Latest stories

This time next year, we will be between Democratic and Republican National Conventions

In just under a year, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) will hold its presidential nominating convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, from July 13-16, 2020. A little over a month later, the Republican National Committee (RNC) will meet in Charlotte, North Carolina, from August 24-27, 2020. At both conventions, delegates will select their party’s presidential nominee and vote to adopt a platform outlining the party’s priorities and values.
Between now and then, Democratic and Republican primaries and caucuses will be held across the country, with the first caucus event taking place in Iowa on February 3, 2020. New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina will also hold primaries in February.
Super Tuesday, the day when the largest number of states and territories hold a presidential primary or caucus, will be March 3, 2020. States with more than one-third of the U.S. population are expected to vote on Super Tuesday.
The last primary elections will be held at the beginning of June 2020.

Ballotpedia’s Daily Brew: 23 statewide ballot measures have been certified for 2019

Today’s Brew highlights state-by-state voting patterns in presidential elections + recent initiative activity summarized in our State Ballot Measure Monthly newsletter  
 The Daily Brew
Welcome to the Monday, August 19, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. 23 statewide ballot measures have been certified for 2019
  2. Ohio voters have backed the winning presidential candidate 93% of the time since 1900
  3. Quiz: How many 2020 House races has Ballotpedia designated as battleground elections?

23 statewide ballot measures have been certified for 2019 

From July 15 to August 14, only one statewide ballot measure was certified for 2019. The Washington Secretary of State certified a veto referendum that will go before voters on November 5 to determine whether the state can use affirmative action in public employment, education, and contracting.

The number of 2019 statewide ballot measures is 23—in eight states—and the number of 2020 measures is 38. 

By the second Tuesday in August two years ago, 27 measures had been certified for the 2017 ballot. No more measures were added to the ballot that year. This was the fewest number of statewide ballot measures since 1947. 

At this point in the year before even-year elections from 2012 through 2018, an average of 42 measures were certified for the next even-numbered year.  

Here are highlights of ballot measure activity in the past month: 

  • The Utah Supreme Court upheld the legislative alteration of Utah’s 2018 medical marijuana initiative. This alteration removed the provision of the initiative that allowed patients to grow their own marijuana, reduced the number of privately-run dispensaries, and required dispensaries to employ pharmacists to recommend dosages. This alteration was passed by the legislature and signed by the governor in December 2018 during a special session called by the governor.
  • Petitioners submitted signatures for a veto referendum petition against 2019 Colorado legislation joining the state into the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC). The NPVIC is an interstate compact to award member states’ presidential electors to the winner of the national popular vote. The NPVIC would go into effect if states representing at least 270 electoral college votes adopt the legislation.

Learn more about stories like this in our State Ballot Measure Monthly newsletter. Our latest edition came out last week—read it by clicking the link below.

Learn more


 Quarterly Presidential News Briefing

Ohio voters have backed the winning presidential candidate 93% of the time since 1900

Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball, wrote a book in early 2016 called, “The Bellweather: Why Ohio Picks the President.”

Ohio voters have selected the winning presidential candidate in 28 of 30 election cycles since 1900. The state has the highest accuracy of any state—93%—in backing the winner of the presidential election. 

The two elections during this period where Ohio voted for the candidate who lost the presidential election was 1960, when the state voted for Richard Nixon (R) instead of winning candidate John F. Kennedy (D) 53.3-46.7%, and 1944, when Ohio voted for Thomas E. Dewey (R) over Franklin D. Roosevelt (D), 50.2-49.8%.

Most states have participated in all 30 presidential elections during this time; however, five states and the District of Columbia didn’t participate in their first election until after 1900. Those states are Oklahoma (1908), Arizona (1912), New Mexico (1912), Alaska (1960), Hawaii (1960), and Washington, D.C. (1964).

Washington, D.C., has backed the winning presidential candidate in only 43% of elections—the lowest percentage of all jurisdictions. Voters there have supported the winning candidate in six out of the 14 elections in which it has participated since 1964.

