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SCOTUS finds Virginia lawmakers lack standing to challenge newly adopted state legislative district plan

On June 17, 2019, the Supreme Court of the United States issued its ruling in Virginia House of Delegates v. Bethune-Hill, finding that the state House, controlled by Republicans, lacked standing to appeal a lower court order striking down the original legislative district plan as a racial gerrymander. The Supreme Court ruled 5-4, with Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg penning the majority opinion, joined by Associate Justices Clarence Thomas, Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, and Neil Gorsuch. Associate Justice Samuel Alito dissented, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justices Stephen Breyer and Brett Kavanaugh. As a result of the high court’s ruling, a lower court order implementing a remedial district plan will stand.
In 2014, opponents of the state legislative district plan adopted during Virginia’s 2010 redistricting cycle filed suit against the state in federal district court, alleging that 12 legislative districts constituted an illegal racial gerrymander as drawn. The district court rejected this argument, and the plaintiffs appealed the decision to the Supreme Court of the United States. In 2017, the high court remanded the case to the district court, finding that it had “employed an incorrect legal standard in determining that race did not predominate in 11 of the 12 districts.” In 2018, the district court ruled that these 11 districts had been subject to racial gerrymandering. After the state legislature did not adopt a remedial plan, the district court appointed a special master to draft one. On January 22, 2019, the district court issued an order implementing this remedial plan. Republican lawmakers in the House of Delegates appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, but Virginia’s attorney general, Mark Herring (D), declined to join the appeal. This prompted the question of standing on which the high court ruled in today’s opinion.
Every state legislative seat in Virginia is up for election this year. The remedial plan implemented by the district court this year applies to the 2019 election cycle. The outcomes of these elections will determine the composition of state government heading into the 2020 redistricting cycle. If Republicans maintain their majorities in both chambers, they will be assured a position of influence during redistricting efforts. If Democrats win both chambers, they will gain trifecta control of state government and, by extension, the redistricting process (the governorship, which is not up for election until 2021, is held by Democrat Ralph Northam).

Sixteen Democratic presidential candidates have called for Donald Trump impeachment proceedings

Sixteen of the 24 noteworthy Democratic candidates for president have called for President Donald Trump’s (R) impeachment.
The most recent candidates to join in impeachment calls did so last Friday. Both Bill de Blasio and Amy Klobuchar called for impeachment following statements made by Trump last week on ABC News. In an interview, Trump said he would consider accepting information on 2020 rivals from foreign nations.
As a member of the U.S. Senate, Klobuchar would be responsible for voting on whether to convict and remove the president during impeachment proceedings. She is the sixth member of the U.S. Senate running for president to call for Trump’s impeachment. Only one—Michael Bennet—has not.
Four candidates are members of the U.S. House, which would be responsible for voting on articles of impeachment. Three of those candidates—Seth Moulton, Tim Ryan, and Eric Swalwell—have called for Trump’s impeachment.
The full list of presidential candidates to call for impeachment proceedings against Trump is: Cory Booker, Pet Buttigieg, Julian Castro, Blasio, Kirsten Gillibrand, Mike Gravel, Kamala Harris, John Hickenlooper, Klobuchar, Wayne Messam, Moulton, Beto O’Rourke, Ryan, Bernie Sanders, Swalwell, and Elizabeth Warren.

Presidential pageviews update: Buttigieg receives most Ballotpedia pageviews, followed by Biden and Yang

Each week, we report the number of pageviews received by 2020 presidential candidates on Ballotpedia. These numbers show which candidates are getting our readers’ attention.
South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg racked up 3,771 pageviews for the week of June 9-15. That represents 8.1 percent of the pageviews for all Democratic campaigns during the week. Former Vice President Joe Biden had 7.2 percent of the campaign pageviews for the week, while entrepreneur Andrew Yang had 7.1 percent.
Former Sen. Mike Gravel (Alaska) had the largest increase of all the campaigns last week, increasing 3.8% over his previous total.
The top three campaigns in lifetime pageviews are Buttigieg with 68,395, Yang with 55,707, and Sen. Kamala Harris (Calif.) with 49,969.
On the GOP side, former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld had 8,102 pageviews to President Trump’s 1,393.

