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Democrats push back against the ESG pushback

ESG Developments This Week

In Washington, D.C.

Democrats push back against the ESG pushback

In response to House Republicans’ plans to use their new majority to investigate the ESG movement, three Democratic senators penned an op-ed accusing their GOP colleagues of overstepping. The three senators—Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.)—also accused Republicans who oppose ESG of being anti-capitalist:

There is a cohort of elected officials in the United States presently engaged in an anti-capitalist crusade against free-market principles. No, they are not socialists. They are congressional Republicans, and they are attempting to prevent financial institutions from allocating capital in accordance with investor preferences and risk management principles. This attempted crackdown is purely ideological in nature — it is an exercise in political pressure to force a gross government overreach into U.S. capital markets.

This campaign, which should offend anyone with even a modicum of pro-market sensibilities, is being championed from within the Republican Party. Republican state lawmakers and members of Congress are attempting to stifle the growth of sustainable investing and to punish corporate efforts at climate-related financial risk management….

Elected officials should ensure that financial regulatory agencies properly account for risks in their financial stability and supervisory work. Climate change poses unambiguous risks to the financial system, and regulated financial institutions do not have the luxury of picking which risks to manage and which risks to ignore.

But Republicans are engaged in an entirely different pursuit. They are attempting to bully financial institutions and regulators into ignoring market demand and market risk. Imagine elected officials telling investment firms they cannot offer large-cap or small-cap funds, or emerging market funds, or value funds — or, for that matter, sector funds with exposure to energy companies.

That would be considered preposterous. It is similarly bizarre to tell asset managers they are not allowed to reflect the preferences of their investors in their investment stewardship and proxy voting, or to tell regulators that they are not allowed to consider a major source of economic and financial risk.

This isn’t how the free market works. This is picking winners and losers, in this case putting a thumb on the scale in favor of the fossil fuel industry and completely disregarding the overwhelming risks that climate change poses to our economy and financial system.

In the states

Virginia governor expresses concerns about ESG investing

Most government activity supporting or opposing ESG investing has taken place in states with Republican or Democratic trifectas

Virginia has a divided government with a Republican governor and House of Delegates and a Democratic state Senate. Gov. Glen Youngkin (R)—who worked for most of his career in financial services (private equity), where he eventually became co-CEO of the Carlyle Group— signaled last week that he, like many of his Republican colleagues, has some concerns about ESG:

Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin, who ran one of the nation’s biggest investment firms before he took office, said ESG investing is under fire because it has morphed from a philosophy for picking stocks into a weapon for penalizing companies that don’t make the cut.

“Is having world-class transparency and governance a good thing? Yes, it’s a really good thing,” Youngkin, a Republican and the former co-head of Carlyle Group Inc., said during a Bloomberg News editorial board meeting on Monday. But the definition of what’s good for the environment, social goals and governance isn’t one-size-fits all, he added.

ESG “means different things to different people. It just does,” Youngkin said. Amid this swirl of criteria, he continued, investment firms are telling companies, “If you don’t do X, then we’re going to penalize you, as opposed to just not invest with you.”

At the end of the day, the economics of returns should justify the investment decisions, Youngkin said.

On Wall Street and in the private sector

Disney’s past political involvement could create future difficulties, according to New York Post columnist

On January 14, New York Post business columnist Charles Gasparino wrote a piece arguing that Disney’s history of what he describes as political activism has created problems that will follow the company’s old and new CEO Bob Iger going forward:

Investor appetite for woke corporatism has its limits and it usually begins with a declining share price. For further proof, look at what’s going down at Disney.

For years the “House of Mouse” was the epicenter of political correctness. Investors largely ignored this circus (including a same-sex kissing scene in children’s programming) because Disney’s stock soared.

No longer. After longtime CEO Bob Iger retired in 2020, successor Bob Chapek proved to be far less adept as a manager and a seller of wokeness. Pandemic theme-park closures didn’t help. Plus he was also crushed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for opposing a law that prevented schools from teaching sex ed to 6-year-olds and lost Disney’s special tax status.

Much of his programming turned out to be a dud and his streaming strategy floundered. Disney’s stock collapsed so much that Chapek was shown the door just about two years into the job.

Iger, 71, made his return to right the ship and got more grief….

