Voters in Kansas will decide a constitutional amendment to end the practice of adjusting census data for legislative apportionment

On November 5, 2019, voters in Kansas will decide a ballot measure to end a process that requires the state to adjust its census population for state legislative redistricting. Kansas is the only state that adjusts its census population for redistricting.
Before 1988, Kansas reapportioned state legislative districts based on the state government’s own census. In 1988, voters approved a constitutional amendment to use the decennial federal census for state legislative redistricting, with adjustments to (1) exclude nonresident military personnel stationed in Kansas and nonresident students and (2) include resident military personnel and resident students in the district of their permanent residence.
The 2019 ballot measure would eliminate the requirement to adjust the census population for state legislative apportionment. Secretary of State Scott Schwab (R), who supports the ballot measure, said the state would spend an estimated $834,000 to adjust the 2020 U.S. Census. He said the state would hire a private consultant for the adjustment, who would contact military personnel and students and ask where they want to be counted.
The ballot measure was referred by the Kansas State Legislature. On March 14, the state Senate voted unanimously to approve the constitutional amendment. On March 27, the state House voted 117 to seven. As a constitutional amendment, the governor’s signature is not required.
Following the 2010 federal census, Kansas used a mix of electronic and paper questionnaires to make the adjustments for military personnel and students. Riley County, Kansas, was the only county with a negative adjustment of over two percent. The adjustment resulted in a decrease of 11,017 residents, or 15.5 percent, for the purpose of redistricting. Riley County is home to Kansas State University and the U.S. Army’s Fort Riley.
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Bevin makes appointment to Kentucky Supreme Court

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) appointed former appeals judge David Buckingham to the Kentucky Supreme Court on March 27. Buckingham succeeds Bill Cunningham, who retired on January 31. A special election will be held on November 5 to elect a replacement to fill the remainder of Cunningham’s term.
Bevin chose Buckingham from a list of three potential nominees provided to him by the Kentucky Judicial Nominating Commission. Buckingham is Bevin’s first appointment to the seven-member court.
Buckingham will be the third member of the court appointed by a Republican governor. One justice was first appointed by a Democratic governor, and the three remaining justices first joined the court as the result of a nonpartisan election.
Buckingham graduated from Murray State University in 1974 and earned his J.D. from the University of Louisville’s Brandeis School of Law in 1977. He began serving as a judge for the 42nd District Court in 1982, then joined the 42nd Circuit Court in 1987 and the Kentucky Court of Appeals in 1997. He was a senior judge for the Court of Appeals from 2006 to 2010. In 2011, he retired from the bench and returned to private practice.
So far in 2019, there have been 11 supreme court vacancies across seven states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. Republicans are responsible for filling nine of those vacancies, while Democrats are responsible for filling the other two. Eight of those vacancies have been filled.
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State legislative special elections contested across four states on Tuesday

Four states—Maine, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin—each have one state legislative seat up for special election on April 2, 2019.
  • In Maine, Sean Paulhus (D) and Kenneth Sener (R) are running in the general election for the state House’s District 52 seat. The seat was vacated when Jennifer DeChant (D) resigned on February 1, 2019, to work for Charter Communications. This is the second state legislative special election in Maine for 2019; Joseph Perry (D) won the state House’s District 124 seat vacated by Aaron Frey (D) on March 12. Prior to the special election, the Maine House of Representatives has 88 Democrats, 56 Republicans, five independents, one Common Sense Independent, and one vacancy.
  • In Mississippi, Kent McCarty and Steven Utroska are running in the general runoff election for the state House’s District 101 seat. Mississippi special elections are nonpartisan, but both candidates identify themselves as Republicans on their campaign websites. The seat was vacated when Brad Touchstone (R) was elected as a Lamar County Court judge. The runoff was called after none of the five candidates in the March 12 general election received a majority of the vote; McCarty and Utroska advanced as the top two vote recipients. This is the third state legislative special election in Mississippi in 2019; Solomon Osborne won the state House’s District 32 seat, and Ronnie Crudup Jr. won the state House’s District 71 seat on March 12. Both Osborne and Crudup Jr. identify as Democrats. Prior to the special election, the Mississippi House of Representatives has 46 Democrats, 73 Republicans, one independent, and two vacancies.
  • In Pennsylvania, Pam Iovino (D) and D. Raja (R) are running in the general election for the state Senate’s District 37 seat. The seat was vacated when Guy Reschenthaler (R) was elected to represent Pennsylvania’s 14th Congressional District in the U.S. House in 2018. This is the fourth third state legislative special election in Pennsylvania in 2019; Bridget Malloy Kosierowski (D) won the state House’s District 114 seat, and Movita Johnson-Harrell (D) won the state House’s District 190 seat on March 12. Prior to the special election, the Pennsylvania State Senate has 21 Democrats, 26 Republicans, and three vacancies.
  • In Wisconsin, Tip McGuire, Pedro Rodriguez, Gina Walkington, and Spencer Zimmerman are running in the Democratic primary for the state Assembly’s District 64 seat. Mark Stalker is running unopposed for the Republican nomination. The general election is on April 30, 2019. The seat was vacated when Peter Barca (D) stepped down in January 2019 after Gov. Tony Evers (D) nominated him to be secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Revenue. This is the first state legislative special election in Wisconsin in 2019. Prior to the special election, the Wisconsin State Assembly has 35 Democrats, 63 Republicans, and one vacancy.
In 2019, there have been 51 state legislative special elections scheduled or held so far in 19 states. Between 2011 and 2018, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.
Maine has a Democratic trifecta, and Mississippi has a Republican trifecta. A state government trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and both state legislative chambers. Pennsylvania and Wisconsin both have divided governments. In both states, Republicans control both chambers of the state legislature, but a Democrat holds the governor’s office.
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Kentucky gubernatorial candidates take to airwaves as primary gets closer

