TagBallot Bulletin

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



U.S. Census Bureau postpones release of apportionment report, redistricting data

Ballot Bulletin by Ballotpedia

On Jan. 27, Kathleen Styles, a U.S. Census Bureau official, announced that the bureau would deliver its final apportionment report by April 30. Styles also said the bureau hoped to release redistricting data after July 31. 

The U.S. census is conducted every 10 years and kickstarts the entire redistricting process. Under its original operational timeline, the census bureau was scheduled to deliver apportionment counts by Dec. 31, 2020, and redistricting data by March 31.

On June 16, 2020, in light of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States, the census bureau proposed postponing these statutory deadlines. However, Congress did not act on this proposal. Subsequent litigation over a Trump administration executive order to exclude “aliens who are not in a lawful immigration status under the Immigration and Nationality Act” from the final apportionment counts resulted in further delays. 

The U.S. Census and congressional reapportionment 

Article I, Section 2, of the U.S. Constitution requires that congressional representatives be apportioned to the states on the basis of population. There are 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. Consequently, a state may gain seats in the House if its population grows or lose seats 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 seats each. Meanwhile, Alabama, California, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and West Virginia are expected to lose seats. These estimates are subject to change. 

Federal law requires that congressional and state legislative districts have equal populations (as nearly as practicable). In order to meet this requirement, redistricting authorities rely on the detailed data provided by the census bureau. 

What comes next? 

It remains to be seen how most states will respond to this postponement. The question is especially pressing for New Jersey and Virginia, both of which conduct state legislative elections this year. 

At least two states – California and New Jersey – have already provided for adjustments to their respective redistricting schedules.

  • California: On July 17, 2020, the California Supreme Court unanimously ordered that the state extend its constitutional and statutory deadlines for congressional and state legislative redistricting by at least four months. The court directed the California Citizens Redistricting Commission to release draft district plans by Nov. 1, 2021, and final district plans by Dec. 15, 2021. The original deadlines were July 1, 2021, and Aug. 15, 2021, respectively. The court provided for further extensions if the federal government does not transmit the necessary data by July 31, 2021. 
  • New Jersey: On Nov. 3, 2020, New Jersey voters approved Public Question 3, a constitutional amendment postponing state legislative redistricting until after the Nov. 2, 2021, election if the census bureau failed to deliver redistricting data by Feb. 15, 2021. As a result, the existing legislative district maps will remain in force until 2023. The amendment also provides for postponements in future redistricting cycles if the federal government fails to deliver census data by Feb. 15. 

New York City uses ranked-choice voting for the first time since 1945

On Feb. 2, New York City held a special election for City Council District 24 using ranked-choice voting. This is the city’s first use of ranked-choice voting under a 2019 charter amendment providing for its use in select municipal primary and special elections. 

New York City previously used ranked-choice voting in city council elections between 1937 and 1945. 

2019 charter amendment

On Nov. 5, 2019, New York City voters approved a charter amendment providing for the use of ranked-choice voting in municipal primary and special elections for the following offices:

  • Mayor
  • Public advocate
  • Comptroller
  • Borough president
  • City council

Voters approved the charter amendment 73.6% to 26.4%. Now, voters can rank up to five candidates for a given office in order of preference. A candidate who wins a majority of first-preference votes wins the election outright. 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, raising 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 repeats until a candidate wins an outright majority. 

What comes next? 

The city will conduct its June 22 primaries for mayor, city council, public advocate, and comptroller using ranked-choice voting. Additionally, the city has two special ranked-choice voting elections scheduled this year: City Council District 31 on Feb. 23 and City Council Districts 11 and 15 on March 23.

In other electoral systems news … 

On March 2, St. Louis, Missouri, will use approval voting in its primaries for mayor, comptroller, president of the Board of Aldermen, and the Board of Aldermen. 

Under its approval voting system, approved via a ballot initiative on Nov. 3, 2020, St. Louis voters can vote for one or more candidates in the primaries for the aforementioned offices. The top two vote-getters in each race will advance to the April 6 general election. 


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

Redistricting legislation: So far this year, we’ve tracked at least 60 redistricting-related bills up for consideration in state legislatures. 