A duo of nettlesome activist investors are now circling the company like vultures. Dan Loeb’s Third Point and Nelson Peltz’s Trian Partners are unlike passive fund managers in that they use their ownership positions to advocate for changes they believe will lead immediately to a higher share price, current management be damned.

Both have big stakes in Disney and, for starters, both want Iger to focus less on programming that appeals to AOC and more on stuff that appeals to Middle America,. They want a coherent streaming strategy, cost cuts and much more.

ESG inflows continue in Europe

In contrast to American investors who pulled money out of ESG funds on net last year amid generally below-average returns, European investors are still buying shares in ESG funds, according to the numbers:

Exchange traded funds aligned with environmental, social and governance outcomes accounted for 65 per cent of all net inflows into European ETFs in 2022, even as ESG strategies underperformed.

The ESG ETFs gathered €51bn over the year out of total flows to European-domiciled ETFs of €78.4bn. The overall totals were down on 2021 when investors poured €160bn into European ETFs, but ESG’s share jumped significantly from the 51 per cent recorded then.

There is now €249bn in ESG-aligned ETFs in Europe, representing 18.8 per cent of total assets.

“In principle, this speaks of a long-term structural change,” said Jose Garcia-Zarate, associate director of passive fund research at Morningstar. He noted that 2022 was not a year to be investing in ESG for those purely focused on near-term returns. Instead a more sensible tactical approach might have been to focus on fossil fuel firms or weapons manufacturers. “I guess it tells us that investors are taking the long-term view,” he said.

Morningstar data show that “sustainable” large-cap equity ETFs in Europe have underperformed their traditional large-cap equity ETF counterparts over the 12 months to the end of December, but also on a three-year and five-year annualised measure….

The increasing relative popularity of ESG strategies in Europe is particularly eye-catching given that it has also coincided with a hard year in terms of ESG’s public image, particularly in relation to accusations of greenwashing.

In 2022, asset managers downgraded scores of “dark green” Article 9 ESG funds holding tens of billions of client money to their lighter green Article 8 counterparts under the EU’s sustainability classification.

Growing concerns over greenwashing in Europe have coincided with a strengthening anti-ESG movement, particularly in the US, against “woke capitalism”….

Garcia-Zarate said Morningstar analysis of the US market at the end of October revealed that while about 20 per cent of ETF holdings in Europe were ESG-related, the comparative figure in the US was only around 1 per cent.

Vanguard’s climate aftermath

Last month, Vanguard—the second largest asset management company in the world and one of the Big Three passive asset managers—announced that it was leaving the Net Zero Asset Managers (NZAM) initiative to guarantee its investment flexibility. On January 12, Reuters published an analysis speculating why Vanguard left the initiative but the other two Big Three asset managers—BlackRock and State Street—have not:

Vanguard Group’s decision last month to quit a key climate change coalition underscores how the retail investors who dominate its client base focus less on environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) priorities than institutional investors.

Vanguard said last month it would drop out of the Net Zero Asset Managers (NZAM) initiative, whose members commit to making their investment portfolios emission-neutral by 2050. It said 80% of its close to $8 trillion in assets are in its index funds, which primarily attract retail investors.

These funds generally do not have discretion to include or exclude stocks beyond a pre-set mandate, and most do not account for carbon emissions.

Vanguard did not explain what changed since 2021, when it joined NZAM, but said it was responding to a desire of its clients to provide “clarity” and make its independence clear.

Vanguard’s biggest competitors, BlackRock Inc (BLK.N) and State Street Corp’s (STT.N) asset-management arm, rely more on institutional investors including pension funds and foundations. Both BlackRock and State Street have stuck with NZAM.

At BlackRock and State Street, mutual funds and exchange-traded funds – the investment vehicles popular with retail investors that include many types of index funds – account for around 41% and 30% of assets, respectively, according to data from Morningstar Direct and company disclosures. At Vanguard, that figure is 88%….

Vanguard’s NZAM participation was modest to begin with. It said 4% of its assets would be aligned by 2030 with a goal of net-zero emissions, compared with State Street committing 14% of its assets. BlackRock has said it expects more than half its assets to meet the 2030 target, but it has not made a firm commitment.

“You wonder why Vanguard signed up in the first place,” said Hortense Bioy, global director of sustainability research at fund ratings firm Morningstar Inc (MORN.O).

Vanguard representatives said the company looks forward to continuing constructive conversations with policymakers….

