Spring elections held in Wisconsin

The statewide nonpartisan general election for Wisconsin was held on April 6. The primary was held on February 16, and the filing deadline to run passed on January 5. Candidates ran in elections for special elections in the Wisconsin State Legislature, three judgeships on the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, and in municipal and school board elections.

Wisconsin State Legislature

• State Senate District 13: John Jagler (R) defeated four candidates to win the special election, winning 51.2% of the total (37,385) reported votes. The seat became vacant after incumbent officeholder Scott Fitzgerald (R) was elected to the U.S. House to represent Wisconsin’s 5th Congressional District on Nov. 3. Fitzgerald vacated his seat on Jan. 1.

• State Assembly District 89: Elijah Behnke (R) defeated challenger Karl Jaeger (D) to win the special election. Behnke received 60.3% of the total (8,413) votes, while Jaeger received 39.7% of the votes. The seat became vacant on Dec. 2, after John Nygren (R) resigned his seat to work in the private sector.

Wisconsin Court of Appeals

• In District 1, Judge Maxine A. White won re-election unopposed.

• In District 2, Judge Jeffrey Davis was defeated by challenger Shelley Grogan.

• In District 3, newcomer Greg Gill Jr. defeated Rick Cveykus.

Ballotpedia also covered local elections in the following areas:

• Dane County and Milwaukee County

• The cities of Madison and Milwaukee

• DeForest Area School District

• Madison Metropolitan School District

• McFarland School District

• Middleton-Cross Plains School District

• Milwaukee Public Schools

• Sun Prairie Area School District

• Verona Area School District

Additional Reading:

Maryland voters will decide whether to rename the Maryland Court of Appeals and the Maryland Court of Special Appeals in 2022

On April 6, the Maryland State Legislature referred a constitutional amendment to the November 2022 ballot that would rename the Maryland Court of Appeals to the Supreme Court of Maryland and the Maryland Court of Special Appeals to the Appellate Court of Maryland. It would also change the name of a Judge of the Court of Appeals to a Justice of the Supreme Court of Maryland and the name of the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Maryland. The measure would also amend the gendered language to be gender-neutral in the articles of the Maryland Constitution that would be amended.

In a hearing on the bill, Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals Mary Ellen Barbera said, “There is confusion from beyond the borders of our state as lawyers, law students and litigants research, contact and even file papers with the wrong court. That same confusion persists among Marylanders.”

To put a legislatively referred constitutional amendment before voters, a 60% vote is required in both the Maryland State Senate and the Maryland House of Representatives.

This amendment was introduced as House Bill 885 (HB 885) on January 29, 2021, by Delegate Ron Watson (D). It was approved in the state House by a vote of 125-10 on March 21, 2021. On April 6, 2021, the Maryland State Senate approved the amendment by a vote of 40-7.

The Maryland Court of Appeals is the state’s court of last resort and has seven judgeships. The Maryland Court of Special Appeals is the intermediate appellate court in Maryland. Judges are appointed to serve 10-year terms with confirmation from the Maryland State Senate. The seven judges of the Maryland Court of Appeals are appointed by the governor from a list submitted by a judicial nominating commission and are subject to state Senate confirmation. After serving for at least one year, judges must stand in yes-no retention elections to determine whether they will remain on the court. Maryland has a mandatory retirement age for all judges of 70 years.

From 1996 through 2020, 33 of 36 (92%) statewide measures in Maryland were approved, and three of 36 (8%) were defeated.

Additional Reading:

Republican-controlled Arkansas General Assembly overrides gubernatorial veto of bill prohibiting gender-affirming treatments for minors

On April 6, the Arkansas General Assembly overrode Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s (R) veto of House Bill 1570 (H.B. 1570), a bill prohibiting physicians and healthcare professionals from providing chemical or surgical gender-affirming treatments—including hormone therapy and puberty blockers—to individuals under the age of 18. The bill also prohibits providers from referring minors elsewhere in order to receive such treatments. Gender-affirming treatment, also known as gender reassignment treatment, refers to the process of changing a person’s body to conform with their gender identity.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Flippo (R), a proponent of the bill, described the prohibited treatments as “something that oftentimes could be irreversible,” adding that “it is not simply too much to ask to let [children’s] minds develop and mature a little bit before they make what could be a very permanent and life-changing decision.”

In his veto announcement, Hutchinson said the bill would create “new standards of legislative interference with physicians and parents as they deal with some of the most complex and sensitive matters involving young people. … This would be, and is, a vast government overreach.”

Hutchinson vetoed H.B. 1570 on April 5. In Arkansas, a majority of votes in both chambers is required to override a gubernatorial veto. At the time of the veto, Republicans held veto-proof majorities in both the state House and Senate.

The House and Senate voted 71-24 and 25-8 in favor of the override, respectively. All Democrats, one independent, and three Republicans voted against the override. The remaining Republicans voted in favor of the override. Seven assembly members—one Democrat and six Republicans—did not vote.

This is the third noteworthy gubernatorial veto override Ballotpedia has identified in 2021.

Voters to decide New Hampshire House special election on April 13

A special election is being held on April 13 for the Hillsborough 21 District of the New Hampshire House of Representatives. Wendy Thomas (D), Bill Boyd (R), and Stephen Hollenberg (independent) are running in the special election. The winner will serve until December 2022. The Hillsborough 21 District is a multi-member district made up of eight seats.

The seat became vacant after the death of state House speaker Dick Hinch (R) on Dec. 9 from complications caused by COVID-19. He was sworn in as House speaker on Dec. 2 and previously served as state House minority leader and state House majority leader. He was first elected to the state House in 2008.

New Hampshire 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. Republicans control the New Hampshire House of Representatives by a margin of 212-186, with two vacancies.

As of April 2021, 33 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2021 in 16 states. Between 2011 and 2020, an average of 75 special elections took place each year. New Hampshire held 29 state legislative special elections from 2010 to 2020.

Additional reading:

State redistricting deadlines in 2021, 2022, and 2023

The U.S. Census Bureau announced in February that it would deliver the detailed datasets needed for redistricting to the states by Sep. 30, 2021, after the original April 1, 2021, deadline. Some states’ own redistricting deadlines predate the Census Bureau’s projected data delivery date, prompting states to consider postponements or alternative data sources.

State redistricting deadlines generally take one of three forms:

Constitutional deadlines are set out explicitly in state constitutions. Altering these deadlines typically requires either a constitutional amendment or a court order.

Statutory deadlines are set by state legislatures. They are subject to change at the legislature’s discretion.

• Redistricting deadlines can also be inferred from candidate filing deadlines. For example, if a state sets its filing deadline for congressional candidates for Feb. 1, 2022, it can be inferred that the congressional maps must be fixed by that point.

Congressional redistricting deadlines

Maine’s constitutional June 1, 2021, deadline for congressional redistricting is the earliest such deadline of any state. Five states – Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, and Ohio – have congressional redistricting deadlines in the third quarter of 2021. Another six states – Michigan, North Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Washington – have deadlines in the final quarter of 2021. The remaining states have deadlines in 2022.

State legislative redistricting deadlines

Indiana’s deadline for state legislative redistricting, which is set by statute, is April 29, 2021, earlier than that of any other state. Five other states – Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Nevada, and Oklahoma – have state legislative redistricting deadlines in the second quarter of 2021. Another eight states – Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Iowa, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oregon, and Vermont – have deadlines in the third quarter of 2021. Nine states – Alaska, Massachusetts, Michigan, North Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Washington – have deadlines in the final quarter of the year. The remaining states have deadlines in either 2022 or, in the case of Montana, 2023.

Additional reading:

Four Republicans file to run in New Jersey gubernatorial primary, Gov. Murphy draws one primary challenger

Four Republican candidates filed to run for governor of New Jersey ahead of the April 5 filing deadline. Jack Ciattarelli, Brian Levine, Philip Rizzo, and Hirsh Singh will compete in the June 8 primary election for their party’s nomination. The general election will take place on Nov. 2.

Ciattarelli and Singh both ran for governor in 2017. Kim Guadagno, the Republican nominee, received 47% of the vote in the Republican primary. Ciattarelli received 31% and Singh received 10% of the vote.

Governor Phil Murphy (D) faces challenger Roger Bacon in the Democratic primary. Murphy won a six-way Democratic primary with 48% of the vote in 2017. This is Bacon’s second run for governor. In 2009, he ran in a four-way primary against then-Gov. Jon Corzine (D) and received 6% of the vote.

New Jersey is currently a Democratic trifecta, with a Democratic governor and Democratic majorities in both chambers of the state legislature. New Jersey was last under divided government in 2017, when Democrats controlled the legislature and Chris Christie (R) was governor.

Additional reading:

Jill Underly wins Wisconsin’s Superintendent of Public Instruction election

Jill Underly defeated Deborah Kerr in the nonpartisan election for Wisconsin Superintendent of Public Instruction on Apr. 6. Decision Desk HQ called the race at 9:15 p.m. CT, and the Associated Press called the race at 9:30 p.m. CT. With 67% of precincts reporting, Underly led with 57% of the vote to Kerr’s 43%.

Kerr and Underly had advanced to the general election with 26.5% and 27.3% of the Feb. 16 primary vote, respectively. Incumbent Carolyn Stanford Taylor, who was appointed in 2019 by the state’s current governor and former Superintendent Tony Evers (D), announced in January 2020 that she would not run for a full term.

Though the race was officially nonpartisan, both candidates were affiliated with the Democratic Party. Underly was endorsed by two former Wisconsin state superintendents, four Democratic members of Congress, and 29 Democratic members of the Wisconsin State Legislature. In her own words, Kerr she was a “pragmatic Democrat with conservative values.” She received endorsements from state Senators Alberta Darling (R) and Lena Taylor (D).

