Latest stories

Oregon Secretary of State sworn in to office

On April 3, Bev Clarno (R) took the official oath of office to become Oregon’s secretary of state. Gov. Kate Brown (D) appointed Clarno as the secretary of state on March 29, 2019. Clarno was appointed to replace Dennis Richardson (R), who died while in office on February 26, 2019.
 
In a statement on February 27, 2019, Gov. Kate Brown (D) said she would appoint a successor from the Republican Party–as the Oregon Constitution requires–who would commit not to run for election in 2020. Clarno will serve for the remainder of Richardson’s term, which expires in 2021. Clarno indicated that she would not run for election in 2020.
 
Clarno is a former Republican member of the Oregon House of Representatives (1989-1997) and the Oregon State Senate (2001-2003). She served as speaker of the House from 1995 to 1997 and as Senate Republican leader in the 2003 legislative session. Clarno was a hog farmer, cattle rancher, and real estate broker and appraiser before her election to the Oregon House of Representatives
 
The Secretary of State of Oregon is an elected constitutional officer within the executive branch of the Oregon state government and is first in line of succession to the governor.
 
The secretary of state is a state-level position in 47 of the 50 states. The position does not exist in Alaska, Hawaii, and Utah. There are currently 25 Republican secretaries of state, 21 Democratic secretaries of state, and one independent.
 


Montana legislature will send concealed carry question to voters in November 2020 if Democratic Governor Steve Bullock vetoes identical bill

On April 2, the Montana Legislature voted to put a measure on the November 2020 ballot that, if approved by voters, would remove the authority of local governments to regulate the carrying of concealed weapons. The measure was designed to be sent to voters if an identical bill, House Bill 325, is vetoed by Democratic Governor Steve Bullock. House Bill 325 passed in the legislature along party lines (29-20 in the Senate and 57-42 in the House) on April 3, 2019. To override the governor’s veto in Montana, a two-thirds vote in each chamber (67 votes in the House and 34 votes in the Senate) would be required.
 
House Bill 357, sponsored by Representatives Matt Regier (R-4) and Derek Skees (R-11), would state that it is the policy of Montana “that the citizens of the state should be aware of, understand, and comply with any restrictions on the right to keep or bear arms that the people have reserved to themselves in Article II, section 12, of the Montana constitution, and that to minimize confusion the legislature withholds from local governments the power to restrict or regulate the possession of firearms.”
 
The measure’s text states that its purpose is “to secure the right to keep and bear arms and to prevent a patchwork of restrictions by local governments across the state.”
 
On February 21, 2019, the House passed the bill in a vote of 56 to 43, largely along party lines. Jade Bahr (D-50) and Jacob Bachmeier (D-28) were the only two of 42 House Democrats to vote in favor while Geraldine Custer (R-39), Neil Duram (R-2), and Bruce Grubbs (R-68) were the only three of 58 House Republicans to vote against. Representative Dale Mortensen (R-44) was absent. The measure passed in the Senate on April 2, 2019, by a vote of 28 to 21 with one Republican Senator absent or excused. One Republican, Brian Hoven of District 13, joined all 20 Senate Democrats in voting no. All 28 yes votes came from Republicans.
 
Montana Code 5-4-301 provides that the governor cannot veto legislatively-referred state statutes or stop them from appearing on the ballot. Montana is one of 14 states with divided government. The Montana State Legislature is controlled by Republicans and the governor’s office is controlled by Democrat Steve Bullock.


Montana Legislature sends constitutional amendments regarding initiative petition distribution requirements to voters in 2020

Two proposed constitutional amendments (House Bills 244 and 245), sponsored by Rep. Steve Gunderson (R-1) and given final approval on Wednesday, would not alter currently enforced initiative signature distribution requirements but would amend constitutional language to match the existing requirements. House Bills 244 and 245 passed largely along party lines in the House, with most Republicans in favor and most Democrats against. The bills passed in the Senate by votes of 46-3 and 45-4, respectively.
 
A distribution requirement is a statutory or constitutional mandate requiring that petitions for a ballot measure or candidate nomination be signed by voters from a certain percentage of different political subdivisions or districts in order for the ballot measure or candidate to qualify for the ballot.
 
For an initiated constitutional amendment in Montana, proponents must collect signatures equal to 10 percent of the qualified electors in each of two-fifths (40) of the state’s 100 legislative districts.
 
For an initiated state statute or a veto referendum in Montana, signatures collected must be equal to 5 percent of the qualified electors in each of one-third (34) of the state’s legislative districts.
 
