Voters in Alameda, California, decided on competing local ballot measures at a special election on April 9. Measure A, referred to the ballot by the Alameda City Council, was designed to allow the development of a senior wellness center on land located on McKay Avenue. The group Friends of Crab Cove put competing Measure B on the ballot through a citizen initiative petition to prevent development on the land and to designate it as open space.
According to election night results, Measure A was approved by a margin of 53 percent to 47 percent. Measure B was defeated, with 56 percent of voters opposed and 44 percent in favor of the initiative.
Approval of Measure A authorizes the city to redevelop federal buildings on the 3.65 acre McKay Avenue site into a wellness center for senior assisted living and homelessness services. Measure A was backed by Alameda Mayor Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft and Vice Mayor John Knox White.
The U.S. Senate confirmed two nominees to U.S. District Courts on April 9, 2019.
Daniel Domenico, nominee to the District of Colorado, was confirmed by a 57-42 vote. Four Democratic senators–Michael Bennet (Colo.), Doug Jones (Ala.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.), and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.)–voted with all Senate Republicans to confirm Domenico. When Domenico receives his commission, he will be the first judge nominated by Trump to join the seven-member court. He will join two judges nominated by President George W. Bush (R) and three judges nominated by President Barack Obama (D). The court will have one vacant seat.
Patrick Wyrick, nominee to the Western District of Oklahoma, was confirmed by a 53-47 vote along party lines. Wyrick will join two other judges nominated by Trump and two judges nominated by George W. Bush on the seven-member court. There are two vacancies.
Domenico and Wyrick are the second and third nominees, respectively, to be confirmed to a U.S. District Court under a new precedent the Senate established last week.
On April 3, 2019, the U.S. Senate voted 51-48 in favor of a change to chamber precedent lowering the maximum time allowed for debate on executive nominees to posts below the Cabinet level and on nominees to district court judgeships from 30 hours after invoking cloture to two.
The change was passed under a procedure which requires 51 votes rather than 60 that is often referred to as the nuclear option.
The Arkansas State Legislature is allowed to refer up to three constitutional amendments to the ballot for each general election. On Monday, it sent its third and final amendment to the 2020 ballot. The amendment would change the requirements for ballot initiatives and legislatively referred constitutional amendments.
This amendment, HJR 1008, was designed to do the following:
increase the state’s distribution requirement by requiring that a petition must contain valid signatures equaling at least half of the percentage required for the total petition from each of 45 counties instead of the current requirement of 15 counties;
require a three-fifths supermajority vote of both chambers of the legislature to refer a proposed constitutional amendment to voters;
eliminate the option for petitioners to collect extra signatures for 30 days if the petition fails to meet the signature requirement if the petition meets a 75 percent threshold;
require challenges to the sufficiency of any ballot measure or ballot measure petition to be filed no later than April 15 of the election year; and
require signatures for citizen initiative petitions to be submitted to the secretary of state by January 15 of the election year rather than the current deadline of four months before the election.
The amendment passed in the House on April 4, 2019, in a vote of 68-20. The Senate approved the measure by a vote of 25-10 on April 8, 2019. In the House, the amendment passed largely along party lines with 64 of 68 voting Republicans in favor and 16 of 20 voting Democrats opposed.
The two other measures referred to the 2020 ballot would (1) make permanent a 0.5 percent sales tax to fund transportation otherwise set to expire in 2023, (2) change term limits for state legislators. Citizen initiatives can still qualify for the 2020 ballot.
A nonpartisan primary for four of seven seats on the Lincoln City Council and one of five elected seats on the Lincoln Airport Authority was held on Tuesday. The general election is on May 7.
In the races for city council, only one incumbent filed for re-election – Jane Raybould in District 3 – guaranteeing at least three newcomers will join the council in 2019. In Districts 1 and 3, only two candidates filed for each and both automatically advanced to the general election. In the District 2 race, Megan Stock and Richard Meginnis defeated Mike James to advance, and in the District 4 race, Cassey Lottman lost to James Herrold and Tammy Ward. In the airport authority primary, Nick Cusick and Aurang Zeb were the only candidates to file and both advanced to the May 7 general election.
Although candidates had the option to file with political parties, city elections are nonpartisan and political parties do not appear on the ballot. The mayor’s office and a sales tax measure were also on the April 9 ballot.
Lincoln is the second-largest city in Nebraska and the 71st-largest city in the U.S. by population.
The Idaho State Legislature approved a pair of bills last week designed to increase the state’s initiative signature requirement and its distribution requirement, reduce the allowed circulation period for initiative petitions, enact a single-subject rule, and require a fiscal impact statement.
On Friday, Governor Brad Little (R) vetoed one bill—Senate Bill 1159—and announced he would veto the second—House Bill 296. SB 1159 contained the more significant changes to the initiative process, while House bill 296 was a trailer bill reducing the magnitude of some of the provisions of SB 1159.
Both bills were approved with a majority of Republican legislators in favor and opposition from all voting Democrats. Neither bill was passed, however, with veto-proof supermajorities in each chamber. Idaho is a Republican state government trifecta.