Redistricting legislation in the United States, 2021 
Current as of Feb. 2, 2021

Electoral systems legislation: So far this year, we’ve tracked at least 83 bills dealing with electoral systems that are up for consideration in state legislatures. 

Electoral systems legislation in the United States, 2021 
Current as of Feb. 2, 2021

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

Primary systems legislation in the United States, 2021 
Current as of Feb. 2, 2021



New York state court upholds ranked-choice voting for Feb. municipal special election in NYC

Ballot Bulletin by Ballotpedia

New York: State court upholds ranked-choice voting for Feb. municipal special election in NYC

On Dec. 16, 2020, a state trial court declined to block the implementation of ranked-choice voting in the municipal special election scheduled for Feb. 2. 

What’s at issue 

On Nov. 5, 2019, New York City voters approved a charter amendment providing for the use of ranked-choice voting in municipal primary and special elections for the following offices:

  • Mayor
  • Public advocate
  • Comptroller
  • Borough president
  • City council

Voters approved the charter amendment 73.61% to 26.39%. Now, voters can rank up to five candidates for a given office in order of preference. A candidate who wins a majority of first-preference votes wins the election outright. 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, raising 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 repeats until a candidate wins an outright majority.

On Dec. 8, 2020, a group of plaintiffs, including several city council members, sued the New York City Board of Elections and the New York City Campaign Finance Board in the New York County Supreme Court, the trial court for Manhattan. The plaintiffs alleged the city’s “stated plan to use [ranked-choice voting] in violation of the City Charter’s requirements, if allowed to proceed, will deprive New York City’s limited-English proficient population of the right to vote for and elect candidates of their choice in violation of the Voting Rights Act.” The plaintiffs sought a temporary restraining order barring election officials from using ranked-choice voting, pending the development of a new rollout plan.

How the court ruled

On Dec. 16, Judge Carol Edmead rejected the plaintiffs’ request for a temporary restraining order. In her decision, Edmead first addressed questions over whether the court had jurisdiction to grant the plaintiffs’ requested remedy: 

As articulated by counsel for [the Defendants], CPLR § 6313(a) expressly provides that ‘[n]o temporary restraining order may be granted in an action…against a public officer, board or municipal corporation of the state to restrain the performance of statutory duties.’ Here, the Board of Elections is statutorily required by the New York City Charter §1057 (g) to use RCV with respect to ‘certain primary elections and elections for which nominations were made by independent nominating petitions,’ which would include the February 2, 2021 special election. As such, Defendants argue that this Court lacks jurisdiction to grant a stay. The Court notes that Plaintiffs do not concede that this Court lacks jurisdiction to grant an interim stay under CPLR § 6313(a) nor do they agree that this jurisdictional issue is not in dispute. However, as the issue of jurisdiction is yet unresolved, the Court is disinclined to grant an interim stay. 

Edmead also declined the plaintiffs’ request for an expedited hearing schedule: 

According to counsel for Defendants, the overseas ballots are scheduled to be dispersed in two days on December 18, 2020. The Court finds that it would be improvident to hold an expedited preliminary injunction hearing as it may delay the dispersing of the overseas ballots.

What comes next? 

On Dec. 17, 2020, the plaintiffs appealed Edmead’s decision to the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of the State of New York, First Judicial Department. The appellate court has not yet taken any action on the appeal. 

The case name and number are Adams v. New York City (appellate court: pending; trial court: 160662/2020). 


Calif.: Appeals court affirms lower court ruling requiring district-based city council elections in Santa Clara

On Dec. 30, the California Sixth District Court of Appeal upheld a lower court’s ruling that Santa Clara’s at-large electoral system for city council seats violated the California Voting Rights Act. 

What’s at issue 

Section 14027 of the California Voting Rights Act provides that “an at-large method of election may not be imposed or applied in a manner that impairs the ability of a protected class to elect candidates of its choice or its ability to influence the outcome of an election, as a result of the dilution or the abridgment of the rights of voters who are members of a protected class.” 

On Dec. 27, 2017, five Asian-American residents of Santa Clara sued the city in the Santa Clara County Superior Court, alleging that the at-large election system for city council seats violated Section 14027 of the California Voting Rights Act. Asian-Americans are a protected class under Section 14026 of that act. 