Republican Party selects nominee for special Pennsylvania House race; Democrats to make selection on June 20

A special election for District 85 of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives has been called for August 20. The seat became vacant after Fred Keller (R) resigned the seat on May 24. He was elected to Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District in a special election on May 21.
Candidates running for special elections in Pennsylvania are selected by their respective political parties. The Republican nominating convention was held on June 12. Seventeen conferees chose David Rowe as the Republican nominee. Three other candidates sought the nomination: Ben Ranck, Darwin Swope, and Clair Moyer. Rowe and Ranck were the only ones the conferees placed up for nomination. Rowe received nine votes and Ranck received eight votes.
The Democratic Party is meeting on June 20 to choose the Democratic nominee. The Daily Item identified four Democratic candidates up for consideration. These include Jenn Rager Kay, Adam Rosinski, Bonnie Hamilton, and David Heayn.
As of June 14, 60 state legislative special elections have been scheduled or held in 23 states. Between 2011 and 2018, an average of 77 special elections took place each year. Leading up to the special election, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives has 93 Democrats, 109 Republicans, and one vacancy. A majority in the chamber requires 102 seats. Pennsylvania is under divided control and is not a government trifecta. A state government trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and both state legislative chambers.

The Daily Brew: One SCOTUS redistricting case decided, two to go

Today’s Brew highlights the Supreme Court’s ruling allowing Virginia’s redrawn state House maps to stand + a new way to learn about Texas’ 10 constitutional amendments in 2019  
The Daily Brew
Welcome to the Tuesday, June 18, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Supreme Court rules Virginia state House lacks standing to appeal gerrymandering ruling
  2. Our next Learning Journey—Texas’ 2019 ballot measures
  3. Ballotpedia’s Summer Camp starts July 1!

Supreme Court rules Virginia state House lacks standing to appeal gerrymandering ruling

The Supreme Court ruled yesterday that the Virginia House of Delegates lacked standing to appeal a lower court order that struck down the state’s legislative district plan as a racial gerrymander. As a result, the state House’s legislative maps which were drawn by a court-appointed special master will stand. Those maps were used in Virginia’s state legislative primary elections held last week.

In Virginia House of Delegates v. Bethune-Hill, the Court decided that the House of Delegates does not have the authority to represent Virginia’s interests in this matter. Justice Ginsburg wrote the majority opinion and was joined by Justices Thomas, Kagan, Sotomayor, and Gorsuch. She wrote, “the State did not designate the House to represent its interests here. Under Virginia law, authority and responsibility for representing the State’s interests in civil litigation rest exclusively with the State’s Attorney General.”

Justice Alito filed a dissenting opinion, joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Breyer and Kavanaugh. He wrote that the district court’s decision redrawing the legislative maps harmed the state House so as to give it standing to appeal the case. He wrote, “we must assume that the districting plan enacted by the legislature embodies the House’s judgment regarding the method of selecting members that best enables it to serve the people of the Commonwealth…It therefore follows that discarding that plan and substituting another inflicts injury in fact.”

The legislative maps that were drawn by a court-appointed special master and challenged by the House of Delegates first went into effect in January. They were the result of a sequence of lawsuits that began in 2014.

That year, opponents of Virginia’s legislative map filed suit in federal district court alleging that 12 state legislative districts constituted an illegal racial gerrymander. The district court rejected this argument, and the plaintiffs appealed the decision to the Supreme Court. In 2017, SCOTUS remanded the case in Bethune-Hill v. Virginia Board of Elections, finding that the district court had “employed an incorrect legal standard in determining that race did not predominate in 11 of the 12 districts.”

In 2018, the district court ruled that the 11 districts had been subject to racial gerrymandering. After the state legislature did not adopt a remedial plan, the district court appointed a special master to draft one.

Republicans hold a 51-49 majority in Virginia’s House of Delegates. Under the old maps, Hillary Clinton won 51 districts in 2016 and Donald Trump won 49. Under the new maps, Clinton would have won 56 districts (7 currently held by Republicans) while Trump would have won 44 (none currently held by Democrats).

