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Incumbents lead in St. Petersburg primaries

Four seats on the St. Petersburg City Council in Florida are up for election in 2019, and three of those seats held primaries on August 27. The top two vote recipients in each of the primaries advanced to the general election, which is scheduled for November 5.
In two council districts, the incumbents—John “Ed” Montanari in District 3 and Lisa Wheeler-Bowman in District 7—both received the most votes in their primaries. According to the unofficial election night results, Montanari received 70.6% of the vote compared to his challengers, Orlando A. Acosta (20.0%) and Zachary James Collins (9.4%). In District 7, Wheeler-Bowman led a four-candidate field with 57.4% of the vote. The second-place finisher, Eritha Brandis Cainion, received 23.9%.
The District 5 primary was an open-seat race; incumbent Steve Kornell was prevented by term limits from seeking re-election. Trenia Cox led the field with 35.0% of the vote, which was followed by Deborah Figgs-Sanders at 29.6% and Beth Connor at 21.2%. The other candidates received single-digit percentage support. The primary for the District 1 seat on the council was canceled after only two candidates, Robert G. Blackmon and John Hornbeck, filed to run. Both automatically advanced to the general election. The District 1 race is an open-seat election since incumbent Charlie Gerdes was also term-limited.
The St. Petersburg City Council has eight members, each of whom serves a four-year term. St. Petersburg is the fifth-largest city in Florida and the 77th-largest city in the U.S. by population.

Phoenix voters defeat Propositions 105 and 106 no light rail and pensions

Phoenix residents rejected two citizen initiatives—Propositions 105 and 106—at the Aug. 27 special election. Proposition 105 would have terminated funding for future light rail expansion in the greater Phoenix metropolitan area and to allocate revenue from the transportation tax towards other infrastructure projects. Proposition 106 would have required the city to limit budget growth and devote a greater portion of its budget to pay down its $4.5 billion pension debt.
The unofficial results indicate that both measures were defeated. Opposition to Proposition 105 led the race with 62.3 percent to 37.7 percent according to election night results. Proposition 106 was behind with 66.2 percent of voters against it. By the last election night report, about 90 percent of ballots had been counted.
Invest in PHX led the opposition campaign against both propositions. They held an election watch party in the heart of downtown Phoenix. When the unofficial results were reported, Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego addressed the room stating: “I did not anticipate the national spotlight which would shine on our city about these ballot propositions. … We have said strongly we want to invest in the future of our city.” Invest in PHX raised $933,000 in campaign contributions according to pre-election reports that covered activity through Aug. 10.
Phoenix Councilmember Sal DiCiccio (District 6), who supported both initiatives, said, “Like many of you, I am disappointed to see tonight’s election results. I want to thank everyone who worked on these initiatives and who helped share our message throughout the city. You have my commitment that I will continue to fight for accountability and fiscal responsibility at the City of Phoenix.”
The support campaign for Proposition 105, Building a Better Phoenix, raised $488,000 in contributions according to pre-election reports. The Proposition 106 campaign, Responsible Budgets, raised $298,000.
The question of light rail expansion has been before Phoenix voters three times prior to Proposition 105. Voters have decided four other pension-related propositions since March 2013.

The Daily Brew: In Mississippi governor’s race, it’s Hood (D) vs. Reeves (R)

Today’s Brew highlights the results of Mississippi’s Republican gubernatorial primary runoff + legal developments regarding ballot initiatives in Colorado and Michigan  
 The Daily Brew
Welcome to the Wednesday, August 28, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Reeves wins Mississippi Republican gubernatorial primary runoff
  2. Colorado signature distribution requirement upheld, Michigan redistricting measure faces legal challenge
  3. Forty percent of our survey respondents don’t feel prepared when voting on ballot measures

Reeves wins Mississippi Republican gubernatorial primary runoff

Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves defeated former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr. to win yesterday’s Republican primary runoff for governor of Mississippi. As of 10 p.m. Central time, Reeves had received 54% of the vote to Waller’s 46% with 95% of precincts reporting. 

No candidate received a majority of the vote to win the August 6 Republican primary outright. Reeves finished first with 49% of the vote and Waller was second with 33%. The third-place finisher—state Rep. Robert Foster—received 18% and endorsed Waller after the primary. Reeves was endorsed by incumbent Gov. Phil Bryant (R) and former Gov. Haley Barbour (R). 