On June 16, 2018, Judge Thomas E. Kuhnle ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, finding the city liable for violating the act. The defendants appealed Kuhnle’s decision to the Sixth District Court of Appeal, arguing Kuhnle had “erred as a matter of law in concluding that racially polarized voting in five of 10 city council elections satisfied the standard for a cognizable voting rights claim, which requires a showing that the majority voting bloc in Santa Clara’s electorate ‘usually’ voted to defeat the candidate preferred by Asian-American voters.” 

In their appeal, the defendants cited the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1986 decision in Thornburg v. Gingles, which established the following criteria for proving vote dilution claims under the federal Voting Rights Act: 

  1. A minority group must demonstrate that it is large and compact enough to constitute a majority in a single-member district.
  2. A minority group must demonstrate that it is politically cohesive.
  3. A minority group must demonstrate that the majority group usually votes as a group to defeat the minority group’s preferred candidate.

The Sixth District heard oral argument in the case on Dec. 17, 2020. 

How the court ruled

A three-judge panel of the Sixth District unanimously affirmed the lower court’s decision. Judge Eugene Premo wrote the court’s opinion, which Judges Franklin Elia and Allison M. Danner joined. 

The City argues that apart from case law, simple logic contravenes the trial court’s application of the third Gingles factor. The City asserts that just as ‘[n]o one would say that a flipped coin “usually” lands on heads, because it is equally likely to land on tails,’ it cannot be said that Santa Clara’s city council elections are ‘usually’ characterized by racially polarized voting after the trial court found that to be true in only five of 10 elections. We find the City’s reasoning is sound in theory but flawed in practice. It ignores that whether a majority voting block is ‘usually’ able to defeat a cohesive minority group’s preferred candidate per Gingles third factor is not measured by mathematical formula but by the trial court’s searching assessment of statistical and other evidence presented. … It follows that the ‘usually’ threshold stated in the third Gingles factor does not as a matter of law preclude a determination of racially polarized voting when the factual findings point to an equal number of polarized and non-polarized elections over time.

Premo and Elia are Gov. George Deukmejian (R) appointees. Danner is a Gov. Jerry Brown (D) appointee. 

What comes next? 

Santa Clara City Attorney Brian Doyle said he was “obviously and understandably disappointed in the ruling.” He did not say whether the city would appeal the decision further.  

The case name and number are Yumori-Kaku et al. v. City of Santa Clara (appellate court: H046105; trial court: CV319862). 


Looking ahead: election policy legislation in 2021

With a new year underway, and state legislatures nationwide convening sessions over the next several weeks, let’s take a preliminary look at what kinds of election policy bills will be up for consideration this year.

Redistricting legislation: So far this year, we’ve tracked at least 16 redistricting-related bills up for consideration in state legislatures: four in New Jersey; three in New York; two each in Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Washington; and one in Indiana. 

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

Electoral systems legislation: So far this year, we’ve tracked at least 22 bills dealing with electoral systems that are up for consideration in state legislatures: eight in New Jersey; three each in New York, Missouri, and Virginia; and one each in Florida, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah. 

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

Primary systems legislation: So far this year, we’ve tracked at least two bills dealing with primary systems that are up for consideration in state legislatures: one each in New Jersey and Virginia. 

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



Ballot Bulletin: Thirty-seven states, D.C. certify their election results

Ballot Bulletin by Ballotpedia

As of Dec. 2, 37 states and the District of Columbia have certified their election results. What does this mean, and how does it relate to the finalization of the presidential election? We tackle those questions in this week’s edition. 

What it means for election results to be certified 

The election results states and localities report after polls close on Election Day are preliminary returns. These initial counts are not the official results of the election. First, election officials at the local and state levels must canvass the returns to verify that each ballot cast in the election has been correctly counted. When the canvass is completed, officials must certify, or make official, the results of the election. 

Canvassing and certification are interrelated processes, and the terms are sometimes used interchangeably. We are focusing on the certification process specifically. 

States that have certified their results

To date, 37 states and the District of Columbia have certified their election results. These states are shaded blue on the map below.

These states have a total of 316 Electoral College electors, 148 of whom are pledged to President-elect Joe Biden (D). The remainder (168) are pledged to President Donald Trump (R).

What comes next? 

