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Washington Supreme Court Justice Wiggins to retire, governor to select replacement

Justice Charles Wiggins
Photo credit: Charles Wiggins

Washington Supreme Court Justice Charles K. Wiggins is retiring at the end of March 2020. In a prepared statement, Wiggins said he wished to spend more time with his wife, Nancy, and his family.

Wiggins was elected to the state supreme court in 2010 and re-elected in 2016. He was previously a Division 2 judge of the Washington Court of Appeals and served as a pro tem judge in the Jefferson County and King County superior courts and as a pro tem district court judge in Kitsap County. He also worked in private practice. Wiggins earned his undergraduate degree from Princeton University, where he graduated magna cum laude. He served in the Army Military Intelligence Corps for four years after graduating from Princeton. During that time, he obtained his master’s degree in business administration from the University of Hawaii. He then obtained his J.D. from Duke Law School in 1976.

In the event of a midterm vacancy, selection of state supreme court justices in Washington occurs through gubernatorial appointment. Wiggins’ replacement will be Governor Jay Inslee’s (D) third nominee to the nine-member court. Newly appointed justices serve until the next general election, at which point they may run to serve for the remainder of the predecessor’s term. Wiggins’ seat will appear on the ballot in a nonpartisan election on November 3, 2020. Candidates will run to finish the last two years of his term, set to expire on January 8, 2023.

The nine justices of the supreme court compete in contested elections without reference to party affiliation and must run for re-election when their terms expire. Supreme court justices serve for six years.

The Washington State Supreme Court is the state’s court of last resort. It currently includes the following justices:

• Charles Johnson – Elected in 1990
• Barbara Madsen – Elected in 1992
• Susan Owens – Elected in 2000
• Charlie Wiggins – Elected in 2010
• Sheryl Gordon McCloud – Elected in 2012
• Steven Gonzalez – Appointed by Gov. Christine Gregoire (D)
• Debra Stephens – Appointed by Gov. Gregoire
• Raquel Montoya-Lewis – Appointed by Gov. Jay Inslee (D)
• Mary Yu – Appointed by Gov. Inslee

In 2020, there have been six supreme court vacancies in five of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. The vacancies were caused by retirements. Three vacancies are in states where a Democratic governor appoints the replacement. The other three are in states where a Republican governor appoints the replacement.

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Additional reading:
State supreme court vacancies, 2020
Washington State Supreme Court
Charlie Wiggins
Judicial selection in Washington

Republicans keep Connecticut House seat in special election

Photo credit: EGryk

A special general election was held on January 21, 2020, to fill the Connecticut House’s District 151 seat left vacant by the resignation of Rep. Fred Camillo (R). Republican Harry Arora won the special election with 2,345 votes versus the 1,965 votes for Democrat Cheryl Trepp Moss.

The special election was called after Camillo resigned his seat on December 2, 2019, due to his election as the First Selectman of Greenwich, Connecticut. He was the representative for District 151 from 2009 to 2019.

Arora will serve out the remainder of Camillo’s term, which ends on January 6, 2021. The last general election for the seat was held on November 6, 2018. The next general election for it is scheduled for November 3, 2020.

As of January 2020, 28 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2020 in 13 states. Between 2011 and 2019, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.

Connecticut has a Democratic trifecta. A state government trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and both state legislative chambers.

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Additional reading:
Connecticut House of Representatives District 151
Connecticut elections, 2020
State legislative special elections, 2020

Over $6.29 million raised for California Proposition 13 (March 2020), a $15 billion education facilities bond measure

Committees surrounding California Proposition 13, a $15-billion education facilities bond measure that is on the ballot for March 3, 2020, filed their first periodic campaign finance reports on January 23, 2020.

Of the $15 billion in bonds that Proposition 13 would authorize, $9 billion would be for preschool and K-12 schools, $4 billion would be for universities, and $2 billion would be for community colleges.

Californians for Safe Schools and Healthy Learning, also known as Yes on Prop 13, is leading the campaign in support of Proposition 13. An additional four committees organized to support the ballot measure. Together, the five committees raised $6.29 million. The political committee of the California Teachers Association, a labor union affiliated with the National Education Association, provided the largest contribution—$500,000. RMV Community Development, LLC, a real estate firm, contributed $320,000. The California Democratic Party provided $250,000.

There were zero committees registered to spend funds opposing Proposition 13. Opponents include the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

Since September 2019, Proposition 13 has polled between 48 and 54 percent. The Public Policy Institute of California’s (PPIC) most recent poll, which was released on January 15, showed that Democrats and Republicans were divided on the ballot measure. 78% of Democrats, 40% of independents, and 26% of Republicans supported the ballot measure.

