On March 18, 2020, Gov. Mike Parson (R) released an official statement postponing all Missouri municipal elections until June 2, 2020, amid concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. These elections were originally scheduled to take place on April 7, 2020.
The following Missouri school boards within Ballotpedia’s coverage scope were impacted by this change:
Center School District
Grandview C-4 School District
Hickman Mills C-1 School District
Liberty Public Schools
North Kansas City Schools
Park Hill School District
Platte County R-III School District
Raytown C-2 School District
St. Joseph School District
Prior to Gov. Parson’s statement, five of these school districts—Grandview C-4, Liberty, Park Hill, Platte County R-III, and Raytown C-2—had cancelled their school board elections because the number of qualified candidates who filed to appear on the ballot was equal to the number of seats up for election.
As part of Ballotpedia’s coverage on the coronavirus pandemic, we are compiling a daily summary of major changes in the world of politics, government, and elections happening each day. Here is the summary of changes for March 19, 2020.
Last night, President Donald Trump signed H.R. 6201, the second coronavirus relief bill. It passed the Senate earlier in the afternoon by a 90-8 vote and passed the House on Monday by a 363-40 vote. Lawmakers are expecting to work out another bill in the coming days that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has said should include direct payments to individuals.
Senators John Thune (R-S.D.), Steven Daines (R-Mont.), and Angus King (I-Maine) filed legislation seeking to delay the federal tax filing deadline for 90 days to align with the move made on March 17 by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to delay the payment of taxes 90 days. House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) sent Mnuchin a letter requesting the same.
Overview to date:
Nine states changed primary or municipal election dates.
One state (New York) adjusted its candidate filing requirements.
Three states have either implemented or attempted to implement changes to its voting procedures.
Political parties in six states have made changes to party events on a statewide basis.
Connecticut – Governor Ned Lamont (D) announced the postponement of the state’s presidential preference primary to June 2.
Minnesota – The Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party voted to conduct all local and district-level caucuses online. The Republican Party voted to conduct local conventions online.
Missouri – The Missouri GOP voted to cancel its county caucuses.
State legislative changes
Overview to date:
Sixteen state legislatures have suspended their sessions.
Two states (Maine and Maryland) have adjourned early.
Four states have implemented partial suspensions.
Mississippi – The Mississippi State Legislature suspended its session, effective March 18, through April 1.
New Hampshire – The New Hampshire General Court announced it would extend the suspension of its session through April 10. The suspension was originally set to end on March 20.
State court changes
Arizona – The Arizona Supreme Court updated its order from March 16 to recommend that all proceedings be avoided to the greatest extent possible until further notice. The court also ordered new petit juries scheduled from March 18 to April 17 be rescheduled.
Kansas – The Kansas Supreme Court issued an order that suspended all jury trials and restricted courts to emergency operations.
Washington – The Washington Supreme Court suspended all criminal and civil jury trials until after April 24.
Overview to date
Forty-three of 50 states have ordered a statewide school closure. The remaining states are leaving school closures up to local officials. Those 43 states served 41.2 million students during the 2016-2017 school year, accounting for 81.4% of the 50.6 million public school students in the United States. California accounts for 6.3 million of the 9.4 million students in a state without statewide closures.
Texas – Governor Greg Abbott (R) signed an executive order closing schools statewide from March 20 until April 3. Texas was the 42nd state to order statewide closures. It served 5.4 million public school students during the ’16-’17 school year.
Indiana – Governor Eric Holcombe (R) signed an executive order closing schools statewide until May 1. Previously, Holcombe granted schools a 20-day waiver that allowed school districts to close on days of their choosing. Indiana was the 43rd state to order statewide closures. It served 1 million public school students during the ’16-’17 school year.
Diagnosed or quarantined politicians
Utah – U.S. Representative Ben McAdams (D) announced on March 18 that he had tested positive for coronavirus.
U.S. Representative Mario Diaz-Balart (R) announced on March 18 that he tested positive for coronavirus.
U.S. Representative Frederica Wilson (D) announced on March 19 that she was entering a self-quarantine after contact with another member of the U.S. House who later tested positive for coronavirus.
