TagBallot Bulletin

Ballot Bulletin – June 2022 Edition

Welcome to The Ballot Bulletin, where we track developments in election policy at the federal, state, and local levels. In this month’s issue:

  1. Arizona governor vetoes bill changing process for canceling a voter’s registration
  2. Redistricting round-up: The latest redistricting news
  3. Legislation update: Recently enacted legislation

Have a question/feedback/or just want to say hello? Respond to this email, or drop me a line directly at Jerrick@Ballotpedia.org.

Arizona governor vetoes bill changing process of canceling a voter’s registration

On May 27, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) vetoed HB2617, legislation that would change the process of canceling a voter’s registration.

What the bill would do

This bill would require a county recorder to cancel a person’s registration upon receiving and confirming that the person is: (a) not a U.S. citizen, or (b) has been issued a driver’s license or state identification card from another state. Before canceling a registration, the county recorder would have to notify the person that the registration will be canceled in 90 days unless the person provides evidence of qualification to vote. 

Legislative history

The state Senate approved the final version of HB2617 on May 23 by a vote of 16-13. Republicans cast all 16 “yes” votes and Democrats cast all 13 “no” votes. The state House approved the bill on May 25 by a vote of 31-26, also along party lines.

Why the governor vetoed the bill

In a letter announcing his decision, Ducey wrote, “The implementation of [HB2617] is vague and lacks any guidance for how a county recorder would confirm such a determination [of ineligibility]. Our lawfully registered voters deserve to know that their right to vote will not be disturbed without sufficient due process. This provision leaves our election system vulnerable to bad actors who could seek to falsely allege a voter is not a qualified elector.” 

In response to Ducey’s veto, Rep. Joseph Chaplik (R), who sponsored the bill, said, “This is shocking because I worked directly with the [governor’s] office on the Senate amendment language for this bill. Every single voter in Arizona deserves to know their vote counts and is not canceled out by an ineligible voter.” 

What comes next

It is unclear whether the legislature will attempt to override Ducey’s veto. In order to do so, both chambers would have to approve the bill by a two-thirds majority. 

Arizona is a Republican trifecta, meaning that Republicans control the governorship and majorities in both chambers of the state legislature. Although Republicans control majorities in both legislative chambers, they do not have veto-proof majorities (i.e., majorities large enough to override a gubernatorial veto without votes from members of the minority party). 


Redistricting round-up: The latest redistricting news

In today’s round-up, we take a look at recent developments.

Kansas

On May 18, the Kansas Supreme Court overturned a district court’s ruling that the state’s enacted congressional district boundaries were unconstitutional. In a two-page order, Justice Caleb Stegall, writing for the court, said, “A majority of the court holds that, on the record before us, plaintiffs have not prevailed on their claims that Substitute for Senate Bill 355 violates the Kansas Constitution.”

The district court had ruled that the new map “intentionally and effectively dilutes minority votes in violation of the Kansas Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection.” The district court had blocked Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab (R) and local election officials from using the previously enacted maps for the state’s upcoming elections and directed the Legislature to “enact a remedial plan in conformity with this opinion as expeditiously as possible.”

As a result of the state supreme court’s order, the congressional district boundaries enacted by the state legislature remain in effect. These boundaries were enacted in February, when the  state Senate and state House overrode Gov. Laura Kelly’s (D) veto. The House overrode Kelly’s veto 85-37, with 85 Republicans voting to override and 36 Democrats and one Republican voting to sustain the veto. The Senate overrode Kelly’s veto 27-11, strictly along partisan lines.

Louisiana

On June 6, a U.S. district court struck down the congressional district map enacted by the state legislature, over Gov. John Bel Edwards’ (D) veto, and barred the state from using the map in the 2022 election cycle. The court’s order said, “The appropriate remedy in this context is a remedial congressional redistricting plan that includes an additional majority-Black congressional district. The United States Supreme Court instructs that the Legislature should have the first opportunity to draw that plan. Therefore, the Court orders the Louisiana Legislature to enact a remedial plan on or before June 20, 2022. If the Legislature is unable to pass a remedial plan by that date, the Court will issue additional orders to enact a remedial plan.”

Status of congressional redistricting

Congressional redistricting has been completed for 429 of the 435 (98.6%) U.S. House districts.

  • Forty-three states have adopted congressional district maps. 
  • One map has been overturned by court action.
  • Six states were apportioned one U.S. House district, making congressional redistricting unnecessary.

Status of state legislative redistricting

Legislative redistricting has been completed for 1,923 of 1,973 state Senate seats (97.5%) and 5,313 of 5,413 state House seats (98.2%).

  • Forty-nine states have adopted legislative district maps for both chambers.
  • One state has not yet adopted legislative redistricting plans. 

Legislation update: Recently enacted legislation

Kansas HB2138

On May 10, Gov. Laura Kelly (D) signed HB2138 into law, making a number of modifications to Kansas’ election laws: 

  • Requires “all voting systems in Kansas to use a paper ballot with a distinctive watermark as established by the [secretary of state] for elections on and after Jan. 1, 2024.” 
  • Requires the secretary of state, in consultation with county election officials, to develop an affidavit system to be used for the transfer of ballots. Under this system, each person who handles ballots will be required to sign an affidavit. 
  • Establishes an audit procedure, to be conducted by the secretary of state in the year following each even-numbered general-election year. Under this system, four counties will be selected at random to be audited, subject to voting-age population requirements. 
  • Requires that an audit be conducted in any even-numbered federal, statewide, or state legislative election if the margin of victory is within one percent. 

On April 1, the  state Senate approved the final version of the bill 28-8, with Republicans casting all “yes” votes and Democrats casting all “no” votes. On April 26, the state House approved the bill 82-40, with 80 Republicans and two Democrats voting in favor and 36 Democrats and four Republicans voting in opposition.

  • Political context: Kansas has a divided government. Republicans control majorities in both chambers of the state legislature. The governor is a Democrat. 

New York S08949

On May 2, Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) signed S08949 into law. This bill allows party nominees for elective offices or party positions to decline nomination if they have been arrested or formally charged with one or more crimes in either state or federal court. It also allows the nominee to decline the nomination if the nominee has been convicted of one or more crimes at any time after having been nominated. 

The bill was introduced on April 29. On May 2, the Senate and Assembly approved the bill (33-29 and 84-57, respectively).

  • Political context: New York is a Democratic trifecta, meaning that Democrats control the governorship and majorities in both chambers of the state legislature. 

Oklahoma HB2974

On May 9, Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) signed HB2974 into law. This bill requires that the State Board of Elections conduct an annual query of the entire voter registration database to determine how many individuals are registered at the same residential address. If that query indicates that more than 10 voters share an address, the State Board of Elections must notify the county election board, which must in turn notify the district attorney. The district attorney, or a law enforcement officer acting on behalf of the district attorney, must “investigate any possible criminal violation of the law related to the voter registration.” This bill does not apply to assisted living facilities, nursing homes, veterans centers, multiunit housing complexes, or military bases.

The Senate passed the final version of the bill on April 26 by a vote of 34-9, with all 34 “yes” votes coming from Republicans and all 9 no votes coming from Democrats. On May 4, the House passed the bill by a vote of 61-10, with 61 Republicans voting in favor and nine Democrats and one Republican in opposition.

  • Political context: Oklahoma is a Republican trifecta, meaning that Republicans control the governorship and both chambers of the state legislature. 


Ballot Bulletin: New York Court of Appeals overturns congressional, state Senate district maps

Welcome to The Ballot Bulletin, where we track developments in election policy at the federal, state, and local levels. In this month’s issue:

  1. New York Court of Appeals overturns congressional, state Senate district maps
  2. Redistricting round-up: The latest redistricting news from Florida and Kansas
  3. Legislation update: Recently enacted legislation

Have a question/feedback/or just want to say hello? Drop me a line directly at Jerrick@Ballotpedia.org.

New York Court of Appeals overturns congressional, state Senate district maps

On April 27, the New York Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, struck down New York’s congressional and state Senate maps. The court held that both maps violated the state’s constitutional redistricting process. The court also found that the congressional map was drawn with unconstitutional partisan intent.

Background

On Feb. 3, a group of 14 New York residents filed a lawsuit challenging the state’s enacted congressional and legislative maps. The plaintiffs said, “[T]he Legislature did not follow the exclusive process for enacting replacement maps that the People enshrined through the 2014 amendments, meaning that the congressional map is entirely void” and “the map is an obviously unconstitutional partisan and incumbent-protection gerrymander.” The plaintiffs asked the court to invalidate the approved maps and bar their use for the 2022 elections.

How the lower courts ruled

On March 31, Justice Patrick McAllister ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, saying, “Part of the problem is these maps were void ab initio [i.e., void from the start] for failure to follow the constitutional process of having bipartisan maps presented by the [Independent Redistricting Commission]. The second problem was the Congressional that was presented was determined to be gerrymandered.” McAllister ordered the legislature to pass new maps that “receive bipartisan support among both Democrats and Republicans in both the senate and assembly.”

On April 4, Justice Stephen Lindley, of the Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court in Western New York, issued a temporary stay of McAllister’s ruling. On April 21, a five-judge panel of the Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court upheld McAllister’s ruling on the congressional map. It reversed McAllister’s ruling overturning the state legislative map, allowing it to stand. The case was then appealed to the New York Court of Appeals, the state’s court of last resort.

What comes next

In its April 27 order, the New York Court of Appeals remanded the case to McAllister for further proceedings. On April 29, McAllister ordered the postponement of New York’s congressional and state Senate primaries to Aug. 23. McAllister also extended the deadline for lawmakers to submit new maps to the court to May 20. The Assembly maps were unaffected by this decision.


Redistricting round-up: The latest redistricting news from Florida and Kansas

In today’s round-up, we take a look at recent developments in Florida and Kansas.

Florida

On April 22, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed Florida’s new congressional district map into law. The Florida Senate passed the map in a 24-15 vote on April 20. The House approved the map 68-34 on April 21. 

This was the second congressional map the state legislature approved. DeSantis vetoed the first version on March 29. Republican leaders said on April 11 they would wait to receive a map from DeSantis, which he proposed April 13.

Florida Politics’s Jacob Ogles wrote, “The most controversial change DeSantis made in his map, this new CD 4 really stands in as the replacement to the Lawson seat. […] The Black population in Jacksonville gets cleaved in half by the St. Johns River after DeSantis vetoed a map drawn by the Florida House that created a Duval-only Black seat.” When DeSantis vetoed the initial map bill, he wrote, “Congressional District 5 [Lawson’s district] in both the primary and secondary maps enacted by the Legislature violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution because it assigns voters primarily on the basis of race but is not narrowly tailored to achieve a compelling state interest.”

Florida was apportioned 28 U.S. House districts  after the 2020 census, one more than it received after the 2010 census. This map will take effect for Florida’s 2022 congressional elections.

Kansas

On April 25, Wyandotte County District Court Judge Bill Klapper overturned Kansas’ enacted congressional map. Klapper ruled that the map was racially and politically gerrymandered, violating the state constitution. 

Klapper said, “The Court has no difficulty finding, as a factual matter, that Ad Astra 2 is an intentional, effective pro-Republican gerrymander that systemically dilutes the votes of Democratic Kansans.” Klapper also said the state’s new map “intentionally and effectively dilutes minority votes in violation of the Kansas Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection.”

