CategoryState

Wisconsin governor establishes advisory redistricting commission

On January 27, 2020, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers (D) signed an executive order creating an advisory redistricting commission to prepare congressional and state legislative district plans for consideration by the state legislature in the coming redistricting cycle. The legislature, vested with the authority to adopt redistricting plans, will be under no obligation to accept the commission’s recommendations.

It established the following criteria for the commission’s proposed maps:
• “Be free from partisan bias and partisan advantage”
• “Avoid diluting or diminishing minority votes, including through the practices of ‘packing’ or ‘cracking'”
• “Be compact and contiguous”
• “Avoid splitting wards and municipalities”
• “Retain the core population in each district”
• “Maintain traditional communities of interest”
• “Prevent voter disenfranchisement”

The order mandated that commissioners must come from each of the state’s congressional districts and barred elected, public, and political party officials and lobbyists from serving as commissioners. The order specified neither the number of commissioners nor the manner of appointment.

Evers said, “I believe, and Wisconsinites do, too, that people should get to choose their elected officials, not the other way around. So, when the People’s Maps are presented to the Legislature next year, I hope they will receive unanimous, bipartisan support.” Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R) criticized the order, saying, “He can form whatever kind of fake, phony, partisan process he wants to create, but I have no doubt in the end we will do it the way we have always have, which is to follow the constitution.”

Upon completion of the census in 2020, congressional seats will be reapportioned to the states on the basis of population. Complete data sets will be delivered to the states in early 2021, at which time they will redraw their congressional and state legislative district maps. Wisconsin is neither expected to gain nor lose congressional seats in the next apportionment. The legislature is responsible for drafting and adopting both congressional and state legislative district plans, both of which are subject to gubernatorial veto. Lawmakers are expected to take on redistricting as soon as census data is made available in early 2021.

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46 candidates file to run for 17 West Virginia State Senate seats

Seventeen of the West Virginia State Senate’s 34 seats are up for election in 2020, with 46 candidates filing to run for those seats. The primary is scheduled for May 12, and the general election is on November 3. The filing deadline was January 25, and candidates have until February 11 to withdraw from the race.

Of the 46 candidates who filed to run for election, 30 are Republicans and 16 are Democrats. In the following 13 districts, the incumbent filed for re-election:

• District 1: Ryan Weld (R)
• District 2: Mike Maroney (R)
• District 3: Donna Boley (R)
• District 4: Mitch Carmichael (R)
• District 5: Robert Plymale (D)
• District 6: Chandler Swope (R)
• District 8: Glenn Jeffries (D)
• District 9: Sue Cline (R)
• District 11: John Pitsenbarger (R)
• District 12: Douglas Facemire (D)
• District 14: Randy Smith (R)
• District 15: Craig Blair (R)
• District 16: Patricia Rucker (R)

In four districts, the incumbent did not file for re-election. These districts include:

• District 7: Paul Hardesty (D)
• District 10: Kenny Mann (R)
• District 13: Roman Prezioso (D)
• District 17: Corey Palumbo (D)

As of January 2020, Republicans held a majority of the chamber with 20 members to Democrats’ 14 members. No seats were vacant.

The West Virginia State Senate is one of 86 state legislative chambers holding elections in 2020. There are 99 chambers throughout the country. In 2018, 87 out of 99 legislative chambers held elections.

West Virginia 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 January 31, 2020, there were 21 Republican trifectas, 15 Democratic trifectas, and 14 divided governments where neither party held trifecta control.

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Lawsuit filed in recall effort in Leon Valley, Texas

Five Leon Valley residents have filed a lawsuit to place a recall election on the May 2 ballot. Councilmembers Donna Charles and Monica Alcocer were targeted for recall after a 2-1 vote in August 2019 to remove Councilmember Benny Martinez. Charles and Alcocer voted in favor of removing Martinez due to allegations of sexual harassment as well as undermining Leon Valley’s legal department, community development department, police department, and the city manager. Martinez responded to the allegations by saying, “There is no validity to any of them. I deny all charges against me. This is a witch hunt to get me off the City Council.”