U.S. Representative Stephanie Murphy (D) announced on March 18 that she was entering a self-quarantine after learning another member of Congress tested positive for coronavirus.
U.S. Representative Matt Cartwright (D) announced on March 18 that he was entering a self-quarantine after learning he had been in contact with a family friend who tested positive for coronavirus.
State Senator Brandon Beach (R) announced on March 18 that he tested positive for coronavirus.
U.S. Representative Drew Ferguson (R) announced on March 18 that he was entering a self-quarantine after learning he had been in contact with a member of Congress who tested positive for coronavirus.
Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan (R) announced a self-quarantine on March 18 after learning Brandon Beach tested positive for coronavirus. He recommended Georgia lawmakers enter a quarantine until March 30.
State Senators Renee Unterman (R) and Randy Robertson (R) also decided to self-quarantine.
Kansas – Wichita Mayor Brandon Whipple (D) announced on March 18 that he, along with City Council members Brandon Johnson, Becky Tuttle, and James Clendenin, would enter self-quarantine due to possible exposure from a conference they attended in Washington D.C.
Louisiana – U.S. Representative Steve Scalise (R) announced on March 18 that he was entering a self-quarantine for two weeks after learning U.S. Representative Mario Diaz-Balart tested positive for coronavirus.
Missouri – U.S. Representative Ann Wagner (R) announced on March 18 that she was entering a self-quarantine after a colleague tested positive for coronavirus.
New York – U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice (D) announced on March 18 that she was entering a self-quarantine after learning she had been in contact with someone who tested positive for coronavirus.
Oklahoma – U.S. Representative Kendra Horn (D) announced on March 19 that she was entering a self-quarantine after contact with another member of the U.S. House who later tested positive for coronavirus.
The filing deadline to run for elected office passed this week in Maine, Colorado, and Utah. Maine’s filing deadline was March 16, Colorado’s was March 17, and Utah’s was March 19.
In Maine, prospective candidates could file for the following state offices:
State Senate (35 seats)
State House (151 seats)
In Colorado, prospective candidates could file for the following state offices:
State Board of Education (3 seats)
State Board of Regents (3 seats)
State Senate (18 seats)
State House (65 seats)
In Utah, prospective candidates could file for the following state offices:
State Senate (15 seats)
State House (75 seats)
State Board of Education (8 seats)
Maine, Colorado, and Utah’s statewide filing deadlines are the 22nd, 23rd, and 24th to take place in the 2020 election cycle. The next statewide filing deadline is on March 26, 2020, in Virginia.
Maine and Colorado have Democratic state government trifectas, while Utah has a Republican state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers.
Virginia General Assembly passes bill allowing localities to use ranked-choice voting in some municipal elections
On Feb. 27, the Virginia State Senate voted 22-18 to approve HB1103, which would allow local governments to implement ranked-choice voting (RCV) for select municipal elections. All of the Senate’s 21 Democrats and one Republican voted in favor of the legislation. Eighteen Republicans voted against it. The same bill had passed the Virginia House of Delegates on Feb. 7 by a vote of 57-42. Fifty-four House Democrats and three Republicans voted in favor of HB1103. Forty-two Republicans voted against it (one Democratic member did not vote). HB1103 now goes to Gov. Ralph Northam (D) for his action.
If enacted, HB1103 would allow local governments to implement RCV in elections for county boards of supervisors and city councils. The state board of elections would be authorized to “promulgate regulations for the proper and efficient administration of elections determined by ranked-choice voting, including (i) procedures for tabulating votes in rounds, (ii) procedures for determining winners in elections for offices to which only one candidate is being elected and to which more than one candidate is being elected, and (iii) standards for ballots.” Localities would be liable for any implementation costs incurred by the state. The Department of Planning and Budget has estimated those costs at approximately $1.3 million.
What have been the reactions?
The following is a sample of the commentary surrounding HB1103:
Del. Sally Hudson (D), the bill’s chief sponsor, said, “It’s a benefit to communities like mine in Charlottesville that tend to have very low-turnout primaries in the summer and then local elections in the fall that often have multiple candidates running for a handful of open seats. You end up with really split elections and less certainty about which candidate has majority support from the community.”