Proposition 13 is the largest education-related bond measure proposed in California’s history. Adjusted for inflation, two bond education-related measures—Proposition 55 (2005) and Proposition 47 (2002)—were larger. Proposition 55 issued $12.3 billion ($16.7 billion in real dollars), and Proposition 47 issued $13.05 billion ($18.6 billion in real dollars).

Proposition 13 is the only statewide measure on California’s ballot for March 3. Currently, three citizen-initiated measures are certified for the November ballot in California. Signatures for additional ballot initiatives need to be certified by June 25, 2020. The California State Legislature also has until June 25 to place referrals on the November ballot. Across the U.S., the March 3 election will also feature statewide ballot measures in Alabama and Maine.

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Additional reading:
California 2020 ballot measures
California Teachers Association 
2020 ballot measures

Univ. of Washington employee sues SEIU over membership opt-out provisions

On Jan. 20, an employee of the University of Washington filed a class-action lawsuit in U.S. District Court, alleging that her union, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 925, had unconstitutionally barred her and other employees from opting out of union membership.

Who are the parties to the suit? The lead plaintiff is Charlene Wagner, a fiscal specialist for the state university system. She is represented by the Freedom Foundation, a nonprofit think tank and litigation firm whose self-described mission is “to advance individual liberty, free enterprise, and limited, accountable government.” The Freedom Foundation is currently involved in approximately 60 lawsuits concerning public-sector union practices in the aftermath of Janus v. AFSCME. The main defendant is Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 925, which represents about 17,000 education workers in Washington, making it one of the largest public-sector unions in the state. The University of Washington is also named as a defendant.

What is at issue? In October 2018, Wagner sought to opt-out of union membership and cancel her dues deduction authorization. SEIU 925 informed her that the membership agreement she had signed limited opt-outs to an annual two-week period (in this case, from April 29, 2019, to May 14, 2019).

Wagner and her attorneys argue that “dues are being seized under an unconstitutional [state] law that gives the union sole discretion over who the university – a state actor – is and isn’t authorized to deduct dues from.” They also allege that “a union cannot impose an irrevocability provision, containing a narrow opt-out window, on union nonmembers without a knowing First Amendment waiver.”

What are the reactions? In a press release, Freedom Foundation Senior Litigation Counsel James Abernathy said, “The whole point of Janus is to protect the First Amendment rights of public employees to not support a labor union. State laws that try to limit those rights are unconstitutional regardless of whether they were passed before or after Janus. … We shouldn’t have to keep relitigating the same issues, but SEIU 925 apparently believes it can disregard laws it doesn’t like.”

As of Jan. 24, neither SEIU 925 nor the University of Washington have commented publicly on the suit.

What comes next? The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington. It has been assigned to Judge Barbara Rothstein. Rothstein was first appointed to the federal bench by President Jimmy Carter (D). The case name and number are Wagner v. University of Washington (2:20-cv-00091).

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Additional reading:
Janus v. AFSCME
Public sector union policy in the United States, 2018-present

Record-long gubernatorial winning streaks are ongoing in 18 states

Photo credit: Melissa Mansour

More than one-third of states are in the midst of a record-long gubernatorial winning streak (when multiple consecutive gubernatorial elections in a state are won by candidates from the same party). The longest-running winning streaks—for Oregon Democrats and Utah Republicans—each go back 10 elections.

There are 12 record-long Republican winning streaks and six record-long Democratic winning streaks ongoing. Of those, five streaks are an all-time record for either party in the state: Democrats have record-long streaks in Oregon (10 elections), Washington (9), and West Virginia (6), while Republicans have record-long streaks in Utah (10 elections) and Idaho (7).

The longest gubernatorial winning streak in U.S. history took place in Georgia, where Democrats won all 52 gubernatorial elections between 1871 and 1998. The longest winning streak for Republicans took place in Vermont, where the party won all 49 gubernatorial elections between 1867 and 1960. The state with the shortest record-long streak is Alaska, where no party has won more than three consecutive gubernatorial elections.

Of the 11 gubernatorial elections taking place this year, six have the potential to match or extend record-long state party winning streaks. Of those, three are all-time state record streaks for either party (for Utah Republicans, Washington Democrats, and West Virginia Democrats).

For more details and to see the longest winning streaks for both major parties in your state, click here.

