Latest stories

A preview of Texas May 4 local ballot measures

Ballotpedia covers local measures that appear on the ballot for voters within the top 100 largest cities in the U.S., including Austin, Dallas, El Paso, Garland, and Plano, Texas. On May 4, we are covering a total of 15 local ballot measures in Texas.
 
Dallas County Community College District voters will decide on Proposition A, a $1.102 billion bond issue designed to fund school building construction and upgrades.
 
Garland voters in Dallas County will weigh in on eight bond measures totaling $423.7 million in proposed new debt. The measures are designed to fund a variety of projects, including street improvements, public safety facility construction and upgrades, and recreational facility construction and upgrades. Also on the ballot is Proposition A-1, which asks Garland voters whether or not to authorize the city to sell Bunker Hill Park, with funds dedicated to public parks.
 
Plano voters in Collin County will weigh in on three bond measures totaling $44,665,000 in proposed new debt. The measures are designed to fund improvements to streets, parks and recreational facilities, and municipal facilities.
 
Eanes Independent School District in Travis County has one $80 million bond measure on the ballot, and El Paso County voters will decide on a citizen initiative designed to prohibit private development and public roadways on land that includes the Lost Dog trail system.
 
Early voting for the May 4 elections begins on Monday, April 22.


Tampa mayoral race to be decided Tuesday

On Tuesday, voters in Tampa will elect a successor to term-limited Mayor Bob Buckhorn (D). Former police chief Jane Castor and philanthropist David Straz are running in the election after being the top two finishers in the March 5 general election. Castor received 48 percent of the vote, while Straz received 16 percent.
 
Heading into the runoff election, Castor holds polling leads and more endorsements. Straz has a fundraising advantage and has released twice as many campaign advertisements. The primary issues in the race have been transportation and development.
 
No matter who wins the Tampa race, control of the city will not change partisan hands—FOX 13 said that all candidates identify as members of the Democratic Party.
 
Among the country’s 100 largest cities, Tampa is one of 20 cities with a Democrat-held mayor’s office up for election in 2019. Seven Republican-held seats and four seats held by independents are also up for election.


U.S. Attorney General reverses 2005 decision, making some detained asylum seekers ineligible for release on bond

Attorney General William Barr overruled a 2005 decision by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) that had allowed some aliens to post bond and leave detention after establishing a credible fear of persecution or torture. Barr’s decision, issued on April 16, 2019, held that the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and subsequent regulations required the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to detain those individuals transferred from expedited to full proceedings unless the secretary of DHS grants temporary parole.
 
When aliens face expedited removal proceedings, DHS enforcement officers are in charge of removing them from the country and those individuals are usually kept in detention until removed. If a detained individual facing expedited removal makes a credible case that he or she will face persecution or torture if sent back to their country of origin, then they are transferred to receive full removal proceedings, which means an immigration judge will decide their case. Barr’s decision denied that aliens transferred from expedited to full proceedings were eligible for release on bond. He argued that the law gives the secretary of DHS the discretion to grant temporary parole for asylum seekers if there is an urgent humanitarian reason like a serious medical condition.
 
At the request of DHS, Barr agreed to delay the effective date of his decision for 90 days because the agency said his ruling would have an immediate, significant impact on detention operations. The case Barr overruled had made a large population of aliens eligible for release on bond. Under Barr’s ruling, this transferred group of asylum seekers will remain in detention while they wait for immigration judges to review their cases. It can take months or even years for immigration judges to decide a given case.
 
The BIA is a 21-member administrative body within the Executive Office for Immigration Review at the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). It is responsible for interpreting and applying immigration laws and hearing appeals in immigration cases decided by immigration judges and DHS officials, who are bound by the decisions of the BIA unless the U.S. attorney general or a federal court intervenes. An immigration judge is a kind of administrative judge who presides over special adjudication proceedings involving immigration, including removal decisions.
 
You can read Barr’s decision here: https://www.justice.gov/eoir/file/1154747/download
 


Colorado school board recall moves forward

An effort to recall three of the five members of the Cripple Creek-Victor School District RE-1 school board in Colorado was approved to move forward on April 17. Board President Timothy Braun, Treasurer Dennis Jones, and Secretary Tonya Martin were targeted for recall due to “multiple violations of Colorado state statutes, school board policies and resolutions, Sunshine laws and the Colorado Open Records Act,” according to Patty Waddle, a leader of the recall effort.
 