Del. Chris Runion opposed the bill, saying, “It confuses the voter, and it complicates the process. I would prefer that a voter goes in and makes his decision, casts their ballot and goes back and knows this is who they voted for and that’s who they support and they go home satisfied with that result.”
Elizabeth Melson, president of FairVote Virginia, which has advocated in favor of the bill, said, “With ranking, if a candidate meets a voter who favors an opponent, the conversation need not end; it can shift to second choices and areas of mutual concern. In places with ranked choice already implemented, candidates sometimes even campaign in groups of two or three and ask to be second or third choices. It could lead to more civilized and issue-based campaigns and less mud-slinging.”
Quentin Kidd, a professor at Christopher Newport University, said, “So if you had a city or a county that was 50-50 split, ranked-choice voting could really mix things up and make for some really healthy political competition. But in a county that’s really rural and really Republican, Democrats would almost be locked out. In a city that’s really Democratically-oriented, Republicans would almost be locked out.”
What other jurisdictions have implemented RCV?
Maine is the only state that has implemented RCV for federal and state-level elections. Nine states have jurisdictions with RCV at the local level. On the map below, these states are shaded in gold. Another four states have jurisdictions that have adopted, but have not yet implemented, RCV. These states are shaded in blue. A complete list of implementation sites is available here.
In other RCV news …
On March 3, citizens in Portland, Maine, approved a charter amendment extending the use of ranked-choice voting to all city council and school board elections. Previously, ranked-choice voting only applied to mayoral elections. The charter amendment passed with 81 percent of the vote.
Virginians to decide constitutional amendment transferring redistricting power from legislature to commission
Under the amendment, the commission would draft the maps and the Virginia General Assembly would vote either to approve or reject them. The Virginia General Assembly would be prohibited from amending the maps. If the Virginia General Assembly were to reject a map, the redistricting commission would draft a new one. If the second map is rejected, the state supreme court would enact a district map.
Maps would require approval by 12 of 16 (75 percent) commission members, including six of eight legislator-members and six of eight citizen-members. Leaders of the legislature’s two largest political parties would select members to serve on the commission. Based on the current composition of the General Assembly, the commission’s legislative members would include two Senate Democrats, two Senate Republicans, two House Democrats, and two House Republicans. The commission’s eight citizen members would be recommended by legislative leaders and selected by a committee of five retired circuit court judges.
How did the amendment make it to the ballot, and what comes next?
In order to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot, a majority vote in each chamber, in two successive legislative sessions, is required. In 2019, the House and Senate, with Republican majorities, approved the amendment. Democrats won control of both legislative chambers in November 2019. This year, the Senate approved the amendment 38-2. In the House, nine Democrats and all 45 Republicans voted to advance the amendment; 46 Democrats voted against the amendment. In November, a simple majority vote is required to enact the constitutional amendment.
For more information on the support and opposition arguments on this amendment, click here.
For more information about the legislative process that put the amendment on the ballot, click here.
Are other states considering similar measures this year?
This is the first ballot measure certified for 2020 related to redistricting. Measures might also be on the ballot in Arkansas, Missouri, Nevada, Oklahoma, and Oregon. In 2018, five states — Colorado, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, and Utah — voted on initiatives to alter redistricting procedures or establish redistricting commissions. Voters approved all of them.
Ballot access requirements for U.S. Senate candidates in 2020
Thirty-three seats in the United States Senate are up for election in 2020. How do prospective candidates get on the ballot in their respective states?
Generally speaking, a candidate must pay a filing fee, submit petition signatures, or both in order to appear on the ballot. Filing requirements vary from state to state. Filing requirements also vary according to a candidate’s partisan affiliation. Candidates of the major political parties are sometimes subject to different filing requirements than unaffiliated candidates.
Petition signature requirements exist on a broad spectrum. For example, Kentucky requires partisan primary candidates to submit two petition signatures (candidates are also liable for a $500 filing fee). This petition requirement is the lowest in the nation for Senate candidates in 2020. By contrast, Texas requires unaffiliated candidates to submit 83,717 petition signatures, 1 percent of all votes cast for governor in the last election. This petition requirement is the highest in the nation.