Gov. Laura Kelly (D) vetoed the legislature’s original congressional map on Feb. 3, only for the House and Senate to vote to override her veto. The House overrode Kelly’s veto 85-37. Eighty-five Republicans voted to override the veto. Thirty-six Democrats and one Republican voted to sustain the veto. The Senate voted along party lines, overriding the veto 27-11.

On April 26, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt (R) said he would appeal Klapper’s ruling to the Kansas Supreme Court. Schmidt said, “Today’s Wyandotte County District Court decision may be the first redistricting case ever to make use of folk-song lyrics, the Buddha, and personal memories from the judge’s childhood. The state is promptly appealing.” The Kansas City Star’s Jonathan Shorman and Katie Bernard wrote, “The Supreme Court’s review is likely to occur on a highly accelerated timeline. While lawsuits can often last years, Kansas faces multiple looming election-related deadlines, including the June 1 candidate filing cutoff and the Aug. 2 primary election.”

Kansas was apportioned four U.S. House districts after the 2020 census, the same number it received after the 2010 census.

Status of congressional redistricting

Congressional redistricting has been completed for 396 of the 435 (91.0%) U.S. House districts.

  • 40 states have adopted congressional district maps.
  • Two states have not yet adopted congressional redistricting plans.
  • Maps in two states have been overturned by court action.
  • Six states were apportioned one U.S. House district, so no congressional redistricting is required.

Status of state legislative redistricting

Legislative redistricting has been completed for 1,803 of 1,973 state Senate seats (94.4%) and 5,214 of 5,413 state House seats (96.3%).

  • 45 states have adopted legislative district maps for both chambers.
  • One state has adopted a map for one legislative chamber.
  • Legislative boundaries in Kansas are awaiting state supreme court approval. 
  • A court in one state has overturned previously enacted maps, a court in one state has overturned a map for one chamber, and one state has not yet adopted legislative redistricting plans after the 2020 census.

Legislation update: Recently enacted legislation

Florida S0524

On April 25, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed S0524 into law, making a number of changes to Florida’s election laws, including:

  • Establishing the Office of Election Crimes and Security, as a division of the Department of State, “to aid the Secretary of State in completion of his or her existing duties related to investigation of election law violations or election irregularities.”
  • Requiring election supervisors to conduct registration list maintenance programs at least once per year (state law previously required such maintenance once in each odd-numbered year).
  • Barring the use of private donations for any election-related expenses, including the costs of litigation.
  • Barring the use of ranked-choice voting in any election.
  • Increasing the annual cap on fines assessed against third-party voter registration organizations that fail to deliver completed applications in a timely manner from $1,000 to $50,000.
  • Establishing a penalty against third-party voter registration organizations of $1,000 per application found to be altered by a person working on the organization’s behalf.  

On March 4, the Florida Senate approved the bill 24-14, with 23 Republicans and one Democrat voting in favor and 13 Democrats and one Republican in opposition. The Florida House of Representatives followed suit on March 9, approving the bill 76-41, with 76 Republicans voting in favor and 41 Democrats in opposition. 

  • Political context: Florida is a Republican trifecta, meaning that Republicans control the governorship and majorities in both chambers of the state legislature. 

Kentucky SB216

On April 13, the Kentucky General Assembly enacted SB216 over Gov. Andy Beshear’s (D) veto. This bill requires the attorney general to conduct “an independent inquiry for any potential irregularities that may have occurred in each election” in at least 12 counties. This bill prohibits the purchase of voting equipment that tabulates votes and connects to any network. This bill requires that voting equipment and ballot boxes remain under video surveillance for a period of 30 days following any election. The bill also makes changes to the state’s campaign-finance reporting requirements  

The House approved the bill by a vote of 83-10 on March 30 (71 Republicans and 12 Democrats voted in favor; 10 Democrats voted against). The Senate approved the bill on the same day by a vote of 35-1 (28 Republicans and eight Democrats voted in favor; one Democrat voted against). Beshear vetoed the bill on April 8, citing his opposition to the bill’s campaign finance provisions. The House overrode the veto by a vote of 71-18 on April 13 (71 Republicans voted in favor; 18 Democrats voted against). The Senate overrode the veto by a vote of 27-9 on the same day (27 Republicans voted in favor; eight Democrats and one Republican voted against).

  • Political context: Kentucky has a divided government. The governor is a Democrat. Republicans control both chambers of the state legislature. 

Maryland HB328/SB907

On April 21, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) signed companion bills HB328/SB907 into law. These bills allow polling places to be set up in buildings “used, owned, or occupied by an establishment” with a liquor license. These bills require the State Board of Elections to adopt regulations regarding the use of such buildings. They also require election officials “to prioritize the placement of polling places in a facility not owned by the holder of a [liquor license].” 

The Senate and House unanimously approved the final version of HB328 on April 8 and April 11, respectively. The Senate and House unanimously approved the final version of Sb907 on March 21 and April 4, respectively. 

  • Political context: Maryland has a divided government. The governor is a Republican. Democrats control majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly. 


The latest on redistricting and recently enacted legislation

Welcome to The Ballot Bulletin, where we track developments in election policy at the federal, state, and local levels. In this month’s issue:

  1. U.S. district court strikes down Florida voting rules, imposes preclearance requirement for certain voting rule changes
  2. Redistricting round-up: The latest redistricting news from Louisiana, Maryland, and New York
  3. Legislation update: Recently enacted legislation

Have a question/feedback/or just want to say hello? Respond to this email, or drop me a line directly at Jerrick@Ballotpedia.org.


U.S. district court strikes down Florida voting rules, imposes preclearance requirement for certain voting rule changes

On March 31, Judge Mark E .Walker, of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida, struck down three recent changes to Florida’s election laws: 

  • One regulating the availability and supervision of ballot drop boxes,
  • One imposing delivery requirements on third-party voter registration groups, and
  • One barring certain activities at or near polling places and drop boxes. 

Walker also ordered Florida to submit any future modifications to these policies for federal preclearance for a period of 10 years.  

Background

On May 6, 2021, Gov Ron DeSantis (R) signed SB90, making a series of modifications to Florida’s election laws: 

  • Vote-by-mail: 
    • Requiring that voters requesting mail-in ballots (in person, in writing, or by telephone) provide either their Florida identification card numbers or the last four digits of their Social Security numbers.
    • Reducing the duration of a mail-in ballot request form from two election cycles to one. 
  • Drop boxes: Requiring that a secure drop box at a location other than the office of the county supervisor be open only during early voting hours, under the in-person monitoring of an employee of the supervisor’s office.
  • Registration delivery: Requiring third-party voter registration organizations (3PVROs) to deliver applications to the Division of Elections or the Supervisor of Elections in the counties in which the applicants reside within 14 days of completing the applications (previously, 3PVROs could return completed applications to any Supervisor of Elections).
  • Solicitation: Barring anyone from “engaging in any activity with the intent to influence or effect of influencing a voter,” either inside a polling place or within 150 feet of a drop box or the entrance of a polling place (according to Walker, this prohibition can be construed to apply to “line warming” activities, such as giving out water, snacks, umbrellas, etc.). 

The Florida House of Representatives and the Florida Senate approved the final version of SB90 by votes of 77-40 and 23-17, respectively, on April 29, 2021. In the House, the vote split along party lines—all Republicans present voted in favor, and all Democrats present voted against. In the Senate, the vote also split largely along partisan lines, with one Republican (Sen. Jeff Brandes) joining the chamber’s 16 Democrats in opposing the bill. SB90 took effect immediately.

Several groups, including the League of Women Voters of Florida and the Florida State Conference of Branches and Youth Units of the NAACP, filed four separate lawsuits, alleging that these provisions were racially discriminatory, in violation of federal law. The suits were consolidated at trial.

How the court ruled

Walker, a Barack Obama (D) appointee, noted that claims of racial discrimination must be judged against the test the U.S. Supreme Court established in Arlington Heights v. Metropolitan Housing Development Corp. The test incorporates the following factors: 

  • The historical context.
  • “[T]he specific sequence of events leading up to” the challenged law’s passage, including “procedural and substantive departure” and “contemporary statements and actions of key legislators.” 
  • The impact of the challenged law, including the”foreseeability of the disparate impact, knowledge of that impact, and the availability of less discriminatory alternatives.” 

Walker concluded that Florida’s historical racial, political, and electoral contexts, as well as the specific sequence of events leading up to SB90’s passage, supported the plaintiff’s claims.

Walker then addressed the impact of SB90, dealing with each of the challenged provisions in turn: 

  • Vote-by-mail: Walker found that the racial impact of both the request and identification provisions was “unclear.” 
  • Drop boxes: Walker found that SB90’s drop-box provision “increases the time, transportation, and information costs of voting by drop box.” Walker concluded that these costs would “fall more heavily on Black voters.” 
  • Registration delivery: Walker held that, because 3PVROs “overwhelmingly serve minority communities,” the registration delivery provision “disproportionately harms Black and Latino voters.” 
  • Solicitation: Walker concluded that SB90’s solicitation provision “will have a disparate impact on minority voters because minority voters are disproportionately likely to wait in line to vote, and because the provision discourages third parties from helping those waiting to vote.” 

Walker turned next to the question of whether these impacts were foreseeable and within the actual knowledge of legislators. Walker concluded, “The evidence before this Court not only suggests that the Legislature had such knowledge, but also that it specifically sought it out.” With respect to the availability of less discriminatory alternatives, Walker found that “less discriminatory alternatives to each challenged provision not only were available but were presented to and rejected by the Legislature.” 

Having considered impacts, Walker framed the question of intent as follows: 

The main question … is whether the Legislature enacted SB90 purely to secure an electoral advantage for the Republican party without regard to whether it harmed minority voters, or whether SB90 was enacted, at least in part, to target minority voters in order to secure an electoral advantage for the Republican Party.

Walker concluded that the plaintiffs failed to show that the Legislature acted with discriminatory intent in adopting the vote-by-mail request and identification provisions. However, Walker found that the remaining challenged provisions “specifically target Black voters,” in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. Walker permanently enjoined (i.e., barred) enforcement of these provisions. 

Finally, Walker turned to the question of relief under Section 3(c) of the Voting Rights Act. Under Section 3(c), a court, upon finding that a political subdivision (e.g., a state or a municipality) has committed intentional racial discrimination in voting, can mandate that the subdivision preclear changes to voting regulations with either the court or the U.S. Attorney General “for such a period as [the court] may deem appropriate.” 

Walker concluded that relief under Section 3(c) was warranted in this case. Accordingly, Walker barred Florida officials from enacting any law or regulation governing 3PVROs, drop boxes, and line-warming activities without first clearing such changes with the court or the U.S. Attorney General for a period of 10 years. 

Reactions

Cecile Scoon, president of the League of Women Voters of Florida said, “Senate Bill 90 was clearly an anti-voter measure that raised barriers to voting for marginalized groups with specific impacts on elderly voters, voters with disabilities, students and communities of color. The League is gratified that once again the constitutional rights of all of Florida’s voters have superseded partisan politics and that the targeted attack on Black voters will be stopped.”

In an interview, DeSantis said Walker’s ruling was “the judicial equivalent of pounding the table” and said, “I think that that’s going to be reversed on appeal. The only question is how quickly it gets reversed on appeal, but it’s not going to be able to withstand appellate scrutiny.” 

In a statement, Florida House Speaker Chris Sprowls (R) called Walker’s ruling “an egregious abuse of his power,” adding: “The illogical leaps and unsupported inferences in Judge Walker’s opinion amount to a 288-page accusation of discriminatory intent based on limited analysis of data he thinks the Legislature might have had, the uncritical and complete acceptance of the comments of Democratic lawmakers, and a total disregard for other viewpooints.” 