Some states have voted for the same party for president more than 80% of the time. Here are the states that voted for the Democratic presidential candidate five or fewer times since 1900:

  • Alaska—1
  • Indiana—5
  • Kansas—5
  • North Dakota—5
  • South Dakota—3

Here are the states that voted for the Republican presidential candidate five or fewer times since 1900:

  • Hawaii—2
  • Washington, D.C.—0

Third-party candidates won at least one state in four presidential elections since 1900. 

  • 1912, Progressive Party candidate Theodore Roosevelt won six states.
  • 1924, Progressive Party candidate Robert M. La Follette Sr. won Wisconsin. 
  • 1948, States’ Rights Democratic Party candidate J. Strom Thurmond won four southern states. 
  • 1968, American Independent Party candidate George Wallace won five southern states.

Learn more→


Quiz: How many 2020 House races has Ballotpedia designated as battleground elections?

Last week, Ballotpedia announced our preliminary assessments of which Senate and House races would be battleground elections for 2020. Battlegrounds are elections that we expect to have a meaningful effect on the balance of power in government or to be particularly competitive or compelling.

In 2020, all 435 seats in the U.S. House are up for election. Of those, how many House races has Ballotpedia designated as battlegrounds? Is it: 

A.  38 
B.  56 
C.  73 
D.  91 


Primary competitiveness rises for state legislators compared to 2015 and 2017

In 2019, Ballotpedia published primary competitiveness data following each state’s major-party candidate filing deadline. Five states are holding regular statewide elections: Kentucky, Louisiana, and Mississippi are holding elections for state executive offices, and Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, and Virginia are holding elections for state legislative seats.
A contested primary is defined as one in which voters have a choice on the ballot. As of the report’s publication, 28.8% of all possible state primary races are or were contested this year. This figure is similar to the 28.9% contested primary races in 2015. Comparatively, 16.1% of primaries were contested in 2017. This year, state executive primaries are contested in 67.4% of the races, and state legislative primaries are contested in 26.8% of the races.
Approximately 31.2% of the incumbents running for re-election in 2019 face contested primaries. Sixty percent of state executive incumbents face challengers across 25 seats, and 30.1% of state legislative incumbents face challengers across 538 seats. The percentage 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 percentage of state legislative incumbents facing opponents is greater than in both 2017 (16.0% across 220 seats) and 2015 (26.9% across 398 seats).

Trump announces intent to nominate law professor to federal court

On August 14, 2019, President Donald Trump (R) announced his intent to nominate Richard Myers II to a seat on the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina. Myers was nominated to succeed Judge Malcolm Howard, who assumed senior status on December 31, 2005. There is one current vacancy out of the court’s four judicial positions.
The United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina has three active Article III judges:
• Chief Judge Terrence Boyle – nominated by President Ronald Reagan (R)
• Louise Flanagan – nominated by President George W. Bush (R)
• James Dever – nominated by President George W. Bush (R)
The court’s two judges on senior status are:
• Malcolm Howard – nominated by President Ronald Reagan (R)
• Earl Britt – nominated by President Jimmy Carter (D)
The United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina is one of 94 United States district courts. When decisions of the court are appealed, they are appealed to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals based in downtown Richmond, Virginia.

Hickenlooper becomes fourth Democrat to suspend 2020 presidential campaign

Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) suspended his presidential campaign Thursday. In a video announcement, Hickenlooper hinted at his next steps.
“People want to know what comes next for me. I’ve heard from so many Coloradans who want me to run for the United States Senate. They remind me how much is at stake for our country. And our state. I intend to give that some serious thought,” he said.
Hickenlooper was the fourth notable Democratic candidate to leave the presidential race, following former state Sen. Richard Ojeda, Rep. Eric Swalwell, and former Sen. Mike Gravel.
The 2020 Democratic field has outpaced the 2016 Republican field in both size and early departures. The first notable Republican to suspend his 2016 presidential campaign was former Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Sept. 11, 2015.
Hickenlooper’s departure left 25 notable elected officials and public figures in the presidential race—23 Democrats and two Republicans.

