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Ohio Superintendent of Public Instruction Paolo DeMaria retires

Paolo DeMaria retired as Ohio’s superintendent of public instruction on Sept. 24. DeMaria was first appointed to the position in May 2016 by the Ohio State Board of Education.

DeMaria announced on July 1 that he intended to retire, saying in a statement, “It has been an honor and a privilege to serve the State Board of Education, the Ohio Department of Education, the education community and school children and the people of Ohio since June 2016 as State Superintendent, and for 30 years in various agencies of state government.”

The Board of Education selected Stephanie K. Siddens to serve as the interim superintendent until they choose a permanent replacement. 

Siddens has worked at the Ohio Department of Education since 2006. At the time she was appointed as acting superintendent, she was the senior executive director of the Center for Student Supports. She previously served as senior executive director of the Center for Curriculum and Assessment and director of the Office of Early Learning and School Readiness.

The Ohio superintendent of public instruction is an appointed state executive position in the Ohio state government. The superintendent serves as the secretary to the Board of Education and also its executive and administrative officer. The superintendent is responsible for executing the educational policies, orders, and administrative functions of the board as well as directing the work of all employees who work in the department of education.

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Redistricting proposals rejected in Nebraska; legal challenges expected to enacted maps in Ohio

Here’s a summary of the week’s noteworthy redistricting news out of Nebraska, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin:

Nebraska: On Sept. 17, the Nebraska legislature rejected Sen. Lou Ann Linehan’s (R) proposed congressional redistricting map (LB1). The legislature voted 29-17 in support of advancing the map, which was four votes short of the 33 needed to advance. Sixteen Democrats and Sen. John McCollister (R) voted against advancing the map. On Sept. 20, the Nebraska legislature also rejected Linehan’s proposed map (LB3) for legislative redistricting. The map received 27 of the 33 vote needed to advance. Seventeen Democratic legislators voted against the bill, along with McCollister.

The Lincoln Journal-Star reported on Sept. 21 that Senate Speaker Mike Hilgers (R) said he may adjourn the legislature’s special redistricting session, which is expected to end by Sept. 30, without enacting new maps. Hilgers said if new maps are not approved this month, the legislature would take up redrawing congressional and legislative district boundaries during the Senate’s regular session in January, which could force the state to delay next year’s primary elections.

Ohio: Following the enactment of state legislative maps, Gov. Mike DeWine (R) and Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R), who are members of the Ohio Redistricting Commission, said they expected legal action to challenge the maps. DeWine (R) said: “Along with the secretary of state I will vote to send this matter forward but it will not be the end of it. We know that this matter will be in court. […] What I am sure in my heart is that this committee could have come up with a bill that was much more clearly constitutional.” The commission voted to approve state legislative maps along party lines shortly after midnight on Sept. 16. Since the maps were only approved by Republican members of the commission, they will only last for four years rather than ten.

Oregon: Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek (D) announced the creation of two special legislative committees to review congressional and state legislative maps during the first day of the legislature’s special redistricting session on Sept. 20. Kotek appointed two Democrats and one Republican to the House Special Committee on Congressional Redistricting, and four Democrats and four Republicans to the House Special Committee on State Legislative Redistricting. Previously a single committee, the House Special Committee on Redistricting had the responsibility of considering both the legislative and congressional maps

Also, the Oregon Senate approved the Senate Redistricting Committee’s legislative and congressional redistricting proposals 18-11 on Sept. 20 along party lines. All 18 Democratic legislators voted to approve the maps, and 10 Republicans and one independent legislator voted against.

Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania Legislative Reapportionment Commission said on Sept. 21 it would only count incarcerated individuals whose sentences expire in less than ten years at their last residence, rather than at their place of incarceration, for the purposes of redistricting. On Aug. 23, the commission voted to approve a measure that would count all incarcerated individuals at their last known address, rather than at their place of incarceration.

