TagDaily Brew

Hurricane Ida’s impact on elections in Louisiana

Welcome to the Friday, September 10, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Louisiana Governor delays fall election dates in response to Hurricane Ida
  2. Virginia and Maryland add new state court judges
  3. #FridayTrivia: Which of these states voted for the winning candidate in five of the six previous presidential elections?

Louisiana Governor delays fall election dates in response to Hurricane Ida

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) issued an executive order on Thursday delaying the state’s fall elections from Oct. 9 to Nov. 13 in response to damage caused by Hurricane Ida. Nov. 13 was the date originally scheduled for any runoff elections. Under the new schedule, any runoff elections will now be held on Dec. 11.

In a Sept. 7 press release outlining his recommendation for the postponements, Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin (R) said, “A number of issues stemming from Hurricane Ida’s devastation, including questions about nursing home operations, postal service delivery, extensive power outages, polling location damages, and election commissioners and staff members still displaced, would make holding the election on its original dates virtually impossible without impairing the integrity of the election.”

Louisiana’s fall ballot includes three special state legislative elections, municipal elections in New Orleans, four constitutional amendments, and several local ballot initiatives.

This election date change is the second for Louisiana voters in the past two years. In 2020, Louisiana ultimately postponed its presidential preference primary from April 4 to July 11 in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Nineteen other states also rescheduled primary or runoff elections during the 2020 election cycle, shown below:

For New Orleans voters, in particular, a postponed election in response to a hurricane is not unheard of. In 2006, Gov. Kathleen Blanco (D) rescheduled the city’s mayoral and city council primaries from Feb. 4 to April 22 due to lingering damage following Hurricanes Katrina (Aug. 2004) and Rita (Sept. 2005). According to congressional reports, these storms displaced roughly half of the city’s voters and destroyed 295 of its 442 polling places.

Here’s a quick list of some other election date changes in response to emergencies over the past two decades:

  • 2018: The Northern Marianas Islands postponed its general election from Nov. 6 to Nov. 13 after Super Typhoon Yutu hit the territory on Oct. 24. Yutu was the strongest typhoon ever recorded in the territory.
  • 2006: New Orleans’ postponed its mayoral and city council primaries from Feb. 4 to April 22 due to lingering damage following Hurricanes Katrina (Aug. 2004) and Rita (Sept. 2005).
  • 2001: New York City postponed its municipal primary from Sept. 11 to Sept. 25 following the 9/11 terrorist attacks that took place on the morning of the election. Polls opened at 6:00 a.m. with any votes cast before the postponement nullified.

The Louisiana majority-vote system differs from those used in the other 49 states. In Louisiana, all candidates running for a local, state, or federal office appear on the same ballot in either October (in odd-numbered years) or November (in even-numbered years), regardless of their partisan affiliations. If a candidate wins 50% of the vote plus one, he or she wins the election outright. If no candidate meets that threshold, the top two finishers, regardless of their partisan affiliations, advance to a second election. In that election, the candidate who receives the greatest number of votes wins.

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Virginia, Maryland add new state court judges

State courts in Virginia and Maryland are welcoming new judges to the bench following elections and vacancy appointments. Here’s a look at what’s changing:

Virginia: 

Seven new judges joined the Virginia Court of Appeals on Sept. 1. The Virginia General Assembly elected eight judges to the court on Aug. 10 with the eighth, Dominique Callins, scheduled to take office on Nov. 1, following the retirement of Judge William Petty.

This large number of new judges comes as a result of legislation passed by the General Assembly earlier this year that increased the number of judges on the Court of Appeals from 11 to 17.

Virginia and South Carolina are the two states that use legislative elections to select judges. This method is unique among selection types in that neither the governor (via appointment powers) nor the public (via direct elections) has a role in the selection process.

Maryland:

On Sept. 3, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) appointed Steven Gould to succeed Chief Justice Mary Ellen Barbera on the Maryland Court of Appeals, the state’s court of last resort. Barbera, who reached the state court’s mandatory retirement age of 70 years, is set to step down today, Sept. 10.

Gould, a judge of the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, is Hogan’s fifth nominee to the seven-member supreme court.

Hogan also announced the appointment of Justice Joseph Getty to the chief justice position. Getty will reach the mandatory retirement age in 2022.

State supreme court vacancies so far:

In 2021, there have been 16 state supreme court vacancies in 14 of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. All 16 vacancies have been caused by retirements.

Nine vacancies—in Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Maryland, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Texas—are in states where a Republican governor appoints the replacement. The other seven vacancies—in Colorado, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, and Oregon—are in states where a Democratic governor appoints the replacement.

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#FridayTrivia: Which of these states voted for the winning candidate in five of the six previous presidential elections?

Thirty-five states voted for the winning candidate in three of the six presidential elections from 2000 to 2020. Another 10states voted for the winning candidate in four. Five states were the most accurate, voting for the eventual winner in five of those six elections. One of those five states is listed below.

Which of these states voted for the winning candidate in five of the six previous presidential elections?

  1. Wyoming
  2. Iowa
  3. Colorado
  4. Hawaii


Four states implement new mask requirements for both vaccinated and unvaccinated

Welcome to the Thursday, September 9, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Four more states implement universal indoor mask requirements
  2. Redistricting Roundup: Colorado redistricting commission releases new proposed congressional maps
  3. MA attorney general clears 17 ballot initiatives for signature gathering

Four additional states implement universal indoor mask requirements

In the past 30 days, four states—Illinois, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington—have implemented new indoor mask requirements for both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals. All four states are Democratic trifectas with Democrats holding the governorship and majorities in the state senate and state house.