Little announced his vetoes despite agreeing “with the goals and the vision of S 1159 and H 296.” He said, “I reluctantly vetoed S 1159 and plan to veto H 296 because I question the constitutional sufficiency of the bills and the unintended consequences of their passage. The bills invite legal challenges that likely will result in the Idaho initiative process being determined by the liberal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals — the same Circuit that recently decided Idaho should pay for gender reassignment surgery for a transgender inmate serving time for molesting a child. We need to do all we can to control the rules of our initiative process.”
Little also said that he supported giving rural Idahoans “a voice in the initiative process” and limiting the initiative process so it does not interfere with representative government and that he would work with the legislature to examine the state’s initiative process in the future. He said, “Idaho cannot become like California and other states that have adopted liberal initiative rules that result in excessive regulation and often conflicting laws.”
Senate Bill 1159 would have made the following changes to Idaho’s initiative process:
increased the signature requirement for initiatives and veto referendums from 6 percent to 10 percent of votes cast at the last general election;
increased the state’s distribution requirement to require initiative and referendum petitioners to meet the 10 percent requirement in 32 legislative districts;
going into 2019 the requirement was to meet the 6 percent signature requirement in 18 legislative districts;
reduce the amount of time allowed for signature gathering from 18 months to 180 days (about six months);
enact a single-subject rule for initiatives;
require a fiscal impact statement for each initiative certified for the ballot.
House Bill 296 would have made the distribution requirement apply in two-thirds (24) of legislative districts instead of 32 of them and would allow nine months for signature gathering instead of 180 days.
All 21 legislative Democrats opposed SB 1159, while Republicans were split 58 to 26. HB 296 was also opposed by all voting Democrats. SB 1159 was approved 40 to 30 in the House and 18 to 17 in the Senate. HB 296 was approved 47 to 22 in the House and 20 to 15 in the Senate. Neither bill received the two-thirds supermajority vote (47 votes in the House and 24 votes in the Senate) required in both chambers to override a veto.
In 2018, voters in Idaho approved a citizen initiative to expand Medicaid coverage according to the Affordable Care Act.
Other 2019 initiative process legislation
Ballotpedia is tracking nearly 150 changes to laws governing ballot measures and recall in 31 states proposed in 2019, including changes to distribution requirements, signature requirements, subject restrictions, ballot language rules, supermajority requirements, and bills proposing to establish initiative or referendum processes in states without them. So far, significant changes have been approved in Arkansas and Utah.
A nonpartisan primary for mayor of Lincoln, Nebraska, was held on Tuesday. Candidates Leirion Gaylor Baird and Cyndi Lamm advanced to the general election after defeating Jeff Kirkpatrick, Krystal Gabel, and Rene Solc. The filing deadline was March 7, and the general election is on May 7. The city’s current mayor, Chris Beutler (D), was first elected in 2007 and could not seek re-election due to term limits.
Although candidates had the option to file with political parties, city elections are nonpartisan and political parties do not appear on the ballot. Baird filed as a Democratic candidate and received 43.5 percent of the vote according to unofficial election night results, while Lamm filed as a Republican and received 33.5 percent of the vote. Kirkpatrick, the third-place finisher with 18.8 percent of the vote, also filed as a Democrat. Gabel and Solc both filed as nonpartisan candidates.
Lincoln is the second-largest city in Nebraska and the 71st-largest city in the U.S. by population.
Ninety-four state legislative seats have changed partisan control, or flipped, in special elections since 2010. Democrats have won 51 of these special elections, Republicans have won 37, and independent and third-party candidates have won six.
So far, six partisan flips have occurred in 2019—four Republican wins, one Democratic win, and one independent win.
The year with most flips was 2017 when 17 seats (14 Democratic wins and three Republican wins) changed party control. There were 16 flips in 2018—12 Democratic wins and four Republican wins—and 15 flips in 2015—five Democratic wins, eight Republican wins, and two third-party wins.
2017 and 2018 saw the largest net partisan gains in state legislative special elections as Democrats picked up 11 seats and eight seats, respectively. The largest net partisan gain favoring Republicans occurred in 2013 when they picked up five seats.
The states with the most flipped seats are New Hampshire and Connecticut. There have been 10 flips in New Hampshire—nine Democratic wins and one Republican win. Five of the Democratic flips in New Hampshire occurred in 2017 and 2018.
Connecticut has seen nine flips—one Democratic win, seven Republican wins, and one third-party win. So far in 2019, one Connecticut House seat and one Connecticut Senate seat have flipped from Democratic to Republican control.
About two-thirds of state legislative flips in special elections have occurred in state house seats rather than state senate seats. Since 2010, there have been 62 flips in state house seats (66.0 percent of total) and 32 flips in state senate seats (34.0 percent).
The Colorado Secretary of State approved a recall petition for circulation against state Rep. Rochelle Galindo (D) on April 4. Recall supporters have until June 3, 2019, to collect 5,696 signatures to force a recall election.
