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The Daily Brew: Checking-in on ballot rejection rates from 2020

Ballotpedia's Daily Brew

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

  1. Absentee/mail-in ballot rejection rates in the 2016 and 2020 general elections
  2. New Mexico becomes the third state to approve recreational marijuana legalization this year
  3. Rep. Steve Stivers (R) to resign in May 

Absentee/mail-in ballot rejection rates in the 2016 and 2020 general elections

Mail-in voting increased in 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic, with an estimated 65.6 million absentee/mail-in ballots cast in the 2020 general election versus 33.4 million in 2016. In 2020, absentee/mail-in ballots were 41.1% of all ballots cast in November. In 2016, they were 23.8%.

Each state publishes data on the overall rejection rate of these ballots. The Election Assistance Commission (EAC) publishes a comprehensive report on such data (among other things in their typically 225+ page report) for all 50 states. We used data from the EAC’s 2016 Election Administration Voting Survey in the following analysis of rejection rates. The EAC’s 2020 survey is tentatively scheduled to be released on June 30. 

While we eagerly await the official report, we’ve been compiling information on 2020 rejection rates from news sources, publicly available election statistics, and direct outreach to state election officials. We’ll provide updates to our rejection rate data as information becomes available. So far, we have data for 31 of the 50 states.

  • Ballotpedia’s analysis of 2020 election data shows that at least 20 states rejected a smaller percentage of absentee/mail-in ballots during the 2020 general election than they did in 2016
  • At least seven states rejected a greater percentage, and 
  • Four states’ rejection rates remained the same. 

Nineteen states have not yet released the data necessary for making a comparison—those states aren’t included in this analysis.

The number of absentee/mail-in ballots cast in the 31 states for which data is available increased 113% from 24.4 million in 2016 to 51.8 million in 2020. The number of rejected ballots also increased from 222,096 in 2016 to 368,949 in 2020—a 66% increase. 

While the number of absentee/mail-in ballots cast and rejected were both higher in 2020 than in 2016, the rejection rate across these 31 states decreased by 0.2 percentage points from 0.9% in 2016 to 0.7% in 2020.

Nationwide, the rejection rate for the 33.4 million absentee/mail-in ballots cast in 2016 was 1.0%. 

Click the link below to learn more about how we gathered this preliminary data.

Read on 

New Mexico becomes the third state to approve recreational marijuana legalization this year

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) signed House Bill 2 (HB2) on April 12, which legalized recreational marijuana. This made New Mexico the third state to enact recreational marijuana legalization in the last month. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed a marijuana legalization bill on March 31. On April 7, the Virginia General Assembly approved Gov. Ralph Northam’s (D) amended legalization proposal, moving up the effective date from 2024 to July 1 of this year.

New Mexico’s law allows the possession of up to 2 ounces of marijuana, 16 grams of concentrated marijuana, and 800 milligrams of edible cannabis. It allows each person to grow up to six mature and six immature marijuana plants, with a limit of 12 mature plants per household. Local governments will be allowed to pass laws regulating certain commercial activity and density. 

New Mexico was the fifth state to approve legalized recreational marijuana through legislative action rather than a voter-approved ballot measure. Including New Mexico, 17 states and D.C. have enacted marijuana legalization. 

Of the 17 states where recreational marijuana is legal, 12 have Democratic governors and five (Alaska, Arizona, Massachusetts, Montana, and Vermont) have Republican governors.

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Rep. Steve Stivers (R) to resign in May

U.S. Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio) announced on Monday he will resign from the House on May 16 to become president and CEO of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce. Stivers represents Ohio’s 15th Congressional District.

Stivers has served in the U.S House since 2011. He most recently won re-election in 2020, defeating Democrat Joel Newby 63% to 37%.

Gov. Mike DeWine (R) will set a special election date to fill the vacancy. Five special elections have been scheduled during the 117th Congress so far, including a special to fill a vacancy in Ohio’s 11th Congressional District. The 11th District special primary is on Aug. 3 and the general election will be held on Nov. 2. A date for Florida’s 20th Congressional District special election has not yet been set.

