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District court decides that Alabama elections do not violate Voting Rights Act

On February 5th, U.S. District Judge W. Keith Watkins ruled that Alabama’s at-large method of electing appellate judges does not dilute the voting power of black citizens.

The case was brought to the court by the NAACP, which contended that Alabama’s mode of at-large elections for appellate judges, as opposed to voting by election districts, disenfranchises black voters. Further, they argued that this is the reason why there have been no black state appellate civil and criminal judges and only three black judges on the Alabama Supreme Court in the last 36 years.

In his 210-page opinion, Justice Watkins argued that two factors lay behind the lack of racial diversity on the Alabama courts: the decline of the Alabama Democratic Party, and the lack of black-preferred candidates on the ballot. “Notwithstanding the recent minimal representation of black-preferred candidates on Alabama’s appellate courts, the evidence demonstrates that reasons other than race better explain the defeat of black-preferred candidates in Alabama’s appellate judicial races.” Justice Watkins stated that the “recent decline of the Alabama Democratic Party and a failure of black-preferred candidates to compete generally are two primary culprits. Plaintiffs presented no evidence that race is the reason for the Party’s current failings or the reason why black-preferred candidates are not running for statewide appellate judge seats.”

The lawsuit sought to alter the selection method of the state to election by districts. The NAACP argued that the state’s method of selection violated two sections of the Voting Rights Act, and obliged the court to prove that the selection method is equally open to black justices and does not hinder black voters’ rights on account of race. They asked the court to find a new method of selection for appellate judges in the state and proposed nine voting districts. Benard Simelton, president of the Alabama NAACP, called the decision a “significant disappointment.”

In his opinion Justice Watkins wrote, “African Americans have served at the highest reaches of state government, and they can do so again.”

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Mahoney Appointed Alaska Commissioner of Revenue

On February 4, 2020, Lucinda Mahoney was appointed commissioner of Alaska’s Department of Revenue by Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R).

Mahoney’s appointment comes after Bruce Tangeman resigned from the position in November of 2019 over differences with the governor. In his resignation letter, Tangeman stated, “The message you campaigned on and continue to stress was based on a math equation that would lead us toward fiscal responsibility. It has become apparent that the appetite by many for the level of budget reductions required to balance this math equation will be difficult to realize.” Tangeman commended Governor Dunleavy on the challenges he has undertaken in the state and said he believes that the governor has the best of intentions for Alaska’s future.

In Alaska, the governor is responsible for filling revenue commissioner vacancies by appointment, subject to legislative confirmation.

Mahoney is the 22nd commissioner of Alaska’s department of revenue. As principal executive officer, Mahoney is responsible for providing general supervision and directing the activities of the department. Alaska’s Department of Revenue enforces the tax laws of the state, registers cattle brands, manages the power development fund, and collects, invests and manages revenue.

Mahoney’s professional experience includes working as a business consulting company owner, as well as working for the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation and ARCO.

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Federal Register weekly update; no significant final rules published

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 February 3 to February 7, the Federal Register grew by 1,288 pages for a year-to-date total of 7,190 pages. Over the same period in 2019 and 2018, the Federal Register reached 3,094 pages and 5,870 pages, respectively. As of February 7, the 2020 total led the 2019 total by 4,096 pages and the 2018 total by 1,320 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 566 documents:
• 458 notices
• eight presidential documents
• 40 proposed rules
• 60 final rules

One proposed rule and no 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.

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Harvard the most attended higher education institution for top state executive officials

One hundred and ninety-two officials currently hold one of the top four state executive positions of governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, or secretary of state.

Below is a summary of the educational backgrounds of these state executive officials in 2020. Of the group, there are:

185 officeholders with a bachelor’s degree (B.A., B.S., etc.)
56 officeholders with a master’s degree (M.A., M.S., M.B.A., etc.)
95 officeholders with a J.D.
7 officeholders with a Ph.D.
2 officeholders with an M.D.
7 officeholders with no higher education degree

Fourteen top state officials graduated from Harvard University with at least one degree, making it the most attended school, overall. Columbia University (8 officeholders), Yale University (7 officeholders), and the University of Virginia (6 officeholders) were the next-most attended universities.

Harvard University and Dartmouth College were the most-attended universities for bachelor’s degrees, with five alumni each. Harvard was also the most popular for master’s (4) and law degrees (6).

The table below shows a breakdown of degrees held by top state executive officials by degree type.

The following list provides a further breakdown of the different higher education degrees held by position:

For more details, analyses, and to see where your state executive officials went to school, click here.

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Seven Democrats will debate in New Hampshire four days before first presidential primary

The Democratic Party will hold its eighth presidential primary debate in Manchester, New Hampshire, on Feb. 7.

Seven candidates qualified for the debate: former Vice President Joe Biden, former Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Sen. Bernie Sanders, investor Tom Steyer, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and businessman Andrew Yang.

Yang was the only candidate to qualify who did not participate in the Des Moines debate in January.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard crossed the donor threshold but only had two qualifying polls showing 5 percent support or more. Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg reached the polling threshold but did not meet the donor requirements for the debate. He has declined to accept any contributions to his campaign.

The donor requirement was eliminated from the qualifying criteria for the next debate on Feb. 19 in Las Vegas.

