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Ballotpedia releases federal vacancy count for November

In this month’s federal vacancy count, Ballotpedia tracked nominations, confirmations, and vacancies from November 5 to December 2, 2019. Ballotpedia publishes the federal vacancy count at the start of each month.
  • Vacancies: There has been one new judicial vacancy since the October 2019 report. There are 90 vacancies out of 870 active Article III judicial positions on courts covered in this report. Including the United States Court of Federal Claims and the United States territorial courts, 98 of 890 active federal judicial positions are vacant.
  • Nominations: There have been eight new nominations since the October 2019 report.
  • Confirmations: There have been seven new confirmations since the October 2019 report.
New vacancies
There were 90 vacancies out of 870 Article III judicial positions, a total vacancy percentage of 10.3, which is 0.5 percentage points lower than the vacancy percentage in October 2019.
  • The nine-member U.S. Supreme Court does not have any vacancies.
  • One (0.6%) of the 179 U.S. Appeals Court positions are vacant.
  • 87 (12.8%) of the 677 U.S. District Court positions are vacant.
  • Two (22.2%) of the nine U.S. Court of International Trade positions are vacant.
A vacancy occurs when a judge resigns, retires, takes senior status, or passes away. Article III judges, who serve on courts authorized by Article III of the Constitution, are appointed for life terms.
One judge left active status, creating an Article III life-term judicial vacancy. As an Article III judicial position, this vacancy must be filled by a nomination from the president. Nominations are subject to confirmation on the advice and consent of the U.S. Senate.
  • Judge Daniel Hovland assumed senior status on the United States District Court for the District of North Dakota.
U.S. Court of Appeals vacancies
The following chart tracks the number of vacancies on the United States Court of Appeals from the inauguration of President Donald Trump (R) to the date indicated on the chart.
The following maps show the number of vacancies on the United States Court of Appeals at the inauguration of President Donald Trump (R) and as of December 1, 2019.
U.S. District Court vacancies
New nominations
President Donald Trump (R) has announced eight new nominations since the October 2019 report:
  • Andrew Brasher, to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.
  • John Cronan, to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
  • Scott Hardy, to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania.
  • John Heil, to the U.S. District Courts for the Northern, Eastern and Western Districts of Oklahoma.
  • John Hinderaker, to the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona.
  • Iris Lan, to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
  • Matthew Schelp, to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri.
  • David Joseph, to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana.
Since taking office in January 2017, President Trump has nominated 234 individuals to Article III positions.
New confirmations
Since November 5, 2019, the United States Senate confirmed seven of President Trump’s nominees to Article III seats. As of December 2, 2019, the Senate has confirmed 164 of President Trump’s judicial nominees—112 district court judges, 48 appeals court judges, two Court of International Trade judges, and two Supreme Court justices—since January 2017.
  • Jennifer Philpott Wilson, confirmed to a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.
  • Lee Rudofsky, confirmed to a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas.
  • William Nardini, confirmed to a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit.
  • Danielle Hunsaker, confirmed to a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.
  • Barbara Lagoa, confirmed to a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.
  • Robert J. Luck, confirmed to a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.
  • Steven Menashi, confirmed to a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit.

More Republican House candidates filed for 2020 than Democrats last week for first time this cycle

As of December 2, 2019, 1,869 candidates are filed with the FEC to run for U.S. House in 2020. Of those, 1,752—873 Democrats and 879 Republicans—are from one of the two major political parties. In 2018, 3,244 candidates filed with the FEC, including 1,566 Democrats and 1,155 Republicans.
299 candidates are filed with the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) to run for U.S. Senate in 2020. Of those, 260—137 Democrats and 123 Republicans—are from one of the two major political parties. In 2018, 527 candidates filed with the FEC to run for U.S. Senate, including 137 Democrats and 240 Republicans.
In the past week, no members of Congress announced 2020 retirements. To date, four Senators (three Republicans and one Democrat) and 28 Representatives (20 Republicans and eight Democrats) are not running for re-election. In 2018, 55 total members of Congress—18 Democrats and 37 Republicans—did not seek re-election.
On November 3, 2020, 35 Senate seats and all 435 House seats are up for election. Of those Senate seats, 33 are regularly-scheduled elections, while the other two are special elections in Arizona and Georgia. Twelve are Democratic-held seats and 23 are Republican-held seats. In the House, where all the seats are up for election, Democrats currently hold a 233-seat majority.
Additional reading:

U.S. Supreme Court releases February argument calendar

The U.S. Supreme Court has released its February argument calendar for the 2019-2020 term. The court will hear nine hours of oral argument in 11 cases between February 24 and March 4.
As of November 25, 2019, the court had agreed to hear 57 cases during its 2019-2020 term.
February 24, 2020
  • United States Forest Service v. Cowpasture River Preservation Association (consolidated with Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC v. Cowpasture River Preservation Association)
  • Opati v. Republic of Sudan
February 25, 2020
  • United States v. Sineneng-Smith
February 26, 2020
  • Lomax v. Ortiz-Marquez
March 2, 2020
  • Nasrallah v. Barr
  • Department of Homeland Security v. Thuraissigiam
March 3, 2020
  • Seila Law v. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
  • Liu v. Securities and Exchange Commission
March 4, 2020
  • June Medical Services LLC v. Gee (consolidated with Gee v. June Medical Services)
Additional reading:

