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Weekly Brew: February 3, 2023

Each week, we bring you a collection of the most viewed stories from The Daily Brew, condensed. Here are the top stories from the week of January 30- February 3.

How 2024’s presidential election timeline compares to 2020 and 2016

If history is any indication, the bulk of 2024 presidential candidate announcements will likely occur in the next few months. In the 2020 cycle, 87% (27) of the noteworthy candidates announced their campaigns by June 2019. And in the 2016 cycle, 77% (17) had by that time in 2015.

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An update on the partisan composition of state legislatures

At the end of January 2023, 54.85% of all state legislature seats in the United States are Republican while 44.45% of seats are Democratic. There are 7,386 state legislative seats in the country.

Democrats hold 854 state Senate seats, gaining six Senate seats since last month, while Republicans hold 1,108 state Senate seats, gaining three seats since last month. Independent or third-party legislators hold three state Senate seats. Eight state Senate seats are vacant. 

When it comes to state House seats, Democrats hold 2,429, a gain of 31 seats since last month, while Republicans hold 2,943 seats, a gain of 25 seats since last month. Independent or third-party legislators hold 20 state House seats. Twenty-one state House seats are vacant. 

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Three Pennsylvania House special elections on Feb. 7

Voters in three Pittsburgh-area districts will head to the polls on Feb. 7 to fill three vacancies in the narrowly-divided Pennsylvania House of Representatives.

Last November, Democrats won a 102 to 101 majority in the chamber, switching majority control for the first time since 2010.

But three Democratic districts became vacant after the election, giving Republicans a functional 101-99 majority when the legislative session began in early January.

Those three vacant districts are:

  • District 32: Former Allegheny Democratic Committee Director Joe McAndrew (D) and pastor and Army veteran Clay Walker (R) are running. Incumbent Anthony DeLuca (D) died on Oct. 9, 2022. DeLuca’s name remained on the ballot, and he was re-elected, creating a vacancy.
  • District 34: Attorney Abigail Salisbury (D) and former law enforcement officer Robert Pagane (R) are running. Incumbent Summer Lee (D) was re-elected but was also elected to the U.S. House. Lee resigned on Dec. 7, 2022.
  • District 35: McKeesport chief finance officer Matthew Gergely (D) and former school board member Don Nevills (R) are running. Incumbent Austin Davis (D) was re-elected but was also elected lieutenant governor. Davis resigned on Dec. 7, 2022.

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Weekly Brew: January 27, 2023

Each week, we bring you a collection of the most viewed stories from The Daily Brew, condensed. Here are the top stories from the week of January 23 – January 27.

At least 121 new state legislative leaders elected so far

So far in this year’s state legislative sessions, legislators have re-elected 57% of leaders (162) to their previous posts. In another 38% (108), they elected a different leader from the same party as the previous leader. The remaining 5% of posts (13) changed party control completely due to changes in chamber control.

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Mississippi’s statewide filing deadline is Feb. 1

In Mississippi, the filing deadline to appear on the ballot in the Aug. 8 statewide primaries is February 1.

The Magnolia State is one of four states—along with Louisiana, New Jersey, and Virginia—holding regularly-scheduled state legislative elections this year. It is also one of three states—along with Kentucky and Louisiana—holding statewide elections for executive positions this year

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Five measures certified in three states for the 2023 ballot  

As of Jan. 25, five statewide measures have been certified for the ballot in three states. That’s one more than the average number certified at this point in odd-numbered years from 2011 to 2021. 

Three new measures were certified last week:

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Republican U.S. House candidates outperformed 2020’s presidential results in 327 districts last year

Republicans in 327 congressional districts last year outperformed Donald Trump’s (R) 2020 vote totals in those same district boundaries.Democratic House candidates, meanwhile, outperformed Joe Biden in 68 districts (16%).

Florida’s 26th Congressional District saw the largest swing towards the same party. Incumbent Mario Diaz-Balart (R) improved on Trump’s margin of victory in the district by 23.5 percentage points.

Alaska’s at-large congressional district saw the largest swing in a district that changed party control. Incumbent Mary Peltola (D) won the state by 10 percentage points in 2022 after Trump won the state by 10.1 percentage points in 2020, resulting in a 20.1 percentage point swing towards Democrats.

In two districts, the margins of victory in the 2020 presidential election and 2022 midterms matched: Texas’ 9th and Texas’ 35th.

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Weekly Brew: January 20, 2022

Updates regarding redistricting litigation in five states

In the aftermath of the 2022 redistricting cycle, at least 82 lawsuits challenging congressional and state legislative maps across the country have been filed. According to the American Redistricting Project, 22 states have ongoing litigation regarding either their congressional or legislative redistricting (or both).