Wisconsin: The Wisconsin Supreme Court decided 4-3 on Sept. 22 to hear a redistricting case filed by the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty asking the court to establish a timeline for the legislature and Gov. Tony Evers (D) to agree on new maps, and for the court draw the maps should the legislature and governor be unable to. The state supreme court said that lawsuits concerning the state’s district maps should be heard in state, rather than federal, courts, stating, “This court has long deemed redistricting challenges a proper subject for the court’s exercise of its original jurisdiction.”

On Sept. 21, a three-judge federal district court panel asked all parties to a lawsuit associated with the state’s redistricting process to submit a proposed schedule to complete a trial by the end of January so that district maps can be finalized by March 1, 2022. The lawsuit was filed by a group of plaintiffs on Aug. 13 and asks the court to set a deadline for legislators to redraw district maps. The suit also asks the court to intervene and draw maps if the deadline is not met. The panel’s opinion stated, “If history is any guide, to put it mildly, there’s at least a substantial likelihood that divided government in the state of Wisconsin will have trouble, as it has in the past, drawing its own maps.”

Federal law requires that a three-judge panel hear constitutional challenges to congressional or state legislative redistricting plans. The judges on the panel are appeals court justice Amy St. Eve, James Peterson, and Edmond Chang. St. Eve was nominated to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals by Donald Trump (R) and Chang and Peterson were nominated to the district court by Barack Obama (D).

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Four states release proposed redistricting maps between Sept. 15 and 22

Four states— Alaska, Arkansas, Texas, and Washington— released proposed redistricting maps between Sept. 15 and 22.

Alaska: The Alaska Redistricting Board adopted six proposed state legislative maps at its Sept. 20 meeting: two prepared by the board and four proposed by third-party organizations. The board originally released its two proposals on Sept. 9 but replaced those proposals with two revised versions at the latest meeting. At the same time, the board approved maps designed by:

  • Coalition of Doyon, Ltd., Tanana Chiefs Conference, Fairbanks Native Association, Sealaska, and Ahtna
  • Alaskans for Fair and Equitable Redistricting (AFFER)
  • Alaskans for Fair Redistricting (AFFR)
  • The Senate Minority Caucus

The Alaska Democratic Party also proposed a map, but it was not adopted by the board. According to Board Chairman John Binkley (R), the board will now begin a public meeting tour around the state to discuss the six proposed maps with attendees before making its final decision.

View the proposals here.

Arkansas: The House and Senate State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committees met jointly for the first time on Sept. 20 to discuss proposed maps for the state’s four congressional districts. Between Sept. 9 and 15, three legislators— Reps. Nelda Speaks (R), Jack Ladyman (R), and David Whitaker (D)— introduced congressional redistricting proposals. 

The Sept. 20 meeting was the first of three for the joint committees and it was set up to consider proposals introduced before Sept. 17. The remaining two meetings were scheduled for Sept. 23, to consider maps proposed by Sept. 21, and Sept. 27, to consider maps proposed by Sept. 24. According to earlier reports, the Arkansas State Legislature will reconvene on Sept. 29 to deliberate.

In Arkansas, the legislature is responsible for congressional redistricting while a separate Board of Apportionment is responsible for state legislative redistricting. That board consists of the governor, attorney general, and secretary of state.

View the proposals here.

Texas: The Senate Redistricting Committee released a draft of a Senate legislative map on Sept. 18, making it the first proposed map released during the state’s 2020 redistricting cycle.

Members of the Senate Redistricting Committee will hold public hearings on two proposed bills— SB 4 and SB 7— on Sept. 24 and 25. SB 4 deals with state Senate districts and SB 7 deals with State Board of Education districts, which are also redrawn following the census.

View the proposed map here.

Washington: The state’s four voting Redistricting Commissioners each released proposed state legislative maps on Sept. 21. These maps will be the subject of a virtual public meeting on Oct. 5. Members of the public are invited to participate. The deadline for the commission to finalize its state legislative district map is Nov. 15.

