TagDaily Brew

The Daily Brew: The decade in state legislative special elections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Explore procedural due process through our latest Learning Journey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

>Read on

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Indiana secretary of state announces resignation 

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

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

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

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

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

>Read on 

The Daily Brew: Upcoming Senate votes on Biden nominees

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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February SCOTUS update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Georgia Supreme Court chief justice announces 2021 retirement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Daily Brew: The MOVs in the PCs

Welcome to the Monday, Feb. 22, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Average margin of victory in Pivot Counties has shifted 198% from Democrats to Republicans since 2008
  2. North Dakota Supreme Court rules on state legislative appointment
  3. Upcoming elections preview

Average margin of victory in Pivot Counties has shifted 198% from Democrats to Republicans since 2008

Ballotpedia is concluding its analysis of Pivot Counties in the 2020 presidential election with a look at the presidential margins of victories in these counties and how they have changed over time.

Pivot Counties are the 206 counties nationwide that voted for Barack Obama (D) in 2008 and 2012 and Donald Trump (R) in the 2016 presidential election. In 2020, we have used the following categories to describe these counties:

  • Retained Pivot Counties (181), which voted for Trump again this year, and 
  • Boomerang Pivot Counties (25), which voted for Joe Biden (D) on Nov. 3.

In 2008, Obama had an average margin of victory of D+12.3 across all 206 of these counties. In 2020, the average margin of victory was R+12.0, a 198% shift of 24.3 percentage points towards Republicans.

We calculated the average margin of victory by taking the average of all 206 Pivot Counties’ margins.

When looking at just the 181 Retained Pivot Counties, the margin shift from 2008 increases to 26.2 percentage points. Of those 181 counties, Trump won a larger margin of victory in 113 compared to his 2016 results. Trump’s margin decreased in 68 Retained Pivot Counties.

Though Biden won the 25 Boomerang Pivot Counties in 2020, the average margins have also shifted 10.2 percentage points towards Republicans when comparing 2020 results to those from 2008.

The chart below shows the overall change in average margins of victory by Pivot County category between 2008 and 2020. 

The table below shows the margins of victory from each presidential election since 2008 using the categories above. The rightmost section shows the total change since 2020 both in percentage points and percent change. In Retained Pivot Counties, the average margin of victory has shifted 217% towards Republicans. In the 25 Boomerang Pivot Counties that voted for Biden, the average margin has shifted 76% towards Republicans.

The Pivot Counties where Trump’s margin of victory increased from 2016 were located primarily in the Southeast and Upper Midwest, concentrated in states like Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. Counties where Trump’s margin decreased in 2020 were located primarily in New England and the Northeast.

Woodruff County, Ark., a Retained Pivot County, had the largest margin change towards Trump in 2020 with an 18.8 percentage point shift. Ziebach County, S.D., a Boomerang Pivot County, had the largest margin change towards Biden with a 10.5 percentage point shift.

To read our other Pivot County analysis, see our articles on:

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North Dakota Supreme Court rules on state legislative appointment

Regular Brew readers know that when I learn about a fascinating elections story, I can’t wait to share it. One of Ballotpedia’s writers identified an interesting situation involving a North Dakota legislator who lost his primary last year but is currently the state representative from his district.

After a state Supreme Court ruling last fall, North Dakota Rep. Jeff Delzer (R) remains in office at the start of the legislative session following a primary defeat in 2020.

In North Dakota, each of the state’s 47 districts elects two representatives to the state House. Challengers David Andahl and Dave Nehring defeated Delzer in the 2020 primary election and proceeded to the general election for the district’s two seats.

Delzer’s primary defeat highlighted divisions between the legislator and Gov. Doug Burgum (R). During the 2020 primary election, Burgum donated over $3.1 million to a political action committee opposing Delzer. Burgum and Delzer have disagreed over the state’s budgeting in the past. Burgum, as governor, proposes a budget every two years, but the legislature approves the final budget. Delzer, as chair of the House Appropriations Committee, directs those budgeting proceedings in the House.

These divisions became apparent again following the Nov. 3 general election. Andahl and Nehring won election to the district’s two seats, but Andahl passed away a month before the election, leaving one seat immediately vacant.

Under state law, when a legislative vacancy occurs, the former legislator’s district party can appoint a replacement. Burgum argued that state law was unclear about instances where a candidate dies before the election and argued that he, instead, held appointment authority.