Vanguard’s exit from NZAM has not fully spared it from the ESG backlash. A coalition of 13 Republican state attorneys general are pressing on with a motion asking federal energy regulators to limit Vanguard’s ability to invest in public utilities.



U.S. weekly unemployment insurance claims fall to 205,000

New applications for U.S. unemployment insurance benefits fell 1,000 for the week ending January 7 to a seasonally adjusted 205,000. The previous week’s figure was revised up from 204,000 to 206,000. The four-week moving average as of January 7 fell to 212,500 from a revised 214,250 as of the week ending December 31.

The number of continuing unemployment insurance claims, which refers to the number of unemployed workers who filed for benefits at least two weeks ago and are actively receiving unemployment benefits, fell 63,000 from the previous week’s revised number to a seasonally adjusted 1.634 million for the week ending December 31. Reporting for continuing claims lags one week.

Unemployment insurance is a joint federal and state program that provides temporary monetary benefits to eligible laid-off workers who are actively seeking new employment. Qualifying individuals receive unemployment compensation as a percentage of their lost wages in the form of weekly cash benefits while they search for new employment.

The federal government oversees the general administration of state unemployment insurance programs. The states control the specific features of their unemployment insurance programs, such as eligibility requirements and length of benefits.

Additional reading:



Robe & Gavel: SCOTUS begins second week of January sitting

Welcome to the Jan 17 edition of Robe & Gavel, Ballotpedia’s newsletter about the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) and other judicial happenings around the U.S.

“Everybody can be great, because anybody can serve.”

-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

It’s the second week of SCOTUS’s January sitting, dear reader, and we have a lot to cover. So take a seat and let’s gavel in!

Follow Ballotpedia on Twitter or subscribe to the Daily Brew for the latest news and analysis.

We #SCOTUS and you can, too!

Grants

SCOTUS has not accepted any new cases to its merits docket since our Jan. 9 edition.

Arguments

The Supreme Court will hear arguments in three cases this week. Click here to read more about SCOTUS’ current term.

Click the links below to learn more about these cases:

Jan. 17, 2023

  • Santos-Zacaria v. Garland concerns immigration law and whether a court of appeals can review an immigrant’s petition that the Board of Immigration Appeals participated in impermissible fact finding because the immigrant did not claim this in a motion of reconsideration.
    • The questions presented:  “(1) Whether Section 1252(d)(1)’s exhaustion requirement is jurisdictional, or merely a mandatory claims processing rule that may be waived or forfeited. (2) Whether, to satisfy Section 1252(d)(1)’s exhaustion requirement, a noncitizen who challenges a new error introduced by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) must first ask the agency to exercise its discretion to reopen or reconsider.”
  • Turkiye Halk Bankasi A.S. v. United States concerns whether United States district courts have the right to criminally prosecute foreign states and their instrumentalities.
    • The questions presented: “Whether U.S. district courts may exercise subject-matter jurisdiction over criminal prosecutions against foreign sovereigns and their instrumentalities under 18 U.S.C. § 3231 and in light of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, 28 U.S.C. §§ 1330, 1441(d), 1602-1611.”

Jan. 18, 2023

  • Perez v. Sturgis Public Schools concerns the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and whether petitioners are required to exhaust the IDEA’s administrative proceedings even when the proceedings would be futile.
    • The questions presented: “(1) Whether, and in what circumstances, courts should excuse further exhaustion of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act’s (IDEA) administrative proceedings under Section 1415(l) when such proceedings would be futile. (2) Whether Section 1415(l) requires exhaustion of a non-IDEA claim seeking money damages that are not available under the IDEA.”

Opinions

SCOTUS has not issued any opinions in cases argued on the merits since our previous edition. 

Upcoming SCOTUS dates

Here are the court’s upcoming dates of interest:

  • Jan. 17, 2023: SCOTUS will hear arguments in two cases.
  • Jan. 18, 2023: SCOTUS will hear arguments in one case.
  • Jan. 20, 2023: SCOTUS will conference. A conference is a private meeting of the justices to consider cases.

Federal court action

Nominations

There have been no new nominations since our Jan. 9 edition.

Since taking office in January 2021, President Joe Biden has nominated 148 individuals to Article III positions. For more information on the president’s judicial nominees, click here.

Confirmations

The U.S. Senate has confirmed no new nominees since our previous edition.