In Washington, congressional and state legislative lines are redrawn by a five-person non-politician commission. The majority and minority leaders of the Washington State Senate and House of Representatives each appoint one registered voter. These four appointed commissioners then appoint a fifth, non-voting member, to serve as chair.

View the proposals here.



The Daily Brew: The latest on North Carolina’s voter ID law

Welcome to the Friday, September 24, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. North Carolina court strikes down voter ID law as unconstitutional
  2. Your support every month will help voters every day
  3. U.S. Supreme Court releases December argument calendar

North Carolina court strikes down voter ID law as unconstitutional

On Sept. 17, a three-judge panel of the Wake County Superior Court ruled 2-1 that North Carolina’s voter ID law violates the state constitution. As a result, the law remains not in force. In early 2020, the same court ordered an injunction on the law pending its final ruling. Supporters of the law have indicated they will appeal this decision.

This is the latest in a series of legal challenges concerning North Carolina’s voter ID law. Let’s catch up on how we got here.

  • June 29, 2018: The North Carolina State Senate voted 33-12 to place House Bill 1092 (HB 1092) on the November ballot, which, if passed, would amend the state constitution to require voter identification at the polls under rules established by the legislature.
  • Nov. 6, 2018: The voter ID amendment passed with 55.5% in favor and 44.5% opposed.
  • Dec. 6, 2018: To comply with the amendment, the General Assembly of North Carolina voted to approve Senate Bill 824 (SB 824), which established the laws governing the state’s voter ID requirements.
  • Dec. 14, 2018: Gov. Roy Cooper (D) vetoed SB 824.
  • Dec. 19, 2018: The North Carolina House of Representatives overrode Cooper’s veto. The first lawsuits against SB 824 were filled shortly thereafter.
  • July 19, 2019: The Wake County Superior Court declined the plaintiffs’ motion for an injunction to halt SB 824. Plaintiffs appealed.
  • Feb. 18, 2020: A three-judge panel on the North Carolina Court of Appeals ordered the Wake County Superior Court to grant the plaintiffs’ motion for an injunction, which it did, pending its final decision.
  • Sept. 17, 2021: The Wake County Superior Court ruled SB 824 as unconstitutional.

Under North Carolina’s SB 824, voters would be given a list of specific photo identifications they could present at the polls, including items like a driver’s license, passport, or tribal ID. SB 824 does not provide for a non-photo ID alternative like an affidavit or signature matching. If a voter cannot present one of the required IDs at the polls, he or she would be able to cast a provisional ballot but would have to return to the county board of elections with a proper form of identification before the votes are canvassed.

The Wake County Superior court panel found that “the evidence at trial [is] sufficient to show that the enactment of [SB 824] was motivated at least in part by an unconstitutional intent to target African American voters.” Judges Michael O’Foghludha (D) and Vince Rozier Jr. (D) formed the majority. Judge Nathaniel Poovey (R) dissented. All three judges were last elected in 2018 after running unopposed in partisan elections to serve eight-year terms.

Sam Hayes, general counsel for House Speaker Tim Moore (R), said Moore would appeal the ruling. If he does, the case would go before a panel of judges from the North Carolina Court of Appeals, on which Republicans currently hold a nine-seat majority. Democrats hold five seats with one judge’s partisan affiliation unknown.

As of September 2021, 35 states require some form of identification when voting. In 20 of those states, photo identification is required with the remaining 15 requiring non-photo identification. Fifteen states and the District of Columbia do not typically require voters to present ID at the polls.

