CategoryUncategorized

Recall efforts in 2020 rose by nearly 50% compared to 2019

Ballotpedia’s year-end analysis of 2020’s state and local recall efforts found that there were 226 recall efforts against 272 officials this year, compared to 151 efforts against 230 officials in 2019. This was a 49.7% year-over-year increase in recall efforts and an 18.3% increase in officials who faced recall efforts. Over a five-year span, 2020 had the third-highest number of recall efforts; 2016 had the most with 282.

However, 2020 had the lowest success rate for recall efforts. Out of those 226 recall efforts, 29 were approved for a success rate of 12.8%. This was lower than the success rates of 22.5% in 2019, 37.4% in 2018, 14.9% in 2017, and 19.9% in 2016.

California had the most recall efforts of any state in 2020 with 39, but adjusted for population, Idaho and North Dakota had the most recalls per 100,000 residents with 0.67 and 0.66, respectively. The three types of elected officials who faced the most recall efforts were city council members (35% of all efforts), school board members (22%), and mayors (19%).

Four of the five notable recall efforts in Ballotpedia’s year-end report were connected to the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) was the subject of 20 recall efforts in 2020, nine of which were approved for petition signature circulation. Recall proponents criticize Whitmer’s executive orders responding to the pandemic.
  • Snohomish County Sheriff Adam Fortney in Washington is facing recall due to his April announcement that his office would not enforce the restrictions Gov. Jay Inslee (D) had set in place in response to the pandemic.
  • A majority of the Pocatello-Chubbuck school board in Idaho is facing recall due to their September vote approving a hybrid teaching model that uses a mixture of in-person and online instruction for students due to the pandemic.
  • Seattle Councilmember Kshama Sawant in Washington is facing recall due to allegations she had disregarded COVID-19 regulations, misused city funds, misused her official position, and relinquished the authority of her office to an outside political organization.

The fifth notable recall effort in the year-end report centered on Stevensville Mayor Brandon Dewey in Montana, who was accused of violating his oath of office by signing a $79,800 contract with a technology vendor without receiving approval from the town council first.

Additional reading:



30% of seats nationwide were uncontested in the 2020 general election

Ballotpedia covered all federal and state races on November 3, 2020, as well as local elections in America’s 100 largest cities by population. Of the 9,671 seats on the November ballot, 2,900 seats (30%) were uncontested. A race was considered uncontested if the number of candidates who filed for election was less than or equal to the number of seats on the ballot.

The states with the highest percentage of uncontested seats were Massachusetts and Alabama. In Massachusetts, 160 (73%) of 219 seats were uncontested on the November ballot. In Alabama, 34 (72%) of 47 seats were uncontested.

Other highlights from this analysis include:

  • Federal races: Alabama had the highest percentage of uncontested congressional seats on the ballot at 38%.
  • State executive races: In Massachusetts, all eight state executive seats on the ballot were uncontested.
  • State legislative races: Excluding Mississippi, since it held one state legislative special election, Massachusetts had the highest percentage of uncontested seats at 75%.
  • State judicial races: In North Dakota and Alabama, all of the state judicial races were uncontested.
  • Local races: In Wisconsin, all eight races across Dane and Milwaukee counties were uncontested in the November election.

Additional reading:



Federal Register weekly update: Tops 80,000 pages

Banner with the words "The Administrative State Project"

The Federal Register is a daily journal of federal government activity that includes presidential documents, proposed and final rules, and public notices. It is a common measure of an administration’s regulatory activity.

From December 7 to December 11, the Federal Register grew by 1,882 pages for a year-to-date total of 80,580 pages. Over the same period in 2019 and 2018, the Federal Register reached 68,324 pages and 64,432 pages, respectively. As of December 11, the 2020 total led the 2019 total by 12,256 pages and the 2018 total by 16,148 pages. 

The Federal Register hit an all-time high of 95,894 pages in 2016.

This week’s Federal Register featured the following 564 documents:

  • 456 notices
  • seven presidential documents
  • 34 proposed rules
  • 67 final rules

One final rule regarding the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) program was deemed significant under E.O. 12866—defined by the potential to have large impacts on the economy, environment, public health, or state or local governments. Significant actions may also conflict with presidential priorities or other agency rules. The Trump administration in 2020 has issued 32 significant proposed rules, 69 significant final rules, and one significant notice as of December 11.

Not all rules issued by the Trump administration are regulatory actions. Some rules are deregulatory actions pursuant to President Trump’s (R) Executive Order 13771, which requires federal agencies to eliminate two old significant regulations for each new significant regulation issued.

Ballotpedia maintains page counts and other information about the Federal Register as part of its Administrative State Project. The project is a neutral, nonpartisan encyclopedic resource that defines and analyzes the administrative state, including its philosophical origins, legal and judicial precedents, and scholarly examinations of its consequences. The project also monitors and reports on measures of federal government activity.

Additional reading:



States publish coronavirus vaccine distribution plans

All 50 states have released plans for distributing a coronavirus vaccine once one or more have been made available. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) set an October 16 deadline for states to submit first drafts of the plans.

