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The Daily Brew: A look at upcoming redistricting deadlines by state

Ballotpedia's Daily Brew

Welcome to the Tuesday, April 13, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. State redistricting deadlines and (delayed) 2020 census results
  2. Federal judicial vacancy update
  3. 278 words on Thomas Jefferson’s 278th birthday

State redistricting deadlines and (delayed) 2020 census results

Ten years ago today, Arkansas enacted the first congressional redistricting map following the 2010 Census. 

Naturally, we thought we’d be writing a lot more about redistricting by this point in the year. Census delays have caused downstream adjustments to the timelines for each state. 

As we’ve discussed multiple times here in the Brew, population data from the decennial census is used to determine the number of congressional seats each state will have in the coming decade (which is known as apportionment). States also use this data for redistricting. The coronavirus pandemic delayed the collection and distribution of the data.

The Bureau plans to deliver congressional apportionment counts to states by April 30—delayed from the original Dec. 31, 2020, due date. The Bureau then plans to deliver the detailed datasets needed for redistricting to states by Sept. 30. The original date for states to receive this data was April 1. On March 15, the U.S. Census Bureau announced redistricting data could be made available to states in a legacy format by mid-to-late August. This 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.

Some states’ redistricting deadlines come before the Census Bureau’s projected data delivery date, prompting states to consider postponements or alternative data sources. For example, in Oregon, state legislators sued the secretary of state, asking that the court extend the state legislature’s redistricting deadline. Currently, if the legislature doesn’t adopt legislative district maps by July 1, the secretary of state has until Aug. 15 to do so. Secretary of State Shemia Fagan (D) said the legislature should use non-census data to draw maps, subject to revision following census data release.

State redistricting deadlines generally take one of three forms:

  • Constitutional deadlines are set out explicitly in state constitutions. Altering these deadlines typically requires either a constitutional amendment or a court order.
  • Statutory deadlines are set by state legislatures. They are subject to change at the legislature’s discretion.
  • Redistricting deadlines can also be inferred from candidate filing deadlines. For example, if a state’s filing deadline for congressional candidates is Feb. 1, 2022, it can be inferred that the congressional maps must be in place.  

Congressional redistricting

Maine’s constitutional June 1, 2021, deadline for congressional redistricting is the earliest in the nation. Five states have congressional redistricting deadlines in the third quarter of 2021. Another six have deadlines in the final quarter of 2021. The remaining states have deadlines in 2022.

After the 2010 census, Arkansas enacted the first revised congressional district map on April 13, 2011—10 years ago today. Kansas was the last state to adopt such a map, doing so on June 7, 2012.

State legislative redistricting

Indiana’s statutory deadline for state legislative redistricting is April 29, 2021, the earliest in the nation. Five other states have state legislative redistricting deadlines in the second quarter of 2021. Another eight have deadlines in the third quarter of 2021. Nine states have deadlines in the final quarter of the year. The remaining states have deadlines in either 2022 or, in the case of Montana, 2023.

Following the 2010 census, New Jersey was the first state to enact its state legislative district map on April 3, 2011. Maine was last, on June 3, 2013. (In 2013, the Maine legislature passed a bill changing the redistricting deadline from three years into the decade to one year into it.)

Read on

Federal judicial vacancy update

Ballotpedia tracks nominations, confirmations, and vacancies to all Article III federal courts. Currently, there are 69 vacancies out of 870 active Article III judicial positions, which is 7.9% of all such judgeships. 

  • Seven (3.9%) of the 179 U.S. Appeals Court positions are vacant.
  • 61 (9.1%) of the 673 U.S. District Court (not including territorial court) positions are vacant.
  • One (11.1%) of the nine U.S. Court of International Trade positions is vacant.

As a refresher, Article III federal judges include judges on the U.S. Supreme Court, U.S. Courts of Appeals, U.S. District Courts, and the Court of International Trade. The president appoints these judges and the Senate confirms them.

President Joe Biden said he will nominate 10 Article III judges (without formally nominating them) so far. 

At the start of April 2017—the comparable point in Donald Trump’s presidency—there were 119 Article III vacancies. Trump inherited 108 vacancies at the start of his term. Biden inherited 46.

Sign up for Ballotpedia’s Bold Justice, our newsletter on the federal judiciary, to stay updated on judicial retirements, nominations, noteworthy court rulings, and more. 

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278 words on Thomas Jefferson’s 278th birthday

Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, was born 278 years ago today—on April 13, 1743. Jefferson served as president from 1801 to 1809 and was a member of the Democratic-Republican Party. Here are 278 words about his presidency and life.

Election: Both Jefferson and fellow party member Aaron Burr won 73 electoral votes in 1800. The House of Representatives decided who would become president, with each state having one vote. Jefferson won the election when he received 10 House votes, Burr received four House votes, and two House votes were blank. Burr served as vice president during Jefferson’s first term.

As president: Jefferson was president during the Louisiana Territory purchase in 1803. He supported the Lewis and Clark expedition and organized three additional western expeditions. In 1807, Jefferson passed an embargo banning trade between U.S. ports and foreign nations, and Congress passed the Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves of 1807. The act did not stop the buying and selling of enslaved people within the United States.

Previous office: Before he was president, Jefferson served as a member of the Second Continental Congress, where he drafted the Declaration of Independence. He also served as vice president after losing to John Adams by three electoral votes in the 1796 presidential election. Jefferson also served as secretary of state, diplomatic minister, governor of Virginia, and a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses and the Virginia House of Delegates.

Book sale: Following his presidency, Jefferson sold his large collection of books to the U.S. government, which became the basis for the Library of Congress. 

Jefferson was 83 years old when he died on July 4, 1826.

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The Daily Brew: Highlights from April 6 elections

Ballotpedia's Daily Brew

Welcome to the Thursday, April 8, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Summary of April 6 election results
  2. North Las Vegas mayor changes party affiliation to Republican
  3. The 17th Amendment celebrates its 108th birthday

Summary of April 6 election results

We covered elections in nine states on April 6. It was the 4th-largest election day for our team, with more than 200 races within our coverage scope. Here’s a summary of results from some of the races we followed closely.