Braun, Jones, and Martin disputed all of the claims listed on the recall petitions. Braun said Waddle was a disgruntled former employee. The three board members have until May 2 to file protests against the recall election. If they protest the recall, a hearing will be held on the validity of the petition signatures and the length of the ballot summary. If they do not file protests, the county will schedule a recall election within 60 days.
 
The recall petitions were approved for circulation by the Teller County Clerk and Recorder in January 2019. To get the recall on the ballot, recall supporters had to submit the petitions with 400 signatures from active, registered voters in the school district for each targeted board member by March 11. The county did not verify enough of the signatures that were first submitted, and recall supporters were given until April 10 to submit more signatures. They submitted the additional signatures, which the county approved on April 17.
 
Ballotpedia has tracked five school board recall efforts in 2019 targeting 10 board members. One recall effort against two board members was on the ballot so far this year. In 2018, Ballotpedia covered a total of 206 recall efforts against 299 elected officials. Of the 123 officials whose recalls made it to the ballot, 77 were recalled for a rate of 62.6 percent. That was higher than the 56.9 percent rate and 56.3 percent rate for 2017 and 2016 recalls, respectively.
 


Mayor-endorsed candidates for Newark school board win election for ninth consecutive year

Three at-large seats on the Newark Public Schools school board in New Jersey were up for general election on April 16. Incumbent Tave Padilla, A’Dorian Murray-Thomas, and Shayvonne Anderson ran together on the Moving Newark Schools Forward slate and were endorsed by Mayor Ras Baraka. They won the 2019 election and were the only candidates to receive double-digit percentages of the vote. This marked the ninth consecutive election where a slate endorsed by the mayor won. The board is comprised entirely of members who were backed by Baraka.
 
Incumbent Leah Owens, Denise Cole, and Saafir Jenkins ran together on the Children Over Politics team. The other candidates in the race—Maggie Freeman, Priscilla Garces, Arlene Ramsey, Yolanda Johnson, and Denise Ann Crawford—ran as independents. The third incumbent, Deborah Kim Thompson-Gaddy, did not file for re-election.
 
The 2019 election was the second since local control was returned to the district by the New Jersey State Board of Education on September 13, 2017. The state originally took over the district in 1995. The change in 2017 gave control to the Newark Board of Education to make decisions about finances, operations, curriculum, and programs in the district.
 


Honolulu voters choose different winner in April re-do of November election

A special election for District 4 on the Honolulu City Council was held on April 13, 2019. It was called after the Hawaii Supreme Court invalidated the results from the district’s regular election on November 6, 2018. Both candidates who ran in the regular election, Trevor Ozawa and Tommy Waters, were on the ballot in the special election.
 
Ozawa previously held the District 4 seat but was removed on January 2 pending the special election. A total of 34,005 votes were cast in the re-do election, with Waters receiving 51.4% of the vote to Ozawa’s 48.5%. In the November 2018 regular election, then-incumbent Ozawa had defeated Waters by 22 votes out of over 36,000 ballots cast, a margin of 0.06 percentage points.
 
Waters challenged the November results, arguing that some mailed absentee ballots should not have been counted. The court determined that 350 absentee mail-in ballots were received after the 6:00 pm election-day deadline and were incorrectly counted and added to the valid ballots. Because there was no way to distinguish between valid and invalid ballots and more ballots were incorrectly counted than the number of votes that separated the two candidates, the court called for a new election.
 
Waters and Ozawa previously faced off in the 2014 general election. In that race, Ozawa defeated Waters by 47 votes out of 37,162 ballots cast, a margin of 0.2 percentage points. Waters challenged those results and asked the Hawaii Supreme Court to call for a recount, but his request was rejected.
 
Honolulu is the largest city in Hawaii and the 53rd-largest city in the U.S. by population.
 


How many of the largest cities’ mayors are affiliated with a political party?

