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April 2019 state legislative seat breakdown: 52.3% Republican, 47.0% Democratic

April’s partisan count of the 7,383 state legislators shows 52 percent of all state legislators are Republicans and 47 percent are Democrats.
 
Ballotpedia completes a count of the partisan balance of state legislatures at the end of every month. The partisan composition of state legislatures refers to which political party holds the majority of seats in the state Senate and state House. Republicans hold a majority in 61 chambers, and Democrats hold the majority in 37 chambers. One chamber (Alaska’s state house) shares power between the two parties. Altogether, there are 1,972 state senators and 5,411 state representatives.
 
Of the 7,383 state legislative seats in the country, Republicans held 1,084 state Senate seats and 2,779 state House seats. Democrats held 3,467 of the 7,383 state legislative seats–877 state Senate seats and 2,589 state House seats. Independent or third-party legislators held 31 seats, and 22 seats were vacant.
 
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.
 


Republicans head to primary runoff in North Carolina’s 3rd Congressional District

Greg Murphy and Joan Perry advanced from a field of 17 candidates in Tuesday night’s Republican primary. A runoff election will take place on July 9. The winner of that runoff will run in the general election on September 10. The election will fill the vacancy left by Walter Jones (R), who died on February 10, 2019.
 
Murphy received 22.5 percent of the vote, which was short of the 30 percent needed to avoid a runoff election. Perry received 15.4 percent of the vote. Murphy led the field in primary fundraising, while Perry received the endorsement of Susan B. Anthony List.
 
The winner of the July runoff will face Allen Thomas (D) and Tim Harris (L) in the general election. Thomas won the Democratic primary outright with 49.9 percent of the vote, while Harris won the Libertarian primary with 56.4 percent of the vote.


Ballot measure law update: legislators in six states approve 16 proposals changing laws governing ballot measures out of 209 tracked

As of April 25, 2019, Ballotpedia tracked 209 legislative proposals concerning ballot initiatives, veto referendums, referrals, local ballot measures, and recall in 31 states. Sixteen proposals had been approved in Arkansas, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Utah. Four of them were constitutional amendments requiring voter ratification in 2020. Two bills were approved by the Idaho State Legislature, but the governor vetoed them. Five citizen-initiated measures directly related to initiative and referendum laws were also filed in Florida, Missouri, and South Dakota.
 
The following list contains some highlights from our reporting.
  • The Idaho State Legislature passed, but the governor vetoed, a pair of bills that were designed to increase the state’s initiative signature requirement and its distribution requirement, reduce the allowed circulation period, enact a single-subject rule, and require a fiscal impact statement.
  • Arkansas legislators passed a bill to change the timeline for approval of the ballot title and popular name of citizen initiatives to after signatures are submitted and make other changes to the state’s initiative processes.
  • Arkansas legislators also sent an amendment to the 2020 ballot increasing the state’s distribution requirement, adding a supermajority vote requirement for the legislature to put amendments on the ballot, and making other changes to laws governing ballot measures.
  • Utah legislators approved five bills changing the initiative process. Changes included:
  • changing signature requirements,
  • requiring county clerks to post the names of those who sign an initiative petition on county websites,
  • requiring funding sources to be specified, and
  • establishing rolling signature submission deadlines.
  • Proposed laws concerning distribution requirements for signature gathering were introduced in Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Maine, Missouri, and Montana.
  • Laws concerning total signature requirements for initiatives and veto referendums or recalls were introduced in six states; in Idaho, Missouri, and Utah, the bills were designed to increase the total number of signatures required for citizen initiatives.
  • In Florida, Maine, and Massachusetts pay-per-signature bans were introduced.
  • In Maine and Oregon, bills to restrict legislative alteration of future citizen initiatives was introduced.
  • Legislation to increase the supermajority requirement or impose additional vote requirements was introduced in Florida, New Mexico, North Dakota, and Washington.
  • In Missouri, a citizen initiative was filed to prevent state residency requirements, pay-per-signature restrictions, and initiative filing fees. It would also require voter approval for any changes to the initiative and referendum process and establish a system for electronic signatures. Two bills designed to enact initiative filing fees, among other provisions, were introduced in Missouri’s 2019 legislative session.
  • In South Dakota, an initiative to roll back some changes made in 2018 was filed.

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Washington Legislature approves affirmative action initiative and sends car tab initiative to the 2019 ballot before adjourning

The Washington State Legislature adjourned its 2019 session on Sunday, deciding the fate of two proposed Initiatives to the legislature: (a) I-1000, an initiative allowing affirmative action, and I-976, an initiative limiting vehicle license fees.
 
