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Learn more about the arguments in the debate over school closures during the coronavirus pandemic

Discussions about policy responses to the coronavirus are happening at a fast pace. As part of our ongoing coverage Documenting America’s Path to Recovery, Ballotpedia has published a series of articles capturing the regular themes in support of and opposition to these policy responses.

Here’s how it works. First, we identify a topic area, (such as mask requirements or testing. Next, we gather and curate articles and commentary from public officials, think tanks, journalists, scientists, economists, and others. Finally, we organize that commentary into broad, thematic summaries of the arguments put forth.

We’ve identified the following arguments in favor of school closures:
  1. School closures are necessary to prevent the spread of the virus.
  2. Evidence from past pandemics supports the efficacy of school closures.
  3. Reopening Universities will increase COVID-19 spread
  4. Reopening schools puts people of color at higher risk.
  5. We should keep schools closed because COVID-19 outbreaks are inevitable.
We’ve identified the following arguments in opposition to school closures:
  1. School closures are ineffective in preventing the spread of the virus.
  2. School closures pose significant unintended consequences.
  3. School closures and reopening plans have disparate economic effects.
  4. School closures and distance learning exacerbate digital divide
  5. We need to reopen schools to protect the economy.
  6. School-aged children have reduced COVID-19 risk.
Additional reading

Upcoming filing deadlines for independent presidential candidates from August 24 to August 30

Although there is no formal, national deadline to file to run for president of the United States, independent presidential candidates must keep a close eye on the election calendar as each state has its own filing requirements and deadline to qualify to appear on the general election ballot.

These requirements may include submitting a petition with a certain number of signatures or paying a filing fee.

Filing deadlines for independent presidential candidates have already passed in 39 states.

In the week of August 24, there are four filing deadlines the following week:
• Idaho (August 24)
• Massachusetts (August 25)
• Oregon (August 25)

• Wyoming (August 25)

The final seven filing deadlines will pass in the week of August 31.

The following chart shows how many days are left until each remaining state’s filing deadline passes:



Longest-serving legislator in U.S. history announces retirement

Wisconsin State Senator Fred Risser (D) announced March 27 that he will not run for re-election this year for the first time in more than six decades. After 64 years as a member of the Wisconsin legislature, Risser is the longest-serving legislator at the state or national level in United States history. He is also the only remaining World War II veteran serving in a state or national legislature.

Born in 1927, Risser was first elected to the Wisconsin State Assembly in 1956. He has represented District 26 in the state Senate since his election to the chamber in 1962. Throughout his time in the senate, Risser served as Senate Minority Leader and spent 25 years total as Senate President. A statement released by his office stated that he has worked alongside 13 governors—seven Democratic and six Republican—and that he has never missed a legislative roll call. Risser will be 93 years old when he retires at the end of his current term on January 3, 2021.

State legislative filing deadlines have passed in 21 states this cycle. Five states—Alabama, Louisiana, Maryland, New Jersey, and Virginia—are not holding regular state legislative elections this year.

In the 2018 general elections, 1,181 state legislative incumbents did not seek re-election. Of those, 723 were Republicans and 427 were Democrats. With 6,073 seats up for election that year, that means 19.4% of the seats had no incumbent running for re-election. That’s up from 17.6% in 2016.

After Risser, the next longest-serving state legislator is Rep. Tom Craddick (R), who has represented District 82 in the Texas House of Representatives since 1969. Craddick advanced from Texas’ Republican primary and is running for re-election Nov. 3.

There are no other state senators currently serving who were first elected in the 1960s. There are six state senators still in office who were first elected in the 1970s. Of those senators, the longest-serving is Sen. Thomas Miller, Jr. (D), who represents District 27 in the Maryland State Senate. Miller assumed office in 1975, meaning he has served in the chamber for 45 years.

Additional reading:

Previewing the Democratic primary for Texas’ 28th Congressional District

The March 3 Democratic primary in Texas’ 28th Congressional District features incumbent Henry Cuellar, who describes himself as a moderate-centrist, against self-described progressive challenger Jessica Cisneros.