Here are three other recent times courts have ruled on voter ID laws:

  • Texas: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld a voter ID law in 2018 which required photo identification under most circumstances. If a voter did not have a proper ID at the polls, he or she could vote provisionally and return later to present the proper ID.
  • Missouri: The Missouri Supreme Court struck down a provision regarding affidavit requirements if a voter did not have a proper ID. As a result, Missouri voters could cast a ballot with either photo or non-photo identification.
  • North Dakota: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit upheld a law that re-established the state’s voter ID requirement. Under the law, voters without an ID at the polls could vote provisionally and then present a valid ID later. Voters could also present supplementary information like utility bills or bank statements if needed.

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U.S. Supreme Court releases December argument calendar

On Sept. 20, the U.S. Supreme Court released its December argument calendar for the 2021-2022 term, scheduling nine cases for argument between Nov. 29 and Dec. 8. Justices use these arguments to speak directly to attorneys and ask them questions about their cases.

Here’s a quick look at three of those cases:

  • Cummings v. Premier Rehab Keller, P.L.L.C. concerns federal disability laws and whether they allow the petitioner to be awarded compensatory damages for emotional distress. The Court will hear arguments on Nov. 30.
  • Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization concerns a direct challenge to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade (1973) and Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992) and the constitutionality of a Mississippi state law prohibiting abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy except in cases of medical emergencies or fetal abnormalities. The Court will hear arguments on Dec. 1.
  • Carson v. Makin concerns public education funding, religious education, and the Supreme Court’s decision in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue (2020). In Carson, the question is whether a Maine state law violates the constitution by prohibiting students participating in a generally available student-aid program from choosing to use their aid to attend schools that provide religious instruction. The Court will hear arguments on Dec. 8.

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Documenting America’s Path to Recovery #301: September 23, 2021

Welcome to Documenting America’s Path to Recovery. Today we look at:

  • Changes to Florida’s school quarantine rules    
  • Booster shots in Colorado nursing homes
  • Vaccine distribution
  • School mask requirements
  • State proof-of-vaccination requirements and policies
  • Federal responses

We are committed to keeping you updated on everything from mask requirements to vaccine-related policies. We will keep you abreast of major developments—especially those affecting your daily life. Want to know what we covered Tuesday? Click here.

Upcoming news

What is changing in the next four days?

Ohio (Republican trifecta): On Wednesday, Sept. 22, Gov. Mike DeWine (R) said he would announce a new vaccine incentive initiative on Thursday. DeWine said the initiative would be aimed at younger residents. The initiative follows Ohio’s Vax-A-Million program, which gave out $5 million in prizes to people who got vaccinated. 

Since our last edition

What rules and restrictions are changing in each state? For a continually updated article, click here.

Colorado (Democratic trifecta): On Sept. 21, Gov. Jared Polis (D) said the state would begin administering booster coronavirus vaccinations in nursing homes this week. He said the state would begin administering boosters to other residents once the FDA approves them for other groups. He also said the state would launch an at-home coronavirus testing program, and open four new community vaccination sites.

Connecticut (Democratic trifecta): On Sept. 22, Gov. Ned Lamont (D) called a proclamation calling the Connecticut General Assembly into special session beginning Sept. 27 to extend the coronavirus public health emergency declaration.

Florida (Republican trifecta): On Sept. 22, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) announced that asymptomatic students in public schools who’ve come into contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 will not necessarily need to quarantine at home. DeSantis said the quarantine decision for asymptomatic students would be left up to parents, but that symptomatic students or students that test positive would still be required to stay home.  

Wyoming (Republican trifecta): On Sept. 21, Gov. Mark Gordon (R) activated 95 National Guard soldiers to assist with the COVID-19 effort at 24 different hospitals around the state. Tasks will include administering COVID-19 tests and overseeing food services. 

Vaccine distribution

We last looked at vaccine distribution in the Sept. 21 edition of the newsletter. As of Sept. 22, the states with the highest vaccination rates as a percentage of total population (including children) were:

The states with the lowest rates were:

School mask requirements

Read more: School responses to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic during the 2021-2022 academic year

We last looked at school mask requirements on Sept. 16. Since then, no states have changed their school mask requirement policies.

