TagDaily Brew

Ballotpedia’s Daily Brew: Looking back—CA voters approved 62% of local measures in 2020

62% approval rate for California’s 2020 local ballot measures

Ballotpedia’s annual report on California local ballot measures is out. We’ve been covering all local ballot measures in California since 2008. California voters decided 719 local ballot measures across seven election dates last year. Below are some highlights from the report. 

  • Voters approved 62.4% percent of California’s local measures in 2020, which was 14 and 15 percentage points lower than their approval rates in 2016 and 2018, respectively.
  • Local ballot measures were in every California county in 2020 but one (Modoc County). Los Angeles County had the most measures at 109. The median number of measures per county was nine.
  • There were 191 local bond issues on ballots across California in 2020. Of that total, 182 (95.8%) were school bond issues.
    • The 50.5% approval rate for 2020 school bond measures was the lowest in any even-numbered year since at least 2008. The average approval rate for school bond measures in even-numbered years from 2008 through 2018 was 83%.
  • In addition to the local bond measures, California voters defeated a statewide $15 billion school and college facilities bond measure—Proposition 13—on Mar. 3. Proposition 13 was the first statewide education-related bond issue that voters rejected since 1994.
  • Voters in two cities in California approved measures to enact ranked-choice voting for city elections.
  • There were eight local measures concerning law enforcement policies, police oversight, police practices, or law enforcement budgeting, not including tax measures designed to provide funding for law enforcement services. Voters approved all eight measures.

Keep reading at the link below for the full 2020 California ballot measures report.

California voters also decided 13 statewide ballot measures. Click here to read more about the 2020 statewide measures.

Four candidates file to run for St. Louis mayor in first primary of its kind

Four candidates filed to run in the nonpartisan top-two primary for St. Louis mayor on Mar. 2. This will be the first time the city utilizes approval voting for its primary, a method in which voters choose any number of candidates to vote for. For instance, if there are four candidates on the ballot, a voter may select up to all four candidates. The two candidates who receive the most votes then advance to the general election. Approval voting was first passed via Proposition D on Nov. 3, 2020.

The candidates for the open seat are 2017 mayoral candidate Andrew Jones, St. Louis Treasurer Tishaura Jones, Alderman President Lewis Reed, and Alderwoman Cara Spencer. 

Candidates of all political affiliations will run in the primary election without partisan labels. Andrew Jones ran as a Republican candidate in 2017, and Tishaura Jones, Reed, and Spencer have previously run for office as Democrats. 

Incumbent Mayor Lyda Krewson (D) announced on Nov. 18, 2020, that she would not seek re-election. Krewson became the city’s first female mayor after winning election in April 2017 with more than 67% of the vote. 

The last 10 mayors of St. Louis have all been Democrats. The last time a Republican held the mayor’s office was Aloys Kaufmann, who was mayor from 1943 to 1949.

Thirty-one cities in the top 100 cities by population are holding mayoral elections in 2021. Heading into the elections, the partisan breakdown of the mayors is 64 Democrats, 25 Republicans, four independents, and seven nonpartisan.

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Voter registration deadline for Rhode Island bond election approaches

Rhode Island is holding a bond election on Mar. 2, and the voter registration deadline is Jan. 31. The deadline to apply for a mail ballot is Feb. 9.

The Rhode Island Legislature referred seven bond questions totaling $400 million to the ballot as part of the state budget approved in December. To put a legislatively referred bond question before voters, a simple majority vote is required in both the Rhode Island state Senate and the Rhode Island House of Representatives. 

Between 2008 and 2020, voters in Rhode Island decided 22 bond measures, totaling $1.3 billion in principal value. Voters approved 100% of the bond measures, with support ranging from 55.23% (Question 2 of 2010) to 83.89% (Question 3 of 2016). The last odd-year bond election in Rhode Island was in 1985 when nine bond measures were approved.

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Ballotpedia’s Daily Brew: Average MOV in last year’s House races—29 percentage points

Average margin of victory in last year’s U.S. House races was lowest since at least 2012

The average margin of victory (MOV) in last year’s U.S. House elections was 28.8 percentage points, down from 31.8 percentage points in 2018 and the narrowest average MOV in U.S. House elections since at least 2012. Ballotpedia has analyzed the margin of victory in congressional elections after each election cycle from 2012 to the present. 

The average Democratic winner of a U.S. House election had a MOV of 31.5 percentage points. The average Republican winner’s MOV was 26.0 percentage points.

The margin of victory refers to the difference between the vote shares of the winning and losing candidates. For example, if Candidate A defeated Candidate B, 55% to 45%, the margin of victory is 10 percentage points. 

The average MOV in last year’s 35 Senate elections was 18.1 percentage points. That’s up from 2018’s 16.8 percentage point MOV, but less than any other year since 2012.

In 2020, there were:

  • Five Senate races decided by margins less than five percentage points—Democrats won four of these and Republicans won one,
  • Twelve Senate races decided by margins between five and 15 percentage points—Republicans won eight and Democrats won four, and
  • Eighteen Senate races decided by margins more than 15 percentage points—Republicans won 11 and Democrats won seven.

In 2018, the closest U.S. House election was incumbent Rob Woodall’s (R) 433-vote win over Carolyn Bourdeaux (D) in Georgia’s 7th Congressional District. Last year, three U.S. House elections were decided by margins of 500 votes or fewer. 

  • Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District—Mariannette Miller-Meeks’ (R) defeated Rita Hart (D) by six votes in the closest U.S. House election since 1984. 
  • New York’s 22nd Congressional District—Claudia Tenney (R) currently leads incumbent Anthony Brindisi (D) by 29 votes. These results have not yet been certified, and the outcome of this election has not yet been determined.
  • California’s 25th Congressional District—Incumbent Mike Garcia (R) defeated Christy Smith (D) by 333 votes.

Republican candidates won seven of the closest U.S. House races. Democrats won two of those races, and the outcome of New York’s 22nd District has not been decided.