Cuellar was first elected in 2004 and has been endorsed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairwoman Cheri Bustos, and others. He has received satellite spending support from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and LIBRE Initiative Action. He has called Cisnernos an outsider backed by special interests who does not understand the desires of the district’s constituency.

Cisneros, a 26-year-old immigration lawyer, is backed by several members of the party’s progressive wing, including Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, and Reps. Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, and Pramila Jayapal. She says Cuellar has voted with President Donald Trump 70% of the time. Her campaign material has called Cuellar “Trump’s favorite Democrat.”

According to FEC reports ending on February 12, 2020, Cuellar has outraised Cisneros $1.8 million to $1.3 million. Cuellar has more than doubled Cisneros’ spending, $2.3 million to $1 million.

The winner of the primary will face Sandra Whitten (R) and Bekah Congdon (L) in the general election. The 28th District has a Partisan Voter Index score of D+9, meaning this district’s results were 9 percentage points more Democratic than the national average in the 2012 and 2016 presidential elections. All three major race rating outlets rate the race as solid Democratic.

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With three presidential nominating contests behind us, where does the Democratic race for delegates stand?

Bernie Sanders leads the Democratic delegate race with an estimated 45 pledged delegates. Pete Buttigieg is in second with an estimated 25 delegates, followed by Joe Biden with 15 delegates, Elizabeth Warren with eight, and Amy Klobuchar with seven. These estimated totals reflect projections as of February 25, 2020, following the Nevada caucuses.

To win the nomination, a candidate needs the support of at least 1,991 pledged delegates on the first ballot at the Democratic National Convention, scheduled for July 13-16 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

There will be 4,750 delegates in attendance: 3,979 pledged delegates and 771 automatic delegates (often referred to as super-delegates). Automatic delegates will not be permitted to vote on the first ballot.

If no candidate wins a majority of pledged delegates on the first ballot, a second vote will take place. At this point, automatic delegates will be able to vote. A candidate must then win a majority all delegates in order to win the nomination. Because some automatic delegates can cast only half-votes, which are not rounded up, the majority figure required for the second and any subsequent ballots is 2,375.5.

Pledged delegates are allocated proportionally based on the outcome of each state’s nominating contest. A candidate is typically only eligible to receive a share of the pledged delegates at stake if he or she wins at least 15% of votes cast in a primary or caucus. Party rules require that pledged delegates “shall in all good conscience reflect the sentiments of those who elected them.” Pledged delegates are selected in several ways: direct election in primaries or caucuses, local or district party conventions, and state party conventions.

Automatic delegates are not obligated to pledge their support to any candidate. Automatic delegates include Democratic members of Congress, governors, and other party leaders, including former presidents and vice-presidents.

In the three states that have conducted nominating contests so far, 101 total pledged delegates have been at stake, or 2.5% of all pledged delegates.

In the South Carolina primary on Feb. 29, 54 pledged delegates will be at stake, bringing the cumulative total to 155 (3.9%). On March 3, or Super Tuesday, 14 states and one territory will conduct nominating contests to allocate 1,344 pledged delegates. That will bring the cumulative total to 1,499 (37.7%). By month’s end, 2,603 delegates will have been allocated, 65.4% of the cumulative total.

Click here to learn more.

Additional reading:

Supreme Court to hear oral argument in 24 cases over the next three months

 The Daily Brew
Welcome to the Thursday, December 5, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Supreme Court to hear oral argument in 24 cases over the next three months
  2. Local Roundup
  3. Recall effort against state lawmaker rejected due to petition error

Supreme Court to hear oral argument in 24 cases over the next three months

The U.S. Supreme Court began its December sitting this week, hearing oral argument in six cases. The court will also hear arguments in six cases next Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Five facts for December 5. 