Legal commentators discussed Walker’s ruling within the context of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling in Shelby County v. Holder, in which the court held that preclearance mechanism contained in Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act was unconstitutional. Joe Patrice, writing for Above the Law, said, “While [Shelby] didn’t necessarily bar the door on a court reinstating preclearance requirements, no one thought to test the scope of the Court’s animosity toward this provision until now.” Rick Hasen, writing for Election Law Blog, said, “This is a huge deal, and the district court’s analysis is probably right, but there is good reason to believe that this case could be reversed on appeal by the much more conservative 11th Circuit or the Supreme Court.” 


Redistricting round-up: The latest redistricting news from Louisiana, Maryland, and New York

In today’s round-up, we take a look at recent developments in Louisiana, Maryland, and New York.

Louisiana

On March 30, Louisiana enacted new congressional district boundaries, overriding Gov. John Bel Edwards’ (D) veto. The state Senate voted to override 27-11, along partisan lines. The state House of Representatives overrode the veto 72-32, with 68 Republicans, three independents, and one Democrat voting in favor and 32 Democrats voting against.

After the legislature’s override vote, House Speaker Clay Schexnayder (R) said the following in a statement: “Today, the overwhelming will of the Legislature was heard. House Bill 1 fulfills our constitutionally mandated duty to redistrict Congress. It also shows true legislative independence and a clear separation of power from the executive branch.” In remarks made after the override vote, Edwards said, “I can’t imagine there is a more compelling case for the courts to look at and to overturn than in Louisiana. It’s not even close. I happen to believe it’s a very clear case of violating the Voting Rights Act.”

Legislatures in four states—Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Maryland—have overridden gubernatorial vetoes of redistricting legislation. All four states have divided governments, in which one party holds the governor’s office and the other controls both chambers of the state legislature. 

Maryland

On April 4, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) signed into law legislation establishing new congressional district boundaries. Hogan signed the new map after state Attorney General Brian Frosh dropped his appeal of Circuit Court Judge Lynne Battaglia’s ruling overturning the state’s previous congressional redistricting plan. 

On March 29, the state Senate approved the revised congressional district plan 30-13, with all Democrats voting in favor and all Republicans voting against. The House of Delegates approved the revised map on March 30 by a vote of 94-41, with all Democrats voting in favor and 40 Republicans and one Democrat voting against.

After Hogan signed the maps, Bloomberg Government’s Greg Giroux wrote, “The new map will continue to favor Democrats in seven of eight districts while restoring a strongly Republican district for Rep. Andy Harris (R). … The new map replaces a more aggressive Democratic proposal that the legislature enacted in December over Hogan’s veto. That map created seven safe Democratic districts and converted Harris’ eastern 1st District into a swing district, raising the possibility Democrats could win all eight districts. Democrats won seven of eight districts in the past decade of House elections.”

New York

On April 4, New York Supreme Court Appellate Division Justice Stephen Lindley blocked a Steuben County judge’s ruling that overturned the state’s congressional and legislative district boundaries. Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) had signed those maps into law on Feb. 3. Lindley’s ruling maintains New York’s maps while the case moves forward. Lindley scheduled a hearing on the state’s appeal of the lower court ruling for April 7. 

Steuben County Judge Patrick McAllister struck down New York’s enacted boundaries on March 31 and directed the legislature to draft new maps by April 11. In his ruling, McAllister said, “Part of the problem is these maps were void ab initio for failure to follow the constitutional process of having bipartisan maps presented by the [Independent Redistricting Commission]. The second problem was the Congressional [plan] that was presented was determined to be gerrymandered.”

In 2014, voters approved the New York Redistricting Commission Amendment, which created a redistricting commission to draw legislative and congressional districts. The commission is required to hold 12 public hearings during the process of redistricting, and the legislature must reject two separate sets of redistricting plans before it can amend the commission’s proposals.

Status of congressional redistricting

Congressional redistricting has been completed for 365 of the 435 seats (83.9%) in the U.S. House of Representatives.

  • 39 states have adopted congressional district maps.
  • Four states have not yet adopted congressional redistricting plans.
  • New York’s maps were overturned by court action.
  • Six states were apportioned one U.S. House district, so no congressional redistricting is required.

Status of state legislative redistricting

Legislative redistricting has been completed for 1,709 of 1,972 state Senate seats (86.7%) and 4,504 of 5,411 state House seats (83.2%).

  • 42 states have adopted legislative district maps for both chambers.
  • One state has adopted a map for one legislative chamber.
  • Courts in two states have overturned previously enacted maps.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court has blocked previously enacted maps in one state.
  • Four states have not yet adopted legislative redistricting plans.

Legislation update: Recently enacted legislation

Arizona HB2492

Arizona HB2492 requires that voters submitting registration forms not produced by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission submit proof of citizenship along with their registration forms. In the case of registration forms produced by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, this bill requires election officials to “use all available resources to verify the citizenship status” of applicants. Should officials be unable to verify a voter’s citizenship status, that voter will be barred from voting in a presidential election or by mail in any election, pending submission of proof of citizenship. Should officials determine that a voter is not a citizen, officials will be required to forward the registration application to the county attorney and the attorney general for investigation. Officials who fail to comply with these requirements are guilty of a Class 6 felony. 

  • Legislative history and status: Introduced on Jan. 24, HB2492 cleared the Arizona House of Representatives by a vote of 31-25, with all Republicans voting in favor and all Democrats against. The Arizona Senate approved the bill 16-12, also along party lines. Gov. Doug Ducey (R) signed the bill into law on March 30. 
  • Political context: Arizona is a Republican trifecta, meaning that Republicans control the governorship and majorities in both chambers of the state legislature. 

Indiana HB1116

Indiana HB1116 requires that a voter submitting an electronic application for an absentee/mail-in ballot provide either an Indiana driver’s license number or the last four digits of the voter’s Social Security number. It also requires counties to provide a voter-verifiable paper audit trail for electronic voting systems by July 1, 2024, instead of Dec. 31, 2029. The bill authorizes the secretary of state to determine how many elections are subject to post-election audits (which, under earlier law, were called “risk-limiting audits”). 

  • Legislative history and status: The state House approved the bill’s original version by a vote of 66-28 on Jan. 31 (the vote split along party lines). The state Senate approved an amended version of the bill 35-10 on March 1 (35 Republicans voted in favor, nine Democrats and one Republican voted against). The House ultimately agreed to the Senate amendments by unanimous vote. Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) signed the bill into law on March 14.
  • Political context: Indiana is a Republican trifecta, meaning that Republicans control the governorship and majorities in both chambers of the state legislature.

Utah HB0067

Utah HB0067 requires county clerks to review their voter registries no later than 90 days before each primary and general election and remove the names of ineligible electors. It requires the lieutenant governor to cross-check the official voter registry to remove the names of deceased voters in accordance with the procedures outlined in Utah Code § 26-2-13. The bill also requires that the outside of mail-in ballot envelopes include instructions for returning mail-in ballots (in the event that the individual to which a ballot is sent no longer lives at that address). This bill takes partial effect on May 4, 2022, and full effect on Jan. 1, 2023. 

  • Legislative history and status: Introduced on Jan. 18, 2022, The House unanimously approved HB0067 on Feb. 10. The Senate unanimously approved the bill on Feb. 24. 
  • Political context: Utah is a Republican trifecta, meaning that Republicans control the governorship and majorities in both chambers of the state legislature. 



Ballot Bulletin: Ranked-choice voting barred from state and local elections in Tennessee

Welcome to The Ballot Bulletin, where we track developments in election policy at the federal, state, and local levels. In this month’s issue:

  1. Tenn. enacts law barring use of ranked-choice voting in state, local elections
  2. Wisc. Supreme Court allows circuit court’s ban on ballot drop-boxes to stand for April election
  3. Redistricting round-up: Courts in two states enact new maps

Tennessee enacts law barring use of ranked-choice voting in state, local elections

On Feb. 28, Gov. Bill Lee (R) signed SB1820 into law, barring county election officials from using ranked-choice voting in state and municipal elections. The bill took immediate effect.

The Tennessee Senate passed SB1820 by a vote of 26-4 on Feb. 14, with all 26 “yes” votes coming from Republicans and all “no” votes being cast by Democrats. The Tennessee House of Representatives approved the bill 74-19 on the same day, also along party lines.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Brian Kelsey (R), said ranked-choice voting is a “very confusing and complex process that ultimately, I think, leads to lack of confidence in the vote totals.” Senate Minority Leader Jeff Yarbro (D), who voted against the bill, said, “[Ranked-choice voting is] an innovation that might work, and it might not. But I don’t see why we would snuff that out in the crib.”

Ranked-choice voting in the U.S.

Ranked-choice voting (RCV) is an electoral system in which voters rank candidates by preference on their ballots. A candidate who wins a majority of first-preference votes is declared the winner. If no candidate wins a majority of first-preference votes, the candidate with the fewest first-preference votes is eliminated. A new tally is conducted in which first-preference votes cast for the failed candidate are eliminated and second-preference votes from those who supported the eliminated candidate are instead counted. The process is repeated until a candidate wins an outright majority.

Two states (Alaska and Maine) have implemented ranked-choice voting for federal and/or state-level elections. Jurisdictions in eight other states have implemented RCV at some level. Jurisdictions in six other states have adopted, but not yet used, RCV in local elections. 


Wisconsin Supreme Court allows circuit court’s ban on ballot drop-boxes to stand for April election

On Feb. 11, the Wisconsin Supreme Court issued a 4-3 ruling allowing a circuit court’s ban on absentee/mail-in ballot drop-boxes to remain in force for the April 5 election.

Background

On June 28, 2021, two Wisconsin voters filed suit in Waukesha County Circuit Court, challenging the legality of guidance by the Wisconsin Elections Commission that allowed for the use of absentee/mail-in ballot drop boxes. On Jan. 13, 2022, the circuit court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and invalidated the guidance. The Wisconsin Elections Commission appealed, and the intermediate appellate court blocked the circuit court’s order through the Feb. 15 primary election.  The plaintiffs petitioned the Wisconsin Supreme Court to allow the circuit court’s order to take effect. On Jan. 28, the high court issued an order declining to do so.

On Feb. 2, defendants asked the state supreme court to extend the appellate court’s stay through the April 5 election and resolution of the case on the merits.  The high court’s Feb. 11 order declined to do so, allowing the circuit’s ban to take effect. 

What the court said

The court majority – comprising Justices Annette Ziegler, Rebecca Bradley, Patience Drake Roggensack, and  Brian Hagedorn – said, “The record before us, including the timetable for making the necessary administrative changes as outlined by the court of appeals, indicates that the Commission can comply with the circuit court’s order so as to ameliorate concerns about voter confusion and election administration before the April 5, 2022, election commences. The need for additional relief in the form of an extended stay has not been established.” 

Justice Ann Walsh Bradley dissented: “Once again, a majority of this court makes it more difficult to vote. With apparent disregard for the confusion it is causing, the majority provides next to no notice to municipal clerks, changing procedures at the eleventh hour and applying different procedures from those that applied to the primary in the very same election cycle.” Justices Rebecca Frank Dallet and Jill J. Karofsky joined Bradley’s dissent. 

What comes next

A final decision on the merits has yet to be made, as the case must proceed through the appeals process.  