  • In Illinois, Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) announced the universal indoor mask requirement on Aug. 26, and the policy took effect on Aug. 30. Illinois had previously lifted its mask requirement, which lasted 407 days between May 1, 2020, and June 11, 2021.
  • Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) announced an indoor mask requirement for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals on Aug. 11 and an outdoor mask requirement for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals on Aug. 24. The orders took effect on Aug. 13 and Aug. 27, respectively. Oregon had previously lifted its mask requirement, which lasted for 365 days between July 1, 2020, and June 30, 2021.
  • On Aug. 17, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) also announced an indoor mask requirement for both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals. It took effect on Aug. 20. Previously, New Mexico had an indoor mask requirement in place only for unvaccinated individuals. It had lifted the requirement for vaccinated individuals on May 14, 2021
  • In Washington, an indoor mask requirement for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals took effect on Aug. 23. Gov. Jay Inslee (D) announced the policy on Aug. 18. The requirement does not apply to small gatherings or office environments where everyone is vaccinated and interaction with the public is rare or while working alone. Inslee previously lifted the indoor mask requirement for vaccinated individuals on May 13, 2021.

Across the country, three states currently have statewide mask orders for unvaccinated individuals, and seven states have statewide mask orders for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals. All 10 of the states have Democratic governors.

In total, 39 states have issued statewide mask requirements. Thirty-two states—16 states with Republican governors and 16 states with Democratic governors—have allowed statewide orders to expire. Three states—Louisiana, Oregon, and Illinois—allowed a statewide order to fully expire and later reinstated a mask order.

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Redistricting Roundup: Colorado redistricting commission releases new proposed congressional maps

Colorado: The Colorado Independent Redistricting Commission staff released a proposed congressional district map on Sept. 3. This is the first proposed map the commission released since the U.S. Census Bureau distributed block-level data from the 2020 census to states on Aug. 12. The commission is holding public hearings about the newly released maps during the week of Sept. 7. 

The Colorado Supreme Court previously ordered on July 26 that the Commission submit final congressional redistricting plans for approval no later than Oct. 1. Colorado was apportioned eight seats in the U.S. House of Representatives after the 2020 census—a net gain of one seat for the state.

Connecticut: The Connecticut General Assembly Reapportionment Committee will not create congressional and state legislative district maps by the state’s constitutional deadline of Sept. 15, according to The CT Mirror. If the deadline is not met, redistricting in Connecticut will be decided by a nine-member backup commission consisting of eight members appointed by the majority and minority leaders of each chamber of the legislature and a ninth member selected by the eight appointed commission members. Maps determined by the backup commission are not subject to legislative approval. Connecticut previously used this process in 2011 after the committee did not meet the deadline that year. 

Iowa: The Iowa Temporary Redistricting Advisory Commission announced it would release the first draft of proposed state legislative district maps on Sept. 16. The Iowa Constitution states that the Iowa Supreme Court has responsibility for legislative redistricting if the general assembly doesn’t enact new maps before Sept. 15. In April, the Iowa Supreme Court released a statement saying that “the supreme court tentatively plans to meet its constitutional responsibility by implementing a process which permits, to the extent possible, the redistricting framework…to proceed after September 15.”

Texas: Gov. Greg Abbott (R) announced on Sept. 7 that he was calling a special session of the state legislature to address redistricting and other issues beginning Sept. 20.

Two Democratic state senators filed a lawsuit in federal district court on Sept. 1 arguing that the legislature cannot legally redraw district maps during a special session since the Texas Constitution requires lawmakers to begin the process after the “first regular session after the publication of each United States decennial census.” The lawsuit asks the court to draw interim maps until the state’s next regular legislative session in January 2023.

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MA attorney general clears 17 ballot initiatives for signature gathering

On Sept. 1, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey (D) announced that 17 ballot initiatives of the 30 filed were cleared for signature gathering. The 17 initiatives included 16 initiated state statutes aiming for the 2022 ballot and one initiated constitutional amendment that would appear on the 2024 ballot.

The initiatives cleared for signature gathering address the following issues:

  1. Changes to alcohol retail licensing,
  2. Compensation of chief executive officers of hospitals,
  3. Hospital operating margin limits,
  4. App-based drivers’ employment classification,
  5. Voter identification,
  6. Hate crimes against first responders,
  7. Commercial retail of fireworks,
  8. Whale and sea turtle safe fishing gear,
  9. Gasoline supply,
  10. Sale of discounted alcoholic beverages,
  11. Corporate tax disclosures,
  12. Right to counsel in eviction proceedings, 
  13. Tax credits for individuals who buy zero-emission vehicles, home heating systems, and home solar-powered electricity, and
  14. No-excuse absentee voting.

In Massachusetts, the number of signatures required to qualify an indirect initiated state statute for the ballot is equal to 3.5% of the votes cast for governor in the most recent gubernatorial election. No more than one-quarter of the verified signatures on any petition can come from a single county. The process for initiated state statutes in Massachusetts is indirect, which means the legislature has a chance to approve initiatives for which enough signatures are collected without the measure going to the voters. In Massachusetts, signatures for initiated state statutes are collected in two rounds.

The deadline to submit the first round of signatures to the secretary of state is Dec. 1, 2021. Prior to submitting signatures to the secretary of state, the signatures need to be submitted to local registrars by Nov. 17, 2021. If the legislature does not adopt the proposed law by May 4, 2022, petitioners then have until July 6, 2022, to request additional petition forms and submit the second round of signatures.

Proposed constitutional amendments have just one round of signature gathering with the same requirement and deadline as the first round for statutes. If enough signatures are submitted by the deadline, the initiative goes to the legislature, where 25% of all legislators, with senators and representatives voting jointly, must approve the amendment in two successive sessions. If this requirement is met, the initiative goes on the ballot at the next general election. Because of this unique requirement, the earliest an initiated constitutional amendment can reach the ballot is two years following signature submission.

Between 1996 and 2020, an average of three measures appeared on the ballot in Massachusetts during even-numbered election years. About 54% (22 of 41) of the total number of measures that appeared on statewide ballots were approved, and about 46% (19 of 41) were defeated.