  • The Supreme Court will hear eight cases over five days in January, starting on Jan. 13. It announced last week that it will hear nine cases in its February sitting, which runs from Feb. 24 to March 4.
  • The Supreme Court began hearing cases for the current term Oct. 7. The court’s annual term begins on the first Monday in October and lasts until the first Monday in October the following year. The court generally releases the majority of its decisions by mid-June.
  • Thus far, the court has heard 25 cases in this term.
  • The Supreme Court has already agreed to hear 57 cases during its 2019-2020 term. In the 2018-2019 term, SCOTUS considered 75 cases. It heard oral argument in 72 and decided three cases without argument. In the 2017-2018 term, SCOTUS agreed to hear 71 cases.
  • Of the 57 cases that the Supreme Court has agreed to hear, eight are on appeal from the Ninth Circuit and eight are from state and district courts. The Ninth Circuit hears appeals of cases from the following states-Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. It also has appellate jurisdiction over the district courts for Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands. The Ninth Circuit is the largest appellate court, with 16 Democratic-appointed justices and 13 Republican-appointed justices.

Do you want to stay on top of all the happenings at the Supreme Court and the entire federal judiciary? We’ve got just the newsletter for you—Bold Justice—which covers Supreme Court cases, judicial confirmations and important rulings from other federal courts. I look forward to reading every issue. Subscribe today—it’s free—and you’ll receive the new edition in your email on Monday. 

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Local Roundup

Here’s our weekly roundup of local news:

Boise, Idaho

Lauren McLean defeated incumbent David Bieter in the runoff election for mayor of Boise on Tuesday—Dec. 3—receiving 65.5% of the vote. This was Boise’s first runoff election for mayor in over 50 years. McLean and Bieter were the top two finishers in the city’s general election Nov. 5, with McLean receiving 46% of the vote and Bieter 30% in a seven-candidate field.

Bieter was first elected mayor of Boise in 2003 and has served four terms. McLean has been a member of the Boise City Council since 2011 and is the first woman elected to be the city’s mayor. Although municipal elections in Boise are officially nonpartisan, McLean describes herself as a Democrat and Bieter is a former Democratic member of the Idaho House of Representatives.

Boise is the largest city in Idaho and the 97th-largest city in the U.S. by population.

Mayoral partisanship in the 100 largest cities

Thirty-one mayoral elections in the 100 largest cities were held in 2019, with one race—the Dec. 14 runoff for mayor of Houston—still to be decided. In 20 of those cities, the incumbent was Democratic at the start of 2019. Six incumbents were Republican, three were independent, one was unaffiliated, and the affiliation of one was unknown.

With the Houston race yet to be decided, the mayor’s partisan affiliation changed in four cities. Democrats have gained three mayorships, two from Republicans and one from an independent. Republicans won one seat held by an unaffiliated mayor.

  • Democrat Kate Gallego won a special runoff election in Phoenix on March 12. Thelda Williams (R) was the previous incumbent after former Mayor Greg Stanton (D) resigned to run for the U.S. House.
  • In Raleigh, North Carolina, Mary-Ann Baldwin (D) won the nonpartisan mayoral race. The pre-election incumbent was independent Nancy McFarlane, who did not seek re-election. 
  • Mike Coffman (R) won the Nov. 5 mayoral election in Aurora, Colorado. Incumbent Bob LeGare (unaffiliated) did not run in the 2019 election.
  • Democrat Brandon Whipple won Wichita, Kansas’ mayoral election on Nov. 5. He defeated Republican incumbent Jeff Longwell.

Scott LeMay (R) won the mayoral election in Garland, Texas, after running unopposed. He succeeded Lori Barnett Dodson, whose partisan affiliation was unknown.

The table below shows the partisan breakdown of mayors back to 2016. Democratic mayors oversaw 67 of the 100 largest cities at the beginning of 2016, 64 at the beginning of 2017, 63 at the start of 2018, and 61 at the start of 2019.

Mayoral partisanship

Recall effort against state lawmaker rejected due to petition error

Last month, we covered the story of a recall effort against Michigan State Rep. Larry Inman (R). Supporters of the recall submitted 13,991 signatures—1,790 more than what was required—on Nov. 22 in an effort to trigger a recall election. Here’s an update to that story.

The Michigan Bureau of Elections announced Nov. 29 that it rejected the recall effort due to a typo in the signature petitions. The original petition language—approved in July—described one of the charges against Inman’s as, “Attempted extortion under color of official right.” The signed petitions submitted last month omitted the word “right.” 