Filing fees are similarly variable. Kansas requires unaffiliated candidates to pay a $20 administrative fee. This fee is the smallest in the nation for Senate candidates in 2020. By contrast, Arkansas Republican candidates are liable for a $20,000 filing fee, a larger filing fee than that imposed in any other state this cycle.
We have compiled complete filing requirements for major-party and unaffiliated Senate candidates in 2020. To peruse the data, click here.
The map below shows which states have taken up redistricting policy legislation this year. A darker shade of red indicates a greater number of relevant bills.
On Jan. 27, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) signed an executive order creating an advisory redistricting commission. The commission will prepare congressional and state legislative district plans for Wisconsin lawmakers to consider. The plans are advisory, and the legislature will be under no obligation to accept the commission’s recommendations. The commission will be made up of members from each of the state’s congressional districts. Elected and political party officials, as well as lobbyists, will be barred from serving as commissioners. The order specified neither the number of commissioners nor the manner of appointment. It established the following criteria for the commission’s proposed maps:
“Be free from partisan bias and partisan advantage”
“Avoid diluting or diminishing minority votes, including through the practices of ‘packing’ or ‘cracking'”
“Be compact and contiguous”
“Avoid splitting wards and municipalities”
“Retain the core population in each district”
“Maintain traditional communities of interest”
“Prevent voter disenfranchisement”
Evers said, “I believe, and Wisconsinites do, too, that people should get to choose their elected officials, not the other way around. So, when the People’s Maps are presented to the Legislature next year, I hope they will receive unanimous, bipartisan support.” Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R) criticized the order, saying, “He can form whatever kind of fake, phony, partisan process he wants to create, but I have no doubt in the end we will do it the way we have always have, which is to follow the constitution.”
Upon completion of the census in 2020, congressional seats will be reapportioned to the states on the basis of population. Complete data sets will be delivered to the states in early 2021, at which time they will redraw their congressional and state legislative district maps. The Wisconsin congressional delegation is expected to remain unchanged at eight seats post-census. The legislature is responsible for drafting and adopting both congressional and state legislative district plans, both of which are subject to gubernatorial veto. Lawmakers are expected to take on redistricting as soon as census data is made available in early 2021.
What is an advisory redistricting commission, and how many states use them? An advisory redistricting commission advises state legislatures in drafting and implementing electoral district maps. These recommendations are not legally binding, though they can influence a legislature’s final decisions. An advisory commission is distinct from an independent commission, which can adopt maps without the involvement of the state legislature.
After the 2010 census, eight states used advisory commissions for some portion of the redistricting process. On the map below, states shaded in dark red used advisory commissions in congressional districting. States shaded in light red used advisory commissions in state legislative districting (note that Rhode Island used advisory commissions for both congressional and state legislative redistricting).
Missouri Supreme Court strikes down law requiring voters without photo ID to sign affidavits
On Jan. 14, the Missouri Supreme Court, in a 5-2 ruling, upheld a lower court’s decision striking down a state law requiring voters without photo identification to sign affidavits before voting. Missouri voters may now present either photo or non-photo identification at the polls and cast regular ballots without signing affidavits.
On Oct. 9, 2018, Richard Callahan, a state court judge, originally enjoined the affidavit provision. Callahan ruled that the affidavit’s language was “contradictory and misleading,” requiring signers to “swear that they do not possess a form of personal identification approved for voting while simultaneously presenting to the election authority a form of personal identification that is approved.” Callahan ordered officials to desist from executing the affidavit for voters presenting non-photo ID at the polls. Callahan also ordered officials not to distribute any materials indicating that a photo ID is required to vote. State officials appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court, asking it to stay Callahan’s order. On Oct. 19, 2018, the Court denied the request for a stay, but permitted the appeal to proceed. This allowed Callahan’s order to stand in advance of the Nov. 6, 2018, election.