Five representatives have left office early so far. Along with Marcia Fudge of Ohio’s 11th District, two other Democrats resigned to serve in President Joe Biden’s administration. Reps. Ronald Wright (R) and Alcee Hastings (D) died in office. In addition, Luke Letlow (R) died after winning the November election but before taking office, creating a vacancy in Louisiana’s 5th Congressional District. 

Eight special House elections occurred for the 116th Congress. Fourteen took place for the 115th Congress. Seven special House elections were held during the 114th Congress.

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The Daily Brew: A year ago this week, Alaska became first state to lift stay-at-home order

Ballotpedia's Daily Brew

Welcome to the Monday, April 19, 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. Who’s running for New Jersey governor
  3. Maryland legislature sends two amendments to the ballot at end of session

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

One year ago this week, Alaska became the first state to lift a stay-at-home (SAH) order that was imposed in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) ended the order on April 24, allowing several types of businesses—including barbershops, tattoo parlors, and nail salons—to reopen with restrictions. Alaska had a SAH order in effect for 27 days. The longest SAH order was in California. We classified California’s order as active until Dec. 3—for 259 days—because Gov. Gavin Newsom’s (D) original order did not have an expiration date, and he issued regional orders on Dec. 3. 

In total, 43 states issued stay-at-home orders—closing certain categories of businesses and requiring people to stay home unless doing activities designated as essential—between March 19 (California) and April 7 (South Carolina). Seven states never issued stay-at-home orders.

Today, we continue our one-year lookback at policy changes and events related to the coronavirus pandemic. Here is a sampling of events.

At this point in the pandemic one year ago, states were extending school closures from their original dates through the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. All 50 states closed schools to in-person instruction statewide by April 2, 2020. Forty-eight states eventually closed schools for the remainder of the school year.

  • On April 20, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) and Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) announced that schools in their respective states would not reopen for in-person instruction for the rest of the academic year. Before the announcement, schools were closed through May 1 in both states.
  • On April 21, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D), Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R), and West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) announced that schools would not reopen for in-person instruction for the rest of the academic year. Before the announcements, Colorado and West Virginia schools were closed through April 30, and Massachusetts schools were closed through May 1.
  • Election changes:
    • On April 20, U.S. District Court Judge Terrence Berg issued an order reducing the petition signature requirements for primary candidates in Michigan to 50% of their statutory requirements. Berg also extended the filing deadline from April 21 to May 8 and directed election officials to develop procedures allowing for the collection and submission of electronic petition signatures.
    • On April 22, The Republican Party of Wisconsin postponed its state convention, originally scheduled to take place in May, to July 10-11. Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) signed HB3005 into law, canceling in-person Election Day voting, in-person early voting, and in-person voter registration in the June 30 primary election.
  • Travel restrictions
    • On April 21, Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy extended the 14-day quarantine requirement for international and out-of-state travelers through May 19.
  • Federal government responses:
    • On April 20, Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf announced that travel restrictions with Canada and Mexico would be extended another 30 days. The restrictions, implemented in agreement with Canada and Mexico in late March, prohibited nonessential travel.
    • On April 24, President Donald Trump signed the $484 billion Paycheck Protection and Health Care Act, a package that increased funding for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The bill also included funding for hospitals and testing. The Senate passed it on April 21, and the House passed it on April 23.

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

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Who’s running for New Jersey governor

Last week, we discussed the candidate field for this year’s election for governor of Virginia. Today let’s look at who’s running for the top office in New Jersey—the only other state with a regularly scheduled gubernatorial election in 2021. 

Incumbent Gov. Phil Murphy (D) faces no opposition in the Democratic primary on June 8. Lisa McCormick and Roger Bacon were disqualified from the ballot on April 13 due to insufficient numbers of valid signatures. McCormick announced on April 13 she is running as a write-in candidate.

