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Signatures filed for March 2020 referendum to repeal Maine’s new law eliminating religious and philosophical vaccine exemptions

On September 18, 2019, signatures were filed for a veto referendum to repeal Maine Legislative Document 798 (2019). LD 798 would eliminate religious and philosophical exemptions from vaccination requirements for students to attend schools and colleges and employees of healthcare facilities. The campaign Mainers for Health and Parental Rights led the signature drive, reporting that local registrars verified 77,000 signatures of the 92,000 collected. The next step is for Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap to review the petitions and signatures within 30 days. A total of 63,067 valid signatures are required for the veto referendum to appear on the ballot on March 3, 2020.
Gov. Janet Mills (D) signed LD 798 into law on May 24, 2019. The Maine House of Representatives passed LD 798 in a vote of 79-62 on May 21. The Maine State Senate passed LD 798 in a vote of 19-16 on May 23. Most legislative Democrats—74/88 in the House and 18/21 in the Senate—voted to pass the legislation. Most legislative Republicans— 51/56 in the House and 13/14 in the Senate—voted to reject the legislation. Independents were divided 2-4. In 2019, Democrats control both chambers of the state legislature, as well as the governor’s office, making Maine a Democratic trifecta. Prior to 2019, Maine was a divided government.
Maine was the fourth state to prohibit non-medical exemptions from vaccination for students to attend schools. LD 798, however, is now suspended until voters decide the issue unless Secretary Dunlap finds that not enough signatures are valid. New York passed a similar law a few weeks after Maine to eliminate non-medical exemptions for students. The other three states are West Virginia, Mississippi, and California.
It’s been 97 years since voters across a state decided a vaccination-related ballot measure. In 1922, Washington voters repealed a law to remove vaccination requirements for school attendance. California, along with Maine, could also vote on vaccination requirements in 2020. In California, veto referendums were filed to overturn laws to create a system for reviewing and rejecting medical exemptions from vaccination.
The veto referendum to repeal LD 798 was one of 12 proposed after the 2019 regular legislative session adjourned on June 20, 2019. The proponents of the remaining 11 veto referendums did not file signatures before the deadline. Since Maine adopted the referendum process in 1908, there have been 30 veto referendums on the ballot. The last veto referendum was in 2018, when voters overturned legislation designed to postpone and repeal ranked-choice voting. Of the 30 bills placed before voters as veto referendums, 18 of them (60 percent) were overturned at the ballot box. Voters upheld 12 (40 percent) of the bills.

