Nebraska voters will decide ballot measure to prohibit slavery as criminal punishment in 2020

Voters in Nebraska will decide a ballot measure on November 3, 2020, to repeal constitutional language allowing for enslavement and servitude as punishments for crime.
Like the Thirteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the Nebraska State Constitution prohibits slavery and involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crimes.
Nebraska’s proposal to repeal the exception for criminal punishments follows a similar change that voters made in neighboring Colorado in 2018. Colorado Amendment A passed with 66.2 percent of the vote. The Utah and Vermont legislatures are also considering bills for ballot measures to repeal the criminal punishments exception from their state constitutions during their 2019 legislative sessions.
The unicameral Nebraska State Senate voted 44-0 to refer the constitutional amendment to the ballot. Sen. Justin T. Wayne (D-13) introduced the constitutional amendment.
The measure is the first certified in Nebraska for the 2020 ballot. The 2019 Nebraska legislative session is projected to run through June 6, 2019, during which time additional ballot measures could be referred. Citizen groups have until July 2020 to file signatures for ballot initiatives.
In Nebraska, voters have rejected 34 of 54 of the constitutional changes proposed by the state legislature between 1996 and 2018.

Filing deadline passes for Mississippi House

The candidate filing deadline passed on March 1 to run in the Mississippi House of Representatives elections in 2019. This year, all 122 seats are on the ballot. The primary is on August 6, and the general election is on November 5. A primary runoff could be held on August 27 for seats where no candidate receives at least 50 percent of the primary vote.
Heading into the election, the Mississippi House majority is held by the Republican Party. Republicans occupy 72 seats (59 percent), Democrats occupy 46 seats (38 percent), and four seats are vacant. After the filing deadline, 224 major-party candidates filed to run in the primary. Of these, 99 are Democrats, 124 are Republicans, and one is a Libertarian. Forty-five percent of incumbents filed for re-election and 56 of the 122 races are uncontested after only one candidate filed.
Mississippi last held elections for its House of Representatives on November 3, 2015. Republicans gained seven seats in that election and maintained control of the chamber. The Mississippi House of Representatives is one of seven state legislative chambers holding elections in 2019, and the first to have its filing deadline pass. The other states holding regular legislative elections are Louisiana, New Jersey, and Virginia. The next state legislative filing deadline is March 28 in Virginia.

Neubauer receives six-figure boost in Wisconsin Supreme Court race

The National Democratic Redistricting Committee announced Monday that it was giving $350,000 to two local organizations—Together Wisconsin Acts and Black Leaders Organizing Communities—to support Lisa Neubauer in the nonpartisan race for the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder (D), who founded the group, is also set to travel to Wisconsin for two days next week.
The Service Employees International Union Committee on Political Education, For Our Future, and the Center for Popular Democracy Action have also collectively spent $229,000 on printing costs and other canvassing-related expenses to support Neubauer.
Brian Hagedorn, who is also running for the seat, has been backed by Americans for Prosperity, which spent $17,000 on canvassing costs.
While both candidates have said their judicial decision-making is not impacted by any ideological leanings, the race is considered a proxy partisan battle.
Conservatives, who support Hagedorn, hold a 4-3 majority on the court heading into the election. Like Shirley Abrahamson, who is retiring and leaving this seat open, Neubauer has been backed by liberals.
If conservatives win this seat, it will expand their majority on the court to 5-2. If liberals retain Abrahamson’s seat, it will set up a battle for control of the court in 2020, when Dan Kelly, who was appointed to the court in 2016 by Gov. Scott Walker (R), will stand for election for the first time.
The election will be held on April 2, 2019.

Nominating commission submits shortlist for Arizona Supreme Court vacancy

On March 1, the same day Justice John Pelander retired, the Arizona Commission on Appellate Court Appointments submitted a shortlist of five potential Arizona Supreme Court replacements to Gov. Doug Ducey (R). The commission narrowed the list to five after interviewing 11 candidates over the last month.
The five potential replacements include three sitting judges on the Arizona Court of Appeals and one judge from a superior court. Three are registered Republicans and two are registered Democrats. The nominee will be Ducey’s fourth appointment to the seven-member court.
A new judge will be chosen by no later than May 1. After receiving the shortlist from the nominating commission, Ducey has 60 days to appoint the new justice. If Ducey does not meet that deadline, Chief Justice Scott Bales would appoint the court’s new justice. A chief justice appointing a new justice has never happened in Arizona history.
Of the six justices currently on the court, five were appointed by Republican governors and one was appointed by a Democratic governor.

Filing deadline passes for Mississippi gubernatorial race

The candidate field for Mississippi’s 2019 gubernatorial election is set following the March 1 filing deadline. Three Republicans and nine Democrats filed to run in the August 6 partisan primaries. If no candidate receives a majority in a primary, the top two finishers will compete in a runoff on August 27.
The Republican candidates are state Rep. Robert Foster, Lieutenant Gov. Tate Reeves, and former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr.
The Democrat candidates are William Bond Compton Jr., Michael Brown, Attorney General Jim Hood, Robert J. Ray, Hinds County District Attorney Robert Schuler Smith, Gregory Walsh, former state Rep. Phillip West, Velesha Williams, and Albert Wilson.
David Singletary filed to run as an independent in the November 5 general election.

The Kentucky Supreme Court has one vacancy. How will it be filled?

Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Bill Cunningham left office on January 31, 2019.
Governor Matt Bevin will now have the opportunity to make his first appointment to the court once he is given a list of three names by the Kentucky Judicial Nominating Commission.
The newly-appointed justice will serve until a special election in November 2019. The winner of that election will serve the remainder of Cunningham’s term, which will expire in January 2023. The filing deadline for this election is June 4, 2019.
The selection commission is made up of seven members: Kentucky Supreme Court Chief Justice John Minton, two attorneys, and four citizens. The attorneys are elected to the commission by the Kentucky Bar Association, and there are no restrictions on their partisan affiliations. The four citizens are appointed by the governor, and state law requires that they are split evenly between Democrats and Republicans.
There are currently six justices on the court. Three were selected in nonpartisan elections. Two were appointed by Gov. Ernie Fletcher (R) and one was appointed by Gov. Steve Beshear (D).
To serve on the court, a candidate must be a citizen of Kentucky for at least two years and be licensed to practice law in Kentucky for at least eight years.

Did you know? Five facts about the office of secretary of state

In 47 states, the secretary of state is a top-level executive office with administrative responsibilities. However, the role and duties of the office vary from state to state.
Here are five things you may not know about the office of secretary of state:
  1. Three states—Alaska, Hawaii, and Utah—do not have a secretary of state. In Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, the office is referred to as “secretary of the commonwealth” but has the same role.
  2. As of March 2019, there are 24 Republican secretaries of state and 21 Democratic secretaries. North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger was elected as an independent. Oregon’s office is currently vacant following the death of Dennis Richardson (R). Gov. Kate Brown (D) is tasked with appointing his successor, who must legally be a member of the Republican Party.
  3. The office is directly elected in 35 states and appointed in 12. The governor appoints the secretary of state in nine of those states. The state legislature appoints the secretary of state in the other three.
  4. No two states give the office the exact same responsibilities. The secretary of state is the chief elections officer in 37 states and is responsible for reviewing ballot measures in 23 states. Other common roles and duties include business registration, maintenance of official records, and certification of official documents.
  5. Three states are holding elections for the office this year. Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D) is prevented by term limits from seeking re-election, leaving her seat open. Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann (R) is running for lieutenant governor rather than seeking re-election. Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin (R), who took office partway through an existing term in 2018, has not yet announced whether he will run for a full term this year.

Republicans ahead in early 2019 state legislative special elections

Special elections have been held for 14 state legislative seats so far in 2019. Ten of those seats were in districts vacated by Democrats, and the other four seats were previously held by Republicans. As of the start of March, three seats had flipped from Democratic control to Republican control.
On February 5, Jason Rarick (R) defeated Stu Lourey (DFL) and Legal Marijuana Now candidate John Birrenbach in the special election for Minnesota State Senate District 11. The seat was previously held by Tony Lourey (D), who resigned to take a position as state human services commissioner. Rarick’s win gave Republicans a three-seat majority in the state Senate.
On February 26, Gennaro Bizzarro (R) defeated Rick Lopes (D) in the special election for Connecticut State Senate District 6. On the same day, Joseph Zullo (R) defeated Josh Balter (D) in the special election for Connecticut House of Representatives District 99. Both seats were vacated by Democrats who joined Gov. Ned Lamont’s (D) administration.
Another 30 state legislative special elections are currently scheduled to be held in 2019. Seventeen of those seats were vacated by Democrats, and 13 seats were vacated by Republicans. Between 2011 and 2018, an average of 77 special elections took place each year; the average in odd-numbered years is 91. Democrats and Republicans each netted more seats than the other party in four of the eight years. Democrats gained eight seats in 2018 and 11 seats in 2017.

Parties select nominees for Maine House special election

Two candidates are competing in a special election for the Maine House of Representatives District 52 seat. The filing deadline for candidates to appear on the ballot was February 22, 2019. The special election is set for April 2, 2019.
The seat became vacant on February 1, 2019, when incumbent Jennifer DeChant (D) resigned to take a job in the private sector. DeChant was first elected in 2012 and was most recently re-elected on November 6, 2018.
Democrats selected Sean Paulhus as their candidate, and Republicans selected Kenneth Sener. Paulhus currently serves as vice chairman of the Bath City Council. Sener is a retired Navy captain who has not held public office before.
A third candidate, Christopher Hallowell, was nominated prior to the filing deadline but will not appear on the ballot. Hallowell was nominated to run as a Libertarian; however, the Libertarian Party in Maine does not currently have enough registered voters to retain its standing as a qualified party.
To qualify as an official political party in Maine, 10,000 voters enrolled as members of that party must cast ballots in a general election. Currently, the three official parties in Maine are the Democratic Party, the Republican Party, and the Green Independent Party. As of November 7, 2018, the Libertarian Party in Maine only had 6,168 registered voters. The Libertarian Party has filed to regain its official status and has until January 2, 2020, to gain at least 5,000 enrollees.
Non-party state House of Representatives candidates in Maine must submit 50 signatures from the district they are seeking to represent in order to appear on the ballot. Hallowell did not submit the signatures, and he, therefore, will not appear on the ballot. The deadline for write-in candidates was on March 1, and no write-in candidates filed.
Maine is currently a Democratic trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers.

Special election to fill vacant Kentucky Senate seat

A special general election for District 31 of the Kentucky State Senate is scheduled for March 5, 2019. The seat was vacated when Ray Jones (D) resigned in January 2019 after becoming the Pike County Judge-Executive. The candidate filing deadline was January 15, 2019.
Two candidates are vying for the seat: Democrat Darrell Pugh and Republican Phillip Wheeler.
The last general election for the Kentucky State Senate took place on November 8, 2016, when 19 of the 38 seats were up for election. The elections did not result in any changes to the Senate’s political control, with the Republican party holding 27 of the chamber’s 38 seats (71 percent). The next regular election for the Kentucky State Senate is scheduled for November 3, 2020. Kentucky 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 March, 44 state legislative special elections have been scheduled or held in 18 states. Between 2011 and 2018, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.