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What voters had to say 65 years ago today

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

  1. Today in ballot measure history: North Carolina voters approve four constitutional amendments, North Dakota voters consider seven
  2. Texas Legislature refers constitutional amendment to May 2022 ballot 
  3. August 2021 breakdown of state legislative party membership

Today in ballot measure history: North Carolina voters approve four constitutional amendments, North Dakota voters consider seven

Sixty-five years ago today, on Sept. 8, 1956, voters in North Carolina approved four amendments to the state constitution. The General Assembly referred each measure to the ballot. Here’s a quick look at what voters approved.

  • Amendment 1 guaranteed state legislators compensation of $15 for each day the legislature was in session up to 120 days, the equivalent of $149.45 in 2021 dollars. Floor leaders were guaranteed compensation of $20. The amendment was approved 71.3% to 28.7%, the narrowest of any of the four. Today, North Carolina state legislators receive a per diem of $104 in addition to a $13,951 annual salary.
  • Amendment 2 required the biennial legislative session to begin on the first Wednesday after the first Monday in February. The amendment was approved 81.9% to 18.1%.
  • Amendment 3 was approved 85.4% to 14.6%. It allowed married women to execute any powers of attorney their husbands specified. 
  • The Special Session Amendment was approved 82.3% to 17.8%. This amendment gave the state government authority to provide funds to help cover the cost of private education and provided a system for residents to call a local election to forbid local private schools from participating in the funding program. The amendment was part of a series of measures known as the Pearsall Plan that shared the objective of limiting court-mandated racial integration of North Carolina schools.

Nearly 20 years later, on Sept. 7, 1976, voters in North Dakota would consider seven constitutional amendments. The state legislature referred all but one of the amendments to the ballot.

Voters approved five of those amendments, including a district residency requirement for state senators, an amendment specifying a time when the state’s legislative session should meet, and an amendment allowing for limited forms of gambling.

Amendment 5, which voters rejected 62.1% to 37.9%, would have abolished the office of superintendent of public instruction and created a board of public education and a board of higher education. The other rejected amendment would have set a hard cap on the legislature’s spending between 1975 and 1979. Today, all 50 states have a statewide superintendent of public instruction, and the position is elected in 12.

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Texas Legislature refers constitutional amendment to May 2022 ballot 

Speaking of ballot measures, here’s an interesting development from this year’s landscape.

Texas voters will decide on whether to amend the state constitution to reduce property tax rates for elderly and disabled residents in a May 2022 referendum. The state legislature voted to approve the amendment for the ballot on Aug. 26.

This is the first ballot measure to appear on an even-numbered year’s ballot in Texas since 2014. Between 1985 and 2020, there were 10 measures on the Texas ballot in even-numbered years and 251 in odd-numbered years.

State Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R), the author of the amendment, said there had not been enough funding to pass the bill during the regular session and the walkout House Democrats carried out earlier in the summer had delayed the special session’s consideration of the bill. Bettencourt said had the walkout not occurred, the amendment could have been on the November 2021 ballot.

Under Texas law, school property taxes are frozen for property owners when they turn 65 and for disabled owners when they acquired the property. However, because the state approved a reduction in property tax rates in 2019, many elderly and disabled Texans now pay school property tax at higher rates. The amendment on the ballot would reduce those rates to match the statewide cuts.

In the state Senate, all 18 Republicans and 11 of the 13 Democrats voted to approve the measure. In the state House, 80 of the 82 Republicans and 36 of the 66 Democrats voted in favor. No state legislators voted against the measure.

Legislators from both parties criticized the process involved in getting the amendment to the ballot. State Rep. Donna Howard (D) said she had proposed a similar amendment during the regular session and that the Republican majority had defeated it.

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August 2021 breakdown of state legislative party membership: 54.26% Republicans, 44.72% Democrats

54.26% of all state legislators are Republicans, and 44.72% are Democrats, according to Ballotpedia’s August partisan count of the nation’s 7,383 state legislators.

Ballotpedia tallies the partisan balance of state legislatures at the end of every month. Partisan balance refers to which political party holds a majority in each chamber. Republicans control 61 chambers, while Democrats hold 37. The Alaska House of Representatives is the nation’s only chamber with a multipartisan power-sharing coalition.

Nationally, state legislatures have 1,957 state senators and 5,363 state representatives. Democrats hold 863 state Senate seats and 2,439 state House seats, a loss of four seats in each chamber since the end of July. Republicans hold 4,006 of the 7,383 total state legislative seats—1,091 state Senate seats (a gain of one since July) and 2,915 state House seats (a decrease of five).

Independent or third-party legislators hold 39 seats, of which 32 are state House seats, and seven are state Senate seats. There are 36 vacancies.

During August, Democrats saw a net decrease of eight seats, and Republicans saw a net decrease of four seats. Compared to August 2020, state legislatures are 2.06% less Democratic (46.78% to 44.72%) and 2.26% more Republican (52.00% to 54.26%).  

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How redistricting may cause a delay to the 2022 primary calendar

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

  1. Texas Legislature adopts bill allowing the postponement of 2022 primary and filing deadlines
  2. One week until California’s gubernatorial recall election
  3. Taking a look at state legislative special elections in 2021 so far

Texas Legislature adopts bill allowing the postponement of 2022 primary and filing deadlines

Last week, the Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 13 (SB 13), a bill that would allow for the postponement of the state’s 2022 primary election and associated candidate filing deadlines if new district maps are not in place by specific dates specified in the bill.

Under its current schedule, Texas is slated to hold its primary elections on March 1, 2022, the earliest date in the 2022 cycle. The filing deadline is December 13, 2021. Here’s a breakdown of the scenarios, should the bill be implemented as law.

  • If the Texas Legislature adopts new district lines on or before Nov. 15, 2021, the current primary date and candidate filing deadlines remain unchanged.
  • If a plan is adopted after Nov. 15 but on or before Dec. 28, 2021, the primary will be moved to April 5, 2022, and the candidate filing deadline changed to Jan. 24, 2022.
  • At the latest, if a plan is adopted after Dec. 28, 2021, but on or before Feb. 7, 2022, the primary will be postponed to May 24, 2022, and the filing deadline set at March 7, 2022.