Utah legislature makes changes to state medical marijuana law

Utah Proposition 2, approved by voters in November 2018, was altered by the legislature in December 2018 with House Bill 3001. Among other alterations, HB 3001 removed Proposition 2’s provision allowing patients to grow their own marijuana, provided for a state-run medical marijuana dispensary system, and made changes to the list of qualifying conditions. Utah is one of 11 states that have no restrictions on legislative alterations, which means the legislature can amend or repeal initiated state statutes with a simple majority vote at any time.
Utah Governor Gary Herbert called for a special session to start on Sept. 16 to, among other things, amend the state’s medical marijuana law.
Utah Governor Gary Herbert (R) said, “My administration is dedicated to ensuring that quality, medical-grade cannabis products are accessible to patients by March of 2020. Removing the requirement for a state central fill pharmacy will provide efficient and timely distribution of this substance for those who need it.”  
The removal of the provisions for the state-run medical marijuana dispensary comes after Davis County and Salt Lake County attorneys in July advised their health departments against dispensing medical marijuana, stating that county health department workers could be prosecuted for marijuana distribution. Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings said,  “the federal Controlled Substances Act is directly in conflict with what the state statute [under HB 3001] requires health departments to do. There is no exemption in federal law for being basically a marijuana distributor — a dealer — for a county. There is no exception.”
On September 16, during the special session, the Utah legislature passed Senate Bill 1002 unanimously, except for two senators and nine representatives who were absent or not voting. SB 1002 made amendments to the state’s medical marijuana law. Highlighted changes made by the bill include the following:
  • Repealed provisions providing for a state-run medical marijuana dispensary;
  • Provided for awarding licenses to operate 14 private dispensaries, allowed the state Department of Health to issue additional licenses “based on market necessity”;
  • Authorizes the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food to license research universities to conduct research on medical marijuana;
  • Provided for electronic medical marijuana cards;
  • Provided that a court could not consider the use of medical marijuana differently than the legal use of any prescribed medication that is a controlled substance (rather than the original bill’s provision that marijuana use be treated like the legal use of a prescription opiate or opioid).
From 2010 through 2018, 97 initiated state statutes and two initiated ordinances in D.C. were approved by voters. Of these 99 total initiatives from 2010 through 2018, 28 were repealed or amended as of April 2019. The states with the most total cases of legislative alterations of initiatives approved since 2010 were Maine—with four initiatives altered out of eight approved—and Colorado and Oregon—each with three initiatives altered out of five approved. Among initiatives approved from 2010 through 2018, marijuana was the topic that drew the most legislative alterations, with eight initiatives. The rate of legislative alteration was 13 percentage points higher for initiatives approved in 2016 and 2018 than initiatives approved from 2010 through 2015.
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Fifth Circuit finds federal housing agency structure unconstitutional

On September 6, 2019, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 9-7 that the structure of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) is unconstitutional. The Fifth Circuit sent the case back to the district court to decide how to resolve remaining questions about how the FHFA decided to handle the finances of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
The FHFA was created by Congress in the aftermath of the 2008 recession as an independent agency to regulate the United States mortgage market. This case, _Collins v. Mnuchin_, involved whether the FHFA had the authority to require Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to give nearly all of their money to the U.S. Treasury Department each quarter instead of to the companies’ shareholders. The companies argued that such an arrangement went beyond the FHFA’s legal authority and that the structure of the agency was unconstitutional.
The Fifth Circuit held that the FHFA for-cause removal structure “limits the President’s removal power and does not fit within the recognized exception for independent agencies.” The U.S Supreme Court established that exception for agencies led by multi-member boards in the 1935 case _Humphrey’s Executor v. United States_. The Fifth Circuit held that court precedent does not support removal protections for agencies led by single directors like the FHFA.
The court also held that “an independent agency with a single Director removable only ‘for cause,’ violates the separation of powers.” In this context, separation of powers refers to the three divided branches of the United States federal government: legislative, executive, and judicial. Under a strict reading of the U.S. Constitution, each branch has distinct powers and responsibilities and Congress is not allowed to create independent agencies that blend those powers.
The majority opinion cited the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court case _Free Enterprise Fund v. PCAOB_ to support severing the removal protections from the FHFA statute and leaving the rest of the law in place.

Rep. Paul Cook (R) won’t seek re-election

Rep. Paul Cook (R-Calif.) announced Tuesday that he would not seek re-election to the U.S. House in 2020 and will instead run for the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors. Cook was first elected to represent California’s 8th Congressional District in 2012, and he won re-election in 2018 by 20 percentage points.
In a statement announcing his retirement, he said, “Serving in Congress has been an absolute honor, and I’m proud of my numerous victories amid a tough partisan atmosphere. … Our high desert needs continued strong leadership at the county level, and I pledge to fight for this area with the same dedication and conviction I’ve demonstrated my entire career.”
Cook is the 16th Republican member of the U.S. House to announce he would not be seeking re-election in 2020. There are also four Democratic members of the U.S. House to announce 2020 retirements so far.
Currently, Democrats hold a 235-199 majority in the U.S. House. There is also one independent member. In November 2020, all 435 seats will be up for election. Ballotpedia has identified 73 U.S. House races as general election battlegrounds. Of the 73 seats, 43 are held by Democrats and 30 are held by Republicans heading into the election.