The CDC asked states to respond to a set of planning assumptions in a document released to states on September 16 titled “COVID-19 Vaccination Program Interim Playbook for Jurisdiction Operations.” The playbook identified 15 broad categories, including critical populations, vaccine storage and handling, and vaccine safety monitoring, that states were asked to consider in their plans.

As of December 3, 2020, the CDC’s website said, “The federal government will oversee a centralized system to order, distribute, and track COVID-19 vaccines. All vaccines will be ordered through CDC. Vaccine providers will receive vaccines from CDC’s centralized distributor or directly from a vaccine manufacturer.”

The federal government will work with state, territorial, and tribal governments, which will have final authority over distribution priorities. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said governors are “going to tell us which hospital, which pharmacies, where they would like it [the vaccine] to go. … And they will be determining which groups to be prioritized.” The CDC voted on December 1 to recommend health care workers and long-term care residents receive vaccines in the first phase of distribution before the general population, but the decision was not binding on governors.

Ballotpedia has compiled links to all 50 distribution plans. To read your state’s plan and learn about the federal government’s role in distributing vaccines, click the button below.



A closer look at the demographics of Retained and Boomerang Pivot Counties

Ballotpedia has been analyzing the 206 Pivot Counties that voted for Barack Obama (D) in 2008 and 2012 and Donald Trump (R) in 2016. This year, we have introduced two new categories: Retained Pivot Counties, which voted for Trump again in 2020, and Boomerang Pivot Counties, which voted for Joe Biden (D).

Based on unofficial results that are subject to change, Ballotpedia has identified 179 Retained Pivot Counties and 25 Boomerang Pivot Counties.

A detailed look at two characteristics, population and educational attainment, shows that Retained Pivot Counties are, on average, less populous and have lower rates of high school graduation and bachelor’s degree attainment compared to Boomerang Pivot Counties.

Collectively, Pivot Counties make up 4.9% of the U.S. population at 16,070,734. The 179 Retained Pivot Counties make up 70.9% of that total and the 25 Boomerang Pivot Counties make up the remaining 29.1%.

The average population of a Retained Pivot County is 63,615 compared to 186,852 for a Boomerang Pivot County. The nationwide county population average is 104,435. Since the 2016 presidential election, the population of Retained Pivot Counties decreased an average of 0.1% while the population of Boomerang Pivot Counties increased 1.0%.

The map below shows all Retained and Boomerang Pivot Counties by population. Larger circles indicate more populous counties. The largest Retained Pivot County is Suffolk County, New York, with a population of 1,476,701. The largest Boomerang Pivot County is Pinellas County, Florida, with a population of 974,996.

For educational attainment, Ballotpedia examined high school graduation rates and bachelor’s degree attainment as a percentage of individuals 25 years and older. The table below highlights the averages of these demographics in 2020, 2016, and shows the change between those years.

On average, Boomerang Pivot Counties have a higher rate of high school graduation than Retained Pivot Counties, but a majority of both types of counties exceed the national high school graduation rate. Ninety-two percent of Boomerang Pivot Counties (23) exceed the national rate compared to 68% of Retained Pivot Counties (122). The table below shows the counties with the five highest and lowest high school graduation rates. Red dots indicate a Retained Pivot County and blue dots indicate a Boomerang Pivot County:

Boomerang Pivot Counties also have a higher rate of bachelor’s degree attainment than Retained Pivot Counties on average. Thirty-two percent of Boomerang Pivot Counties (8) have above average attainment rates compared to 3% (5) of Retained Pivot Counties. The table below shows the counties with the five highest and lowest bachelor’s degree attainment rates:

To learn more about the demographics of these counties, click here.



President Donald Trump leads in endorsement win rates among Ballotpedia’s tracked influencers

During the 2020 election cycle, Ballotpedia tracked candidate endorsements from five noteworthy influencers: President Donald Trump (R), President-elect Joe Biden (D), former President Barack Obama (D), Vice President Mike Pence (R), and Senator Bernie Sanders (I). 

Obama issued the most endorsements in 2020 elections at 232, according to Ballotpedia’s count. Of these 232 endorsed candidates, 82 won, 115 lost, and 35 races were uncalled as of December 2nd. Not including uncalled races, 42% of Obama-endorsed candidates won their races.

We counted 181 endorsements that Trump issued during the 2020 elections, the third-highest among our tracked influencers. Of these candidates, 136 won, 40 lost, and five races were uncalled as of December 2nd. Not including uncalled races, 77% of Trump-endorsed candidates won their races.

Biden issued 50 endorsements in 2020. Twelve of these candidates won, 29 were defeated, and nine races were uncalled as of December 2nd. Not including uncalled races, 29% of Biden-endorsed candidates were elected to office.

We counted 202 endorsements that Sanders issued during the 2020 elections, the second-highest among our tracked influencers. Of these candidates, 125 won, 62 lost, and 15 races were uncalled as of December 2nd. Not including uncalled races, 67% of Sanders endorsed candidates won their elections.

At 10 endorsements issued in 2020 by Ballotpedia’s count, Pence endorsed the fewest candidates in 2020 among our tracked influencers. Seven of these candidates won and three were defeated, meaning Pence-endorsed candidates won 70% of the time.