Initiative to the Legislature is the name of indirect initiated state statutes in the state of Washington. Upon signature verification, these initiatives go before the Washington Legislature. The legislature must take one of three actions:
  • The legislature can adopt the initiative as proposed, in which case it becomes law without a vote of the people.
  • The legislature can reject or refuse to act on the proposed initiative, in which case the initiative must be placed on the ballot at the next state general election.
  • The legislature can approve an alternative to the proposed initiative, in which case both the original proposal and the legislature’s alternative must be placed on the ballot at the next state general election.
The state legislature approved I-1000 largely along party lines with all votes in favor coming from Democratic legislators. I-1000 was approved by a vote of 56-42 in the House and 26-22 in the Senate. In the House, one Democrat, Brian Blake of District 19b, joined all House Republicans in voting no. Two Senate Democrats, Mark Mullet of District 5 and Tim Sheldon of District 35, joined the 20 Senate Republicans in voting no. Senator Guy Palumbo (D-1) was excused from voting.
 
Initiative 1000 explicitly allows the state of Washington to implement affirmative action laws and policies while continuing to ban discrimination and preferential treatment. Washington Initiative 200, approved by voters in 1998, banned discrimination and preferential treatment based on certain characteristics, such as race, sex, and age. I-1000 would also allow the state to “remedy discrimination against, or under-representation of, disadvantaged groups as documented in a valid disparity study or proven in a court of law.”
 
The legislature adjourned without acting on Initiative 976, meaning that initiative will appear on the 2019 ballot for voter approval or rejection. Initiative 976 is the first citizen initiative to be certified for the ballot in 2019 in any of four states that allow citizen initiatives in odd-numbered years.
 
Initiative 976—sponsored by Tim Eyman and frequently referred to as the $30 Car Tabs Initiative—was designed to do the following:
  • Limit annual license fees for vehicles weighing under 10,000 pounds to $30 except for voter-approved charges;
  • Base vehicle taxes on the Kelley Blue Book value rather than the manufacturer’s suggested retail price;
  • Limit certain taxes and fees related to transportation; and
  • Repeal authorization for certain regional transit authorities, such as Sound Transit, to impose motor vehicle excise taxes.
Eyman’s groups, Permanent Offense and Voters Want More Choices, are leading the campaign in support of I-976. Leading the opposition campaign is No on I-976, operated by the Permanent Defense PAC sponsored by the Northwest Progressive Institute.
 
Also on the 2019 ballot in Washington is a constitutional amendment that would authorize the Washington State Legislature to pass bills addressing the succession of powers and duties of public offices during periods of catastrophic incidents that are considered emergencies.
 
Nine states out of the 21 with a process for initiated state statutes have an indirect process for them. In Utah and Washington, there are both direct and indirect initiatives. Initiative 1000 was the first indirect initiative to be approved by the legislature in 2019. In 2018, four indirect initiatives were approved by state legislatures in Alaska and Michigan.
 
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Arizona Gov. Ducey (R) makes fourth appointment to Arizona Supreme Court

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey (R) appointed appeals judge James Beene to the Arizona Supreme Court on April 26, 2019. Beene became Ducey’s fourth appointment to the seven-member court, and the ninth state supreme court justice appointed by a governor in the country this year.
 
Beene replaces former Justice John Pelander, who retired on March 1. Pelander was appointed by former Gov. Jan Brewer (R) in 2009. He was retained in elections in both 2012 and 2018.
 
A selection committee submitted a list of five potential nominees to Ducey the same day that Pelander retired. The committee responsible for interviewing individuals and recommending potential nominees was made up of seven Republicans, three Democrats, and four independents.
 
Ducey is set to make another appointment to the court this fall. Chief Justice Scott Bales is retiring to take a job in the private sector on July 3. Appointed by former Gov. Janet Napolitano (D) in 2005, Bales is the last remaining member of the court to be appointed by a Democratic governor. His replacement will be Ducey’s fifth appointment to the court.
 
Arizona is one of 24 states in the country that use assisted appointment as their form of judicial selection for their court of last resort. Sixteen states select judges by nonpartisan election, seven use partisan elections, four have the governor appoint judges directly, and two states (South Carolina and Virginia) have the state legislature elect judges.
 