As of Jan. 1, 2023, the Senate had confirmed 97 of President Biden’s judicial nominees—68 district court judges, 28 appeals court judges, and one Supreme Court justice.

Comparison of Article III judicial appointments over time by president (1981-Present)

  • Presidents have appointed an average of 90 judges through Jan. 1 of their third year in office.
  • President Bill Clinton (D) made the most appointments through Jan. 1 of his third year with 128. President Barack Obama (D) made the fewest with 62.
  • President Ronald Reagan (R) made the most appointments through one year in office with 41. President Barack Obama (D) made the fewest with 13.
  • President Bill Clinton (D) made the most appointments in two years with 128. President Barack Obama (D) made the fewest with 62.
  • President Donald Trump (R) made the most appointments in four years with 234. President Reagan made the fewest through four years with 166.

Vacancies

The federal judiciary currently has 87 vacancies, 85 of which are for lifetime Article III judgeships. As of publication, there were 23 pending nominations.

According to the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts, there were 26 upcoming vacancies, where judges have announced their intention to leave active status.

For more information on judicial vacancies during President Biden’s term, click here.

Do you love judicial nomination, confirmation, and vacancy information? We figured you might. Our monthly Federal Vacancy Count monitors all the faces and places moving in, moving out, and moving on in the federal judiciary. Click here for our most current count.

Need a daily fix of judicial nomination, confirmation, and vacancy information? Click here for continuing updates on the status of all federal judicial nominees.

Or, keep an eye on our list for updates on federal judicial nominations.

Looking ahead

We’ll be back on Feb. 6, 2023, with a new edition of Robe & Gavel. Until then, gaveling out! 

Contributions

Myj Saintyl compiled and edited this newsletter, with contributions from Kate Carsella, and Sam Post.



Kentucky threatens to divest from 11 banks over ESG policies

Kentucky State Treasurer Allison Ball (R) on January 2 issued a statement notifying 11 banks that their environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) policies amounted to energy boycotts that harmed the state’s economy according to definitions passed into law last spring. The statement says the banks have 90 days to stop what Kentucky argues are energy company boycotts or face divestment from the state. According to Fox Business:

“Kentucky issued an official notice Monday morning listing 11 banks it accused of boycotting energy companies and which would be subject to divestment within months.

“Kentucky State Treasurer Allison Ball announced that, after a review of their energy and climate policies, the listed banks — which included BlackRock, the largest asset manager in the world, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and HSBC among others — were found to be in an active boycott of fossil fuel companies. The Kentucky state government could begin divesting from the firms if they didn’t reverse their boycotts, according to the notice obtained first by FOX Business.

“‘Kentucky is a coal, oil, and gas producing state,’ Ball told FOX Business. ‘Our energy sector helps power America. Kentucky refuses to fund the ideological boycotts of our own fossil fuel industry with the hard-earned taxes and pensions of Kentucky citizens.’

“Kentucky’s Republican-led legislature passed a bill requiring the state government to identify and divest from banks that are determined to be engaging in a boycott of energy and fossil fuel companies. Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear signed the bill, which was endorsed by both the Kentucky Oil and Gas Association and Kentucky Coal Association, into law on April 8, 2022.

“The law directs the state treasurer’s office to publish an annual list of financial firms engaged in energy boycotts. State agencies then must notify the office if they own direct or indirect holdings of the listed companies and send a notice to the relevant companies within 30 days. If the companies don’t halt their boycotts within 90 days of receiving such notice, the state government could divest from their holdings.

“When companies boycott fossil fuels, they intentionally choke off the lifeblood of capital to Kentucky’s signature industries,” Ball said in a statement Monday. ‘Traditional energy sources fuel our Kentucky economy, provide much needed jobs, and warm our homes. Kentucky must not allow our signature industries to be irreparably damaged based upon the ideological whims of a select few.’…

“Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Missouri, South Carolina, Utah and West Virginia have already announced they will divest hundreds of millions of dollars from banks engaging in energy boycotts. Texas and Oklahoma have taken legislative steps akin to Kentucky’s that will likely soon lead to divestment.”

Click here to subscribe to Ballotpedia’s ESG newsletter to stay up-to-date on the most important developments.



Fewer bills passed in 2022 to change ballot initiative processes compared to 2021

In 2022, state legislators introduced at least 232 bills to change citizen-initiated ballot measure processes. Of the 232 legislative proposals, 23 (9.91%) were enacted into law. 