Four candidates are running in the Republican primary: Jack Ciattarelli, Brian Levine, Philip Rizzo, and Hirsh Singh. Ciattarelli and Singh both ran for governor in 2017. Then-lieutenant governor Kim Guadagno received 47% of the vote in the Republican primary that year to become the party’s nominee. Ciattarelli finished second and received 31% of the vote and Singh was third with 10%.

Four other candidates have also filed to run in the general election: 

  • Gregg Mele  (Libertarian Party)
  • Joanne Kuniansky  (Socialist Workers Party)
  • Justin Maldonado  (Independent)
  • David Winkler  (Independent)

As of April 13, two of the three major election forecasters Ballotpedia tracks rated the general election as Solid Democratic and the third rated it as Likely Democratic. Between 1992 and 2021, Republicans held the governorship for 16 years and Democrats held the governorship for 14 years.

New Jersey is currently a Democratic trifecta, with a Democratic governor and Democratic majorities in both chambers of the state legislature. New Jersey was last under divided government in 2017, when Democrats controlled the legislature and Chris Christie (R) was governor. Murphy won the 2017 election with 57% of the vote to Guadagno’s 42%. The state is also holding legislative elections this year.

Since New Jersey’s and Virginia’s gubernatorial offices were last up for election in 2017, 10 governors’ offices have changed party hands. Eight of those changes were from Republicans to Democrats, one was from Democrat to Republican, and one was from independent to Republican.

Read on 

Maryland legislature sends two amendments to the ballot at end of session

This is the time of year when state legislators pass bills that send measures before voters. As I wrote last week, the Maryland legislature referred a constitutional amendment on April 6 that would rename the state’s highest appeals courts. Here are a few other instances. 

The West Virginia legislature just referred three amendments to the 2022 ballot on the final days of its session—April 9 and 10. The Maryland legislature sent two constitutional amendments to the 2022 ballot on April 12—its last day in session. Today, we’ll take a look at Maryland’s other proposed amendments.

One measure would amend the state constitution to increase the minimum amount in dispute that guarantees a right to a jury trial in civil cases. Currently, if a plaintiff files a case where the amount in controversy is greater than $15,000, the defendant may request a trial by jury in the circuit court. The amendment would change the minimum to $25,000.

The other amendment would require that, starting in January 2024, state legislative candidates maintain a primary place of abode in the district they wish to represent for at least six months before the election. Currently, the state constitution requires that a candidate has resided in the district for six months before the election. It would also change all gendered language in the amended sections of the state constitution to gender-neutral language.

So far, 23 statewide ballot measures have been certified for the 2022 ballot in 13 states.

Read on

The Daily Brew: All U.S. adults eligible for coronavirus vaccine starting April 19

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

  1. All U.S. adults to be eligible for coronavirus vaccine starting April 19
  2. Join our State of Redistricting briefing April 21
  3. Nebraska governor appoints new Insurance director

All U.S. adults to be eligible for coronavirus vaccine starting April 19

Beginning Monday—April 19—everyone 16 and older will be eligible to receive a coronavirus vaccine in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. Alaska was the first state to offer vaccines to all residents 16+ on March 9. 

The final seven states that will open eligibility to all adults between today and April 19 are:

  • Virginia (April 18)
  • Hawaii (April 19)
  • Massachusetts (April 19)
  • New Jersey (April 19)
  • Oregon (April 19)
  • Rhode Island (April 19)
  • Vermont (April 19)

Five of those states have Democratic governors, and two (Massachusetts and Vermont) have Republican governors. 

Currently, all residents 16 and older are eligible for a vaccine in 43 states. Of those 43, 18 have Democratic governors and 25 have Republican governors.

On April 13, the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended all state and local vaccine providers stop administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.  By that evening, every state and Washington, D.C., had paused distribution of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The recommendation came after six recipients in the United States developed blood clots within two weeks of vaccination.  All six recipients were women between the ages of 18 and 48. One recipient died, and three are still hospitalized. 

On April 14, the CDC announced its advisory panel needed at least a week to investigate the blood clot connection before determining whether to lift the pause recommendation. As of April 15, this pause had not caused any states to roll back or delay vaccine eligibility for everyone 16 and older. 