In 2002, two amendments, C-37 and C-38, attempted to change the basis for the ballot initiative distribution requirement in Montana from legislative districts to counties. However, given population disparities among counties, the amendments were found by a U.S. District Court to be unconstitutional on equal protection grounds in Montana PIRG v. Johnson. Attorney General Mike McGrath subsequently ruled that the federal court’s invalidation of C-37 and C-38 meant that the prior language of the state’s constitution about distribution requirements based on legislative districts for citizen initiatives was considered to be fully back in force. The language from C-37 and C-38 concerning county-based distribution requirements, however, remained in the state constitution.
 
In the 26 states that feature the powers of initiative, veto referendum, or both, 17 have a distribution requirement, while 9 of them do not. Where there are distribution requirements for initiative petitions, the political jurisdiction on which they are based vary. 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.
 
Additional reading:


Majority of Anchorage Assembly serving first term after April 2 election

In Alaska, five of 11 seats on the Anchorage Assembly and two of seven Anchorage School District school board seats were up for nonpartisan general election on April 2, 2019. Seats on these two governing bodies have three-year terms, and the filing deadline to run in the election was February 1.
 
The five seats up for election on the Anchorage Assembly were District 2 Seat A, District 3 Seat D, District 4 Seat F, District 5 Seat H, and District 6 Seat J. Incumbents Forrest Dunbar and John Weddleton ran unopposed for re-election to the District 5 and 6 seats, respectively. The other three Anchorage Assembly elections were open-seat races without incumbents; two did not file for re-election, and Dick Traini could not run due to term limits. Crystal Kennedy, Kameron Perez Verdia, and Meg Zaletel won the District 2, 3, and 4 seats, respectively.
 
The last regular election for the Anchorage Assembly in 2017 saw only two of six incumbents run for re-election, due in part to term limits. Consequently, seven of the chamber’s 11 members will be serving their first term after the April 2 winners are sworn into office.
 
The two Anchorage School District school board seats on the ballot were Seat A and Seat B. Margo Bellamy won the Seat A position; the incumbent, Mark Foster, did not file for the race after being appointed to the board in October 2018. The Seat B position was won by incumbent Starr Marsett, who was first elected to the board in 2016. Marsett currently serves as president of the board.
 
Anchorage is the largest city in Alaska and the 62nd-largest city in the U.S. by population. The Anchorage School District served 48,238 students during the 2016-2017 school year.
 


95 percent of New Jersey Assembly incumbents file for re-election

The major-party filing deadline passed on April 1 to run for seats in the New Jersey General Assembly. The filing deadline for independent candidates is on June 4. All 80 seats in the state Assembly are up for election this year; the primary is scheduled for June 4, and the general election is on November 5.
 
The New Jersey General Assembly has 40 multi-member districts, with two representatives in each district. In Democratic and Republican primaries, the top two candidates from each party move forward to the general election, and the top two vote recipients in the general election are declared the winners.
 
A total of 181 candidates filed in the election – 98 Democrats and 83 Republicans. There are 18 contested primaries with more than two candidates running.
 
A total of 76 of the chamber’s 80 incumbents (95 percent) filed for re-election, which leaves four open-seat races. All 76 incumbents running for re-election face at least one challenger. In the 2017 state Assembly elections, 88.8 percent of incumbents filed for re-election and nine seats were open.
 
Entering the 2019 election, the New Jersey General Assembly has 54 Democrats and 26 Republicans. A majority in the chamber requires 41 seats. New Jersey has a Democratic state government trifecta. A state government trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and both state legislative chambers.
 


Alabama governor announces state House special election

Gov. Kay Ivey (R) has called a special election to fill the vacant District 74 seat in the Alabama House of Representatives. The special election is set for November 12. The seat became vacant when Dimitri Polizos (R) died of a heart attack on March 27, 2019. He had held the seat since 2013 and was re-elected in 2018 with 61 percent of the vote. The winner of the special election will hold the seat until November 7, 2022.
 
The primary is on June 11. If no candidate in either partisan primary receives more than 50 percent of the vote, special primary runoffs will be held on August 27. If no primary runoff is necessary, the special general election will be held on August 27 instead of November 12. The filing deadline for major party candidates is April 9, and the filing deadline for independent candidates is June 11.
 
In 2019, there have been 52 state legislative special elections scheduled or held so far in 20 states. Between 2011 and 2018, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.
 


What happens next in the Wisconsin Supreme Court race?

With 100 percents of precincts reporting in the race for Wisconsin Supreme Court, Appeals Judge Brian Hagedorn leads Appeals Chief Judge Lisa Neubauer by 5,960 votes or 0.5 percent.
 
Hagedorn declared victory early Wednesday morning. Neubauer had not conceded as of Wednesday. She said in a video statement, “We need to make sure that every last vote is counted and that’s going to take a little time.”
 
