in the country this year.
Beene replaces former Justice John Pelander, who retired on March 1. Pelander was appointed by former Gov. Jan Brewer (R) in 2009. He was retained in elections in both 2012 and 2018.
A selection committee submitted a list of five potential nominees to Ducey the same day that Pelander retired. The committee responsible for interviewing individuals and recommending potential nominees was made up of seven Republicans, three Democrats, and four independents.
Ducey is set to make another appointment to the court this fall. Chief Justice Scott Bales is retiring to take a job in the private sector on July 3. Appointed by former Gov. Janet Napolitano (D) in 2005, Bales is the last remaining member of the court to be appointed by a Democratic governor. His replacement will be Ducey’s fifth appointment to the court.
Arizona is one of 24 states in the country that use assisted appointment as their form of judicial selection for their court of last resort. Sixteen states select judges by nonpartisan election, seven use partisan elections, four have the governor appoint judges directly, and two states (South Carolina and Virginia) have the state legislature elect judges.
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