  • Wisconsin superintendent of public instruction: Jill Underly defeated Deborah Kerr in the nonpartisan election for this office. As of Wednesday afternoon, Underly had received 58% of the vote to Kerr’s 42%. Underly will succeed Carolyn Stanford Taylor. Gov. Tony Evers (D) appointed Taylor after he resigned as superintendent to become governor. 

As of Wednesday afternoon, 912,678 votes had been counted in the superintendent’s race. Here’s how that compares to turnout in the biggest statewide races held in Wisconsin’s spring elections back to 2016.

  • Milwaukee school board: Milwaukee voters elected four new members to serve on the Milwaukee Board of School Directors. Four of the board’s nine seats were up for election. All four seats were open after three incumbents did not file for re-election and the fourth, Annie Woodward, did not submit the required number of signatures to appear on the ballot (as we wrote about here). Two of the four seats were uncontested. 

As a result of the election, the number of board members endorsed by the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association (MTEA) decreased from nine to six. MTEA issued endorsements in three of the four 2021 races. Their preferred candidates in the two contested elections lost.

  • Ballot measures: Ballotpedia covered 25 local ballot measures before voters on April 6. Here are just a few of those results:
    • Kansas City and St. Louis voters renewed the cities’ 1% earnings taxes for five years. St. Louis voters approved Proposition E by 79% to 21% according to unofficial results. Kansas City voters approved Question 1 by 77% to 23%.
    • Voters in Madison, Wisconsin, advised the city to set term limits and maintain the size of the Common Council (Madison’s city council). Voters rejected two other ballot questions. All four questions were non-binding advisory questions.

Read on 

North Las Vegas mayor changes affiliation to Republican

North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee announced on April 6 he is switching his party affiliation from Democratic to Republican. The mayoral office is officially nonpartisan.

We haven’t comprehensively tracked mayoral partisan switches over time, but we can say this isn’t something we see much of. (We do track party switches among state legislators. Our staff have counted 141 state legislators—39 state senators and 102 state representatives—who have switched parties since 1994. Seventy-three legislators have switched from Democratic to Republican, and 19 have switched from Republican to Democratic.) 

Lee said in a statement, “In the Democratic Party of Nevada, they had an election recently for leadership, and four of the five people were card-carrying members of the socialistic (sic) party. … It’s not the party that I grew up with 25 years ago in this environment and it’s not the party that I can stand with anymore.” Lee said the leadership elections “made me realize that what was happening in the national discussion was actually living itself out in the state of Nevada.”

As we wrote about last month, Democratic Socialists of America-endorsed candidates won all five posts in the state Democratic Party’s leadership elections.

That includes state party chair Judith Whitmer. Whitmer said Lee, “who claims to have voted for Donald Trump twice, has an A+ rating from the National Rifle Association, and has always opposed a woman’s right to choose, has long been out of step with the core values of the Democratic Party, even as he has used our ballot line time and again to run for and win election to public office.”

With Lee’s switch, there are now 63 Democratic mayors, 26 Republicans, and 11 who are independent or nonpartisan among the 100 largest cities. Most mayoral offices in the nation’s 100 largest cities are nonpartisan, but we’ve identified and tracked partisanship data for these mayors going back to 2016. We use (1) direct communication from the officeholder, (2) current or previous candidacy for partisan office, or (3) identification of partisan affiliation by multiple media outlets to identify partisanship.

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The 17th Amendment celebrates its 108th birthday

On April 8, 1913—108 years ago today—Connecticut approved the Seventeenth Amendment, giving it the three-fourths majority needed to become part of the U.S. Constitution. The amendment provided for the popular election of U.S. senators.

Before 1913, Article I, Section 3 of the Constitution read, “The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each state, chosen by the legislature thereof for six Years.”  According to the United States Senate website, “The framers believed that in electing senators, state legislatures would cement their tie with the national government, which would increase the chances for ratifying the Constitution. They also expected that senators elected by state legislatures would be able to concentrate on the business at hand without pressure from the populace.”

The Seventeenth Amendment changed “chosen by the Legislature thereof” to “elected by the people thereof.”

Around the time of the Civil War, conflicts within state legislatures led to prolonged Senate vacancies. The Senate website says that “45 deadlocks occurred in 20 states between 1891 and 1905, resulting in numerous delays in seating senators. In 1899 problems in electing a senator in Delaware were so acute that the state legislature did not send a senator to Washington for four years.”

The shift to popular elections for senators began on a state-by-state basis, starting with Oregon in 1907. “By 1912, as many as 29 states elected senators either as nominees of their party’s primary or in a general election,” the Senate website says. The Senate passed a resolution in 1911 proposing a constitutional amendment, and the House passed it in 1912. With Connecticut’s approval in 1913, the Seventeenth Amendment became part of the U.S. Constitution, going into effect for the 1914 elections.

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The Daily Brew: New York is the 3rd state to legalize marijuana through legislation

Ballotpedia's Daily Brew

Welcome to the Wednesday, April 7, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. NY becomes third state to legalize recreational marijuana through legislation – New Mexico likely next
  2. Recall against San Francisco school board members approved to circulate petitions
  3. Rep. Alcee Hastings dies

NY becomes third state to legalize recreational marijuana through legislation – New Mexico likely next

New York is the 15th state to legalize recreational marijuana, and the third to do so through legislation instead of a voter-approved ballot measure (along with Vermont and Illinois). 

The New Mexico Legislature also passed a bill on March 31 to legalize recreational marijuana. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) said she will sign the bill, meaning New Mexico would be the 16th state to legalize recreational marijuana and the fourth to do so via legislation

The parts of New York’s law related to possession and home-grow went into effect immediately. On March 30, the New York Senate passed the legalization bill by a 40-23 vote. Twenty Republicans and three Democrats voted against it. The Assembly passed the bill the same day 100-49, with 43 Republicans and six Democrats opposed. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed the bill on March 31. According to the Albany Times Union, opponents emphasized concerns about impaired driving. Proponents framed the bill as making progress in the realm of criminal justice.