In a letter to recall organizers, Director of Elections Sally Williams wrote, “While the omission of one word may seem inconsequential and the rejection of a recall petition on such grounds as excessively technical and harsh, the recall statute does not authorize the bureau to excuse differences between the reasons for recall approved by the board and those printed on the recall petitions.” The image below from Williams’ letter shows both the original petition language and that which appeared on the signed petitions.

Petition error

Recall organizer Kaitlin Flynn told The Detroit News that supporters are “in shock and deeply disappointed” and that the recall group was evaluating all of its options. Flynn told UpNorthLive that the mistake was due to a printing error.

According to the petition language, supporters are trying to recall Inman due to his indictment on three felony counts and missing more than 80 votes during the 2019 legislative session. Federal prosecutors charged Inman in May 2019 with extortion, lying to the FBI, and lying to investigators about texts soliciting contributions. His trial on those charges began Tuesday—Dec. 3. On Aug. 29, the state House passed a resolution urging him to resign by a 98-8 vote. 

Ballotpedia has tracked 99 recall efforts of state legislators from 1913 to 2018, with 29 of those occurring in Michigan. Four such efforts made the ballot and three Michigan legislators were successfully recalled. The last Michigan legislator recalled was Rep. Paul Scott (R) in 2011.

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Ballotpedia’s Daily Brew: Special pre-debate edition of the Daily Presidential News Briefing

Catch up on the 2020 presidential race one week before the first debate, from Ballotpedia’s Daily Presidential News Briefing  
The Daily Brew

Welcome to the Wednesday, June 19, Brew. I’m replacing today’s Daily Brew with a special edition of Ballotpedia’s Daily Presidential News Briefing. We’ll resume our regular Daily Brew tomorrow morning! 

The nation will see 20 Democratic presidential candidates take the stage June 26 and 27 in Miami, Florida, for the first debates of the 2020 primary season.

Keeping track of a massive Democratic field, an incumbent president seeking re-election, and the issues both sides see as critical to their political success is tough.

We’ve got you covered — with our Daily Presidential News Briefing.
The Daily Briefing gives you the news you need, delivered right to your inbox. It’s the kind of coverage you expect from Ballotpedia — just the facts, none of the spin.
You can see for yourself in this sample issue how we are approaching the 2020 election season. 
We hope you will become a subscriber. To do so, just click below.

Subscribe now

Oh, and best of all? The Daily Presidential News Briefing is free.

So please — read, share, and don’t forget to subscribe. And if you have feedback on the newsletter, please drop us a line at editor@ballotpedia.org.

Now let’s dive in!

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Notable Quotes of the Day

“It is clear that the inherently dubious nature of [the debates] has been exacerbated by the party’s new rules. A real debate would provide a substantive back and forth between candidates on major issues; but despite the considerable build-up, that’s not what these nationally televised sessions deliver.”

—Elizabeth Drew, Daily Beast

“The field will winnow. And I don’t think that it’s worth it for the DNC to be involved in the winnowing. I don’t find it concerning or alarming to have 20 people running for president. I think it’s great.”

—U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Politico

Number of candidates

With 24 candidates running, the 2020 Democratic field has surpassed the number of Democratic and Republican candidates combined in 2016

Only 20 could make the debate stage—10 per night—next week. Here’s a breakdown of who made the cut and how they have been campaigning in recent weeks.

Wednesday, June 26 Democratic debate

  • Cory Booker issued his housing platform, which would include a tax credit for renters filling the gap between 30 percent of the renter’s income and fair-market rent in their neighborhood. He also called for the creation of a White House Office of Reproductive Freedom focused on “coordinating and affirmatively advancing abortion rights and access to reproductive health care” at the federal level.

  • Julián Castro was the first candidate to release an immigration platform. His plan would provide a pathway to citizenship for 11 million individuals residing in the U.S. without legal permission and repeal Section 1325, a law which makes it a federal crime to illegally cross the border. Castro said he believed his path to the White House ran through Texas and Nevada.

  • Bill de Blasio was the last candidate to enter the field. While de Blasio has a net favorability rating of negative 24 percent, the New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council endorsed him earlier this month and said it would send members to campaign for him in New Hampshire, Iowa, South Carolina, and Nevada.