Petitioners were required to submit 500 valid signatures for each official to put the recalls on the ballot. More than 1,600 signatures were submitted for verification against Charles and Alcocer in November 2019. Scheduling for the recall election was on the city council’s agenda on January 21, but the matter wasn’t taken up during that meeting. A lawsuit to put the recall on the ballot was filed with the Fourth Court of Appeals on January 24.

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Minnesota House special elections scheduled for Tuesday

Two special general elections are scheduled for February 4 in District 30A and District 60A of the Minnesota House of Representatives. The filing deadline for the special elections passed on December 10, and a primary was held on January 14.

District 30A

Chad Hobot (D) and Paul Novotny (R) are facing off in this special election. Hobot was the only candidate to run in the Democratic primary. Novotny advanced to the general election after winning the Republican primary with 87% of the vote.

District 30A was represented by Nick Zerwas (R) between 2013 and 2019. The seat became vacant on December 6, 2019, after Zerwas resigned due to a heart condition.

District 60A

Sydney Jordan (D) and Marty Super (Legal Marijuana Now Party) are facing off in this special election. Jordan advanced from the Democratic primary with a 28% plurality of the vote in an 11-candidate field. The Republican primary was canceled after no Republicans filed to run in the race. Super was the only Legal Marijuana Now candidate to file in that party’s primary.

District 60A was represented by Diane Loeffler (D) between 2004 and 2019. The seat became vacant on November 16, 2019, after Loeffler passed away.

Heading into the election, Democrats have a 74-58 majority in the Minnesota House of Representatives with two vacancies. Minnesota has a divided government, and no political party holds a 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 February, 28 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2020 in 13 states. Between 2011 and 2019, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.

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Florida voters to decide whether to require two elections for future constitutional amendments

Amendment 4 on the 2020 ballot will ask voters whether or not to require voter-approved constitutional amendments to be approved by voters at a second general election to become effective. Florida constitutional amendments currently require a 60% supermajority vote at one election to take effect. Under Amendment 4, the 60% supermajority requirement would apply to both elections.

The measure was certified for the ballot on January 31, 2020. Proponents submitted 778,989 valid signatures. To qualify for the ballot, 766,200 valid signatures were required.

Keep Our Constitution Clean PC is leading the campaign in support of the initiative. The group wrote, “Our goal is to ensure that voters are given the opportunity to fully understand the immediate and future impacts of any proposed changes to our state constitution.”

Typically, citizens collect signatures for a petition, and if it meets all requirements and is certified, it will appear on the ballot for a statewide vote. If voters approve the amendment, it becomes part of the constitution. Nevada is the only state where initiated constitutional amendments must be approved at two consecutive elections. This does not apply to legislatively referred constitutional amendments, which must be approved twice by the legislature (with a majority vote) but only once by the state’s voters. A similar amendment is on the 2020 ballot for voters in North Dakota. The North Dakota measure would require initiated constitutional amendments passed by voters to be submitted to the legislature for approval and, unless the legislature approves the measure, require it to be placed on the ballot again at the next statewide election to become effective if approved by the voters a second time.

Two states, Mississippi and Massachusetts, have an indirect process for initiated constitutional amendments. Such amendments proposed by citizens do not go immediately to the ballot after a successful petition drive, rather, they are presented to the state legislature first.

Three other citizen-initiated amendments are on the 2020 ballot in Florida. Amendment 1 would specify that only U.S. citizens can vote in federal, state, local, or school elections; Amendment 2 would increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2026; and Amendment 3 would establish a top-two open primary system for state office primary elections.

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Arkansas voters to decide whether or not to allow optometrists to perform certain eye surgeries

A veto referendum targeting Arkansas House Bill 1251 (Act 579) was certified for the ballot on January 31, 2020, following the resolution of a lawsuit concerning signature validity. Proponents submitted 64,028 valid signatures. To qualify for the ballot, 53,491 valid signatures were required.

HB 1251 amended the definition of practice of optometry in state law to allow optometrists to perform certain surgical procedures including the following:
1. injections, excluding intravenous or intraocular injections;
2. incision and curettage of a chalazion;
3. removal and biopsy of skin lesions with low risk of malignancy, excluding lesions involving the lid margin or nasal to the puncta;
4. laser capsulotomy; and
5. laser trabeculoplasty.