Gov. Stitt appoints M. John Kane IV to the Oklahoma Supreme Court

On Tuesday, Governor Kevin Stitt (R) appointed M. John Kane IV to the Oklahoma Supreme Court. Kane replaced former Justice John Reif, who retired on April 30, 2019. Kane is Stitt’s first nominee to the nine-member supreme court; the governor was first elected in November 2018.
Prior to this new appointment, Kane served as the Office 1 judge of the 10th District Court in Osage County, Oklahoma. He was appointed to that position in 2005. Before that, Kane worked in his family’s law firm, Kane, Kane & Kane Law Offices, P.C., from 1987 to 2005. He was also an administrative law judge from 1999 to 2005 and an assistant district attorney from 1987 to 1989. Kane received a B.S. in agricultural economics and accounting from Oklahoma State University in 1984 and a J.D. from the University of Oklahoma College of Law in 1987.
Including Kane, three of the sitting Oklahoma Supreme Court justices were appointed by Republican governors. Five members were appointed by Democratic governors, and the remaining seat is vacant and will be the second seat that Stitt fills by appointment.
In 2019, there have been 18 supreme court vacancies across 12 of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. Of those 18 vacancies, 12 are in states where a Republican governor appoints the replacement. Five vacancies occurred in a state where a Democratic governor fills vacancies, while the last vacancy occurred in a state where a Republican-controlled legislature appoints replacements.

Primaries for 8 Boston City Council seats on Tuesday

In Massachusetts, four at-large seats and four district seats on the Boston City Council are up for primary on September 24, 2019. The council has 13 seats; the other five seats are also on the ballot this year but are not holding a primary because two or fewer candidates filed per seat. The candidate filing deadline was May 21, and the top two vote recipients in each primary will advance to the general election on November 5.
Incumbents are making re-election bids in five of the eight races on the primary ballot. All four at-large incumbents—Michael Flaherty, Althea Garrison, Annissa Essaibi George, and Michelle Wu—are running for re-election, and they face 11 challengers in the primary. Since there are four at-large seats up, the top eight vote recipients in this primary will advance to the general election.
The four district races on the primary ballot are Districts 5, 7, 8, and 9; only the District 7 incumbent, Kim Janey, is running for re-election, and she faces two challengers. The District 5 race features eight candidates running to succeed Tim McCarthy, the District 8 contest to succeed Josh Zakim has five candidates on the ballot, and the District 9 election to replace Mark Ciommo has seven candidates.
The five city council races not on the primary ballot are for Districts 1, 2, 3, 4, and 6. District 4 is scheduled to hold a contested general election between incumbent Andrea Campbell and challenger Jeff Durham in November. The incumbents in the other four seats—Lydia Edwards in District 1, Edward Flynn in District 2, Frank Baker in District 3, and Matt O’Malley in District 6—are all running unopposed for re-election.
Boston is the largest city in Massachusetts and the 24th-largest city in the U.S. by population.

One school board seat up for election in West Ada, Idaho, after other two races canceled

In Idaho, the West Ada School District was originally scheduled to hold a general election for three of its five school board seats on November 5, 2019. However, elections for two of the seats were canceled after only the incumbents filed to run.
Consequently, Zone 4 incumbent Phillip Neuhoff and Zone 5 incumbent Rene Ozuna won new terms by default. The Zone 2 race, which features incumbent Mike Vuittonet and challenger Amy Johnson, is still on the November 5 ballot. The candidate filing deadline passed on September 6 for this election.
Members of the West Ada school board are elected by district to four-year terms. Staggered elections are held every odd-numbered year with two seats on the ballot in 2013 and 2017 and the other three seats on the ballot in 2015 and 2019. In 2016, a recall election was held targeting the board members from Zones 1, 3, and 5; all three were successfully recalled.
The West Ada School District, which is also referred to as Joint School District No. 2 and was previously known as the Meridian School District, served 36,804 students during the 2014-2015 school year. This made it the largest district by student enrollment in the state of Idaho.