Here are some highlights of what New York’s measure does:

  • Allows possession of up to three ounces of marijuana.
  • Allows each person to grow up to three mature marijuana plants with a cap of six mature plants per household. 
  • Creates expungement and resentencing processes for anyone convicted on a charge that is no longer a crime under the new law. 
  • Provides for a 13% excise tax on retail marijuana sales. 
  • Cuomo’s office estimated legalization will generate $350 million in annual tax revenue. Revenue above what is required for administration and enforcement of the legislation will go to the Community Grants Reinvestment Fund, the State Lottery Fund to be spent on general education, the Drug Treatment and Public Education Fund, and local municipal and county governments.
  • Enacts a tax ranging from $0.03 to $0.08 per milligram of THC for wholesale to dispensaries.
  • Allows for cities, towns, and villages to pass local laws prohibiting certain retail establishments and regulating certain aspects of their operation. The bill also contains a process for local voters to overturn local legislation banning recreational marijuana retail.
  • Establishes the Office of Cannabis Management to license and regulate recreational marijuana retail and distribution. State officials estimate legal recreational marijuana sales will begin in 18 months to two years.

Among the 13 marijuana legalization ballot measures that have passed in other states, excise taxes on marijuana sales ranged from an initial rate of 3.75% (subject to increase) in Massachusetts to 25% in Washington. The average tax rate was about 13%. The New Jersey ballot measure applied the state’s sales tax to marijuana but prohibited an additional excise tax. 

All but one of the 13 measures—New Jersey’s—explicitly allowed a certain amount of local government control over marijuana regulation. 

Based on 2019 population estimates and currently enacted law, roughly 40% of Americans live in a jurisdiction (one of 15 states or D.C.) with legalized recreational marijuana.

Read on

Recall against San Francisco school board members approved to circulate petitions

The San Francisco Department of Elections approved petition circulation to begin this week in an effort to recall three members of the San Francisco Unified School District Board of Education. Recall supporters have until Sept. 7 to collect signatures from 10% of registered voters in the city—51,325 signatures—per targeted incumbent. The effort targets board President Gabriela López, Alison Collins, and Faauuga Moliga. 

San Francisco recall law stipulates elected officials cannot be eligible for recall until they have served at least six months. The three board members noted above were first elected in November 2018. The other four board members were either elected or re-elected on Nov. 3, 2020.

Recall supporters said they were frustrated that district schools remained closed for nearly a year in reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic. They also criticized the board for voting to rename 44 district buildings. On Feb. 21, López announced the board was putting the building renaming on hold in order to focus on reopening schools. The district is planning to return to in-person learning later this month.

Ten of the 15 school board recall efforts we’re tracking so far this year are related to COVID-19: three in Idaho, three in California, and one each in Michigan, Virginia, Colorado, and Washington. In 2020, nine of the 26 school board recalls we tracked were related to COVID-19. 

Last year, 41 elected officials in California were the subject of recall efforts. Nine of those efforts qualified for the ballot, and six officials were removed from office in recall elections.

Read on 

Rep. Alcee Hastings dies

U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) died of pancreatic cancer on April 6. He was first elected to represent Florida’s 23rd Congressional District in 1992. Hastings was elected to the 20th District in 2012 following redistricting, where he served until his death. In 2020, he was re-elected with 79% of the vote.

Article I, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution says governors must call special elections to fill House vacancies. Florida law does not specify a deadline for the special primary or general elections. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported that two other vacancies have occurred in Florida’s congressional delegation since 2010.

As of April 6, five special elections to the U.S. House had been called in 2021: Louisiana’s 2nd and 5th Districts, New Mexico’s 1st District, Texas’ 6th District, and Ohio’s 11th District. 

With Hastings’ death, there are six vacancies in the House. There are 218 Democrats and 211 Republicans in the chamber. 

From the 113th to the 116th Congresses, 40 special House elections were held. No partisan changes took place across 18 special elections in the 113th and 114th Congresses. In the 115th Congress, Democrats picked up three seats in special elections. Republicans picked up one seat in a special election for the 116th Congress.

Read on

The Daily Brew: Elections in nine states today

Welcome to the Tuesday, April 6, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Your help is needed today
  2. Elections in nine states today
  3. How states select supreme court chief justices

Your help is needed today

As readers of the Brew, you are familiar with Ballotpedia’s unwavering commitment to providing timely, unbiased information about elections, politics and policy. 

Today, we have a special ask for you. Please consider joining The Ballotpedia Society, our monthly giving program. This program provides critical resources to Ballotpedia’s day to day work delivering the information voters need to understand the complex world of American politics and elections. Our Ballotpedia Society members are a vital part of this work. 

As a member, you will have access to exclusive updates, and if you join today, you will be eligible to join our upcoming member only talk on the State of the Media with our President and CEO, Leslie Graves. We invite you to join the Ballotpedia Society and join us on our journey to help all American voters.

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Elections in nine states today

Voters will decide statewide, state legislative, and local elections today in nine states: Alaska, California, Colorado, Illinois, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin. Here’s a summary of some of the races we’ve been following closely:

  • Wisconsin is electing a new superintendent of public instruction. Former Superintendent Tony Evers (D) was elected governor in 2018. His replacement, Carolyn Stanford Taylor, is not seeking a full term. 
    • Several Democratic members of Congress and the state legislature endorsed Jill Underly in the race. State Sens. Alberta Darling (R) and Lena Taylor (D) endorsed Deborah Kerr.
  • Anchorage, Alaska, is voting for a new mayor. To win today, a candidate needs at least 45% of the vote. If no candidate reaches that threshold, the two candidates with the most votes will compete in a runoff election on May 11. Mayor Ethan Berkowitz (D) resigned from office in October 2020. Acting Mayor Austin Quinn-Davidson is not running in the election.
    • Six candidates have led in fundraising and endorsements. Planned Parenthood endorsed Forrest Dunbar, George Martinez, and Bill Falsey. Six Republican state legislators endorsed Mike Robbins. State Sen. Natasha A. Von Imhof (R) endorsed Bill Evans. Former Lt. Gov. Craig Campbell (R) endorsed David Bronson
  • Fourteen school districts in Oklahoma are holding general elections. Elections were scheduled for 35 seats across 26 school districts within Ballotpedia’s coverage scope this year, but 17 of those seats will not be on the ballot because only one candidate filed. The 48.6% unopposed rate is the lowest since Ballotpedia began tracking this figure in 2014. 
    • For races that had more than two candidates file, primary elections were held on Feb. 9. Candidates were able to win the primary outright if they received more than 50% of the vote.