On Aug. 27, the Texas House of Representatives voted 96-25 in favor of SB 13 followed by the Texas State Senate, voting 30-1 in favor on Aug. 29. On Aug. 31, the bill was sent to Gov. Greg Abbott (R), who is expected to sign the bill into law.

Regardless of which deadline is met under SB 13, Texas’ primary elections would remain some of the earliest in the 2022 election cycle. The map below shows primary election months for each state during the 2022 election cycle. Under the current schedule, a majority of states (32) are holding primary elections in either June, July, or August. 

The Texas State Legislature is responsible for drawing both congressional and state legislative district lines during the redistricting process. These maps are subject to a gubernatorial veto. If the legislature is unable to approve a state legislative redistricting plan, a five-person backup commission must draw the lines, though this commission is not involved in congressional redistricting.

Every month, Ballotpedia brings you the latest developments in election policy at the federal, state, and local level in The Ballot Bulletin. Stay on top of election policy news throughout the states by subscribing here.

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One week until California’s gubernatorial recall election

In one week, the polls will close in the recall election targeting California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D). Early voting is underway and all registered voters in the state have been sent absentee/mail-in ballots for the election, which is officially slated for Sept. 14, 2021.

The recall election will present voters with two questions. The first will ask whether Newsom should be recalled from the office of governor. The second will ask who should succeed Newsom if he is recalled. A majority vote supporting the recall is required on the first question for the governor to be recalled. If that occurs, the candidate with the most votes on the second question would win the election, no majority required.

Here are some of the most recent updates:

  • Fifteen counties are currently operating early voting centers, which will remain open through Sept. 10. These voting centers offer registration, replacement ballots, accessible voting machines, and language assistance. You can find more info about early voting and ballot drop locations here.
  • Three separate polls were released on Aug. 31, Sept. 1, and Sept. 2. On average, 42% of respondents supported the recall and 54% opposed it.
  • These same polls found that, for the second question, an average of 27% of respondents supported Larry Elder (R), 23% were undecided, and 20% selected some other response, which includes candidates not listed in the poll as well as leaving the second question blank.

Forty-six candidates, including nine Democrats and 24 Republicans, are running in the election. The candidates who have received the most media attention and best poll performances so far are YouTuber Kevin Paffrath (D), 2018 gubernatorial candidate John Cox (R), radio host Larry Elder (R), former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer (R), California State Board of Equalization member Ted Gaines (R), former Olympian and television personality Caitlyn Jenner (R), and Assemblyman Kevin Kiley (R).

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Taking a look at state legislative special elections in 2021 so far

Voters in Alabama and New Hampshire are casting ballots in several state legislative special elections today. We wanted to take a moment to check out how special state legislative elections have played out in 2021 so far.

To start, those three elections being held today, Sept. 7, are taking place in:

  • Alabama’s House District 78: this seat became vacant after Rep. Kirk Hatcher (D) won election to the Alabama State Senate in a March 2 special election. Voters will elect either Kenyatté Hassell (D) or Loretta Grant (R) as their new representative.
  • New Hampshire’s House District Hillsborough 7: originally slated as a primary, the special election to fill Rep. David Danielson’s (R) seat was moved to Sept. 7 after only one candidate from each political party filed: Catherine Rombeau (D) and Linda Camarota (R). This seat became vacant after Danielson passed away on May 22.
  • New Hampshire House District Cheshire 9: there is a Republican primary between Lucille Decker and Rita Mattson. The winner will face Andrew Maneval (D) in the general election on Oct. 26. This seat became vacant after Rep. Douglas Ley (D) passed away on June 10.

There have been 35 special state legislative elections held so far in 2021, almost all of which saw the vacant seats remain under the same party’s control. One seat—Connecticut’s State Senate District 36—flipped from Democratic to Republican control following Ryan Fazio’s (R) victory on August 17.

As it stands today, 68 state legislative special elections have been scheduled throughout 2021 in 20 states. This number is higher than 2020, which saw 59 special elections, but lower than the decade average. Between 2011 and 2020, an average of 75 special elections took place each year.

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A closer look at campaign finance reports in eight battleground states

Welcome to the Friday, September 3, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Who’s raising the most money so far this year? 
  2. Special election to the Texas House of Representatives heads to a runoff
  3. #FridayTrivia: What percentage of state legislative seats will feature a Democrat and a Republican on the general election ballots this year?

Who’s raising the most money so far this year? We’ve got that data in eight states

Campaign finance requirements govern the raising and spending of money for political campaigns. 

We recently released a series of articles, listed below, showing the top individual fundraisers by party affiliation in eight states: Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin. These figures are based on campaign finance reports that active candidate political action committees (candidate PACs) submitted to their respective states. They include activity between Jan. 1, 2021, and June 30, 2021. Candidate PACs represent individuals who have run for state or local office at any point, including past and present officeholders. These articles do not include non-candidate PACs.

The articles were published in partnership with Transparency USA. Click here to learn more about that partnership.

Let’s take a look at some of the topline stats pulled from these reports. 

The state with the greatest total amount raised during this period was Texas, where candidate PACs raised around $169 million in the first half of 2021. Virginia, the only state on this list holding multiple statewide elections in 2021, saw the second-most activity, with around $68 million raised. Florida saw the third-most activity, with candidates raising just over $50 million. Fla. Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), the single-highest fundraiser during this period, made up a majority of those funds, raising $36 million, 72% of the statewide total.

Of the five top fundraisers, three are gubernatorial incumbents who are not up for re-election until 2022 at the earliest. In addition to DeSantis’ $36.2 million, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and Mich. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) raised $20.9 and $6.9 million, respectively.

The remaining two candidates are Terry McAuliffe (D) and Glenn Youngkin (R), the two major-party candidates for governor in Virginia this year. McAuliffe raised $14.5 million to Youngkin’s $7.6 million.