On Nov. 4, Burgum appointed Wade Boesham (R) to the seat. On Nov. 18, the District 8 GOP appointed Delzer. The following week, the North Dakota Supreme Court ruled that state law applied in this case and that the district party held appointment authority.

Delzer and Nehring were sworn in to represent House District 8 on Dec. 1.

Read on 

Upcoming elections preview

Tuesday means elections! We’re watching several races that are happening tomorrow, Feb. 23. Here are some highlights:

  • Texas House District 68 (special general election runoff): Craig Carter (R) is facing David Spiller (R). Carter and Spiller advanced from the general election on Jan. 23, earning 18% and 44% of the vote, respectively. The seat became vacant after Drew Springer (R) won a special election for Texas State Senate District 30 on Dec. 19, 2020. Heading into the special election, Republicans have an 82-67 majority in the Texas House.
  • New York City Council District 31 (special election): Nine candidates are competing in the election to replace Donovan Richards, who left office after he was elected Queens Borough President in November. Richards served on the city council from 2013 to 2020.
    • The Feb. 23 election will be the second election in New York City to use a ranked-choice voting system. In 2019, New Yorkers passed a ballot measure that instituted ranked-choice voting in special elections to local offices.
  • Ohio village council recall election: The special recall election will be held seeking to remove four Woodmere Village Council members from their seats. Woodmere is a town in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, with a population of 884 people as of the 2010 census. 
    • The recall effort began in October 2020. Recall petitioners cited the council’s failure to install a sidewalk along the village’s main road and its inability to keep the village’s website up-to-date as grounds for the recall. Petitioners also accused the four council members of pitting residents against each other. The recall opponents alleged that a lack of transparency about the contents of the recall petition misled the residents who signed it. Petitioners were required to obtain 45 signatures to get the recall on the ballot.

The Daily Brew: Longest-serving state house speaker to resign

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

  1. Former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan resigns
  2. 71 new members of Congress were elected last year
  3. Voters recall Colorado school board member

Former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan resigns

Former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan (D) announced yesterday that he would resign from the legislature. He has been a member of the state House since 1971. 

Madigan served as House speaker from 1983 until 1995 and again from 1997 to 2021. Republicans controlled the chamber for two years after the 1994 elections. In 2017, Madigan became the longest-serving state House speaker in U.S. history.

After several individuals were indicted in what law enforcement described as a scheme to influence Madigan, 19 of 73 House Democrats said in December they would not support Madigan for another term as speaker. 

Chris Welch (D) was elected to succeed Madigan as speaker on Jan. 13. Welch has served in the Illinois House of Representatives since 2013 and is Illinois’ first Black speaker.

In Illinois, the party organization of the departing member in the district where the vacancy occurs has 30 days to appoint a replacement. The partisan composition of the Illinois House of Representatives is 73 Democrats and 45 Republicans.

Read on 

71 new members of Congress were elected last year

Voters nationwide elected 71 new members—nine senators and 62 representatives—to Congress on Nov. 3 or in subsequent runoff elections. This figure includes Luke Letlow (R-La.), who was elected Dec. 5 and died from complications related to COVID-19 on Dec. 29, before taking office.

The newly-elected officials have been in office for a bit more than six weeks. Here’s a quick refresher about them. Those 71 new members included the following:

  • Candidates from the opposing party defeated five incumbent senators—one Democrat and four Republicans. 
  • Republican challengers defeated 13 Democratic representatives.
  • 53 new members—four senators and 49 representatives—were elected to open seats. Five House seats were vacant heading into the Nov. 3 elections. Four senators and 36 House members did not run for re-election, and eight House members were defeated in a primary or nominating convention.

The 116th Congress, which convened after the 2018 elections, had 102 new members—nine senators and 93 representatives. The 115th Congress in 2016 had 62 new members—seven senators and 55 U.S. House members.

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Voters recall Colorado school board member 

Last Friday’s Brew discussed the latest on the recall effort against California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D). Supporters there have until March 17 to collect 1,495,709 valid signatures to trigger a recall election. Meanwhile, voters in a Colorado school district this week decided the first recall election this year against any officeholder we’re tracking.