Additional reading:
Gubernatorial elections, 2020
Governor (state executive office)

10th Circuit hears oral argument in case challenging ATF bump stock ban

The United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit on January 22 heard oral argument in Aposhian v. Barr, a case claiming that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) violated Article I of the U.S. Constitution when they issued a 2018 rule redefining bump stocks as “machineguns.” By issuing a rule that rewrote federal statute, the plaintiffs argued, the department created a new criminal prohibition beyond the scope of its delegated authority.

DOJ and ATF issued the rule in response to a February 2018 presidential memorandum—an official document that allows the president to manage the federal government—signed by President Donald Trump (R). The memorandum directed the U.S. attorney general to propose a rule banning all devices that turn legal weapons into machineguns.

The New Civil Liberties Alliance (NCLA), a pro bono law firm with a focus on the administrative state, argued that the department lacked the authority to issue the rule because Congress had not delegated power to the attorney general to interpret the scope of the criminal prohibition on machinegun possession. NCLA further contended that the law defining machineguns is unambiguous and, therefore, not open to a new agency interpretation. Since Article I of the U.S. Constitution grants all legislative powers to Congress, argued NCLA, Congress itself must act to change the definition of machineguns to include bump stocks.

Delegate, in this context, means to entrust or hand over authority to another branch of government. Congress sometimes delegates questions requiring subject-matter expertise to agency administrators in order to implement the law. While some scholars support delegation, others argue that legislative authority is vested in Congress alone and cannot be delegated to other branches—a principle known as the nondelegation doctrine.

To learn more about delegation or the NCLA, see here:
Nondelegation doctrine
New Civil Liberties Alliance

Additional reading:
U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
Federal Register 
Final rule
Kisor v. Wilkie 

Recall election moves forward in Jackson, Michigan

Downtown Jackson as seen from 12th floor of One Energy Plaza (CMS Energy World Headquarters)
Photo credit: Phillip L. Hofmeister

In Michigan, a recall election against Jackson Councilwoman Kelsey Heck is set to be on the May 5 ballot. The Jackson County Elections Clerk’s Office verified the signatures in the recall effort against Heck and posted an issuance of election on January 21.

Resident Susan Murdie initiated the recall effort in July 2019. Petitions listed the following as reasons for recalling Heck:

  • “For her June 11, 2019 vote in favor of Resolution for Approval of contract with MDOT for Greenwood Avenue/S. Jackson Street-Morrell Street to Franklin Street.”
  • “For her February 12, 2019 vote in favor of Ordinance 2019 02, for Relocation Assistance for displaced tenants.”

Murdie started gathering signatures in October 2019. There were 320 signatures submitted for verification on December 17, 2019. At least 226 valid signatures were required to put the recall election on the ballot.

Heck said the recall effort was initiated because of her appointment to the council seat in September 2018. Murdie was also a candidate for the position. Heck said the city’s charter should be changed to allow for special elections to fill vacancies on the city council.

In 2019, Ballotpedia covered a total of 151 recall efforts against 230 elected officials. Of the 66 officials whose recalls made it to the ballot, 34 were recalled for a rate of 52%. That was lower than the 63% rate and 57% rate for 2018 and 2017 recalls, respectively.

Click here to read more

See below for additional reading:
Laws governing recall in Michigan
Political recall efforts, 2020

Wisconsin Marsy’s Law Amendment received over $500,000 from the national organization, Marsy’s Law for All

In its January campaign finance filing, Marsy’s Law for Wisconsin, which is leading the campaign in support of Wisconsin Marsy’s Law Crime Victims Rights Amendment, reported receiving over $500,000 in loans from Marsy’s Law for All, the national foundation that has funded 12 statewide Marsy’s Law ballot measure campaigns. It was founded in 2009 by Henry Nicholas, the co-founder of Broadcom Corp. Nicholas was the sponsor of the first Marsy’s Law, which was on the ballot in California as Proposition 9 in 2008. All 12 campaigns received majority voter approval; however, two of those amendments were overturned in Montana and Kentucky.

Ballotpedia tracked the campaign finance data for all 12 campaigns. Contributions in support of Marsy’s Law amendments totaled $102.3 million. The average amount contributed per measure was $8.5 million. Ohio’s efforts in 2017 received the highest amount in contributions with $10.6 million. These numbers exclude the $6.6 million spent in 2019 on Pennsylvania Marsy’s Law Crime Victims Rights Amendment. A majority of electors voted to approve the ballot measure. However, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court enjoined the secretary of state from certifying election results, pending a court ruling on the amendment’s constitutionality.

