Alabama House of Representatives District 73 special election set for July 13, 2021

Election officials have scheduled a special election for the District 73 seat in the Alabama House of Representatives on July 13, 2021. The seat became vacant after Cam Ward (R) was appointed to serve as director of the Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles by Gov. Kay Ivey (R). The primary is on Mar. 30, and the primary runoff is on Apr. 27 if no candidate receives a majority of the primary vote. The filing deadline is on Jan. 26.

Iowa State Senate District 41 special election set for Jan. 26, 2021

Election officials have scheduled a special election for the District 41 seat in the Iowa State Senate for Jan. 26, 2021. The seat became vacant when Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R) resigned effective Jan. 2 after being seated in the U.S. House of Representatives. There is no primary, and the Democratic and Republican parties will select their nominees at special conventions. The filing deadline for other candidates is on Jan. 12.

No initiative campaigns submitted signatures by Dec. 25 deadline in Ohio

No initiative campaigns submitted signatures in Ohio on the Dec. 25 deadline. In Ohio, initiated statutes are indirect, requiring 132,887 signatures in 2021 to go before the Ohio State Legislature. If enough signatures are submitted, the legislature has the option to approve an initiative without a vote of electors. If the state legislature does not adopt an indirect initiative, the initiated statute becomes direct, requiring an additional 132,887 signatures (for a grand total of 265,774) to go before voters in 2021.

The signature deadline was 10 days before the Ohio State Legislature will convene on January 4, 2021.

Ohioans for Gun Safety, which sponsored the Ohio Background Checks for Firearm Purchases Initiative, announced in December 2019 that it would target the 2021 ballot instead of the 2020 ballot. Dennis Willard, a spokesperson for Ohioans for Gun Safety, said, “We think that 2021 gives us the best opportunity to have a clear and simple and straight forward conversation with Ohio voters that background checks for gun safety will save lives and reduce gun violence.” The initiative would have required that an unlicensed person wishing to sell or transfer a firearm to another person to conduct the transfer through a licensed gun dealer running a background check. The campaign did not submit signatures by the deadline.

Between 1995 and 2020,  45 measures appeared on statewide ballots in Ohio. Voters approved 53.3% (24 of 45) and rejected 46.7% (21 of 45) of the statewide ballot measures.

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California Supreme Court rules that 2016 ballot measure made certain sex offenders eligible for early parole

On December 28, 2020, the California Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, ruled that Proposition 57’s provision to increase parole opportunities for those convicted of nonviolent offenses applies to sex offenders. California Proposition 57 was approved at the election on November 8, 2016, receiving 64.5% of the vote.

Proposition 57 required the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (DCR) to enact a parole review program in which felons convicted of nonviolent crimes could be released on parole upon the completion of the sentence for his or her offense with the longest imprisonment term. The CDCR adopted a regulation that excluded persons convicted of sexual offenses from the definition of nonviolent offender.

The Alliance for Constitutional Sex Offense Laws (ACSOL) sued the department, arguing that the CDCR’s categorical exclusion of people convicted of sexual offenses was not consistent with Proposition 57. Gov. Jerry Brown (D), a sponsor of Proposition 57, argued that the ballot initiative did not grant earlier parole hearings to sex offenders.

The state Supreme Court ruled that the CDCR’s regulations creating a categorical exclusion of people convicted for registrable sex offenses from earlier parole were unconstitutional. Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye wrote the court’s opinion. Cantil-Sakauye stated that Proposition 57 entitled sex offenders convicted of crimes considered nonviolent to parole hearings. Justice Cantil-Sakauye also wrote that being eligible for parole hearings does not require an earlier release of an inmate. Regulations allow parole boards to consider a person’s threat to public safety in determining eligibility for early release.

Voters rejected Proposition 20, a measure that would have amended Proposition 57, on November 3, 2020. Proposition 20 would have defined 51 crimes and sentence enhancements, including some additional sexual crimes, as violent in order to exclude them from Proposition 57’s nonviolent offender parole program. Proposition 20 would have also made specific types of theft and fraud crimes, including firearm theft, vehicle theft, and unlawful use of a credit card, chargeable as misdemeanors or felonies, rather than misdemeanors. 

Amending Proposition 57, which is coded in the California Constitution, would require a ballot measure. For the state Legislature to propose an amendment, a two-thirds vote is required in each legislative chamber. For a citizen-initiated constitutional amendment, 997,139 signatures would be required. Constitutional amendments, whether proposed by the legislature or ballot initiative, require voter approval to be enacted.

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25 states and D.C. will have increased minimum wages in 2021

In 2021, the minimum wage will increase in 25 states and Washington, D.C. The size of the increases range from $0.08 per hour (a 0.8% increase) in Minnesota to $2.25 per hour (a 31.03% increase) in Virginia, and the effective dates for the increases range from October 2020 to August 2021. Increases in 18 states are scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2021.