Voters recalled Lance McDaniel, 67% to 33%, from the Montezuma-Cortez School Board on Feb. 16. Cortez had a population of 8,482 as of the 2010 census and is located in Montezuma County in the southwest corner of Colorado. McDaniel was one of seven members of the board and was appointed in 2018. Cody Wells was elected to replace him on the board. 

Recall supporters started the effort against McDaniel in July 2020. The statement of grounds for recall said McDaniel had shown a “lack of leadership and has proven to be a poor role model for our children,” regarding his social media posts. 

McDaniel told KSJD-TV he was not concerned about the recall effort. McDaniel said, “When it gets down to it, I’m a loudmouth liberal, and they don’t like that.” McDaniel also said he stood by his social media posts.

According to the Colorado Department of Education, the Montezuma-Cortez School District had an enrollment of 2,607 students as of the 2020-2021 school year.

Ballotpedia covered a total of 226 recall efforts against 272 elected officials last year, including 55 school board members. Five school board members faced recall elections last year, and all five were removed from office. Another five school board members targeted for recall resigned. 

Three other recall elections against school board members have been scheduled so far this year. All three are in Idaho and will occur on March 9.

Read on 

The Daily Brew: Partisan splits in states holding 2022 U.S. Senate elections

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

  1. Partisan splits in states holding 2022 U.S. Senate elections
  2. Alaska House of Representatives elects speaker for 2021 session
  3. Wisconsin spring primary review

Partisan splits in states holding 2022 U.S. Senate elections

In a recent Brew edition, we gave you a rundown of the states holding U.S. Senate elections in 2022. Today, let’s look at the political affiliations of the statewide officeholders in those states. 

Of the 34 Senate seats up for election on Nov. 8, 2022, Republicans currently hold 20 and Democrats hold 14. We took a look at party differences between:

  • the Senate incumbents and their state’s other senator, 
  • their state’s governor, and 
  • their state’s 2020 presidential winner.

Split Senate delegations

Five states have both a Democratic and Republican senator in the 117th Senate: Maine, Montana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. This is the fewest number of states with split Senate delegations in history, according to Eric Ostermeier of the University of Minnesota. 

Four of the seven states with split delegations in 2021 have Senate seats up for election in 2022. Vermont has one Democratic senator and one independent senator who caucuses with Democrats, so three states with seats up for election have senators in different caucuses: Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. In all three, the seats up for election in 2022 are currently held by Republicans.

Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) have already announced they are not running for re-election next year.

Senator’s vs. governor’s party

Eleven seats up for election are currently held by a senator of a different party than the state’s governor. Six seats held by Republican senators in states with Democratic governors are up. Five seats held by Democratic senators in states with Republican governors are up.

States won by presidential candidate of a different party

Democrats are not defending any Senate seats in states Donald Trump won in the 2020 presidential election. Republicans are defending two Senate seats in states Joe Biden won: Pennsylvania (held by Toomey) and Wisconsin (held by Sen. Ron Johnson(R)).

Keep reading at the link below for a full analysis of the 2022 Senate elections.

Read on

Alaska House of Representatives elects speaker for 2021 session

On Feb. 11—24 days after the 2021 legislative session began on Jan. 19th—the Alaska House of Representatives elected a permanent speaker of the House. Members elected Rep. Louise Stutes (R) in a 21-19 vote.

Here’s some background on the story.

Since the start of the current session, House members had been divided between supporters of a Republican-led majority and those favoring a multipartisan coalition. Republicans won a 21-19 majority in the 2020 general election, but in December, Stutes joined the coalition bloc composed of 16 Democrats and three independents, leaving each faction with 20 members. 

In January, Reps. Bart LeBon (R), Laddie Shaw (R), and Neal Foster (D) were nominated for the speakership, but each vote ended in an even 20-20 split. On Feb. 4th, the House unanimously elected Rep. Josiah Patkotak (I) as temporary speaker. Rep. Ben Carpenter (R) said the House Republican Caucus nominated Patkotak, who is a member of the coalition bloc, to “alleviate the Lt. Governor from his temporary responsibility as presiding officer and to move the discussion forward about finding a permanent presiding officer.”

Rep. Kelly Merrick’s (R) vote for Stutes ultimately broke the recurring tie votes. Merrick said, “Today, I voted to elect Republican Representative Louise Stutes as Speaker of the House, ending more than three weeks of deadlock and allowing the Legislature to move forward. It was by no means an easy decision to make, but it ensured that no matter how organization comes together, there will be a Republican Speaker.”