Wisconsin voters will decide on the amendment on April 7, 2020. The amendment would provide crime victims with specific constitutional rights, including a right to privacy; a right to the protection of information; a right to be present at all criminal proceedings and hearings; a right to reasonable protection from the alleged criminal; a right to be notified of the release, escape, or death of the alleged criminal in a timely manner; a right to speak in any hearing related to the rights of the victim; a right to submit information about the case to authorities; a right to refuse an interview, deposition, or other discovery request made by the alleged criminal; and a right to be informed of all rights and protections granted by the constitutional amendment and related laws.

See below for additional reading:

Federal Register weekly update; 2020 page total continues to outpace 2019 and 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.

From January 20 to January 24, the Federal Register grew to 4,568 pages. Over the same period in 2019 and 2018, the Federal Register grew to 406 pages and 3,936 pages, respectively. As of January 24, the 2020 total led the 2019 total by 4,162 pages and the 2018 total by 632 pages.

According to government data, the Federal Register hit an all-time high of 95,894 pages in 2016.

This week’s Federal Register featured the following 452 documents:
• 362 notices
• three presidential documents
• 43 proposed rules
• 44 final rules

One proposed rule and two final rules were deemed significant under E.O. 12866—meaning that they could 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.

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.

Click here to find more information about weekly additions to the Federal Register in 2018 and 2017.

Additional reading:
Click here to find yearly information about additions to the Federal Register from 1936 to 2016.

Yang qualifies for Feb. 7 debate in New Hampshire

Ballotpedia's Daily Presidential News Briefing
January 27, 2020: Andrew Yang qualified for the Feb. 7 debate in New Hampshire. The Des Moines Register endorsed Elizabeth Warren and The New Hampshire Union Leader endorsed Amy Klobuchar. blank    blankblank   

How many times has an incumbent president run for re-election with a different running mate than when they were first elected?

Notable Quote of the Day

“The Iowa Democratic Party has been preparing for record-breaking turnout for more than a year, driven both by Democrats’ angst about President Donald Trump and by an unusually large field of candidates — many of them with their own significant, independent turnout operations. The state party chairman, Troy Price, said the party is anticipating more caucus-goers than in 2008, which set a record when 239,000 Democratic voters participated, lifting Obama to victory.

‘The winner is always who’s bringing a bunch of new [voters],’ said Sue Dvorsky, a former Iowa Democratic Party chairwoman who backed Sen. Kamala Harris before she dropped out of the race.

The difficulty this year, she said, is that new voters could go to any number of different candidates. ‘There literally is no historical analogy here,’ she said.”

– David Siders, Natasha Korecki, Elena Schneider and Maya King, Politico


  • Michael BennetAmy KlobucharBernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren return to Washington, D.C., for the impeachment trial on Monday.

  • Rep. Cindy Axne (Iowa) endorsed Joe Biden on Saturday. Rep. Seth Moulton (Mass.), a former 2020 presidential candidate, also endorsed Biden on Monday. Biden will continue to campaign in Iowa on Monday with community events in Cedar Falls, Marion, and Iowa City.

  • Michael Bloomberg campaigned in Tampa and Miami on Sunday, where he launched his national Jewish voter outreach program. On Monday, he said he supported statehood for Puerto Rico. Rep. Scott Peters (Calif.) also endorsed Bloomberg, becoming his fifth congressional endorsement.

  • Pete Buttigieg discussed abortion, impeachment, race, and his political experience during a televised town hall on Fox News on Sunday.

  • John Delaney is scheduled to campaign in Iowa on Monday with stops in Cedar Falls and Tripoli.

  • Tulsi Gabbard continues to campaign in New Hampshire with a town hall in Meredith on Monday.

  • The New Hampshire Union Leader, the state’s largest newspaper, endorsed Klobuchar on Sunday.

  • Tom Steyer began a bus tour of Iowa on Sunday that will run through Feb. 3.

  • The Des Moines Register, Iowa’s largest newspaper, endorsed Warren on Saturday.

  • Andrew Yang will campaign in Iowa on Monday with town halls scheduled in Orange City, Le Mars, Sioux City, and Council Bluffs. He qualified for the Feb. 7 debate in New Hampshire after two new polls were released Sunday.


  • Donald Trump will meet with Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and opposition leader Benny Gantz on Monday to discuss policy in the Middle East.

  • Joe Walsh discussed conservatism, abortion, climate change, and Trump in his interview with The Des Moines Register.

Flashback: January 27, 2016

According to Ballotpedia’s Presidential Nominating Index, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were the candidates most likely to win their respective party’s nominations.

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