Of the 434 called U.S. House elections, there were:

  • Thirty-six decided by margins less than five percentage points. Democratic candidates won 19, and Republicans won 17,
  • Eighty-two decided by margins between five and 15 percentage points, with Republicans winning 44 and Democrats winning 38.
  • Three hundred and sixteen decided by more than 15 percentage points. Democrats won 165 of these, and Republicans won 151.

The map below shows the location of all U.S. House races decided by a MOV of 5 percentage points or less. Democrats won in the 19 districts shaded in blue, and Republicans won in the 17 districts colored red. 

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Biden to be inaugurated as 46th president 

Later today, President-elect Joe Biden (D) will be inaugurated as the nation’s 46th president. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) will also be sworn in as the 49th vice president of the United States, becoming the first Black woman and person of South Asian descent to serve in the office. The events are scheduled to begin at 11:30 a.m. ET.

Due to security concerns stemming from the breach of the U.S. Capitol, up to 25,000 National Guard members are expected to be in Washington, D.C. The National Mall is closed to the general public, and there will be no public parade from the Capitol to the White House.

The ceremony will be broadcast on major television networks and streamed online on various platforms. President Donald Trump (R) will not participate in the event. The last president to skip his successor’s inauguration for political reasons was Andrew Johnson in 1869.

After Harris is inaugurated as vice president, she is expected to swear in Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.), Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), and Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) to the U.S. Senate.

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Register for our Jan. 21 briefing on Pivot County election results

We’re hosting our first webinar of the year on Thursday—Jan. 21—with an in-depth look at Pivot Counties. Ballotpedia identified 206 counties nationwide that voted for Barack Obama (D) in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections and Donald Trump (R) in 2016. 

We’ll start with why we began tracking these counties in 2016, and we’ll introduce you to our two new definitions—Retained and Boomerang Counties. Retained Pivot Counties are those Trump won in 2020, while Joe Biden won Boomerang Pivot Counties.

In this week’s briefing, we’ll review the results from these counties and the numbers of counties in each category. We’ll also explore Pivot County demographics and turnout, what role these counties played in 2020, and how they might continue to shape politics in the future. 

The briefing is at 11 a.m. CT on Jan. 21, and you can register—for free—by clicking on the link below. And if you can’t listen to the presentation live, we’ll send you a link to the recording when it’s available so you can watch it on your schedule. I hope you’ll join us!

Register here!



Ballotpedia’s Daily Brew: Biden to inherit fewest judicial vacancies since 1989

A look at judicial vacancies and appointments under Trump

From time to time, we’ve brought you updates on the federal judges who have been nominated and confirmed under the Trump administration. With inauguration day tomorrow, let’s wrap up the numbers of the 45th President with a look at where things stand today.

Vacancies

President Trump was inaugurated four years ago on Jan. 20, 2017. At that time, there were 108 lifetime federal judicial vacancies requiring a presidential nomination. This was the largest number of vacancies at the beginning of a presidency since 1992, when there were 111 vacancies at Bill Clinton’s (D) inauguration. 

As of Jan. 18, there were 46 federal judicial vacancies requiring a presidential nomination. This is the lowest number of at the beginning of a presidency since there were 37 vacancies when George H.W. Bush (R) was inaugurated in 1989.

Nominations

Since taking office, Trump nominated 274 individuals to federal judgeships. Trump made the most Article III judicial nominations in April 2018 (27). There were nine months in his presidency during which he made no Article III judicial nominations.

Confirmations

Of Trump’s 274 federal judicial nominations, the U.S. Senate confirmed 234 of them. The average number of judicial confirmations for the first four years of a presidency since Jimmy Carter (D) is 205. The Senate confirmed 261 of Carter’s judicial nominees, the most confirmations through four years. President Ronald Reagan (R) had the fewest at 166.

The Senate has confirmed 54 of President Trump’s appellate court nominees, the second-most on the list. President Jimmy Carter had the most with 56. Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama had the fewest number of appellate confirmations with 30. The median number of appellate court confirmations is 35. 

The median number of U.S. District Court confirmations is 168. The Senate confirmed 202 of  President Jimmy Carter’s district court nominees, leading the list. President Ronald Reagan had the fewest number of district judges confirmed, with 129.

For more on this subject, keep reading at the link below.

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Special election canceled for Louisiana state House after lack of candidates

After Brett Geymann (R) was the only candidate to file for the special election for Louisiana state House District 35, the Feb. 6 primary and March 20 general elections were canceled. Geymann was then automatically elected without appearing on the ballot.

The seat became vacant after the resignation of Stephen Dwight (R) on Dec. 1, 2020.  He had represented the district since 2016.

Ballotpedia has identified 14 states with laws that explicitly allow for elections to be canceled at the state level. The individual laws governing when and how elections can be canceled vary. For example, in North Carolina, a canceled election can lead to a vacancy, appointment, or leaving the incumbent in place. In Connecticut, if a candidate does not gain endorsement from their party or at least 15% of the party’s delegation, then the election will be canceled. Click here for details.

As of January 2021, 20 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2021 in 14 states. Between 2011 and 2019, an average of 88 special elections took place each odd-numbered year.

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SEIU asks CA Supreme Court to declare Prop 22 unconstitutional

Here’s an update on California Proposition 22, an initiative that defined app-based transportation (rideshare) and delivery drivers as independent contractors and not employees or agents. With $225 million between supporters and opponents, Prop 22 was the most expensive ballot measure in California history, surpassing the next closest measure by $70.5 million. 

On Jan. 12, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and four app-based drivers sued the state government in the California Supreme Court. The SEIU is seeking to have Proposition 22 declared unconstitutional and unenforceable.

Bob Schoonover, president of SEIU California, said, “Prop. 22 doesn’t just fail our state rideshare drivers, it fails the basic test of following our state constitution. The law as written by Uber and Lyft denies drivers rights under the law in California and makes it nearly impossible for lawmakers to fix these problems.” 