Re-implementing in-person schooling in response to the coronavirus and the allocation of school funding were central issues in the race, according to the Associated Press. Kerr said her plan would have school reopenings be mandatory across the state, and Underly said her plan for reopenings would have local school districts decide when they reopen. In regards to school funding, Kerr supported the public funding of school vouchers and charter schools, while Underly opposed the public funding of school vouchers and charter schools.

Wyoming to vote in 2022 to allow local governments to invest in stocks and equities

On April 1, the Wyoming State Legislature referred a constitutional amendment to the 2022 ballot that would allow the legislature to provide by law for local governments (county, city, township, town, school district, or other political subdivision) to invest funds in stocks and equities. Legislation establishing or increasing the percentage of funds a local government could invest would require a two-thirds supermajority vote of the state legislature. Currently, the state constitution allows the state legislature to authorize certain state funds to be invested in stocks.

To put a legislatively referred constitutional amendment before voters, a two-thirds (66.67 percent) supermajority vote is required in both the Wyoming State Senate and the Wyoming House of Representatives.

The measure was introduced as House Joint Resolution 9 on March 4, 2021. It was approved in the House on March 23, 2021, by a vote of 43-16. The Senate approved an amended version of the measure on April 1, 2021, in a vote of 25-5, which was sent to the House for concurrence. The House concurred with the Senate’s amendments on April 1, 2021, in a vote of 46-13.

Between 2000 and 2020, the Wyoming State Legislature referred 20 constitutional amendments to the ballot, of which, 12 were approved (60%) and eight (40%) were defeated.

The legislature was set to adjourn the 2021 legislative session on April 7, 2021. The legislature can also refer measures to the 2022 ballot during the 2022 legislative session.

As of April 2, 2021, 15 statewide ballot measures had been certified for the 2022 ballot in 10 states.

Additional Reading:

Rhode Island Gov. Dan McKee nominates Providence City Council President Sabina Matos as lieutenant governor

Gov. Daniel McKee (D) nominated Providence City Council President Sabina Matos as lieutenant governor on March 31. McKee was responsible for choosing a new lieutenant governor after leaving the position to be sworn in as governor on March 2. McKee replaced Gina Raimondo (D) as governor when she resigned to become U.S. secretary of commerce.

Matos is the president of the Providence City Council. She was elected to the council in 2010, re-elected in 2018, and elected president in 2019. Her appointment must be confirmed by the Rhode Island State Senate.

According to NECN-TV, around 80 people applied for the position. Upon selecting Matos, McKee said, “I was looking for someone to be a true governing partner…someone who shares my commitment to supporting our 39 cities and towns and our small businesses, and that’s exactly what I found in Sabina.” If confirmed, Matos would be Rhode Island’s first lieutenant governor who is a person of color.

Additional Reading:

Georgia legislature sends two measures to the 2022 ballot during its 2021 session

The Georgia State Legislature adjourned its 2021 legislative session on April 1, 2021. The legislature passed two measures requiring voter approval at the general election in 2022:

  1. a constitutional amendment to suspend compensation for certain public officials while they are suspended from office due to a felony indictment and
  2. a measure to expand a property tax exemption to include merged family farms and dairy products and eggs.

A constitutional amendment to legalize sports betting was passed by the Senate but was not passed in the House before the 2021 legislative session adjourned. The amendment could be reconsidered during the 2022 legislative session.

Suspend Compensation for Assembly Members and Public Officials Indicted for a Felony Amendment:

This measure would amend the state constitution to provide for the suspension of compensation for the following public officials while the individual is suspended from office for being indicted for a felony:

  • Governor,
  • Lieutenant Governor,
  • Secretary of State,
  • Attorney General,
  • State School Superintendent,
  • Commissioner of Insurance,
  • Commissioner of Agriculture,
  • Commissioner of Labor, or
  • any member of the General Assembly.

Currently, under the state’s constitution, assembly members and public officials who are suspended from office due to the indictment for a felony still receive compensation until they are convicted. Officials that are reinstated to their position would receive pay that was withheld under the amendment.

The measure was passed in the Senate on March 8 by a vote of 51-1 with four excused or not voting. It was passed in the House on March 23 by a vote of 169-0 with 11 excused or not voting. The single no vote on the measure came from Republican Senator Bill Cowsert.

Merged Family-Owned Farms and Dairy and Eggs Tax Exemption Measure:

The Georgia Constitution requires voter approval of legislation to enact any property tax exemption, which must be passed in the legislature by a two-thirds (66.67 percent) supermajority vote in each chamber.

This measure would expand certain property tax exemptions provided for agricultural equipment and certain farm products. The measure would allow any entity that is a merger of two or more family-owned farms to qualify. It would also extend the exemption to include dairy products and eggs.

The Senate approved the bill on March 31 by a vote of 48-0 with eight members excused or not voting. The House approved the bill on March 31 by a vote of 163-1 with 16 members excused or not voting. The single no vote in the legislature came from Democratic Representative Mesha Mainor.

A total of 84 measures appeared on the statewide ballot in Georgia from 1996 to 2020, of which 84.5% (71 of 84) were approved, and 15.5% (13 of 84) were defeated.