In most of the nation’s largest cities, mayoral elections are officially nonpartisan, though many officeholders and candidates are affiliated with political parties.
 
The mayors of 62 of the nation’s 100 largest cities are Democrats. There are 29 Republican mayors, four independents, four nonpartisan mayors, and one of unknown affiliation.
 
As part of Ballotpedia’s coverage of the 100 largest U.S. cities, we are tracking the 2019 mayoral elections in those cities and noting partisan changes that may occur. Thirty-one mayoral elections in those cities are being held in 2019. In 20 of those cities, the incumbent was Democratic at the start of 2019. Seven incumbents were Republican, three were independent, and the affiliation of one was unknown.
 
In the 10 largest U.S. cities, eight mayors are Democrats, one is Republican, and one is independent.
 
2019 is a mayoral election year in six of those cities: Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Antonio, and Dallas, Texas. Five of those cities began the year with a Democratic mayor and one (San Antonio), with an independent mayor.
 
One partisan change has taken place in 2019. Voters in Phoenix elected Kate Gallego (D) in a nonpartisan mayoral runoff election on March 12, 2019. Gallego succeeded Thelda Williams, a Republican. The general election was held on November 6, 2018.
 
Democratic mayors oversaw 67 of the 100 largest cities at the beginning of 2016, 64 at the beginning of 2017, 63 at the start of 2018, and 61 at the start of 2019.
 
Additional reading:


Lawmakers and voters consider distribution requirements for initiative signature drives

Voters in at least two states, Arkansas and Montana, will decide ballot measures in 2020 concerning distribution requirements for future initiative signature petition drives. A distribution requirement is a rule requiring that petitions for a ballot measure or candidate must be signed by a minimum number or percent of voters from different political subdivisions in order for the ballot measure or candidate to qualify for the ballot.
 
In Arkansas, House Joint Resolution 1008 would amend the state constitution to require signature gathering to be spread out over at least 45 counties (three-fifths of the state’s 75) instead of the current requirement of 15 counties. HJR 1008 also proposes changes to many other aspects of direct democracy in Arkansas, such as increasing the majority required for the legislature to put an amendment on the ballot to three-fifths, eliminating a grace period for additional signature gathering, and moving the deadline for signature submission and legal challenges forward to earlier in an election year.  
 
In Montana, the two amendments on 2020 ballots would not change the currently enforced distribution requirement. Rather, they would codify in the state constitution the distribution requirement currently in effect because of a court ruling and an opinion by the state attorney general.
 
Going into 2019, 17 of the 26 states with an initiative or veto referendum process had a distribution requirement. Of the 17 with a distribution requirement, nine are Republican trifectas, five have divided government, and three are Democratic trifectas. Of the nine states with initiative or referendum processes but without a distribution requirement, four are Republican trifectas, and five are Democratic trifectas.  The most recent state to enact distribution requirements was Michigan in the state legislature’s 2018 lame duck session. The Idaho State Legislature passed a pair of bills earlier this month to increase the state’s initiative signature requirement and its distribution requirement, among other restrictions. Governor Brad Little (R) vetoed the bills, however, citing a fear that they would draw a lawsuit. Lawmakers in Arizona, Maine, and Missouri also considered or are considering distribution requirements during 2019 sessions.
 
Colorado was the state to most recently begin enforcing a distribution requirement. In 2016, voters approved Amendment 71, which was a citizen initiative enacting a distribution requirement (as well as a supermajority vote requirement) for initiated constitutional amendments requiring signature gathering to be spread out over all of the state’s 35 state senate districts. Since no initiated constitutional amendments were circulated in 2017, 2018 was the first election year in which the requirement was enforced. Three initiated constitutional amendments qualified for the 2018 ballot: (1) Amendment 73, designed to increase income taxes for higher income brackets to fund education; (2) Amendment 74, designed to require that property owners be compensated for any reduction in property value caused by state laws or regulations; and (3) Amendment 75, designed to increase campaign contribution limits if one candidate spends more than $1 million on his or her own campaign. None of the amendments were approved by voters. The average number of initiated constitutional amendments on the ballot in Colorado during even-numbered years since 2006 was four.
 