The Supreme Court has yet to issue opinions in two other redistricting cases heard this term—Rucho v. Common Cause and Lamone v. Benisek. The cases concern whether the congressional district maps adopted in North Carolina and Maryland, respectively, constitute an illegal partisan gerrymander. Decisions in both cases are expected by the end of June.

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Join Ballotpedia as we speak with an expert on traumatic stress about how the political environment has changed. Register today!

Upcoming Insights

Our next Learning Journey—Texas’ 2019 ballot measures

Voters in Texas will decide 10 measures on November 5 in a statewide constitutional amendment election. All were referred to the ballot by the Texas legislature and cover topics from education to taxes to law enforcement animals.

My colleagues on our ballot measures team developed a new Learning Journey to guide you through all 10 amendments, including how and why legislators put them on the ballot and what each amendment would do.

Each day, we’ll send you an email with information, examples, and exercises to help you understand this subject. Along the way, you’ll be able to contact us with any questions and comments you may have.

I’ve written about a few of these Texas constitutional amendments earlier this year in the Brew, and I can’t wait to learn about the rest. I hope you’ll join me!

Ballotpedia’s Summer Camp starts July 1!

Last week I introduced you to what we’ll be doing during Fourth of July week—Ballotpedia Summer Camp!

During that time, I’ll hand over the keys to the Brew to other Ballotpedia team members to share their perspectives on the most interesting stories of the year.

We also want to share ideas and stories from our amazing readers. How are you spending your summer? What political story has captured your attention the most so far in 2019? What topic do you think will be most significant in the second half of the year?

Just reply back to this email with an answer to any or all of those questions, and we might share it with other Daily Brew readers that week.

I can’t wait to hear from you!

Click here to send me an email→



School board election comes down to four votes in El Paso, Texas

In El Paso, Texas, unofficial election night vote totals on June 15 showed Joshua Acevedo leading Rene Vargas with 578 votes to Vargas’ 574 votes. The two candidates competed in a general election runoff for the District 3 seat of the El Paso Independent School District Board of Trustees. Vargas had not made a decision about whether to challenge the results as of Saturday night.
The District 6 seat went to a runoff as well, with Fareed Khlayel winning with 72.4% of the vote. The elections in District 2 and District 7 were decided during the May 4 general election.
The El Paso Independent School District serves about 60,000 students.

Kentucky Supreme Court rules that the state’s Marsy’s Law (2018) constitutional amendment is invalid

On June 12, 2019, the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled that the description presented to voters for Marsy’s Law, which was on the ballot in 2018, violated the state constitution. Legislators wrote the description, which said: “Are you in favor of providing constitutional rights to victims of crime, including the right to be treated fairly, with dignity and respect, and the right to be informed and to have a voice in the judicial process?” On November 6, 62.8 percent of electors voted for the constitutional amendment. The state Supreme Court’s ruling means that Marsy’s Law, a type of constitutional amendment addressing the rights of crime victims, cannot be added to the Kentucky Constitution.
Chief Justice John D. Minton, Jr. wrote the court’s unanimous opinion. He said that “Section 256 of the Kentucky Constitution requires the General Assembly to submit the full text of a proposed constitutional amendment to the electorate for a vote.” The full text of Marsy’s Law was 555 words long—517 words longer than the description that legislators wrote for the ballot.
The state Supreme Court’s ruling affirms a lower court’s ruling from October 2018, which prohibited the state from certifying election results for Marsy’s Law. Awaiting an order from the state Supreme Court, the outcome of Marsy’s Law was uncertain for 218 days.
Marsy’s Law for Kentucky, which registered as a political issues committee to support Marsy’s Law, responded to the ruling, stating, “We look forward to working with the General Assembly again to put Marsy’s Law back on the ballot for Kentucky voters in 2020 in a form that will pass legal muster as defined by the court.” Sen. Whitney Westerfield (R-3), chairperson of the Senate Judiciary Committee, also said that he would like the legislature to present the amendment to voters again in 2020. He also criticized the court’s ruling, saying, “It is troubling that in order to reach this conclusion the Supreme Court reversed years of established precedent and inserted an entirely new requirement for amending our state constitution.”
The Kentucky Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (KACFL) filed the lawsuit to invalidate Marsy’s Law on August 13, 2018. David Ward, who was the KACFL’s president in 2018, said, “Voters have a right to know what they are voting on and the legislature failed to tell them.”
Marsy’s Law describes a set of constitutional protections for crime victims that have been adopted in 11 states, excluding Kentucky. In Montana, which approved Marsy’s Law in 2016, a court struck down the constitutional amendment as violating the state’s separate-vote requirement for initiated amendments. Henry Nicholas, co-founder of Broadcom Corporation, started the organization that backs Marsy’s Law. In Kentucky, Nicholas provided over $5 million to support the campaign.
Marsy’s Law will appear on the ballot in Wisconsin in 2020. The Pennsylvania State Legislature is also considering placing Marsy’s Law on the ballot in 2019. As of June 2019, voters have never rejected a Marsy’s Law ballot measure.