Redistricting round-up: Courts in two states enact new maps

In today’s round-up, we take a look at the following recent redistricting developments: 

  • North Carolina court enacts new congressional and state legislative maps
  • Pennsylvania Supreme Court enacts new congressional map


North Carolina court enacts new congressional and state legislative maps 

On Feb. 23, the Wake County Superior Court signed off on new maps for the state’s 170 legislative districts. These maps were approved by the Republican-controlled General Assembly. However, the court rejected a congressional map supported by the legislature and instead adopted a plan proposed by a panel of court-appointed special masters. This panel consisted of three former state judges: Tom Ross (D), Bob Edmunds (R), and Bob Orr (I). North Carolina was apportioned 14 congressional districts following the 2020 census, an increase of one over the 2010 census.

The General Assembly originally enacted maps on Nov. 4, 2021, but these maps were challenged in court. On Feb. 4, the state supreme court declared the maps unconstitutional in a 4-3 decision, leading to the redraw.

Legal challenges delayed the state’s candidate filing process for the 2022 elections. With the new maps enacted, candidate filing resumed on Feb. 24 and will end on March 4 for primaries scheduled for May 17.

For more information about redistricting in North Carolina, click here.

Pennsylvania Supreme Court enacts new congressional map 

On Feb. 23, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court enacted new congressional district boundaries. Pennsylvania was apportioned 17 congressional districts following the 2020 census, a decrease of one. The court chose from over a dozen submitted maps, including one proposed by the Republican-controlled state legislature. In a 4-3 ruling, the Democratic-controlled court ultimately selected the Carter map, submitted by a group of Pennsylvania citizens who were petitioners in a redistricting-related lawsuit.

The state supreme court took  over the redistricting process after Gov. Tom Wolf (D) vetoed the legislature’s approved congressional map on Jan. 26. Mapmaking authority initially passed to a lower court but, in a Feb. 2 order, the supreme court ruled that it would assume control over the process.

Pennsylvania’s primary elections are scheduled for May 17.

For more information about redistricting in Pennsylvania, click here.

Status of congressional redistricting

Thirty-six states have adopted congressional district maps, and one state has approved congressional district boundaries that have not yet taken effect. Federal or state courts have blocked previously adopted maps in one state, and six states have not yet adopted new congressional redistricting plans. Six states were apportioned one U.S. House district, making congressional redistricting unnecessary. Congressional redistricting has been completed for 361 of the 435 (83.0%) U.S. House districts.

Status of state legislative redistricting

Thirty-seven states have adopted legislative district maps for both chambers, and one state has adopted maps that have not yet gone into effect. The state supreme court in one state has overturned previously enacted maps, and 11 states have not yet adopted new legislative redistricting plans. Nationwide, legislative redistricting has been completed for 1,582 of 1,972 state Senate seats (80.2%) and 3,665 of 5,411 state House seats (67.7%).



U.S. Census Bureau releases block-level population data

Welcome to The Ballot Bulletin, where we track developments in election policy at the federal, state, and local level. In this month’s issue:

  1. Redistricting round-up: U.S. Census Bureau releases block-level population data (and other news)
  2. U.S. District Court temporarily suspends Georgia voting law barring photographs of voted ballots
  3. Legislation update

Have a question/feedback/or just want to say hello? Respond to this email, or drop me a line directly at Jerrick@Ballotpedia.org.


Redistricting round-up: U.S. Census Bureau releases block-level population data (and other news)

In today’s round-up, we take a look at the following recent developments: 

  • The U.S. Census Bureau released the block-level data that most states use in their redistricting processes. 
  • Alaska has adopted a timeline for state legislative redistricting.
  • The Texas Legislature has adopted a bill that would postpone the 2022 primary if redistricting is delayed. 
  • Virginia has adopted a timeline for congressional and state legislative redistricting. The state’s redistricting commission has also hired data consultants and technical advisers. 

U.S. Census Bureau releases block-level data from the 2020 census

On Aug. 12, the U.S. Census Bureau released block-level data from the 2020 census. The data include county-level demographic information on the ethnic, racial, and age makeup of neighborhoods across the country. Release of the block-level data has prompted some states to begin redrawing their congressional and state legislative district maps in earnest.

Here are some findings from the Bureau’s press release:

  • “The population of U.S. metro areas grew by 9% from 2010 to 2020, resulting in 86% of the population living in U.S. metro areas in 2020, compared to 85% in 2010.”
  • “The 2020 Census used the required two separate questions (one for Hispanic or Latino origin and one for race) to collect the races and ethnicities of the U.S. population. … Building upon our research over the past decade, we improved the two separate questions design and updated our data processing and coding procedures for the 2020 Census. These changes reveal that the U.S. population is much more multiracial and more diverse than what we measured in the past.”
  • “The 2020 Census showed that the adult (age 18 and older) population group grew 10.1% to 258.3 million people over the decade.”

The Bureau is expected to release a tabulated version of the dataset by Sept. 30. 

Alaska: Redistricting commission adopts timeline for state legislative redistricting 

On Aug. 23, Alaska’s redistricting commission adopted a schedule for state legislative redistricting. Under that schedule, Aug. 12 is treated as the starting point for the 90-day process. The commission must publish its proposal by Sept. 11. It must adopt a final plan by Nov. 10. 

About redistricting in Alaska: Because Alaska has only one congressional district, congressional redistricting is not necessary. A non-politician commission draws state legislative district lines. In place since 1998, Alaska’s redistricting commission has five members. The governor appoints two members, the House and Senate majority leaders appoint one member each, and the state supreme court’s chief justice appoints the final member. State law mandates that commissioners “be chosen without regard to party affiliation.” One commissioner must be selected from each of the state’s judicial districts.

The Alaska Constitution requires state legislative districts to be contiguous and compact. Every district must also contain a “relatively integrated socio-economic area.” Each state legislative district has one state senator and two state representatives.

For more information about the current redistricting cycle in Alaska, click here.

Texas: State legislature adopts bill providing for postponement of 2022 primary and filing deadlines

The Texas Legislature has adopted a bill (SB 13) that would provide for the postponement of the state’s 2022 primary election and associated candidate filing deadlines if new district maps are not in place by the March 1, 2022 primary date. 

  • If a redistricting plan is adopted on or before Nov. 15, 2021, the primary date and candidate filing deadline will remain unchanged. 
  • If a redistricting plan is adopted after Nov. 15, 2021, and on or before Dec. 28, 2021, the primary will be postponed to April 5, 2022. The candidate filing deadline will be Jan. 24, 2022. 
  • If a redistricting plan is adopted after Dec. 28, 2021, and on or before Feb. 7, 2022, the primary will be postponed to May 24, 2022. The candidate filing deadline will be March 7, 2022. 

On Aug. 27, the Texas House of Representatives voted 96-25 in favor of the final legislation. On Aug. 29, the Texas Senate followed suit, voting 30-1 in favor of the bill.

Gov. Greg Abbott (R) is expected to sign the bill into law. 

About redistricting in Texas: In Texas, the state legislature draws both congressional and state legislative district maps. These maps are subject to gubernatorial veto. If the legislature is unable to approve a state legislative redistricting plan, a backup commission must draw the lines (the backup commission is not involved in congressional redistricting).

For more information about the current redistricting cycle in Texas, click here.

Virginia: Redistricting commission officially begins work on new district maps

On Aug. 16, Virginia’s redistricting commission voted to start the state’s redistricting process on Aug. 26. The commission hired an outside consultant to reformat the raw data that the U.S. Census Bureau released on Aug. 12 for use in the redistricting process. 

On Aug. 23, the commission voted 12-4 to draft entirely new maps rather than use the existing maps as a guide. The commission also hired two analysts “to help with the technical aspects” of drafting new maps. Republicans on the commission selected John Morgan, who worked with Republicans in the General Assembly during the 2010 redistricting cycle. Meanwhile, Democrats tapped Ken Strasma, CEO of HaystaqDNA, an analytics firm that describes itself as the developer of “the predictive analytics that helped the [Barack] Obama campaign make history in 2008.”

About redistricting in Virginia: On Nov. 3, 2020, Virginia voters approved a constitutional amendment establishing a commission-driven congressional and state legislative redistricting process. The 16-member commission has eight legislators and eight non-legislator members. Leaders of the General Assembly’s two largest political parties select legislators to serve on the commission. General Assembly leaders recommend the eight citizen members. A panel of five retired circuit court judges selects the citizen members from those recommendations. The commissioners themselves select one of the eight citizens to chair the commission. District maps are subject to the following consensus requirements:

  • Congressional maps: Approval by 12 commissioners, including six legislators and six non-legislators.
  • Virginia Senate: Approval by 12 commissioners, including six legislators (with three state senators) and six non-legislators.
  • Virginia House of Delegates: Approval by 12 commissioners, including six legislators (with three state delegates) and six non-legislators.

The commission submits its maps to the General Assembly, which can vote to approve the maps or reject them. The General Assembly cannot amend the maps. If the General Assembly rejects a map, the commission must draft a second map. If the General Assembly rejects that map, the Virginia Supreme Court is tasked with enacting a new map.

For more information about the current redistricting cycle in Virginia, click here.


U.S. District Court temporarily suspends Georgia voting law barring photographs of voted ballots

On Aug. 20, Judge Jean-Paul Boulee, of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, issued a preliminary injunction against a Georgia law prohibiting photographs of voted ballots. The preliminary injunction bars enforcement of the disputed provision, pending resolution of the case. Boulee, a Donald Trump (R) appointee, wrote: “[The photography rule’s] broad sweep prohibits any photography or recording of any voted ballot in public and nonpublic forums alike. … Even if the Court accepts State Defendants’ argument that [the rule] serves the compelling interests of preserving ballot secrecy and preventing fraud, they have neither argued that it is narrowly tailored to serve those interests nor rebutted Plaintiffs’ assertion that the rule is a blanket prohibition on recording any voted ballot under any circumstances.” In granting the injunction, Boulee said that the plaintiffs were “substantially likely to succeed on the merits of their First Amendment challenge” to the rule, and therefore granted the injunction. 

The photography rule was implemented as part of SB202, an election policy omnibus bill Gov. Brian Kemp (R) signed into law on March 25. SB202 enacted a series of changes to Georgia’s election administration procedures, including the following: 

  • Absentee/mail-in voting:
    • Absentee/mail-in ballots verified on the basis of driver’s license numbers instead of voter signatures (the last four digits of a Social Security number, and date of birth, permissible in lieu of a driver’s license number).
    • Ballot drop boxes made available only inside early voting locations during business hours.
    • Ballot application deadline fixed at 11 days before Election Day.
  • Early voting:
    • For general elections, counties are required to offer early voting on two Saturdays. Counties are authorized, but not required, to offer early voting on two Sundays.
    • For runoff elections, early voting period limited to a minimum of one week.
  • Other election administration matters:
    • State Election Board authorized to remove county election boards and replace them with interim election managers.
    • Counties required to certify election results within six days instead of 10.
    • Prohibited the use of “photographic or other electronic monitoring or recording devices … to photograph or record a voted ballot.”

The full text of the enacted bill can be accessed here. Boulee declined to grant the plaintiff’s motions for preliminary injunctions of several other parts of the law, including the modified deadline for submitting an absentee/mail-in ballot application.