After these increases occur, minimum wages will range from the $7.25 per hour Federal rate in 20 states to $15.00 per hour in D.C., $14.00 per hour in California, $13.69 per hour in Washington, and $13.50 per hour in Massachusetts. In New York and Oregon, state laws provide for regional minimum wages.

Below are some highlights from Ballotpedia’s annual report on minimum wage increases:

  • In 2021, the largest minimum wage increases based on state laws are $2.25 in Virginia ($7.25 to $9.50), $1.50 in New Mexico ($9.00 to $10.50) and Oregon ($11.25 to $12.75), and $1.44 in Florida ($8.56 to $10.00).
  • Eleven states are increasing their minimum wage due to citizen initiatives approved by voters. The remaining 14 states and D.C. will have minimum wage increases due to bills approved by lawmakers.
  • Nine states index their minimum wage to changes in cost-of-living or inflation; 13 states and D.C. have legislative bills scheduling specific increases; and three states have citizen-initiated measures scheduling specific increases.
  • Out of the nine states with minimum wages indexed to changes in cost-of-living or inflation, eight have minimum wage laws passed through ballot initiatives, and one has a minimum wage law passed by the legislature.
  • Florida voters approved Amendment 2 on November 3, 2020. The citizen initiative was the first time voters considered a ballot measure designed to set a $15 per hour minimum wage.
  • Four states passed minimum wage increase laws in 2020: one ballot initiative in Florida and three legislative bills in Rhode Island, Virginia, and Vermont.
  • Of the 30 states that have a minimum wage higher than the $7.25 per hour Federal minimum wage, 12 passed their existing minimum wage laws through ballot initiatives.
  • Michigan’s minimum wage law requires an adjustment to the state’s minimum wage based on inflation unless the average unemployment rate for the year is 8.5% or higher. In 2020, the average unemployment rate is expected to be higher than 8.5% and the scheduled increase from $9.65 to $9.87 per hour was canceled.

For all the details and data, read the full report here:

Minimum wage increases in 2021

GA runoff candidates on COVID-19 relief checks

Note: The Runoff Report will be back Monday, Jan. 4. Happy New Year! 

Republicans have secured 50 seats in the next U.S. Senate compared to Democrats’ 48 (including two independents who caucus with them). Control of the next Senate comes down to Georgia’s runoff elections. In The Runoff Report, we provide the latest on each race and the fight for Senate control.

Regular election updates

David Perdue was on Fox & Friends and three radio shows this morning. He discussed early voting, COVID-19 stimulus checks, election security, and more. Perdue said of Mitch McConnell introducing a bill combining stimulus checks with other provisions, “The Democrats themselves held this up for months, and so here in the last minute, they’re complaining about the normal operation of the Senate. … I can tell you the three things that Mitch McConnell is trying to do are in line with what the president has said.” 

On Dec. 29, Perdue campaigned in Forsyth, Thomaston, Milner, Jackson, and McDonough.

Jon Ossoff said in a statement about Perdue’s support for $2,000 COVID-19 relief checks: “The people have needed help, but for the past year, David Perdue has opposed all direct relief for working Georgians even while he cashed out personally on the pandemic by trading medical stocks. He hasn’t had a change of heart — he’s exclusively focused on his own political survival. Georgians deserve a Senator who will always look out for them, not just when it’s politically convenient.” 

Ossoff also released two ads, one of which features former President Barack Obama.

This election is for a full six-year term ending January 2027. Perdue was first elected in 2014. Ossoff ran against Karen Handel (R) in the 6th Congressional District special election in 2017.

Click here for more coverage of the regular election.

Special election updates

Kelly Loeffler said on Fox & Friends on Dec. 29, “Democrats have blocked relief time and again. … We have to hold Democrats accountable on January 5th. Because that’s what’s on the ballot. Who’s going to fight for the American people? That’s what David Perdue and I have been doing since Day 1, and we’re going to continue to do that.”

Loeffler also campaigned in Cherokee, Paulding, and Coweta counties. 

Raphael Warnock said in a statement about Loeffler’s support for $2,000 stimulus checks: “Kelly Loeffler made clear her priorities when she sold $3 million of her own stock while downplaying the pandemic, called unemployment relief ‘counterproductive,’ and then waited nearly nine months to take any action on additional relief while Georgians lost their jobs. Georgians learned long ago they can’t trust Kelly Loeffler to look out for anyone but herself.”

The special election will fill the remainder of the term Johnny Isakson (R) won in 2016. He resigned in Dec. 2019, and Gov. Brian Kemp (R) appointed Loeffler, co-owner of the WNBA team Atlanta Dream. Warnock is senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church. The winner will complete the term ending in January 2023. 