The three-week period without a House speaker is the second-longest in the state’s history. In 2018, similar divisions kept House members from electing a speaker until Feb. 14th, 2019, when a coalition of 15 Democrats, four Republicans, and two independents elected Bryce Edgmon (I) as House speaker and agreed to split other key leadership and committee positions between the two parties.

Ballotpedia identified ten instances since 1994 where a member of the minority party held a state legislative chamber’s top leadership position. We also identified seven instances where bipartisan coalitions worked together to install in a top leadership position a member of the majority party whom most members of the majority party did not support. Click here to learn more about these situations and how they developed. 

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Wisconsin spring primary review

Wisconsin held the first statewide primaries of the year on Tuesday, Feb. 16. Let’s look at the preliminary results.

Wisconsin Superintendent of Public Instruction was the only statewide nonpartisan primary on the ballot. 

  • Seven candidates filed for the office. 
  • Incumbent Carolyn Stanford Taylor did not file to run for election. Taylor was first appointed to the position in January 2019 by Gov. Tony Evers (D), who resigned the seat after being elected governor in 2018. 
  • According to unofficial results, the highest number of votes went to Jill Underly (27.3%) and Deborah Kerr (26.5%). Both candidates advanced to the general election. 
    • Underly was endorsed by the Wisconsin Education Association Council, the state’s largest teacher union. After the primary, she was endorsed by the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. Kerr describes herself as a Democrat but has received support from Republican officials and local parties. Kerr leads the primary field in fundraising. 

Two partisan state legislative special elections were on the otherwise-nonpartisan ballot. 

  • Wisconsin State Senate District 13 became vacant on Jan. 1 after Scott Fitzgerald (R) was elected to the U.S. House. One Democrat, three Republicans, and two independent candidates filed for the seat. John Jagler defeated Todd Menzel and Don Pridemore in the Republican primary, receiving 57.1% of the unofficial vote. He faces Melissa Winker (D), Ben Schmitz (American Solidarity Party), and Spencer Zimmerman (Trump Conservative Party) in the general election.
  • State Assembly District 89 became vacant on Dec. 2, 2020, after John Nygren (R) resigned his seat to work in the private sector. One Democrat and five Republicans filed for the seat. Elijah Behnke won the Republican primary with 44.5% of the unofficial vote. He faces Karl Jaeger (D) in the general election.

If two or fewer candidates filed for each seat on the ballot, the primary was canceled and the candidates automatically advanced to the general election on April 6. The general election ballot will feature more offices, including three state appellate court seats and local nonpartisan seats.

Read on 

The Daily Brew: Six national party committees raised twice as much last cycle as the previous one

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

  1. Six national party committees raised a combined $2.65 billion last cycle
  2. Iowa public schools required to offer full-time, in-person instruction as of Feb. 15
  3. New York voters to decide constitutional amendment about environmental rights

Six national party committees raised a combined $2.65 billion last cycle

Democrats and Republicans each have three major national committees: an overall national party committee, one dedicated to U.S. Senate elections, and one dedicated to U.S. House elections. These six committees raised a combined $2.65 billion during 2019 and 2020, up from $1.3 billion during the previous congressional election cycle in 2017 and 2018. 

The three Republican committees raised $1.51 billion28% more than the $1.14 billion the three Democratic committees raised.

The Republican National Committee (RNC) raised $890 million and spent $833 million. It raised $325 million during the 2018 election cycle. The Democratic National Committee (DNC) raised $490 million and spent $462 million during 2019 and 2020. It raised $176 million during the 2018 cycle.

The table below shows the amounts raised by the parties’ six national campaign committees over the last three general election cycles:

In the 2019-20 campaign cycle, the RNC raised 58.0% more than the DNC, and the National Republican Senatorial Committee raised 10.7% more than the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Democrats led in House fundraising, with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee raising 20.7% more than the National Republican Congressional Committee.

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Iowa public schools required to offer full-time, in-person instruction as of Feb. 15 

Iowa public schools began offering full-time, in-person instruction for all grades as of Feb. 15 after the state enacted legislation in January with the requirement. Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) signed the bill on Jan. 29.