April 6 is the 4th-largest election day our team is covering in 2021, with more than 200 elections within our coverage scope. Our 3rd-largest election day is right around the corner on May 1, when we’ll be covering several local elections in Texas.

Read on 

How states select supreme court chief justices

On April 1, Max Baer (D) was sworn in as the chief justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.  He succeeded former Chief Justice Thomas Saylor (R), who stepped down the same day in preparation for his December 2021 retirement. 

Chief justices are the lead judicial administrative officers within multi-judge courts. They work alongside the clerks of court overseeing day-to-day operations.

Pennsylvania is one of six states where the supreme court chief justice is determined based on seniority. Ballotpedia has categorized four methods of chief justice selection:

  • Appointment: The governor, state legislature, or other body appoints the chief justice. Fourteen states use this method.
  • Chamber vote: The court’s justices choose a chief justice. Twenty-two states use this method.
  • Popular vote: Voters elect the chief justice. Eight states use this method.
  • Seniority: The chief justice is determined based on length of service on the court.

One recent change to the chief justice selection method was in 2015, when Wisconsin voters approved a constitutional amendment to transition from the seniority method to the chamber vote method. 

Read on 

The Daily Brew: One year ago this week: GM contract announced for ventilators

If you celebrate it, Happy Easter! We hope you enjoyed your weekend.

Welcome to the Monday, April 5, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. COVID-19 policy changes and events – one year ago this week
  2. Rhode Island Gov. Dan McKee nominates city council president as lieutenant governor
  3. SCOTUS to hold argument session in May

COVID-19 policy changes and events – one year ago this week

On Friday, we shared the current map detailing the status of coronavirus vaccination availability by state. One year ago this week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced a $500 million contract with General Motors to produce 30,000 ventilators under the Defense Production Act.

This is our third in a new series looking back at policy changes and other significant events related to the coronavirus pandemic from one year ago that week. These entries highlight stay-at-home orders, school closures, travel restrictions, changed election dates, and more from a year ago.

Here’s a collection of other coronavirus-related responses from one year ago.

  • Stay-at-home orders: 
    • The Stay Home Missouri order took effect in Missouri on April 6, 2020. It directed individuals in the state to stay home unless performing essential activities and placed restrictions on non-essential businesses.
    • Executive Order 2020-21 took effect in South Carolina on April 7, 2020. The order directed individuals to stay home except for essential activities and closed nonessential businesses in the state.
    • South Carolina was the last state to implement a stay-at-home order (of the ones that did). In total, 43 states issued stay-at-home orders.
  • Travel restrictions: 
    • Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) issued an order on April 8 requiring all visitors over 18 entering Utah through airports or roadways to complete a travel declaration within three hours.
    • Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) ordered all people traveling to Arizona from areas of the country with widespread COVID-19 cases to self-quarantine for 14 days on April 9, 2020.
  • School closures: 
    • Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) closed schools for the remainder of the academic year on April 6. Prior to this order, schools in the state were closed through April 17, 2020.
    • Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D) extended the statewide school closure from April 10, 2020, to April 24 on April 7.
    • At this point, all states had closed schools to in-person instruction.
  • Election changes:
    • The Wisconsin state supreme court voted 4-2 on April 6, 2020, to block an executive order issued earlier in the day by Gov. Tony Evers (D) postponing in-person voting in the spring election, scheduled for April 7, 2020, to June 9. As a result, in-person voting took place as scheduled on April 7.
    • New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced on April 8, 2020 that he would issue an executive order suspending existing eligibility criteria for absentee voting, allowing all voters to cast their ballots by mail in the June 23, 2020, election.
    • On April 8, 2020, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) postponed Georgia’s statewide and presidential primaries to June 9, 2020, and its primary runoff to August 11. The state had previously postponed its presidential primary to May 19, the original date of its statewide primary.

For the most recent coronavirus news, subscribe to our daily newsletter, Documenting America’s Path to Recovery.

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Rhode Island Gov. Dan McKee nominates city council president as lieutenant governor

Here’s an update on the Rhode Island lieutenant governor vacancy, which I shared with you last month.

Last week, Governor Daniel McKee (D) nominated Providence City Council President Sabina Matos as lieutenant governor. Before her nomination, Matos had been serving on the Providence City Council since 2010. 

Here’s some background on the story.

McKee was responsible for choosing a new lieutenant governor after he left the position to be sworn in as governor on March 2. He replaced Gina Raimondo (D) as governor when she resigned to become U.S. secretary of commerce under the Biden administration.

Under the Rhode Island Constitution, if the governor resigns, the lieutenant governor fills the office until the next election. Neither the constitution nor state law prescribes how the lieutenant governor’s office is filled if the incumbent resigns. In 1997, when Lt. Gov. Robert Weygand resigned, Gov. Lincoln Almond appointed his replacement. McKee referred to that event when saying that he, as governor, would select the next lieutenant governor.

According to NBC, around 80 people applied for the position. Upon selecting Matos, McKee said, “I was looking for someone to be a true governing partner…someone who shares my commitment to supporting our 39 cities and towns and our small businesses, and that’s exactly what I found in Sabina.” If confirmed by the Rhode Island Senate, Matos will be Rhode Island’s first lieutenant governor who is a person of color.

Forty-five states have a lieutenant governor. In Hawaii, the lieutenant governor also serves as the secretary of state. In Tennessee and West Virginia, the president of the Senate also serves as lieutenant governor and is elected from within the legislature. The five states without the office are Arizona, Maine, New Hampshire, Oregon, and Wyoming.

Read on 

SCOTUS to hold argument session in May

The U.S. Supreme Court is continuing its term by scheduling one case for argument on May 4, the second year in a row the court will hear arguments in May. During the 2019-2020 term, the court heard 13 cases in May. During the two terms prior to the 2019-2020 term, the court only heard cases up to late April.