New Jersey governor to sign donor disclosure bill conditionally vetoed in May

On June 10, New Jersey lawmakers and gubernatorial staff announced that Gov. Phil Murphy (D) would sign S1500 into law after conditionally vetoing the bill in May. The measure will require 501(c)(4)s, super PACs, and other entities to disclose their donors who contribute $10,000 or more.

What does the legislation do?

  • As enacted, S1500 defines an independent expenditure committee as any person or group organized under sections 501(c)(4) or 527 of the Internal Revenue Code that spends $3,000 or more annually to influence or provide political information about any of the following:
    • “the outcome of any election or the nomination, election, or defeat of any person to any state or local elective public office”
    • “the passage or defeat of any public question, legislation, or regulation”
  • Independent expenditure committees will be required to disclose all expenditures exceeding $3,000. These committees will also be required to disclose the identities of their donors who contribute $10,000 or more.

What are the responses?

  • Alyana Alfaro, a representative for the governor’s office, said, “The Governor looks forward to signing the legislation while working with the Legislature to resolve outstanding issues by the end of the month.” According to NJTV News, “a source close to the negotiations said … that Murphy agreed to sign the bill only with the understanding that lawmakers will pass a cleanup bill later to address concerns.”
  • Senate President Steve Sweeney (D) said, “I think the administration knew that there was an override and that it absolutely would’ve succeeded in both houses. But, that being said, it’s not about trying to embarrass anybody. We wanted to get a piece of legislation passed that was meaningful and long overdue.” Sweeney also said, “The bill is going to be signed as it was passed. If the governor has concerns we can talk about them, but it has nothing to do with this bill.”

What brought us here?

  • On May 13, Murphy conditionally vetoed the bill, saying the following in his veto statement: “I commend my colleagues in the Legislature for seeking to ensure that so-called ‘dark money’ is brought out into the open. However, I am mindful that such efforts must be carefully balanced against constitutionally protected speech and association rights. Because certain provisions of Senate Bill No. 1500 (Fifth Reprint) may infringe on both, and because the bill does not go far enough in mandating disclosures of political activity that can be constitutionally required, I cannot support it in its current form.” With his conditional veto, Murphy stated his objections to the bill and proposed amendments to address them. This differs from an absolute veto, which is an outright gubernatorial rejection of a proposed law. Both are subject to the same override provisions.
  • Lawmakers discussed the possibility of overriding Murphy’s veto. Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker (D), a primary sponsor of S1500, said, “We are actively discussing the possibility of a veto override. It is not my preference. But I do feel very strongly that this is a good government bill and we need to act now.” Senator Troy Singleton (D), another S1500 sponsor, said, “I think the atmosphere was challenged a little bit by some of the governor’s comments. [We] took offense to the idea that what we sent was somehow weaker than what was sent back by the governor’s office … we didn’t want to have the discussion steeped in emotion. We’re trying to take a step back to see if there’s a path forward.”


What we’re reading

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state: We’re currently tracking 72 pieces of legislation dealing with donor disclosure. On the map below, a darker shade of green indicates a greater number of relevant bills. Click here for a complete list of all the bills we’re tracking.

Disclosure Digest map June 17, 2019.png

Number of relevant bills by current legislative status

Disclosure Digest status chart June 17, 2019.png

Number of relevant bills by partisan status of sponsor(s)

Disclosure Digest partisan chart June 17, 2019.png

Recent legislative actions

Below is a complete list of legislative actions taken on relevant bills in the past week. Bills are listed in alphabetical order, first by state then by bill number. Know of any legislation we’re missing? Please email us so we can include it on our tracking list.