  • John Delaney wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post calling Medicare for All “political suicide for Democrats.” He issued a $2 trillion infrastructure platform and $4 trillion climate action proposal that would introduce a carbon tax and attempt to reduce carbon emissions by 90 percent by 2050.

  • Tulsi Gabbard has highlighted her noninterventionist foreign policy and military experience as an Iraq War veteran. In May, Gabbard co-founded the bipartisan Servicewomen and Women Veterans Congressional Caucus and criticized Trump on his foreign policy in Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela.

  • Jay Inslee, who calls his presidential campaign a “climate movement,” proposed manufacturing zero-emission vehicles, eliminating the carbon footprint of all new buildings, shutting down coal-fired power plants, and requiring utility companies to become 100 percent carbon neutral by 2035. The DNC declined his request for a debate focused exclusively on climate change.

  • Amy Klobuchar opened her campaign headquarters in Minneapolis in May and issued a series of farm policy proposals, including changing rules that allow small refineries to be exempted from biofuel laws. She has also promoted her Secure Elections Act and Honest Ads Act designed to protect U.S. elections from foreign influence.

  • Beto O’Rourke has made policy statements on immigrationvoting access, and LGBT policy in the past month. After initially sidestepping national media, O’Rourke began doing more television appearances, including a town hall on CNN.

  • While campaigning in New Hampshire, Tim Ryan said he would “be the education president.” He advocated for social and emotional programs and more mental health counselors in public schools.

  • Elizabeth Warren said she would sign a moratorium on both offshore drilling and new mining on federal lands on her first day in office. Her next policy priorities: setting anti-corruption rules for elected officials and passing a two percent wealth tax on assets exceeding $50 million and three percent on those exceeding $1 billion.

Thursday, June 27 Democratic debate

  • Michael Bennet released a $1 trillion climate change platform focused on land management and agriculture. He challenged the direction of the party, saying, “I don’t think the base of the Democratic Party is anywhere near where the Twitter base of the Democratic Party is.”

  • Joe Biden entered the race in April as the frontrunner, raising $6.3 million in the first 24 hours of his campaign and topping national and early state polls before he had declared. He has been running what The Washington Post called a “limited exposure” campaign to focus on fundraising, policy development, and campaign infrastructure rather than public activities.

  • Pete Buttigieg received a polling boost after his CNN town hall appearance in March. He has since participated in town halls on Fox News and MSNBC. In his first list of policy priorities, Buttigieg said he wants to create a “Medicare for All Who Want It” as a precursor to Medicare for All, implement a Green New Deal, and establish independent redistricting commissions to end gerrymandering.

  • Kirsten Gillibrand released a “Family Bill of Rights” proposal that would address several medical, educational, and tax policies. Among the proposals is requiring insurance companies to cover fertility treatments like IVF and providing refundable tax credits for adoption. Gillibrand has spoken against anti-abortion laws in Georgia on the campaign trail.

  • Kamala Harris proposed addressing gender pay equity by fining corporations who fail to receive a newly created Equal Pay Certification from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Harris says her career as a prosecutor would be her greatest asset in a general election against Trump.

  • Self-described “pragmatic progressive” John Hickenlooper said Democrats need to distinguish themselves from socialists. “If we want to beat Donald Trump and achieve big progressive goals, socialism is not the answer,” he said. Hickenlooper supports a public option similar to Medicare and Medicare Advantage to move toward a single-payer system in one or two decades.

  • In a speech at George Washington University, Bernie Sanders laid out his vision for democratic socialism in the United States. Sanders said that “we must take up the unfinished business of the New Deal and carry it to completion.” He also attended Walmart’s shareholder meeting in Arkansas earlier this month and called on the company to raise its minimum wage to $15.

  • Eric Swalwell said addressing gun violence would be the top priority of his presidency. He has hit the television airwaves early with an ad promoting his proposed gun buyback program in Iowa, Nevada, and New Hampshire. “I say keep your hunting rifles, keep your pistols, keep your shotguns, but let’s ban and buy back every single assault weapon in America,” he says in the clip.