The case, Terry v. United States, was originally scheduled for argument on April 20. The Biden administration had changed the U.S. Department of Justice’s position in the case after the case was scheduled, so the court appointed a lawyer to argue in place of the U.S. government and rescheduled the oral argument.

Terry is the only case currently scheduled for the May sitting. The court is scheduled to hear 14 cases during its April sitting, set to begin on April 19.

If you love all things SCOTUS, then you won’t want to miss our upcoming briefing, which will bring you an update on SCOTUS in 2021. With the end of the current Supreme Court term coming up, it’s time to take a look at what’s new since our last briefing. In this call, our team will walk you through the following:

  • Changes in court membership
  • How the court continues to operate under COVID-19
  • Updates and analysis on this term’s cases
  • A look ahead to the next term

You’ll leave this briefing with a better understanding of how this term compares to previous terms. Be sure to secure your spot by registering below!

Register here today! 

The Daily Brew: In 21 states, all residents 16+ eligible for coronavirus vaccine

Welcome to the Friday, April 2, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. All residents 16+ now eligible for coronavirus vaccine in 21 states
  2. Rita Hart (D) withdraws IA-02 election results challenge
  3. The Final Four (legged) round of Barking Brackets

All residents 16+ now eligible for coronavirus vaccine in 21 states

In last week‘s coronavirus vaccine update, we noted that all residents 16 and older were eligible to register for the coronavirus vaccine in seven states. Now, all residents 16+ are eligible for a vaccine in 21 states. Of those 21, five have Democratic governors and 16 have Republican governors.

Latest changes

Note: Below, we provide information on previous and current statewide eligibility by age group. We do not include information on eligibility for younger individuals deemed essential workers or those with underlying health conditions. Keep in mind many states and counties still have waitlists, so vaccines for everyone 16+ might not be immediately available.

Residents 16+ in the following states became eligible to register for vaccines since our last update:

The following states are currently scheduled to open vaccinations to everyone 16+ in the coming week:

  • Florida: April 5
  • Idaho: April 5
  • Iowa: April 5
  • Kentucky: April 5
  • Michigan: April 5
  • Nebraska: April 5
  • Nevada: April 5
  • New Mexico: April 5
  • South Dakota: April 5
  • Tennessee: April 5
  • Wisconsin: April 5
  • Delaware: April 6
  • New York: April 6
  • North Carolina: April 7
  • Missouri: April 9

Vaccine eligibility is changing rapidly across the country. Our daily newsletter Documenting America’s Path to Recovery delivers the latest coronavirus-related updates to subscribers’ inboxes each weekday. Click here to subscribe.

Read on

Rita Hart (D) withdraws IA-02 election results challenge

The 2020 congressional election cycle has officially wrapped. 

On March 31, Rita Hart (D) dropped her petition to the House Administration Committee to investigate last year’s election results in Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District. House Administration Committee Chair Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D) said the committee would suspend its investigation.

Hart said she ended her challenge “after many conversations with people I trust about the future of this contest.” 

“Despite our best efforts to have every vote counted,” Hart said, “the reality is that the toxic campaign of political disinformation to attack this constitutional review of the closest congressional contest in 100 years has effectively silenced the voices of Iowans.”

Here’s a quick reminder of how we got here.

  • According to certified results, Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R) won the election by six votes. 
  • After the Nov. 3, 2020, general election, Iowa officials conducted three recounts. Secretary of State Paul Pate (R) first ordered recounts in two counties. 
  • On Nov. 13, Hart requested a full recount in all 24 counties in the district. 
  • After that recount, Miller-Meeks was certified as the winner on Nov. 30. 
  • On Dec. 2, Hart announced she would contest the election with the House Administration Committee. Her challenge said 22 ballots were wrongfully excluded and the recount didn’t comply with state law or the U.S. Constitution.
  • Miller-Meeks was provisionally seated in the House on Jan. 3.
  • On Mar. 10, the House Administration Committee voted 6-3 to consider Hart’s challenge.

The 2020 race in the 2nd District had the narrowest margin of victory in a U.S. House race since 1984, when Francis McCloskey (D) defeated Richard McIntyre (R) by four votes in Indiana’s 8th District. 

According to a 2016 Congressional Research Service report, out of 107 election challenges filed with the House between 1933 and 2009, the candidate who contested the election won three times. 

Read on 

The Final Four(legged) round

Dogs have become one of the most pup-ular companions for presidents to have during their time in office. Whether they’re running around on the lawn, attending secret meetings, or getting dressed up for special events, First Dogs help to give a glimpse into life in the White House. 

In the spirit of March Madness, Ballotpedia is hosting our first ever Barking Brackets tournament! We have four comPETitors who have advanced from the preliminary rounds. Take a look at these First Furiends and vote your favorite through to the cham-PAW-ionship!

Vote now

The Daily Brew: Q&A on recent mail-in ballot ruling

Welcome to the Thursday, April 1, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Q&A with our election policy expert on a recent mail-in ballot court ruling
  2. Biden announces first judicial nominees
  3. Local roundup: Voters to decide mayoral, other local office elections in Anchorage, Alaska, on April 6

Q&A with our election policy expert on a recent mail-in ballot court ruling

On March 9, the Michigan Court of Claims invalidated an absentee/mail-in ballot rule that Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D) put in place before last November’s elections. 

That rule—put in place on Oct. 6—directed local clerks to treat signatures on absentee/mail-in ballot applications and return envelopes as valid if there were “any redeeming qualities in the application or return envelope signature as compared to the signature on file.” Redeeming qualities included “similar distinctive flourishes” and “more matching features than non-matching features.” 

To try and better understand the judge’s ruling, I turned to our election policy expert, Jerrick Adams. Here’s a brief summary of our exchange. My questions are bolded below.

This rule was already in effect in 2020, and the election already happened. Does this have any retroactive effect?

No. But the ruling affects future elections because it invalidated Benson’s guidance. It’s also an example of a post-2020 court action addressing the ultimate legality of policies implemented in 2020.