Also in Georgia, federal appeals court rejects claim that requiring voters to pay postage for absentee/mail-in ballots amounts to a poll tax 

On Aug. 27, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit unanimously affirmed a lower court’s decision finding that a Georgia law requiring voters to pay postage for returning absentee/mail-in ballots is not an illegal poll tax. The plaintiffs alleged that requiring absentee/mail-in voters to pay the price of postage amounted to levying a poll tax, violating the Fourteenth and Twenty-Fourth Amendments. The defendants (state and local election officials) moved to dismiss. A U.S. District Court granted the motion, citing “[t]he fact that any registered voter may vote in Georgia on election day without purchasing a stamp, and without undertaking any ‘extra steps’ besides showing up at the voting precinct and complying with generally applicable election regulations.” The plaintiffs then appealed to the Eleventh Circuit.

The Eleventh Circuit panel—comprising Judges Elizabeth Branch (a Donald Trump (R) appointee), Britt Grant (another Trump appointee), and Edward Carnes (a George H.W. Bush (R) appointee)—unanimously affirmed the lower court’s ruling. Writing for the court, Branch, said, “While voting often involves incidental costs like transportation, parking, child care, taking time off work, and—for those who choose to vote absentee by mail—the cost of a postage stamp, those incidental costs do not mean that Georgia has imposed an unconstitutional poll tax or fee on its voters.”

Sean Young, legal director for the Georgia affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union (which was involved in the suit on behalf of the plaintiffs), said, “We are disappointed in the outcome. The ACLU of Georgia will continue to protect the sacred fundamental right to vote.” Regarding a possible appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, Young said, “All legal options remain on the table.” 


Legislation update: Redistricting, electoral systems, and primary systems bills 

Redistricting legislation: So far this year, we’ve tracked at least 197 redistricting-related bills up for consideration in state legislatures. 

Redistricting legislation in the United States, 2021 
Current as of Sept. 1, 2021

Electoral systems legislation: So far this year, we’ve tracked at least 145 bills dealing with electoral systems that are up for consideration in state legislatures. 

Electoral systems legislation in the United States, 2021 
Current as of Sept. 1, 2021

Primary systems legislation: So far this year, we’ve tracked at least 20 bills dealing with primary systems that are up for consideration in state legislatures. 

Primary systems legislation in the United States, 2021 
Current as of Sept. 1, 2021



State trial court upholds Alaska’s top-four primary and ranked-choice voting general election systems

Ballot Bulletin

Welcome to The Ballot Bulletin, where we track developments in election policy at the federal, state, and local level. In this month’s issue:

  1. State trial court upholds Alaska’s top-four primary and ranked-choice voting general election systems
  2. Redistricting round-up: Virginia House of Delegates candidate sues over 2021 elections using existing maps (and other news)
  3. Legislation update

Have a question/feedback/or just want to say hello? Respond to this email, or drop me a line directly at Jerrick@Ballotpedia.org.

State trial court upholds Alaska’s top-four primary and ranked-choice voting general election systems

On July 29, Alaska Superior Court Judge Gregory Miller upheld the constitutionality of Alaska’s electoral system, which pairs a top-four primary election with a ranked-choice voting general election for statewide offices, the legislature, and Congress.

How primaries and general elections work in Alaska

In the Nov. 3, 2020, election, Alaska voters approved Ballot Measure 2, instituting a top-four primary for state executive, state legislative, and congressional elections. In a top-four primary, all candidates for a given office run in a single primary election. The top four vote-getters advance to the general election, regardless of their partisan affiliations. Alaska’s top-four primary is similar to the top-two primaries conducted in California and Washington. 

In the general election, voters use ranked-choice voting. Voters rank candidates by preference on their ballots. If a candidate wins a majority (50% plus 1) of first-preference votes, he or she is declared the winner. If no candidate wins a majority of first-preference votes, the candidate with the fewest first-preference votes is eliminated. First-preference votes cast for the failed candidate are eliminated, elevating the second-preference choices indicated on those ballots. A new tally is conducted to determine whether any candidate has won a majority of the adjusted votes. The process is repeated until a candidate wins an outright majority.

Alaska is the first state to adopt a top-four primary system. It is the second state (after Maine) to adopt ranked-choice voting at the statewide level. Before Ballot Measure 2, political parties conducted separate primaries, with the winners moving on to the general election. In the general election, the candidate with the most votes would be declared the winner. 

The lawsuit and the court’s ruling

On Dec. 1, 2020, the Alaskan Independence Party, Scott Kohlhaas, Robert M. Bird, and Kenneth P. Jacobus filed suit over Ballot Measure 2. The plaintiffs alleged that Ballot Measure 2 “violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution because it denies plaintiffs their rights of free political association, political expression, free speech, free assembly, and to petition the government for redress of grievances.” 

The plaintiffs also said that Ballot Measure 2 violates Article I of the state constitution “because it withholds political power from the people, and denies plaintiffs the right to this political power, and to free speech, to assemble, to petition the government for redress of grievances, and to privacy.” The plaintiffs asked that the court declare the new systems unconstitutional and block their use in the 2022 election cycle. 

Miller denied the plaintiffs’ requests, dismissing the plaintiffs’ argument that Ballot Measure 2 infringes on political parties’ rights to free association: 

“[The] U.S. Supreme Court in Washington State Grange specifically held that states have the right to adopt various election methods, that ‘freedom to associate’ carries with it the equal right to not associate, and that political parties do not have the constitutional right to force states to run the parties’ nominating process.” 

Miller also rejected the plaintiffs’ argument that Ballot Measure 2 contradicts Article III, Section 3, of the state constitution, which says “the candidate receiving the greatest number of votes shall be governor.” Miller said, “Plaintiffs never quote the new law’s language and then compare it to the constitutional language, above. They simply make the argument in a vacuum.”

Miller wrote, “[This] court is finding that Plaintiffs have not met their burden of showing that any part of the new law is unconstitutional on its face.” 

Kohlhaas said an appeal was likely. “I’m sure we’ll go to the Alaska Supreme Court,” he said. 


Redistricting round-up: Virginia House of Delegates candidate sues over 2021 elections using existing maps (and other news)

Today’s redistricting round-up includes news from: 

  • Virginia, where a candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates has sued over using pre-existing district maps for this year’s elections; 
  • Michigan, where the state supreme court declined to extend redistricting deadlines; and
  • New Jersey, where GOP leaders of the state’s redistricting commissions are seeking guidance on how incarcerated people should be counted for reapportionment and redistricting purposes; 

Virginia: House of Delegates candidate sues over 2021 elections using existing maps

On June 28, Paul Goldman, a potential candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates, sued Gov. Ralph Northam (D) and the Virginia State Board of Elections (among other state officials), asking a U.S. District Court to declare the Nov. 3, 2021, elections for the House of Delegates invalid, limit the terms of delegates elected in 2021 to one year, and order new elections to take place in 2022. Because members of the House of Delegates serve two-year terms, a court order to this effect would result in elections in three consecutive years: 2021, 2022, and 2023.

Virginia’s constitution requires that elections for the House of Delegates take place every two years on the Tuesday following the first Monday in November. Regularly scheduled elections occur in odd-numbered years. Because of the delayed release of U.S. Census data, redistricting authorities in Virginia did not draft new legislative district maps for this year’s elections. Consequently, existing maps will remain in force. Goldman says conducting the 2021 elections under the existing maps violates both the state and federal constitutions. Citing Cosner v. Dalton, a 1981 decision in which a federal court ordered that the terms of delegates elected in 1981 under invalid maps be limited to one year, Goldman is asking the court to limit the terms of delegates elected in 2021 to one year and schedule elections under new maps in 2022.

In his complaint, Goldman said, “According to Cosner, plaintiff’s protected core political rights should allow him to run for the House of Delegates in 2022, not being forced to wait until 2023 due to the failure of the appropriate state authorities to adhere to the requirements of the federal constitution.”

Del. Marcus Simon (D), who serves on the Virginia Redistricting Committee, said the Cosner precedent does not necessarily apply to this situation: “In the 1980s, we deprived people of their civil rights, we had racially improper districts. Given the circumstances for why we don’t have districts today, I don’t know that the same urgency would apply.”

For more information about the current redistricting cycle in Virginia, click here.

Michigan: State supreme court declines to extend redistricting deadlines

On July 9, 2021, the Supreme Court of Michigan rejected the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission’s request to extend the state’s redistricting deadlines. 

Under the Michigan Constitution, the commission must adopt new redistricting plans by Nov. 1. It is required to publish plans for public comment by Sept. 17. However, due to the delayed delivery of detailed redistricting data by the U.S. Census Bureau, the commission said it would “not be able to comply with the constitutionally imposed timeline.” Instead, the commission asked the court for an order directing the commission to propose plans within 72 days of receiving redistricting data and to approve plans within 45 days.

In its unsigned order, the court said it was “not persuaded that it should grant the requested relief.” In a concurring opinion, Justice Elizabeth Welch wrote, “The Court’s decision is not a reflection on the merits of the questions briefed or how this Court might resolve a future case raising similar issues. It is indicative only that a majority of this Court believes that the anticipatory relief sought is unwarranted.”

For more information about the current redistricting cycle in Michigan, click here.

New Jersey: Republicans request clarification from secretary of state about how to count prison inmates

On July 26, the New Jersey Globe reported that the Republican leaders of New Jersey’s redistricting commissions had asked Secretary of State Tahesha Way (D) for clarification on how prison inmates in the state should be counted in the reapportionment and redistricting processes. Under S758, passed in 2020, New Jersey must count incarcerated individuals at their last known residential address for the purposes of legislative redistricting, rather than the location of their incarceration at the time of the census. Additionally, A698, which awaits action from Gov. Phil Murphy (D), would expand that requirement to redistricting for municipal, county, school board, and congressional purposes.

Under S758 and A698, the secretary of state must submit an apportionment report based on numbers from the New Jersey Department of Corrections (DOC). Legislative Apportionment Commission Republican Chairman Al Barlas and Congressional Redistricting Commission GOP Chairman Doug Steinhardt said in their request to Way that the U.S. Census Bureau’s use of differential privacy in the 2020 census would produce data inconsistent with DOC data because “this statistical technique deliberately manipulates census data to assertedly protect the confidentiality of respondents by introducing ‘statistical noise; into both population totals and demographic characteristics.” “Barlas and Steinhardt asked whether there was a plan for “addressing the consequences of differential privacy with regard to New Jersey’s prison populations [and] … how will discrepancies between census and DOC data be rectified.”

For more information about the current redistricting cycle in New Jersey, click here.


Legislation update: Redistricting, electoral systems, and primary systems bills 

Redistricting legislation: So far this year, we’ve tracked at least 193 redistricting-related bills up for consideration in state legislatures. 

Redistricting legislation in the United States, 2021 
Current as of Aug. 4, 2021

Electoral systems legislation: So far this year, we’ve tracked at least 143 bills dealing with electoral systems that are up for consideration in state legislatures. 

Electoral systems legislation in the United States, 2021 
Current as of Aug. 4, 2021

Primary systems legislation: So far this year, we’ve tracked at least 20 bills dealing with primary systems that are up for consideration in state legislatures. 

Primary systems legislation in the United States, 2021 
Current as of Aug. 4, 2021



U.S. Supreme Court upholds Arizona voting policies

Ballot Bulletin

Welcome to The Ballot Bulletin, where we track developments in election policy at the federal, state, and local levels. In this month’s issue, we cover the following:

  1. U.S. Supreme Court upholds Arizona voting policies
  2. Redistricting round-up: Colorado redistricting commissions release preliminary congressional, state legislative maps (and other news)
  3. Legislation update

Have a question/feedback/or just want to say hello? Respond to this email, or drop me a line directly at Jerrick@Ballotpedia.org.