Reeves, who is in his second term as lieutenant governor after serving two terms as state treasurer, said that his experience in state government would make him an effective chief executive. Waller said during the campaign that he would win more support from Democratic and independent voters than Reeves would in the general election.  

Reeves will face Attorney General Jim Hood (D) in the November 5 general election. In order to win election as governor of Mississippi, a candidate must win both the statewide vote and a majority of the 122 state House districts. If no candidate does both, the state House decides the winner. 

Inside Elections and Sabato’s Crystal Ball rate the general election as “Leans Republican” and Cook Political Report rates the contest as “Likely Republican.” Ronnie Musgrove was the last Democrat elected governor of Mississippi. He defeated Rep. Mike Parker (R) 49.6-48.5% in 1999.

Learn more



Colorado signature distribution requirement upheld, Michigan redistricting measure faces legal challenge 

Sometimes when voters approve a ballot measure, the legal challenges are just beginning. Over the past two years, we’ve followed about 100 ballot measure-related lawsuits. Here are two instances from last week: 


A three-judge panel of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed an earlier district court ruling August 20 and upheld a distribution requirement for initiated constitutional amendment petitions in Colorado. Plaintiffs argued that the distribution requirement provisions violated the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution’s 14th Amendment.

In 2016, Colorado voters approved Amendment 71—sometimes referred to as the Raise the Bar initiative—requiring initiative petitioners to spread out signature-gathering efforts across all of the state’s 35 senate districts. The measure also enacted a 55% supermajority requirement for any constitutional amendment other than those designed to only delete language. 

ColoradoCareYes and the Coalition for Colorado Universal Health Care filed a lawsuit against the distribution provisions in 2017. A federal district court overturned the distribution requirement although it was left in place for 2018 measures while the case was under appeal. 

The appeals court panel ruled 2-1 to reverse the U.S. District Court’s ruling, leaving the distribution requirement in place. The majority wrote that “[n]o equal protection problem exists if votes are cast in state legislative districts that were drawn based on Census population data.” The majority based its decision on Evenwel v. Abbott (2016), in which the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that a state or local government could draw legislative districts based on total population.


The Michigan Republican Party filed a lawsuit in federal court August 22 seeking to block Proposal 2, which transferred the power to draw the state’s congressional and legislative districts from the state legislature to a 13-member independent redistricting commission. Voters approved Proposal 2 in 2018 with 61% voting in favor of the constitutional amendment.

Proposal 2 would create a redistricting commission of 13 registered voters randomly selected by the Secretary of State—four each who self-identify as affiliated with the two major political parties and five who self-identify as unaffiliated with major political parties. It also established new redistricting criteria including geographically compact and contiguous districts of equal population and specified that redistricting shall not provide disproportionate advantage to political parties or candidates.

Michigan voters do not specify their political affiliation when registering to vote. Proposal 2 requires applicants for the redistricting commission to attest under oath regarding their partisan affiliation but does not require the state department to confirm individuals’ partisan affiliation. 

Laura Cox, chairperson of the state Republican Party, said Proposal 2 violated the party’s freedom of association, arguing that the amendment prevented parties from selecting their own members to serve on the redistricting commission. The complaint also stated that the measure could allow Democrats to self-affiliate as Republicans “in an effort to alter the party’s selection process and weaken its representation on the commission by individuals who genuinely affiliate with MRP [Michigan Republican Party].”

Six states have enacted laws for independent redistricting commissions for congressional districts. In Arizona, California, Colorado, and Idaho, registered voters can select to affiliate with a political party on their voter registration forms. Like Michigan, Washington does not have a party-affiliation option on voter registrations. The Washington process involves legislative leaders of the two major parties each selecting a member of the redistricting commission, and the four leader-appointed members appointing a fifth member. 

Learn more about the Colorado measure→  

Learn more about the Michigan measure

Forty percent of our survey respondents don’t feel prepared when voting on ballot measures

And while on the subject of ballot initiatives, our What’s the Tea? question last week asked for your thoughts about voting on ballot measures:

What's the tea results

Ballotpedia covers all statewide ballot measures and local ballot measures in California and in the 100 largest U.S. cities by population. If you’re seeking more information about a question on your ballot, our coverage is a great place to learn more about it.