Michigan was one of 39 states that modified its general election procedures last year. These modifications—and, sometimes, the lack thereof—triggered a wave of litigation. Before the general election, there were at least 425 lawsuits and appeals filed. Two-hundred forty-two of those dealt primarily with absentee/mail-in voting procedures. 

Courts issued orders in most of these cases before the election, but they did not necessarily make final rulings on the questions of law presented in those cases. 

Who filed the lawsuit and why?

Allegan County Clerk Robert Genetski (R) and the Republican Party of Michigan sued Benson, alleging her guidance violated the state’s election laws and the Administrative Procedures Act. The court sided with the plaintiffs.

Why did the court say Benson’s rule should have complied with the Administrative Procedures Act?

The ruling cited a previous court ruling that said a state agency must follow formal rulemaking procedures under the APA (holding public hearings and consulting with state legislators and legislative staffers, for example) when establishing policies that “do not merely interpret or explain the statute of rules from which the agency derives its authority,” but rather “establish the substantive standards implementing the program.” 

The court ruled, “Policy determinations like the one at issue—which places a thumb on the scale in favor of a signature’s validity—should be made pursuant to properly promulgated rules under the APA or by the Legislature.”

Thanks, Jerrick!

It is unclear whether the state will appeal the decision. You can find information on other post-2020 cases here

Read on

Biden announces first judicial nominees

Earlier this week, President Joe Biden announced his first batch of federal judicial nominations. As a brief reminder: Presidents nominate and the Senate confirms federal judges. Over the past 40 years, each president appointed the following number of Article III judges in their first term:

  • Ronald Reagan: 166
  • George H.W. Bush: 193
  • Bill Clinton: 203
  • George W. Bush: 204
  • Barack Obama: 173
  • Donald Trump: 234

On March 30, Biden announced his intent to nominate 11 individuals to federal judgeships. Of those, 10 nominations would be for Article III judgeships with lifetime terms:

  • Ketanji Brown Jackson, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
  • Tiffany Cunningham, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
  • Candace Jackson-Akiwumi, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit
  • Regina Rodriguez, U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado
  • Florence Pan, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia
  • Deborah Boardman, U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland
  • Lydia Kay Griggsby, U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland
  • Julien Neals, U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey
  • Zahid Quraishi, U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey
  • Margaret Strickland, U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico

President Biden announced his intent to nominate Rupa Ranga Puttagunta to the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, which is not an Article III judgeship. These judges are appointed to 15-year terms.

As of his inauguration in January 2021, President Biden inherited 46 Article III vacancies: two vacancies in the U.S. courts of appeal, 43 vacancies in the U.S. district courts, and one vacancy on the U.S. Court of International Trade. There are 70 current Article III vacancies of 870 total Article III judgeships.  

President Donald Trump (R) submitted his first Article III judicial nomination—Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court—on Jan. 31, 2017. Trump submitted his first non-SCOTUS Article III nomination—Amul Thapar to the United States Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit—on March 21, 2017. Thapar was Trump’s only March federal judge nomination.

At the start of his first term, President Trump inherited 108 Article III federal judicial vacancies

Read on 

Local roundup: Voters to decide mayoral, other local office elections in Anchorage, Alaska, on April 6

Thirty-one of the 100 largest cities by population are holding mayoral elections in 2021. Let’s take a look at one of those races today. The city of Anchorage, Alaska, is holding a nonpartisan general election for mayor on April 6. Fourteen candidates are running. Media attention has been focused on six candidates: David Bronson, Forrest Dunbar, Bill Evans, Bill Falsey, George Martinez, and Mike Robbins. 

Dunbar ran for U.S. House as a Democrat in 2014. Planned Parenthood endorsed Dunbar, Martinez, and Falsey. Robbins is the chairman of the Republican Party of Alaska for District 26 of the Alaska House of Representatives, and six Republican state legislators endorsed him. State Sen. Natasha A. Von Imhof (R) endorsed Evans. Former Lt. Gov. Craig Campbell (R) endorsed Bronson. 

A candidate needs to win at least 45% of the vote to win the April 6 election. If no candidate reaches that threshold, the two with the most votes will head to a runoff on May 11.

Mayor Ethan Berkowitz (D) resigned from office in October 2020. The Anchorage Assembly selected Austin Quinn-Davidson to serve as acting mayor until a successor is elected and sworn in.

Four school board seats and 11 propositions are also on the Anchorage ballot on April 6.

Eight other states besides Alaska are holding local and special state legislative elections on April 6: California, Colorado, Illinois, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin. See our elections calendar for a list of elections within our coverage scope and links to more information.

Read on 

The Daily Brew: Congress to review 5 rules under CRA

Welcome to the Wednesday, March 31, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Democrats introduce 5 CRA resolutions to reject Trump administration rules
  2. Judge strikes down 5% signature requirement for some U.S. House candidates in GA
  3. Kim Janey sworn in as acting Boston mayor

Democrats introduce 5 CRA resolutions to reject Trump administration rules

Democratic members of Congress have introduced five resolutions under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to review federal rules issued during the recent Trump administration. The CRA allows Congress to vote on rejecting regulatory rules that federal administrative agencies have issued. 

Here’s how the process works. To reject a rule, both chambers of Congress have to pass a resolution disapproving the rule. CRA resolutions are not subject to filibuster, meaning only a simple majority is required to pass them. President Joe Biden would then have to sign the resolution into law. Congress has until Apr 4, 2021, under the CRA to reject any regulatory rules the Trump administration issued after Aug. 21, 2020. 

Since the CRA’s enactment in 1996, Congress has repealed 17 out of the more than 90,000 rules published in the Federal Register. Sixteen of those instances occurred during the Trump administration. In 2001, during George W. Bush’s (R) presidency, Congress reversed an Occupational Safety and Health Administration rule issued during Bill Clinton’s (D) presidency. 