Trump has appointed fourth-most federal judges through December 1 of a president’s third year

Donald Trump has appointed and the Senate confirmed 164 Article III federal judges through December 1, 2019, his third year in office. This is the fourth-most Article III judicial appointments through this point in a presidency of all presidents dating back to Theodore Roosevelt. Only Jimmy Carter (186), George W. Bush (168), and Bill Clinton (166) had more.
The average number of federal judges appointed by a president through December 1 of their third year in office is 95.
The median number of Supreme Court justices appointed is two. William Taft’s (R) five appointments were the most among this set. Presidents Franklin Roosevelt (D), Jimmy Carter (D), and George W. Bush (R) did not appoint any justices through December 1 of their third years in office. Trump has appointed 2 justices so far.
The median number of United States Court of Appeals appointees is 19. Trump appointed the most with 48, and President Woodrow Wilson (D) appointed the fewest with five. Trump’s 48 appointments make up 27 percent of the total 179 judgeships across the courts of appeal.
The median number of United States District Court appointees is 67. Carter appointed the most with 139, and President Theodore Roosevelt (R) appointed the fewest with 14. Trump has appointed 112 district court judges so far. Those appointments make up 17 percent of the 677 judgeships across the district courts.
Article III federal judges are appointed for life terms by the president of the United States and confirmed by the U.S. Senate per Article III of the United States Constitution. Article III judges include judges on the: Supreme Court of the United States, U.S. courts of appeal, U.S. district courts, and the Court of International Trade.

Michigan House recall effort rejected due to typo

The Michigan Bureau of Elections announced on November 29 that it had rejected a recall effort targeting state Rep. Larry Inman (R) due to a typo. In the original petition language approved in July 2019, the group had described one of Inman’s charges as “Attempted extortion under color of official right.” The word “right” was omitted from the signed petitions submitted in November 2019.
In a letter to the recall organizers, Director of Elections Sally Williams wrote, “While the omission of one word may seem inconsequential and the rejection of a recall petition on such grounds as excessively technical and harsh, the recall statute does not authorize the bureau to excuse differences between the reasons for recall approved by the board and those printed on the recall petitions.”
Recall organizer Kaitlin Flynn said that supporters are “in shock and deeply disappointed” and that the recall group was evaluating all of its options. Recall supporters had submitted 13,991 signatures on November 22, which was more than the 12,201 signatures needed to force a recall election.
According to the petition language, recall supporters tried to recall Inman due to his indictment on three felony counts and missing more than 80 votes during the 2019 legislative session. Federal prosecutors charged Inman with extortion, lying to the FBI, and lying to investigators about texts soliciting contributions. His trial is expected to begin on December 3. In August 2019, the state House passed a resolution by a 98-8 vote urging him to resign.
In September 2019, Inman responded to the recall petition by saying, “I can’t really measure the public and their wishes, but people right now that I [run] into in Traverse City, in the grocery store and gas stations, they all shake my hand and give me words of encouragement.” Inman was elected to District 104 in the state House in 2014. He was re-elected in 2018 with 50.4% of the vote. His seat is on the ballot in 2020 for a two-year term.
Since 2011, 85 recall petitions have been filed against state lawmakers. Nine recalls were successful, nine were defeated at the ballot, 64 did not go to a vote, and three are still ongoing. California state Sen. Josh Newman (D) was recalled in 2018. Two Colorado state senators were successfully recalled in 2013.
Michigan is under a divided government. A state government trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and both state legislative chambers. Republicans control the state Senate by a 22-16 margin and the state House by a 58-51 margin with one vacancy. Democrat Gretchen Whitmer was elected to the governor’s office in 2018.

Tom Steyer leads in pageviews for the first time this year

Each week, we report the number of pageviews received by 2020 presidential campaigns on Ballotpedia. These numbers show which candidates are getting our readers’ attention.
Tom Steyer’s campaign page on Ballotpedia received 4,081 views for the week of November 24-30. Steyer’s pageview figure represents 11.8% of the pageviews for the week. Pete Buttigieg had 9.9% of the pageviews for the week, followed by Andrew Yang with 8.6%. The previous week, Buttigieg had the most pageviews, followed by Tulsi Gabbard, then Steyer. This is Tom Steyer’s first week this year leading in pageviews.
Every Democratic candidate other than Steyer had fewer pageviews last week than the week before. Steyer’s pageviews increased by 22% while all other Democrats had a decrease between 11% and 37%.
Andrew Yang remains the leader in overall pageviews this year with 147,622. He is followed by Pete Buttigieg with 141,510 and Joe Biden with 131,910.