Pivot Counties play key role in NC-9 special election

The Daily Brew
Welcome to the Wednesday, Sept. 18, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Pivot County vote margins were more Republican in 2019 NC-9 special election compared to 2018 general
  2. Cameron (R) outraising Stumbo (D) by more than 2 to 1 in Kentucky attorney general race 
  3. Quiz: Which president didn’t appoint any Supreme Court justices?

Pivot County vote margins were more Republican in 2019 NC-9 special election compared to 2018 general

As we covered in the Brew, state Sen. Dan Bishop (R) won the Sept. 10 special election in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District, defeating Democratic nominee Dan McCready 50.7 to 48.7%. 

The 9th Congressional District overlaps three pivot counties—Bladen, Richmond, and Robeson counties. Pivot counties are those that Barack Obama (D) won in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections and Donald Trump (R) won in the 2016 presidential election. There are 206 Pivot counties in 34 states, including six in North Carolina. The 9th District includes all of Richmond and Robeson counties and part of Bladen County. 

Bishop won Bladen and Richmond counties, while McCready won Robeson County. In the 2018 general election, uncertified results showed McCready leading in Richmond and Robeson and Republican candidate Mark Harris leading in Bladen.

The table below shows the two major-party candidates’ percentages of the vote in 2018 and 2019 in the three pivot counties:

Percentage of votes

The margins in all three counties shifted from 2018 to 2019 in favor of the Republican candidate—Bishop—by between 2.5 and 13.9 percentage points. The pivot county vote margin shifted in Bishop’s favor by 4,775 votes between 2018 and 2019. Bishop won the special election by 3,938 votes, carrying the three pivot counties by 1,252 votes. In 2018, McCready won them by 3,523 votes. 

Turnout in the 2019 special election was lower than in the 2018 general election. In 2019, McCready’s vote total declined 11,064 from the 2018 election. Bishop’s vote total was 6,289 less than Harris received in 2018. 

The state board of elections did not certify the results of the 2018 general election. An investigation into allegations of absentee voter fraud prompted the board to call for an entirely new election. These allegations included events in both Bladen and Robeson counties.

There are 206 pivot counties nationwide. In the 2018 congressional elections, Democratic U.S. House candidates won 113 of these counties—55%—and Republican candidates won 93. In 184 pivot counties—89%—the Republican U.S. House candidate had either a smaller margin of victory than Trump did in 2016 or lost the county to the Democratic U.S. House candidate.

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Cameron (R) outraising Stumbo (D) more than 2 to 1 in Kentucky attorney general race

The office of attorney general exists in all 50 states and is directly elected in 43 of them. There are 25 Democratic attorneys general and 24 Republican attorneys general. Hawaii’s attorney general—Clare E. Connors—is officially nonpartisan but was appointed by Democratic Gov. David Ige. 

Three states are holding elections for attorney general in 2019. In two of those states—Kentucky and Mississippi—the incumbent is a Democrat. The incumbent attorney general in Louisiana is Republican.

In the Kentucky attorney general’s race, Daniel Cameron (R) and former Attorney General Greg Stumbo (D) are running for this open seat. Incumbent Andy Beshear (D) did not run for re-election and is the Democratic gubernatorial nominee. Cameron defeated state Sen. Wil Schroder in the May 21 Republican primary. President Donald Trump endorsed Cameron on July 29. Stumbo was unopposed for the Democratic nomination. 

Campaign finance reports covering the period from July 20 through Sept. 6 show Cameron outraised Stumbo $569,197 to $227,915. The chart below shows each candidate’s receipts, disbursements, and cash on hand throughout the campaign:

Campaign finance

Kentucky’s  next campaign finance filing deadline is Oct. 13. These reports will cover receipts and expenditures through Oct. 6—30 days before the Nov. 5 general election. 