Click here for our comprehensive coverage of ballot measures


Lt. Gov. Reeves wins Republican nomination for governor of Mississippi

Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves (R) defeated former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr. (R) to win the Republican nomination for governor of Mississippi in Tuesday’s runoff election. As of 9 p.m. Central time on August 27, Reeves had received 55.5% of the vote to Waller’s 44.5% with 66% of precincts reporting.
The runoff was triggered after neither candidate won a majority of the vote in the August 6 primary; Reeves received 48.9% of the vote to Waller’s 33.4%. The only other candidate was state Rep. Robert Foster (R), who endorsed Waller ahead of the runoff. Foster and Waller received a combined 51.1% of the vote. Reeves had been endorsed by term-limited incumbent Phil Bryant (R) and was endorsed by former Gov. Haley Barbour (R) the week before the runoff.
Reeves, who is in his second term as lieutenant governor after serving two terms as state treasurer, said that his experience in state government would make him an effective chief executive. He said that he was the more conservative of the two and criticized Waller for supporting Medicaid expansion and an increase in the state gas tax.
Waller said that he would win more support from Democratic and independent voters than Reeves would in the general election. He criticized the tone of Reeves’ campaign, saying that Reeves was more focused on attacking him than on proposing policies to address the problems Mississippi faces.
Reeves will face Attorney General Jim Hood (D) in the November 5 general election. In order to win election as governor of Mississippi, a candidate must win the statewide vote and carry a majority of the 122 state House districts. If no candidate does both, the state House decides the winner. A victory for Reeves would preserve Mississippi’s Republican trifecta while a victory for Hood would break it. No Democratic candidate has won election as governor of Mississippi since Ronnie Musgrove (D) in 1999.

Federal Register weekly update; 2019 average weekly page total surpasses 2018

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.
During the week of August 19 to August 23, the number of pages in the Federal Register increased by 1,738 pages, bringing the year-to-date total to 44,536 pages. The week’s Federal Register featured a total of 568 documents, including 447 notices, two presidential documents, 51 proposed rules, and 68 final rules.
Two final rules were deemed significant under E.O. 12866—meaning that they may 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.
During the same week in 2018, the number of pages in the Federal Register increased by 1,484 pages for a year-to-date total of 43,500 pages. As of August 23, the 2019 total led the 2018 total by 1,036 pages.
The Trump administration has added an average of 1,310 pages to the Federal Register each week in 2019 as of August 23. Over the course of 2018, the Trump administration added an average of 1,301 pages to the Federal Register each week. During the Obama administration, the Federal Register increased by an average of 1,658 pages per week.
According to government data, the Federal Register hit an all-time high of 95,894 pages in 2016.
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.

Abbott fills vacancy on Texas Supreme Court

Gov. Greg Abbott (R) appointed Jane Bland to Place 6 on the Texas Supreme Court, filling the vacancy left by Justice Jeff Brown. Brown was confirmed to the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas in late July. Bland previously served on the Texas First District Court of Appeals from 2003 to 2018.
Typically, the Texas State Senate must confirm appointments to the state Supreme Court. The legislature is out of session, however, so the Senate did not have to confirm Bland’s appointment. Bland must stand for re-election in 2020 to remain on the court.
The Texas Supreme Court has nine justices. Of those, four were appointed by Gov. Rick Perry (R) and three were appointed by Gov. Abbott. The other two justices were initially chosen by voters in partisan elections.
This year, there have been 18 state supreme court vacancies across 12 of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. Thirteen of the vacancies were caused by retirements. Two former justices took jobs in the private sector. One vacancy occurred when a justice was elevated to chief justice of the court and two others occurred when the justices were elevated to federal judicial positions.