State proof-of-vaccination requirements and policies

Read more: State government policies about proof-of-vaccination (vaccine passport) requirements

State governments have enacted various rules around the use of proof-of-vaccination requirements. In some cases, states have banned state or local governments from requiring that people show proof of vaccination. Other states have assisted in the creation of digital applications—sometimes known as vaccine passports—that allow people to prove their vaccination status and, in some cases, bypass COVID-19 restrictions.  

Overview:

  • Twenty states have passed legislation or issued orders prohibiting proof-of-vaccination requirements at some or all levels of government. 
  • Four states have assisted in the creation of digital vaccination status applications. 

Since Sept. 16, no state has banned proof-of-vaccination requirements or rolled out a digital vaccine status application. 

Federal responses

Read more: Political responses to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

On Sept. 22, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized COVID-19 booster shots using Pfizer’s vaccine for people 65 and older and people with medical conditions that make them vulnerable to severe cases of COVID-19. The FDA also authorized booster shots for people whose work makes them more likely to contract the virus.

On Sept. 22, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) extended restrictions on nonessential travel at the Canadian and Mexican borders through October 21.

Additional activity

In this section, we feature examples of other federal, state, and local government activity, private industry responses, and lawsuits related to the pandemic. 

On Wednesday, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) announced that athletes hoping to compete in the Beijing Winter Olympics will need to provide proof of vaccination by Nov. 1. The Winter Olympics will commence Feb. 4, 2022. 



How Clallam County votes in state legislative elections

Clallam County, Wa., has voted for the winning presidential candidate in every election since 1980, whether Republican or Democrat. This presidential voting record has earned it attention from scholars and reporters outside of the state. How has the county voted in state legislative elections?

Overall, while Clallam County voters have supported Republican and Democratic presidential candidates, they have tended to vote Democratic at the state legislative level. In gubernatorial elections, Clallam County voters have favored Republican candidates.

Clallam County falls within Washington’s 24th legislative district. The 24th district also includes Jefferson County and most of Grays Harbor County. State Sen. Kevin Van De Wege (D) and state Reps. Mike Chapman and Steve Tharinger represent District 24.

State Senate

Washington’s 24th state senate district has been represented by a Democratic state senator since the 1980 elections. During that time, Clallam County has voted for a Democratic state senator in every election except 1988. In 1988, voters elected Ellen C. Pickell (R) over Paul H. Conner (D) by a margin of 0.39%. In 1992, 1996, 2004, and 2008, the Democratic incumbent did not face a challenger.

In 2020, Clallam County voters backed state Sen. Kevin Van De Wege (D) over Connie Beauvais (R) by a margin of 0.59%. Overall, Van De Wege won Washington’s 24th district by a 1.28% margin.

The following table shows how Clallam County has voted for its state senator since 2000. The table also shows the result in the entire district.

State House of Representatives

Washington 24th state house district is represented by two officeholders. Since 1980, Washington’s 24th district has voted for a Democratic candidate to hold Position 1 in 15 of the last 21 elections. A Republican held the seat from 1994 to 2004.

Clallam County voters have backed for the Democratic candidate in 11 of the last 21 elections. In 1982, 1984, 1990, and 2006, it broke with the rest of the 24th district and voted for the Republican candidate. In 2020, incumbent Mike Chapman (D) defeated Sue Ford (R) by a margin of 8.41%. Clallam ultimately voted for Chapman over Ford, but by a margin of 1.21%.

The following table shows how Clallam voted in the District 24-Position 1 elections since 1980.

The Position 2 seat has been held by a Democrat since the 1982 elections. Clallam County has voted for a Democratic candidate to hold Position 2 in most elections since 1980. It has voted for a Republican candidate in three of the last 21 elections—1992, 2010, and 2020. In 2020, Clallam voted for Brian Pruiett (R) over incumbent Steve Tharinger (D) by a margin of .11%.