State legislative special elections in Pennsylvania and South Carolina on Tuesday

On August 20, special general elections are scheduled for District 85 of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and District 19 of the South Carolina House of Representatives.
In Pennsylvania, Jennifer Rager-Kay (D) and David Rowe (R) are facing off for the District 85 seat.
  • Both candidates were selected by their respective political parties through nominating conventions in June.
  • The seat was vacated when Fred Keller (R) resigned on May 24, 2019. He was elected to Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District on May 21. Keller had served in the state House since 2011. He last won re-election in 2018, defeating Rager-Kay in the general election with 67.7% of the vote.
  • Heading into the election, Republicans have a 109-93 majority in the Pennsylvania House with one vacancy. Pennsylvania has a divided government, and no political party holds a state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers.
In South Carolina, Carrie Counton (D) and Patrick Haddon (R) are running in the District 19 general election.
  • Haddon defeated a primary opponent in June. Counton ran unopposed in the primary.
  • The seat was vacated after Dwight Loftis (R) was elected to represent District 6 of the South Carolina State Senate. Loftis had served in the state House since 1996. He last won re-election in 2018, defeating Counton in the general election with 61.2% of the vote.
  • Heading into the election, Republicans have a 78-44 majority in the South Carolina House with two vacancies. South Carolina has a Republican state government trifecta.
Special primaries are also being held on Tuesday in District 42 of the Alabama House of Representatives and the Rockingham 9 District in the New Hampshire House of Representatives.
As of August, 72 state legislative special elections have been scheduled or held in 24 states. Between 2011 and 2018, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.

Third-place finisher endorses runner-up in Mississippi’s Republican primary runoff

State Rep. Robert Foster endorsed former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr. in the Aug. 27 Republican gubernatorial runoff primary for governor of Mississippi.
Foster finished third in the Aug. 6 primary, winning with 18% of the vote. Waller finished second with 33%. First-place finisher Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves won 49% of the vote.  
Because no candidate received a majority, Reeves and Waller advanced to the Aug. 27 runoff.
At a news conference announcing his endorsement, Foster said, “In the end, we each just have one vote, or we can stay home. But if you don’t want to see Jim Hood win in November, I encourage you to join me in voting for Bill Waller.” 
Reeves and Waller both began airing new ads this week. Reeves’ ad criticized Waller for supporting Medicaid expansion in Mississippi and backing an increase in the state gas tax. Waller’s ad said that while Reeves was focused on attacking him, Waller was focused on proposing solutions to the challenges facing Mississippi.
The most recent campaign finance reports show Reeves with $5 million cash on hand to Waller’s $118,000. The next campaign finance reporting deadline is Aug. 20—one week before the runoff.
The winner of the Aug. 27 primary runoff will face the Democratic nominee, Attorney General Jim Hood, in the Nov. 5 general election. Inside Elections and Sabato’s Crystal Ball rate the general election as “Leans Republican” and Cook Political Report rates the contest as “Likely Republican.” Ronnie Musgrove was the last Democrat elected governor of Mississippi. He defeated Rep. Mike Parker (R) 49.6-48.5% in 1999.

Lee defeats Lundquist in Los Angeles special election

The city of Los Angeles, California, held a nonpartisan special general election on August 13 for one of the 15 seats on the city council. John Lee and Loraine Lundquist faced off after both advanced from a pool of 15 candidates in the June 4 special primary. Lee won with 52.1% of the vote in the general election.
The vacancy on the city council was created when District 12 representative Mitchell Englander stepped down on December 31, 2018, to work for a sports and entertainment firm.
Lee was endorsed by the L.A. Jobs PAC, which is sponsored by the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce. Lundquist was endorsed by the Los Angeles Times, the Green Party of Los Angeles County, and a number of Democratic Party clubs.
Los Angeles is the largest city in California and the second-largest city in the U.S. by population.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service finalizes regulatory changes under Endangered Species Act