President Trump issues memorandum that aims to help disabled veterans navigate student loan forgiveness program

On August 21, President Trump issued a presidential memorandum directing the Departments of Education (DOE) and Veterans Affairs (VA) to simplify the process disabled veterans must follow to have their student loans forgiven.
Under the Higher Education Act, veterans who have total and permanent disabilities because of their military service qualify for federal student loan forgiveness. According to President Trump’s memorandum, only half of those veterans who qualify have taken advantage of the program.
The memorandum directs the DOE and the VA to work together to minimize the burdens on qualifying veterans who want relief from their student loans.
Presidential memoranda and executive orders both carry the force of law, but memoranda are not numbered nor required by law to be published in the _Federal Register_. Under an executive order issued by President John F. Kennedy, the president must cite the constitutional or legal authority that justifies issuing an executive order; that justification is not required for presidential memoranda.

Lawsuit raises new challenge to Trump’s civil service executive orders

A chapter of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) representing U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs employees in Buffalo, New York, filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Western District of New York on August 13, 2019, arguing that President Donald Trump’s (R) three civil service executive orders exceed the president’s constitutional authority and violate the Civil Service Reform Act.
President Trump issued the civil service executive orders (E.O. 13837, E.O. 13836, and E.O.13839) in May 2018. The orders include proposals aimed at facilitating the removal of poor-performing federal employees and streamlining collective bargaining procedures.
The lawsuit follows a July 16 decision by a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that unanimously reversed and vacated a lower court decision blocking provisions of the executive orders. The judges held that the lower court did not have jurisdiction and that the plaintiffs—a coalition of union groups—should have brought the case before the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) as required by the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute (FSLMRS).
The new lawsuit claims that the district court has jurisdiction over the case in part because FLRA has lacked a general counsel for almost two years—preventing the agency from hearing unfair labor practice complaints.
The [[United States Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit]] has appellate jurisdiction over the [[United States District Court for the Western District of New York]]. As such, the D.C. Circuit’s July decision upholding the civil service executive orders is not controlling on the case.

How has the United States acquired new territories?

Since the United States Constitution’s ratification in 1789, the country has grown from 864,746 square miles to 3,531,905 through territorial acquisitions.
According to the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs, the United States has employed three methods of territorial acquisition:
  • Cession refers to a transfer of land that is formally agreed upon by the acquiring and ceding state, usually by treaty.
  • purchase is a type of cession in which the acquiring nation agrees to financially compensate the ceding country for a territorial transfer.
  • Occupation refers to the appropriation of an area that lacks supreme control by another sovereign.
The U.S. also leased the Panama Canal Zone from 1903 to 1999.
The country’s first and largest territorial acquisition was the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 for $10 million; it nearly doubled the landmass of the original 13 states. In 1947, the Mariana Islands, Caroline Islands, and Marshall Islands became the United States’ most recent territorial acquisitions.
The cheapest acquisition by purchase was of Alaska for $12 per square mile. The most expensive acquisition by purchase was of the U.S. Virgin Islands for $183,824 per square mile.
The territories gained by the U.S. through occupation were primarily small islands in the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. The Guano Islands Act of 1856, which was designed to assist American farmers by making guano (dried sea bird excrement) easier to mine for use as fertilizer, authorized such occupations.
The United States currently controls five unincorporated, organized, inhabited territories: Puerto Rico, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and American Samoa. The U.S. also controls nine minor outlying islands: Baker Island, Howland Island, Jarvis Island, Navassa Island, Johnston Atoll, Midway Islands, Palmyra Atoll, Wake Island, and Kingman Reef.

13 candidates file for Birmingham City Council special elections

Thirteen candidates filed to run in the October 8 special election for three of the nine city council seats in Birmingham, Alabama. The District 1, 6, and 7 seats are on the ballot. The candidate filing deadline passed on August 23.
Former District 1 member Lashunda Scales and former District 6 member Sheila Tyson both left their positions after they were elected to the Jefferson County Commission on November 6, 2018. Former District 7 member Jay Roberson resigned in September 2018 after he moved outside of his district. Following those resignations, Clinton Woods, Crystal Smitherman, and Wardine Alexander were appointed to the District 1, 6, and 7 seats, respectively. The special elections will fill the seats until the next regularly scheduled general election is held in 2021.
All three appointed incumbents filed to run for a full term on the council. In District 1, Woods faces two challengers. In District 6, Smitherman faces six challengers, and in District 7, Alexander faces two challengers.
Birmingham is the largest city in Alabama and the 99th-largest city in the U.S. by population.