The following states will certify their results in the next two weeks. Certification deadlines, where available, are provided (as are Electoral College votes and projected winners):  

  • California: Dec. 11 (55; Biden)
  • Connecticut: Dec. 3 (7; Biden)
  • Hawaii: Not specified (4; Biden)
  • Illinois: Dec. 4 (20; Biden)
  • Maryland: Dec. 8 (10; Biden)
  • Missouri: Dec. 8 (10; Trump)
  • New Jersey: Dec. 8 (14; Biden)
  • New York: Dec. 7 (29; Biden)
  • Oregon: Dec. 3 (7; Biden)
  • Tennessee: Not specified (11; Trump)
  • Texas: Dec. 3 (38; Trump)
  • Washington:Dec. 3 (12; Biden)
  • West Virginia: Dec. 3 (5; Trump)

Federal law requires states to appoint their slates of Electoral College electors and settle any disputes related to the presidential election by Dec. 8. This is referred to as the safe-harbor provision

The 538 members of the Electoral College will meet in their respective state capitals on Dec. 14 to cast their votes. On Jan. 6, 2021, the newly elected Congress convenes in a joint session to count the electoral votes. 

Members of Congress can object to the results. If both a House and Senate member make a written objection to a state’s results, Congress will debate and vote on the objection’s merit. Electoral votes can be excluded only if both chambers vote to accept the objection. If a ticket receives 270 electoral votes(a majority of the 538 members of the Electoral College)the vice president (acting as Senate president) formally declares that individual winner of the election. 

For more information about these key dates and deadlines, see this article


Litigation update: Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. v. Boockvar


On Nov. 27, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit unanimously declined to postpone certification of the state’s election results, rejecting the Trump campaign’s claims of widespread voting irregularities.

What’s at issue, and how the lower court ruled 

On Nov. 9, the Trump campaign sued Secretary of the Commonwealth Kathy Boockvar (D) and several county-level officials, alleging multiple violations of the state election code and the U.S. Constitution. In their complaint, attorneys for the campaign said:

Plaintiffs seek an emergency order prohibiting Defendants from certifying the results of the General Election. In the alternative, Plaintiffs seek an emergency order prohibiting Defendants from certifying any results from the General Election that included the tabulation of absentee and mail-in ballots which do not comply with the Election Code, including, without limitation, the tabulation of absentee and mail-in ballots Trump Campaign’s watchers were prevented from observing or based on the tabulation of invalidly cast absentee and mail-in ballots which (i) lack a secrecy envelope, or contain on that envelope any text, mark, or symbol which reveals the elector’s identity, political affiliation, or candidate preference, (ii) do not include on the outside envelope a completed declaration that is dated and signed by the elector, or (iii) are delivered in-person by third parties for non-disabled voters. Lastly and in addition to the alternative requests for relief, Plaintiffs seek a permanent injunction requiring the County Election Boards to invalidate ballots cast by voters who were notified and given an opportunity to cure their invalidly cast mail-in ballot.

U.S. District Court Judge Matthew Brann heard oral arguments on Nov. 17. On Nov. 21, Brann dismissed the lawsuit, finding that the Trump campaign had presented “strained legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations, unpled in the operative complaint and unsupported by evidence.”

On Nov. 22, the Trump campaign appealed Brann’s decision to the Third Circuit, asking that the court postpone the certification of election results pending further court proceedings. The Third Circuit set an expedited schedule for considering the appeal.

How the court ruled 

On Nov. 27, a three-judge panel of the Third Circuit unanimously denied the Trump campaign’s request. Judge Stephanos Bibas (a Trump appointee) wrote for the court:

The campaign’s claims have no merit. The number of ballots it specifically challenges is far smaller than the roughly 81,000-vote margin of victory. And it never claims fraud or that any votes were cast by illegal voters. Plus, tossing out millions of mail-in ballots would be drastic and unprecedented, disenfranchising a huge swath of the electorate and upsetting all down-ballot races too. That remedy would be grossly disproportionate to the procedural challenges raised. So we deny the motion for an injunction pending appeal.

Judges Brooks Smith and Michael Chagares, both George W. Bush (R) appointees,  joined Bibas’ opinion. 

What comes next? 
Attorneys for the Trump campaign said they intended to appeal the Third Circuit’s decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. A formal filing had not been made as of Dec. 2.