U.S. Supreme Court upholds Arizona voting policies

On July 1, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that two Arizona voting policies – one barring the counting of a ballot cast in person on Election Day outside a voter’s assigned precinct, and the other limiting who may return a voter’s absentee/mail-in ballot  – did not violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. The case name is Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee.

How we got here

The Democratic Party filed suit in U.S. District Court over the two policies in 2016. The suit alleged that both violated the First, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act “by adversely and disparately impacting the electoral opportunities of Hispanic, African American, and Native American Arizonans.” 

In October 2017, the U.S. District Court heard oral arguments on the merits, ultimately ruling in favor of the state and upholding the policies. On appeal, a divided three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the lower court’s ruling. In an en banc rehearing (i.e., a rehearing before all active judges on the court), the Ninth Circuit reversed the panel’s decision. A 7-4 majority ruled that the out-of-precinct policy violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. A 6-5 majority ruled that the ballot-collection law violated Section 2 and the Fifteenth Amendment. Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich (R), in his official capacity, and the Arizona Republican Party, appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The ruling

Justice Samuel Alito delivered the court’s opinion, which Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett joined. Alito wrote:

“After a trial, a District Court upheld these rules, as did a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. But an en banc court, by a divided vote, found them to be unlawful. It relied on the rules’ small disparate impacts on members of minority groups, as well as past discrimination dating back to the State’s territorial days. And it overturned the District Court’s finding that the Arizona Legislature did not adopt the ballot-collection restriction for a discriminatory purpose. We now hold that the en banc court misunderstood and misapplied §2 and that it exceeded its authority in rejecting the District Court’s factual finding on the issue of legislative intent.”

Justice Elena Kagan wrote a dissent, joined by Justices Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor. Kagan wrote: 

“Today, the Court undermines Section 2 and the right it provides. The majority fears that the statute Congress wrote is too ‘radical’—that it will invalidate too many state voting laws. See ante, at 21, 25. So the majority writes its own set of rules, limiting Section 2 from multiple directions. Wherever it can, the majority gives a cramped reading to broad language. And then it uses that reading to uphold two election laws from Arizona that discriminate against minority voters.”


Redistricting round-up: Colorado redistricting commissions release preliminary congressional, state legislative maps (and other news)

Today’s redistricting round-up includes news from: 

  • Colorado, where the state’s independent redistricting commissions have released preliminary congressional and state legislative maps; 
  • Alabama, where a federal circuit court has rejected the state’s attempt to force the early release of U.S. Census Bureau redistricting data; 
  • Louisiana, where state lawmakers have adopted a resolution laying out redistricting criteria; and 
  • Michigan, where the state supreme court is considering extending redistricting deadlines. 

Colorado: Colorado redistricting commissions release preliminary congressional, state legislative maps

On June 23, staff of the Colorado Independent Congressional Redistricting Commission released preliminary congressional district maps, making Colorado the first state in the current redistricting cycle to produce a draft congressional plan. As a result of reapportionment, Colorado is gaining one U.S. House district, increasing from seven representatives to eight. Colorado is one of six states that gained U.S. House districts from reapportionment.

On June 29, 2021, staff of the Colorado Independent Redistricting Commission released preliminary maps for the Colorado House of Representatives and the Colorado Senate.

The commission will now conduct at least three public hearings on the proposed maps in each of the state’s current congressional districts, all of which must also be broadcast online.

After public hearings are concluded, the commission can vote on the preliminary maps or ask commission staff to make revisions. Eight of the commission’s 12 members (including at least two unaffiliated members) must approve the maps. The Colorado Supreme Court must also sign off on the maps.

Alabama: Federal court rejects Alabama’s attempt to force early release of Census Bureau redistricting data 

On June 29, a three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama rejected Alabama’s attempt to force the U.S. Census Bureau to release redistricting data before Aug. 16, when the Bureau has said it will release the data to the states.

Federal law requires that the Bureau deliver redistricting data to the states by April 1 of the year following a census. However, due to delays in conducting the 2020 census and processing the data, the Bureau announced in early 2021 that it would miss this deadline. This prompted the state of Alabama to file suit on March 11. In his complaint, Alabama Solicitor General Edmund G. LaCour, Jr. said, “[t]he Bureau has no authority to grant itself this extension and deprive Alabama of information to which it is entitled.” He asked that the court block application of the differential privacy method and order the U.S. Census Bureau to deliver data to the states by March 31. A three-judge panel – including Judges Kevin Newsom, Emily Marks, and R. Austin Huffaker, all Donald Trump (R) appointees – heard the case.

The court unanimously rejected Alabama’s request: “The court cannot force the Bureau to do the impossible – that is, comply with an already-lapsed deadline. … Furthermore, the Bureau has made quite clear that it will be able to deliver the redistricting data to the State by August 16, 2021. Again, Plaintiffs have acknowledged that date suffices for them to be able to complete redistricting without injury. We see no prejudice to Plaintiffs in denying a writ of mandamus requiring the Bureau to issue the data any earlier.”

In his complaint, LaCour also alleged the U.S. Census Bureau “intends to use a statistical method called differential privacy to intentionally skew the population tabulations given to States to use for redistricting,” which would deny the state “accurate information about where Alabamians actually live.” The court also dismissed this challenge.

Louisiana: State lawmakers adopt resolution laying out criteria for redistricting plans 

On June 10, the Speaker of the Louisiana House of Representatives and the President of the Louisiana Senate signed HCR90, a concurrent resolution outlining the “minimally acceptable criteria for consideration of redistricting plans.” The resolution prohibits district-to-district population deviations exceeding 5% of the ideal district population for state legislative district plans. The resolution also requires that lawmakers use census data for redistricting purposes (not American Community Survey data, which some states have used or are considering using).

In Louisiana, Republicans control both chambers of the state legislature. Governor John Bel Edwards is a Democrat. The state legislature is responsible for both congressional and state legislative redistricting. District maps are subject to gubernatorial veto. In the event that the legislature is unable to approve state legislative district boundaries, the state supreme court must draw the lines. There is no such practice that applies to congressional districts.

Michigan: State supreme court considers extending redistricting deadlines 

On June 21, the Michigan Supreme Court heard oral arguments over the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission’s request to extend the state’s constitutional deadline for adopting new redistricting plans.

Under the Michigan Constitution, the commission must adopt new redistricting plans by Nov. 1. It must also publish plans for public comment by Sept. 17. However, because of the delayed delivery of detailed redistricting data by the U.S. Census Bureau, the commission says it will “not be able to comply with the constitutionally imposed timeline.” Instead, the commission is asking that the state supreme court issue an order directing it to propose plans within 72 days of the receipt of redistricting data and to approve plans within 45 days thereafter.

The state supreme court asked the Office of the Attorney General to assemble two separate teams to make arguments, one team supporting the commission’s request and another opposing. The court heard oral arguments on June 21. Deputy Solicitor General Ann Sherman, speaking in support of the proposed deadline extensions, said, “[t]he very maps themselves could be challenged if they are drawn after the November 1 deadline.” Assistant Attorney General Kyla Barranco, speaking in opposition, said, “[t]here isn’t harm in telling the commission at this point, ‘Try your best with the data that you might be able to use and come September 17, maybe we’ll have a different case.'”

The court did not indicate when it would issue a decision.


Legislation update: Redistricting, electoral systems, and primary systems bills 

Redistricting legislation: So far this year, we’ve tracked at least 186 redistricting-related bills up for consideration in state legislatures. 

Redistricting legislation in the United States, 2021 

Current as of July 6, 2021

Electoral systems legislation: So far this year, we’ve tracked at least 143 bills dealing with electoral systems that are up for consideration in state legislatures. 

Electoral systems legislation in the United States, 2021 

Current as of July 6, 2021

Primary systems legislation: So far this year, we’ve tracked at least 20 bills dealing with primary systems that are up for consideration in state legislatures. 

Primary systems legislation in the United States, 2021 

Current as of July 6, 2021



Redistricting round-up: Illinois lawmakers approve state leg., supreme court maps (and other news)

Ballot Bulletin

Redistricting round-up: Illinois lawmakers approve state leg., supreme court maps (and other news)

Last week, Illinois lawmakers approved revised maps for the Illinois state Senate, the Illinois House of Representatives, and the Illinois Supreme Court. The votes were as follows: 

  • State legislative redistricting plan (HB2777): 
    • House vote (May 28): 70-45
    • Senate vote (May 28): 40-18 
    • In both chambers, the vote split along party lines, with all Democrats voting ‘yea’ and all Republicans present voting ‘nay.’
  • Supreme court redistricting plan (SB0642): 
    • House vote: 71-45
    • Senate vote: 40-18
    • In both chambers, the vote split along partisan lines, with all Democrats voting ‘yea’ and all Republicans present voting ‘nay.’

In Illinois, the General Assembly is responsible for redistricting. Maps are subject to gubernatorial veto. Illinois is a Democratic trifecta, meaning that Democrats control the governorship and majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly. Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) has not indicated whether he intends to sign HB2777 and SB0642 into law. 

Click the links below to view interactive presentations of the maps: 

Earlier developments and reactions: Illinois lawmakers released proposed maps on May 21. Sen. Omar Aquino (D), chair of the Senate Redistricting Committee, said, “Redistricting is about making sure all voices are heard, and that’s exactly what this map accomplishes. This is a fair map that reflects the great diversity of our state and ensures every person receives equal representation in the General Assembly.”

Rep. Tim Butler (R) criticized the proposals: “Tonight’s drop of partisan maps is yet another attempt to mislead voters in an effort to block fair elections. We continue our call upon Governor Pritzker to live up to his pledge to the people of Illinois and veto a map that was drawn by politicians like what we see here today.”

Illinois lawmakers also released proposed maps for state supreme court districts, which were last redrawn in 1964. Illinois is divided into five supreme court districts. Cook County (home to Chicago) forms a single district, but it is allocated three seats on the seven-member court. Downstate Illinois is divided into four districts, each with one seat on the court. 

The state constitution allows state lawmakers to redraw supreme court districts at any time. However, according to The Chicago Tribune, “lawmakers have traditionally used boundaries for the circuit, appellate and Supreme Court laid out in a 1964 overhaul of the state’s court system.” 

Rep. Lisa Hernandez (D), chair of the House Redistricting Committee, said it was necessary to redraw the court’s district maps to ensure more equal populations between districts: “This map is about equal representation in the state’s most important court. As we strive for all to be equal before the law, we must ensure we all have an equal voice in choosing those who uphold it.” 

The state Republican Party opposed the redrawn the state supreme court map: “This is a brazen abuse of our judicial system and nothing more than political gamesmanship with what should be an independent court, free of corrupt influence.”

Ohio: State settles lawsuit with U.S. Census Bureau over delivery of redistricting data 

On May 25, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost (R) announced the state had reached a settlement agreement with the Census Bureau in its lawsuit over the Bureau’s plan to deliver redistricting data to the states by Sept. 30, instead of the April 1 statutory deadline. 

Under the settlement, the Census Bureau agreed to deliver redistricting data, in a legacy format, by August 16. The legacy format would present the data in raw form without the data tables and other access tools the Census Bureau will ultimately prepare for the states. The Census Bureau also agreed to deliver biweekly updates (and, in August, weekly updates) on its progress. 

Yost said: “This administration tried to drag its feet and bog this down in court, but Ohio always had the law on its side and now the federal government has finally agreed. It’s time to cough up the data.” 