Safe Surgery Arkansas is sponsoring the veto referendum petition seeking to overturn HB 1251. The group argues that the bill “jeopardizes patient safety and lowers the quality of surgical eye care in the state of Arkansas. This new law would allow optometrists— who are not medical doctors or trained surgeons— to perform delicate surgery on the eye and surrounding tissues using scalpels, lasers, and needles. HB 1251 removes … critical patient safeguard[s] by granting optometrists broad surgical privileges to operate on the eyes while bypassing these critical training requirements.”

Arkansans for Healthy Eyes is leading the campaign in opposition to the veto referendum effort and in support of HB 1251. The group is advocating for a yes vote on the referendum. Arkansas for Healthy Eyes argued that the bill “gives Arkansas patients better access to quality care by allowing optometrists to perform more of the procedures we are absolutely qualified to safely perform… For some patients, especially in rural parts of the state, being able to receive enhanced care from their optometrist, instead of having to go through the wait, travel, and added cost of a specialist visit, may mean the difference between getting a needed procedure, or going without.”

Since the first in 1934, 10 veto referendum measures have appeared on the ballot in Arkansas. The most recent referendum was on the ballot in 2004. In all but one case, the referendum efforts resulted in the targeted law being repealed or overturned.

Nationwide since the first in 1906, 522 veto referendums appeared on the ballot in 23 states. Voters repealed 341 (65.3 percent) of the targeted laws. Voters upheld 181 (34.7 percent) of the targeted laws. The states with the most veto referendums were North Dakota (75), Oregon (68), and California (48). The states that allowed for veto referendums but had the least number of them were Wyoming (1), Nevada (2), and New Mexico (3).

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Iowa governor appoints Oxley to state supreme court

Photo credit: Ctjf83

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds (R) appointed attorney Dana Oxley to the Iowa Supreme Court on January 28, 2020. Oxley succeeded Chief Justice Mark Cady, who died of a heart attack on November 15, 2019. Oxley was Gov. Reynolds’ third nominee to the seven-member supreme court.

Oxley is an attorney with Shuttleworth & Ingersoll, P.L.C. in Cedar Rapids and an adjunct law professor at the University of Iowa College of Law. She previously served as a law clerk for Judge David R. Hansen on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit.

Oxley obtained a B.A. in accounting from the University of Northern Iowa in 1990. She earned a J.D. from the University of Iowa College of Law, where she was Order of the Coif, in 1998. During her legal studies, Oxley was a member of the Journal of Corporation Law, serving as an articles editor from 1997 to 1998.

Selection of state supreme court justices in Iowa occurs through gubernatorial appointment with input from the state Judicial Nominating Commission (JNC). Within 60 days of receiving notice of the vacancy from the secretary of state, the commission submits the names of three nominees to the governor, who appoints one nominee to the court. Newly appointed judges serve for one year. They must run in a yes-no retention election (occurring during the regularly scheduled general election) if they wish to continue serving.

The JNC is a 17-member body that evaluates candidates who apply for a state supreme court vacancy. The group includes one chairperson (the senior associate justice of the Iowa Supreme Court, other than the chief justice), eight lawyers selected by licensed Iowa lawyers, and eight non-lawyers appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Iowa State Senate.

Founded in 1846, the Iowa Supreme Court is the state’s court of last resort and has seven judgeships. As of Oxley’s appointment, the court had the following other members:

• Brent Appel – Appointed by Gov. Tom Vilsack (D) in 2006
• Susan Christensen – Appointed by Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) in 2018
• Edward Mansfield – Appointed by Gov. Terry E. Branstad (R) in 2011
• Christopher McDonald – Appointed by Gov. Reynolds in 2019
• Thomas Waterman – Appointed by Gov. Branstad in 2011
• David Wiggins – Appointed by Gov. Vilsack in 2003

In 2019, there were 22 supreme court vacancies across 14 of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. Retirements caused 14 of the vacancies. Two former justices took jobs in the private sector. One vacancy occurred when a justice was elevated to chief justice of the court, one occurred when a chief justice died, and four vacancies occurred when the justices were elevated to federal judicial positions.

In 2020, there have been six supreme court vacancies in five of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. The vacancies were caused by retirements. Gov. Reynolds will appoint a fourth member of the Iowa Supreme Court in 2020 following Justice David Wiggins’ retirement in March.