Here’s a summary of the rules each current resolution seeks to block. To learn more about each, including arguments for and against, click the links:

  • Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (D-Ill.) introduced companion resolutions to block an October 2020 rule from the U.S. Comptroller of the Currency (OCC). The rule aims to determine when banks are the true lender in situations where banks provide the money for third-party organizations to extend credit to borrowers. 
  • Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Delegate Michael F.Q. San Nicolas (D-Guam) introduced companion resolutions to block a November 2020 rule from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The rule changed regulations governing shareholder proposal submissions. 
  • Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) introduced companion resolutions to block an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule from September 2020. The resolution would restore the Obama administration’s methane standards that the EPA reversed during the Trump administration. 
  • Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) introduced companion resolutions to block an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) rule changing the conciliation process, which is an alternative to litigation. 
  • Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) introduced a resolution to block a rule from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that sets expiration dates for HHS regulations unless the agency reviews those regulations according to Regulatory Flexibility Act requirements. As of March 30, no companion resolution had been filed in the Senate.

Want to learn more about this legislation? Sign up today for our Learning Journey on the Congressional Review Act. 

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Judge strikes down 5% signature requirement for some U.S. House candidates in GA

On March 29, U.S. District Court Judge Leigh Martin May struck down a Georgia law requiring third-party and unaffiliated U.S. House candidates to submit petitions signed by at least 5% of the district’s registered voters. May ruled the 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.”

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

Those running for the U.S. House as Democrats or Republicans—the two parties Georgia officially recognizes—do not need to collect signatures if they pay a qualifying fee. Third-party and unaffiliated candidates must do both.

May contrasted the 5% signature requirement for U.S. House candidates with the 1% requirement for statewide candidates, saying the state legislature “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.” 

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

All but five states require unaffiliated U.S. House candidates to submit signature petitions.

Read on

Kim Janey sworn in as acting Boston mayor

Kim Janey became the acting mayor of Boston on Mar. 22, after the U.S. Senate confirmed former Mayor Marty Walsh as secretary of labor. Janey is the first Black person and first woman to serve as Boston mayor.

Janey is president of the Boston City Council and its District 7 councilor and will maintain those roles as acting mayor. According to the Boston Herald, Janey will be a ‘non-participating member’ of the council — meaning she won’t attend meetings.”

Boston will hold a regularly scheduled mayoral election on Nov. 2. The filing deadline is May 18. Janey has not yet announced whether she will run in the election. 

While municipal offices in Boston are officially nonpartisan, Janey is a member of the Boston Ward 12 Democratic Committee. Before serving as secretary of labor and mayor, Walsh was a Democratic member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives.

According to 2013 Census Bureau data, Boston was the 24th-largest city in the U.S. with around 646,000 residents. Among the mayors of the country’s 100 largest cities, there are currently 64 Democrats, 25 Republicans, four independents, and seven who are not affiliated with either party.

Read on 

The Daily Brew: Biden’s 15 main Cabinet members all confirmed

Welcome to the Tuesday, March 30, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Final update on pace of Cabinet confirmations
  2. Georgia voters to decide 2022 measure that would suspend salaries of officials under felony indictment
  3. 77 million people can’t be wrong!

An update on pace of Cabinet confirmations

When we updated you on President Joe Biden’s Cabinet nominations three weeks ago, the Senate had confirmed 10 of 15 main Cabinet members. We define main cabinet members as those in the presidential line of succession. Now, the Senate has confirmed all 15. By the same point in their respective presidencies, the Senate had confirmed 13 of Barack Obama’s and Donald Trump’s main Cabinet nominees each.

The Senate confirmed former Boston Mayor Marty Walsh as secretary of labor on March 22, completing Biden’s main Cabinet. That was 61 days after Biden took office. 

Secretary of labor was also the final position filled in President Trump’s main Cabinet. In 2017, the Senate confirmed Alexander Acosta 97 days after Trump took office. Trump’s first pick for that position, Andrew Puzder, withdrew from consideration on Feb. 15, 2017.

On Obama’s 63rd day as president in 2009, the Senate confirmed his 14th main Cabinet member, Gary Locke, as commerce secretary. The Senate confirmed his final main Cabinet member, Kathleen Sebelius, as secretary of health and human services on Obama’s 98th day in office.

The Cabinet is a group of senior federal officials who advise the president on the issues and activities of their respective departments. The group is not necessarily limited to the 15 department heads in the presidential line of succession. Positions considered Cabinet-level can vary by administration. 

Biden identified 23 nominees for his Cabinet, 21 of whom have been confirmed. In addition to the ones listed in the charts above, Cabinet-rank positions requiring Senate confirmation in Biden’s administration are:

  • United Nations ambassador
  • Environmental Protection Agency administrator
  • Office of Management and Budget director
  • U.S. trade representative
  • National Intelligence director
  • Small Business Administration administrator 
  • Council of Economic Advisers chair
  • Office of Science and Technology Policy director 

Read on 

Georgia to vote in 2022 on suspending pay for officials indicted for felony

Here’s a piece of election news you may not have heard from the Peach State. Georgia voters will decide in 2022 whether to amend the state constitution to withhold the salaries of state legislators and most state executive officials suspended from office due to a felony indictment. Both chambers of Georgia’s Legislature must pass a proposed amendment by a two-thirds majority to send it to the ballot. The Senate passed this amendment 51-1 on March 8. The House passed it 169-0 on March 23. 

The proposed amendment applies to the following officeholders:

  • Members of the General Assembly
  • Governor
  • Lieutenant governor
  • Secretary of state
  • Attorney general
  • State school superintendent
  • Commissioner of insurance
  • Commissioner of agriculture
  • Commissioner of labor

In late January, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Georgia Insurance Commissioner Jim Beck had been receiving pay and benefits since being indicted for federal wire fraud, mail fraud, and money laundering charges in May 2019. Beck has said he is innocent of the charges. Gov. Brian Kemp (R) suspended Beck—who was first elected in 2018—in May 2019. 

Georgia has been paying the salaries of Beck and John King—Kemp’s appointment to fill the position—during Beck’s suspension. Under the state’s constitution, assembly members and public officials who are suspended from office due to a felony indictment still receive compensation until they are convicted. According to the proposed amendment, officials who are reinstated to their position would receive pay withheld during the suspension.

This is the only measure currently certified for Georgia’s 2022 ballot. Twelve measures have been certified for the 2022 ballot across nine states.

Read on 

77 million people can’t be wrong! 