Click here for more coverage of the special election.

Overall campaign updates

  • President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will campaign for Ossoff and Warnock in Georgia ahead of the runoffs. Harris will be in Savannah on Jan. 3. Biden will be in Atlanta on Jan. 4. 
  • President Donald Trump will hold a rally for Loeffler and Perdue in Dalton on Jan. 4. 
  • Early in-person voting ends tomorrow, Dec. 31, in most Georgia counties. But in the following counties, today is the last day to cast an early vote in person: Fulton, Henry, Pickens, and Upson. January 1 is the last day voters may request absentee ballots. 

Today: Part 3—General election vote shares by county

In previous editions, we highlighted vote shares for Perdue and Ossoff by county in the Nov. 3 election as well as vote shares for Loeffler, Warnock, and Doug Collins (R) in the special election by county. 

Today, we present our final county vote share map, where we combine votes for all Republican candidates and all Democratic candidates in the Nov. 3 special election. Twenty candidates ran in the election, including eight Democrats and six Republicans.

Click here to view the map on our website, where you can hover over counties to see vote percentages by party.

Click here to compare the special election vote share map to the regular election map.

Longtime Maryland state Senator Miller resigns

Maryland State Senator Thomas Miller Jr. (D) resigned on Dec. 23 due to health reasons. He had announced in Jan. 2019 that he had been diagnosed with cancer.

Miller had represented District 27 since 1975. He served as Senate president for 33 years—from 1987 to 2020—the longest anyone has served as Maryland Senate president, according to The Washington Post. Prior to joining the state Senate, Miller served in the Maryland House of Delegates from 1971 to 1975.  

According to Maryland law, the governor has 30 days after the vacancy to make an appointment based on the recommendations of the political party committee that holds the vacant seat. The political party committee has up to 30 days after the vacancy to submit a list of recommended candidates to the governor. If the party committee fails to act within the 30-day deadline, the governor has 15 days to appoint a person from the political party that last held the seat.   

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Voters in two Virginia House districts to decide special elections on Jan. 5

Special elections are being held on January 5 for District 2 and District 90 of the Virginia House of Delegates.

  1. In District 2, Candi King (D) and Heather Mitchell (R) are running to replace Jennifer Foy (D), who resigned in December 2020 to focus on her 2021 campaign for governor. Foy had represented the district since 2018. She won re-election in 2019, earning 61% of the vote to defeat Mitchell in the general election.
  2. In District 90, Angelia Williams Graves (D) and Sylvia Bryant (R) are competing to replace Joseph Lindsey (D), who resigned in November after being appointed as a judge for Virginia’s 4th Judicial District. Lindsey was elected to the House of Delegates in a 2014 special election, and he ran unopposed in each of his re-election campaigns.

Heading into the special election, Democrats have a 53-45 majority in the House of Delegates with two vacancies. Virginia 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. All 100 seats in the Virginia House of Delegates are up for election in 2021.

There have been 11 state legislative special elections scheduled for 2021 in eight states. Between 2011 and 2020, an average of 75 special elections took place each year.

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Democrats gain veto-proof legislative majorities in two states, leaving them with eight to Republicans’ 16

Democrats gained veto-proof state legislative majorities in Delaware and New York in the Nov. 3 elections. This increases the number of state legislatures with a veto-proof majority in both chambers from 22 to 24: 16 held by Republicans and eight held by Democrats. 

Democrats had a veto-proof majority in both states’ lower legislative chambers heading into the election and gained veto-proof majorities in both state senates.

Veto-proof majorities are most important when the other party controls the governorship. This creates more opportunities for legislatures to override gubernatorial vetoes.

Heading into 2020, there were four states where the governor was a member of a different political party than the veto-proof majority: Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, and Maryland. All but Maryland held legislative elections in 2020. As a result of the 2020 elections, Republicans maintained veto-proof majorities in Kansas and Kentucky, and Democrats maintained their veto-proof majority in Massachusetts. No governorships in these states were up for election in 2020.

Ballotpedia identified five states with state legislative elections in 2020 that had the potential to gain a veto-proof majority of the party opposite the governor: Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Vermont, and Wisconsin. Neither party gained a veto-proof majority in any of these state legislatures. 

Forty-four states held regularly-scheduled state legislative elections on Nov 3. At the time of the election, there were 22 state legislatures where one party had a veto-proof majority in both chambers; 16 held by Republicans and six held by Democrats. Twenty of those states held legislative elections in 2020.

Although it has the potential to create conflict, the veto override power is rarely used. According to political scientists Peverill Squire and Gary Moncrief in 2010, only about five percent of vetoes are overridden. 

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