According to the recall supporters, Galindo is being targeted for recall because of her support for an oil and gas regulation bill and a gun bill. The gun bill would temporarily remove guns from people who are deemed a threat to themselves or others. Other reasons for the recall are due to Galindo’s support of legislation related to the national popular vote and sex education.
Galindo was elected to District 50 in the state House in 2018. She defeated Michael Thuener (R) in the general election with 54.4 percent of the vote. Prior to the 2018 election, Colorado Treasurer Dave Young (D) held the seat from 2011 to 2019.
After the recall petition was approved, Rep. Galindo said, “People are free to disagree with the decisions I make at the state capitol, and they’re free to vote for someone else in 2020. I will fight every day for our community and our shared best interests, and even for the people who disagree with me.”
Recall efforts have also been started in Colorado against state Sen. Jeff Bridges (D) and state Rep. Meg Froelich (D). Rep. Tony Exum (D) and Senate President Leroy Garcia (D) have also been discussed as possible recall targets. Gov. Jared Polis (D) is the target of a recall effort, but he must be in office for six months before an official recall can begin.
Since 2011, 76 recall petitions have been filed against state lawmakers. Nine recalls were successful, nine were defeated at the ballot, 54 did not go to a vote, and four are still ongoing. California state Sen. Josh Newman (D) was recalled in 2018. Two Colorado state senators were successfully recalled in 2013.
Colorado became a Democratic trifecta in 2019 after Democrats flipped the state Senate in the 2018 election. A state government trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and both state legislative chambers. Democrats control the state House by a 41-24 margin and the state Senate by a 19-16 margin. Gov. Jared Polis (D) was sworn into the governor’s office in 2019.
Both Florida and Georgia have state legislative special primaries on the ballot on April 9.
In Georgia, Chris Erwin and Dan Gasaway are running in a Republican primary for the state House’s District 28 seat. The special election will be the third contest between Gasaway and Erwin. The regularly scheduled primary on May 22, 2018, was deemed inconclusive due to ballot errors, so a new primary took place on December 4, 2018. The results of the December 2018 special election were also deemed inconclusive, so a judge ruled that another new election should be held.
Because the special primary election is being held to rectify the results of the original primary, and because no Democratic candidates filed to run in 2018, the winner of the April 9 primary will be declared the winner of the seat outright.
Gasaway held the seat from 2013 to 2019. After Erwin was declared the winner of the special primary in December 2018, he was sworn in on January 14. On February 8, a judge determined that Erwin was no longer a member of the state House.
In Florida, special primaries are being held on April 9 for three state House seats. General elections will take place on June 18.
In District 7, Lynda Bell, Virginia Fuller, Jason Shoaf, and Mike Watkins are running in the Republican primary. Ryan Terrell is running unopposed in the Democratic primary. The seat became vacant after Halsey Beshears (R) resigned on January 11, 2019, to become the Secretary of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.
In District 38, Randy Maggard and David McCallister are running in the Republican primary. Kelly Smith is running unopposed in the Democratic primary. The seat became vacant after Daniel Burgess (R) was appointed as the Executive Director of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs on January 24, 2019.
In District 97, Dan Daley is running unopposed in the Democratic primary. No Republican candidates filed to run for election. The seat became vacant after Jared Moskowitz (D) resigned in January 2019 to become the Director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management.
In 2019, there have been 52 state legislative special elections scheduled or held so far in 20 states. Between 2011 and 2018, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.
A total of 43 states prohibit abortions beginning at specific stages of pregnancy. This includes 17 states that prohibit abortions beginning at the stage of fetal viability and 15 states that prohibit abortions beginning at 20 weeks post-fertilization. Seven states do not prohibit abortions in any form.
Two abortion-related ballot measures passed in 2018: Alabama Amendment 2 and West Virginia Amendment 1.
Alabama Amendment 2 amended the state constitution, declaring that the state’s policy is to support “the sanctity of unborn life and the rights of unborn children, including the right to life.” This amendment was cited in a February 2019 wrongful death lawsuit. A county probate judge ruled that an Alabama resident could file a lawsuit on behalf of an unborn fetus given that a fetus was defined by the Alabama Constitution as a person with legal rights.
West Virginia Amendment 1 amended the state constitution to declare that “nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of abortion.” This same language was also used in Alabama’s amendment.
Alabama Amendment 2 and West Virginia Amendment 1 were referred to the ballot by the state legislatures. Also in 2018, Oregon voters defeated a citizen initiative that would have prohibited public funds from being spent on abortions in Oregon, except when determined to be medically necessary or required by federal law.
The Alabama and West Virginia measures both followed language initially used in an approved 2014 measure: Tennessee Amendment 1. Two abortion-related measures with different proposed constitutional language were rejected in Colorado and North Dakota, respectively. The Colorado measure would have included unborn human beings under the definition of person and child in the Colorado criminal code. The North Dakota measure would have added language to the state constitution guaranteeing a right to life at every stage of human development.