Democrats have held Kentucky’s attorney general office since 1952. In the 2015 attorney general election, Beshear defeated Whitney Westerfield (R) by fewer than 2,200 votes, 50.1% to 49.9%. Trump won Kentucky in the 2016 presidential election over Hillary Clinton, 62.5% to 32.7%. 

Kentucky, Louisiana, and Mississippi also have gubernatorial elections this year, as well as contests for 33 other state executive offices. Of the 36 state executive positions up for election in 2019, Republicans hold 28 and Democrats hold eight.

Kentucky is also holding state executive elections for governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, agriculture commissioner, auditor, and treasurer.


Which president didn’t appoint any Supreme Court justices?

Yesterday’s Brew included a story about the number of judges President Trump has appointed compared with previous presidents. Trump has appointed the second-most federal judges by this point of his presidency going back to Theodore Roosevelt, who became president in 1901.

Among the 152 judges Trump has appointed are Supreme Court justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. Since 1901, which president didn’t appoint any Supreme Court justices during his entire presidency?

Was it:


Trump campaign attacks Biden’s alleged gaffes in new digital video



Ballotpedia's Daily Presidential News Briefing

September 18, 2019: The Trump campaign posted a digital video critical of Joe Biden. Tom Steyer proposed spending $50 billion to increase public service programs to 1 million positions by 2025.

Presidential Facebook ads, 2019-2020 (September 9-15, 2019)


Notable Quote of the Day

“Everyone is obsessed with finding the most ‘electable’ candidate, but no one really knows what that means. For a lot of people, part of electability is seeing that a candidate can generate excitement and draw big crowds. Hillary Clinton didn’t really do that last time; Trump does in a way Republicans usually don’t. Taking back some of that populist momentum would be huge.”

– Zach Simonson, Wapello County Democrats chairman


  • The two ads Michael Bennet released Tuesday are part of a seven-figure media campaign in Iowa. The Des Moines Register reported that he planned to released more ads in New Hampshire. He said he would remain in the race through the New Hampshire primary.
  • Joe Biden will attend at least two fundraisers in Chicago on Thursday. The Associated Press reported on Biden’s Catholicism and position on abortion. 
  • In an interview on the RJ Politics podcast, Cory Booker discussed gun violence, affordable housing, and labor issues. He also appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live Tuesday night.
  • Pete Buttigieg campaigned in South Carolina Monday and Tuesday. More than 50 mayors signed an op-ed in USA Today endorsing Buttigieg.
  • Julián Castro discussed healthcare and activism in an interview with Ady Barkan on NowThisNews.
  • Tulsi Gabbard criticized the Trump administration’s response to attacks on Saudi Arabia’s oil supply in an interview with The Hill.
  • Kamala Harris sent a letter to the U.S. House Judiciary Committee requesting they launch an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct against Brett Kavanaugh or form a task force to do so.
  • Amy Klobuchar will campaign in Pittsburgh Wednesday with a focus on her economic agenda.
  • Beto O’Rourke will make his first campaign stop in Colorado Thursday, holding a town hall in Aurora on gun violence.
  • Tim Ryan visited with striking General Motors workers in northwest Ohio Tuesday.
  • Bernie Sanders launched a digital ad campaign targeting teachers focused on a 2018 walkout in West Virginia that led to salary increases.
  • Joe Sestak spoke with LGBTQ Nation about LGBT issues, racism, and religious freedom.
  • Tom Steyer proposed spending $50 billion to increase public service programs to 1 million positions by 2025.
  • Elizabeth Warren appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert Tuesday night.
  • Marianne Williamson will speak about her proposal for a U.S. Department of Peace in New York.
  • Andrew Yang held a rally in Philadelphia Tuesday.