Want to know more? Use the links below to read about fundraising in each of the eight states analyzed in this series:

Special election to the Texas House of Representatives heads to a runoff

On Aug. 31, voters in Texas’ House District 10 cast their ballots in a special general election. Brian E. Harrison (R) and John Wray (R) defeated six other candidates and advanced to a runoff election after receiving 41% and 36% of the vote, respectively. A candidate needed to win at least 50% of the vote to avoid a runoff. The candidate with the third-most votes was Pierina Otiniano (D) with 11%.

As of Sept. 2, a runoff date had not been announced.

Gov. Greg Abbott (R) called the election after former state Rep. Jake Ellzey (R) won a special election to Texas’ 6th Congressional District on July 27. Ellzey first won election to the Texas House of Representatives in 2020 and assumed office in January 2021.

As of Sept. 2, 57 state legislative special elections have been scheduled across the country. The special election in District 10 was the second state legislative special election in Texas so far in 2021. A special election for House District 68 took place on Jan. 23 to fill a vacancy left by Drew Springer (R). David Spiller (R) won the runoff election for that seat on Feb. 23.

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#FridayTrivia: What percentage of state legislative seats will feature a Democrat and a Republican on the general election ballots this year?

In Thursday’s Brew, we took a look at our analysis of major party competition in New Jersey and Virginia’s state legislative elections. This analysis examines the number of seats up for election contested by both a Democrat and a Republican, which we use to determine the level of competitiveness in state legislative elections each year. For comparison, in 2020, both major parties’ candidates contested 65% of the state legislative seats up for election.

What percentage of state legislative seats will feature a Democrat and a Republican on the general election ballot this year?

  1. 81%
  2. 76%
  3. 89%
  4. 93%


Ballotpedia Competitiveness Report: State legislative elections reach decade high

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

  1. Major party competition in state legislative elections reaches decade high
  2. Federal Register nears 50,000 pages
  3. Redistricting Roundup: Illinois legislature enacts revised district boundaries, Ohio sets more public hearings

Major party competition in state legislative elections reaches decade high

Of the 220 state legislative seats up for election this year in New Jersey and Virginia, 93% will feature a Democrat and a Republican on the general election ballot this November. 

This is the highest percentage of state legislative seats being contested by both major parties at any point in the past decade. It is also the first election cycle since at least 2010 where more than 90% of state legislative seats up for election nationwide were contested by both major parties.

This increase in major party competition is largely driven by an increased level of competitiveness in the Virginia House of Delegates over the past decade. 

Looking back to 2011, less than half of the seats in the chamber were contested by both major parties. In 2017, the chamber began trending more competitive when Democrats contested 57% more seats than they had in 2015. Both Democrats and Republicans continued to increase their number of contested seats in 2019 and 2021.

In contrast, state legislative elections in New Jersey have featured higher levels of major party competition throughout the decade. Both major parties have contested at least 90% of seats in each state legislative election cycle from 2011 to 2021.

In the New Jersey General Assembly, no Republican has run unopposed since 2017. The highest number of uncontested seats in the chamber came in 2015 when eight seats, or 10%, were effectively guaranteed to one of the two major parties.

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Federal Register nears 50,000 pages

The Federal Register is a daily journal of federal government activity that includes presidential documents, proposed and final rules, and public notices. It is a common measure of an administration’s overall regulatory activity, accounting for both regulatory and deregulatory actions. We periodically update you about its status—here’s a recent report.

From Aug. 23 through Aug. 27, the Federal Register grew by 1,344 pages for a year-to-date total of 48,294 pages. By this point in President Donald Trump’s (R) first year as president, the year-to-date total was 40,666 pages.

Last week’s Federal Register additions featured the following 611 documents:

  • 495 notices
  • Two presidential documents
  • 52 proposed rules
  • 62 final rules

Ballotpedia has maintained page counts and other information about the Federal Register as part of its Administrative State Project since 2017. Click below to learn more about how the Federal Register has changed from the Trump administration to the Biden administration.

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Redistricting Roundup: Illinois legislature enacts revised district boundaries, Ohio sets more public hearings

The Illinois House and Senate approved new state legislative boundaries during a special session on Aug. 31. 

The maps, which passed 73-43 in the state House, and 40-17 in the state Senate, revised legislative redistricting plans enacted in June before the U.S. Census Bureau released block-level data from the 2020 census on Aug. 12. Illinois had been the second state to pass new legislative maps. 

For reference, following the 2010 census, Gov. Pat Quinn (D) signed redistricting legislation on June 3, 2011.

Two lawsuits challenging the 2021 maps were consolidated in a federal district court on July 14. The plaintiffs—the minority leaders of the Illinois House and Senate and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund—argued that the redistricting plans did not ensure that the districts had substantially equal populations because they used data from the American Community Survey (ACS) instead of the 2020 census. The trial is set to begin on Sept. 27.

In Ohio, the state’s redistricting commission decided on Aug. 31 that it would hold three additional public hearings before approving proposed maps, as opposed to the single public hearing required by law. 

The commission did not approve new state legislative districts by its initial Sept. 1 deadline. The final deadline is Sept 15.

Rep. Bob Cupp (R), the co-chair of the commission, said the late release of census data caused the commission’s delay. He estimated maps would be formally proposed in 10-12 days. 

The Ohio Redistricting Commission is composed of five Republicans—including Gov. Mike DeWine (R)—and two Democrats.

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51 years ago today, North Dakota voters approve constitutional convention

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

  1. 51 years ago today, North Dakota voters approve constitutional convention
  2. Arrivals and departures: A look at recent changes in state legislative membership
  3. So far this year, 19 members of Congress have announced their retirement, on par with recent odd-numbered years

51 years ago today, North Dakota voters approve constitutional convention

On Sept. 1, 1970, North Dakota voters approved a proposal to hold a constitutional convention. The state legislature referred the proposal to the ballot, and voters approved it 58.6% to 41.4%.

The vote set in motion a year-and-a-half-long drafting and approval process. It began with the election of 98 delegates that November. The 98 delegates included 85 men and 13 women. The three most common occupations among the delegates were businessman (34 delegates), farmer (25), and lawyer (14).