The Court heard oral arguments in the appeal in Oct. 2019. Justice Mary Russell wrote the court’s opinion, which was joined by Chief Justice George Draper and Justices Paul Wilson, Patricia Breckenridge, and Laura Stith. Justices Wesley Powell and Zel Fischer dissented. Russell wrote, “Because the affidavit requirement of sections 115.427.2(1) and 115.427.3 is misleading and contradictory, the circuit court’s judgment declaring the affidavit requirement unconstitutional is affirmed. Further, the circuit court did not err in enjoining the State from requiring individuals who vote under the non-photo identification option provided in section 115.427.2(1) to execute the affidavit or in enjoining it from disseminating materials indicating photo identification is required to vote.”
Powell, joined by Fischer, wrote in his dissent: “If the affidavit requirement set forth in section 155.4271 is ambiguous, contradictory, and unconstitutional as the principal opinion proclaims, the opinion errs in severing the entire affidavit requirement without also severing the non-photo identification option set out in section 115.427.2 in its entirety. Because the legislature would not have enacted the non-photo identification option without an accompanying affidavit requirement, the principal opinion’s remedy is contrary to law.”
Ballot access requirements for U.S. House candidates in 2020
All seats in the U.S. House of Representatives are up for election in 2020. How do prospective candidates get on the ballot in their respective states?
Generally speaking, a candidate must pay a filing fee, submit petition signatures, or both in order to appear on the ballot. Filing requirements often vary from state to state and between districts within a state. Filing requirements also differ according to a candidate’s partisan affiliation. Candidates of the major political parties are sometimes subject to different requirements than unaffiliated candidates.
Petition signature requirements exist on a broad spectrum. For example, in Kentucky, a partisan candidate for the U.S. House must submit a petition containing two signatures in order to get on the ballot (the candidate must also pay a $500 filing fee). This petition requirement is the lowest in the country. By contrast, an unaffiliated candidate for Georgia’s 5th Congressional District must submit 26,538 petition signatures to get on the general election ballot, than in any other congressional district or state (the candidate must also pay a $5,220 filing fee).
Note: Georgia’s filing requirements for independent and minor-party U.S. House candidates are currently the subject of ongoing litigation. Judge Leigh May, of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, upheld the requirements in 2019. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit will hear oral argument in the case during the week of May 18-22. For more information, see Richard Winger’s coverage in Ballot Access News.
Filing fees are similarly variable. Of the states that require payment of filing fees, Kansas levies the lowest: $20 for unaffiliated candidates (the candidate must also submit 5,000 petition signatures). Meanwhile, in Arkansas, a Republican candidate must pay a filing fee of $15,000, a higher fee than in any other congressional district or state (the candidate does not need to submit petition signatures).
We have compiled complete filing requirements for major-party and unaffiliated candidates in all 435 U.S. House districts. To peruse the data, click here.
Redistricting legislation: The map below shows which states have taken up redistricting policy legislation this year. A darker shade of red indicates a greater number of relevant bills.
The Maine Republican Party has proposed a veto referendum to repeal legislation that would implement ranked-choice voting for the presidential election on November 3, 2020. On February 4, 2020, Demi Kouzounas, the party’s chairperson, filed the referendum.
In 2019, the Maine State Legislature passed Legislative Document 1083 (LD 1083), which was designed to implement ranked-choice voting for presidential elections, including partisan primaries and general elections. Gov. Janet Mills (D) said she would hold LD 1083 until the following year. By holding the bill until the next legislative session, LD 1083 would not go into effect until after the state’s presidential primary election on March 3, 2020. It would be in effect for the general election on November 3, 2020.
Signatures for veto referendums are due 90 days after the adjournment of the legislative session at which the targeted bill was passed. In 2020, the legislature is expected to adjourn on April 15, 2020, which would give referendum proponents until July 14, 2020, to collect 63,067 valid signatures. A successful signature drive would suspend the law until voters decide whether to repeal or uphold the law, meaning ranked-choice voting would not be used for the presidential election on November 3, 2020.
State GOP chairperson Kouzounas will also lead the party’s ballot measure committee. Kouzounas, explaining the party’s opposition to LD 1083, said, “One person, one vote is a bedrock American principle. Ranked-choice voting is a direct violation of that principle and threatens the rights of all Mainers and delegitimatizes our election process.” Kathleen Marra, chairperson of the Maine Democratic Party, responded, “This new attempt is nothing more than an effort to protect President Trump and reject the will of Maine voters.”