  • Mark Sanford will campaign in New Hampshire Thursday through Saturday.
  • The Donald Trump campaign posted a digital video featuring Biden’s alleged gaffes and television commentary critical of his campaign and debate performances. The video ends with the statement, “You just wonder.”
  • Joe Walsh campaigned in Iowa Tuesday.
  • Bill Weld spoke about his upbringing and college years during WMUR’s “Candidate Café” series in New Hampshire.

What We’re Reading

Flashback: September 18, 2015

Donald Trump released his gun policy proposal, calling for national concealed carry permits, an end to gun and magazine bans, and stricter sentencing for felonies involving firearms.


Biden, Sanders, and Warren will release health records before Iowa

 Ballotpedia's Daily Presidential News Briefing

September 16, 2019: Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren have agreed to release their medical records before the Iowa caucuses. Donald Trump will hold a campaign rally Monday in Rio Rancho, New Mexico.

There are 14 new candidates running since last week, including two Democrats, three Republicans, and two Libertarians. In total, 864 individuals are currently filed with the FEC to run for president.

Notable Quote of the Day

“In modern times, presidents have felt pressure to affect a populist informality, in step with the increasing looseness of public life in general. A half century ago, college students listening to a professor like me lecturing to them from a podium would have worn coats and ties; today they surf social media. The rest of public life, including the presidency, has undergone parallel transformations.”

– David Greenberg, The Atlantic


  • The Atlantic profiled Michael Bennet‘s campaign in an article titled, “The Michael Bennet Problem.”
  • Joe BidenBernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren have agreed to release their medical records before the Iowa caucuses. The three candidates are 70 years old or older.
  • Biden spoke at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Alabama on the anniversary of the 1963 Birmingham church bombing.
  • Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, who previously endorsed Julián Castro, switched his support to Biden.
  • In an interview on Recode DecodeBill de Blasio discussed antitrust investigations into Facebook and Google and his critique of universal basic income.
  • Cory Booker spoke about the state of the Democratic primary in an interview on NBC’s Meet the Press.
  • In an interview on Iowa PressSteve Bullock said the Democratic Party was becoming disconnected from voters in non-urban areas.
  • Pete Buttigieg is campaigning in South Carolina Monday and Tuesday.
  • John Delaney spoke about gun legislation and Democratic messaging around guns in an interview on CNN’s Smerconish.
  • Tulsi Gabbard is continuing to campaign in Iowa with town halls Monday and Tuesday.
  • Gabbard and Joe Sestak will speak at the Fallon Forum in Iowa Monday.
  • Kamala Harris attended a fundraiser in Connecticut Saturday.
  • Amy Klobuchar will launch a tour of former blue wall states Tuesday, with stops in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin.
  • Wayne Messam attended the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s annual legislative conference.
  • Beto O’Rourke continued to advocate mandatory buybacks of certain weapons in an interview on NBC’s Meet the Press.
  • Tim Ryan spoke about his policy proposals and the Democratic primary debate in an interview on MSNBC’s Smerconish Saturday.
  • Sanders announced several changes to his New Hampshire state leadership team Sunday, including replacing former state director Joe Caiazzo with Shannon Jackson. Caiazzo will run Sanders’ campaign in Massachusetts. 
  • Tom Steyer spoke about his campaign, being a billionaire, and labor issues in an interview with Salon.
  • Warren issued her plan to fight corruption in politics Monday. It includes applying conflict of interest laws to the president and vice president, automatically disclosing the tax returns of federal candidates, requiring divestments from senior government officials, and banning government officials from trading individual stocks while in office.
  • In an interview on MSNBC, Marianne Williamson commented on the Democratic primary debate and the party’s ability to defeat Trump.
  • The Andrew Yang campaign said it collected 450,000 email addresses, 90 percent of which were new, in the 72 hours following Yang’s universal basic income proposal on the debate stage.


What We’re Reading

Flashback: September 16, 2015

CNN hosted the second Republican primary debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.