The constitutional convention held its organizing session in April 1971, selecting officers and organizing six committees. Each committee drafted portions of the constitution dealing with different subject areas.

The delegates spent the remainder of 1971 holding 16 public hearings to discuss ideas for the new constitution before re-convening to draft the document in January 1972.

The changes proposed in the new constitution included: 

  • a reduction in the number of elected executive offices from 14 to seven, 
  • an extension of the regular legislative session from 60 to 80 days, and 
  • the creation of an independent commission made up of district judges to draw state legislative district lines.

The convention closed in February to allow a period of public discussion ahead of the April 28, 1972, vote on the proposed constitution. The convention put five questions on the ballot: one on whether to adopt the new constitution and four related to specific details in the proposal that delegates decided to leave to voters.

Voters rejected the new constitution 62.7% to 37.3%. Voters were in favor of modifying the structure of the state legislature to have a single unicameral chamber, like in Nebraska, rather than a separate House and Senate. Voters rejected a proposal to lower the age of adulthood to 18 and a proposal that would have allowed the state legislature to authorize lotteries. Because the new constitution was not approved, none of the proposed changes took effect.

North Dakota still uses its original constitution, adopted in 1889. The last state to adopt a new constitution as opposed to amending its existing constitution was Rhode Island in 1986. The Massachusetts Constitution is the oldest state constitution currently in use. It was adopted in 1780—eight years before the current U.S. constitution.

The last state to vote in favor of holding a constitutional convention was Hawaii in 1996. The ballot question on whether to hold a convention that year received 50.5% votes in favor and 49.5% votes opposed. However, the state supreme court ruled that the vote had not met the 50% threshold required to hold a convention because fewer than half of the voters participating in the election had voted in favor (many voters left the convention question blank).

In 14 states, the question of whether to hold a constitutional convention is automatically referred to a statewide ballot periodically. Three states have convention questions on the 2022 ballot: Alaska, Missouri, and New Hampshire.

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Arrivals and departures: A look at recent changes in state legislative membership

Since Aug. 23 across eight states, two state legislators have left office and six have been sworn in. 

Two Democrats and four Republicans were sworn in as new state legislators. Five of the new legislators were appointed to offices previously held by members of their own party: 

  • Maryland state Del. Roxane Prettyman (D), 
  • New Mexico state Rep. Viengkeo Kay Bounkeua (D), 
  • West Virginia state Del. Jordan Maynor (R), 
  • Kansas state Rep. Cyndi Howerton (R), and 
  • Oregon state Rep. Christine Goodwin (R). 

A special election in Connecticut’s 36th state Senate District filled the sixth vacancy. State Sen. Ryan Fazio (R) won that election. Fazio’s win changed party control of the office, which Democrat Alex Kasser had held since 2018. Kasser was the first Democrat to win election in the 36th District since at least 1942.

Kentucky state Rep. Robert Goforth (R) resigned on Aug. 24, and Mississippi state Rep. Abe Marshall Hudson Jr. (D) resigned on Aug. 30. Goforth was first elected to the state House in 2018 and Hudson in 2016. Both Kentucky and Mississippi hold special elections to fill vacancies due to resignation.

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So far this year, 19 members of Congress have announced their retirement, on par with recent odd-numbered years

Three members of the U.S. Senate and sixteen members of the U.S. House have announced they will not seek re-election in 2022. All three senators and eight of the 16 House members are Republicans. The other eight House members are Democrats. This figure does not include two Republican senators who announced their upcoming retirements before this year. 

Seventeen members of Congress had announced retirements by the end of August 2013 and August 2017. Eighteen members had announced retirements by the end of August 2015 and August 2019. At the end of August 2011, the last congressional election cycle to take place during ongoing redistricting, 27 members had announced retirements. Since 2011, 40% of the congressional retirements for the cycle had been announced by the end of August in the odd year.

March and November are the months with the most congressional retirement announcements in recent odd-numbered years. Since 2011, 13% of all congressional retirements in odd-numbered years have taken place in November and another 13% have taken place in March (this includes retirements from March 2021). 

When both odd- and even-numbered years are included, January leads in congressional retirement announcements. Since 2011, 17% of all congressional retirement announcements have taken place in January. June had the fewest retirement announcements during the same period at 4%.

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The final stretch of California’s gubernatorial recall

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

  1. The final stretch of California’s gubernatorial recall
  2. Checking in on voting bills in Georgia and Texas
  3. Property tax rate initiative qualifies for Colorado ballot

The final stretch of California’s gubernatorial recall

We are two weeks away from the Sept. 14 recall election regarding California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D). Early voting has already begun. County election officials began mailing absentee/mail-in ballots to all registered voters on Aug. 16. Let’s take a look at the race with two weeks to go.

Recall supporters said Newsom mishandled the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, did not do enough to address the homelessness rate, and supported sanctuary city policies and water rationing. In response, Newsom called the effort a “Republican recall — backed by the RNC, anti-mask and anti-vax extremists, and pro-Trump forces who want to overturn the last election and have opposed much of what we have done to fight the pandemic.”

Voters are faced with two questions. The first asks whether Newsom should be recalled. The second asks who should succeed Newsom if he is recalled. A majority vote is required on the first question for the governor to be recalled. If that majority is reached, then the candidate with the most votes on the second question wins the election, no majority required. Voters may vote on both questions regardless of whether they vote in favor or against the recall.

Forty-six candidates—including nine Democrats and 24 Republicans—appear on the ballot for the second question, including YouTuber Kevin Paffrath (D), 2018 gubernatorial candidate John Cox (R), radio host Larry Elder (R), former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer (R), California State Board of Equalization member Ted Gaines (R), former Olympian and television personality Caitlyn Jenner (R), and Assemblyman Kevin Kiley (R).

Real Clear Politics reports that, based on averages from four recent polls, 48% of respondents supported the recall and 48% said they would vote against it. For the second question, on average, 22% of respondents supported Elder (R) followed by 11% for Paffrath (D). A plurality of respondents gave some other response, which might include another candidate, leaving the second question blank, or unsure. Two polls included in the average excluded respondents from polling on the second question if they chose to leave that question blank.