  • California AB1217: This bill would expand the definition of “advertisement” under the state’s campaign finance laws, thereby extending existing disclosure requirements.
    • Referred to Senate Committee on Elections and Constitutional Amendments June 12.

The Daily Brew: City of Fountains to elect new mayor tomorrow

Preview of Kansas City mayoral election + webinar on Janus and union membership   
The Daily Brew
Welcome to the Monday, June 17, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Voters in Kansas City, Missouri, will elect a new mayor on Tuesday
  2. Quiz: Which candidate for president has the second most page views on Ballotpedia?
  3. Ballotpedia webinar on union membership one year after Janus on June 26

Preview: Mayoral election in Kansas City, Missouri

Kansas City City Council members Jolie Justus and Quinton Lucas compete in a runoff election on June 18 to determine who will become the city’s next mayor. The winner will succeed term-limited Mayor Sly James (D).

The two candidates advanced from a primary election field that had 11 candidates. In the April 2 primary, Justus received 22.8 percent of the vote and Lucas received 18.4 percent of the vote. The mayoral election is nonpartisan, but both Justus and Lucas are Democrats, according to KCUR.

Lucas has led both pre-election polls with 38 percent to Justus’ 30 percent. Each candidate has received the endorsement of one other member of the city council. Justus also has the endorsement of Mayor James, while Lucas was endorsed last week by The Kansas City Star newspaper.

In 2019, elections are being held in 59 of America’s 100 largest cities by population in 2019. That includes elections for mayor in 31 of the 100 largest cities. In 20 of those cities, the incumbent was Democratic at the start of 2019. Seven incumbents were Republican, three were independent, and the affiliation of one was unknown.

Kansas City uses a council-manager system. In this form of municipal government, an elected city council—which includes the mayor and serves as the city’s primary legislative body—appoints a chief executive called a city manager to oversee day-to-day municipal operations and implement the council’s policy and legislative initiatives. The mayor’s primary responsibilities are to preside over city council meetings and official city ceremonies, and to represent the city on the state, national, and international levels.

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Union Station


Which presidential candidate has the second most page views on Ballotpedia?

In Thursday’s Brew, we presented the pageviews various presidential candidates’ pages have received on Ballotpedia. We stated that Pete Buttigieg’s profile has received the most page views since it launched. Which candidate’s page has received the second-most page views?

Sign up for free Ballotpedia webinar to learn about the impact of Janus on union membership

With the one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling in Janus, Ballotpedia is taking a deep dive into how the case has impacted unions across the United States. Janus v. AFSCME overturned the 1977 Abood precedent that allowed unions to require non-member employees to pay fees covering non-political union activities.

On June 26, join Ballotpedia for an exclusive look at how state legislatures have responded and how unions have been impacted. During this conversation, we’ll cover the following:

  • A brief discussion of Janus

  • How states have responded to Janus, including noteworthy legislation

  • How union membership was impacted by the ruling

  • A discussion of the complexities involved in determining the state-specific impacts of Janus

Register for this free, 30-minute webinar and you’ll leave with an understanding of how Janus has impacted unions across the country and how states have responded to the ruling. I hope to see you there!



2020 Democratic presidential field split on impeachment

Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) became the fourteenth Democratic presidential candidate to support initiating impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump (R) Thursday.
The first calls for impeachment proceedings came in April after the U.S. Department of Justice released special counsel Robert Mueller’s report investigating allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, coordination between Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia, and obstruction of justice.
Mueller stated in the report that “the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.” He also wrote that the report neither concluded Trump had committed a crime nor exonerated him.
As a member of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, Swalwell would be the only presidential candidate involved in the committee investigation of Trump if impeachment proceedings were initiated.
Some candidates, like Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Gov. Steve Bullock (D-Mont.), have said Congress should use its oversight power and continue current investigations before launching any impeachment process.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) and entrepreneur Andrew Yang (D) have said Trump should be defeated at the ballot box.
Altogether, 10 candidates have not called for impeachment proceedings to begin.