Want daily updates about changes to government policies regarding vaccine eligibility, travel restrictions, and more? Our Documenting America’s Path to Recovery newsletter delivers the latest coronavirus-related updates to subscribers’ inboxes each weekday. Click here to subscribe.

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Join our State of Redistricting briefing April 21

On Tuesday, we looked at congressional and state legislative redistricting deadlines in each state. With the Census Bureau scheduled to release congressional apportionment counts by April 30, our redistricting team is gearing up to review that data and what it means for states. We’ve also been following how states are responding to expected delays in getting detailed, local data from the Census Bureau due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Next Wednesday, April 21, join our election policy and redistricting expert Jerrick Adams and staff writer Amée LaTour for a briefing on the state of redistricting following the 2020 census. They will touch on the most recent developments, including:

  • State lawsuits against the Census Bureau 
  • State-specific proposals to postpone or condense the redistricting process 
  • Efforts in some state legislatures, such as Texas, to postpone primary elections and candidate filing deadlines

The briefing will take place at 11 a.m. Central Time on April 21. You can click here to register, or follow the link below. If you sign up but can’t watch live, we’ll send you a link to the recording when it’s available so you can watch it whenever it works for you. I hope you’ll join us! 

In the meantime, check out our page listing apps and software that provide access to population and election data and allow users to create, modify, and share district maps based on criteria such as competitiveness and demographics. Some of these programs are designed for state governments to use, while others are geared toward the general public, but they’re all really interesting to see in action!

Read on 

Nebraska governor appoints new Insurance director

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) appointed Eric Dunning on April 2 to serve as the state’s Department of Insurance director. Dunning starts his new job on Monday—April 19—and succeeds Bruce Ramge, Nebraska’s longest-serving Department of Insurance director, who retired on April 9. Former Gov. Dave Heineman (R) appointed Ramge in November 2010. 

The insurance commissioner or director is a state-level position in all 50 states. The duties of the position vary from state to state, but the office generally serves as a consumer protection advocate and insurance regulator. The nation’s longest-serving current insurance commissioner is Mike Kreidler, Washington’s commissioner since 2001. 

The position is elected in 11 states and appointed in 39. The office is nonpartisan in 38 states. The 12 states in which the position is partisan include the 11 states where the insurance commissioner is elected, as well as Ohio. Currently, Republicans hold the office in nine states where it is partisan, and Democrats hold it in three.

Read on

State legislatures considering 124 bills governing ballot measures

Ballotpedia's Daily Brew

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

We regularly provide updates in the Brew regarding individual ballot measures from across the country. Today, let’s take a look at how states are considering changes to the direct democracy process. Ballotpedia tracks legislative proposals regarding the ballot measure process—that is, state action regarding how initiatives, veto referendums, referrals, local ballot measures, and recalls can appear before voters. 

At least 124 proposals have been introduced this year in the legislative sessions of 34 states. We have tracked eight bills approved so far. 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.

I asked Josh Altic, our ballot measures expert, for his opinion on the most interesting bills so far. Here are six of the most notable changes to laws regarding ballot measures that were either passed or proposed in 2021:

  • Utah enacted a proposal to ban pay-per-signature as a method of compensating signature gatherers who collect signatures for ballot initiatives and veto referendums. Utah’s legislation also made other changes to the initiative process.
  • The South Dakota Legislature referred a constitutional amendment to the 2022 ballot that would require a 60% supermajority vote for future ballot measures that increase taxes or fees or that require the state to appropriate $10 million or more in the first five fiscal years.
  • Legislation to enact or increase supermajority requirements for ballot measures was introduced this year in seven states: Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and South Dakota. These proposed requirements range from 60% to two-thirds (66.67%) of voters in favor for approval. Some of these proposals apply only to citizen-initiated measures but not referrals, some to constitutional amendments—both citizen-initiated and legislatively referred, and some to measures proposing tax increases or certain levels of funding allocation.
  • The Idaho Legislature passed a bill to change the state’s distribution requirement to require signatures from 6% of voters from all 35 legislative districts for ballot initiatives and veto referendums instead of the existing requirement of 6% of voters from 18 of the state’s legislative districts. In 2019, the Idaho Legislature passed but the governor vetoed a pair of bills that were designed to increase the state’s initiative signature requirement and its distribution requirement, among other changes. 
  • Bills to increase initiative and referendum signature requirements or signature distribution requirements were introduced in Idaho, Missouri, Montana, and Oklahoma.
  • Proposals to establish statewide initiative, referendum, or recall processes were introduced in Connecticut, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina, and Tennessee. The last state to establish a statewide process for initiatives that didn’t have one previously was Mississippi, which adopted its process in 1992.