  • Marianne Williamson said the United States needs a “moral and spiritual awakening.” She has called for the creation of a Department of Childhood and Youthto address chronic trauma among children. In the spring, Williamson moved to Des Moines, Iowa. “It’s been about showing her commitment to the Iowa caucuses,” state director Brent Roske said.

  • Universal basic income is the foundation of Andrew Yang’s campaign. He has selected two families in Iowa and New Hampshire to receive $1,000 per month for a year to showcase his policy proposal.

Did not qualify for the first Democratic debates

  • Mike Gravel, whose campaign is being run by two teenagers, is running to push the field to the left by participating in the primary debates. The campaign said it had nearly 47,500 unique contributors—less than 20,000 away from the threshold to qualify for the July debates.

  • Seth Moulton has spoken about living with PTSD after serving four tours in the Iraq War and called for expanding health services for military members and veterans. Moulton said he will focus on campaigning in New Hampshire over the summer.

  • When announcing his candidacy May 14, Steve Bullock highlighted his 2016 gubernatorial win in Montana, a state which President Trump won by 20 percentage points in 2016.

  • The centerpiece of Wayne Messam’s presidential campaign is canceling $1.5 trillion in student debt. Messam has criticized FEC rules which do not allow him to use leftover campaign funds from his mayoral campaign and the DNC’s debate criteria.


  • Donald Trump and pro-Trump groups have spent more than $10 million on digital advertising in battleground states like Michigan, Florida, and Wisconsin. Trump kicked off his re-election campaign yesterday in Orlando, Florida. At the rally, he discussed the media, Russia, federal judges including Brett Kavanaugh, immigration, and border security, among other issues.

  • Bill Weld is targeting states with open primaries. “I’ll be focusing on the 20 states that permit crossover voting. It’s not just Vermont, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts, it’s 17 other states,“ Weld said. He is also opening a campaign office in New Hampshire by the end of June.

On the Cusp: Tracking Potential Candidates

  • Stacey Abrams has not ruled out running for president, saying the nominating process will “winnow out who is actually viable” and that she could enter in the fall. Abrams said, “I will enter this race if I think I can add value to it. I don’t have enough information at this moment to make that decision.”

  • Larry Hogan announced he will not challenge Trump in the Republican primary. Instead, he is launching the advocacy group An America United to “support bipartisan, common-sense solutions to create more and better jobs, cut taxes, protect the environment, build our infrastructure, and improve education.”

  • Howard Schultz announced he was putting his presidential exploration on hiatus for the summer to recover from three back surgeries.

Save the Date

The first presidential primaries are seven months away. Here are some key dates to keep in mind:

  • June 26-27, 2019: The first set of 12 Democratic primary debates are held in Miami, Florida. Tune into NBC News, MSNBC, or Telemundo to watch it live.

  • July 15, 2019: Second quarter financial reports are due to the FEC.

  • July 30-31, 2019: Detroit hosts the second set of Democratic primary debates.

  • Sept. 12-13, 2019: ABC News and Univision are partnering for the third Democratic primary debate.

  • Feb. 3, 2020: Iowa caucuses.

  • Feb. 11, 2020: New Hampshire primary.

  • Feb. 22, 2020: Nevada Democratic caucuses.

  • Feb. 29, 2020: South Carolina Democratic primary.

  • March 3, 2020: Super Tuesday primaries with California included for the first time.

Have more questions about the presidential race? We’ve got answers.

What We’re Reading

Flashback: June 19, 2015

Republican presidential contenders Chris Christie, Carly Fiorina, and Rick Santorum spoke at the Northeast Republican Leadership Conference in Philadelphia. Lindsey Graham was scheduled to attend but returned to his home state following the Charleston church shooting two days earlier.

The Daily Brew: One SCOTUS redistricting case decided, two to go

Today’s Brew highlights the Supreme Court’s ruling allowing Virginia’s redrawn state House maps to stand + a new way to learn about Texas’ 10 constitutional amendments in 2019  
The Daily Brew
Welcome to the Tuesday, June 18, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Supreme Court rules Virginia state House lacks standing to appeal gerrymandering ruling
  2. Our next Learning Journey—Texas’ 2019 ballot measures
  3. Ballotpedia’s Summer Camp starts July 1!