The law allows parents to request a hybrid or all-remote option for their children. Additionally, schools can request a waiver from providing in-person instruction based on factors such as the number of teachers quarantining because of coronavirus. Previously, Iowa public schools had to provide in-person instruction for at least half the time pursuant to an order Reynolds issued in July.

Iowa is one of five states requiring schools to open at least partially for-in-person instruction

  • The Texas Education Agency required public schools to offer daily, in-person instruction options, or risk losing state funding, no later than Oct. 19. The order allowed schools to stay remote for the first eight weeks of the school calendar year, which began Aug. 24, 2020.
  • Arkansas Education Secretary Johnny Key ordered public schools to offer in-person instruction five days per week as of Aug. 26, 2020.
  • The Florida Department of Education ordered public schools to reopen at least five days per week for all students as of Aug. 31, 2020.
  • Starting on Jan. 19, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) required all public and private pre-K, elementary, and middle schools to resume full-time, in-person instruction, or a hybrid (at least two in-person days every week), regardless of their county’s transmission rates.

Four states—California, Delaware, Hawaii, and New Mexico—and Washington, D.C., currently have state-ordered regional school closures, required closures for certain grade levels, or allow hybrid instruction only. The 41 remaining states have left the decision about how to open to individual schools or districts.

In Chicago, the third-largest school district in the country, pre-K and special education students returned to in-person classroom instruction on Feb. 11 after the Chicago Teachers Union and Chicago Public Schools reached a reopening agreement on Feb. 9. Under the plan, students from kindergarten through fifth grade will return for hybrid instruction (two days per week in-person) on March 1. Students in grades 6-8 will adopt the hybrid schedule starting March 8.

Our free newsletter on government responses to the coronavirus pandemic—Documenting America’s Path to Recovery—highlights everything from mask requirements to curfews to vaccine-related policies each business day. Click here to subscribe and stay informed about major policy developments nationwide and in your state.

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New York voters to decide constitutional amendment about environmental rights

Voters in New York will decide a ballot measure in November that would add the following language to the state constitution’s bill of rights: “Each person shall have a right to clean air and water, and a healthful environment.” The measure would make New York the third state, after Pennsylvania and Montana, to adopt an environmental rights amendment. Pennsylvania and Montana both adopted their amendments in the 1970s. 

State legislators can refer constitutional amendments to the ballot in New York by approving them in two successive legislation sessions. The state Senate approved the amendment 48-14 in January, with all 42 Democrats and six Republicans voting for it. The state Assembly approved the amendment on Feb. 8—124 to 25—with all 106 Democrats, 17 Republicans, and one independent voting ‘yes.’ Legislators previously approved the proposal in 2019. New York became a Democratic trifecta as a result of the 2018 elections.

Between 1995 and 2020, the New York state legislature referred 25 constitutional amendments to the ballot, with voters approving 19 (76%) of them. The last New York election with amendments on the ballot was in November 2017. 

November’s election in New York could have as many as six amendments to the state Constitution. On Jan. 20, the legislature approved an amendment that would make changes to the state’s redistricting process, including the current redistricting cycle. The measure would change vote thresholds for adopting a redistricting plan when one political party controls both legislative chambers and would add requirements for counting certain persons for redistricting purposes. The Environmental Rights Amendment is the second such measure approved for the ballot.

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The Daily Brew: Debuting a new Ballotpedia newsletter

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

  1. ESG: Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance
  2. Burlington, Vermont voters will decide on March 2 whether to adopt ranked-choice voting for city council elections
  3. West Virginia Supreme Court rules in favor of Gov. Justice’s appointment

ESG: Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance

Today, we’re launching a new way to stay up to date on the trends and events that characterize the growing intersection between business and politics. Economy and Society is a free, weekly email newsletter that delivers news and information about the developments in corporate activism and corporate political engagement. Our team will also provide updates on the latest scholarship and research in the field and notable quotes from thought leaders. Be among the first subscribers to signup. The first edition will be delivered to inboxes today!

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Burlington, Vermont voters will decide on March 2 whether to adopt ranked-choice voting for city council elections

On March 2, Burlington, Vermont voters will decide whether to implement ranked-choice voting (RCV) for city council elections. The city previously used RCV but repealed its use over a decade ago through a ballot initiative petition drive. Question 4 would cause RCV to be used starting in March 2022.