The Census Bureau had previously indicated that states would get the data in a legacy format by mid-to-late August. In a March 15 statement, the Bureau said:

In declarations recently filed in the case of Ohio v. Raimondo, the U.S. Census Bureau made clear that we can provide a legacy format summary redistricting data file to all states by mid-to-late August 2021. Because we recognize that most states lack the capacity or resources to tabulate the data from these summary files on their own, we reaffirm our commitment to providing all states tabulated data in our user-friendly system by Sept. 30, 2021.

Wisconsin: State supreme court rejects proposed rule to give itself original jurisdiction over redistricting challenges 

On May 14, the Wisconsin Supreme Court denied a petition for a proposed rule that would have given the court original jurisdiction over redistricting lawsuits. When a court assumes original jurisdiction, it has the “power to hear and decide a matter before any other court can review the matter.”

On June 3, 2020, Scott Jensen and the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty filed the petition for the proposed rule. The plaintiffs cited the court’s 2002 opinion in Jensen v. Wisconsin Elections Board, saying the court had then “noted that redistricting was primarily a state and not a federal responsibility … but nevertheless deferred to the federal courts because of the perceived procedural problem of a lack of rules for such a case in [the state supreme court.” The petitioners asked the court to adopt the proposed rule “to cure the perceived procedural problems it noted in Jensen.”

In an unsigned order denying the petition, the court said, “The court determined that, as drafted, the procedures proposed in this administrative rule petition are unlikely to materially aid this court’s consideration of an as yet undefined future redistricting challenge, and voted to deny the petition.” The court added, “Our decision in this rule matter should not be deemed predictive of this court’s response to a petition for review asking this court to review a lower court’s ruling on a redistricting challenge or a request that we assume original jurisdiction over a future redistricting case or controversy.”


Texas Democrats stage walkout, blocking passage of election policy bill

On May 30, Democrats in the Texas House of Representatives staged a walkout in the final hours of the session, leaving the chamber without the quorum needed to vote on legislation. As a result, SB7 – a bill that would have made a number of changes to the state’s election laws – failed to pass by the midnight deadline. 

What did SB7 propose? The most recent version of SB7 would have made the following changes to the state’s election laws: 

  • Early voting: Provides that early voting cannot be conducted earlier than 6 a.m. or later than 9 p.m.
  • Absentee/mail-in voting: Establishes that the following do not constitute “sufficient cause to entitle a voter” to vote by mail: a lack of transportation; “a requirement to appear at the voter’s place of employment on election day,” or an “illness, injury, or disability that does not prevent the voter from appearing at the polling place on election day without a likelihood of needed personal assistance or of injuring the voter’s health.” Requires that absentee/mail-in voting applications be submitted in writing and signed “using ink on paper.” Prohibits electronic and photocopied signatures on absentee/mail-in ballot applications. Requires that the applicant submit either his or her driver’s license/personal identification number or the last four digits of his or her Social Security number.
  • Voter registration roll maintenance: Requires the secretary of state to “monitor each county’s list of registered voters to ensure that no county has a number of registered voters in the county equal to or greater than the number of people eligible to register to vote in the county.” If the secretary of state discovers such a discrepancy, local registrars must either refute that finding, in writing, or “develop a remediation plan to address failures to comply with voter roll maintenance provisions.” 
  • Polling places: Prohibits polling places from being located in “a tent or similar temporary movable structure or in a facility primarily designed for motor vehicles.” Prohibits universal drive-thru voting. 
  • Voting equipment: Effective Sept 1., 2026, establishes that “a voter system that consists of direct recording electronic voting machines may not be used in an election unless the system is an auditable voting system,” which is defined as a voting system that either uses a paper record or “produces a paper record by which a voter can verify that voter’s ballot will be counted accurate.” 
  • Vote tabulating equipment: Effective Jan 1, 2024, bars the use of tabulating equipment “if any wireless connectivity capability of the equipment has not been disabled or removed.” 
  • Video surveillance of sites with voted ballots: Requires that the custodians of election records in counties with populations of 100,000 or more “implement a video surveillance system that retains a record of all areas containing voted ballots from the time the voted ballots are delivered to the central counting station until the canvass of precinct election returns.” Requires that video be made available to the public via livestream. 
  • Poll watchers: Establishes that a poll watcher who is “entitled to ‘observe’ an election activity is entitled to sit or stand near enough to see and hear the activity.” 

What comes next? Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said reconsideration of SB7 would be added to the agenda of the upcoming special legislative session. It is not yet clear when the special session will be convened. 


Legislation update: Redistricting, electoral systems, and primary systems bills 

Redistricting legislation: So far this year, we’ve tracked at least 154 redistricting-related bills up for consideration in state legislatures. 

Redistricting legislation in the United States, 2021 
Current as of June 1, 2021

Electoral systems legislation: So far this year, we’ve tracked at least 143 bills dealing with electoral systems that are up for consideration in state legislatures. 

Electoral systems legislation in the United States, 2021 
Current as of June 1, 2021

Primary systems legislation: So far this year, we’ve tracked at least 19 bills dealing with primary systems that are up for consideration in state legislatures. 

Primary systems legislation in the United States, 2021 
Current as of June 1, 2021



U.S. Census Bureau releases congressional apportionment counts

Ballot Bulletin

Redistricting round-up: U.S. Census Bureau releases congressional apportionment counts, kicking off redistricting cycle

On April 26, the U.S. Census Bureau released congressional apportionment counts. Six states — Texas (two seats), Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina, and Oregon — gained seats. Seven states — California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia— each lost a seat.

Of the six states that gained congressional seats, three are Republican trifectas (Texas, Florida, and Montana), meaning Republicans control the governorship and majorities in both state legislative chambers in each. Two (Colorado and Oregon) are Democratic trifectas, and one (North Carolina) has a divided government.

Of the seven states that lost congressional seats, three (California, Illinois, and New York) are Democratic trifectas, two (Ohio and West Virginia) are Republican trifectas, and two (Michigan and Pennsylvania) have divided governments.

The release of apportionment counts marks the unofficial start of the 2021-2022 redistricting cycle. Throughout this year and next, policymakers (including state legislators, governors, and special redistricting commissions) will draft and implement new state legislative and congressional district maps, which will remain in force for the next 10 years.

Earlier: The Census Bureau was originally set to deliver apportionment counts by Dec. 31, 2020. However, on Nov. 19, 2020, Census Bureau Director Steve Dillingham announced that, “during post-collection processing, certain processing anomalies [had] been discovered.” Dillingham said that he had directed the bureau “to utilize all resources available to resolve this as expeditiously as possible,” suggesting a delay in delivering the apportionment counts.  On Jan. 27, 2021, Kathleen Styles, a Census Bureau official, announced that the final apportionment counts would be delivered by April 30.

The census and reapportionment: Every ten years, the nation conducts the census, a complete count of the U.S. population. The data gleaned from the census determines congressional apportionment. Apportionment is the process by which the 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives are allotted to the states on the basis of population, as required under Article I, Section 2, of the U.S. Constitution. A state can gain seats in the House if its population grows – or lose seats if its population decreases – relative to populations in other states.

The census and redistricting: Federal law requires that congressional and state legislative districts have equal populations (as nearly as practicable). To meet this requirement, redistricting authorities rely on detailed Census Bureau data. The Census Bureau was originally set to deliver redistricting data to the states by April 30. However, in light of the aforementioned processing issues and delays, the Census Bureau shifted the timeline. Upon announcing the 2020 apportionment counts, Acting Census Bureau Director Ron Jarmin said, “Our work doesn’t stop here. Now that the apportionment counts are delivered, we will begin the additional activities needed to create and deliver the redistricting data that were previously delayed due to COVID-19.” The Census Bureau expects to deliver the raw data to the states by Aug. 16. The “full redistricting data with toolkits for ease of us” will be delivered by Sept. 30.

Release of apportionment counts triggers lawsuits in Louisiana, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania 

On April 26, Democracy Docket filed three separate lawsuits on behalf of registered voters in three states, asking courts in Louisiana, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania to intervene and set up timelines for enacting court-drawn maps for the 2022 election cycle “in the near-certain event” that governors and legislatures in each state fail to do so. The substantive language used in the three suits is similar. All three allege that “there is no reasonable prospect that … political branches will reach consensus to enact” lawful district maps in a timely manner because the three states operate under divided governments (i.e., both the Democratic and Republican parties control at least one of the following: the governorship, the upper chamber of the state legislature, and the lower chamber). In the 2010-2011 redistricting cycle, Ballotpedia tracked redistricting lawsuits in 37 states. 

  • Case names and numbers

Oklahoma lawmakers unveil draft maps for state legislature 

On April 21, Oklahoma lawmakers released their proposed district maps for the state Senate and House of Representatives, making Oklahoma the first state in the 2021-2022 cycle to produce draft maps. In lieu of final 2020 census data, which has not yet been made available to the states, lawmakers used the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey data for 2015 through 2019 to draft their proposals. Click here to view an interactive presentation of the proposed maps.

New York Gov. Cuomo mulls legal challenge over loss of congressional seat 

On April 27, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) told reporters that he was considering the state’s “legal options” with respect to New York’s loss of one congressional seat to reapportionment. According to estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau, New York could have kept this seat if 89 additional residents had been counted in New York. Cuomo said, “Do I think it was accurate within 89? No. And we’re looking at legal options. Because when you’re talking about 89, that could be a minor mistake in counting.” According to Janna Johnson, an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota Humphrey School of Public Affairs, no state has ever succeeded in challenging apportionment counts in court.

Pennsylvania Supreme Court appoints chair of state legislative redistricting commission 

On May 3, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court announced the appointment of Mark Nordenberg as chair of the Pennsylvania Legislative Reapportionment Commission. Nordenberg, Chair of the University of Pittsburgh’s Institute of Politics, joins Sen. Majority Leader Kim Ward (R), Sen. Minority Leader Jay Costa (D), House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff (R), and House Minority Leader Joanna McClinton (D). The state supreme court appointed Nordenberg as chair after the four other members of the commission failed to agree on an appointment. The commission has the sole authority to draft and implement new state legislative district maps. 


Austin, Texas, voters approve ballot measure for municipal ranked-choice voting, if state allows

On May 1, voters in Austin, Texas, voted 57.95%-42.05% in favor of Proposition E, amending the city’s charter “to provide for the use of ranked choice voting in city elections, if such voting is permitted by state law.” 

What does “if such voting is permitted by state law” mean? According to the Austin Law Department, ranked-choice voting is not currently permitted under Texas state law. A spokesperson for the department said, “Ranked-choice voting would not be implemented in Austin until or unless the Texas Constitution was amended and/or until the state Legislature amended the Texas Election Code to allow it.”

State law currently makes no mention of ranked-choice voting. Prior to 1985, the Texas Election Code did allow for “preferential voting” (i.e., ranked-choice voting) as an alternative electoral system. This provision was eliminated in 1985 during a major recodification of the state’s election laws.  

In a 2001 letter to Austin City Attorney John Steiner, then-Secretary of State Henry Cuellar said:

It is [this office’s] opinion that the meaning of the word “majority,” as the Texas Legislature has used it in the [Election] Code and as it has been interpreted by the courts, is majority in the “classic” or “traditional” sense, i.e., a majority vote consists of more than half of the original votes, as cast and not re-assigned by the voter’s secondary or tertiary intent, and if no candidate receives more than half the votes, a runoff election is required. Barring a conflict with the Texas Constitution, the Texas Legislature would need to amend state law, or to repeal the statutory conflict, in order to restore the city’s discretion to adopt preferential voting. 