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Dana Oxley 
Iowa Supreme Court justice vacancy (March 2020) 
Iowa Supreme Court 
Judicial selection in Iowa 
Judges appointed by Kim Reynolds 
State supreme court vacancies, 2019
State supreme court vacancies, 2020



Field set for March 3 special primaries in Massachusetts

Candidates interested in running for four Massachusetts state legislative special elections had until January 28 to file. The primaries are scheduled for March 3, 2020, and the general elections are on March 31.

Massachusetts State Senate

  • Second Hampden & Hampshire District: State Rep. John Velis is unopposed in the Democratic primary. John Cain is unopposed in the Republican primary. The seat became vacant on January 6, 2020, after Donald Humason Jr. (R) became the mayor of Westfield. Humason was unopposed in his 2018 re-election bid. He faced Democratic opposition in 2016 and won re-election with 60% of the vote.
  • Plymouth and Barnstable District: Rebecca Coletta, John Mahoney Jr., Thomas Moakley, Susan Moran, and Stephen Michael Palmer are running in the Democratic primary. Jesse Brown and James McMahon are facing off in the Republican primary. The seat became vacant on November 29, 2019, after Vinny deMacedo (R) resigned to take a job in higher education. DeMacedo was re-elected in 2018 with 59% of the vote.

Massachusetts House of Representatives

  • Thirty-seventh Middlesex District: Dina Samfield and Danillo Sena are running in the Democratic primary. Malena Chastain and Catherine Clark are facing off in the Republican primary. The seat became vacant on January 8, 2020, when Jennifer Benson (D) resigned to take a job as president of the Alliance for Business Leadership. Benson was unopposed in her re-election bids in 2012, 2014, 2016, and 2018. She faced Republican opposition in 2010 and won re-election with 55% of the vote.
  • Third Bristol District: Carol Doherty and Muzammil Nazir are running in the Democratic primary. Kelly Dooner is unopposed in the Republican primary. The seat became vacant on January 6, 2020, after Shaunna O’Connell (R) became mayor of Taunton, Massachusetts. O’Connell was re-elected in 2018 with 62% of the vote.

Democrats control the state Senate by a 34-4 margin with two vacancies and the state House by a 125-31 margin with one independent member and three vacancies. Massachusetts has a divided government, and no political party holds a state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers. Charlie Baker (R) was re-elected to a second term as governor in 2018.

As of January, 28 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2020 in 13 states. Between 2011 and 2019, an average of 77 special elections took place each year. Massachusetts will also hold a special general election on March 3, 2020, to fill another vacant seat in the state House.

Click here to learn more about  Massachusetts 2020 state legislative special elections

Additional reading:
State legislative special elections, 2020 
Massachusetts General Court



Indiana statewide filing deadline is February 7

Photo credit: Diego Delso

The filing deadline to run for elected office in Indiana is on February 7, 2020. In Indiana, prospective candidates may file for the following offices:

• All nine U.S. House seats
• Governor
• Lieutenant Governor
• Attorney General
• State Senate (25 seats)
• House of Representatives (100 seats)
• Supreme Court (one seat up for retention election)
• Court of Appeals (six seats up for retention election)

The primary is scheduled for May 5, and the general election is scheduled for November 3, 2020. The judicial retention elections are also on November 3.

Indiana’s statewide filing deadline is the 12th to take place in the 2020 election cycle. The next statewide filing deadline is on February 18 in Pennsylvania.

Indiana 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.

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Bowman replaces Schindler on the Washington Court of Appeals

Gov. Jay Inslee (D) appointed Bill Bowman to the Washington Court of Appeals on January 24, 2020. Bowman fills the vacancy left by former judge Ann Schindler, who retired effective December 31, 2019.

Bowman previously served as a judge for the King County Superior Court. He held several roles as a superior court judge, including those of assistant chief criminal judge, chief judge of the Maleng Regional Justice Center, and assistant presiding judge, the last of which he held at the time of his appellate appointment.

In addition to his judicial career, Bowman has worked as a trial attorney and was also deputy prosecuting attorney for King County. He earned his J.D. from the California Western School of Law.

Bowman is one of ten Division I judges on the Washington Court of Appeals. Unlike the Washington Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals is a non-discretionary appellate court, meaning it must review and rule on all appeals filed with it.

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