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Judicial filing deadline on May 6 for Hamilton County, Ohio

Candidates have until May 6 to file for seven seats on the Hamilton County Municipal Court in Ohio. Judges will be elected in nonpartisan general elections on November 5. The winners of the elections will serve six-year terms.
 
The county court is located in the city of Cincinnati and has jurisdiction over municipal ordinance violations. In total, 14 judges serve on the court. As of April 29, Judge Ted Berry, Judge Heather Russel, and Judge Gwen Bender had filed for re-election.
 
In 2019, Ballotpedia is covering elections in 23 counties across 11 states. In addition to the counties, Ballotpedia is also covering elections in 59 of America’s 100 largest cities by population.
 


Trifecta control in five states at stake in the 2019 elections

Gubernatorial and state legislative elections are taking place in five states in 2019. These elections could affect existing Republican trifectas in Kentucky and Mississippi and the Democratic trifecta in New Jersey. New trifectas could potentially form in Louisiana and Virginia.
 
A trifecta, which describes when one party holds the governorship, a majority in the state senate, and a majority in the state house, helps that party advance its agenda while requiring less support from members of the minority party. Nationally, Republicans hold 22 trifectas to Democrats’ 14.
 
Based on the number of seats which would need to be flipped to change control of each legislative chamber and on gubernatorial race ratings from political forecasters, Ballotpedia has rated the vulnerability of existing trifectas and the chances of new trifectas forming.
 
 
We rate Mississippi’s Republican trifecta as moderately vulnerable and Kentucky’s Republican trifecta as somewhat vulnerable. New Jersey’s Democratic trifecta is not vulnerable.
 
In Louisiana, there is a slight possibility of a Republican trifecta forming and a low possibility of a Democratic trifecta forming. In Virginia, there is a moderate possibility of a Democratic trifecta forming and no possibility of a Republican trifecta forming.
 
In the 2018 elections, four of 26 existing Republican trifectas were broken. The trifectas in Michigan, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin were among the five that we rated highly vulnerable that year, while the trifecta in Kansas was among four we rated moderately vulnerable.
 
Six new Democratic trifectas were created, including in all four of the states we rated as having a moderate possibility of gaining a Democratic trifecta (Colorado, Illinois, New Mexico, and New York). Democrats also gained trifectas in Maine and Nevada, which were among the six states we rated as toss-ups.
 


Are 2019’s state primaries on track to be more or less competitive than in recent election cycles?

In 2019, Ballotpedia is publishing primary election competitiveness data following each state’s major-party candidate filing deadline. Five states will hold regular statewide elections: Kentucky, Mississippi, and Louisiana will hold elections for state executive offices, and Mississippi, Louisiana, New Jersey, and Virginia will hold elections for state legislative seats. Filing deadlines have passed in every state except Louisiana, whose filing deadline is August 8. Ballotpedia will update the data set after that final candidate filing deadline has passed.
 
A contested primary is defined as one in which voters have a choice on the ballot. As of the publication of this report, 20.7% of possible state primary races are contested in 2019. State executive primaries are contested in 61.1% of the races, and state legislative primaries are contested in 18.6% of the races. Comparatively, 16.1% of primaries were contested in 2017, and 28.9% were contested in 2015.
 
Approximately 25.6% of incumbents face contested primaries in 2019. Twenty-five percent of state executive incumbents face challengers across 18 seats, and 25.6% of state legislative incumbents face challengers across 394 seats. The number of state executive incumbents facing opponents is lower than in both 2017 (66.7% across seven seats) and 2015 (68.8% across 25 seats). By contrast, the number of state legislative incumbents facing opponents is greater than in 2017 (16.0% across 220 seats) but lower than in 2015 (26.9% across 398 seats).
 


In presidential elections since 1900, one state voted for the winning candidate more than 90 percent of the time

In presidential elections between 1900 and 2016, one state voted for the winning candidate more than 90 percent of the time. And one state did so less than 50 percent of the time.
 
Ohio’s electoral votes have gone to the winning president 93 percent of the time—in 28 out of 30 general elections—since 1900. Ohio has voted in every election cycle for the winning presidential candidate since 1964. It is followed by New Mexico, which voted for the winning president 89 percent of the time, in 24 out of 27 elections (New Mexico became a state in 1912).
 
Mississippi’s electoral vote went to the winning president 47 percent of the time, in 14 of 30 elections. It is joined at the bottom of the list by Washington, D.C., which supported the winning president 43 percent of the time. D.C. began participating in presidential elections in 1964 and has voted Democratic in every presidential election. The candidate who won Washington, D.C., won the presidency in six of 14 elections since 1964.
 