First, let’s do a quick rundown of the history of RCV in Burlington.

  • 2005: Burlington voters amended the city’s charter to implement RCV—referred to as instant runoff—for mayoral elections. The 2005 measure was approved by 64% to 36%. It was used in the 2006 and 2009 mayoral elections.
  • 2010: Voters repealed RCV by a vote of 52% to 48%. The measure was placed on the ballot through a ballot initiative petition drive after the 2009 mayoral election.
  • 2020: The Burlington City Council attempted to place an RCV measure on the November 2020 ballot, but Mayor Miro Weinberger (D) vetoed it after the city council voted 6-5 on it. The measure would have implemented RCV for city council, mayoral, and school commissioner elections. The council amended the measure to only include city council elections and reconsidered it for the March 2021 ballot. It was approved on Sept. 22, 2020, and Mayor Weinberger signed the measure on Oct. 3.

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 an outright majority.

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

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West Virginia Supreme Court rules in favor of Gov. Justice’s appointment

Here’s an update on a contested appointment to the West Virginia Legislature that we’ve been watching. Let’s catch you up.

On Jan. 9, Rep. Derrick Evans (R) resigned from the West Virginia House of Delegates after being charged with entering a restricted public building and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds. 

According to West Virginia law, the executive committee of the political party that holds the seat can submit a list of three candidates to the governor in case of a vacancy. On Jan. 13, the Wayne County Republican Executive Committee sent three names to Gov. Justice: Mark Ross, Chad Shaffer, and Jay Marcum. 

Gov. Jim Justice’s (R) chief of staff, Brian Abraham, then told the committee Justice wanted a new list of names because Acting Chairman of the West Virginia Republican Executive Committee Roman Stauffer was not involved in the original nomination process. The second nomination list included Mark Ross, Chad Shaffer, and Joshua Booth. Gov. Justice approved the nomination and formally appointed Booth on Jan. 27.

According to the Charleston Gazette-Mail, after Justice formally appointed Booth on Jan. 27, the Wayne County Republican Executive Committee petitioned the state’s court of last resort “to force the governor to choose from the first list of candidates submitted, saying state law doesn’t give the governor discretion to reject the list provided by local party executive committees.” 

On Feb. 9, the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia heard the case and ruled in favor of Gov. Justice. Booth was sworn in the following day.

As of Feb. 11, there have been 23 state legislative vacancies in 18 states this year. Eight of those vacancies have been filled, with 15 vacancies remaining. Booth is one of three Republicans to fill vacancies from 2021. 

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The Daily Brew: A brief history of President’s Day

Welcome to the Monday, Feb. 15, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. The history of President’s Day
  2. Previewing the Wisconsin spring primaries
  3. South Dakota 2020 marijuana measure was unconstitutional, state judge rules

On Saturday, the U.S. Senate acquitted former President Donald Trump (R) on one article of impeachment. The vote was 57-43. All 50 Democrats and seven Republicans voted guilty; 43 Republicans voted to acquit. Two-thirds of Senators (67) were required to vote guilty in order to convict.  The House of Representatives had impeached Trump for incitement of insurrection, 232-197, on Jan. 13, following the Jan. 6 breach of the U.S. Capitol. 

The history of President’s Day

Today, Feb. 15, is President’s Day. To celebrate, we’re taking a look at the history of the holiday. In brushing up on the subject, we turned to Scott Rasmussen’s Number of the Day edition last year. Here’s an excerpt from last year’s edition.

  • President’s Day began informally on Feb. 22, 1800, to celebrate the birthday of George Washington. The nation’s first president had passed away the year before. It took another 85 years before Washington’s birthday became an official national holiday. Over time, many states began to also celebrate both formally and informally the birthday of Abraham Lincoln (February 12).
  • In 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. That plan was designed to give workers more three-day weekends by celebrating holidays on Mondays. Technically, the law listed only Washington’s birthday as a holiday. However, since the third Monday of February always falls between the birthdays of Washington and Lincoln, many saw it as a joint celebration.
  • Building on this cultural attitude, marketers began promoting Presidents’ Day (plural). By the 1980s, many states had changed the name to Presidents’ Day on their calendar. History.com reports that “Presidents’ Day is now popularly seen as a day to recognize the lives and achievements of all of America’s chief executives.”
  • In addition to Washington and Lincoln, presidents William Henry Harrison and Ronald Reagan have their birthdays in February. However, no presidents actually have their birthday on Presidents’ Day.
  • Despite the change in understanding the holiday, the federal government still officially considers it to be a holiday honoring George Washington’s birthday.