Kathy Fairbanks, a spokesperson for Yes on Proposition 22, provided a statement from an app-based driver, which said, “Meritless lawsuits that seek to undermine the clear democratic will of the people do not stand up to scrutiny in the courts.”

Prop 22 was approved at the Nov. 3, 2020, election with 58.6% of the vote. The measure overrode Assembly Bill 5 (AB 5), signed in September 2019, on the question of whether app-based drivers are employees or independent contractors.

Click the link below to stay up-to-date on the case.
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Ballotpedia’s Daily Brew: 227 state legislative incumbents defeated Nov. 3

Welcome to the Monday, Jan. 18, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Decade-low 227 state legislative incumbents defeated on Nov. 3
  2. Recall, special elections set for Jan. 19
  3. Five states to swear in newly elected officials this week

Decade-low 227 state legislative incumbents defeated on Nov. 3

With the state legislatures back in session, let’s look at the state legislative incumbents who were defeated in the Nov. 3 elections. 

Following the November election, 227 state legislative incumbents were defeated, the lowest number in the past decade. By party, those defeated incumbents include 165 Democrats, 52 Republicans, and 10 independents and members of a third party.

The 227 defeated incumbents marked a 29.5% decrease from the 322 defeated in 2018. It was 54.8% lower than the decade-high 502 incumbents defeated following the 2010 general election.

This was the fourth cycle since 2010 where the number of incumbent Democrats defeated exceeded that of Republicans.

There are three ways a seat can change hands from cycle-to-cycle: an incumbent can choose not to run for re-election and retire, an incumbent can lose in a primary, or an incumbent can lose in a general election. Ballotpedia uses all three figures to calculate incumbent turnover each year.

The chart below shows incumbent turnover since 2010 by party affiliation, with figures for retirements, primary losses, and general election losses.

Incumbent turnover in 2020 reached a decade-low 1,247, meaning state legislatures are seeing the lowest number of newcomers, 16.9% of all state legislators, since before 2010.

By party, incumbent turnover was 621 for Democrats and 626 for Republicans, the greatest level of parity over the preceding decade. More Republicans were defeated in primaries than Democrats. Both Democrats and Republicans saw their lowest numbers of retirement since at least 2010 at 396 and 480, respectively.

The table below shows turnover figures from 2010 to 2020. The rightmost column shows the decade average for each metric.

For additional analyses and a full list of defeated incumbents, click the link below.

Keep reading

Recall, special elections set for Jan. 19

Although the Georgia runoffs are over, elections certainly haven’t stopped. Here are two interesting races coming up tomorrow, Jan. 19.

  • The first is a general special election for District 33 of the Alabama House of Representatives. Fred Crum (D) and Ben Robbins (R) are running, with the winner serving until November 2022. The seat became vacant after the death of Ronald Johnson (R). Heading into the election, Republicans have a 76-28 majority in the Alabama House. 
  • The first recall election of this year will also be held on Jan. 19. Voters in Woodmere, Ohio, will decide whether to recall four village councilmembers. Petitioners allege a number of grounds for recall, including the village council’s failure to install a sidewalk along a main road, its failure to keep the village’s website up-to-date, and an effort by the four councilmembers to pit residents against each other. 

Speaking of recalls, we featured our 2020 Recall Report in last week’s Brew. Here’s the link if you missed it.

Five states to swear in newly elected officials this week

Five states will swear in newly elected officials this week. They are:

  • Alabama State Board of Education and court members (Jan. 18)
  • West Virginia governor (Jan. 18)
  • Delaware governor and lieutenant governor (Jan. 19)
  • New Mexico Legislature (Jan. 19)
  • Pennsylvania state executives (Jan. 19)

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Ballotpedia’s Daily Brew: 12 states + D.C. currently have travel restrictions

Happy early Thanksgiving! We hope you enjoy the day, even if it looks a little different this year. We’ll be back with the next Brew edition on Monday, Nov. 30.

Welcome to the Tuesday, Nov. 24, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Traveling over Thanksgiving? Here are the states with restrictions on travel
  2. Expected census delays may postpone state redistricting efforts in 2021
  3. Upcoming elections

Traveling over Thanksgiving? Here are the states with restrictions on travel

Thanksgiving week is historically one of the busiest travel periods of the year. The CDC and many state officials are discouraging travel this year, citing the rise in coronavirus cases across the country.

Ballotpedia has tracked 12 states plus the District of Columbia that currently have active restrictions on travel:

  • Alaska
  • Connecticut
  • District of Columbia
  • Hawaii
  • Kansas
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont

Of the states on that list, Alaska was the first to impose travel restrictions. Pennsylvania, which issued its restrictions on Nov. 20, was the most recent to do so.

All 12 states plus the District of Columbia require out-of-state travelers to self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. Some states, including Alaska, Massachusetts, and New York, allow travelers to avoid or reduce the length of the quarantine period if they can produce a negative COVID-19 test upon arrival. Restriction enforcement includes fines ranging from $100 to $10,000.

Since the pandemic began, 26 states have issued restrictions on travel, and 14 have been rescinded.

Many states that have not issued enforceable orders limiting travel have instead issued advisories encouraging travelers to quarantine upon arrival. Click the link below for a list of all the states’ travel restrictions and advisories. And to stay up-to-date on travel restrictions and much more coronavirus-related news, click here to subscribe to our Documenting America’s Path to Recovery emails.

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Expected census delays may postpone state redistricting efforts in 2021

On Nov. 19, U.S. Census Bureau Director Steve Dillingham announced an expected delay in processing population totals for the 2020 U.S. Census. On the same day, the New York Times reported that calculations could be delayed until at least Jan. 26, 2021, but possibly to mid-February. 

The standard census timeline calls for the bureau to submit apportionment counts to the President by Dec. 31 and redistricting data to the states by April 1, 2021. In the 2010 cycle, the bureau delivered apportion counts to the president on Dec. 21, 2010, and redistricting data to the states between Feb. 3 and March 24, 2011.