Below are the five most and least accurate states (and D.C.) in presidential elections from 1900 to 2016.
 
Most accurate:
  • Ohio, 93.33% (28 out of 30 elections)
  • New Mexico, 88.89% (24 out of 27 elections)
  • Nevada, 86.67% (26 out of 30 elections)
  • Missouri, 86.67% (26 out of 30 elections)
  • Illinois, 83.33% (25 out of 30 elections)
Least accurate:
  • Washington, D.C., 42.86% (6 out of 14 elections)
  • Mississippi, 46.67% (14 out of 30 elections)
  • Alabama, 51.72% (15 out of 29 elections)
  • Georgia, 53.33% (16 out of 30 elections)
  • South Carolina, 53.33% (16 out of 30 elections)
Ballotpedia used data from the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration to show which states’ electoral votes went to the victorious presidential candidates between 1900 and 2016.
 


Federal court strikes down Michigan state legislative and congressional district maps as partisan gerrymanders

On April 25, 2019, a three-judge panel of the United District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan ruled unanimously that 34 congressional and state legislative districts had been subject to unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering, violating Democrats’ First Amendment associational rights. The court also found that 27 of the 34 challenged districts violated the Democrats’ First and Fourteenth Amendment rights by diluting the impact of their votes. The challenged districts are listed below:
 
Congressional districts 1, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12
State Senate districts 8, 10, 11, 12, 14, 18, 22, 27, 32, and 36
State House districts 24, 32, 51, 52, 55, 60, 62, 63, 75, 76, 83, 91, 92, 94, and 95
 
The court enjoined the use of any challenged districts in future elections. The court also ordered that special elections be conducted in 2020 for the challenged state Senate districts and any adjoining districts whose boundaries might be affected by remedial maps. The court directed the state legislature to adopt remedial maps for the challenged districts on or before August 1, 2019.
 
Judge Eric Clay, appointed to the bench by President Bill Clinton (D), wrote the following in the court’s opinion and order: “Today, this Court joins the growing chorus of federal courts that have, in recent years, held that partisan gerrymandering is unconstitutional. We find that the Enacted Plan violates Plaintiffs’ First and Fourteenth Amendment rights because it deliberately dilutes the power of their votes by placing them in districts that were intentionally drawn to ensure a particular partisan outcome in each district. The Enacted Plan also injures Plaintiffs’ First Amendment right to association by discriminating against them and their political party and subjecting them to ‘disfavored treatment by reason of their views.'” Judges Denise Hood and Gordon Quist, appointed to the bench by Presidents Clinton and George H. W. Bush (R), respectively, joined Clay’s opinion.
 
Charlie Spies, an attorney representing Michigan Republicans, said the following to The Detroit News: “We will likely see a stay and urge caution in drawing conclusions from this opinion, which we believe is at odds with where the Supreme Court will end up.”
 
All 38 seats in the Michigan State Senate were up for election in 2018 and are not scheduled to be up for election again until 2022.
 
Michigan is one of 14 states with divided government – both chambers of the legislature have Republican majorities while the governorship is held by Gretchen Whitmer (D).
 
Case background
  • December 22, 2017, the League of Women Voters of Michigan, along with a group of state Democrats, filed suit in federal court alleging that Michigan’s congressional and state legislative district plans represented unconstitutional partisan gerrymanders (i.e., the plaintiffs argued that the state’s district maps gave an unfair advantage to Republicans over Democrats).
  • December 27, 2017, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan issued an order that a three-judge panel be convened to hear the case.
  • February 1, 2019, the court rejected a proposed settlement in which maps for some state House districts would be redrawn in advance of the 2020 election. State Republicans petitioned the Supreme Court of the United States to delay lower court proceedings pending the high court’s rulings in Lamone v. Benisek and Rucho v. Common Cause.
  • February 4, 2019, Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor denied this request, clearing the way for a trial to commence on February 5, 2019.
The phrase partisan gerrymandering refers to the practice of drawing electoral district maps with the intention of favoring one political party over another. In contrast with racial gerrymandering, on which issue the Supreme Court of the United States has made rulings in the past affirming that such practices violate federal law, the high court has not, to date, made a ruling establishing clear precedent on the question of partisan gerrymandering. Two partisan gerrymandering cases – Rucho v. Common Cause and Benisek v. Lamone – are pending before the high court this term. Rulings are expected by the end of June.