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Previewing the Wisconsin spring primaries

The first statewide primary elections of 2021 are here, with Wisconsin holding its primaries tomorrow, Feb. 16.

The Badger State’s spring elections feature nonpartisan offices, while the fall elections feature partisan offices. However, this year, two partisan state legislative special elections are on the otherwise-nonpartisan ballot. 

  • Wisconsin State Senate District 13 became vacant on Jan. 1 after Scott Fitzgerald (R) was elected to the U.S. House. 
  • State Assembly District 89 became vacant on Dec. 2, 2020, after John Nygren (R) resigned his seat to work in the private sector.

Candidates are also running in nonpartisan elections for one superintendent of public instruction seat. Governor Tony Evers (D) served in this office from 2009 to 2019.

Ballotpedia is also covering local primaries for some school boards and county offices

Wisconsin is one of 14 states that cancel their primaries if two or fewer candidates file for each seat on the ballot. In these cases, candidates will automatically advance to the general election on April 6. Eleven of the 20 school board primaries (55%) and 40 of the 43 municipal primaries (93%) in our coverage scope were canceled due to a lack of opposition this year.

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South Dakota 2020 marijuana measure was unconstitutional, state judge rules

Here’s something you may have missed last week. On Feb. 8, Hughes County Circuit Judge Christina Klinger overturned South Dakota’s 2020 marijuana legalization initiative. Klinger ruled that the measure violated the state’s single-subject rule. Klinger also ruled that the measure constituted a revision of the constitution rather than an amendment. 

South Dakota voters approved Amendment A 54% to 46% on Nov. 3. The measure was designed to: 

  • legalize the recreational use of marijuana for individuals 21 years old and older, allowing individuals to possess or distribute up to one ounce of marijuana;
  • require the legislature to create a medical marijuana program pass laws allowing the sale of hemp;
  • tax marijuana sales at 15%; 
  • allocate tax revenue to public schools and the state’s general fund; and 
  • enact other regulations, including over home grow, marijuana business licenses, local control, and civil penalties for violations.

Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom and South Dakota Highway Patrol Superintendent Rick Miller filed a lawsuit in Hughes County Circuit Court seeking to block Amendment A from taking effect. Plaintiffs alleged that the measure comprises more than one subject and that the measure does not amend the constitution but revises the constitution and could only be put before voters by a constitutional convention.

Defendants argued that all the provisions were essentially related. South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws, which backed Amendment A, said they would file an appeal with the South Dakota Supreme Court.

Governor Kristi Noem (R) said, “Today’s decision protects and safeguards our constitution. I’m confident that South Dakota Supreme Court, if asked to weigh in as well, will come to the same conclusion.” Noem said in January, “I directed [petitioners] to commence the Amendment A litigation on my behalf.” This is the first time a state’s governor led an effort to overturn a voter-approved marijuana legalization measure.

All citizen initiatives in South Dakota—both initiated constitutional amendments and initiated state statutes—must concern only one subject. South Dakota did not have a single-subject rule for ballot measures until 2018, when voters approved Constitutional Amendment Z. Sixteen of the 26 states with a statewide initiative or veto referendum process have a single-subject rule.

Fifteen states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for recreational purposes. The map below details the legal status of recreational marijuana by state as of November 2020. States shaded in dark green had fully legalized recreational marijuana usage. In states shaded in light green, recreational marijuana usage was illegal, but decriminalized. The remaining states shaded in light gray had not legalized recreational marijuana.

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The Daily Brew: An update on recall efforts against California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D)

Welcome to the Friday, Feb. 12, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Organizers of recall effort against California governor announce they’ve collected 1.5 million signatures
  2. Iowa, Montana lift statewide mask requirements
  3. #Friday trivia: How many 2022 Senate seats were decided by five percentage points or fewer in their last election?