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The Daily Brew: One year ago this week, SCOTUS postponed oral arguments

Welcome to the Monday, March 29, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. COVID-19 policy changes and events – one year ago this week
  2. SCOTUS grants review to two more cases for 2021-2022 term
  3. Ohio governor appoints new utility commission chair

COVID-19 policy changes and events – one year ago this week

One year ago as of this week, the U.S. Supreme Court postponed oral arguments for eight cases scheduled for its April sitting in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Last week, we kicked off a series looking back at policy changes and other significant events related to the coronavirus pandemic from one year ago that week. We’re following suit today, highlighting stay-at-home orders, school closures, travel restrictions, changed election dates, and more from a year ago.

On April 3, the U.S. Supreme Court postponed oral arguments scheduled for its April sitting. The court was scheduled to hear eight cases from April 20 to April 29. The court resumed hearing arguments on May 4 via telephone conference call and is still meeting virtually in 2021.

Here’s a collection of other coronavirus-related responses from one year ago.

The specifics of each stay-at-home (SAH) order varied from state to state, but generally, a SAH order closed certain categories of businesses and required people to stay home unless doing activities designated as essential. 

  • On March 30, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) issued a stay-at-home order. North Carolina‘s order, issued March 27, went into effect.
  • Tennessee‘s and Arizona‘s stay-at-home orders, both issued March 30, went into effect on March 31.
  • Travel restrictions
    • On March 30, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) issued an order requiring residents to self-quarantine for any out-of-state travel, unless they traveled for specific reasons including caring for a person in need or working. 
    • The same day, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D) issued an executive order requiring residents and non-residents traveling to Montana, except those traveling for work, to self-quarantine for two weeks. The order also instructed the Montana National Guard to conduct temperature checks and exposure risk inquiries at airports and rail stations in the state.
  • School closures:
    • On March 30, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) announced schools would be closed for the remainder of the academic year. Prior to the announcement, schools were scheduled to reopen on April 13. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) announced the statewide school closure would last indefinitely. It was previously scheduled to end on April 8.
    • On March 31, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) extended the statewide school closure from April 7 to April 30. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) extended the statewide school closure from April 3 to May 4.
    • Nebraska and Maine became the last states to close schools statewide on April 1 and April 2, respectively.
  • Election changes:
    • On March 30, Gov. Brad Little (R) and Secretary of State Lawerence Denney (R) announced that Idaho‘s May 19 primary election would be conducted entirely by mail. Vermont Governor Phil Scott (R) signed H0681 into law, making a series of temporary changes to the state’s election laws.
    • On March 31, Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate (R) announced that his office would send absentee ballot applications to all active registered voters in the state in advance of the June 2, 2020, primary election.
  • Federal government responses:
    • On April 1, the Bureau of Prisons announced it was instituting a 14-day lockdown of all prison inmates.

For the most recent coronavirus news, subscribe to our daily newsletter, Documenting America’s Path to Recovery

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SCOTUS grants review to two more cases for 2021-2022 term

Speaking of SCOTUS, on March 22, the U.S. Supreme Court accepted two cases for review during its 2021-2022 term. The court has agreed to hear 10 cases during the term, scheduled to begin on Oct. 4, 2021. Here is a summary of those two new cases.

United States v. Tsarnaev concerns sentencing for the Boston Marathon bombings. Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev detonated two homemade bombs at the marathon on April 15, 2013. Three people died and more than 250 people were injured. Tamerlan died in a confrontation with police officers on April 18.

  • In 2015, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was indicted on and convicted of 30 criminal charges related to the bombings. He received the death sentence for several offenses. On July 31, 2020, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit vacated Tsarnaev’s death sentences. Acting solicitor general on behalf of the United States Jeffrey B. Wall appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. 
  • The questions before the court in this case are:
  • “1. Whether the court of appeals erred in concluding that respondent’s capital sentences must be vacated on the ground that the district court, during its 21-day voir dire, did not ask each prospective juror for a specific accounting of the pretrial media coverage that he or she had read, heard, or seen about respondent’s case;” 
  • “2. Whether the district court committed reversible error at the penalty phase of respondent’s trial by excluding evidence that respondent’s older brother was allegedly involved in different crimes two years before the offenses for which respondent was convicted.”

The second case the court recently agreed to hear, Servotronics, Inc. v. Rolls-Royce PLC, concerns whether current federal law gives U.S. district courts subpoena power in private foreign commercial arbitration tribunals. Federal law allows district courts to assist with evidence gathering in foreign or international tribunals.

  • After a monetary settlement with Boeing, Rolls-Royce sought compensation from Servotronics for a valve that allegedly contributed to an engine fire on a Boeing aircraft. The dispute went to binding arbitration in Birmingham, England. Servotronics petitioned a U.S. district court to subpoena relevant documents from Boeing, but after objections from Rolls-Royce and Boeing, the district judge held that federal law does not grant district courts jurisdiction in private foreign commercial arbitration tribunals.
  • Circuit courts have split on the matter. The 2nd, 5th, and 7th Circuits have held in different cases that a private foreign tribunal is not a foreign or international tribunal within the meaning of federal law. The 4th and 6th Circuits found the opposite.

The Supreme Court is currently hearing oral arguments as part of its 2020-2021 term. Forty-two cases have been argued this term through March 22. Nineteen more cases are currently scheduled to be argued starting March 29.

Read on

Ohio governor appoints new utility commission chair

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) appointed former county judge Jenifer French as chairwoman of the state’s public utilities commission on March 19. If the state Senate confirms her appointment, French’s term will run through April 10, 2024. The position has been vacant since former Chairman Sam Randazzo resigned in November. 

French was a judge on the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas from 2015 to 2021. She lost her re-election bid on Nov. 3 after running unopposed in the Republican primary. Although the general election for the court was nonpartisan, candidates ran in partisan primaries. The public utilities commission office is officially nonpartisan.

The Ohio Public Utilities Commission is a five-person state executive board that regulates electric and gas utilities, water and wastewater companies, telecommunication companies, and railroads.

Ohio is one of 37 states in which the governor appoints utility commission members. The position is elected in 11 other states. In two—South Carolina and Virginia—the legislature appoints members.

Read on