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) issued three final rules on Monday affecting the implementation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The rules concern interagency cooperation, the classification of threatened and endangered species, the listing and removal of endangered species, and critical habitat designations, among other processes.
The first rule change aims to clarify the ESA’s interagency cooperation procedures between FWS, the U.S. Department of the Interior, the U.S. Department of Commerce, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The second rule change eliminates automatic protections for threatened species that mirror those for endangered species. Instead, FWS will determine the level of protection for threatened species on a case-by-case basis.
The final rule change addresses the listing and removal of endangered species and critical habitat designations, among other process changes. The rule allows agency officials to consider economic factors in listing decisions and interpret the language “foreseeable future” under the ESA as a time period in which agency officials can reasonably determine likely threats to a species. The rule also puts forth changes to the critical habitat designation process, including a requirement that species must occupy critical habitats unless unoccupied areas are essential for species conservation. This change aims to address the United States Supreme Court’s November 2018 decision in _Weyerhaeuser Company v. United States Fish and Wildlife Service_, which held in part that an area must be a habitat before it can meet the narrower category of critical habitat.
The Trump administration argued that the rule changes reduce the regulatory burden on the public and increase transparency into agency decision making concerning species’ protections. Opponents of the rules claim that the changes reduce protections for endangered species and limit the consideration of potential future threats in agency decision making.
The attorneys general of California and Massachusetts announced their intention on Monday to sue the Trump administration over the rule changes.

Proponents of Arkansas optometry referendum petition supreme court to count signatures and certify measure for the 2020 ballot

Safe Surgery Arkansas, sponsors of the Arkansas Practice of Optometry Referendum, reported submitting more than 84,000 signatures by the July 23 deadline to qualify a veto referendum on House Bill 1251 for a statewide vote in 2020. A total of 53,491 signatures need to be valid to qualify the measure for the ballot.
Safe Surgery Arkansas is sponsoring the veto referendum petition seeking to block optometrists from performing certain surgical procedures including the following:
  • injections, excluding intravenous or intraocular injections;
  • incision and curettage of a chalazion;
  • removal and biopsy of skin lesions with low risk of malignancy, excluding lesions involving the lid margin or nasal to the puncta;
  • laser capsulotomy; and
  • laser trabeculoplasty.
The Arkansas Secretary of State’s office said proponents submitted 23,953 valid signatures and, therefore, failed to qualify for the ballot. Arkansas Secretary of State John Thurston (R) declined to count 61,065 signatures submitted by proponents, saying they were not collected in compliance with Act 376 (House Bill 346) of 2019. Act 376 changed the laws governing the initiative process in Arkansas. Act 376 contained an emergency clause that applied the new laws to petitions that were already being circulated.
Among other things, Act 376 required sponsors to submit a signed, sworn statement to the secretary of state saying that the petitioner had not been found guilty of a felony or crime of fraud, forgery, identity theft, or election law violation. Before the adoption of Act 376, that statement needed to be submitted by paid canvassers to the initiative sponsor rather than the secretary of state. The secretary of state said proponents did not properly submit the required paperwork before collecting the signatures in question.
Proponents are challenging the legality of the emergency clause and are asking the supreme court to order that the 61,065 signatures be counted and order the Secretary of State to certify the petition to the ballot.
Since the first in 1934, 10 veto referendum measures have appeared on the ballot in Arkansas. The most recent referendum was on the ballot in 2004. In all but one case, the referendum efforts resulted in the targeted law being repealed or overturned.
Nationwide since the first in 1906, 521 veto referendums appeared on the ballot in 23 states. Voters repealed 340 (65.3 percent) of the targeted laws. Voters upheld 181 (34.7 percent) of the targeted laws. The states with the most veto referendums were North Dakota (75), Oregon (68), and California (48). The states that allowed for veto referendums but had the least number of them were Wyoming (1), Nevada (2), and New Mexico (3).