Additional reading:



Federal Register weekly update: More than 2,000 pages added

Banner with the words "The Administrative State Project"

The Federal Register is a daily journal of federal government activity that includes presidential documents, proposed and final rules, and public notices. It is a common measure of an administration’s regulatory activity.

From November 30 to December 4, the Federal Register grew by 2,280 pages for a year-to-date total of 78,698 pages. Over the same period in 2019 and 2018, the Federal Register reached 67,168 pages and 63,382 pages, respectively. As of December 4, the 2020 total led the 2019 total by 11,530 pages and the 2018 total by 15,316 pages. 

The Federal Register hit an all-time high of 95,894 pages in 2016.

This week’s Federal Register featured the following 517 documents:

  • 412 notices
  • three presidential documents
  • 37 proposed rules
  • 65 final rules

Three final rules regarding revisions to debt collection practices by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau; corrected amortization limits from the Farm Credit Administration; and the evaluation of musculoskeletal disorders by the Social Security Administration were all deemed significant under E.O. 12866—defined by the potential to have large impacts on the economy, environment, public health, or state or local governments. Significant actions may also conflict with presidential priorities or other agency rules. The Trump administration in 2020 has issued 32 significant proposed rules, 68 significant final rules, and one significant notice as of December 4.

Not all rules issued by the Trump administration are regulatory actions. Some rules are deregulatory actions pursuant to President Trump’s (R) Executive Order 13771, which requires federal agencies to eliminate two old significant regulations for each new significant regulation issued.

Ballotpedia maintains page counts and other information about the Federal Register as part of its Administrative State Project. The project is a neutral, nonpartisan encyclopedic resource that defines and analyzes the administrative state, including its philosophical origins, legal and judicial precedents, and scholarly examinations of its consequences. The project also monitors and reports on measures of federal government activity.

Click here to find more information about weekly additions to the Federal Register in 2019, 2018, and 2017. 

Additional reading:



How did political parties perform in races where the same candidates ran in 2018 and 2020?

In the 2020 general election, 402 elections in Ballotpedia’s coverage scope were rematches between the same candidates who ran for office in 2018. These rematches represented about 4.2% of all general election races in Ballotpedia’s coverage scope.

Rematch elections in 2020 included:

  • 56 races for the U.S. House.
  • One state executive race.
  • 342 state legislative races.
  • Three local races in our coverage scope.

Results in 26 rematch races (three U.S. House races and 23 state legislative races) were unavailable as of December 1.

Of the called races in 2020, Republicans won 229 (about 57%) to Democrats’ 146 (about 36%) and third-party and nonpartisan candidates’ two (about 0.5%). 

In 2018, Republicans won 222 (about 55%) of the 2020 rematch districts, while Democrats won 175 (about 44%), and third-party or nonpartisan candidates won two (about 0.5%).

In 2020, 87 rematches (about 22%) were decided by a margin of 10 percentage points or fewer. In 2018, 130 (about 32%) of the same races were decided by a margin of 10 percentage points or fewer.



Introducing Ballotpedia’s Runoff Report, a daily newsletter on Georgia’s runoffs and the fight for Senate control

Republicans have secured 50 seats in the next U.S. Senate and Democrats 48 (including two independents who caucus with them). Control of the next Senate will come down to Georgia’s runoff elections. 

On Nov. 30, we launched Runoff Report, a daily newsletter providing the latest on each runoff and the overarching fight for Senate control. Here’s the type of stories you can expect to find: 

  • Balanced coverage of candidates’ statements, events, and activities
  • Campaign ad comparisons
  • Policy/issue position comparisons
  • Campaign events with national political figures 
  • Satellite spending summaries
  • Features on the major state and national influencers involved in the races
  • Historical context on Senate runoffs in the state
  • Voting trends in the state and key counties

Georgia was the only state to hold two Senate elections in 2020: a regularly scheduled election and a special election to complete the term Johnny Isakson (R) won in 2016. Gov. Brian Kemp (R) appointed Kelly Loeffler (R) to succeed Isakson, who resigned at the end of 2019. She and Raphael Warnock (D), senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church, are running to complete the term ending in January 2023. David Perdue (R), first elected in 2014, is seeking re-election in the other race. He faces Jon Ossoff (D), who ran against Karen Handel (R) in the 6th Congressional District special election in 2017. 

Georgia holds runoffs when no candidate receives a majority of the vote in the general election. 

Additional reading: 



Senator Rick Scott, other federal lawmakers test positive for coronavirus

On November 20, Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fl.) announced he tested positive for COVID-19. On November 14, he announced he would quarantine himself after coming into contact with a person who tested positive for the virus.

Scott was the 31st member of Congress to test positive for COVID-19, and the seventh to announce a positive test since Monday, November 16.

On November 16, Reps. Tim Walberg (R-Mi.) and Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) announced they tested positive. Senate President pro tempore Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Co.) announced positive test results on November 17. On November 18, Reps. Doug Lamborn (R-Co.) and Dan Newhouse (R-Wa.) announced positive test results.