The following table shows how Clallam voted in the District 24-Position 2 elections since 1980.

Clallam County is holding municipal elections in its three cities—Port Angeles, Sequim, and Forks— in 2021. Twenty-six offices are up for election in those cities.

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Two state legislators switch political party affiliation

Two state legislators switched their political party affiliation the week of Sept. 13. New Hampshire state Rep. William Marsh switched from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party, and Minnesota state Rep. John Thompson became an independent after members of the Minnesota House Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) caucus voted to expel him.

William Marsh—who represents Carroll County District 8 in the New Hampshire House—announced on Sept. 14 that he would leave the Republican Party and switch his affiliation to Democrat. Marsh told the Washington Post that he decided to switch because he disagreed with state Republicans’ opposition to mask and vaccination mandates during the COVID-19 pandemic. “It’s not in the interest of the public to allow Covid to spread in New Hampshire as it has in Florida,” he said. “I’m a doctor first, so I stood up for my patients and said, ‘I’m done with this.’ And I left.”

In Minnesota, members of the House DFL caucus voted on Sept. 14 to expel John Thompson, who represents District 67A. House Speaker Melissa Hortman and Majority Leader Ryan Winkle said there were credible allegations of abuse and misconduct against Thompson and that the caucus voted to expel him in the absence of a resignation. In response to his expulsion, Thompson said, “The DFL chose to release me from their caucus, but what they didn’t do is dampen my resolve to continue serving my district and authentically making sure the voices of those that have been marginalized are clearly heard in the halls of power at the State Capitol.”

Marsh was first elected to the New Hampshire House in 2016, running unopposed in the primary and general elections. He most recently defeated Eve Klotz (D), 63% to 37%, to win re-election in 2020. Marsh ran in both elections as a Republican. Thompson won election to the Minnesota House as a Democrat in 2020, defeating John Stromenger (R), 73% to 27%.

Ballotpedia has identified 145 state legislators—39 state senators and 106 state representatives—who have switched parties since 1994. Marsh is the seventh state legislator in New Hampshire we’ve identified who has switched parties and is the only one to switch to Democrat. Of the other six, four became Libertarians and two became Republicans. Thompson is the third Minnesota state legislator we’ve identified who has switched parties; all three switched to independent.

Eleven state legislators have switched parties so far in 2021. Seven state legislators switched parties in 2020, and 12 switched in 2019. Nationwide, 74 state lawmakers switched from Democrat to Republican, and 20 switched from Republican to Democrat since 1994. The others switched to or from being independent or other parties.

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The voter registration deadline for Texas statewide election is Oct. 4

The voter registration deadline for the November 2, 2021 election in Texas is Oct. 4. Prospective voters can request a postage-paid voter registration form online or complete the form online and return it to the county voter registrar. Applications are also available at a variety of locations including the county voter registrar’s office, the secretary of state’s office, libraries, and high schools.

The ballot will feature eight statewide constitutional amendments. The ballot titles and proposed changes are listed below:

  1. Proposition 1: Authorizes professional sports team charitable foundations to conduct raffles at rodeo venues and includes professional association-sanctioned rodeos in the definition of a professional sports team
  2. Proposition 2: Authorizes a county to issue bonds to fund infrastructure and transportation projects in undeveloped and blighted areas
  3. Proposition 3: Prohibits the state or any political subdivision from enacting a law, rule, order, or proclamation that limits religious services or organizations
  4. Proposition 4: Changes the eligibility requirements for a justice of the supreme court, a judge of the court of criminal appeals, a justice of a court of appeals, and a district judge
  5. Proposition 5: Authorizes the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct to accept and investigate complaints and reports against candidates running for state judicial office
  6. Proposition 6: States that residents of nursing facilities, assisted living facilities, or state-supported living centers have a right to designate an essential caregiver that may not be prohibited from visiting the resident
  7. Proposition 7: Allows the legislature to extend a homestead tax limit for surviving spouses of disabled individuals as long as the spouse is 55 years old and resides at the home
  8. Proposition 8: Allows the legislature to apply a homestead tax exemption for surviving spouses of members of the military to those fatally injured in the line of duty

The Texas State Legislature can refer constitutional amendments to the ballot in odd-numbered years and even-numbered years. However, as the legislature convenes regular sessions in odd-numbered years but not even-numbered years, most amendments have been referred to ballot in odd-numbered years.