At least one state (California) has already extended its redistricting deadlines by order of the state supreme court, in light of the uncertainty surrounding the conclusion of the census. 

Federal law requires congressional and legislative districts to have roughly equal populations. Consequently, states use census data during their redistricting processes to ensure compliance with this requirement. 

Every 10 years, the United States conducts the census, a complete count of the U.S. population. Census results determine the number of seats each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives. Because the U.S. Constitution requires that representation be apportioned to the states on the basis of population, a state can gain seats if its population grows or lose seats if its population decreases, relative to populations in other states.

In the 2010 cycle, redistricting authorities enacted 43 new congressional district maps and 50 new state legislative district maps (seven states had only one district each, eliminating the need for congressional redistricting). The majority—63 maps (31 congressional and 32 state legislative), or 67.74% of the total—were enacted in 2011. In 2012, 28 maps (12 congressional and 16 state legislative) were enacted—30.11% of the total. The remaining maps were enacted in the first six months of 2013.

Although postponements to the 2020 process are possible because of census delays, what happened in 2010 gives us an idea of when most of the redistricting activity will occur.

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Upcoming elections

Much of the country’s attention is focused on the Jan. 5 runoffs for the U.S. Senate in Georgia. But there are several elections occurring before then. Let’s take a look at the upcoming races:

  • Nov. 24: Mississippi is holding a special runoff election for state House District 87 and a general runoff election for DeSoto County School District.
  • Dec. 1: Arkansas will hold a general runoff for the Little Rock School District.
  • Dec. 1: Georgia will hold a runoff for state races, including a special election runoff for Georgia state Senate District 39.
  • Dec. 5: Louisiana’s statewide general election.
  • Texas will hold elections on multiple days in December:
    • Dec. 8: General runoff for Arlington, Mansfield ISD, and Dallas County
    • Dec. 12: General runoff for El Paso County, Laredo, and Houston City Council 
    • Dec. 15: General runoff for Austin and Corpus Christi
    • Dec. 19: Special election runoff for state Senate District 30
  • Dec. 15: Alabama will hold a special election primary runoff will be held for state Senate District 26.
  • Dec. 22: New York will hold a special election for City Council District 12.

Learn more



Ballotpedia’s Daily Brew: Reviewing the effect of the Nov. 3 election results on redistricting

Welcome to the Friday, Nov. 20, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Legislative control of redistricting changed in New Hampshire, Vermont after Nov. 3 elections
  2. Election certification dates and next week’s election deadlines
  3. Friday trivia: Which state voted Republican in the presidential election and Democratic in its gubernatorial race?

Legislative control of redistricting changed in New Hampshire, Vermont after Nov. 3 elections

We’ve been busy analyzing this month’s election results and the effects they may have on politics and governance. This includes topics such as trifectas, triplexes, and the status of veto-proof majorities in state legislatures. Another area we’re tracking is how the results affected legislative control of redistricting.

Redistricting is the process of drawing new congressional and state legislative district boundaries. It occurs every 10 years after the publication of the decennial United States Census. Each state determines its own redistricting method.

Partisan control of redistricting changed from their post-2018 status in two states—New Hampshire and Vermont—as a result of the Nov. 3 elections: 

  • Both chambers of the New Hampshire legislature switched from Democratic to Republican control. Republicans gained a net 57 seats in the state House—giving them a 213-187 majority—and a net four seats in the state Senate, for a 14-10 majority. New Hampshire’s legislature will draw congressional and state legislative district lines in 2021, and the governor, Chris Sununu, is Republican.
  • Vermont’s redistricting process will occur under divided party control in 2021. Before the election, Democrats and third-party representatives who caucus with Democrats had supermajorities in both chambers of Vermont’s state legislature. Republicans had a net gain of three seats in the state House, meaning Democrats no longer have supermajority status in that chamber. The Democratic-controlled Vermont legislature will develop redistricting plans next year but will not have the two-thirds supermajority in each chamber necessary to override a possible veto from Republican Gov. Phil Scott.

Thirty-four states grant their state legislature control over congressional redistricting, and 35 give the legislature control over state legislative redistricting. After the Nov. 3 elections, the partisan control for these states will break down as follows:

  • Republican legislatures control 20 congressional and state legislative redistricting processes. 
  • Democratic legislatures control 10 congressional redistricting processes and 11 state legislative redistricting processes. 
  • Four congressional and state legislative redistricting processes are under divided party control. 

The remaining states employ independent or political commissions for their redistricting process. 

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Election certification dates and next week’s election deadlines 

Next week may include the Thanksgiving holiday, but it will be a busy week for states to certify their Nov. 3 election results. Between Nov. 23 and 25, 12 states and the District of Columbia have election certification and/or canvassing deadlines:

Nov. 23: Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Utah

Nov. 24: District of Columbia, Indiana, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Ohio

Nov. 25: Alabama and Alaska

Five states—Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Montana, and Nebraska—certify their election results Nov. 30.

To date, election certification and/or canvassing dates will pass today or have passed in 15 states:

• Nov. 5: Delaware

• Nov. 10: Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Vermont

• Nov. 11: South Carolina and Wyoming

• Nov. 13: Mississippi

• Nov. 16: Virginia (actual certification took place on Nov. 18)

• Nov. 17: Florida

• Nov. 18: Arkansas, Idaho, and Massachusetts

• Nov. 20: Georgia and North Dakota

By the end of next week, certification and/or canvassing deadlines will have passed in 27 states and the District of Columbia. 

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Friday trivia: Which state voted Republican in the presidential election and Democratic in its gubernatorial race?

We’ve been analyzing election results since Nov. 3, and earlier this week, we highlighted those states that voted for one party’s candidate for president and the other major party’s candidate for governor. Eleven states held gubernatorial elections this year.