Supreme Court rules Virginia state House lacks standing to appeal gerrymandering ruling

The Supreme Court ruled yesterday that the Virginia House of Delegates lacked standing to appeal a lower court order that struck down the state’s legislative district plan as a racial gerrymander. As a result, the state House’s legislative maps which were drawn by a court-appointed special master will stand. Those maps were used in Virginia’s state legislative primary elections held last week.

In Virginia House of Delegates v. Bethune-Hill, the Court decided that the House of Delegates does not have the authority to represent Virginia’s interests in this matter. Justice Ginsburg wrote the majority opinion and was joined by Justices Thomas, Kagan, Sotomayor, and Gorsuch. She wrote, “the State did not designate the House to represent its interests here. Under Virginia law, authority and responsibility for representing the State’s interests in civil litigation rest exclusively with the State’s Attorney General.”

Justice Alito filed a dissenting opinion, joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Breyer and Kavanaugh. He wrote that the district court’s decision redrawing the legislative maps harmed the state House so as to give it standing to appeal the case. He wrote, “we must assume that the districting plan enacted by the legislature embodies the House’s judgment regarding the method of selecting members that best enables it to serve the people of the Commonwealth…It therefore follows that discarding that plan and substituting another inflicts injury in fact.”

The legislative maps that were drawn by a court-appointed special master and challenged by the House of Delegates first went into effect in January. They were the result of a sequence of lawsuits that began in 2014.

That year, opponents of Virginia’s legislative map filed suit in federal district court alleging that 12 state legislative districts constituted an illegal racial gerrymander. The district court rejected this argument, and the plaintiffs appealed the decision to the Supreme Court. In 2017, SCOTUS remanded the case in Bethune-Hill v. Virginia Board of Elections, finding that the district court had “employed an incorrect legal standard in determining that race did not predominate in 11 of the 12 districts.”

In 2018, the district court ruled that the 11 districts had been subject to racial gerrymandering. After the state legislature did not adopt a remedial plan, the district court appointed a special master to draft one.

Republicans hold a 51-49 majority in Virginia’s House of Delegates. Under the old maps, Hillary Clinton won 51 districts in 2016 and Donald Trump won 49. Under the new maps, Clinton would have won 56 districts (7 currently held by Republicans) while Trump would have won 44 (none currently held by Democrats).

The Supreme Court has yet to issue opinions in two other redistricting cases heard this term—Rucho v. Common Cause and Lamone v. Benisek. The cases concern whether the congressional district maps adopted in North Carolina and Maryland, respectively, constitute an illegal partisan gerrymander. Decisions in both cases are expected by the end of June.

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Upcoming Insights

Our next Learning Journey—Texas’ 2019 ballot measures

Voters in Texas will decide 10 measures on November 5 in a statewide constitutional amendment election. All were referred to the ballot by the Texas legislature and cover topics from education to taxes to law enforcement animals.

My colleagues on our ballot measures team developed a new Learning Journey to guide you through all 10 amendments, including how and why legislators put them on the ballot and what each amendment would do.

Each day, we’ll send you an email with information, examples, and exercises to help you understand this subject. Along the way, you’ll be able to contact us with any questions and comments you may have.

I’ve written about a few of these Texas constitutional amendments earlier this year in the Brew, and I can’t wait to learn about the rest. I hope you’ll join me!

Ballotpedia’s Summer Camp starts July 1!

Last week I introduced you to what we’ll be doing during Fourth of July week—Ballotpedia Summer Camp!

During that time, I’ll hand over the keys to the Brew to other Ballotpedia team members to share their perspectives on the most interesting stories of the year.

We also want to share ideas and stories from our amazing readers. How are you spending your summer? What political story has captured your attention the most so far in 2019? What topic do you think will be most significant in the second half of the year?

Just reply back to this email with an answer to any or all of those questions, and we might share it with other Daily Brew readers that week.

I can’t wait to hear from you!

Click here to send me an email→