We looked at ongoing redistricting litigation in Thursday’s Brew. You can read that edition here.

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2024 presidential candidate filings currently at the third-highest level in forty years

Five hundred and thirty-one people have filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to run for president in 2024 as of Jan. 17. The list includes 77 Democratic candidates (14.5%), 145 Republican candidates (27.3%), and 309 nonpartisan or minor party candidates (58.2%). This is the third-highest number of candidates to file to run since the 1980 presidential election.

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Less than 10% of all bills introduced to change ballot initiative processes passed in 2022

In 2022, Ballotpedia tracked 232 bills that would change the citizen-initiated ballot measure processes, the most since 2014.

Twenty-three proposals (9.9% of them) were signed into law, the lowest percentage over that timespan.

Since 2014, lawmakers have introduced an average of 189 bills affecting ballot measure processes. Twenty-seven tend to pass, with an average passage rate of 14.2%.

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Listen to our interview with pollster and political analyst Scott Rasmussen for On the Ballot, our weekly podcast

On the Ballot, our weekly podcast, takes a closer look at the week’s top political stories.

In this week’s episode, Ballotpedia’s Editor-in-Chief Geoff Pallay interviews pollster Scott Rasmussen, the president of RMG Research and the author of the Number of the Day column for Ballotpedia.

Listen here

Subscribe to Hall Pass to stay up to date on school board politics and education policy

Hall Pass is a weekly newsletter that keeps you informed about the conversations driving school board politics and education policy. New editions reach your inbox Wednesday afternoons. Stories featured in this week’s edition included:

  • The debate over using school suspensions to discipline students
  • Orange County districts fire superintendents
  • Eight state executive candidates endorsed 106 school board candidates in Ballotpedia’s coverage scope in 2022

Click the link below to read the Jan. 18 edition and subscribe to the Hall Pass newsletter.

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87% of Americans live in a county that has voted for the same party in the past three presidential elections

Almost 9 in 10 Americans live in a county that has voted for the same party in the past three presidential elections. Ballotpedia describes these as either Solid Democratic or Solid Republican counties, depending on the party that voters there supported.

After the 2020 presidential election, 288 million Americans lived in either a Solid Democratic or Republican county, 87.2% of the 330 million covered in this analysis.

We identified three other types of counties, in addition to Solid Democratic or Republican ones.

  • Trending counties have voted for the same party in the two most recent presidential elections, after backing the other three cycles ago.
  • Battleground counties have flipped parties in each of the last three presidential elections.
  • New Democratic or Republican counties flipped parties in the most recent presidential election after two cycles backing the opposite party.

Most Americans live in a Solid Democratic county. There were 459 of these counties after the 2020 presidential election, home to 171 million people (52%). There were 2,368 Solid Republican counties, home to 118 million people (36%).

The next largest category by population was New Democratic counties, those that voted for Joe Biden (D) in 2020 after voting for Mitt Romney (R) in 2012 and Donald Trump (R) in 2016. There are 34 New Democratic counties, which include cities like Fort Worth and Phoenix, with an overall population of 14 million people.

After New Democratic counties are the 191 Trending Republican counties, which voted for Barack Obama (D) in 2012 before supporting Trump in 2016 and 2020. Over 12 million people live in these counties, many of which are clustered in the Upper Midwest and the Northeast.

The table below shows a further population breakdown of these counties. 

Two states—Hawaii and Massachusetts—are made up entirely of Solid Democratic counties. In Oklahoma, every county is Solid Republican.

Upcoming Article III Judicial Vacancies

According to the latest vacancy data from the U.S. Courts, there were 34 total announced upcoming vacancies for Article III judgeships. Article III judgeships refer to federal judges who serve on one of the 13 U.S. courts of appeal, 94 U.S. district courts, and on the Court of International Trade. These are lifetime appointments made by the president and confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

These positions are not yet vacant but will be at some point in the future with every judge having announced his or her intent to either leave the bench or assume senior status. In the meantime, these judges will continue to serve in their current positions.

The president and Senate do not need to wait for a position to become vacant before they can start the confirmation process for a successor. For example, the process has already begun for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, who was nominated to replace Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer when he vacates the seat at the beginning of the court’s summer recess. There are six nominees pending for upcoming vacancies.

Twenty-two vacancy effective dates have not been determined because the judge has not announced the date he or she will leave the bench. The next upcoming scheduled vacancy will take place on April 17, 2022, when U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California Judge John Mendez assumes senior status.