Read on

Eight states have enacted laws that limit governors’ emergency power authority since 2020

There’s another area where we’re tracking activity in state legislatures this year—those relating to laws limiting governors’ emergency powers. In response to the coronavirus pandemic, governors and state agencies in all 50 states relied on emergency power authority to enact lockdown and stay-at-home orders, mask mandates, and other restrictions on businesses and individuals.

Since March 2020, legislators across the country have sponsored bills to give the legislative branch more oversight of governors’ emergency powers. Out of the hundreds of bills sponsored in 2020 and 2021 aimed at increasing legislative oversight of governors’ emergency powers, 10 bills in eight states have been enacted into law: Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, Kentucky, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Utah. Additionally, voters in Pennsylvania will decide a statewide measure on May 18 that would limit the governor’s emergency powers.

State laws generally allow legislators to terminate emergency declarations and orders or restrict a governor’s authority to regulate city- and county-level public health decisions. 

The political control breakdown of these states is as follows. (A trifecta is when one political party holds the governorship, and majorities in both chambers of a state’s legislature.)

  • Republican trifectas: Arkansas, Ohio, Utah
  • Democratic trifectas: Colorado, New York
  • Divided governments (Democratic governor, Republican majorities in House and Senate): Kansas, Kentucky, Pennsylvania

Here’s a rundown of three newly enacted laws.

  • In Kansas, Gov. Laura Kelly (D) signed Senate Bill 50 into law on March 24. Under the law, anyone burdened by an executive order, school board policy, or county health directive can file a lawsuit, and courts must respond to the lawsuit within 72 hours to determine if the order or policy is narrowly tailored to the emergency. 
  • In Ohio, Republican majorities in the General Assembly voted on March 24 to override Gov. Mike DeWine’s (R) veto of Senate Bill 22, which placed a 90-day limit on states of emergency and authorized lawmakers to pass resolutions to terminate a state of emergency after 30 days.
  • In Kentucky, Republican majorities in the General Assembly voted to override Gov. Andy Beshear’s (D) vetoes of Senate Bill 1 and Senate Bill 2. The bills limit the governor’s emergency orders to 30 days unless extended by the legislature and grant legislative committees more oversight of the governor’s emergency administrative regulations. 
    • Franklin Circuit Court Judge Phillip Shepherd temporarily blocked parts of both bills from taking effect on March 3, after Beshear filed a lawsuit arguing the bills would undermine public health measures meant to protect people in Kentucky from the coronavirus pandemic. Those injunctions remain in effect.

Read on 

It’s Tax Day—in some states

Today, April 15, is Tax Day…in some states. Last year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Treasury Department extended payment and filing deadlines to July 15 for 2019 taxes. This year, the deadline is extended to May 17.

Forty states have followed suit, extending both payment and filing deadlines to May 17. Seven states do not have an income tax. Iowa extended its deadline to June 1, and Maryland extended its deadline to July 15. 

Three of the states which have state income tax did not extend either the filing or payment deadlines. In Alabama, the filing deadline was postponed but the payment deadline was not; interest has not been waived and will accrue between April 15 and May 17. In Hawaii and New Hampshire (NH has no state income tax but does have interest and dividends taxes), neither the filing nor the payment deadlines were postponed. This means that state residents have different due dates for their federal and state taxes.