Linsey Davis, David Muir, George Stephanopoulos, Adam Sexton, and Monica Hernandez will moderate Friday night’s debate, which takes place at St. Anselm College at 8:00 p.m. ET.

The New Hampshire primary will be held four days later on Feb. 11.

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Indiana filing deadline is February 7

The major-party filing deadline to run for elected office in Indiana is on February 7, 2020. The filing deadline for independent and minor party candidates is June 30. In Indiana, prospective candidates may file for the following offices:

• U.S. House (9 seats)
• Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General
• State Senate (25 seats)
• State House (100 seats)
• Indiana Supreme Court (1 seat)
• Indiana Court of Appeals (6 seats)

• Ballotpedia is also covering local elections in the following areas:
• Allen County
• Marion County
• Decatur Township Metropolitan School District
• East Allen County Schools
• Fort Wayne Community Schools
• Franklin Township Community School Corporation
• Indianapolis Public Schools
• Metropolitan School District of Lawrence Township
• Metropolitan School District of Perry Township
• Metropolitan School District of Pike Township
• Metropolitan School District of Warren Township
• Metropolitan School District of Washington Township
• Metropolitan School District of Wayne Township
• Northwest Allen County Schools
• Southwest Allen County Metropolitan School District

The primary is scheduled for May 5, and the general election is scheduled for November 3, 2020.

Indiana’s statewide filing deadline is the 12th to take place in the 2020 election cycle. The next statewide filing deadline is on February 18 in Pennsylvania.

Indiana has a Republican state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers.

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January 2020 breakdown of state legislative party membership: 52.2% Republicans, 46.8% Democrats

January’s partisan count of the 7,383 state legislators across the United States shows 52.2% of all state legislators are Republicans and 46.8% are Democrats, which is consistent with December 2019.

Also as of the end of January, Republicans hold a majority in 59 state legislative chambers, and Democrats hold the majority in 39 chambers. One chamber (Alaska’s state House) has a power-sharing agreement between the two parties.

Altogether, there are 1,972 state senate and 5,411 state house offices. Republicans held 1,085 state senate seats—up seven seats from December—and 2,771 state house seats—up three seats from last month. Democrats held 3,452 of the 7,383 state legislative seats—874 state Senate seats (down two seats) and 2,568 state House seats (the same as last month). Independent or third-party legislators held 34 seats. There were 41 vacant seats—a decrease of 16 vacancies since December.

At the time of the 2018 elections, 7,280 state legislators were affiliated with either the Republican or Democratic parties. There were 3,257 Democratic state legislators, 4,023 Republican state legislators, 35 independent or third-party state legislators, and 68 vacancies.

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Democrats select Woodrow to fill vacancy in Colorado House

On February 4, 2020, Steven Woodrow (D) was appointed to fill the vacant District 6 seat in the Colorado House of Representatives. Vacancies in either chamber of the Colorado General Assembly are filled by a committee of members of the political party that last held the seat.

Woodrow’s appointment came after former Colorado representative Chris Hansen (D) resigned on January 21, 2020. Hansen resigned from the state House of Representatives to accept an appointment to the state Senate. Woodrow will complete the remainder of Hansen’s term, which runs until January 2021. All 65 Colorado House seats are up for election in 2020.

The Colorado House has one remaining vacancy, created by Susan Beckman’s (R) resignation to join President Donald Trump’s (R) administration as regional director for the federal Department of Health and Human Services.

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Kent elected first female DFL state Senate leader in Minnesota

On February 1, 2020, the Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) caucus of the Minnesota State Senate elected Susan Kent (D) to serve as the party’s minority leader for the upcoming legislative session. Kent won the post over fellow senator Tom Bakk (D). Kent will serve as the DFL’s first female leader in the state Senate.

In Minnesota, the minority leader acts as the spokesperson for the minority party’s policy positions and helps direct the minority party’s overall legislative agenda. The current party composition of the Minnesota State Senate is 35 Republicans and 32 Democrats.

The Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party of Minnesota is an affiliate of the national Democratic Party. It traces its roots in the state to the 1920s when the Minnesota Farmer-Labor Party ran candidates on a platform of agrarian reform, the public ownership of railroads and a series of protections for farmers and union workers. The Farmer-Labor Party united with the Minnesota Democratic Party in 1944.

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Trump acquitted of abuse of power, obstruction of Congress

Ballotpedia's Daily Presidential News Briefing
February 6, 2020: Donald Trump was acquitted by the U.S. Senate of two charges. Bernie Sanders raised $25 million in January.        

Notable Quote of the Day

“Here’s the real wakeup call for Democrats, coming out of Iowa: We can’t put our heads in the sand and ignore the middling turnout, in a time of bonafide historic upheaval.

If Democrats don’t put together an unprecedented get-out-the-vote effort in 2020, far exceeding anything from the past, we are setting ourselves up for failure. “

– Jeff Biggers, Salon

Iowa Caucus Results

The Iowa Democratic Party has released results from 97 percent of precincts. Pete Buttigieg leads Bernie Sanders by 0.1% in state delegate equivalents, while Sanders tops the final raw vote.

Democrats

Republicans

What We’re Reading

Flashback: February 6, 2016

Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Marco Rubio, and Donald Trump debated in New Hampshire.

Click here to learn more.