In addition to these 34 upcoming vacancies, there are 73 current Article III vacancies in the federal judiciary out of the 870 total Article III judgeships. 

President Biden has nominated 83 individuals to federal judgeships on Article III courts. Fifty-eight of those nominees have been confirmed. Of the 25 nominees going through the confirmation process, 11 are awaiting a vote in the U.S. Senate, six are awaiting a committee vote, and eight are awaiting a committee hearing.

The latest redistricting news from New Jersey, New Mexico, and Wisconsin

In this week’s Redistricting Review, we cover news out of New Jersey, New Mexico, and Wisconsin.

New Jersey: On July 20,New Jersey Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner asked Democrats and Republicans to reconvene and pick a consensus candidate for the 13th member of the state’s congressional redistricting commission.

According to state law, the majority and minority leaders of each chamber of the state legislature and the chair of the state’s two major political parties appoint the first 12 members of the congressional redistricting commission. The 12 commissioners then appoint the last commission member. If they cannot agree on an appointment, the commissioners must submit two names to the New Jersey Supreme Court and the court must then appoint the final commissioner.

Last week, when the commissioners could not reach a consensus by their July 15th deadline, they submitted former New Jersey Supreme Court Justice John E. Wallace, Jr., and former Superior Court Judge Marina Corodemus to the court. According to the New Jersey Globe, “This is the first time the two parties haven’t agreed on a 13th member for congressional redistricting. The Supreme Court option wasn’t involved in 1991, 2001 and 2011.”

Chief Justice Rabner gave the commissioners until July 30th to respond with a consensus candidate. If they do not, the New Jersey Supreme Court will pick a tiebreaker candidate by August 10th.

New Mexico: The New Mexico Redistricting Committee’s new website launched last week. The website includes information on how to participate in committee meetings and a portal for submitting public comments or maps. It can be accessed here.

Wisconsin: The Wisconsin Supreme Court temporarily halted a lower court ruling blocking Republican legislators from hiring private attorneys with taxpayer funds. On July 15, the court unanimously agreed to take up the case, and in a 4-3 decision ordered that Republican lawmakers be allowed to hire private attorneys pending their decision.

Additional reading:

Preview: Upcoming special congressional elections

Image of several stickers with the words "I voted"

Three special elections for the U.S. House will take place within the next month: a runoff election for Texas’ 6th Congressional District on July 27 and primaries in Ohio’s 11th and 15th congressional districts on Aug. 3.

Texas’ 6th

The July 27 runoff in Texas features Republicans Jake Ellzey and Susan Wright. The two advanced from a 23-candidate special general election on May 1, where Wright received 19% of the vote to Ellzey’s 14%.

The previous incumbent, Ronald Wright (R), died from complications related to COVID-19 on Feb. 7. Susan Wright is his widow. She served as district director for state Reps. Bill Zedler (R) and David Cook (R). Ellzey is a state representative, first elected in 2020. In 2018, he ran against Ronald Wright in the 6th Congressional District Republican primary, losing in the primary runoff with 48% to Wright’s 52%. 

The Club for Growth has spent more than $500,000 supporting Wright and opposing Ellzey in the special election. Former President Donald Trump endorsed Wright. Ellzey’s supporters include former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) and the Texas Farm Bureau AGFUND.

Ohio’s 11th

President Joe Biden (D) appointed former incumbent Marcia Fudge (D) secretary of housing and urban development, leaving this seat vacant. Inside Elections rates the Nov. 2 general election Solid Democratic. Of the 13 candidates in the Democratic primary, Shontel Brown and Nina Turner have led in fundraising, endorsements, and media attention.

Brown is a member of the Cuyahoga County Council and chairwoman of the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party. Hillary Clinton (D) endorsed her. Turner was a state senator and co-chaired Bernie Sanders’ (I) 2020 presidential primary campaign. Sanders endorsed Turner.

Ohio’s 15th

Former Rep. Steve Stivers (R) resigned in May to become CEO of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce. Inside Elections rates the Nov. 2 general election Solid Republican. Eleven candidates are running in the Aug. 3 special Republican primary.

Stivers endorsed Jeff LaRe, a state representative since 2019. LaRe also has a background in law enforcement. Trump endorsed Mike Carey, who served in the Army National Guard. Bob Peterson is a state senator and former president of the Ohio Farm Bureau. The Ohio Right to Life PAC endorsed him.

Seven special elections have been called during the 117th Congress so far. From the 113th Congress to the 116th Congress, 50 special elections were held. 