Just for fun, here are a few facts about the history of Tax Day.

  • The first Tax Day was on March 1, 1914. Congress instituted it following the ratification of the 16th Amendment, which gave Congress the power to collect income tax.
  • The initial income tax exemption was $3,000 for single filers and $4,000 for married couples
  • The Revenue Act of 1918 moved Tax Day to March 15 to give taxpayers more time to file
  • In 1954, the yearly income tax filing date was changed from March 15 to April 15

Read on

The Daily Brew: Who’s running in Virginia’s gubernatorial race

Ballotpedia's Daily Brew

Welcome to the Wednesday, April 14, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Who’s running for Virginia governor
  2. April 6 election updates: Omaha and Anchorage mayoral races
  3. West Virginia to join 41 other states with intermediate appellate courts

Who’s running for Virginia governor

Virginia is one of two states—along with New Jersey—holding a regularly scheduled gubernatorial election in 2021. (Signatures on a recall of California Gov. Gavin Newsom are also being verified. If it makes the ballot, the recall will be voted on sometime this fall.) Virginia’s incumbent Gov. Ralph Northam (D) is unable to seek re-election due to term limits. The Virginia Republican Party will hold a nominating convention to determine its candidate on May 8. A Democratic primary will be held on June 8. The general election is on Nov. 2.

Democrats have won four of the five most recent gubernatorial elections, as well as all 13 statewide elections in Virginia since 2012. Northam defeated Ed Gillespie (R) 54%-45% in the 2017 gubernatorial election. The last Republican governor was Bob McDonnell (2010-2014).

Let’s take a look at who’s running. Note: Candidate lists are unofficial and may be incomplete. 

Democratic primary

At least five candidates are running in the Democratic primary, all current or former officeholders: Del. Lee Carter, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, former Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy, former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, and state Sen. Jennifer McClellan. This is the largest number of Democrats running in a gubernatorial primary in Virginia’s history. 

Here are some noteworthy endorsements for the three candidates leading in endorsements and fundraising:

  • Carroll Foy: Clean Virginia, Democracy for America, and three members of the General Assembly
  • McAuliffe: Northam, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and 34 members of the General Assembly (including the House speaker and Senate majority leader)
  • McClellan: New Virginia Majority, Care in Action, and 12 members of the General Assembly

Republican convention

At least seven candidates are competing in the Republican convention. Commentary on the Republican convention has focused on four candidates: state Sen. Amanda Chase, Del. Kirk Cox, 2013 lieutenant gubernatorial candidate Pete Snyder, and former global investment firm co-CEO Glenn Youngkin. 

Some noteworthy endorsements for those four candidates are listed below.

  • Chase: former White House national security advisor Michael Flynn
  • Cox: former Govs. Bob McDonnell (R) and George Allen (R) and 24 General Assembly members
  • Snyder: former White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R) and five General Assembly members
  • Youngkin: commentator and talk show host Hugh Hewitt (R) and Del. John McGuire (R)

Due to coronavirus crowd-size restrictions, the unassembled Republican convention will be held across 37 locations. Unlike previous conventions in the state, there will be no limit on how many delegates can participate. Delegates are voting members who register as representatives of their local voting units ahead of the convention. Each voting unit is allocated a set number of delegate votes, which are then equally divided among the delegates representing that voting unit. Delegates will cast a single ballot using ranked-choice voting to determine a winner, rather than using multiple rounds of voting. This is the first time the party is using ranked-choice voting for a convention.

Other Virginia elections

Virginia is also holding elections for lieutenant governor, attorney general, and House of Delegates in 2021. All 100 House districts are up for election. This is one of three state legislative chambers—along with New Jersey’s Assembly and Senate—with regularly scheduled elections in 2021.

In 2019, Democrats won majorities in both the state House and Senate, making Virginia a Democratic trifecta for the first time since 1994.

Read on

April 6 election updates: Omaha and Anchorage mayoral races

Last week, I highlighted some April 6 election results out of Wisconsin and Missouri. I’m following up today with results of the Omaha, Nebraska, and Anchorage, Alaska, mayoral races.