Campaign finance reports as of July 31 show committees opposing Newsom’s recall have accounted for most of the money raised and spent. These committees have raised $50.0 million and spent $21.5 million spent. For the second question, Republican candidates have raised $16.0 million and spent $11.5 million, collectively, while Democrats have raised and spent roughly $400,000.

While the election will be held on Sept. 14, the results will not be certified until Oct. 22. A semifinal official canvass of the votes will begin at 8:00 p.m. on election day and election officials may begin counting absentee/mail-in ballots on Sept. 7. This means initial returns may be released soon after polls close. The official canvass will begin on Sept. 16 and must be completed no later than Oct. 14.

Since 1911, there have been 55 attempts to recall a California governor. The only successful campaign was in 2003 when voters recalled Gov. Gray Davis (D). In that election, 135 candidates ran and the winner, Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), received 48.6% of the vote on the second question.

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Checking in on voting bills in Georgia and Texas

Several states have passed or proposed election policy packages this year affecting various aspects of voting. Here’s an update from two of those states: Georgia and Texas.

Georgia

U.S. District Court Judge Jean-Paul Boulee temporarily suspended a recently enacted state law prohibiting photographs of cast ballots. The injunction prevents the state from enforcing the provision regarding ballot photographs pending resolution of the case

On Aug. 20, Boulee, a Donald Trump (R) appointee, wrote: “[The photography rule’s] broad sweep prohibits any photography or recording of any voted ballot in public and nonpublic forums alike,” adding that the plaintiffs were “substantially likely to succeed on the merits of their First Amendment challenge” to the rule.

The photography rule in question was part of Senate Bill 202 (S.B. 202), an election policy bill Gov. Brian Kemp (R) signed into law on March 25. Boulee’s injunction suspended the provision of that law regarding ballot photographs but left the remainder intact. Boulee denied plaintiffs’ requests to block other parts of the law.

Texas

The Texas House of Representatives passed Senate Bill 1 (S.B. 1)—a legislative package related to early voting, elections officers, voter registration, and voting systems—after Democratic members returned to the capitol, ending a 38-day walkout. 

On July 12, 51 of the chamber’s 67 Democrats left the state for Washington, D.C. in order to break quorum and prevent action on the bill. The walkout ended on Aug. 19 after three members returned to the chamber, providing a quorum.

On Aug. 27, the House voted 80-41 in favor of the bill with 80 Republicans voting yes and 40 Democrats voting no. Republican Rep. Lyle Larson joined Democrats voting against the bill, which now goes to the Republican-controlled state Senate for approval.

Property tax rate initiative qualifies for Colorado ballot

Colorado voters will decide whether the state should lower its property tax rates in the Nov. 2, 2021, general election. On Aug. 26, Secretary of State Jena Griswold (D) announced that proponents of Initiative 27 submitted a projected 138,567 valid signatures. To qualify, 124,632 needed to be valid.

If passed, the initiative would reduce the state’s residential property tax assessment rate from 7.15% to 6.5% and its non-residential rate from 29.0% to 26.4%. It would also allow the state to retain and spend $25 million in revenue above its spending cap for five years to offset lost revenue for local governments. Currently, the state’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) limits the amount of money the state can take in and spend. Any money collected above this limit is refunded to taxpayers.

Michael Fields of Colorado Rising Action sponsored the measure. Fields said it would offset the effect rising home values have had on tax levels. “Our houses are worth more,” Fields said, “but that doesn’t mean you have more money in your pocket to be able to pay for the property taxes.”

Elliot Goldbaum of the Colorado Fiscal Institute opposes the measure. Goldbaum said most Coloradoans do not own property and would not receive any tax benefits from the initiative: “there are a lot of millionaires and billionaires who own very expensive property who are going to get a very large tax cut.”

In addition to Initiative 27, voters will decide on Initiative 25, a measure to increase the marijuana sales tax to fund a statewide out-of-school education program. Proponents of a third measure transferring control of the state’s custodial funds from the treasurer to the legislature submitted signatures. The secretary of state must finish verifying signatures for that initiative by Sept. 1.

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SCOTUS stays busy even when between terms

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

  1. SCOTUS Roundup: Orders include eviction moratorium, vaccine requirements
  2. Introducing the new lieutenant governor of New York
  3. WA school board candidate re-enters race after receiving most primary votes

SCOTUS Roundup: Orders include eviction moratorium, vaccine requirements

While the Supreme Court does not begin its new term until Oct. 4, the court is still issuing opinions from its emergency docket. This includes cases that are not part of the court’s merits docket and scheduled for argument.

Here’s a roundup of key orders this month:

  • Aug. 26: The Supreme Court vacated the nationwide moratorium on evictions of tenants who live in a county experiencing substantial or high levels of COVID-19 transmission and make declarations of financial need. The moratorium was imposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in response to the coronavirus pandemic. In the 6-3 ruling, the court wrote, “If a federally imposed eviction moratorium is to continue, Congress must specifically authorize it.” Justices John Roberts, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett were in the majority. Justices Justice Stephen Breyer filed a dissenting opinion joined by Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.
  • Aug. 24: The court denied the Biden administration’s application to stay an injunction from the  U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas requiring the reinstatement of the Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy. This policy requires asylum seekers to stay in Mexico while awaiting a U.S. immigration court hearing. The court’s order stated that Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan would have granted the application. Five justices are needed to grant a stay.
  • Aug. 20: Justice Amy Coney Barrettwho is assigned to respond to emergency matters from Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin—denied a request from Protect Our Parks to halt the construction of the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park in Chicago.  The request was denied without being referred to the full court.
  • Aug. 12: Barrett also denied a request for emergency relief to block Indiana University’s COVID-19 vaccine requirement for students. The request was denied without being referred to the full court.