In wake of election, 25 lawsuits filed over election’s conduct



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Post-election lawsuits have been filed in five states
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Welcome to The Ballot Bulletin, where we track developments in election policy at the federal, state, and local levels. Each issue includes an in-depth feature—such as an interview or legislative analysis—and discussions of recent events relating to electoral and primary systems, redistricting, and voting provisions.

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In wake of election, 25 lawsuits filed over election’s conduct

In the week since Election Day, 25 lawsuits disputing some aspect of the election’s conduct have been filed. President Donald Trump’s (R) campaign organization has filed 15 of those lawsuits.

What are the issues? 

Post-election lawsuits can involve three broad issues:

  • Counting procedures: Lawsuits over counting procedures challenge some aspect of a jurisdiction’s procedures for processing, verifying, or counting ballots. These challenges most often apply to absentee/mail-in ballots, but they can also involve ballots cast in person. Thirteen post-election lawsuits – 54 percent of the total  – involve disputes over counting procedures. 
  • Ballot/voter challenges: Lawsuits can also challenge the validity of groups of ballots, or the eligibility of groups of voters. These challenges generally seek to invalidate or remove disputed ballots from the final count. Eleven post-election lawsuits – 46 percent of the total – are ballot/voter challenges. 
  • Recount disputes: If a formal recount is conducted, one of the parties involved in the process can file a lawsuit challenging its conduct. No lawsuits over recount procedures have been filed.

Where have lawsuits been filed?

Post-election lawsuits have been filed in five states: Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, and Pennsylvania.

  • Arizona: 2 lawsuits
  • Georgia: 1 lawsuit
  • Michigan: 5 lawsuits
  • Nevada: 3 lawsuits
  • Pennsylvania: 13 lawsuits

Trump campaign lawsuits 

Since Election Day, the Trump campaign has filed 15 lawsuits: one in Arizona, one in Georgia, two in Michigan, two in Nevada, and nine in Pennsylvania.

Arizona: 1 lawsuit

  • Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. v. Hobbs
    • Court: Maricopa County Superior Court
    • Issue: Whether ballots with facial irregularities (e.g., apparent overvotes, stray markings, etc.) cast in-person on Election Day were illegally disqualified without additional review.
    • Outcome: Pending

Georgia: 1 lawsuit

  • In re: enforcement of election laws and securing ballots cast or received after 7:00 P.M. on November 3, 2020
    • Court: Chatham County Superior Court
    • Issue: Whether absentee/mail-in ballots received after the statutory receipt deadline had been illegally accepted and mixed with ballots received before the deadline.
    • Outcome: On Nov. 5, Judge James F. Bass, Jr., dismissed the lawsuit: “[The] Court finds that there is no evidence that the ballots referenced in the petition were received after 7:00 p.m. on Election Day, thereby making those ballots invalid. Additionally, there is no evidence that the Chatham County Board of Elections or the Chatham County Board of Registrars has failed to comply with the law.”

Michigan: 2 lawsuits (1 original lawsuit and 1 appeal)

  • Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. v. Benson
    • Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (lower court: Michigan Court of Claims)
    • Issue: Whether an election challenger was illegally prevented from participating in the absentee/mail-in ballot review process.
    • Outcome: On Nov. 6, Judge Cynthia Stephens denied the campaign’s request to suspend the processing and counting of absentee/mail-in ballots, citing “problems with the factual and evidentiary record.” The campaign appealed Stephens’ decision to the Michigan Court of Appeals.

Nevada: 2 lawsuits (1 original lawsuit and 1 appeal)

  • Kraus v. Cegavske (Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. v. Gloria in the lower court)
    • Court: Nevada Supreme Court (lower court: Clark County District Court)
    • Issue: Whether Clark County election officials could use artificial intelligence to verify mail-in ballot signatures and make copies of ballots whose originals could not be machine-processed.
    • Outcome: On Nov. 3, the Nevada Supreme Court declined to block a lower court’s order allowing the Clark County registrar to use artificial intelligence to verify mail-in ballot signatures and make copies of ballots whose originals could not be machine-processed. The state supreme court found that the campaign had not demonstrated “a sufficient likelihood of success to merit a stay or injunction.” The court has not issued a ruling on the merits.