Under Wisconsin state law, a losing candidate may request a recount if the margin is 1 percent of the total votes cast or less.
 
The partisan balance of the court for the next four years could be determined by the result of this election. Although state Supreme Court elections in Wisconsin are officially nonpartisan, liberal and conservative groups typically coalesce around specific candidates. Conservatives, who currently have a 4-3 majority on the court, back Hagedorn. Liberals support Neubauer.
 
If Hagedorn wins, conservatives will expand their majority on the court to 5-2 and keep control until at least 2023. If a recount results in a Neubauer win, liberals have a chance to flip the court in 2020, when Justice Dan Kelly, who was appointed to the court by Gov. Scott Walker (R), will stand for election for the first time that year.


St. Louis Metro Council sees 100% incumbent re-election rate

Municipal and school board elections were held in Missouri on April 2. In St. Louis, a general election was held for metro council president and 14 council seats, and in Kansas City, a primary was held for mayor and all 12 city council seats. Ballotpedia also covered school board general elections in 11 school districts in the state.
 
In St. Louis, all 12 metro council incumbents who ran for re-election won additional terms, while newcomers were elected to the open Ward 18, 24, and 26 seats.
 
In Kansas City, city council members Jolie Justus and Quinton Lucas received the most votes in the 11-person mayoral primary and advanced to the general election on June 18. Mayor Sly James was term-limited and could not run for re-election. Six of the 12 city council incumbents whose seats were on the ballot ran for re-election in the primary. Five officially advanced to the general election. The sixth incumbent’s race was too close to call with unofficial election night results.
 
A total of 29 school board seats were up for election on April 2 in the 11 school districts Ballotpedia covered in Missouri. Two races for three seats are still pending as they were too close to call with unofficial election night results. In the races that could be called, incumbents won 13 seats and newcomers won 13 seats. Ten of the seats won by newcomers were open after incumbents did not file to run for re-election, and the other three were won by challengers who defeated incumbents. Overall, school board incumbents who did run for re-election had an 81.25 percent success rate.
 
Kansas City and St. Louis are Missouri’s largest and second-largest cities, respectively. Kansas City is the 36th-largest city in the U.S. by population and St. Louis is the 57th-largest. The 11 Missouri school districts served a combined total of 126,611 students during the 2016-2017 school year.
 


Over half of Oklahoma’s school board elections canceled due to uncontested races

General elections for Oklahoma school boards were held on April 2. Of the 26 school districts Ballotpedia covered in the state, 16 canceled their general elections for 17 seats. Fourteen of those districts canceled due to lack of opposition, while the other two canceled after incumbents took more than 50 percent of the vote in the February 12 primaries, winning the seats outright.
 
Of the elections canceled due to lack of opposition, 13 incumbents automatically won re-election and four newcomers won new terms by default.
 
In the 10 school districts that did hold general elections on April 2, a total of 10 seats were on the ballot. Seven of the incumbents ran to retain their seats, leaving three open for newcomers. Six incumbents won new terms, and one was defeated by a challenger. One of the 10 school districts—Tulsa Public Schools—had enough candidates file to run to hold a primary on February 12. The primary narrowed the field from eight candidates to two for the general election.
 
These 26 school districts served a combined total of 261,543 students during the 2016-2017 school year.
 


Madison Mayor Soglin loses re-election bid, nine new members will join city’s Common Council

In Madison, Wisconsin, Satya Rhodes-Conway defeated incumbent Mayor Paul Soglin in the general election on April 2, 2019. With all precincts reporting, unofficial results showed Rhodes-Conway received 61.9 percent of the vote to Soglin’s 37.7 percent of the vote.
 
The general election candidates advanced from a five-way primary on February 19. Soglin came in first place, receiving 28.6 percent of the vote. Rhodes-Conway trailed him by less than 1 percentage point, receiving 27.7 percent of the vote.
 
Rhodes-Conway will be the second woman to serve as mayor of Madison. She previously served on the city council from 2007 to 2013. Soglin first served as mayor from 1973 to 1979. He was re-elected in 1989 and served until 1997. He was elected again in 2011 and re-elected in 2015. In all, he has served as mayor of the city for a combined 22 years. Soglin also ran for governor of Wisconsin in 2018 but lost in the Democratic primary.
 
All 20 seats on the Madison Common Council were also up for election. Of the 11 incumbents seeking re-election, nine were unopposed. The two incumbents who faced challengers were re-elected. Nine new members will join the council.
 
Madison is the second-largest city in Wisconsin and the 82nd-largest city in the U.S. by population.