Kentucky’s gubernatorial primaries are less than two months away, and candidates have begun releasing advertisements on television and YouTube.
Four candidates are running in each party’s primary. Gov. Matt Bevin (R) is seeking re-election, although he is running in 2019 with a different running mate than his current lieutenant governor.
Democrat Adam Edelen aired his first campaign ad on March 17 during the finals of the men’s Southeastern Conference basketball tournament. In it, Edelen said he was the only candidate not taking money from corporate PACs, and discussed increasing wages, expanding healthcare, and creating renewable energy jobs.
Republican Robert Goforth released a campaign ad titled “Roots” on March 20. The ad highlights Goforth’s upbringing in Kentucky, and features a clip of the candidate telling citizens that “it’s time we have a governor from Kentucky and Main Street.”
Kentucky is one of three states (Louisiana and Mississippi are the others) holding a gubernatorial election in 2019. It is currently one of 22 Republican state government trifectas.
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Virginia governor vetoes sanctuary jurisdiction-related bill

On March 19, 2019, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) vetoed Senate Bill 1156, which would have prohibited sanctuary cities.
The term sanctuary jurisdiction refers to a city, county, or state that has enacted policies that limit local officials’ involvement in the enforcement of federal immigration law. The official bill summary described SB 1156 as providing “that no locality shall adopt any ordinance, procedure, or policy intended to restrict the enforcement of federal immigration laws.”
SB 1156 passed along party lines in the House and Senate, with all Republican members voting in favor of the bill. It passed the Senate on January 17, the House on February 19 with amendments, and the Senate again on February 20. 
Northam said the bill “imposes an unnecessary and divisive requirement upon localities regarding the enforcement of federal immigration laws.”
Bill sponsor Sen. Dick Black (R-District 13) disagreed, saying Northam mischaracterized the bill. “It just says localities must not adopt policies that interfere with federal enforcement. I think he was struggling to put words down, while encouraging sanctuary cities to pop up in Virginia,” he said.
Northam vetoed a similar measure in 2018.
As of March 2019, no Virginia locality had declared itself a sanctuary jurisdiction.

Nevada voters to decide in 2020 whether to give legislature more control over state’s higher education boards

On March 21, the Nevada State Senate gave final approval to a measure to remove the constitutional status of the Board of Regents, which governs Nevada’s state universities. The amendment—Assembly Joint Resolution 5 (AJR 5)— was previously approved in both chambers during the 2017 legislative session and by the state Assembly on March 11, 2019. Therefore, the Senate’s vote certified the measure to appear on the November 2020 ballot.
By making the Board of Regents a statutory institution instead of a constitutional one, the measure would allow the state legislature to review and change the governing organization of state universities. The measure would also put the State of Nevada—rather than the Board of Regents—in charge of investing federal land grants and require the state legislature to make laws providing for the “reasonable protection of individual academic freedom” for students, employees, and contractors of state universities to encourage the promotion “of intellectual, literary, scientific, mining, mechanical, agricultural, ethical and other educational improvements.”
AJR 5 was approved unanimously in the state Senate, and it was approved by a vote of 36-5 in the state Assembly. All five dissenters were Republicans, while seven Republicans voted in favor of it. The amendment received unanimous support from Democrats.
In Nevada, constitutional amendments referred by the state legislature must be approved by a simple majority vote in each chamber of the legislature during two consecutive legislative sessions with an election for state legislators in between. The legislature approved six constitutional amendments during the 2017-2018 session that need approval during this legislative session to go on the ballot in 2020.
This amendment was the second statewide measure certified for the Nevada 2020 ballot. The first was a citizen-initiated constitutional amendment to enact renewable energy requirements that was approved in 2018 but needs approval from voters in 2020 to be enacted.
From 1996 through 2018, Nevada voters decided 79 statewide ballot measures, with an average of seven per even-year election. On average, two citizen-initiated measures appeared on the ballot during even-year elections. Voters approved 59 percent (47 of 79) and rejected 41 percent (32 of 79) of the ballot measures since 1996. The approval rate for legislatively-referred measures was about 52 percent, while the approval rate for citizen-initiated measures was about 72 percent.