Pennsylvania: 9 lawsuits (6 original lawsuits and 3 appeals)

  • Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. v. Boockvar
    • Court: U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania
    • Issue: Whether some absentee and mail-in ballots were accepted and counted in violation of state law, and whether those ballots should be stricken from the count.
    • Outcome: Pending
  • Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. v. Boockvar
    • Court: Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court
    • Issue: Whether the secretary of the commonwealth illegally extended the deadline for mail-in voters to provide missing proof of identification after submitting their ballots.
    • Outcome: On Nov. 5, Judge Mary Hannah Leavitt ordered election officials to “segregate ballots for which identification is received and verified on Nov. 10, 11, and 12 from ballots for which identification is received and verified on or before Nov. 9.” Leavitt has not issued a ruling on the merits.
  • Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. v. Philadelphia County Board of Elections
    • Court: U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania
    • Issue: Whether the Philadelphia County Board of Elections violated state law and the U.S. Constitution and declined to allow watchers for the Trump campaign and the Republican Party to observe the mail-in ballot counting process.
    • Outcome: The parties to the lawsuit agreed to allow 60 observers each from the Democratic and Republican parties. On Nov. 5, the court dismissed the lawsuit as moot in light of this agreement.
  • In re: canvass of absentee and mail-in ballots of November 3, 2020, general election
    • Court: Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas
    • Issue: Whether Montgomery County election officials illegally counted approximately 600 absentee and mail-in ballots for which the outer envelope declaration had not been filled out.
    • Outcome: Pending
  • In re: canvassing observation; Appeal of: Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.
    • Court: Pennsylvania Supreme Court (on appeal from the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court; lower court: Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas)
    • Issue: Whether candidates and their representatives can observe aspects of the canvassing process from within 6 feet of election workers.
    • Outcome: On Nov. 5, Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court Judge Christine Fizzano Cannon ordered the Philadelphia Board of Elections to allow “all candidates, watchers, or candidate representatives … [to be] permitted to observe all aspects of the canvassing process within 6 feet, while adhering to all COVID-19 protocols, including wearing masks and maintaining social distancing.” Cannon overturned a Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas ruling, which had upheld a rule requiring observations to take place with at least 6 feet separating the observer from the election worker. Democrats appealed Cannon’s ruling to the state supreme court.
  • In re: pre-canvass of absentee and mail-in ballots of November 3, 2020, general election
    • Court: Bucks County Court of Common Pleas
    • Issue: Whether the Bucks County Board of Elections violated state law by allowing the disclosure of voter identification information for mail-in ballots voided during the pre-canvass meeting prior to the close of polls .
    • Outcome: Pending
  • Republican Party of Pennsylvania v. Boockvar
    • Court: U.S. Supreme Court
    • Issue: Whether a state supreme court order extending the mail-in ballot receipt deadline to Nov. 6, overriding the statutory receipt deadline of Nov. 3, was legal.
    • Outcome: Associate Justice Samuel Alito ordered county election officials to segregate and separately count mail-in ballots received between 8 p.m. on Nov. 3 and 5 p.m. on Nov. 6. He referred the matter to the full court, which has not issued a ruling on the merits.


Absentee/mail-in voting modifications in the general election

With the general election over, let’s take a look back at the modifications states made to their absentee/mail-in voting procedures in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

All told, 37 states modified their absentee/mail-in voting procedures for the general election. These modifications can be divided into the following five broad categories:

  • Automatic absentee/mail-in ballots: Five states (California, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, and Vermont) automatically sent absentee/mail-in ballots automatically to all eligible voters. These states are shaded in yellow in the map below.
  • Automatic mail-in ballot applications: Eleven states (Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, New Mexico, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and Wisconsin) automatically sent absentee/mail-in ballot applications automatically to all eligible voters. These states are shaded in dark blue in the map below.
  • Eligibility expansions: Twelve states (Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia) expanded absentee/mail-in voting eligibility. These states are shaded in light blue in the map below.
  • Deadline extensions: Five states (Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania) extended absentee/mail-in ballot application or submission deadlines. These states are shaded in dark gray in the map below.
  • Other process changes: Four states (Alaska, Ohio, Texas, and Virginia) made other modifications to their absentee/mail-in ballot procedures. These states are shaded in gray in the map below.


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