In 2021, for comparison, 226 bills were introduced and 36 (15.93%) were enacted. While the number of bills introduced in 2022 was higher than each year from 2014 to 2021, the number of bills passed into law was lower than the average. Between 2014 and 2021, an average of 28 bills were enacted into law each year.

Examples of bills passed in 2022 include:

  • Florida House Bill 921 (HB 921) was passed in March 2022. Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed the bill on April 6. HB 921 would have prohibited out-of-state donors from giving more than $3,000 to support or oppose an initiative during the signature-gathering phase. The limit could have made the signature gathering process more difficult to fund. A federal district court struck the bill down as unconstitutional.
  • Florida House Bill 921 (HB 921) was passed in March 2022. Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed the bill on April 6. HB 921 would have prohibited out-of-state donors from giving more than $3,000 to support or oppose an initiative during the signature-gathering phase. The limit could have made the signature gathering process more difficult to fund. A federal district court struck the bill down as unconstitutional.

While the number of enacted laws decreased from 2021 to 2022, the number of legislatively referred measures related to the initiative process increased from two in 2018 to four in 2020 to six in 2022. 

There were five constitutional amendments in 2022 to change the initiative process. Voters approved two of the changes and rejected three. The amendments were on the ballot in Arkansas, Arizona, and South Dakota.

  • Arkansas Issue 2: Rejected. Issue 2 would have required a 60% vote to approve ballot initiatives.
  • Arizona Proposition 128: Rejected. Proposition 128 would have allowed the Legislature to amend or repeal voter-approved ballot measures that contain provisions ruled unconstitutional by the Arizona Supreme Court or U.S. Supreme Court.
  • Arizona Proposition 129: Approved. Proposition 129 requires citizen-initiated ballot measures to embrace a single subject.
  • Arizona Proposition 132: Approved. Proposition 132 requires a 60% vote to pass ballot measures to approve taxes.
  • South Dakota Amendment C: Defeated. Amendment C would have required a 60% vote to pass ballot measures that increase taxes or fees or increase appropriations by $10 million or more in the first five fiscal years.

In Colorado, the Legislature referred a statute, Proposition GG, to the ballot. Voters approved Proposition GG, which requires a table showing changes in income tax owed for average taxpayers in certain brackets to be included in the ballot title for initiated measures.



Federal Register weekly update: 2,500 pages added so far in 2023

Photo of the White House in Washington, D.C.

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, accounting for both regulatory and deregulatory actions.

From January 9 through January 13, the Federal Register grew by 1,368 pages for a year-to-date total of 2,500 pages.

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

This week’s Federal Register featured the following 525 documents:

  • 418 notices
  • Zero presidential documents
  • 48 proposed rules
  • 59 final rules

Eleven proposed rules, including amendments to regulations for hunting and trapping in national reserves in Alaska from the National Park Service; three final rules, including implementation of the Pandemic Assistance Revenue Program (PARP) to assist agricultural producers impacted by the pandemic from the Farm Service Agency and the Commodity Credit Corporation; and one notice, including interim guidance to direct agencies in assessing greenhouse gas and climate change effects of proposed actions under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) from the Council on Environmental Quality were 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 Biden administration has issued 18 significant proposed rules, six significant final rules, and one significant notice as of January 13.

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:



Changes in initiative signature requirements following 2022 election

Welcome to the Tuesday, January 17, Brew. 

By: Samuel Wonacott

Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Signatures required for ballot initiatives decreased by 7.34% on average following the 2022 election
  2. The average margin of victory was higher in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House than in 2020 
  3. Over the last week, 253 election-related bills were introduced in state legislatures 

Signatures required for ballot initiatives decreased by 7.34% on average following the 2022 election

Welcome back! Monday was Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and we hope you enjoyed the long weekend. For our first story this week, we looked back at signature requirements for ballot initiatives in 2022.  

This year, signature requirements for citizen-initiated measures changed in 20 states. There are 26 states that allow for initiatives or referendums, and in each of these states, the number of signatures required is tied to another number. The most common type of requirement is based on the number of votes in a specific election, such as the gubernatorial election.

Turnout on Nov. 8, 2022, caused signature requirements for citizen-initiated ballot measures to change in 17 states. An additional three states will change their requirements based on the number of registered voters. The average state signature requirement change was a -7.34% decrease. Changes ranged from a -28.84% decrease in Wyoming to a +7.70% increase in Arizona. 

