TagDaily Brew

The Daily Brew: Women in top federal, state, judicial offices

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

  1. Women in Congress, governorships, and top judicial positions
  2. Previewing Louisiana’s 2nd Congressional District special election 
  3. New Learning Journey: What is an Agency? 

Women in Congress, governorships, and top judicial positions

Today is International Women’s Day—so what better time to explore some data points about women in Congress, governorships, and prominent judicial positions. Below, we look at firsts, the total numbers of women who have served in each office, and the number of women currently in each office.

Supreme Court

  • First: Sandra Day O’Connor was the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court. President Ronald Reagan (R) appointed O’Connor in 1981. She served until January 2006.
  • Overall: Five women have served as associate justices on the U.S. Supreme Court: O’Connor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Amy Coney Barrett. Democratic presidents appointed three and Republican presidents appointed two.
  • Current: Three women serve on the Supreme Court: Sotomayor, Kagan, and Barrett. President Barack Obama appointed Sotomayor and Kagan. President Donald Trump appointed Barrett. 

U.S. Senate

  • First: Rebecca Felton (D-Ga.) served as the first female senator. In 1922, Felton’s husband died in office, and the governor appointed her to fill the seat. Felton served 24 hours while the Senate was in session. Hattie Caraway (D-Ark.) was the first woman elected to the Senate. She was elected in 1932 after being appointed in 1931, when her husband died in office. Caraway served until 1945.
  • Overall: 58 women have served in the Senate—36 Democrats and 22 Republicans.
  • Current: 24 women serve in the Senate—16 Democrats and eight Republicans.


  • First: Jeannette Rankin (R-Mont.) was the first woman to serve in the U.S. House. She was elected in 1916.
  • Overall: 345 women have served in the U.S. House—227 Democrats and 118 Republicans.
  • Current: 119 women serve in the U.S. House—89 Democrats and 30 Republicans.

Data on the total numbers and partisan breakdown of female representatives came from the Center for American Women and Politics, Eagleton Institute of Politics, Rutgers University. 


  • First: Nellie Tayloe Ross (D-Wyo.) was the first woman elected governor, taking office in 1925. She won a special election to replace her deceased husband. The first woman elected governor who did not succeed her husband was Ella Grasso (D-Conn.), who took office in 1975.
  • Overall: 44 women have served as governors—26 Democrats and 18 Republicans. Two additional women have served as governors of Puerto Rico and one has served as governor of Guam.
  • Current: Nine women serve as governors (in eight states and Guam).

The above data on female governors came from the Center for American Women and Politics, Eagleton Institute of Politics, Rutgers University. 

State supreme court chief justices

  • First: Lorna Lockwood began serving as Arizona Supreme Court chief justice in 1965.
  • Overall: Western Michigan University’s Cooley Law School reported at least 58 women served as state supreme court chief justices as of 2017. Forty-one of the 50 states have had women in the top role of the state’s judiciary.
  • Current: 17 women serve as state supreme court chief justices.

Previewing Louisiana’s 2nd Congressional District special election 

Three special elections have been scheduled to fill vacancies in the 117th Congress. Two of them take place in Louisiana on March 20. Early voting in both races began on Saturday (March 6) and ends on March 13. Today, we’re diving into the 2nd District race. Check out tomorrow’s Brew for a preview of the 5th District special election.

Fifteen candidates—eight Democrats, four Republicans, two Independents, and one Libertarian—are running.  President Joe Biden (D) appointed the previous incumbent, Cedric Richmond (D), to serve as a senior adviser to the president and director of the White House Office of Public Engagement. Richmond had represented the 2nd District since 2011 and won re-election in 2020 with 64% of the vote against five other candidates. The last Republican to represent the district was Anh “Joseph” Cao, who served from 2009 to 2011.

Louisiana elections use a majority vote system in which all candidates compete in the same primary. If a candidate receives more than 50% of the vote, they win outright. If no candidate does so, the top two vote recipients advance to a general election, regardless of their partisan affiliation. If necessary, a special runoff election will be held on April 24, 2021. 

Media attention has largely focused on Democrats Troy Carter, Karen Peterson, and Gary Chambers. Carter and Peterson currently serve as state senators. Chambers is an activist and publisher from Baton Rouge. Here are some key endorsements thus far:

  • Richmond has endorsed Carter. 
  • Former Democratic presidential candidate Marianne Williamson endorsed Chambers. 
  • Stacey Abrams (D), who ran for governor of Georgia in 2018, endorsed Peterson. 

The third congressional special election scheduled this year is in Texas’ 6th District on May 1. That vacancy was created when Ronald Wright (R) died due to complications from COVID-19 on Feb. 7. Twenty-three candidates—11 Republicans, 10 Democrats, one Libertarian, and one independent—filed to run in that election by the March 3 deadline.

Read on

New Learning Journey: What is an Agency? 

Ballotpedia is excited to introduce our newest Learning Journey on government agencies. This Learning Journey guides you through the structure and function of administrative agencies and debates about agency dynamics. We also cover independent agencies and debates about agency design.

After you sign up, we’ll send you four emails, one on each day of the series. Sign up here!

Five pillars are key to understanding the administrative state. We offer several Learning Journeys designed to help you understand each pillar and its relationship to the administrative state. Our “What is an Agency?” Learning Journey falls under the Agency Dynamics pillar. Here are all five:

  • Nondelegation
  • Judicial Deference
  • Executive control of agencies
  • Procedural rights
  • Agency dynamics

Ballotpedia has 20 Learning Journeys on the administrative state and five on additional topics, including presidential primaries and news literacy. Click here to see them all and sign up to do one today!

The Daily Brew: First-year judicial appointments since 1981

The Daily Brew by Ballotpedia

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

  1. Presidents’ first-year federal judicial appointments since 1981
  2. Upcoming elections and filing deadlines
  3. RSVP to our Administrative State Lunch Club 

Presidents’ first-year federal judicial appointments since 1981

President Joe Biden (D) has not yet made any federal judicial appointments. Neither did any president going back to Ronald Reagan (R) through March 1 of their first year in office. 

Going back to Reagan, the earliest a president appointed an Article III judge in their first year was April. President Donald Trump’s (R) Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch took office on April 10, 2017. Not including Supreme Court appointments, Trump and George H.W. Bush (R) made their first Article III judicial appointments by June 1 of the first year of their presidencies.

Earlier this week, we looked at the number of active and senior-status federal judges broken down by appointing president. Today, I’m highlighting another feature of our judicial dataset: federal judicial appointments in each president’s first year in office going back to 1981. We chart data on our site for the last six presidents.

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

Reagan made the most Article III appointments during his first year with 41. President Barack Obama (D) made the fewest with 13.

Trump made the most appointments over four years at 234. Reagan made the fewest at 166.

Since 1981, during each president’s first year in office: 

  • Presidents Trump, Obama, Bill Clinton (D), and Reagan each appointed one Supreme Court justice. George W. Bush (R) and George H.W. Bush did not appoint any Supreme Court justices during their first year.
  • An average of six judges have been appointed to U.S. Courts of Appeals. Trump appointed the most with 12, and Clinton and Obama appointed the fewest with three each.
  • An average of 17 judges have been appointed to U.S. District Courts. Reagan appointed the most at 32, and Trump appointed the fewest at six.

Read on

Upcoming elections and filing deadlines

It’s easy to forget just how many elections take place in an odd-number year, especially after a year with federal races. Ballotpedia’s 2021 election coverage includes municipal elections in 76 cities and 23 counties, gubernatorial and state legislative elections in New Jersey and Virginia, and at least three special congressional elections. 

In the next two weeks, candidate filing deadlines will pass in four states for certain local and state legislative elections. Six states will hold elections. Here’s a roundup of these dates:

Upcoming elections

Five states have recall, local, or state legislative special elections next week. The following week, Louisiana will hold several special elections.

Tuesday, March 9

  • Arizona: Phoenix general runoff
  • California: Orange County Board of Supervisors District 2 special general
  • Georgia: House District 90 special general
  • Idaho: 
    • Idaho Falls school board recall
    • Pocatello-Chubbuck school board recall
    • Nampa school board recall
  • Maine: Senate District 14 special general

A runoff election for Birmingham school board District 7 in Alabama was also scheduled for March 9, but Walter Wilson won the general election on Jan. 26. 

Saturday, March 20

  • Louisiana   
    • House District 82 special primary   
    • 2nd Circuit Court of Appeal District 1 special primary
    • Board of Elementary and Secondary Education special primary   
    • 2nd Congressional District special general   
    • 5th Congressional District special general

A special primary for the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeal District 2 seat was canceled as only one candidate filed. A special general election for state House District 35 was also scheduled for March 20, but only one candidate filed for the primary, so both elections were canceled.

Upcoming filing deadlines

Candidates must file paperwork, pay requisite fees, and/or submit signed petitions to their local or state election authorities by the filing deadlines. Filing requirements vary by state. Four states have filing deadlines within the next two weeks.

Friday, March 5: 

  • Nebraska: 
    • Lincoln 
      • The deadline for non-incumbent Lincoln Public Schools candidates was March 1.
    • Omaha mayor

Tuesday, March 9: 

  • Pennsylvania: 
    • Statewide filing deadline, including Philadelphia and Pittsburgh 
      • Does not include state House District 59 and state Senate District 48 special elections (filing deadline March 29) 

Friday, March 12

  • California: 
    • Riverside

Thursday, March 18

  • Oregon: 
    • Multnomah County
    • Eight school districts

Read on 

RSVP to our Administrative State Lunch Club 

Do you want to learn more about the issues and debate surrounding the administrative state? Join Ballotpedia for the Administrative State Lunch Club. 

Every two weeks, Ballotpedia’s Administrative State Team sits down on Mondays at 12:30 p.m. ET to discuss an influential scholarly article or historical court decision. The purpose of the call is to help deepen our understanding of the Administrative State. Join us in these discussions, or just listen in, as we read historical court decisions that broke new ground and articles that are shaping the dialogue around the administrative state.

Whether you’re new to learning about the topic or a seasoned expert, you’re welcome at the Administrative State Lunch Club. Each session begins with a walkthrough of the article and its key points and concludes with a discussion of how it intersects with the debate about the administrative state. We provide links to reading materials and page counts, though no prep is required.

Upcoming readings include:

  • March 15: How Much Procedure Is Needed for Agencies to Change “Novel” Regulatory Policies? by Ming Hsu Chen
  • March 29: Operationalizing Internal Administrative Law by Christopher J. Walker and Rebecca Turnbull
  • April 12: The Indecisions of 1789: Strategic Ambiguity and the Imaginary Unitary Executive (Part I) by Jed Shugerman

Click here to RSVP

The Daily Brew: Approval voting in the nation’s 57th largest city

Welcome to the Thursday, March 4, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. What happened in St. Louis’ first-ever approval voting election
  2. Biden withdraws Tanden nomination
  3. Recap of other election results from Tuesday

What happened in St. Louis’ first-ever approval voting election

St. Louis used a new voting method on March 2. It’s one of two U.S. cities using the method.

Tishaura Jones and Cara Spencer advanced from St. Louis’ mayoral primary to the April 6 general election. According to final unofficial results, Jones received 25,374 votes and Spencer received 20,649 votes. Lewis Reed and Andrew Jones, the two other candidates, received 17,162 and 6,422 votes, respectively.

You may have been surprised to see that I’m reporting vote totals instead of percentages. This is because the vote percentages in this race require a bit of explanation. St. Louis conducted the primary using approval voting, where voters can choose any number of candidates to vote for. In the mayoral primary, voters cast 69,607 total votes across 44,538 ballots. In other words, 44,538 people voted in the election, with some voters selecting multiple candidates on their ballots. That’s an average of 1.56 votes per ballot. 

Voters selected Tishaura Jones on 57% of total ballots cast and Spencer on 46%. Jones received 36.5% of total votes. Spencer received 29.7%.

According to The Center for Election Science, a group that supports approval voting, St. Louis is one of two U.S. cities—along with Fargo, North Dakota—that uses this method. The city implemented the method after voters passed Proposition D in November 2020. Voters in Fargo passed Measure 1 in 2018 to implement approval voting and had their first election with the system in 2020. FiveThirtyEight reported that Fargo voters cast an average 2.28 votes per ballot in the June 2020 city commissioner election— 42,855 votes across 18,805 ballots. 

Mayor Lyda Krewson (D) did not run for re-election. Both Tishaura Jones and Spencer are affiliated with the Democratic Party. The last 10 mayors of St. Louis have all been Democrats. Aloys Kaufmann, the last Republican mayor, held office from 1943 to 1949.

Read on

Biden withdraws Tanden nomination

President Joe Biden (D) withdrew the nomination of Neera Tanden for director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on Tuesday. Tanden requested that Biden withdraw her nomination after several senators, including Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), said they would vote against confirming her. This is the first failed nomination of Biden’s administration.

In Tanden’s letter to Biden, she said, “Unfortunately, it now seems clear that there is no path forward to gain confirmation, and I do not want continued consideration of my nomination to be a distraction from your other priorities.”

The White House has not yet named a new nominee, although several individuals are reportedly in consideration.

The Senate has confirmed 13 of Biden’s 23 Cabinet nominees. 

Here are the numbers of Cabinet nominees the last four presidents have withdrawn:

Bill Clinton (D): 3 (1 in 1993, 2 in 1997)

George W. Bush (R): 2 (1 in 2001, 1 in 2004)

Barack Obama (D): 3 (3 in 2009)

Donald Trump (R): 3 (1 in 2017, 1 in 2018, 1 in 2021)

The table below shows where Biden’s Cabinet nominees are in the process.

Read on

Recap of other election results from Tuesday

We followed a number of state and local elections on March 2, including Burlington, Vermont’s ranked-choice voting question and Rhode Island’s seven bond issues. Here’s a summary of those results. 

Voters in Burlington, Vermont, approved Question 4, 64% to 36%. Question 4 will implement ranked-choice voting (RCV) for city council elections beginning in March of 2022—pending approval by the Vermont General Assembly and signature from the governor

In 2005, Burlington voters amended the city’s charter to implement RCV for mayoral elections. After using the method in 2006 and 2009, voters repealed RCV in 2010 by a vote of 52% to 48%. This measure applies RCV for city council elections only.

As of 2021, one state (Maine) had implemented RCV at the state level, one state (Alaska) had adopted but not implemented RCV, eight states contained jurisdictions that had implemented RCV at some level, and another five states contained jurisdictions—including New York City—that had adopted but not yet implemented RCV in local elections.

Rhode Island voters approved $400 million in bonds after the legislature referred seven bond questions to the March 2 ballot in a special election. Voters approved all seven questions.

In Rhode Island, the legislature must ask voters to issue general obligation bonds over $50,000, except in the case of war, insurrection, or invasion. Between 2008 and 2020, voters in Rhode Island had approved all 22 bond measures, totaling $1.3 billion in principal value. The last odd-year bond election in Rhode Island was in 1985, where nine bond measures were approved.

The Daily Brew: A look back at Super Tuesday 2020

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

  1. A look back at Super Tuesday 2020
  2. Federal judges by status and appointing president 
  3. Register for our March 10 briefing on upcoming ballot measures

A look back at Super Tuesday 2020

It’s hard to believe that Super Tuesday 2020 was one year ago today. It doesn’t feel like it happened a year ago—it feels like it happened in a different world. Here’s how we covered the results of that important day.

On March 3, 2020, 14 states and American Samoa held Democratic presidential primaries, and 13 of those states held Republican primaries. Democrats Abroad also began their weeklong primary.  Approximately 40% of the U.S. population had a presidential primary event that day. In total, 1,344 pledged Democratic delegates—34% of all pledged delegates—were at stake

RealClearPolitics estimates that Joe Biden secured 684 pledged delegates to Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) 563 on Super Tuesday (including Democrats Abroad). Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) was third with 58. Those results gave Biden more than 700 pledged delegates and Sanders more than 600. Note that pledged delegate estimates vary by media outlet. 

Here are some highlights from the day’s results:

  • Joe Biden won 10 primaries—in Alabama, Arkansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. 
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders won four primaries—in California, Colorado, Utah, and Vermont. 
  • Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg won the Democratic primary in American Samoa with 49.9% of the vote (175 total votes). U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard was second with 29.3% (103 votes).
  • Biden’s largest vote share among all primaries held that day was in Alabama, where he won 63.3% of the vote. Sanders’ largest share was in his home state of Vermont, where he received 50.7% of the vote.
  • In California, the nation’s most populous state, Sanders won with 36% of the vote to Biden’s 27.9%.
  • The closest race was in Maine, where Biden won with 33.4% to Sanders’ 32.4%.

The field of noteworthy Democratic presidential primary candidates narrowed from six to three the week of Super Tuesday. Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar withdrew from the race on March 1 and 2, respectively, and endorsed Biden on March 2. Bloomberg suspended his campaign on March 4 and also endorsed Biden. 

Donald Trump won all 13 Republican primary events on March 3.

Read on

Federal judges by status and appointing president 

In January, we identified that Jimmy Carter (D) appointed the longest-serving active federal judge, Carmen Cerezo, in 1980. With help from the Federal Judicial Center’s database, we looked at all 1,403 living Article III judges—829 who are active and 574 who are on senior status—as of Jan. 25.

We revisited this data to summarize the proportion of active and senior status judges by the presidents that appointed them. Barack Obama (D) appointed the largest number of active federal judges at 316 (38%). Bill Clinton (D) appointed the largest number of judges currently on senior status at 167 (29%). Republican presidents appointed 424 active federal judges and Democrats appointed 405.

As a refresher: The president appoints, and the Senate confirms, Article III federal judges to lifetime terms. These judges serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, the United States Courts of Appeals, the United States District Courts, and the Court of International Trade. Federal judges on senior status are semi-retired. They continue to serve on federal courts while hearing a reduced number of cases.

The data below includes current federal judges through January 25, 2021.

Of 829 active federal judges:

  • Barack Obama (D) appointed 316 (38%)
  • Donald Trump (R) appointed 232 (28%)
  • George W. Bush (R) appointed 163 (20%)
  • Bill Clinton (D) appointed 88 (11%)
  • Ronald Reagan (R) appointed 16 (1.9%)
  • George H.W. Bush (R) appointed 13 (1.6%)
  • Jimmy Carter (D) appointed 1 (0.1%)

Of 574 senior status judges:

  • Bill Clinton (D) appointed 167 (29%)
  • Ronald Reagan (R) appointed 138 (24%)
  • George W. Bush (R) appointed 111 (19%)
  • George H.W. Bush (R) appointed 102 (18%)
  • Jimmy Carter (D) appointed 41 (7%)
  • Richard Nixon (R) appointed 7 (1.2%)
  • Gerald Ford (R) appointed 5 (0.9%)
  • Barack Obama (D) appointed 2 (0.3%)
  • Lyndon B. Johnson (D) appointed 1 (0.2%)

Read on 

Register for our March 10 briefing on upcoming ballot measures

Voters in three states—Colorado, New York, and Pennsylvania—will decide statewide ballot measures later this year. And three states—California, Iowa, and Kansas—have already certified measures that will go before voters in 2022. State legislatures and ballot initiative petition drives will put other measures on the ballot as well. 

Join us on March 10 for our next briefing breaking down all of this activity with our own Josh Altic. He’ll discuss the 2021 and 2022 statewide measures that are already certified for the ballot, historical trends, and the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on ballot measure certification. He’ll also identify those notable potential measures that could still be added to ballots.

The briefing is at 11 a.m. Central Time on March 10, and you can register—for free—by clicking on the link below. If you can’t attend 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!


The Daily Brew: Election law case goes before SCOTUS today

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

  1. Election law case goes before SCOTUS today
  2. Updates on coronavirus recovery
  3. March 2 elections preview

Election law case goes before SCOTUS today

Last week, I wrote about the upcoming Supreme Court (SCOTUS) cases in March. Let’s explore one of those cases, Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee, in which SCOTUS is hearing oral arguments today, March 2. Here’s some background on the case, which stretches back five years.

  • In 2016, several arms of the Democratic Party (referred to as the DNC) sued Arizona for its out-of-precinct policy and its ballot-collection law. 
    • According to the petition filed in Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee, Arizona’s out-of-precinct policy “does not count ballots cast in person on Election Day outside voters’ assigned precincts.” Arizona’s ballot-collection law, passed in 2016, prohibits a person other than the voter, a family member, the U.S. Postal Service, or election officials, from handling absentee or mail-in ballots.
    • The DNC stated the above Arizona policy and law violated the First, 14th, and 15th Amendments as well as Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act “by adversely and disparately impacting the electoral opportunities of Hispanic, African American, and Native American Arizonans.”
  • In October 2017, the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona held a trial on the merits, ultimately ruling in favor of the state of Arizona. The district court held that the DNC failed to meet its burden for proving a Section 2 claim. 
  • In September 2018, A divided panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit affirmed the lower court’s ruling. In an en banc rehearing, the 9th Circuit granted a preliminary injunction, which the U.S. Supreme Court stayed the next day. On appeal, a divided 9th Circuit panel affirmed the district court’s ruling.
  • In January 2020, in an en banc rehearing, the 9th Circuit reversed the panel’s decision. A 7-4 majority held the out-of-precinct policy violated Section 2, and a 6-5 majority held the ballot-collection law violated Section 2 and the 15th Amendment. 
  • In April 2020, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich (R), in his official capacity, and the Arizona Republican Party, appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • In October 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case.

Follow along with us at the link below as we track the case.

Read on

Updates on coronavirus recovery

On Saturday, Feb. 27, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted an Emergency Use Authorization (EAU) to pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine. The approval allowed Johnson & Johnson to begin distributing vaccine doses this week. 

Below is other news on coronavirus in America that has recently occurred, which we covered in our Documenting America’s Path to Recovery email. Subscribers received this and more in their inboxes yesterday afternoon.

  • Connecticut (Democratic trifecta): On Monday, Feb. 22, Gov. Ned Lamont (D) announced a schedule for the state’s age-based distribution expansion. Lamont also said clinics will open in March to focus on vaccinating teachers. 
    • Eligibility expands to individuals ages 55 to 64 on March 1.
    • Eligibility expands to individuals ages 45 to 54 on March 22.
    • Eligibility expands to individuals ages 35 to 44 on April 12.
    • Eligibility expands to individuals ages 16 to 34 on May 3.
  • Georgia (Republican trifecta): On Friday, Feb. 26, Gov. Brian Kemp (R) issued two orders extending the coronavirus state of emergency and coronavirus restrictions and reopening guidance. The first order extends the state of emergency through April 6, while the second extends restrictions and guidance through March 15. 
  • Kentucky (divided government): On Feb. 23, Gov. Andy Beshear (D) issued an executive order recommending all school districts and private schools offer some form of in-person instruction by March 1.
  • North Carolina (divided government): On Friday, Feb. 26, Gov. Roy Cooper (D) vetoed a bill that would have required schools to provide daily in-person instruction. The state House of Representatives passed the bill 77-42 on Feb. 22, while the state Senate passed the bill 31-16 on Feb. 16. To override Cooper’s veto, the bill will need the support of three-fifths of the members in both chambers of the legislature—that’s 72 votes in the House and 30 votes in the Senate.
  • Washington (Democratic trifecta): On Sunday, Feb. 28, Gov. Jay Inslee (D) signed a bill that waives the 2021 liquor license fee for restaurants, wineries, breweries, and distilleries.

Read on 

March 2 elections preview

March 2 is one of five election days we’re covering this month at Ballotpedia. Here’s a rundown of what we’ll be watching as the results roll in.

  • Mayoral election in St. Louis, Missouri: The city is holding a mayoral primary using an electoral system called approval voting for the first time in the city’s history. Candidates of all political affiliations will appear on the ballot without partisan labels, and voters may choose any number of candidates to vote for. The two candidates receiving the most votes will advance to the general election on April 6. Voters approved the method through the passage of Proposition D in November 2020.
  • City elections in Montpelier, Vermont: The city is holding nonpartisan general elections for three seats on the city council. All three incumbents are running for re-election. District 1 incumbent Lauren Hierl and District 3 incumbent Dan Richardson are facing challenges from Nat Frothingham and Alice Goltz, respectively. District 2 incumbent Jack McCullough is running unopposed.
  • Burlington, Vermont Ranked-Choice Voting Amendment: Voters will decide whether to implement ranked-choice voting (RCV) for city council elections. The city previously used RCV but repealed its use over a decade ago through a ballot initiative petition drive. Question 4 would cause RCV to be used starting in March 2022.
  • Rhode Island bond issues: Rhode Island voters will decide seven statewide bond issues. Governor Gina Raimondo (D) certified the bond issues for the March ballot when she signed the 2021 fiscal year budget on Dec. 18, 2020. The seven bond issues total $400 million for projects ranging from higher education, state beaches, recreational facilities, transportation, early childhood care, and industrial infrastructure.
  • State legislative special elections: Four states are holding state legislative special elections.

The Daily Brew: Federal judge blocks Maine’s ban on out-of-state initiative petition circulators

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

  1. Federal judge blocks Maine’s ban on out-of-state initiative petition circulators 
  2. Filing deadline for Texas’ 6th Congressional District special election approaches
  3. Federal Register update: Biden administration’s highest weekly page total to date

Federal judge blocks Maine’s ban on out-of-state initiative petition circulators 

In like a lion and out like a lamb. Welcome to March.

We’ve been following a lawsuit in Maine since it was first filed in December, which addresses whether the state can require that petition circulators be registered voters. Here’s an update.

On Feb. 16, U.S. District Court Judge John Woodcock blocked Maine from enforcing a requirement that petition circulators be registered voters and, therefore, state residents. Woodcock’s ruling stated that “the First Amendment’s free speech protections trump the state’s regulatory authority,” and, “The Court framed its opinion as a prelude to a challenge to the Court of Appeals for the First Circuit for a more authoritative ruling.” Woodcock was appointed by President George W. Bush (R) in 2003. Secretary of State Shenna Bellows (D) may appeal the ruling to the First Circuit Court of Appeals. 

The ruling makes it possible for proponents of a 2022 ballot initiative that would amend the state’s voter qualification statute to say that a person must be a citizen to vote. Similar measures explicitly requiring citizenship to vote were approved by voters in Alabama, Colorado, and Florida in 2020 and in North Dakota in 2018.

State Rep. William Faulkingham (R-136) initially filed the initiative in 2019 and, after suspending the campaign due to a lack of funds that year, relaunched it targeting the 2022 ballot.

  • Four plaintiffs—Faulkingham, a political action committee, a nonprofit organization, and a petition circulator from Michigan—filed the lawsuit against Bellows and Maine’s deputy secretary of state.  The lawsuit argued that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that “ballot access rules which reduce the pool of available circulators of initiative petitions is a severe impairment” and that residency requirements significantly impede their ability to qualify their measure for the ballot. The plaintiffs also argued that the circulator restrictions prevent them from associating with a large portion of the available professional petition circulators and that requiring out-of-state circulators to register with the state is sufficient to safeguard the integrity of the initiative process.
  • Bellows and Deputy Secretary of State Julie Flynn argued that many other initiatives and veto referendums have successfully qualified for the ballot while adhering to the state’s circulator requirements, proving the requirements are not a severe burden on free speech. The defendants also said that the state’s circulator requirements have been upheld by state courts and that the circulator requirements are necessary for the state’s interests in protecting the integrity of the initiative process and “protecting the initiative’s grassroots nature.”

Faulkingham said the campaign had gathered 88,000 signatures as of Feb. 17. A total of 63,067 valid signatures were required by Feb. 26 to qualify the measure for the 2022 ballot. In court filings, the campaign said that out-of-state professional petition circulators had collected 90% of signatures gathered as of Jan. 25.

Seven states—out of the 26 with a statewide initiative or veto referendum process—currently have residency requirements for ballot initiative petition circulators. An additional three states—Colorado, Maine, and Mississippi—had requirements in their laws, but federal courts have invalidated or blocked their enforcement.

Read on

Filing deadline for Texas’ 6th Congressional District special election approaches

This Wednesday—March 3—is the filing deadline for the special election in Texas’ 6th Congressional District. The election was called to fill the vacancy left by Ronald Wright (R), who died from complications related to COVID-19.

In the 2020 regular election for the district, Wright defeated Democratic challenger Stephen Daniel 58%-41%. Donald Trump (R) won the district by three percentage points in 2020.

There are three special congressional elections scheduled for this year so far. The other two are in Louisiana’s 2nd and 5th Congressional Districts on March 20. Read on at the link below for more information.

Read on 

Federal Register update: Biden administration’s highest weekly page total to date

Every week, we publish an update on the Federal Register, a daily journal of federal government activity that includes presidential documents, proposed and final rules, and public notices. Let’s take a look at the latest report.

From Feb. 22 through Feb. 26—the sixth week of the Biden administration—the Federal Register grew by 1,408 pages for a year-to-date total of 11,846 pages. During the same period of the Trump administration in 2017, the Federal Register grew by 714 pages for a year-to-date total of 12,502 pages.

The Federal Register hit an all-time high of 95,894 pages in 2016.

This week’s Federal Register featured the following 673 documents:

  • 465 notices (public hearings and meetings, grant applications, and administrative orders)
  • five presidential documents (executive orders and proclamations)
  • 87 proposed rules (petitions for rulemaking)
  • 116 final rules (policy statements and interpretations of rules)

One proposed rule from the Agricultural Marketing Service concerning lamb promotion, research, and information as well as one final rule from the Federal Aviation Administration regarding unmanned aircraft operations were deemed significant under E.O. 12866—defined by the potential to have large impacts on the economy, environment, public health, or state or local governments. Significant actions may also conflict with presidential priorities or other agency rules. 

The Biden administration has issued four significant proposed rules and two significant final rules as of Feb. 26.

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The Daily Brew: State legislatures considering 123 proposals governing ballot measures

Welcome to the Friday, Feb. 26, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Here’s a look at this year’s proposed legislation regarding ballot measures
  2. Supreme Court accepts first five cases to be heard during 2021-2022 term
  3. Friday trivia: What percentage of incumbent state legislators were elected to another term last year?

Here’s a look at this year’s proposed legislation regarding ballot measures

At Ballotpedia, we focus a lot of attention on ballot measures to help voters have a clear understanding of what they’re voting on. How a measure gets on the ballot and who put it there are essential to that understanding, which is why we also track proposed legislation governing ballot measures. As of Feb. 25, Ballotpedia is tracking 123 legislative proposals regarding ballot initiatives, veto referendums, referrals, local ballot measures, and recall in 34 state legislatures this year.

Here are five highlights about these legislative proposals:

  • Six states—Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Missouri, North Dakota, and South Dakota—are considering laws to enact or increase supermajority requirements for certain ballot measures. Legislators have proposed approval requirements of 60% and 66.67%. Some of these legislative proposals would apply only to certain types of measures, and some would apply to measures on specific topics, like tax increases or funding levels.
  • Legislators in Idaho and Missouri have introduced legislation that would increase initiative and referendum signature requirements or signature distribution requirements.
  • Lawmakers in Arizona, Mississippi, and North Dakota have proposed bills to enact single-subject rules for ballot initiatives.
  • In eight states—Connecticut, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina, and Tennessee—legislators introduced measures that would establish statewide initiative, referendum, or recall processes. Those eight states are all among the 24 states that don’t currently have a process allowing citizen-initiated statewide ballot measures.
  • Seven states are considering bills to change the rules for drafting and displaying ballot language, petition language, or voter guide language.

Many changes—including most proposals to change signature requirements, add or change supermajority requirements, or establish a statewide process for initiative or referendum—are constitutional amendments. That means voters would have to approve the changes if the legislature adopts them.

As I was putting this story together, I asked our Ballot Measures editor, Josh Altic, for his take. Here’s what he said: “There was a ballot initiative resurgence in 2016. It seemed to trigger a renewed interest in the initiative process among state legislators as well. I’ve noticed the following trend: noteworthy or contentious measures may appear on the ballot—mostly in even-numbered years—and in the following legislative session, lawmakers will consider changes to the process in their states. More often than not, the legislative proposals add restrictions or tighten requirements, and legislators seem more likely to pass these changes in states where voters approved a notable ballot initiative in the last one or two cycles.”

In 2020, Ballotpedia tracked 164 legislative proposals concerning ballot initiatives, veto referendums, referrals, local ballot measures, and recall in 33 states, with nine state legislatures approving 17 proposals. In 2019, Ballotpedia tracked 229 legislative proposals in 34 states. Sixteen state legislatures approved 38 of these proposals.

The chart below displays the number of legislative proposals relating to ballot measures and recalls by year. The number of legislative proposals in 2021 is not final as more bills may still be filed in current legislative sessions. 

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Supreme Court accepts first five cases to be heard during 2021-2022 term 

The U.S. Supreme Court announced on Feb. 22 it had granted review in five cases for its upcoming 2021-2022 term. These cases are the first ones that the Court has accepted for its next term, which is scheduled to begin on Oct. 4, 2021.

The Court has not yet determined the specific dates on which it will hear oral argument in these cases: 

  • American Medical Association v. Cochran, which was consolidated with Oregon v. Cochran and Cochran v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, concerns Trump administration regulations under Title X of the Public Health Services Act. These three cases have been combined, and a total of one hour will be allotted for oral argument.
  • Department of Homeland Security v. New York concerns the public charge rule of the Immigration and Nationality Act that details how federal agencies determine the inadmissibility of immigrants likely to become public charges.
  • Wooden v. United States concerns search and seizure protections under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and how predicate offenses are considered and classified under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA). A predicate offense is a crime that may be or may be considered a component of a larger crime. 

In its current term, the Supreme Court has agreed to hear 63 cases. It is scheduled to hear three hours of oral argument next week and seven hours of oral argument from March 22 to 31. The Court has not yet scheduled oral arguments for 17 cases this term. Since April 13, 2020, the Court has heard oral arguments via teleconference and provided live audio of oral arguments due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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Friday trivia: What percentage of incumbent state legislators were elected to another term last year?

Voters decided elections for 5,875 state legislators in 44 states last year. In more than a majority of those races, voters re-elected the incumbent senator or representative in their district.

There are three core reasons that keep an incumbent from being re-elected. 

  • Retiring, running for another office, or otherwise not seeking re-election
  • Losing a primary
  • Losing a general election 

Today’s trivia question asks, What percentage of incumbent state legislators were elected to another term last year? 

  1. 67%
  2. 78%
  3. 85%
  4. 91%

Yesterday, I hosted a briefing with our own Doug Kronaizl that analyzed turnover among incumbents in 2020’s state legislative elections and how last year’s figures compared to other even-numbered years this decade. If you didn’t catch it, or just want to watch it again, click here or on the link below to view the recording of that briefing.


The Daily Brew: The decade in state legislative special elections

Welcome to the Thursday, Feb. 25, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. The state legislative seats that have switched parties in special elections since 2010
  2. St. Louis to use new mayoral primary system for the first time on March 2
  3. Explore procedural due process through our latest Learning Journey

The state legislative seats that have switched parties in special elections since 2010

As we gear up to cover the 27+ state legislative special elections already scheduled in 2021, I thought it would be interesting to look at the number of seat flips that have happened as a result of special elections since 2010. Here’s an overview.

Between 2010 and 2020, an average of 71 state legislative special elections took place each year. In those 782 elections, 103 seats (13.2%) changed partisan control. Democrats flipped 56 seats, Republicans flipped 41, and independent and third-party candidates flipped six.

2017 had the highest number of flips during this time period, with Democrats flipping 14 seats and Republicans flipping three. This was also the year with the highest net change for Democrats, who gained a net of 11 seats out of 98 special elections. Republicans’ highest net gain was five seats in 2013.

Since 2010, Democrats have gained a net of 12 state legislative seats in special elections, and Republicans have lost a net of 17 seats.

The state with the highest number of flips since 2010 is New Hampshire, where 11 seats have changed partisan control. Massachusetts and Connecticut follow with nine flips each. 

Twenty-five states use special elections to fill state legislative vacancies and four other states (Kansas, New Jersey, Tennessee, and Washington) use special elections in some circumstances. Twenty-seven states held state legislative special elections in 2020. 

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St. Louis to use new mayoral primary system for the first time on March 2

Thirty-one cities in the top 100 cities by population are holding mayoral elections this year. One of those cities, St. Louis, is doing so using a primary that’s the first of its kind in the city.

This election will feature the first use of approval voting in the city’s history. Candidates of all political affiliations will run in the election without partisan labels, and voters may choose any number of candidates to vote for. The two candidates to receive the most votes will advance to the general election on April 6. Voters approved this voting method in November 2020 as Proposition D.

Mayor Lyda Krewson (D) is not running for re-election. Four candidates are running in the primary: 2017 mayoral candidate Andrew Jones, St. Louis Treasurer Tishaura Jones, Aldermen President Lewis Reed, and Alderwoman Cara Spencer. Each has a partisan affiliation: A. Jones ran as a Republican in 2017, and the other three candidates have previously run for office as Democrats.

Based on reporting required eight days before the election, Spencer leads all candidates in contributions with $356,000, followed by T. Jones with $333,000, Reed with $271,000, and A. Jones with $20,000. Spencer also leads in money spent ($326,000), followed by T. Jones ($267,000), Reed ($233,000), and A. Jones ($10,000).

T. Jones has received the most noteworthy endorsements in the race, including Saint Louis County Executive Sam Page, Democracy for America, and the state council of the SEIU. Spencer received endorsements from former Mayor Vincent Schoemehl Jr. and former Aldermanic President James Shrewsbury. The St. Louis Post Dispatch endorsed both Spencer and Reed.

In 22 of the 31 cities that are holding mayoral elections this year, the incumbent is Democratic. Seven incumbents are Republican, one is independent, and one is nonpartisan.

Proposition D was one of 17 approved local election policy ballot measures in 2020 in the top 100 largest cities. Voters in six cities in four states approved ranked-choice voting measures that year.

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Explore procedural due process through our latest Learning Journey

Ballotpedia is excited to introduce our newest Learning Journey on notable court cases pertaining to procedural due process in the context of the administrative state. In this Journey, we will guide you through the court cases that have defined the concept of due process over time as well as those that have clarified the scope of liberty and property interests. 

We will also explore court cases that have shaped the concept of due process in the context of administrative rulemaking, adjudication, enforcement, standing, and judicial review.

Ballotpedia’s Learning Journeys allow you to dive deeper into the topics you want to learn about. Click here to choose from 25 different journeys to explore.
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The Daily Brew: Congressional Review Act deadline is April 4

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

  1. April 4 is the deadline for Congress to repeal regulatory activity from the end of the Trump administration
  2. Register for our Feb. 25 briefing on incumbency in last year’s state legislative elections
  3. Indiana secretary of state announces resignation

Yesterday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) set the special election in Texas’ 6th Congressional District for May 1. The seat became vacant when Rep. Ron Wright (R) died on Feb. 7. In Texas, all special election candidates appear on the same ballot, regardless of party. If no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote, the top two finishers compete in a runoff election on a date that will be determined after the runoff results are certified. Candidates that wish to run must file with the secretary of state by March 3.

April 4 is the deadline for Congress to repeal regulatory activity from the end of the Trump administration

The Biden administration has until April 4 to use the provisions of the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to repeal final rules issued at the end of the Trump administration. Here’s how this works.

The CRA is a 1996 federal law that creates a 60-day review period during which Congress can overturn a new federal agency rule. To do this, Congress must pass a joint resolution of disapproval which the president must then sign. 

The Feb. 3 edition of the Congressional Record stated that Congress has 60 days from Feb. 3 to use the CRA to rescind regulations and informal rules issued at the end of the Trump administration. Daniel Pérez, a senior policy analyst at the George Washington University Regulatory Studies Center, estimates there may be as many as 1,354 of these rules.

The law defines this 60-day period as days where Congress is in continuous session. This means the projected deadline to block end-of-term regulatory activity from the Trump administration is April 4. That date could move later into April if either chamber of Congress adjourns for longer than three days before then.

Since the law’s creation in 1996, Congress has used the CRA to repeal 17 rules published in the Federal Register. Before 2017, Congress had used the CRA successfully one time—in 2001—to overturn a rule on ergonomics in the workplace. In the first four months of his administration, President Donald Trump (R) signed 14 CRA resolutions from Congress undoing a variety of rules issued near the end of Barack Obama’s (D) presidency. Congress ultimately repealed 16 rules using the CRA during the Trump administration.

To stay informed about whether Congress uses the CRA during the Biden administration, you can bookmark and visit the page linked below, or subscribe to our monthly Checks and Balances newsletter, which covers the latest information on federal rulemaking and regulatory activity. 

>Read on

Register for our Feb. 25 briefing on incumbency in last year’s state legislative elections

Voters in 44 states decided state legislative elections last year, with partisan control changing in two chambers. The National Conference of State Legislatures reported that this was the fewest changes in party control on Election Day since at least 1944.

We’re hosting a briefing on Thursday—Feb. 25—that examines these results, and specifically, how incumbents performed in last year’s state legislative elections. Here’s a sneak preview of some of the data points we’ll be discussing:

  • 227 state legislative incumbents lost in last year’s general elections, the lowest number since at least 2010. This was a 29.5% decrease from the 322 defeated in 2018 and was 54.8% lower than the decade-high 502 incumbents defeated in the 2010 general election. 
  • Since 2010, an average of 307 incumbents have been defeated in even-year general elections.
  • In the 2020 cycle, 381 incumbents lost re-election in total, with 154 defeated in a primary or nominating convention.

The chart below shows all state legislative incumbent losses in even-numbered years from 2010 to 2020:

Join me at 11 a.m. Central Time as Doug Kronaizl from our marquee team looks closer at this data, identifies those states that had the most defeated incumbents, and what it all means for this year’s state legislative sessions.

Click here or on the link below to register, and if you can’t attend live, we’ll send you a link to the recording so you can watch it on your schedule. Hope to see you there!


Indiana secretary of state announces resignation 

Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson (R) announced on Feb. 15 that she would resign, citing health and family reasons. Lawson said she will leave office after Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) appoints her successor, and that person is ready to take office. 

Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) first appointed Lawson as secretary of state in March 2012 to fill the vacancy created when Charlie White (R) resigned. Lawson was elected to the position in 2014 and 2018. Her tenure of nearly nine years is the second-longest in the history of the office. Indiana’s first secretary of state, Robert New, served for nine years and one month from 1816 to 1825.

The Indiana secretary of state is one of five statewide elected offices established by Indiana’s Constitution. The secretary of state is responsible for maintaining state records, overseeing elections, chartering new businesses, and overseeing the state’s securities and motor vehicle dealership industries. 

Lawson’s replacement will serve until the office’s next scheduled election in November 2022. Last year, eight state executives nationwide left office before their terms expired. 

The office of secretary of state exists in 47 states. It does not exist in Alaska, Hawaii, and Utah. Voters elect the secretary of state directly in 35 states. In the other 12, the governor or state legislature appoints the secretary of state. The current partisan composition of the nation’s secretaries of state is 25 Republicans, 21 Democrats, and one independent. Pennsylvania’s acting secretary of state—Veronica Degraffenreid—is not affiliated with either party. Gov. Tom Wolf (D) appointed Degraffenreid on Feb. 1.

>Read on 

The Daily Brew: Upcoming Senate votes on Biden nominees

Welcome to the Tuesday, Feb. 23, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Senate expected to confirm at least two Biden Cabinet nominees this week
  2. February SCOTUS update
  3. Georgia Supreme Court chief justice announces 2021 retirement

Senate expected to confirm at least two Biden Cabinet nominees this week

Both chambers of Congress are in session this week. Today, I wanted to share an update from the email on the status of Biden’s presidential Cabinet nominees.

Senate confirmation votes are expected this week for two of Biden’s Cabinet nominees: Tom Vilsack for secretary of agriculture on Feb. 23 and Linda Thomas-Greenfield for ambassador to the United Nations by Feb. 24. 

Vilsack previously served as the secretary of agriculture for eight years in the Obama administration. He was unanimously confirmed by the Senate in 2009.

Thomas-Greenfield is a veteran diplomat who served in the U.S. Foreign Service for three decades. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee advanced her nomination by a vote of 18-4.

In addition to the confirmation votes, at least three hearings are being held this week. On Feb. 22, the Senate Judiciary Committee held the first day of its confirmation hearings for Merrick Garland for attorney general. Today, Feb. 23, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources is holding a hearing for Debra Haaland for secretary of the interior, and the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions is holding a hearing for Xavier Becerra for secretary of health and human services.

So far, seven members of Biden’s Cabinet have been confirmed:

  • Tony Blinken, secretary of state
  • Janet Yellen, secretary of the Treasury
  • Lloyd Austin, secretary of defense
  • Pete Buttigieg, secretary of transportation
  • Alejandro Mayorkas, secretary of homeland security
  • Denis McDonough, secretary of veterans affairs
  • Avril Haines, director of national intelligence

Ballotpedia’s Transition Tracker is a daily email digest covering Joe Biden’s (D) presidential transition team, potential cabinet appointees, and the different policy positions of those individuals who can impact the new administration. Subscribe to get regular updates on the transition.

The chart below compares the pace of Senate confirmations for the main Cabinet members—the 15 agency heads in the presidential line of succession—following the inaugurations of President Donald Trump (R) and Biden. It does not include Cabinet-rank officials that vary by administration.

Nearly five weeks after their respective inaugurations, nine of Trump’s secretaries had been confirmed compared to six for Biden. Click here to view a comparison of the confirmation timeline of Obama’s Cabinet compared to Biden.

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February SCOTUS update

Yesterday, the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) issued an order list accepting its first five cases for the upcoming 2021-2022 term. The court also issued 20 orders in pending cases, including denying a request by former President Donald Trump (R) to block the district attorney of Manhattan from subpoenaing Trump’s tax returns and denying review of a Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling that extended the receipt deadline for mailed ballots in the 2020 election.

SCOTUS also began its February argument sitting yesterday. The court will hear arguments in 11 cases for a total of six hours of oral argument between Feb. 22 and March 3:

  • Florida v. Georgia 
    • Note: Trump v. Sierra Club was removed from the argument calendar after the court granted the Biden administration’s request to do so, which cited policy changes put into effect following the presidential transition.
  • Barr v. Dai (Consolidated with Barr v. Alcaraz-Enriquez)
  • Lange v. California
  • United States v. Arthrex Inc. (Consolidated with Smith & Nephew Inc. v. Arthrex Inc. and Arthrex Inc. v. Smith & Nephew Inc.)
    • Note: Wolf v. Innovation Law Lab was removed from the argument calendar after the court granted the Biden administration’s request to do so, which cited policy changes put into effect following the presidential transition.
  • Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee (Consolidated with Arizona Republican Party v. Democratic National Committee)
  • Carr v. Saul (Consolidated with Davis v. Saul)

The court’s March sitting is scheduled to begin on March 22. 

The court has agreed to hear 63 cases during its 2020-2021 term. Of those, 12 were originally scheduled for the 2019-2020 term but were delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The court has issued opinions in 15 cases this term. Four cases were decided without argument.

The court heard 74 cases during the 2019-2020 term and issued decisions in 63 of them. During the 2018-2019 term, the court heard 69 cases and issued decisions in 68 of them.

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Georgia Supreme Court chief justice announces 2021 retirement

On Feb. 12, Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold Melton announced he would retire from the bench on July 1, 2021.  Melton’s replacement will be Gov. Brian Kemp’s (R) third nominee to the nine-member supreme court.

Chief Justice Melton joined the Georgia Supreme Court in 2005. Governor Sonny Perdue (R) appointed him. At the time of his appointment, Melton was the first justice appointed to the Georgia Supreme Court by a Republican governor in 137 years.

Following Melton’s retirement, the Georgia Supreme Court will include seven members appointed by Republican governors, and one was elected in a nonpartisan election.

When an interim vacancy occurs in Georgia, the seat is filled using assisted appointment. The Georgia Judicial Nominating Commission provides a list from which the governor chooses a justice. The commission recommends at least five candidates to the governor unless fewer than five qualified applicants are found. There is no requirement that the governor appoint a candidate from the nominating commission’s list.

There are fifty-two supreme courts among the fifty states. Oklahoma and Texas both have two courts of last resort, one for civil appeals and one for criminal appeals. Each year, we track the vacancies that occur on these courts. 

So far this year, there have been eight supreme court vacancies in seven of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. The vacancies have all been caused by retirements. In 2020, there were 23 supreme court vacancies in those states. That number was 22 in 2019.

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