In the 17 states where there are distribution requirements for initiative petitions, the political jurisdiction upon which they are based varies. In seven states, the distribution requirement is spread out over a state’s counties (Arkansas, Massachusetts, Maryland, Nebraska, New Mexico, Ohio, and Wyoming). In five states, it is calculated based on state legislative districts (Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, and Utah). In the other five states with a distribution requirement, it is based on U.S. congressional districts (Florida, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, and Nevada). Washington, D.C., also has a distribution requirement based on city wards.
 
The 76 and 68 citizen-initiated measures across the country in 2016 and 2018, respectively, were well above the average of 49 per even-numbered year from 2008 through 2014. Moreover, new trends emerged such as elections policy and redistricting, Medicaid expansion, and renewable energy and were added to initiative staples such as marijuana, minimum wage, and taxes. With the increased initiative activity, state legislators have been giving the initiative process more attention, and one of the most common restrictions considered are distribution requirements.
 
Two factors go into determining how difficult a signature distribution requirement is to meet: (1) from what percentage of the jurisdictions must signatures be collected (i.e. from how much of the state must at least some signatures be collected) and (2) how large the requirement is in each jurisdiction (i.e. how evenly must the signature gathering be spread out across the state).
 
For an example of the first factor, Arkansas’ current requirement of 15 counties is 20 percent of the state’s total 75 counties, and HJR 1008 would increase that to 60 percent. Across the 17 states with initiative distribution requirement, the first factor ranges from 20 percent to 100 percent of the relevant jurisdictions. Michigan’s newly enacted distribution requirement features 50 percent distribution because it requires signatures to be collected from a minimum of seven out of 14 congressional districts.
 
The second factor concerning how evenly gathering must be spread out can be represented by how many of the total number of signatures required is needed to meet the distribution requirement. For example, to qualify for the Alaska 2020 ballot, a minimum of 14,963 signatures are required to just meet the distribution requirement in the state, which is 52.5 percent of the total signature requirement of 28,501. While in Arkansas, the current 2020 requirement mandates a rate of 10 percent for this second factor, and HJR 1008 would change that to 30 percent. This rate ranges from 10 percent to 100 percent among all 17 states with initiative distribution requirements.
 
Additional reading:


California: April 22 deadline to register to vote in May 7 local elections

April 22 is the deadline to register to vote in local California elections taking place May 7. Voters in nine counties across the state are set to decide on local ballot measures at the special election.
 
Issues on the ballot include a residential care facility initiative for Solana Beach voters in San Diego County and a school district parcel transfer for district voters in San Mateo County. Inverness Public Utility District voters in Marin County will decide on an increase to the appropriations limit, and the remaining measures are parcel tax questions for district voters in Calaveras, Lake, Placer, Plumas, San Joaquin, and Santa Clara counties. Voters may visit their county elections websites for more information on voting and voter registration.


President Donald Trump issues second veto of his presidency

President Donald Trump (R) vetoed a Congressional resolution directing the removal of U.S. troops from Yemen Tuesday. It was his second veto since taking office.
 
The measure, which had been proposed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), passed 54-46 in the Senate, with seven Republicans joining Democrats to vote in favor. It passed the House 247-175 with 16 Republicans in favor. It would require 67 votes in the Senate and 290 in the House to override the President’s veto.
 
This marked the second veto of Trump’s presidency. The first was issued on March 15, 2019, of a resolution overriding his declaration of a national emergency on the border with Mexico.
 
At this point in their first terms, both Barack Obama (D) and Bill Clinton (D) had issued two vetoes. George H.W. Bush (R) had issued 20 vetoes while Ronald Reagan (R) had issued 16. George W. Bush (R) did not issue any vetoes until his second term.
 
Barack Obama (D) and George W. Bush (R) each issued 12 vetoes over the course of their two terms—the least of any president since World War II. The record for number of vetoes issued is 635, held by Franklin D. Roosevelt (D).
 
In U.S. history, 2,576 vetoes have been issued and 111 of those have been overridden by a two-thirds vote of both houses of Congress. Seven presidents issued no vetoes during their time in office. The most recent was James Garfield (R), who served until his assassination in 1881.
 


Bitnami