Joe Biden (D) won two states—Vermont and New Hampshire—in the presidential race at the same time voters re-elected their Republican governors: Chris Sununu (N.H.) and Phil Scott (Vt.). A third state voted for President Donald Trump (R) and elected a Democratic governor. Can you guess which one?

Which state voted Republican in the presidential election and Democratic in their governor’s race?

  1. Delaware
  2. Indiana
  3. Montana
  4. North Carolina


Ballotpedia’s Daily Brew: The 75 closest congressional races of 2020

Welcome to the Thursday, Nov. 19, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Seventy-five congressional elections were decided by 10 percentage points or fewer
  2. Voters in Arizona, Colorado, Illinois decide ballot measures regarding state income taxes
  3. Local roundup

Seventy-five congressional elections were decided by 10 percentage points or fewer

Here’s more post-election analysis: Seventy-five (or 16%) of congressional elections were decided by 10 percentage points or fewer. Eight were races for U.S. Senate, and 67 were for U.S. House. 

This marks the second straight election cycle when more than 15% of congressional races were decided within that margin. In 2018, 22% were decided by 10 percentage points or fewer. Nine percent and 12% of races were decided by that margin in 2016 and 2014, respectively. 

In 2020, Democrats won 40 of these elections and Republicans won 35. 

Note: 14  U.S. House races were uncalled as of this writing (they’re not counted in the analysis below), and final counts haven’t been certified in many others. Ballotpedia will not project a winner for U.S. House elections until there is a consensus projection made by a pool of five national news outlets—ABC News, CNN, Fox News, NBC, and The New York Times. These numbers will change over the coming days and weeks.

Of the top three closest races this year (that have been called), two of the three resulted in a party change. Those were:

Thirty-five races were decided by fewer than five percentage points; three of those were U.S. Senate races, and 32 were U.S. House races. Of those, Democrats won 22 and Republicans won 13. 

In comparison, 102 races were decided by 10 percentage points or fewer in 2018. Of these, 12 were elections for the U.S. Senate, and 90 were elections for the U.S. House. Democratic candidates won 49 of these elections, and Republican candidates won 53. 

Fifty races in 2018 were decided by fewer than five percentage points: five elections for the U.S. Senate and 45 were elections for the U.S. House. Democratic candidates won 24 of these elections, and Republican candidates won 26.

There were 42 and 56 congressional races decided by 10 percentage points or fewer in 2016 and 2014, respectively. In 2016, nine were elections for the U.S. Senate, and 33 were elections for the U.S. House, with candidates from each major party winning 21 of the elections. In 2014, seven were elections for the U.S. Senate, and 49 were elections for the U.S. House. Democratic candidates won 32 of these elections, and Republican candidates won 24.

For races decided by fewer than five percentage points, there were 22 in 2016 and 31 in 2014. In 2016, five elections were for the U.S. Senate, and 17 were for the U.S. House seats, with Democratic candidates winning 14 of these elections and Republicans winning eight. In 2014, five were elections for the U.S. Senate, and 26 were for the U.S. House, with Democratic candidates winning 17 of these elections and Republican candidates winning 14.

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Voters in Arizona, Colorado, Illinois decide ballot measures regarding state income taxes

Voters in 12 states voted on 19 ballot measures addressing tax-related policies on Nov. 3. Today, let’s look at the three which concerned state income taxes, which were on the ballot in Arizona, Colorado, and Illinois. Arizona voters approved a measure to increase tax rates for income above a certain level to fund education. Colorado voters approved a decrease to the state’s flat income tax rate. Illinois voters defeated a measure to allow for a graduated income tax. Here are the details:

  • Arizona Proposition 208: Voters approved the measure by a vote of 51.8% to 48.3%. The measure enacts a 3.50% income tax, in addition to the existing income tax, on taxable income above $250,000 (single filing) or $500,000 (joint filing). 
    • As of 2020, the highest income tax in Arizona was 4.50%, which was levied on income above $159,000 (single filing) or $318,000 (joint filing). Based on the existing income tax rates, the ballot initiative has the effect of increasing the tax rate from 4.50% to 8.00% on income above $250,000 (single filing) or $500,000 (joint filing). 
  • Colorado Proposition 116: Voters approved the measure by a vote of 57.9% to 42.2%. It decreases the state income tax rate from 4.63% to 4.55% for individuals, estates, trusts, and foreign and domestic C corporations operating in Colorado. 
    • The Colorado individual income tax rate has been a flat tax rate since 1987. The flat tax was 5% from 1987 to 1998. It was lowered to 4.75% in 1999. The rate has been 4.63% since 2000. 
  • Illinois Graduated Income Tax Amendment: Voters defeated the measure 54.5% to 45.5%. It would have authorized the state to enact legislation providing for a graduated income tax. The measure would have repealed the state’s constitutional requirement that the state’s personal income tax is a flat rate across income. Instead, the ballot measure would have allowed the state to enact legislation for a graduated income tax. In Illinois, income is taxed at a flat rate of 4.95%. 

Beyond these three tax-related policy measures on the Nov. 3 ballot, 10 others addressed property taxes, two addressed tobacco taxes, one addressed business-related taxes, one addressed sales tax rates, one addressed fees and surcharges, and one was related to tax-increment financing (TIF).

Heading into the 2020 election, 43 states levied a tax on personal income. Of these 43 states, 11 states had a flat income tax rate, meaning there is a constant rate across income before deductions and exemptions. The flat income tax rates ranged from 2.00% in Tennessee to 5.25% in North Carolina. Most (32 of 50) states had a graduated income tax, with different rates applied to different levels of income.

Since 2016, California, Colorado, and Maine voters have decided four measures designed to directly increase or renew income tax rates. Two were approved, and two were defeated. One was repealed after approval.

Local roundup

In today’s roundup of local election results and previews, here’s an update on a Seattle City Council recall effort.

The Washington Supreme Court will consider the appeal of a recall petition against Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant before the end of the year. Here’s a brief timeline of the events leading up to the court’s consideration.