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

Virginia: On June 28, Paul Goldman, a candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates, filed suit against Gov. Ralph Northam (D) and the Virginia State Board of Elections (among other state officials), asking that a U.S. District Court 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.

The Constitution of Virginia 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 redistricting data, redistricting authorities in Virginia were unable to draft new legislative district maps for this year’s elections. Consequently, existing maps will remain in force. Goldman argues that 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 the terms of delegates elected in 1981 under invalid maps be limited to one year, Goldman is asking that the court 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.”

Utah: On June 30, the Utah State Legislature announced an anticipated timeline for congressional and state legislative redistricting. Under that timeline, the Legislative Redistricting Committee will hold public hearings in September and October and adopt final maps before Thanksgiving.

Wisconsin: On June 30, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R) and Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R) petitioned the Wisconsin Supreme Court to reverse a lower court’s ruling that barred them from hiring private attorneys in anticipation of challenges to the redistricting process. The court set a July 8 deadline for briefs from all parties involved in the matter.

On April 29, Dane County Circuit Judge Stephen Ehlke ruled against Vos and LeMahieu and in favor of the plaintiffs, four Madison, Wisc., residents who argued that state law prohibits legislative leaders from hiring attorneys from outside the Wisconsin Department of Justice before a lawsuit has been filed. Vos and LeMahieu appealed that decision to a state appellate court, which declined to stay Ehlke’s original order. This prompted the present appeal pending before the state supreme court.

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Colorado commission releases draft congressional district maps; Louisiana lawmakers adopt redistricting criteria; and Michigan Supreme Court considers deadline extension

The Colorado Independent Congressional Redistricting Commission released preliminary congressional district maps on June 23, making Colorado the first state in the current redistricting cycle to produce a draft congressional plan. The commission will now conduct at least three public hearings on the proposed maps in each of the state’s current congressional districts. This makes for a total of at least 21 public hearings, all of which must also be broadcast online.

After public hearings conclude, the commission can take a vote on the preliminary map or ask commission staff to make revisions. In order to enact a map, eight of the commission’s 12 members (including at least two unaffiliated members) must approve of it. The Colorado Supreme Court must also approve the map.

The Speaker of the Louisiana House of Representatives and the President of the Louisiana State Senate signed HCR90 on June 10, 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).

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

Under the Michigan Constitution, the commission is required to adopt new redistricting plans by November 1. It is also required to publish plans for public comment by September 17. However, in light of the delayed delivery of detailed redistricting data by the U.S. Census Bureau, the commission argues that 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 the commission 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 in support of the commission’s request and another opposed. The court heard oral arguments on June 21. Deputy Solicitor General Ann Sherman, speaking in support of the proposed deadline extensions, said, “The very maps themselves could be challenged if they are drawn after the November 1 deadline.” Assistant Attorney General Kyla Barranco, speaking in opposition, said, “There 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 in the matter.

Additional reading:

Redistricting review: Georgia, Maryland, and Michigan hold public redistricting hearings

Redistricting authorities in at least three states held hearings about their respective redistricting processes in the past week. Here’s a roundup.

Georgia: Last week, Georgia lawmakers announced a schedule for public redistricting hearings, the first of which took place virtually on June 15. Ten more public hearings are scheduled, with the next taking place in Atlanta on June 28 and the last taking place virtually on July 30. In Georgia, the state legislature is responsible for both state legislative and congressional redistricting. District plans are subject to gubernatorial veto. According to WABE, an NPR affiliate in Atlanta, a special legislative session on redistricting “is expected later this year.”

Maryland: On June 16, the Maryland Citizens Redistricting Commission held its second public hearing, which took place virtually. It is expected to hold at least six more public hearings between now and July 28. The Maryland Citizens Redistricting Commission, which was formed by Gov. Larry Hogan (R) via executive order, is expected to submit proposals for congressional and state legislative district plans to Hogan, who will in turn submit those proposals to the state legislature. The state legislature can accept the proposed state legislative district plan as submitted or adopt its own by joint resolution, which is not subject to gubernatorial veto. If the legislature fails to approve its own state legislative district plan, the governor’s proposal takes effect. Congressional district plans are adopted solely by the legislature and may be vetoed by the governor.

Michigan: The Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission conducted two public hearings, one on June 15 and one on June 17, both in Detroit. The commission is scheduled to conduct four more hearings between now and July 1. The commission was established in 2018 via constitutional amendment. This is the first cycle in which the commission will have responsibility for both congressional and state legislative redistricting.

Additional reading: