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SCOTUS agrees to hear three more cases next term

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Supreme Court building

SCOTUS accepts new cases, issues opinions

Spring is a busy time for the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS). I thought it would be timely to bring you an update on what’s been happening. Here’s a sampling of recent SCOTUS activity.

SCOTUS heard its final oral arguments of the 2020-2021 term on May 4, and since, it has been busy issuing decisions and accepting cases for its 2021-2022 term, which is scheduled to begin Oct. 4. 

  • In a unanimous opinion, the court reversed the 9th Circuit’s ruling in United States v. Palomar-Santiago on May 24 and remanded the case for further proceedings. The case concerned removable offenses and the validity of removal orders under federal immigration law.

The court held that each of the statutory requirements of §1326(d) were mandatory. 

  • In a unanimous opinion, the court reversed the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit’s ruling in Guam v. United States on May 24 and remanded the case for further proceedings. The case concerned Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) claims. The court held that a CERCLA contribution requires resolution of a CERCLA-specific liability.
  • The court dismissed American Medical Association v. Becerra in its order list published on May 17. The case concerned whether the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services violated the Administrative Procedure Act and federal healthcare laws when it issued a 2019 rule that placed abortion-related restrictions on healthcare providers receiving federal funds under a Title X family planning program. 
    • The court’s order dismissing the case stated that the Joe Biden (D) administration had filed a letter saying that it would enforce the challenged regulations outside the state of Maryland while it worked through the notice and comment rulemaking process to override them. The administration said it aimed to have a new final rule published early in the fall of 2021 so that it could go into effect before the 2022 Title X funding announcement.
  • On May 17, the court ruled unanimously in CIC Services v. Internal Revenue Service that CIC Services, a risk management consulting firm, may challenge an IRS records reporting regulation without first violating the new regulation and paying a tax penalty. At issue was whether the Anti-Injunction Act, a federal law that bars lawsuits to prevent the assessment or collection of taxes, blocked CIC’s challenge. 
  • On May 17, the court agreed to hear three more cases during its 2021-2022 term. That brought the total the court has agreed to hear next term to 17.
    • Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization concerns the constitutionality of a Mississippi state law prohibiting abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy except in cases of medical emergencies or fetal abnormalities.
    • Shinn v. Ramirez concerns the scope of evidence a federal appellate court can consider when reviewing a petition for habeas relief. 
    • Badgerow v. Walters concerns the federal courts’ jurisdiction to confirm or vacate an arbitration award under the Federal Arbitration Act.

The court agreed to hear 62 cases during its 2020-2021 term and had issued opinions in 38 cases as of May 24. Seven cases were decided without argument. Between the 2007 and 2019 terms, SCOTUS released opinions in 991 cases, averaging 76 cases per year.

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Gov. Greg Abbott sets runoff in Texas’ 6th Congressional District for July 27

Here’s an update on the special election for Texas’ 6th Congressional District.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) announced that the special runoff election to fill the vacancy in Texas’ 6th District will take place on July 27, 2021. The two candidates in the runoff are Jake Ellzey (R) and Susan Wright (R). Since they are both Republicans, the seat will not change party hands as a result of the election.

Ellzey and Wright advanced from a 23-candidate special election on May 1. Wright received 19.2% of the vote while Ellzey received 13.8% of the vote. Jana Lynne Sanchez (D), the Democratic candidate to receive the most votes, received 13.4% of the vote. She missed qualifying for the runoff by 354 votes.

The previous incumbent, Ronald Wright (R), died from COVID-19 related complications on February 7, 2021. Susan Wright is Ronald Wright’s widow. Former President Donald Trump (R) endorsed her on April 26. 

Five special congressional elections have been scheduled for this year so far. Two others—both in Louisiana—have passed. There were 10 special congressional elections to the 116th Congress and 17 special elections to the 115th Congress.

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Lori McCann appointed to the Idaho House of Representatives

Speaking of filling vacancies, here’s an update from state legislatures. Governor Brad Little (R) appointed Lori McCann (R) on May 17 to represent District 6A in the Idaho House of Representatives. The seat has been vacant since April 29, when former state Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger (R) resigned.

As of May 20, there have been 48 state legislative vacancies in 28 states so far this year. Thirty-one (31) of those vacancies have been filled. McCann is one of 15 Republicans to fill state legislative vacancies this year.

In 2020, there were 146 state legislative vacancies in 42 states. In 2019, there were 177 state legislative vacancies in 45 states.

The process for filling vacancies varies among the state legislatures. Twenty-five states fill vacancies in their state legislature through special elections. Twenty-two states fill vacancies through appointments, and three states fill vacancies through a hybrid system that uses both appointments and special elections.

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Signature distribution requirements expanded in new Idaho law

Ballotpedia's Daily Brew
Distribution requirement difficulty map

Checking in on laws governing ballot measures in 2021

Last week, I briefed you on the Mississippi Supreme Court ruling that determined the state’s distribution requirement for ballot initiatives was, in fact, mathematically impossible to meet and has been since 2001 congressional reapportionment when the state lost a seat.

Today, let’s look at some changes to the laws governing ballot measures coming from other states this year. 

On April 17, Idaho Gov. Brad Little (R) signed Senate Bill 1110. The bill changed the state’s distribution requirement for ballot initiative and veto referendum signature petitions to require signatures from 6% of voters from all 35 legislative districts instead of the previous requirement of 6% of voters from 18 of the state’s legislative districts. 

With SB 1110 signed into law, Idaho joined Arkansas, Florida, Montana, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Utah in passing bills restricting the states’ initiative processes so far in 2021.

In the 26 states that feature the powers of ballot initiative, veto referendum, or both, 16 have laws imposing distribution requirements, while 10 of them do not. Four other states have distribution requirements based on legislative districts like Idaho. In seven states, the distribution requirements are based on counties. In four states, the distribution requirements are based on U.S. congressional districts. Ballotpedia analyzes the difficulty of distribution requirements based on two different factors, each scored from 1 to 100, with 100 being the most difficult. Before SB 1110, Idaho had a score of 51 for each factor. The distribution requirement in SB 1110 has a score of 100 for each factor.

Ballotpedia has tracked 197 legislative proposals concerning ballot initiatives, veto referendums, referrals, local ballot measures, and recall in 39 states in 2021 legislative sessions.  Notable topics among bills introduced in 2021 sessions include supermajority requirement increases, signature requirement and distribution requirement increases, single-subject rules, pay-per-signature bans, residency requirements and other circulator restrictions, fiscal impact statement and funding source requirements, and ballot measure campaign contribution restrictions.

We recently published an analysis of changes to a state’s initiative and referendum processes that make it harder for proponents to qualify a measure for the ballot and see it approved by voters and changes that make it easier. 

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

Let’s continue our Monday series looking back at coronavirus-related policy changes and events that happened last year. Here is a sampling of events from one year ago this week.

  • Election changes:
    • On May 25, 2020, Judge J. Michelle Childs of the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina barred election officials from enforcing South Carolina’s witness requirement for absentee ballots in the June 9 primary and subsequent runoff elections. 
    • On May 27, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that a voter’s lack of immunity to COVID-19 did not qualify as a disability under the state’s election laws and, therefore, could not be cited as an excuse for voting absentee.
  • Travel restrictions:
    • On May 26, Delaware Gov. John Carney Jr. (D) announced that he would end travel restrictions on out-of-state visitors on June 1.
  • Federal government responses:
    • On May 26, President Donald Trump (R) banned foreign travelers who had been in Brazil in the last 14 days from entering the United States.
  • Stay-at-home orders:
    • On May 29, Northern Virginia (NOVA), as well as Richmond and Accomack County, moved into Phase One of the “Forward Virginia” reopening plan, ending the stay-at-home order in that region. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) previously ended the statewide stay-at-home order for all counties except those in the NOVA region on May 15. Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) allowed the statewide stay-at-home order to expire. He issued the order on March 20, and extended it on March 31 and April 23.  
  • Mask requirements:
    • On May 29, Northam issued an order requiring people 10 and older in Virginia to wear a mask when indoors. 

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#Monday trivia

On Friday, I told you about the oldest and youngest supreme courts in the nation. At 329 years old, Massachusetts takes the cake at having the oldest court of last resort. The youngest state supreme court is in Kentucky.

For today’s question, I’m asking: How old is Kentucky’s state supreme court?

  1. 75
  2. 64
  3. 46
  4. 125


The oldest and newest state supreme courts

Ballotpedia's Daily Brew
Pretty picture here

The oldest and newest state supreme courts

Each state has at least one supreme court, but those courts were established at different times. I recently saw an analysis one of our staff members wrote on this topic, and I wanted to share it with you today.

The Massachusetts Supreme Court, founded in 1692, is 329 years old, making it the country’s oldest state supreme court. The Kentucky Supreme Court, founded in 1975, is the country’s youngest at 46 years old. The court was created when voters approved a constitutional amendment that established the state’s current judicial system, which included a state supreme court.

Justices of the Kentucky Supreme Court are elected in nonpartisan elections. If a midterm vacancy occurs, the governor appoints a new justice from a list of three names that the Kentucky Judicial Nominating Commission provides. A Republican governor appointed three judges on the court, a Democratic governor appointed one judge, and three judges were selected in a nonpartisan election. Justices serve eight-year terms, after which they must stand for retention election to remain in office.

In Massachusetts, the governor appoints justices to the Massachusetts Supreme Court. A Republican governor has appointed all seven justices. Justices hold tenured appointments until they reach 70 years old, the age of mandatory retirement.

Fifteen states select state supreme court justices in nonpartisan elections, like in Kentucky. Five states select justices through gubernatorial appointment, like in Massachusetts. Seven states select justices through partisan elections, 21 through assisted appointment, and 2 through legislative elections.

Love reading all about state supreme courts? Find out more about the courts through our two recent exclusive studies on partisanship and dissenters.

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Texas voters will decide amendment prohibiting restrictions on religious gatherings and organizations

I recently wrote about the two Pennsylvania ballot measures addressing the governor’s emergency powers. Both measures were approved in the May 18 election. Here’s a summary of another measure that was proposed in response to the coronavirus pandemic and coronavirus-related regulations.

On May 11, the Texas Legislature referred its first constitutional amendment to the November ballot. The amendment would add a section to the state constitution prohibiting the state or any political subdivision from issuing or enacting a statute, order, or rule that prohibits or limits religious services, including religious services conducted in churches.

The amendment was proposed in response to the restrictions put in place requiring religious institutions to refrain from meeting in person in March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Texas cities and counties issued stay-at-home orders requiring religious gatherings to stream their services. On March 31, 2020, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) issued an executive order that included “religious services conducted in churches, congregations, and houses of worship” in the definition of “essential services.”

As of May 10, Ballotpedia has identified 10 measures appearing on statewide ballots that were proposed in response to the coronavirus pandemic and coronavirus-related regulations.

For the Texas legislature to refer measures to the ballot requires a two-thirds (66.7%) supermajority vote in both chambers. This requirement amounts to 100 votes in the House and 21 votes in the Senate.

The Texas constitution has been amended 507 times since it was adopted in 1876. Voters approved 91% (154 of 169) and rejected 9% (15 of 169) of the proposed amendments between 1995 and 2019.

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A look at SCOTUS opinions by month

As the weather heats up, so does the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion season. The court tends to release the most rulings in June. Before that happens, let’s take a quick look at the number of opinions the court has released each month during the current and previous two terms.

Over the past three terms including this one, no opinions were issued during the month of October. The court’s term begins on the first Monday in October. 

In the previous two terms, SCOTUS issued the most rulings in June: 17 in the 2019 term and 30 in the 2018 term.

From November to April, where we have data for all three terms, April has the highest average number of rulings issued, 8.7, and November has the lowest with two. 

SCOTUS has issued four opinions so far this May. During the 2019 term, SCOTUS issued four rulings in May. In the 2018 term, the court issued nine rulings in May.

This term, the court accepted 62 cases for argument and has issued 36 opinions to date. Seven cases were decided without argument. Five cases were removed from the argument calendar. Of the cases that were argued this term, 28 are awaiting decisions.

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A dose of redistricting updates

Ballotpedia's Daily Brew

Redistricting review: Sixth Circuit rules Ohio has standing to sue Census Bureau over delayed data 

In last week‘s redistricting review, I wrote about a court case in Ohio concerning the Census Bureau’s timeline for releasing redistricting data. This week—on May 18—a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled that Ohio has standing to sue U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo (D) over the Census Bureau’s plan to release redistricting data to the states by Sept. 30 instead of the April 1 deadline set forth in federal statutes. 

The Sixth Circuit found that Ohio meets all three requirements for standing to bring a lawsuit: “First, Ohio suffered (and continues to suffer) an informational injury because the Secretary failed to deliver Ohio’s data as the Census Act requires. Second, the injury is traceable to the Secretary because Ohio’s informational injury is the direct result of the Secretary’s failure to produce the required data. And third, Ohio’s injury is redressable.” 

The panel unanimously remanded the case to the district court for further consideration. The three judges on the panel were Martha Daughtrey (a Bill Clinton (D) appointee), David McKeague (a George W. Bush (R) appointee), and Amul Thapar (a Donald Trump (R) appointee). 

How we got here: The state filed its lawsuit (Ohio v. Coggins) against the Census Bureau on Feb. 25 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio. The state asked that the court “issue an injunction either prohibiting the defendants from delaying the release of Ohio’s redistricting data beyond March 31, 2021, or else requiring the defendants to provide the State with Ohio’s population data at the earliest date this Court deems equitable.” Judge Thomas Rose, a George W. Bush (R) appointee, dismissed the lawsuit on March 24, stating Ohio was requesting an order that “pretends that the Census Bureau could provide census-based redistricting data by March 31, 2021. The Court cannot ‘order a party to jump higher, run faster, or lift more than she is physically capable.'” The state appealed Rose’s decision to the Sixth Circuit, which heard oral argument on May 12. 

A similar lawsuit is pending in Alabama.

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Pennsylvania local primary election results

Yesterday, I briefed you on the statewide ballot measure results following the Pennsylvania primary elections. A lot happened on Tuesday, so let’s dig a little deeper into the results.

Pittsburgh mayoral election

Edward Gainey defeated incumbent Bill Peduto, Tony Moreno, and Michael Thompson in the Democratic primary. No Republicans filed to run in the race. Unless a write-in candidate enters, Gainey will run unopposed in the Nov. 2 general election. Gainey has represented District 24 in the state House since 2013. Peduto was first elected mayor in 2013. He was re-elected in 2017 after winning 68.9% of the vote in the Democratic primary.

Between 2017 and 2020, Ballotpedia tracked 46 incumbent mayors who lost their re-election bids. 

Local ballot measures

In Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, voters approved a ballot initiative to prohibit solitary confinement in the county jail. As of 12:40 AM EST on May 19, the ballot initiative received 69.5% of the vote. In Pittsburgh, which is also located in Allegheny County, voters approved a ballot initiative to prohibit the police from executing warrants without knocking or announcing themselves. It received 81.6% of the vote.

On the eastern side of the state, in Philadelphia, voters approved a charter amendment to provide for an expanded Board of License Inspection Review that can hear and decide cases in three-member panels. The ballot measure received 76.7% of the vote.

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Nevada legislature refers minimum wage amendment to 2022 ballot

It has been a busy spring for statewide ballot measures. In November 2022, Nevada voters will decide on a constitutional amendment that would increase the minimum wage for all employees to $12 by 2024. 

In 2019, the legislature passed legislation enacting a minimum wage increase beginning in 2020 at a rate of $8.00 for employees that received health benefits and $9.00 for those who did not. The rate is set to increase incrementally until 2024, when it reaches $11 and $12 for the respective employee tiers. As of January 2021, the minimum wage in Nevada was $8.75 for employees with health benefits, and $9.75 for employees without health benefits. The average state minimum wage in 2021 is about $9.59, up from $9.17 in 2020. 

The constitutional amendment would also remove annual inflation adjustments to the minimum wage—currently capped at 3% of the prior year’s rate—and allow the legislature to pass a minimum wage law setting the rate higher than the constitutionally mandated minimum.

To refer a constitutional amendment to the ballot in Nevada, a majority vote is required in two successive sessions of the state legislature. The legislature passed the proposal in 2019 and 2021. All “yes” votes came from Democrats and all “no” votes came from Republicans with one exception: Last week, Republican state Sen. Keith Pickard joined Democrats in voting “yes.”

So far, 42 statewide ballot measures have been certified for the 2022 ballot across 21 states.

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President Biden announces six additional judicial nominees

Ballotpedia's Daily Brew

President Biden announces six nominees for federal judgeships 

President Joe Biden (D) nominated six individuals to Article III judgeships with lifetime terms on May 12. Three were for positions on the 1st, 2nd, and 10th Courts of Appeal. The other three were for district court judgeships.

Biden nominated Gustavo Gelpí to the 1st Circuit to replace Juan Torruella, who died on Oct. 26. He nominated Eunice Lee and Veronica Rossman to the 2nd and 10th Circuits, respectively, to replace judges who assumed senior status on Jan. 21 and Feb. 1.

Since taking office, Biden has nominated 19 individuals to federal judgeships. Twelve nominees are awaiting a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Seven nominees are awaiting a committee vote. The U.S. Senate has not yet confirmed any Biden nominees. 

There are 77 current Article III vacancies in the federal judiciary out of 870 total Article III judgeships. Including non-Article III judges from the United States Court of Federal Claims and the United States territorial courts, there are 81 vacancies out of 890 active federal judicial positions. Biden announced his first federal judicial nominees on March 30.

At his inauguration in January 2021, President Biden inherited 46 Article III vacancies: two on U.S. appeals courts, 43 on U.S. district courts, and one on the U.S. Court of International Trade.

The following chart shows the total number of judicial vacancies at the start of each month since the Biden administration began in January 2021. It includes vacancies on the U.S. Court of Appeals, U.S. District Courts, Court of International Trade, Court of Federal Claims, and the U.S. Supreme Court.

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Virginia Republicans select nominees for lieutenant governor, attorney general 

Wednesday’s Brew detailed Glenn Youngkin’s victory in the Virginia Republican Party’s unassembled convention after six rounds of vote-counting using ranked-choice voting. The party also announced the results this week of delegate voting for the state’s two other state executive offices—lieutenant governor and attorney general.

  • Lieutenant governor: Winsome Sears (R) won the party’s nod for lieutenant governor among six candidates. Her nomination was announced on May 11. After five rounds of vote-counting using ranked-choice voting, Sears received 54% of the delegate vote to Tim Hugo’s 46%.
  • Attorney general: Jason Miyares defeated three other candidates to win the Republican Party nomination for attorney general, the results of which were announced on May 9. After three rounds of vote-counting, Miyares received 52% of the delegate vote to Chuck Smith’s 48%.

Democrats have won every statewide executive office election in Virginia since 2013. The Democratic Party will select statewide nominees for these offices in a June 8 primary.

Due to coronavirus crowd-size restrictions, Virginia Republicans held an unassembled convention on May 8 at 39 locations for all three statewide executive offices. Delegates cast a single ballot using ranked-choice voting to determine a winner, rather than using multiple rounds of voting. Click here to learn more about how the Republican Party of Virginia conducted its statewide convention.

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Alaska Legislature confirms Treg Taylor as attorney general

A joint session of the Alaska Legislature voted 35-24 to confirm Treg Taylor as the state’s attorney general on May 11. Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) appointed Taylor as acting attorney general on Jan. 29 after Ed Sniffen resigned following allegations of sexual misconduct. 

Before Dunleavy appointed Taylor attorney general, Taylor served as deputy attorney general in charge of the civil division at the Alaska Department of Law. In 2016, he ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the Anchorage Municipal Assembly.

The attorney general is a state executive office in all 50 states and is the chief legal advisor for state government. Attorneys general are empowered to prosecute violations of state law, represent the state in legal disputes, and issue legal advice to state agencies and the legislature. 

Nationwide, 26 states have Republican Party-affiliated attorneys general, and 24 states have Democratic Party-affiliated attorneys general. Virginia is the only state electing its attorney general this year. Thirty states will elect an attorney general in 2022.

Voters in 43 states and Washington, D.C., directly elect the attorney general. In five states—Alaska, Hawaii, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and Wyoming—the governor appoints the attorney general. The state Legislature appoints the attorney general in Maine, and Tennessee’s supreme court appoints that state’s attorney general.

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Redistricting news

Ballotpedia's Daily Brew

Redistricting review – a summary of this week’s map-making news

Last week, I briefed you on U.S. House apportionment counts based on the 2020 Census. As a reminder, six states gained seats in the U.S. House, and seven states lost a seat each. Here’s today’s update on redistricting activity. 

Ohio

On May 12, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit was scheduled to hear oral arguments in Ohio v. Coggins, in which Ohio officials are seeking to force the U.S. Census Bureau to release redistricting data to the states ahead of its September 30 target date.

On Feb. 25, 2021, the state filed its lawsuit against the Census Bureau in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio. Ohio Solicitor General Benjamin Flowers said, “The unavailability of decennial census data irreparably harms the State: the Ohio Constitution requires the State to use decennial census data during redistricting if the data is available, and allows the use of alternative data sources only as a second-best option. By blocking the State from conducting redistricting using decennial census data, the Census Bureau’s decision prevents the State from conducting redistricting in the constitutionally preferred manner.” 

The state asked that the court “issue an injunction either prohibiting the defendants from delaying the release of Ohio’s redistricting data beyond March 31, 2021, or else requiring the defendants to provide the State with Ohio’s population data at the earliest date this Court deems equitable.”

Judge Thomas Rose, a George W. Bush (R) appointee, dismissed the lawsuit on March 24, 2021, writing, “The Court will therefore reject Ohio’s request for an order that pretends that the Census Bureau could provide census-based redistricting data by March 31, 2021. The Court cannot ‘order a party to jump higher, run faster, or lift more than she is physically capable.'” The next day, the state appealed Rose’s decision to the Sixth Circuit.

A similar lawsuit is pending in Alabama.

Virginia

On April 26, Delegate Lee Carter (D) sent a letter to Attorney General Mark Herring (D) asking for a formal opinion as to the “constitutionality of the 2021 elections for the House of Delegates being conducted under electoral districts established in 2011.” Carter asked Herring to address the following issues:

1. “The Constitutional authority, if any such authority exists, under which the Virginia Department of Elections is currently conducting the 2021 House of Delegates elections for the electoral districts established in 2011.”

2. “Whether, in the absence of timely data from the United States Census Bureau, the Virginia Redistricting Commission is Constitutionally bound to establish new electoral districts with the best available population data for the House of Delegates elections in the year 2021 and in each tenth subsequent year thereafter.”

As of May 6, Herring had not responded to Carter’s request for an opinion.

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Pennsylvania voters to decide statewide judicial primaries, ballot measures

Pennsylvania voters will decide statewide primaries next Tuesday—May 18—including several judicial races and four statewide ballot measures. There are three primary partisan elections for judgeships on the state’s appeals courts.

Judicial elections

One seat is up for election on the seven-member Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Justice Thomas Saylor (R) is not running for re-election. Three candidates—Kevin Brobson, Patricia McCullough, and Paula Patrick—are running in the Republican primary, and Maria McLaughlin is running unopposed in the Democratic primary. Excluding Saylor, five judges on the court have been elected in partisan elections as Democrats, and one—Sallie Mundy—was appointed by a Democratic governor. Mundy was then elected to the court in a partisan election in which she ran as a Republican.

There are also primary elections Tuesday for one seat each on the state’s superior court and commonwealth court, which are the state’s intermediate appeals courts. Pennsylvania’s appellate court system is somewhat unique, so let me explain the differences between the two courts. A full term on both courts is 10 years.

  • The Pennsylvania Superior Court hears appeals of most civil and criminal cases from the state’s county courts (known as the courts of common pleas). 
  • The Commonwealth Court hears appeals of certain cases depending on what the case is about and the identity of the parties to the lawsuit. The Commonwealth Court usually hears appeals when a case involves state and local government and regulatory agencies and when the appeal concerns specific subjects, such as banking, taxation, or elections. The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court also has original jurisdiction over most election cases and cases where someone files a lawsuit against the state itself.

The seat up for partisan election on the Pennsylvania Superior Court is vacant. On the commonwealth court, Judge Andrew Crompton (R) is running for re-election. 

Ballot Measures

  • Voters will decide four statewide measures. Two constitutional amendments would give the legislature more authority over the governor’s emergency powers, which have been a point of conflict between the Republican-controlled legislature and Gov. Tom Wolf (D) during the coronavirus pandemic. The third amendment would add language to the state constitution prohibiting the denial or abridgment of rights due to an individual’s race or ethnicity. The fourth measure would expand the state’s loan program for volunteer fire companies and ambulance services to also include municipal fire companies and EMS services.
  • Voters in Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, and Philadelphia will decide three local ballot measures in two cities. The measures include two law enforcement initiatives to ban solitary confinement in the Allegheny County Jail and ban the use of no-knock warrants by Pittsburgh police.

Municipal elections

  • Voters in Harrisburg, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh will decide municipal elections including mayor, city council, and district attorney.
  • Allegheny County voters will decide county council and sheriff races.

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Anchorage & Omaha mayoral election results

Both Anchorage and Omaha held elections for mayor on Tuesday, May 11. Here’s a summary of the results.

Anchorage

The outcome of the mayoral runoff remains unclear after preliminary results posted by the city show Forrest Dunbar leading Dave Bronson with 50.08% of the vote. As of May 11, at least 6,600 ballots had not yet been counted, and mail-in ballots continue to arrive. Mail-in ballots postmarked no later than election day will continue to be counted if they arrive by May 21. Overseas ballots must arrive by May 25.

Based on the over 78,000 ballots received so far, the voter turnout rate is at 30.5% of registered voters and already exceeds the 75,441 cast in the April 6 general election. The city’s highest recorded voter turnout was in the 2018 mayoral election in which 36.3% of registered voters cast 79,295 votes. 

If the race remains within the current margins, the city will conduct a recount. The candidates are currently separated by just 0.16% of the vote, and Anchorage municipal code stipulates that an automatic recount be conducted for city elections in which a candidate wins by less than 0.5%.

Omaha

Incumbent Jean Stothert (R) won re-election to a third term after defeating RJ Neary (D) in the nonpartisan mayoral general election.

Unofficial results showed Stothert received 67% of the vote to Neary’s 33% at the time of his concession.

Stothert is one of 25 Republican mayors among the country’s 100 largest cities. She was first elected in 2013 after defeating incumbent Jim Suttle (D) and won re-election to a second term in 2017.

If Stothert serves the full four-year term as mayor, she will become the longest-serving mayor in Omaha’s history. No mayor has served for more than nine consecutive years. Stothert has already served eight years as mayor.



Glenn Youngkin wins Virginia Republican Party’s gubernatorial nomination

Ballotpedia's Daily Brew

Glenn Youngkin wins Virginia Republican Party’s gubernatorial nomination

Glenn Youngkin won the Virginia Republican Party’s gubernatorial nomination on May 10 after six rounds of vote-counting using ranked-choice voting. Youngkin defeated six candidates, including business owner Pete Snyder, state Sen. Amanda Chase, and former House Speaker Kirk Cox. After the final round of vote-counting, Youngkin received 55% of the delegate vote to Pete Snyder’s 45%.

Due to coronavirus crowd-size restrictions, the Virginia Republicans held an unassembled convention on May 8 across 39 satellite locations for all three statewide executive offices—governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general. Delegates cast a single ballot using ranked-choice voting to determine a winner, rather than using multiple rounds of voting. 

Ranked-choice voting is an electoral system in which voters rank candidates by preference on their ballots. If a candidate wins a majority of first-preference votes, he or she is declared the winner. If no candidate wins a majority of first-preference votes, the candidate with the fewest first-preference votes is eliminated. First-preference votes cast for the failed candidate are eliminated, lifting the second-preference choices indicated on those ballots. A new tally is conducted to determine whether any candidate has won a majority of the adjusted votes. The process is repeated until a candidate wins a majority of adjusted votes.

Youngkin led the field of Republican candidates in fundraising. According to campaign finance reports, he raised $7.7 million as of March 31. He is the former co-CEO and president of The Carlyle Group, a global investment firm, where he worked from 1995 to 2020.

Youngkin responded to our Candidate Connection survey before the convention. In it, he said, “We need a governor with real-world experience who can create jobs, keep businesses from leaving, put an open-for-business sign on Virginia, and create a rip-roaring economy that lifts all Virginians.” Click here to read all of his survey responses.

Incumbent Gov. Ralph Northam (D) is unable to seek re-election due to term limits. Virginia’s constitution prevents the governor from running for a second consecutive term, although there is no lifetime term limit.

Democrats have won every statewide election in Virginia since 2012. The last Republican to win the governorship was Bob McDonnell (R) in 2009. In 2019, Democrats won majorities in both the state House and Senate, creating a Democratic trifecta in the state for the first time since 1994.

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Voters deciding nine ballot measures in seven states in response to coronavirus or pandemic-related regulations

Ballotpedia has been tracking certified and potential ballot measures that were proposed in response to the coronavirus pandemic and coronavirus-related regulations. Nine statewide measures in seven states have already qualified for the ballot, and eight more measures in five states have been proposed.

One statewide measure related to the pandemic has already been approved. Last November, New Jersey voters approved Public Question 3, 58% to 42%, which postpones state legislative redistricting until after the 2021 election if the state received federal census data after February 15, 2021. The Census Bureau released apportionment counts last month and announced that it would deliver redistricting data to the states by September 30.

Pennsylvania voters will decide two constitutional amendments May 18 on the governor’s emergency powers, which have been a point of conflict between the Republican-controlled legislature and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf during the pandemic. One amendment would limit a governor’s emergency declaration to 21 days unless the legislature votes on a concurrent resolution to extend the order. The other amendment would allow the Pennsylvania General Assembly to pass a resolution, which the governor cannot veto, by a simple majority to extend or terminate the governor’s emergency declaration.

Voters will decide at least six other measures in the 2022 general election on topics such as changes to election laws prior to an election, how state legislatures can be called into and conduct special sessions, and restrictions on religious freedom.

Ballotpedia has also identified three local ballot measures passed last year in response to the coronavirus pandemic and coronavirus-related regulations:

  • Miami, Florida, voters approved a non-binding measure in favor of creating a COVID-19 screening program at the Miami International Airport,
  • DuPage County, Illinois, voters approved a non-binding measure advising the county to stockpile personal protective equipment (PPE) for distribution to nursing homes, first responders, health care providers, and at-risk communities,
  • Sacramento, California, voters amended the city charter allowing the city to delay the completion of the redistricting process from 2021 to 2022.

Read on 

Annette Ziegler becomes chief justice of Wisconsin Supreme Court

Annette Ziegler began a two-year term as chief justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court on May 1. She succeeds Patience Roggensack, who had served as chief justice since April 2015.

Until 2015, the justice with the longest continuous service on the Wisconsin Supreme Court served as the chief justice, unless that justice declined (in which case the role passed to the next senior justice of the court). Voters passed a state constitutional amendment in April of that year—Question 1—that changed the selection method to a majority vote of the current justices. 

Ziegler was first elected to the court in 2007 and was re-elected unopposed to another ten-year term in 2017. She previously served as a Washington County Circuit Court judge, becoming the first female judge in that county.

Justices on the Wisconsin Supreme Court are officially nonpartisan. Ballotpedia’s State Court Partisanship Study identifies Ziegler as a mild Republican.

Chief justices of the state supreme courts act as head of the judiciaries in their states, in addition to serving as a justice on the court. Each state has different laws providing for the selection of its chief justice(s). Ballotpedia has categorized four methods of selection, as follows:

  • Appointment: chief justices are appointed to the position by the governor, state legislature, or other body
  • Chamber vote: the court’s justices choose a chief justice from amongst themselves
  • Popular vote: chief justices are elected to the position by voters in the state
  • Seniority: the chief justice is determined based on their length of service on the court

State supreme court chief justices in Wisconsin and 22 other states are selected by chamber vote. Fourteen (14) states select chief justices by appointment, seven by popular vote, and six by seniority. 

And if all this sounds really interesting and you want to learn more about state supreme courts and our State Court Partisanship Study, please join us later today for a briefing with one of the study’s primary authors. Click here to register for your spot!
Read on



Reviewing nearly $200 billion in approved bond measures since 2000

Ballotpedia's Daily Brew

Voters have approved $199.3 billion in bond measures since 2000

Our ballot measures team just finished some really fascinating research on statewide bond measures over the past 20 years. One of their findings was that bond measure approval rates were the highest in Democratic trifectas, rather than Republican trifectas or states with divided governments. Another interesting fact was that two-thirds of the total bond measures were put on the ballot by Democratic-controlled legislatures. Let’s take a dive into the data.

But first, let’s start with the basics.

Bond measures are put on the ballot to authorize a state or district to take on a certain amount of bond debt. Some states have voter approval requirements for statewide bond debt, while others do not. We tracked 244 statewide bond measures on the ballot from 2000 to 2020 asking voters to authorize up to $254.63 billion in bond debt in 22 states.

The bulk of these bonds were placed on the ballot by state legislatures. Eleven citizen initiative petitions placed statewide bond measures on the ballot from 2000 to 2020, and state legislatures referred the other 233 measures to the ballot.

Now, let’s dive into the findings.

  • Of the 244 bond measures, 214 measures authorizing a total of $199.281 billion were approved and 30 measures proposing a total of $55.353 billion were defeated.
  • An average of 12 statewide bond measures were voted on per year, with the most measures (26) voted on in 2002, and no statewide bond measures voted on in 2011.
  • The state with the largest amount of bond debt on the ballot was California with $182.2 billion, $152.4 billion of which was approved.
  • Ninety-five statewide bond measures were on the ballot in states with Democratic trifectas, and 20 statewide bond measures were on the ballot in states with Republican trifectas.
  • Seventy-nine bond measures were on the ballot in states with Democrat-controlled legislatures but Republican governors, and nine were on the ballot in states with Republican-controlled legislatures but Democratic governors.
  • The three states with the most measures on the ballot were Maine (60), Rhode Island (49), and New Mexico (40).

The chart below shows the approval rating for statewide bond measures since 2000. To read the full report, click the link below.

Read on

Tennessee voters to decide right-to-work amendment in 2022 

Speaking of ballot measures, here’s an update from Tennessee. Voters will decide a constitutional amendment in 2022 that would make it illegal for workplaces to require mandatory labor union membership as a condition for employment. This type of policy is known as right-to-work. Tennessee enacted a right-to-work statute in 1947.

In Tennessee, a legislatively referred constitutional amendment requires a vote in each chamber of the Tennessee State Legislature in two successive legislative sessions with an election in between. However, there are two different vote requirements depending on the session. During the first legislative session, the constitutional amendment needs to receive a simple majority (50%+1) vote in each legislative chamber. During the second legislative session, the constitutional amendment needs to receive a two-thirds vote in each legislative chamber.

Last session, the amendment passed 24-5 in the state Senate and 68-22 in the state House in 2020. This session, the state Senate passed the measure in March by a vote of 24-7. Twenty-four Republicans voted in favor and one Republican joined the chamber’s six Democrats in voting against. The state House approved the amendment 67-24 on April 29 with 67 Republicans voting in favor and 23 Democrats and one Republican voting against.  

Twenty-seven states have enacted right-to-work statutes. Nine states have adopted right-to-work constitutional amendments. Alabama and Virginia were the last states to decide right-to-work amendments in 2016. Alabama voters approved Amendment 8, 70% to 30%, and Virginia voters rejected Question 1, 54% to 46%. Missouri voters repealed the state’s right-to-work statute via a veto referendum in 2018.

Tennessee’s right-to-work amendment will be the first one certified for the ballot in the state since 2014. Tennessee voters approved all 11 statewide ballot measures decided between 1995 and 2014.

Read on 

Don’t miss our state supreme court partisanship briefing

Here’s a preview of our upcoming briefing on state supreme court partisanship. 

One of the most common questions Ballotpedia staff hear is, “How do I learn more about my judges?” Our latest report helps answer that question by looking at partisanship at each state’s highest court, and we’re excited to share it with you during the briefing. 

Join us tomorrow, May 12, at 11:00 AM Central Time as our state courts expert Samuel Postell and I go over the findings of our partisanship report. We’ll answer questions such as:

  • What is the Ballotpedia Courts Study?
  • How does partisanship inform the way that justices rule in cases before the courts of last resort?
  • Who is the majority on your court of last resort? Who is the minority?

I hope you’ll join us for this exclusive discussion. Can’t make it during the scheduled time? We’ll email you a recording of our conversation so you don’t miss a thing. Click the link below to snag your spot!

Register here



The Daily Brew: How COVID-19 was impacting policy 1 year ago

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

  1. COVID-19 policy changes and events one year ago this week
  2. Arkansas passes bill with multiple restrictions on the ballot initiative process
  3. Previewing the mayoral races in Anchorage and Omaha

Happy Monday! We hope it was a lovely Mother’s Day weekend.

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

We continue our Monday series highlighting policy changes and events related to the coronavirus pandemic from one year ago this week. Here is a sampling of coronavirus-related policy changes and events that happened one year ago this week.

  • Federal government responses:
    • On May 15, President Donald Trump (R) announced the creation of Operation Warp Speed, an administration task force meant to help develop a coronavirus vaccine. Moncef Slaoui was named as the task force’s chief scientist, and U.S. Army General Gustave Perna was named as its chief operating officer.
  • Election changes:
    • On May 12, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz (D) signed HF3429 into law, authorizing general election candidates to submit filing forms and petitions electronically.
    • On May 13, South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster (R) signed into law a bill allowing any eligible South Carolina voter to request an absentee ballot for the state’s June 9, 2020, primary and subsequent runoff elections.
  • Stay-at-home orders:
    • On May 13, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled 4-3 that Wisconsin Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm overstepped her authority when she extended the state’s stay-at-home order through May 26 on behalf of Gov. Tony Evers (D). The ruling invalidated all statewide coronavirus restrictions.  
    • The following five governors ended their state’s stay-at-home orders on May 15—Arizona, Louisiana, Maryland, Nevada, and Vermont. 
  • Travel restrictions
    • On May 14, Arkansas Secretary of Health Nathaniel Smith issued a 14-day quarantine requirement for out-of-state travelers who have been in an international location or New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, or New Orleans in the last 14 days.

For the most recent coronavirus news, including the latest on vaccines and mask mandates, subscribe to our daily newsletter, Documenting America’s Path to Recovery

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Arkansas passes bill with multiple restrictions on the ballot initiative process

On April 29, a bill in Arkansas adding several restrictions to the state’s ballot initiative and veto referendum process became law. 

Senate Bill 614 included restrictions to:

  • ban paying signature gatherers based on the number of signatures gathered, a payment method called pay-per-signature;
  • require circulators to be state residents and citizens; and
  • add certain offenses that disqualify a person from being a signature gatherer, including assault, battery, intimidation, threatening, sexual offenses, trespassing, vandalism, and theft (in addition to the existing list of any felony, election law violations, fraud, forgery, and identity theft).

The state House passed an amended version of the bill on April 14 by a vote of 72-18. The Senate passed it on April 22 by a vote of 27-5. In the House, 72 Republicans voted in favor of the bill, and 17 Democrats and one Republican voted against it. In the Senate, 26 Republicans and one Democrat voted in favor of the bill, and four Democrats and one independent voted against it. It became law after the governor’s five-day window to veto bills passed. Arkansas has a Republican state government trifecta. 

Provisions in Senate Bill 614 setting disqualifying offenses for signature gatherers and making initiative sponsors responsible for checking the backgrounds of signature gatherers will replace the state’s previous background check requirements that were overturned by the Arkansas Supreme Court on March 11.

Sen. Breanne Davis (R), who sponsored SB 614, said the bill protects the integrity of the initiative process. Davis also said, “I think it’s important that we have Arkansans collecting signatures. This process is meant to be a process for Arkansans.”

David Couch, an initiative activist in Arkansas, said he would file a lawsuit seeking to overturn SB 614. Couch said the bill is an attack on the state’s citizen initiative process. Nell Matthews with the League of Women Voters of Arkansas said that SB 614 is “just another attempt to quash any efforts by the public to have a say in the governance of the state.”

The Arkansas Legislature also referred a constitutional amendment to the November 2022 ballot that would require 60% supermajority voter approval to adopt future constitutional amendments (legislatively referred and citizen-initiated) and citizen-initiated state statutes.

2021 ballot measure law changes context

Ballotpedia has tracked 197 legislative proposals concerning ballot initiatives, veto referendums, referrals, local ballot measures, and recall in 37 states in 2021 legislative sessions. At least 17 have been approved, and 20 have been defeated or have died.

Legislatures in Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Utah have approved bills to restrict the ballot initiative processes in their states.

Notable topics among bills introduced in 2021 sessions include supermajority requirement increases, signature requirement and distribution requirement increases, single-subject rules, pay-per-signature bans, residency requirements and other circulator restrictions, fiscal impact statement and funding source requirements, and ballot measure campaign contribution restrictions.

Read on 

Previewing the mayoral races in Anchorage and Omaha

Tomorrow, we’ll be watching the mayoral races in both Anchorage, Alaska, and Omaha, Nebraska. Here’s a quick rundown of the two. Anchorage and Omaha are the 62nd and 42nd largest cities by population in the United States. Mayoral elections are taking place in 31 of the 100 largest U.S. cities in 2021.

Anchorage

David Bronson and Forrest Dunbar are facing each other in a runoff election after the April 6 general election, as neither candidate won more than 45% of the vote. Bronson received 33% of the vote to Dunbar’s 31%.

Incumbent Ethan Berkowitz (D) resigned from office on October 23, 2020, due to what he said was “unacceptable personal conduct that has compromised my ability to perform my duties with the focus and trust that is required.” Austin Quinn-Davidson was selected by the Anchorage Assembly to serve as acting mayor.

Dunbar previously ran as a Democrat in 2014 to represent the At-Large Congressional District of Alaska in the U.S. House, and Planned Parenthood endorsed him for mayor. Former Lieutenant Governor of Alaska Craig Campbell (R) endorsed Bronson.

Economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic is a central issue in the race. Dunbar said he supported maintaining safety measures enacted by the Anchorage Assembly, such as a mask mandate and business restrictions, while Bronson said that he supported reconsidering or removing restrictions. Homelessness and crime is also a key topic, with candidates divided over shelter funding and locations and prevention methods.

Omaha

Incumbent Jean Stothert and RJ Neary are facing off in the general election after winning the top-two spots in the April 6 primary. Stothert is one of 26 Republican mayors across the country’s 100 largest cities. She was first elected in 2013, following Democratic control of the mayorship since 2001, and won re-election in 2017. She is Omaha’s longest-serving Republican mayor since 1906.