  • Aug. 18: The recall against Sawant was initiated when lead petitioner Ernie Lou submitted a formal recall petition to the King County Elections Office.
  • Sept. 16: King County Superior Court Judge Jim Rogers certified four of the six grounds for recall contained in the petition.
  • Oct. 2: Sawant filed an appeal of the recall certification with the Washington Supreme Court. 
  • Nov. 12: The Washington Supreme Court issued a timeline for the appeal: 
    • Sawant’s opening brief is due to the court by Nov. 23
    • Petitioners’ response is due on Dec. 3
    • Sawant’s reply is due by Dec. 10

The court expects to rule on the appeal by Jan. 7, 2021. If Sawant’s appeal is unsuccessful, petitioners would be required to gather over 10,700 signatures from registered voters to get the recall on the ballot, which equals 25% of the total votes cast in the last District 3 election held in 2019.

Sawant represents District 3 on the Seattle City Council. Though the office is officially nonpartisan, Sawant is a member of the Socialist Alternative Party and, upon her election in 2013, was the first socialist elected to Seattle city government in 97 years.

In 2019, Ballotpedia covered a total of 151 recall efforts against 230 elected officials. Of the 66 officials whose recalls made it to the ballot, 34 were recalled for a rate of 52%. That was lower than the 63% rate and 57% rate for 2018 and 2017 recalls, respectively.
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Ballotpedia’s Daily Brew: Republicans gain in state legislative districts that intersect with Pivot Counties

Welcome to the Wednesday, Nov. 18, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Republicans to gain at least 30 state legislative seats in districts that intersect with Pivot Counties
  2. Alaska voters approve ranked-choice voting measure
  3. Rep. Cedric Richmond named member of Biden’s senior staff, will resign from Congress

Republicans to gain at least 30 state legislative seats in districts that intersect with Pivot Counties

Today we look at legislative races in the nation’s 206 Pivot Counties. Pivot Counties are the 206 counties that Ballotpedia identified as voting for Barack Obama (D) in 2008 and 2012 and Donald Trump (R) in 2016. There are 705 legislative districts—in whole or in part—in these counties. 

Republicans will have at least 30 more state legislators representing these districts, and Democrats will have at least 22 fewer.

Because some of the districts are multi-member districts, there are 800 legislators in the 705 districts. As of Nov. 16, Republicans will control 473 seats, a gain of at least 30 relative to immediately after the 2018 elections and Democrats stand to control 266. Final control of 58 seats remains too close to call, and three seats will be held by third party or independent legislators. Even if Democrats win all 58 uncalled races, they would still lose a net 22 seats relative to their post-2018 totals. After the 2018 election, Republicans held 443 of these seats to Democrats’ 346.

The table and chart below show the partisan control of all state legislative seats intersecting with Pivot Counties through Nov. 16.

The 800 state legislators who represent districts containing all or part of a Pivot County include 231 state senators (11.9% of all state senators) and 569 state representatives (10.5% of all state representatives). The number of these state legislators increased from 2016 to 2020 due to mid-cycle redistricting in North Carolina.

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Alaska voters approve ranked-choice voting measure 

Yesterday, Ballotpedia called Alaska Ballot Measure 2, with election results at that time showing the measure passing 50.5% to 49.5%. 

Ballot Measure 2 makes several changes to Alaska’s election policies, including:

  • replacing partisan primaries with open top-four primaries for state executive, state legislative, and congressional offices, 
  • establishing ranked-choice voting for general elections, including the presidential election, and
  • requiring persons and entities who contribute more than $2,000 that was derived from donations, contributions, dues, or gifts to disclose the sources of the contributions.

Alaska will become the first state to adopt top-four primaries for state executive, state legislative, and congressional offices. Like the top-two systems in California and Washington, all candidates will run in a single primary election, regardless of a candidate’s party affiliation. The four candidates receiving the most votes will advance to the general election.

In the general election, voters will elect state and federal candidates using ranked-choice voting (RCV). For state executive, state legislative, and congressional elections, voters will rank the four candidates who advanced from their top-four primaries. If a candidate receives a majority of first-choice votes, he or she will be declared the winner. If no candidate wins a majority, the candidate with the fewest votes would be eliminated, and voters who selected that candidate as their first choice would have their votes redistributed to their second choice. The process continues until two candidates remain. The candidate with the largest number of votes in the final round is the winner.

Alaska becomes the second state to approve ranked-choice voting statewide after Maine approved it in 2016. Eight states contain jurisdictions that have implemented RCV at some level, and another five states contain jurisdictions that have adopted but not yet implemented RCV in local elections.

Ballot Measure 2’s system of top-four primaries and ranked-choice voting general elections will be first used in 2022, which includes the gubernatorial, U.S. House, and a U.S. Senate election in Alaska. 

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Rep. Cedric Richmond named member of Biden’s senior staff, will resign from Congress

President-Elect Joe Biden’s transition team announced Nov. 17 that U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.) would become Senior Adviser to the President and Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement. When the appointment takes effect, Richmond will resign from his district in the House of Representatives.

Richmond was first elected to the House in 2010 and was re-elected Nov. 3, receiving 64% of the vote in Louisiana’s majority-vote system. Richmond chaired the Congressional Black Caucus from November 2016 to December 2018. Before joining Congress, Richmond was a member of the Louisiana House of Representatives from 2000 to 2011.

Vacancies in the House of Representatives are filled by special election, and Richmond’s resignation will trigger the first special election of the 117th Congress. Richmond did not say when his resignation would become official. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) said, “I will consult with Congressman Richmond about the timing of his resignation from Congress and with the Secretary of State and other leaders in his district about the best time for a special election to fill his seat when it is vacant.” Although the special election can be set on any date, Louisiana holds municipal primary elections on March 22, 2021, and municipal general elections on April 24, 2021.

The final partisan composition of the House of Representatives after the Nov. 3 elections has not been determined. A consensus of five media outlets have called enough races to confirm that Democrats will retain their majority.