Texas is one of 16 states that require a two-thirds vote in each legislative chamber during one legislative session to refer a constitutional amendment to the ballot. That amounts to a minimum of 100 votes in the Texas House of Representatives and 21 votes in the Texas Senate, assuming no vacancies. In 2021, the average number of legislative votes for amendments referred to the ballot was 160.

In 2021, eight of the 218 introduced constitutional amendments were certified for the ballot during the regular session, meaning the rate of certification was 3.7%, down from 4.6% in 2019.

Between 1995 and 2020, 154 of the 169 constitutional amendments that appeared on Texas ballots were approved. The number of ballot measures on odd-year statewide ballots ranged from 7 to 22.

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The Daily Brew: Ballotpedia Exclusive – Looking at 2021 statewide ballot language readability analysis

Welcome to the Thursday, September 23, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. 2021 statewide ballot measures written at second-year graduate school reading level
  2. Redistricting Roundup: Oregon House Speaker creates two special legislative committees to consider redistricting
  3. How Clallam County picks its governors 

2021 statewide ballot measures written at second-year graduate school reading level

The ballot language for the 39 ballot measures appearing on nine statewide ballots in 2021 is written at an average reading grade level of 18, which is equivalent to the second year of graduate school. That’s up three grade levels from 15 in 2019. 

Ballotpedia’s annual readability analysis of ballot titles and summaries of ballot measures was conducted using two formulas: the Flesch Reading Ease (FRE) and Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level (FKGL). The FRE formula produces a score between a negative number and 100, with the highest score (100) representing a fifth-grade reading level and scores at or below zero representing a college graduate-equivalent reading level. The FKGL formula produces a score equivalent to the estimated number of years of U.S. education required to understand a text.

Here are some highlights from this year’s report:

  • The average grade level for ballot titles or questions in 2021 ranged from seven in Washington to 32 in Colorado.
  • In 2019, the average FKGL for ballot titles or questions of statewide ballot measures was 15. State scores ranged from nine to 27.
  • Ballotpedia identified 15 measures with a ballot summary set to appear alongside the ballot question. The average FKGL for the ballot summaries was 14. State scores ranged from nine in Louisiana to 17 in Pennsylvania.
  • The average ballot title or question grade was highest for ballot titles written by secretaries of state (25) and other state boards and offices (21).
  • The Washington attorney general wrote the titles with the lowest average grade level of seven.
  • The average ballot title or question in 2021 contained about 53 words. In 2019, the average ballot title length was 41 words.
  • The 2021 ballot measure with the longest ballot title was Colorado Proposition 119, which concerns an out-of-school education program and marijuana sales tax increase. The ballot question is 142 words.
  • The states with the shortest ballot titles or questions on average were Texas, Washington, and Maine; none of the three states featured additional ballot summaries or explanations on the ballot.

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Redistricting Roundup: Oregon House Speaker creates two special legislative committees to consider redistricting

Here’s a summary of the week’s noteworthy redistricting news from Nebraska, Oregon, and Wisconsin:

Nebraska: The Nebraska Senate voted to extend debate on both congressional and legislative map proposals after neither measure received enough votes to advance to a final vote.