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Introducing the new lieutenant governor of New York

The newly sworn-in governor of New York, Kathy Hochul (D), announced at an event in Harlem on Aug. 26 that she had selected Brian Benjamin as her pick for lieutenant governor. Benjamin currently represents the 30th District in the New York State Senate and serves as the chamber’s senior assistant majority leader.

Benjamin ran for New York City comptroller over the summer, finishing fourth in the Democratic primary with 11.6% of the vote.

Hochul said during the announcement that Benjamin would be sworn in after Labor Day. The special election for Benjamin’s vacant seat in the state senate will likely coincide with the November general election. Benjamin was last elected in the district with 93.0% of the vote in 2020 and 99.6% in 2018.

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WA school board candidate re-enters race after receiving most primary votes

Clallam County, Washington, has the nation’s longest unbroken record of voting for the winning presidential candidate—going back four decades to 1980!

Clallam County is also a Boomerang Pivot County, meaning it backed Barack Obama (D) in 2008 and 2012, Donald Trump (R) in 2016, and Joe Biden (D) in 2020. There are 24 other Boomerang Pivot Counties in the U.S.

Here’s one of the interesting local races coming out of Clallam County:

Kristi Schmeck, who suspended her campaign for a seat on the five-member Sequim School District Board of Directors in the late spring, rejoined the race after receiving the most votes—28.9%—in the Aug. 2 primary. She advanced to the general election with Virginia R. Sheppard, who received 28.7%.

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The latest developments regarding sports betting in Florida

Welcome to the Friday, August 27, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Gaming compact between Seminole Tribe and Florida goes into effect
  2. Local Elections: School board filing deadline updates
  3. #FridayTrivia: What percentage of absentee/mail-in ballots cast last year were rejected?

Gaming compact between Seminole Tribe and Florida goes into effect

The Seminole Tribe and the state of Florida have approved a compact, or agreement, giving the Tribe the exclusive right to conduct sports betting in the state, including online wagering. Under the compact, the Tribe must share revenue from sports wagering with the state for the next 30 years, with the state expected to receive up to $6 billion by 2030. The federal Bureau of Indian Affairs published the compact in the Federal Register on Aug. 11. 

Congress passed the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) in 1988, which allowed tribes to establish casino gambling on tribal land and permitted states to form compacts with tribes to regulate gaming. Ballotpedia identified 193 such compacts published in the Federal Register since 1997. The IGRA requires any gaming activities established through compacts between Indian tribes and state governments occur only on Indian lands.

Two Florida casinos have filed lawsuits challenging the compact in U.S. district court, alleging that allowing online sports wagering violates federal law since bets can be placed anywhere in the state and not just on Indian lands. The suits challenge the compact’s provision stating that online sports betting in Florida takes place on the Seminole Tribe’s lands because that’s where the sportsbooks and servers are located.

Sponsors of an initiative to allow entities other than the Seminole Tribe to conduct sports betting in Florida are attempting to qualify a measure for the 2022 ballot. Sponsors must submit 891,589 valid signatures in time for election officials to verify them by Feb. 1, 2022. Additionally, sponsors must collect signatures equaling at least 8% of the district-wide vote in the last presidential election from 14 of the state’s 27 congressional districts. 

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Local Elections: School board filing deadline updates 

Candidate filing periods for municipal and school board positions are open in cities across the country. Here’s an update about recent candidate filing deadlines for school board positions in three states: 

Colorado

The filing deadline is today—Aug. 27—for candidates to run for school board across Colorado. Ballotpedia is covering school board elections this year for 47 seats in 16 districts in the state, including the two districts with the highest enrollment: Denver Public Schools and Jeffco Public Schools.

Candidates who want to run for a position on a Colorado school board must:

  • Be a registered voter in the corresponding school district for the 12 months before the election,
  • Be a resident of the corresponding geographic district if the school district elects school board members by district, and
  • Not have been convicted of a sexual offense against a child.

In the Jeffco Public school district in suburban Denver, three of the board’s five seats are up for election. The three incumbents in these districts—Susan Harmon, Ron Mitchell, and Brad Rupert—were all first elected in a 2015 recall election and re-elected to a full term in 2017. None of these incumbents have announced they are running for re-election this year, according to a list of unofficial candidates on the Jeffco Board of Education website.  

Albuquerque Public Schools

The filing deadline to run for school board passed on Aug. 24 in four of seven districts on the Albuquerque Public Schools Board of Education, the largest school district in New Mexico. The last time an incumbent ran for re-election and lost in this district was in 2015. The official candidate list for these elections is not yet available.

Ohio

The filing deadline to run as a write-in candidate for school board in Ohio passed on Aug. 23. Election officials will only count votes for write-in candidates who file a declaration of intent and pay a $30 filing fee. Voters will know that a write-in candidate has filed for a specific office because a blank line will appear on the ballot with “Write-in” below the line. According to the Ohio School Boards Association, “voters won’t be given a list of official write-in candidates, but election officials will provide a list, if requested. Voters who know the name of a write-in candidate they support can simply type in the name on the voting machine or write in the name on an absentee ballot.” Ballotpedia is covering school board elections this year for 61 seats in 20 districts in Ohio.

Ballotpedia provides in-depth coverage of school board elections in America’s largest school districts by enrollment. In addition to the 200 largest school districts in the nation, Ballotpedia covers school districts that overlap with the nation’s 100 most populous cities. This year, we’re covering elections for 504 school board seats in 178 districts nationwide.

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#FridayTrivia: What percentage of absentee/mail-in ballots cast last year were rejected?

In Monday’s Brew, we highlighted our recently completed analysis of the rates that election officials rejected absentee/mail-in ballots in the 2020 general election. Voters cast 70.5 million absentee/mail-in ballots nationwide in 2020. For comparison, 30.4 million absentee/mail-in ballots were cast in 2018, and 33.4 million such ballots were cast in 2016.

What percentage of absentee/mail-in ballots cast last year were rejected?

  1. 0.8%
  2. 1.4%
  3. 1.8%
  4. 2.6%