Previewing 2019’s state legislative elections

State legislative offices are up for regular election in seven chambers across four states this year. General elections in Mississippi, New Jersey, and Virginia are scheduled for November 5, while general elections in Louisiana are set for November 16.
The chambers with the closest margins of partisan control are in Virginia, where Republicans hold two-seat advantages in both the state House and Senate.
Louisiana State Senate and House of Representatives
Louisiana’s state legislators are elected to four-year terms. Both chambers have term limits that prevent a state legislator from serving for more than three terms, or 12 years, in a particular chamber. The chambers last held elections in 2015. As of March 2019, here is the partisan balance of the chambers:
  • Democrats: 14
  • Republicans: 25
  • Democrats: 37
  • Republicans: 62
Louisiana is currently under divided government with a Democratic governor.
Mississippi State Senate and House of Representatives
Mississippi’s state legislators are elected to four-year terms. The chambers last held elections in 2015. As of March 2019, here is the partisan balance of the chambers:
  • Democrats: 19
  • Republicans: 33
  • Democrats: 46
  • Republicans: 73
Mississippi is currently one of 22 Republican trifectas.
New Jersey General Assembly
New Jersey’s state representatives are elected to two-year terms. The New Jersey General Assembly last held elections in 2017. The New Jersey State Senate is not holding elections in 2019. Senators began four-year terms after being elected in 2017. As of March 2019, here is the partisan balance of the chamber:
  • Democrats: 54
  • Republicans: 26
New Jersey is currently one of 14 Democratic trifectas.
Virginia State Senate and House of Delegates
Virginia’s state senators are elected to four-year terms. The Virginia State Senate last held elections in 2015. Virginia’s state representatives are elected to two-year terms. The Virginia House of Delegates last held elections in 2017. As of March 2019, here is the partisan balance of the chambers:
  • Democrats: 19
  • Republicans: 21
  • Democrats: 49
  • Republicans: 51
Virginia is currently under divided government with a Democratic governor.

Special primaries on March 26 for California Senate vacancies

On March 26, 2019, special primary elections will be held for California State Senate Districts 1 and 33. If no candidate wins a majority of the vote in the primary, a general election will take place on June 4. Candidates wishing to run in these elections were required to file by January 31.
The special election for District 1 was called after Ted Gaines (R) was elected to serve on the California State Board of Equalization in November 2018. Six candidates have filed for the position – two Democrats and four Republicans.
In District 33 of the California State Senate, Ricardo Lara (D) vacated the seat after he was elected to serve as the insurance commissioner of California in November 2018. A field of 12 candidates are vying for the seat. Of those candidates, nine are Democrats, two are Republicans, and one is a member of the Green Party.
These are the only California state legislative special elections called in 2019 so far. If there is a vacancy in the California State Legislature, the governor must call for a special election within 14 days of the vacancy. No special election can be held if the vacancy happens in an election year and the nominating deadline passes.
The California State Senate currently has 28 Democrats, 10 Republicans, and 2 vacancies. California has a Democratic trifecta. A state government trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and both state legislative chambers. Democrats gained a trifecta in California as a result of the 2010 election when they won the governor’s office.

Republicans keep Minnesota House seat in special election

A special election for Minnesota House of Representatives District 11B was held on March 19, 2019, to replace former incumbent Jason Rarick (R) after he was elected to the Minnesota State Senate in February 2019. Prior to joining the state Senate, Rarick served in the state House from 2015 to 2019. He first won the state House seat by defeating former incumbent Tim Faust (D) in the 2014 election.
Unofficial results show Republican candidate Nathan Nelson defeated Democratic candidate Tim Burkhardt with 68.4 percent of the vote. Nelson had advanced from the Republican primary on March 5 after defeating another candidate, Ayrlahn Johnson. Burkhardt did not face any primary challengers.
While the Republican Party flipped a state Senate seat when Rarick won his election, the state House election resulted in no partisan changes. Entering 2019, the Minnesota House of Representatives had 75 Democrats and 59 Republicans. A majority in the chamber requires 68 seats. Minnesota has a divided government, meaning no political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and both state legislative chambers.

Marcia Washington sworn into the Nevada State Senate

Marcia Washington (D) was sworn into the Nevada State Senate District 4 seat on March 18 to replace former Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson (D). Atkinson resigned his seat on March 5 after pleading guilty to using $250,000 in campaign funds for personal purposes.
Washington previously served on the Nevada State Board of Education and as a fire inspector in Clark County. She also previously worked for the Clark County School District.
The Clark County Commission unanimously chose Washington for the seat on March 15. She was one of 11 applicants for the position. Washington will serve the remainder of Atkinson’s term, which runs through 2020, and she has stated that she does not plan to run for a full term. Assemblywoman Dina Neal (D), who also applied for the seat, has said that she will run for the position in 2020.
Ten out of the Nevada State Senate’s 21 seats will be up for election in 2020. Of the 10 seats up for election, Democrats currently control seven and Republicans control three.
The Nevada State Senate has 13 Democrats and eight Republicans. Nevada currently has a Democratic trifecta, which is where one political party holds the governor’s office and controls both state legislative chambers. Nevada became a Democratic trifecta in 2019 when the party took control of the governor’s office.