Overall, signature requirements increased in Arizona, Maine, Michigan, Oregon, South Dakota, and Arkansas. They decreased in Colorado, Oklahoma, Ohio, Massachusetts, Illinois, California, Maryland, New Mexico, Nevada, Alaska, and Wyoming.

Arizona had the largest percent increase (+7.70%) in the number of signatures required, while Wyoming had the largest percent decrease (-28.84%)

  • In Arizona, the signature requirement is based on votes cast in the 2022 gubernatorial election. Including Arizona, 13 states base their signature requirements on the number of votes cast in midterm gubernatorial elections or another state executive election. The average change in these states was -1.72%, with a range of -12.99% in Maryland to +7.70% in Arizona.
  • In Wyoming, the signature requirement is based on turnout at the preceding general election, both presidential and midterm elections. Including Wyoming, four states base their signature requirements on turnout at the preceding general election. As turnout was lower in 2022, a midterm election, compared to 2020, a presidential election, the signature requirement decreased in each of these four states, from −28.84% in Wyoming to -23.00% in New Mexico.

The number of signatures required also decreased by -7.04% in Idaho, where the signature requirement is based on the number of registered voters at the time of the election. In Utah, the signature requirement changed on Jan. 1, 2023, based on the number of active voters. In Nebraska, the signature requirement is based on the number of registered voters at the signature deadline. 

Signature requirements did not change in six states – Florida, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, and Washington. In North Dakota, the requirement changes once per decade with the decennial census population count. In Florida, the requirement is based on the number of votes cast for president. The other states base their requirements on votes cast in gubernatorial elections that did not occur in 2022.

Keep reading 

The average margin of victory was higher in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House than in 2020 

Over the last few months, we’ve been hard at work bringing you unique analyses of the Nov. 8, 2022, general elections. Today, let’s look at our most recent analysis article—the margin of victory (MOV) in U.S. House and U.S. Senate elections. 

An electoral MOV is the difference between the share of votes cast for the winning candidate and the runner-up. Margins of victory can be used to measure electoral competitiveness, political party or candidate strength, and, indirectly, the popularity of a particular policy or set of policies.

Here’s a summary of what we found:

  • The average MOV across 35 U.S. Senate elections was 19%, larger than the 18.1% average in 2020 Senate elections.
  • The average MOV across 435 U.S. House elections was 28.9%, up slightly from 28.8% in 2020 and the second smallest MOV since 2012.
  • Republicans had a larger average MOV than Democrats in Senate races (21.3% versus 16%) and House races (30.2% to 27.7%).

U.S. Senate

The average margin of victory in the U.S. Senate was 19%, larger than the 18.1% average margin in 2020. The average MOV was 21.3 percentage points for Republicans and 16 percentage points for Democrats.

The narrowest margin in any U.S. Senate election in 2022 was 0.50 percentage points in the U.S. Senate election in Nevada between Catherine Cortez Masto (D) and Adam Laxalt (R). The largest MOV was in Hawaii, where Brian Schatz (D) defeated Bob McDermott (R) by a margin of 52.17 percentage points.

U.S. House

The average MOV in the U.S. House was 28.9 percentage points, the second smallest margin since 2012. The average MOV was 28.8 percentage points in 2020.

Broken down by the winner’s party, the average MOV was 27.7 percentage points for Democrats and 30.2 percentage points for Republicans.

The closest U.S. House race in 2022 was in Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District, where Lauren Boebert (R) defeated Adam Frisch (D) by a margin of 0.17%, or 546 votes out of more than 300,000 cast. This was 540 votes more than the closest House race in 2020. In that race, Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R) defeated Rita Hart (D) by a margin of 6 votes out of nearly 400,000 cast, the narrowest margin of victory in any U.S. House election since 1984.

Click the link below to learn more about our analysis of Congressional races in 2022, including data on all 35 U.S. Senate elections and all 435 U.S. House elections. 

Keep reading 

Over the last week, 253 election-related bills were introduced in state legislatures 

With legislatures convening for their 2023 sessions, officeholders are busy introducing a flurry of bills. One category of bills we closely follow are those related to elections and election administration. Here’s an update on the election-related bills we tracked over the previous week. 