What happens next? It remains to be seen whether Texas lawmakers will adopt a law permitting cities and counties to use ranked-choice voting. There is no legislation to that effect currently before the Texas Legislature. 

About ranked-choice voting: In a ranked-choice voting system (RCV), voters rank candidates by preference on their ballots. If a candidate wins a majority of first-preference votes, he or she is declared the winner. If no candidate wins a majority of first-preference votes, the candidate with the fewest first-preference votes is eliminated. First-preference votes cast for the failed candidate are eliminated, lifting the second-preference choices indicated on those ballots. A new tally is conducted to determine whether any candidate has won a majority of the adjusted votes. The process is repeated until a candidate wins an outright majority.

Ranked-choice voting is currently used, largely at the municipal level, in the following states: California, Colorado, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, and Utah. Maine is the only state that has thus far implemented ranked-choice voting at the statewide level. Alaska will begin using ranked-choice voting for federal and state general elections starting in the 2022 election cycle. 


Legislation update: Redistricting, electoral systems, and primary systems bills 

Redistricting legislation: So far this year, we’ve tracked at least 144 redistricting-related bills up for consideration in state legislatures. 

Redistricting legislation in the United States, 2021 
Current as of May 5, 2021

Electoral systems legislation: So far this year, we’ve tracked at least 143 bills dealing with electoral systems that are up for consideration in state legislatures. 

Electoral systems legislation in the United States, 2021 
Current as of May 5, 2021

Primary systems legislation: So far this year, we’ve tracked at least 19 bills dealing with primary systems that are up for consideration in state legislatures. 

Primary systems legislation in the United States, 2021 
Current as of May 5, 2021



Census Bureau suggests data can be available to states, in legacy format, in August

Ballot Bulletin

Redistricting round-up: Census Bureau suggests data can be available to states, in legacy format, in August

On March 15, the U.S. Census Bureau announced that redistricting data could be made available to states in a legacy format by mid-to-late August 2021: “In declarations recently filed in the case of Ohio v. Raimondo, the U.S. Census Bureau made clear that we can provide a legacy format summary redistricting data file to all states by mid-to-late August 2021. Because we recognize that most states lack the capacity or resources to tabulate the data from these summary files on their own, we reaffirm our commitment to providing all states tabulated data in our user-friendly system by Sept. 30, 2021.” The legacy format would present the data in raw form, without the data tables and other access tools the Bureau will ultimately prepare for the states.

Earlier: On Feb. 12, the U.S. Census Bureau announced it would deliver redistricting data to the states by Sept. 30. This followed the Bureau’s announcement on Jan. 27 that it would deliver final apportionment counts by April 30. Under its original operational timeline, the Census Bureau was scheduled to deliver apportionment counts by Dec. 31, 2020, and redistricting data by March 31.

The census, reapportionment, and redistricting: The census is conducted every 10 years and kickstarts the entire redistricting process. Article I, Section 2, of the U.S. Constitution requires that congressional representatives be apportioned to the states on the basis of population. The U.S. House of Representatives has 435 members. Consequently, a state may gain representatives in the House if its population grows or lose representatives if its population decreases, relative to populations in other states. 

Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina, Oregon, and Texas are all expected to gain between one and three representatives each. Meanwhile, Alabama, California, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and West Virginia are expected to lose representatives. These estimates are subject to change. 

Federal law requires that congressional and state legislative districts have equal populations (as nearly as practicable). To meet this requirement, redistricting authorities rely on detailed Census Bureau data. 

Alabama: State sues over census statistical methods, data delay 

On March 11, the state of Alabama sued the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. Census Bureau in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama. Alabama Solicitor General Edmund G. LaCour, Jr. alleged the U.S. Census Bureau “intends to use a statistical method called differential privacy to intentionally skew the population tabulations given to States to use for redistricting.” This would prevent Alabama from having “accurate information about where Alabamians actually live.” LaCour also challenged the U.S. Census Bureau’s announced delay in delivering redistricting data to the states: “The Bureau has no authority to grant itself this extension and deprive Alabama of information to which it is entitled.” He asked that the court bar the use of the differential privacy method and direct the U.S. Census Bureau to deliver data to the states by March 31. On March 26, Judge R. Austin Huffaker, a Donald Trump (R) appointee,  ordered a three-judge panel to consider the case.

Ohio: U.S. district court dismisses suit over census data delay 

On March 25, Judge Thomas Rose, a George W. Bush (R) appointee, dismissed an Ohio lawsuit over the Census Bureau’s delay in delivering redistricting data to the states. Ohio Solicitor General Benjamin Flowers said, “The unavailability of decennial census data irreparably harms the State: the Ohio Constitution requires the State to use decennial census data during redistricting if the data is available, and allows the use of alternative data sources only as a second-best option. By blocking the State from conducting redistricting using decennial census data, the Census Bureau’s decision prevents the State from conducting redistricting in the constitutionally preferred manner.” Flowers sought “an injunction either prohibiting the defendants from delaying the release of Ohio’s redistricting data beyond March 31, 2021, or else requiring the defendants to provide the State with Ohio’s population data at the earliest date this Court deems equitable.” Rose denied the state’s request, writing, “The Court will therefore reject Ohio’s request for an order that pretends that the Census Bureau could provide census-based redistricting data by March 31, 2021. The Court cannot ‘order a party to jump higher, run faster, or lift more than she is physically capable.'” The state appealed Rose’s decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, where it is currently pending.

  • Case name and number: Ohio v. Coggins (U.S. District Court: 3:21-cv-00064; U.S. Court of Appeals: 0:21-cv-03294).

Oregon: State supreme court proposes condensed timeline for legislative redistricting 

On March 10, Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek (D) and Senate President Peter Courtney (D), on behalf of the Oregon Legislative Assembly, sued Secretary of State Shemia Fagan (D) in the Oregon Supreme Court, asking the court to extend the state’s constitutional deadlines on legislative redistricting. In their complaint, attorneys for the plaintiffs said, “[Unless] this Court (1) enjoins the Secretary of State from moving forward with apportionment and (2) extends the deadlines set forth in Article IV, section 6 (and allows reapportionment to occur in a special legislative session), reapportionment will either not be done at all or will be done using old Census data that will result in malapportioned legislative districts. Neither result is constitutionally palatable.” Under Article IV, Section 6, the legislature has until July 1 of the year following the census to adopt new legislative district maps. If the legislature fails to do so, the secretary of state has until Aug. 15 to adopt a legislative district plan. The plaintiffs asked the court to extend these deadlines to three months following the release of census data (expected by Sept. 30).

On March 19, the Oregon Supreme Court proposed the following timeline:

Drafting and responses:

  • Oct. 15, 2021: Deadline for state legislature to adopt its own plan.
  • Oct. 22, 2021: Deadline for the secretary of state to adopt a plan if the legislature fails to do so.
  • Nov. 19, 2021: Deadline for electors to object to new district plan.
  • Dec. 3, 2021: Deadline for the legislature, secretary of state, and others to respond.
  • Dec. 10, 2021: Deadline for the submission of reply briefs.

Judicial review and enactment:

  • Dec. 17, 2021: Deadline for the state supreme court to file its opinion approving of the redistricting plan.
  • Dec. 31, 2021: Deadline for the state supreme court to file opinion rejecting the redistricting plan.
  • Dec. 28, 2022: Deadline for the secretary of state to submit a revised plan.
  • Feb. 11, 2022: Deadline for the state supreme court to make final revisions to the redistricting plan.

Attorneys for state lawmakers said they support the court’s proposal: “Implementing this Court’s tentative amended deadlines is the least disruptive option, given the extraordinary Census data delay caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and is the only option that ensures that all of the parties responsible for reapportionment—including the Legislative Assembly—are able to exercise their constitutional role in the reapportionment process.” Fagan’s office opposed the proposal: “The Secretary supports initially using non-census data to draw maps that can subsequently be evaluated—and revised if necessary—in light of the census. The Secretary continues to believe that this approach will achieve the most timely and accurate solution to this difficult problem, without requiring this court to significantly rewrite the Oregon Constitution.”

  • Case name and number: Oregon ex rel. Kotek v. Fagan (S068364).

Federal courts in Georgia, Michigan strike down ballot access requirements for select candidates

On March 29, federal courts in Georgia and Michigan struck down ballot access requirements for select candidates. 

Georgia

On March 29, Judge Leigh Martin May, of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, struck down a Georgia law requiring minor-party and unaffiliated candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives to submit petitions signed by at least 5 percent of the district’s registered voters. May, a Barack Obama (D) appointee, ruled that this requirement “overburdens [voters’ and candidates’] rights to vote and to associate with their preferred political party, and so it violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments.”

In her order, May contrasted the 5% signature requirement for U.S. House candidates with the 1% requirement for statewide candidates, “The [Georgia] General Assembly has deemed a 1% petition signature requirement adequate to guard against ballot crowding and frivolous candidacies on a statewide basis. It is not immediately clear why candidates for non-statewide office must clear a proportionally higher hurdle, the 5% petition signature requirement. [The state] has not offered any explanation for this disparity.” 

May directed the plaintiffs (the Libertarian Party of Georgia) to submit a brief within three weeks on proposed remedies. The state will then have an opportunity to respond before May issues further guidance. 

Under the 5% signature requirement, originally enacted in 1943, no minor-party candidate for the U.S. House has qualified for the general election ballot. In 2020, minor-party or unaffiliated candidates would have needed between 19,777 and 26,539 signatures in order to qualify for the ballot (the number varied by congressional district). 

It is not clear whether the state will appeal the decision.

Michigan 

On March 29, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed a lower court decision striking down Michigan’s petition requirement for unaffiliated candidates for statewide office. Writing for the court, Karen Moore (a Bill Clinton (D) appointee) said, “[It] is our responsibility to ensure that Michigan’s provisions for qualifying independent candidates for statewide office fall within the bounds of what the First and Fourteenth Amendments require. Our careful review of the facts and circumstances leads us to conclude that the 30,000-signature requirement, geographic-distribution requirement, and filing deadline, when viewed in combination, unconstitutionally burden Plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights.” Judge Ronald Lee Gilman (also a Clinton appointee) joined Moore’s opinion. Judge Richard Griffin (a George W. Bush (R) appointee) dissented.

The district court had earlier reduced the petition signature requirement for unaffiliated statewide candidates to 12,000, an order the state appealed. The appellate court upheld the district court’s remedy, calling it a “workable interim provision.”

It is not clear whether the state intends to appeal the appellate panel’s decision.

  • Case name and number: Graveline v. Johnson (U:S District Court: 2:18-cv-12354; U.S. Court of Appeals: 0:20-cv-01337).

Legislation update: Redistricting, electoral systems, and primary systems bills 

Redistricting legislation: So far this year, we’ve tracked at least 120 redistricting-related bills up for consideration in state legislatures. 

Redistricting legislation in the United States, 2021 
Current as of April 7, 2021

Electoral systems legislation: So far this year, we’ve tracked at least 131 bills dealing with electoral systems that are up for consideration in state legislatures. 

Electoral systems legislation in the United States, 2021 
Current as of April 7, 2021

Primary systems legislation: So far this year, we’ve tracked at least 16 bills dealing with primary systems that are up for consideration in state legislatures. 

Primary systems legislation in the United States, 2021 
Current as of April 7, 2021