November 2019 breakdown of state legislative party membership: 52.2% Republicans, 46.8% Democrats

November’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.
Ballotpedia tallies the partisan balance of state legislatures at the end of every month. This refers to which political party holds the majority of seats in each chamber. Republicans hold a majority in 61 chambers, and Democrats hold the majority in 37 chambers. One chamber (Alaska’s state House) has a power-sharing agreement between the two parties.
Altogether, there are 1,972 state senator and 5,411 state representative offices. Republicans held 1,081 state senate seats—no change from October—and 2,775 state house seats—up five seats from last month. Democrats held 3,457 of the 7,383 state legislative seats—878 state Senate seats (down one seat) and 2,579 state House seats (down four seats). Independent or third-party legislators held 36 seats. There were 34 vacant seats.
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.

Federal Register weekly update; highest weekly final rule total since September

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 November 25 to November 29, the Federal Register increased by 1,204 pages, bringing the year-to-date total to 65,906 pages. The week’s Federal Register featured a total of 510 documents, including 396 notices, three presidential documents, 41 proposed rules, and 70 final rules.
One proposed rule and four 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.
During the same week in 2018, the number of pages in the Federal Register increased by 1,908 pages for a year-to-date total of 62,240 pages. As of November 29, the 2019 total led the 2018 total by 3,666 pages.
The Trump administration has added an average of 1,373 pages to the Federal Register each week in 2019 as of November 29. 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.
Click here to find yearly information about additions to the Federal Register from 1936 to 2016.

U.S. Supreme Court sets argument dates for three administrative state cases

On November 26, the U.S. Supreme Court released its upcoming argument calendar, which included dates it will hear oral argument in three upcoming cases related to the administrative state.
On March 2, 2020, the court will hear Department of Homeland Security v. Thuraissigiam, which involves the question of when asylum seekers may challenge in traditional courts of law the decisions made during administrative agency adjudication hearings.
The court will hear two cases on March 3. In Seila Law v. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, at issue is whether the structure of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau violates the separation of powers. In Liu v. Securities and Exchange Commission, the court will decide the limits of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s enforcement powers.

North Carolina court allows remedial U.S. House map to stand for 2020, opens candidate filing period

On December 2, 2019, a three-judge panel of North Carolina’s state superior court ruled unanimously that U.S. House elections in 2020 will take place under a remedial map adopted last month by state lawmakers. The court had earlier ruled that the original map constituted a partisan gerrymander in violation of state law. The court also ordered that the candidate filing period open immediately, having previously delayed the filing period pending consideration of the remedial map and the objections to it.
How did this start? On September 27, 2019, opponents of North Carolina’s congressional district plan filed suit in state superior court, alleging that the district map enacted by the state legislature in 2016 constituted a partisan gerrymander in violation of state law. The plaintiffs asked that the court bar the state from using the maps in the 2020 election cycle.
On October 28, 2019, the court granted this request, enjoining further application of the 2016 maps. In its order, the court wrote, “The loss to Plaintiffs’ fundamental rights guaranteed by the North Carolina Constitution will undoubtedly be irreparable if congressional elections are allowed to proceed under the 2016 congressional districts.”
The court did not issue a full decision on the merits, stating that “disruptions to the election process need not occur, nor may an expedited schedule for summary judgment or trial even be needed, should the General Assembly, on its own initiative, act immediately and with all due haste to enact new congressional districts.” The same three-judge panel, comprising Judges Paul C. Ridgeway, Joseph N. Crosswhite, and Alma L. Hinton, struck down the state’s legislative district plan on similar grounds on September 3, 2019.
On November 14, 2019, the state House approved the remedial map (HB1029) by a vote of 55-46 .The vote split along party lines, with all Republicans voting in favor of the bill and all Democrats voting against it. The state Senate approved the bill on November 15, 2019, by a vote of 24-17, also along party lines.
What were the reactions to the remedial map? Democrats opposed the remedial plan and announced their intention to challenge it in court. Eric Holder, former U.S. Attorney General and chair of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, said, “The congressional map passed by Republicans in the North Carolina legislature simply replaces one partisan gerrymander with a new one. This new map fails to respond to the court’s order by continuing to split communities of interest, packing voters in urban areas, and manipulating the district lines to provide Republicans with an unfair partisan advantage.”
Meanwhile, Republican Representative Patrick McHenry dismissed these criticisms: “Eric Holder and (former President) Barack Obama have raised a lot of money for this outcome, and they’ve pursued a really aggressive legal strategy for their partisan outcomes, and right now they’re calling it partisan gerrymandering, but what they’re seeking is partisan gerrymandering for the left. We basically have a Wild West of redistricting. This will be the fourth map in six cycles, and I think that is so confusing for voters and has a major negative impact on voters.”
What comes next? In 2020, all 13 of North Carolina’s seats in the U.S. House will be up for election. Heading into 2020, Republicans hold 10 of those seats, and Democrats hold the remaining three. In the wake of the court’s Dec. 2 order confirming the implementation of the remedial map in 2020, Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball, said via Twitter, “Not going to officially make NC House ratings changes until we know the new map is final, but here’s what’s tenatively coming: NC-2: Likely R to Safe D; NC-6: Safe R to Safe D; NC-8: Safe R to Likely R; NC-13: Likely R to Safe R. Ratings changes suggest a two-seat D net gain.”