Since Jan. 6, 253 election-related bills were introduced (or saw pre-committee action). One-hundred and thirty-eight bills were introduced in states with Democratic trifectas, while 83 were introduced in states with Republican trifectas. In states with divided governments, legislators introduced five bills. 

Three bills passed one chamber—two in states with Democratic trifectas and one in a state with a divided government.

Overall since Jan. 6, 256 bills have been acted on in some way (representing a 365 percent increase as compared to last week’s total of 55 bills). These 256 bills represent 41 percent of the 632 bills we are tracking in 2023. One-hundred and forty of these bills are from states with Democratic trifectas, 83 are from states with Republican trifectas, and 33 are from states with a divided government.

The bar chart below compares recent activity on a week-to-week basis over the last eight weeks. 

The map below visualizes the concentration of this recent activity across the nation. A darker shade of yellow indicates a higher number of relevant bills that have been acted upon in the last week. A lighter shade of yellow indicates a lower number of bills that have been acted upon in the last week. 

To date, we’ve tracked 632 election-related bills in 2023. These bills were either introduced this year or crossed over from last year’s legislative sessions. If you want to learn more about election-related legislation, click the link below and subscribe to our weekly election legislation tracking digest. You’ll receive weekly updates on election-related activity across the states, including information about noteworthy bills, the number of bills acted on within a given week, and which states have seen the highest concentration of legislative activity.

You can also listen to the most recent episode of On the Ballot, our weekly podcast, where we take a closer look at the week’s top political stories. In this week’s episode, Staff Writer Ethan Rice gives host Victoria Rose a roundup of where some election-related legislation stands in the first few weeks of the new year. 

Keep reading



Tracker: Article III federal judicial nominations by president by days in office since 2001

Through Jan. 1, 2023, there were 890 authorized federal judicial posts and 85 vacancies. Eighty-three of those were for Article III judgeships. This report is limited to Article III courts, where appointees are confirmed to lifetime judgeships.

  • In Dec. 2022, 10 judges were confirmed.
  • In Dec. 2022, the president announced his intent to nominate six individuals.

By Jan. 1, 2023, after 712 days in office, President Joe Biden (D) had officially nominated 142 judges to Article III judgeships. Ninety-seven nominees had been confirmed. For historical comparison, and including unsuccessful nominations: 

  • President Donald Trump (R) had nominated 176 individuals, 86 of which were ultimately confirmed to their positions.
  • President Barack Obama (D) had nominated 119 individuals, 71 of which were confirmed.
  • President George W. Bush (R) had nominated 171 individuals, 100 of which were confirmed.

The following data visualizations track the number of Article III judicial nominations by president by days in office during the Biden, Trump, Obama, and W. Bush administrations (2001-present). 

The first tracker is limited to successful nominations, where the nominee was ultimately confirmed to their respective court:

The second tracker counts all Article III nominations, including unsuccessful nominations (for example, the nomination was withdrawn or the U.S. Senate did not vote on the nomination), renominations of individuals to the same court, and recess appointments. A recess appointment is when the president appoints a federal official while the Senate is in recess.

The data contained in these charts is compiled by Ballotpedia staff from publicly available information provided by the Federal Judicial Center. The comparison by days shown between the presidents is not reflective of the larger status of the federal judiciary during their respective administrations and is intended solely to track nominations by president by day.

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How is the Texas Constitution amended?

The Texas State Legislature convened its 2023 regular legislative session on Jan. 10. The legislature can refer constitutional amendments, in the form of statewide ballot measures, to the ballot in odd-numbered and even-numbered years. However, Texas is one of four states with biennial legislative sessions that meet in odd-numbered years; therefore, most amendments have been referred to ballots in odd-numbered years.

Texas is one of 16 states that requires 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.

At the general election on November 8, 2022, Republicans retained control of the House and Senate, increasing their majorities in each chamber to 86-64 and 19-12, respectively. This means that Republicans cannot pass amendments without at least some support from Democrats – at minimum, 14 Democrats in the House and two in the Senate.

In 2022, the last election in Texas featuring constitutional amendments, both amendments received unanimous support from voting Democrats and Republicans.

As of Jan. 13, 96 constitutional amendments have been filed in the Texas State Legislature for the 2023 ballot.