In 2017, four U.S. House members—Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), Tom Price (R-Ga.), and Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.)—resigned to take positions in President Trump’s administration. In 2009, four U.S. House members—Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), John McHugh (R-N.Y.), Hilda Solis (D-Calif.), and Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.)—resigned to take positions in President Barack Obama’s (D) administration. The party of the outgoing representative won seven of the eight special elections triggered by those resignations. Bill Owens (D-N.Y.) won a special election in November 2009 for McHugh’s seat.

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Ballotpedia’s Daily Brew: Introducing Ballotpedia’s state supreme court partisanship study

Welcome to the Tuesday, Nov. 17, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Introducing Ballotpedia’s supreme court partisanship study
  2. Three states split presidential and gubernatorial vote in 2020
  3. Alaska state Legislature elections could influence trifecta status, legislature majorities

Introducing Ballotpedia’s supreme court partisanship study

Today, I’m excited to brief you on our newly published State Supreme Court Partisanship Study. 

First, some background. Each state has at least one supreme court, or court of last resort. Oklahoma and Texas each have two such courts, one for civil appeals and one for criminal appeals. The study – a culmination of eight months of research and compilation of raw data – supplies Partisan Confidence Scores for 341 active state supreme court justices on all 52 courts of last resort. 

We gathered a variety of data on each justice and, based on that data, placed each justice into one of five categories indicating our confidence in their affiliations with either the Democratic or Republican Parties. These categories are Strong Democratic Confidence, Mild Democratic Confidence, Indeterminate Confidence, Mild Republican Confidence, and Strong Republican Confidence. Click here to learn more about our methodology.

To be clear – the study does not specifically describe the partisan affiliation of judges. We call our scores Confidence Scores because we believe they provide insight into the degree of confidence we have in each justice’s political leanings because of their previous partisan activity.

Here are some of the key findings from the study:

  • Of the 341 justices studied, we assigned Republican scores to 178 (52.2%), Democratic scores to 114 (33.4%), and Indeterminate scores to 49 (14.4%).
  • Twenty-seven states (54%) have a majority of justices with Republican scores. Fifteen state supreme courts (30%) have a majority of justices with Democratic scores. Eight state supreme courts (16%) do not have a majority of justices with Democratic scores or Republican scores.
  • 39.9% of the population live in a state which has a majority of justices with Democratic scores on the court. 51.1% of citizens live in a state which has a majority of justices with Republican scores on the court. 9% of citizens live in a state with a split court, or a court with a majority of justices with indeterminate partisan leanings. 

Stay tuned for future Brew editions, where we’ll dive deeper into the study’s findings. 

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Three states split presidential and gubernatorial vote in 2020

Here’s another post-election results analysis for you. Of the 11 states that elected a governor this year, voters in three states (New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Vermont) voted for presidential and gubernatorial candidates of different parties. Voters in at least one other state voted for a presidential candidate opposite its current trifecta status. 

A state government trifecta occurs when one party holds a state’s governorship and majorities in both chambers of the state legislature. Heading into the 2020 elections, Republicans had 21 state government trifectas, and Democrats had 15. The 14 remaining states had divided government, where neither party had a trifecta.

Following the 2020 elections, Republicans were projected to gain trifecta control in Montana and New Hampshire. The trifecta status of Alaska was not yet determined. If control of Alaska does not change, Republicans will have 23 trifectas (a net gain of two), Democrats will have 15 trifectas, and 12 states will have divided governments (a net loss of two). If Republicans gain a trifecta in Alaska, they will have 24 trifectas to Democrats’ 15 with 11 divided governments.

This year, New Hampshire and Vermont re-elected their Republican governors while also voting for Joe Biden. North Carolina re-elected its Democratic governor while voting a second time for Donald Trump.

Both Montana and West Virginia voted for Donald Trump a second time while also electing a Republican governor. In Montana, Greg Gianforte (R) was elected governor after losing to incumbent Steve Bullock (D) in the 2016 election. In West Virginia, Jim Justice (R) was re-elected. Justice was first elected as a Democrat in 2016 and joined the Republican Party the following year.

In 2016, when all 11 states also held gubernatorial elections, five states split their presidential and gubernatorial votes. Montana, North Carolina, and West Virginia elected Democratic governors while also voting for Donald Trump (R). New Hampshire and Vermont elected Republican governors while also voting for Hillary Clinton (D).

Joe Biden (D) won all 15 states with Democratic trifectas as well as Arizona, which has a Republican trifecta. As of Nov. 16, the results of the presidential election in Georgia, a Republican trifecta, remained too close to call. Four of the five outlets Ballotpedia tracks had called the state for Joe Biden.

Donald Trump (R) won the other 19 Republican trifecta states. Of the 14 states with divided government heading into the election, six voted for Donald Trump and eight for Joe Biden.

Republicans gained trifectas in two states that had divided government before the election: Montana (which voted for Donald Trump) and New Hampshire (which voted for Joe Biden). As of Monday, Republicans stood to also gain a trifecta in Alaska, which voted for Donald Trump, although that state’s final trifecta status remained too close to call.

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Alaska state Legislature elections could influence trifecta status, legislative majorities

Speaking of trifectas, here’s an update from Alaska.

As of Monday, Republicans led in both legislative chambers, although several races remained too close to call. Local political observers suggest that minority coalitions had the potential to form in both chambers. Republicans won a 12-seat majority in the state Senate, with one election in a Republican-held district too close to call. However, observers reported that policy disputes in the Republican caucus left the possibility of a minority coalition open. Republicans won at least 19 seats in the state House, with 12 going to Democrats and one to an independent. Control of the eight remaining seats was too close to call.

In 2018, Republicans had a majority in the state Senate, gained control of the state House, and won the governorship. Although Republicans won a 23-16 majority of House seats in the 2018 election, divisions within the house caucus prevented them from taking formal control of the chamber and achieving a state government trifecta. A bipartisan coalition eventually organized a majority in which the two parties divided leadership and committee positions. Although they lost one seat in the Alaska state Senate, Republicans maintained a 13-7 majority.