The state’s unicameral legislature voted 29-17 in support of ending debate on the congressional map on Sept. 17, which was four votes short of the 33 necessary to advance. Twenty-nine Republicans voted to advance the maps and 16 Democrats and one Republican voted against. The Senate voted 27-18 on Sept. 20 to end debate on the legislative map, which was also short of the 33 votes needed to advance the proposal to a full vote. Members of the Nebraska Senate are officially nonpartisan; however, almost all of the members of the legislature are affiliated with the state affiliate of either the Democratic or the Republican Party. 

The Lincoln Journal-Star reported on Sept. 21 that Senate Speaker Mike Hilgers (R) said he may adjourn the legislature’s special redistricting session, which is expected to end by Sept. 30, without enacting new maps. Hilgers said if new maps are not approved this month, the legislature would take up redrawing congressional and legislative district boundaries during the Senate’s regular session in January, which could force the state to delay next year’s primary elections.

Oregon: Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek (D) announced the creation of two special legislative committees to review congressional and state legislative maps during the first day of the legislature’s special redistricting session on Sept. 20. Kotek appointed two Democrats and one Republican to the House Special Committee on Congressional Redistricting, and four Democrats and four Republicans to the House Special Committee on State Legislative Redistricting. Previously a single committee, the House Special Committee on Redistricting had the responsibility of considering both the legislative and congressional maps

Also, the Oregon Senate approved the Senate Redistricting Committee’s legislative and congressional redistricting proposals 18-11 on Sept. 20 along party lines. All 18 Democratic legislators voted to approve the maps, and 10 Republicans and one independent legislator voted against.

Wisconsin: On Sept. 16, a federal district court panel denied a motion by Republican legislators to dismiss a lawsuit asking the court to set a deadline for legislators to redraw district maps and intervene and draw the maps if the deadline was not met. The panel’s ruling stated, “The court and the parties must prepare now to resolve the redistricting dispute, should the state fail to establish new maps in time for the 2022 elections,” and the court would establish a schedule “that will allow for the timely resolution of the case should the state process languish or fail.”

Federal law requires that a three-judge panel hear constitutional challenges to congressional or state legislative redistricting plans. The judges on the panel were appeals court justice Amy St. Eve, James Peterson, and Edmond Chang. St. Eve was nominated to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals by Donald Trump (R) and Chang and Peterson were nominated to the district court by Barack Obama (D).

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How Clallam County picks its governors 

Clallam County, Wash., knows how to pick a winner—at least when it comes to presidential politics.

Every four years, going back to 1980, it has voted for the winning presidential candidate, making it the county with the longest record of anticipating the country’s next commander-in-chief—whether Republican or Democrat. 

When it comes to casting its vote for Washington’s governor, Clallam County has struck a more consistent note, though one that is still mostly at odds with the rest of the state. Clallam has voted Republican in eight out of the last 11 gubernatorial elections. Washington, however, has selected a Democratic governor in every election since 1984.

Although Clallam has selected Republican governors since 2004, the results have been close with no more than a 10-point margin separating the Republican candidate from the Democratic one. In 2008, 2016, and 2020, the margin separating the two candidates was under two points, reflecting Clallam’s political diversity.

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U.S. Senate confirms nominee to U.S. district court

The U.S. Senate on Sept. 21 confirmed one of President Joe Biden’s (D) federal judicial nominees to a lifetime Article III judgeship.

Margaret Strickland was nominated to the District of New Mexico on April 19 to replace Judge Robert Brack, who assumed senior status on July 25, 2018. Strickland was rated as Well Qualified by a majority and Qualified by a minorityby the American Bar Association. Strickland will join the court upon receiving her judicial commission and taking her judicial oath.

To date, 13 of Biden’s appointees have been confirmed. For historical comparison since 1981, the following list shows the date by which the past six presidents had 13 Article III judicial nominees confirmed by the Senate:

Currently, nine Article III nominees are awaiting a confirmation vote from the U.S Senate, seven nominees are awaiting a Senate Judiciary Committee vote to advance their nominations to the full Senate, and 12 nominees are awaiting a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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