  • Democrats filed 49 (51.0%) of the constitutional amendments.
  • Republicans filed 47 (49.0%) of the constitutional amendments.
  • 72 (75.0%) of the constitutional amendments were filed in the House.
  • 24 (25.0%) of the constitutional amendments were filed in the Senate.

In Texas, a total of 281 ballot measures appeared on statewide ballots between 1985 and 2022. Two hundred forty-seven (248) ballot measures were approved, and 33 ballot measures were defeated. The topics that were addressed most by the measures were taxes, bonds, and the administration of government. An average of 14 measures appeared on odd-numbered year statewide ballots.

Texas is one of 16 states that requires 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.

At the general election on November 8, 2022, Republicans retained control of the House and Senate, increasing their majorities in each chamber to 86-64 and 19-12, respectively. This means that Republicans cannot pass amendments without at least some support from Democrats – at minimum, 14 Democrats in the House and two in the Senate.

In 2022, the last election in Texas featuring constitutional amendments, both amendments received unanimous support from voting Democrats and Republicans.

As of Jan. 13, 96 constitutional amendments have been filed in the Texas State Legislature for the 2023 ballot.

  1. Democrats filed 49 (51.0%) of the constitutional amendments.
  2. Republicans filed 47 (49.0%) of the constitutional amendments.
  3. 72 (75.0%) of the constitutional amendments were filed in the House.
  4. 24 (25.0%) of the constitutional amendments were filed in the Senate.

In Texas, a total of 281 ballot measures appeared on statewide ballots between 1985 and 2022. Two hundred forty-seven (248) ballot measures were approved, and 33 ballot measures were defeated. The topics that were addressed most by the measures were taxes, bonds, and the administration of government. An average of 14 measures appeared on odd-numbered year statewide ballots.



ICYMI: Top stories of the week

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Following the 2022 elections, more Americans now live in a Democratic trifecta than a Republican trifecta

Once all newly elected officials take office, 41.7% of Americans will live in a state with a Democratic trifecta, 39.6% in a state with a Republican trifecta, and 18.8% in a state with divided government.

This will be the lowest percentage of Americans living in a Republican trifecta and the highest percentage of Americans living in a Democratic trifecta in the past six years. A trifecta occurs when one political party holds the governor’s office and majorities in both chambers of the state legislature at the same time.

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Ben Sasse resigns from U.S. Senate

Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) officially resigned from the U.S. Senate on Jan. 8 to become the University of Florida’s 13th president. Sasse was president of Midland University in Fremont, Neb., before being elected to the Senate in 2014. Sasse was last re-elected in 2020 with 63% of the vote.

Unlike the U.S. House, where every vacancy must be filled through a special election, the U.S. Constitution does not specify how to fill Senate vacancies. Nebraska is one of 37 states where the governor makes a temporary appointment.

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Total partisan composition of state legislatures changed by less than half a percentage point in 2022

The partisan composition of all 7,386 state legislative seats in the country remained effectively unchanged following the 2022 elections.

Democrats had a net loss of six seats nationwide. Republicans had a net gain of 28 seats, and independent or minor party officeholders had a net loss of 20 seats. Overall, the partisan composition of state legislative seats changed by less than half a percentage point in any direction, the smallest overall change in more than a decade.

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Twenty-seven upcoming Article III judicial vacancies

According to the latest vacancy data from the U.S. Courts, there were 27 announced upcoming vacancies for Article III judgeships as of Jan. 5, 2022. In addition to these 27 upcoming vacancies, there are 84 current Article III vacancies in the federal judiciary out of the 870 total Article III judgeships. Article III courts include the 13 U.S. courts of appeal and 94 U.S. district courts, as well as the U.S. Supreme Court and the U.S. Court of International Trade.

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2022 had second-highest midterm voter turnout in two decades

According to data compiled by the United States Election Project, 2022 had the second-highest midterm voter turnout in two decades.

Turnout in 2022 was 46.8%. Since 2002, midterm turnout has ranged from a low of 36.7% in 2014 to a high of 50.3% in 2018. Oregon, one of eight states that uses automatic, all-mail voting, had the highest turnout rate at 61.5%. Tennessee had the lowest rate at 31.3%.

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Two statewide ballot measures certified so far this year

As of Jan. 10, two statewide measures have been certified for the ballot in two states for 2023. Based on odd-year data since 2011, the average number of measures certified at the start of the year is four.

The two statewide measures certified so far are:

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