Neary is the chairman of Investors Realty, a commercial real estate investment company, and the former chairman of the Omaha Planning Board. During the primary, he received endorsements from the city’s three most recent Democratic mayors: Mike Fahey, Jim Suttle, and Mike Boyle.

Seven city council seats will also be on the May 11 ballot. District 3 incumbent Chris Jerram was the only city council member to not file for re-election in 2021. Five incumbents advanced past the primary election and will appear on the general election ballot. District 5 incumbent Colleen Brennan lost her re-election bid after placing fifth in the primary election.



Ballotpedia analysis – net change in state legislative seats during Trump’s presidency

Ballotpedia's Daily Brew

Republicans lost 187 net state legislative seats during the Trump administration

Over the course of Donald Trump’s (R) presidency, Republicans lost 187 net state legislative seats. During all presidencies since 1921, the president’s party has lost a net average of 552 state legislative seats. The net loss of 187 Republican state legislative seats during the Trump administration was the smallest loss of seats for the president’s party since Harry Truman’s (D) presidency, which saw a net loss of 138 Democratic seats. 

In 61 of the 99 state legislative chambers, the Democratic Party held more seats following the 2020 general election than it did after the general election in 2016.

Six state legislative chambers in five states flipped from Republican to Democratic control compared to the start of Trump’s presidency. In four states—Colorado, Maine, New York, and Virginia—this resulted in the creation of Democratic trifectas, where Democrats controlled both chambers as well as the governorship. Republicans did not gain control of any chambers by the end of Trump’s presidency that they did not already control at its start. The Alaska House of Representatives was controlled by a bipartisan coalition throughout Trump’s presidency.

The number of state legislative seats that Democrats held increased in 34 states during Trump’s presidency, either by increasing an already-existing majority or narrowing/flipping a Republican majority. The largest shifts in Democrats’ favor came in Connecticut, Virginia, and Georgia. The number of seats that Republicans held increased in 13 states. The largest shifts in Republicans’ favor came in Kentucky, West Virginia, and Louisiana. There were no net shifts in either legislative chamber in Alaska or Nevada. Nebraska, which has a nonpartisan legislature, was excluded from this analysis.

Two presidents—George H.W. Bush (R) and Ronald Reagan (R)—gained state legislative seats over the course of their presidencies. During the past century, the largest Republican losses occurred under the Herbert Hoover (R) administration with a net loss of 1,662 Republican seats from 1929 to 1933. The largest Democratic losses occurred during Barack Obama’s (D) administration with a net loss of 948 Democratic seats from 2009 to 2017.

Read on

Ballotpedia’s federal judicial vacancy count: 75 open federal judgeships

Earlier this month, we released our monthly federal judicial vacancy count, which found that as of May 1, there were 75 vacancies out of 870 active Article III judicial positions, a total vacancy percentage of 8.6%. Seven of those vacancies were on the U.S. Courts of Appeals, 66 were on U.S. District Courts, and two were on the U.S. Court of International Trade.

So far, President Joe Biden (D)  has nominated 13 individuals to the federal circuit and district courts. None of the nominees have been confirmed. Five of the nominees are awaiting committee hearings. The other eight are awaiting a committee vote.

In comparison with the previous administration, President Donald Trump (R) made his first Article III judicial nomination on January 31, 2017, when he nominated Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court. Trump’s first successful appointment–where the nominee was confirmed–occurred on April 7, 2017, when the Senate confirmed Gorsuch. Outside of the Supreme Court, Trump’s first successful appointment was on May 25, 2017, when Amul Thapar was confirmed to the United States Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit.

Since 1901, the earliest successful Article III appointment was made by President Richard Nixon (R). Nixon appointed a federal district judge by March 1 of his first year in office. Three presidents–Theodore Roosevelt (R), Calvin Coolidge (R), and Gerald Ford (R)–made the fewest with no judicial appointments during their first year in office.

Since Ronald Reagan (R), the average number of federal judges appointed in the president’s first year is 24.

Read on 

Cincinnati mayoral election goes to runoff; voters reject one, approve two charter amendments on May 4

The first five days of May have been a busy time of local elections. We spent the beginning part of this week looking at Saturday’s elections – now, let’s review what happened on Tuesday in Cincinnati, the country’s 64th-largest city. 

Cincinnati held municipal elections on May 4, with voters casting ballots in the city’s nonpartisan mayoral primary and deciding three charter amendments. 

Mayor

Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Aftab Pureval and councilman and former mayor David Mann were the top-two finishers among six candidates and will meet in the general election on Nov. 2. Pureval received 39.1% of the vote and Mann received 29.1%. 

Although the elections for and position of the mayor are officially nonpartisan, the candidates running were affiliated with political parties. Both Pureval and Mann are Democrats. The last Republican to serve as mayor was Willis Gradison, who left office in 1971. Mayor John Cranley—who was first elected mayor in 2013 and re-elected in 2017—was not able to run for re-election in 2021 due to term limits.

In addition to the mayoral election on Nov. 2, Cincinnati voters will also elect all nine members of the city council. All council members are selected at large, and each voter can select up to nine candidates, with the top nine finishers elected to council. 

Charter Amendments

Cincinnati voters also decided three charter amendments, approving two of them and rejecting one. The two approved amendments:

  • Issue 1 requires the city solicitor to appoint a special prosecutor to prosecute an action to remove a member of council where a member of the council has been indicted for a felony or a criminal complaint has been filed against a member for charges relating to official conduct. It passed 77% to 23%.
  • Issue 2 provides new mechanisms for removing council members indicted for crimes related to their duties from office, in addition to other ethics-related amendments. Among other provisions, it provides for a pre-conviction suspension of council members indicted for state or federal felonies related to the council member’s duties and the removal of council members upon conviction of or guilty plea. It passed 77% to 23%.

Some background – three Cincinnati city council members were arrested on felony corruption charges in 2020. The charges stemmed from situations where the members allegedly took bribes from developers for city business. A fourth council member was charged with a third-degree felony count of tampering with records in April 2021. 

  • Voters defeated Issue 3, which would have required a permanent $50 million annual contribution of city funds to a Cincinnati Affordable Housing Trust Fund. It would have created a board of private citizens to manage the fund and provided guidelines for what projects could be financed. It was defeated, 73% to 27%.