Even with a majority in the Senate, Republicans could fail to unify, with some members possibly joining with the seven Democratic senators to form a coalition like the one created in the House in 2018. Eleven votes are necessary to name a new Senate leader and control the legislative process. In the House, the outcome of uncalled elections could affect the composition of the bipartisan coalition formed in 2018, and Republicans would have to form a united governing majority in both the House and Senate to achieve a trifecta.

Click the link below to follow along with us as we track results.
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Ballotpedia’s Daily Brew: The makeup of the federal judiciary

Welcome to the Monday, Nov. 16, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Under Trump, Republican-appointed majorities in circuit courts doubled
  2. Wyoming amendment concerning municipal debt for sewage systems fails due to non-votes
  3. Upcoming elections

Number of federal circuit courts with a majority of judges appointed by Republican presidents has doubled in Trump administration

From time to time, we’ve written in the Brew about the pace and status of judicial confirmations by the Trump administration. As 2020 draws to a close, let’s take a look back at the past four years.

Since Donald Trump’s inauguration, the number of federal circuit courts with Republican-appointed majorities has doubled from four to eight. Trump has appointed 52 judges to the 13 federal circuit courts. There are 179 U.S. Court of Appeals judgeships overall.

In January 2017, there were 90 judges appointed by Democrats, 74 judges appointed by Republicans, and 14 vacancies across the circuit courts. In November 2020, there were 80 judges appointed by Democrats, 97 judges appointed by Republicans, and one vacancy.

Of the five circuits that did not flip from majority Democratic-appointed to majority Republican-appointed, all but one kept the same partisan balance. The Ninth Circuit went from an 18-9 split (with two vacancies) before Trump took office to a 16-13 split (with no vacancies). The other four are the First, Tenth, D.C, and Federal Circuits.

All four circuits that were majority Republican-appointed when Trump took office added to that majority. The Fifth Circuit moved from R+5 to R+7, the Sixth Circuit from R+5 to R+6, the Seventh Circuit from R+2 to R+6, and the Eighth Circuit from R+6 to R+9.

Trump made the most appointments (10) to the Ninth Circuit. He made six appointments each to the Fifth, Sixth, and Eleventh Circuits. The only circuits without a Trump appointee as of November 2020 were the First Circuit and the Federal Circuit.

Overall, Trump had made 220 federal judicial appointments through Nov. 1 of this year. This is the highest number up to that date in a president’s first term since Jimmy Carter (D), who appointed 260 federal judges in that time period. Bill Clinton (D) follows Trump, having appointed 203 judges during the same time. 

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Wyoming amendment concerning municipal debt for sewage systems fails due to non-votes

We’ve been tracking and updating you on the November 2020 ballot measure results as they come in. Here’s an interesting one that may have been buried under all the others.

A Wyoming measure designed to remove the limit on debt a municipality could incur for sewer projects failed after 11% of the ballots cast either left the measure blank or filled in both “for” and “against.” The measure failed since it required approval from a majority of voters casting a ballot at the election, which means leaving Amendment A blank was the equivalent of voting against it. 

  • Total ballots cast at the election: 278,503 (100%)
  • Total votes for Amendment A: 126,589 (45.45%)
  • Total votes against Amendment A: 120,808 (43.38%)
  • Undervotes and overvotes on Amendment A: 31,106 (11.17%)

In other words, the measure received a plurality of votes cast, but it required a majority based on the total number of ballots cast for it to be approved. 

Five other states besides Wyoming have the requirement that a majority of voters must approve a constitutional amendment. Four—Utah, Minnesota, Hawaii, and Illinois—require constitutional amendments to be approved by a majority of all voters at the election, and one (Tennessee) requires approval from a number equal to a majority of all voters casting a ballot for governor. Nebraska, Mississippi, and Massachusetts have provisions that require approval from a certain percentage, ranging from 30% to 40%, of all voters at the election. Provisions like these mean that a certain number of undervotes on an amendment could prevent the measure from passing despite approval from a majority of votes cast on the measure itself.

Here are some background facts:

  • From 1996 through 2018, the Wyoming State Legislature referred 26 constitutional amendments to the ballot. Voters approved 18 and rejected eight of the referred amendments. 
  • Four of the eight rejected measures were defeated despite receiving more yes votes than no votes. 
  • All of the amendments were referred to the ballot for general elections during even-numbered election years. 
  • The average number of amendments appearing on the general election ballot was two. 
  • The approval rate at the ballot box was 69.23% during the 22-year period from 1996 through 2018. The rejection rate was 30.77%.

Ballotpedia covers local measures that appear on the ballot for voters within the top 100 largest cities in the U.S. Ballotpedia also covers all local measures in California and all statewide ballot measures. For the latest on ballot measures, click here subscribe to our State Ballot Measure Monthly newsletter. 

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Upcoming elections

After the whirlwind of the Nov. 3 elections, you might think elections are over for this year. However, residents in several states still have upcoming races in November and December. Here’s a look at what’s coming up:

  • Alabama: A special general election and a special primary will be held for a state House and state Senate district, respectively, on Nov. 17.
  • Mississippi: A general runoff election will be held for a school district and state House district on Nov. 24.
  • Arkansas: A general runoff election will be held for a school district on Dec. 1.
  • Georgia: General runoff elections will be held for statewide races and one federal race on Dec. 1.
  • Louisiana: General statewide elections will be held on Dec. 5.
  • Texas: A general runoff election will be held for mayoral and city council seats on Dec. 12.

There is also a potential runoff election for the regular U.S. Senate race in Georgia, which would be held on Jan. 5. 

The runoffs for statewide and federal offices in Georgia are on separate dates to allow enough time to send and receive military and overseas ballots.

We’ll be covering the Georgia elections in a regular newsletter starting later this week. Stay tuned for more details!
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