Organizers of recall effort against California governor announce they’ve collected 1.5 million signatures

Organizers of a recall effort against California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) reported on Feb. 10 that they had collected more than 1.5 million signatures. Supporters have until March 17 to collect 1,495,709 valid signatures to trigger a recall election. The next official monthly reporting deadline is next Tuesday—Feb. 16.

The previous monthly reporting period ended Jan. 6, and organizers submitted 723,886 signatures. The secretary of state processed 485,650 of those and deemed 75,563—or 15.6%—invalid.

Recall supporters say Newsom mishandled the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, did not do enough to address the state’s homelessness rate, and supported sanctuary city policies and water rationing. This campaign to recall Newsom began on June 10, 2020. Five other recall efforts against him have failed to make the ballot since 2019. 

If this recall reaches the ballot, here is how the process works. Voters would be presented with two questions. The first would ask whether Newsom should be recalled as governor. If a majority votes in favor of the recall, then Newsom is removed from office. The second question would ask voters to elect a new governor if Newsom is recalled. The candidate with the most votes on the second question would win the election and become governor.

Nineteen states have provisions for recalling state-level officers, including the governor.

Since 1911, there have been 55 recall attempts against an incumbent California governor. The only successful gubernatorial recall election in the state’s history was in 2003 when Gov. Gray Davis (D) was recalled and Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) was elected governor. Schwarzenegger received 48.6% of the vote in a field that included more than 100 candidates.

Since 1921, four gubernatorial recall efforts have qualified for the ballot: 

  • Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wis.) won a recall election in 2012 and remained in office,
  • Gov. Davis (D) was recalled in 2002 in California,
  • Gov. Fife Symington’s (R-Ariz.) recall election in 1997 was canceled after he resigned following his impeachment, and
  • Gov. Lynn Frazier (R/Nonpartisan League) was recalled in 1921 in North Dakota. 

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Iowa, Montana lift statewide mask requirements 

Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte (R) announced he is lifting the state’s face-covering requirement on Feb. 12. Former Gov. Steve Bullock (D) issued the face-covering requirement on July 15, 2020. Montana is the fourth state to allow a mask requirement to expire over the past few months. 

  • Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) lifted Iowa’s mask order on Feb. 7. Reynolds first issued the face-covering requirement on Nov. 17.
  • Gov. Doug Burgum (R) lifted North Dakota’s order on Jan. 28.
  • Gov. Tate Reeves (R) lifted Mississippi’s order on Sept. 30, 2020.

On Feb. 4, the Wisconsin state Assembly voted 52-42 on a resolution to end the statewide mask mandate and coronavirus public health emergency. On Jan. 26, the state Senate voted 18-13 to overturn Gov. Tony Evers’s (D) coronavirus emergency order. In response, Evers issued two new orders re-establishing the public health emergency and mask mandate. Republican legislative leaders are challenging Evers’ mandate in the state supreme court. 

On Feb. 5, the Pennsylvania State House voted 116-86 to approve a ballot initiative for a constitutional amendment that would end emergency disaster declarations after 21 days unless the General Assembly approved extensions. If voters approve the amendment on May 18, the legislature could end the state’s coronavirus emergency order, including the mask requirement.

Thirty-nine states issued statewide mask requirements in response to the coronavirus pandemic. New Jersey was the first state to implement a statewide mask order on April 10, 2020. Four states—Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, and North Dakota—have allowed those statewide orders to expire.

The map below shows the 35 states with statewide mask orders. All 23 states with Democratic governors have such orders in effect, as do 12 of 27 states with Republican governors.

If you want to learn more about statewide mask orders issued in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, click here to view the text of each state’s mask order, the dates they were in effect, and links to arguments in favor and against face-covering requirements. And to stay informed, subscribe to our free newsletter—Documenting America’s Path to Recovery—and receive the latest info in your inbox each day.

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#Friday trivia: How many 2022 Senate seats were decided by five percentage points or fewer in their last election?

Thursday’s Brew took an early look at 2022’s U.S. Senate elections.  

Of the 34 seats up for election next year, Republicans currently hold 20 and Democrats hold 14. Four Republicans—Alabama’s Richard Shelby, North Carolina’s Richard Burr, Ohio’s Rob Portman, and Pennsylvania’s Pat Toomey—have announced they will not run for re-election.

In the most recent election for these specific seats, how many were decided by a margin of five percentage points or fewer?

  1. 3
  2. 5
  3. 6
  4. 7