Omaha mayoral election

Incumbent Jean Stothert (R) and RJ Neary (D) advanced from the top-two mayoral primary to a May 11 general election. Stothert received 57% of the vote followed by Neary with 16%. Third-place finisher Jasmine Harris (D) received 14%. Though the race was officially nonpartisan, we determined candidates’ party affiliations through the Nebraska Voter Information Lookup

Stothert has been mayor for eight years, making her the city’s longest-serving Republican mayor since 1906, when Frank E. Moores (R) died in office after serving for nine years. Before Stothert’s election in 2013, Democrats had held Omaha’s mayorship from 2001 to 2013.

Anchorage mayoral election

David Bronson and Forrest Dunbar advanced to a May 11 runoff election, as neither candidate won more than 45% of the vote. As of April 12, Bronson had received 33% of the vote to Dunbar’s 31%. No other candidate had received more than 15% of the vote.

Incumbent Ethan Berkowitz (D) resigned from office in October. The Anchorage Assembly selected Austin Quinn-Davidson to serve as acting mayor and did not seek a full term.  Former Lt. Gov. Craig Campbell (R) endorsed Bronson. Planned Parenthood endorsed Dunbar and two other candidates.

Read on 

West Virginia to join 41 other states with intermediate appellate courts

As I alluded to in Monday’s Brew, Gov. Jim Justice (R) signed a bill into law on April 9 that provides guidelines for creating the West Virginia Intermediate Court of Appeals. Currently, the Supreme Court of Appeals is the state’s only appellate court. Intermediate appellate courts serve as an intermediate step between the trial courts and the courts of last resort in a state.

West Virginia is one of nine states without an intermediate appellate court.  Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming do not have intermediate appellate courts. The Superior Court of Delaware serves as both a trial court and an intermediate appellate court. 

West Virginia’s intermediate appellate court will consist of three judges set to assume office on July 1, 2022. The first three judges will be appointed—one each to a term ending in December 2024, December 2026, and December 2028. The Judicial Vacancy Advisory Commission will submit a list of recommendations to the governor, who will nominate judges from the list. Nominees are subject to state Senate confirmation. 

Nonpartisan elections for the position will be held beginning in 2024. Judges will be elected to 10-year terms.

Twelve other states hold nonpartisan elections for intermediate appellate court judges. Seven states hold partisan elections. Twenty states use various appointment methods. In two states—Virginia and South Carolina—state legislators elect judges.

Read on 

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

Ballotpedia's Daily Brew

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

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

State redistricting deadlines and (delayed) 2020 census results

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

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

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

The Bureau plans to deliver congressional apportionment counts to states by April 30—delayed from the original Dec. 31, 2020, due date. The Bureau then plans to deliver the detailed datasets needed for redistricting to states by Sept. 30. The original date for states to receive this data was April 1. On March 15, the U.S. Census Bureau announced redistricting data could be made available to states in a legacy format by mid-to-late August. This legacy format would present the data in raw form, without the data tables and other access tools the Bureau will ultimately prepare for the states.

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

State redistricting deadlines generally take one of three forms:

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

Congressional redistricting

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

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

State legislative redistricting

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

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

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Federal judicial vacancy update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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278 words on Thomas Jefferson’s 278th birthday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Daily Brew: Highlights from April 6 elections

Ballotpedia's Daily Brew

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

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

Summary of April 6 election results

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

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

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

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

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

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

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North Las Vegas mayor changes affiliation to Republican

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The 17th Amendment celebrates its 108th birthday

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ballotpedia's Daily Brew

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Recall against San Francisco school board members approved to circulate petitions

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

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

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

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

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

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Rep. Alcee Hastings dies

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

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

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

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

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

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The Daily Brew: Elections in nine states today

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

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

Your help is needed today

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

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

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

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Elections in nine states today

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

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

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

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How states select supreme court chief justices

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s some background on the story.

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

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

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

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

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SCOTUS to hold argument session in May

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

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

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

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

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

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

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