In 2016, Hillary Clinton (D) won the statewide vote in Maine with 47.8 percent of the vote. Donald Trump (R) came in second with 44.9 percent of the vote. Under RCV, the candidates receiving the least votes would have been eliminated and their voters’ second preferences would have received their votes until a candidate received a simple majority. Since neither Clinton nor Trump received a simple majority in 2016, ranked-choice voting would have been used to award the statewide electors.
At the presidential election in 2016, Maine voters passed a ballot initiative, titled Question 5, that implemented ranked-choice voting for state and congressional elections. In 2017, the legislature passed a bill to postpone and repeal ranked-choice voting unless a constitutional amendment was passed before December 1, 2021, to enable the legislature to determine election methods. The Committee for Ranked-Choice Voting, which sponsored Question 5, launched a veto referendum campaign to overturn the postponement and repeal legislation. On the ballot as Question 1, the veto referendum was approved, repealing the law and keeping ranked-choice voting for state primaries and congressional elections. In 2018, the race for Maine’s 2nd congressional district was the first in U.S. history to be decided by ranked-choice voting. The initial vote count showed that incumbent Bruce Poliquin (R) had received 46.3 percent of the vote and challenger Jared Golden (D) received 45.6 percent of the vote. Independents received 8.1 percent of the vote. After the independents were eliminated and votes were reallocated, Golden won the election with 50.6 percent of the vote.
Voters have decided 30 veto referendums in Maine since 1910. Eighteen of the 30 veto referendums (60 percent) were successful, repealing their targeted legislation. The 31st veto referendum is scheduled for March 3, 2020, and addresses legislation related to vaccination exemptions.
The Pennsylvania State Legislature approved a constitutional amendment that would change how candidates for lieutenant governor are selected.
In Pennsylvania, a political party’s candidates for governor and lieutenant governor are elected on a joint ticket at the general election. As of 2020, candidates for governor and lieutenant governor run in separate primaries for their party’s nomination and then form a joint ticket.
The constitutional amendment would allow a political party’s candidate for governor to choose their own candidate for lieutenant governor. The ballot measure would provide that political parties may approve or reject their gubernatorial candidate’s pick for lieutenant governor. The system would look similar to how a presidential candidate selects their running mate.
Because the Pennsylvania Constitution requires the legislature to approve an amendment during two successive legislative sessions, the legislature will need to adopt the amendment again during the 2021-2022 legislative session for it to appear on the ballot. If it appears on the ballot in 2021, it could be in effect for the 2022 gubernatorial election.
The constitutional amendment passed the state Senate on January 28, 2020, in a vote of 46-3. In the state House, legislative Democrats were more divided. While 105 of 110 House Republicans supported the amendment, 25 of 92 House Democrats did so. A simple majority vote was required in each chamber.
The current Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania is John Fetterman (D), who defeated incumbent Mike Stack (D) in the 2018 primary election. The Pennsylvania Governor is Tom Wolf, who is term-limited from running at the next gubernatorial election in 2022.
Pennsylvania is one of eight states in which the lieutenant governor is nominated in a separate primary but runs on a single ticket with the gubernatorial nominee in general election.
The ballot measure would make Pennsylvania the 11th state in which the lieutenant governor is chosen by the gubernatorial nominee after the primary and runs on a single ticket with the gubernatorial nominee in the general election.
Pennsylvanians haven’t rejected a constitutional amendment referred by the legislature since 1981. Since then, voters have approved 26 constitutional amendments.
Electoral policy legislation in 2019: the year in review
With the year drawing to a close, let’s take a look back at electoral policy legislation in the states in 2019.
Redistricting legislation: This year, we’ve tracked 243 bills relating to redistricting policy. This represents a 179 percent increase over the 87 relevant bills introduced in 2018. Of the 243 bills introduced in state legislatures this year, 22 (or 9 percent) have become law.
Examples of enacted legislation:
Virginia HB2760: Requires municipal clerks to furnish Geographic Information Systems (GIS) maps, along with ordinances describing district boundaries, to local election boards, the secretary of the commonwealth, the department of elections, and the division of legislative services whenever redistricting local districts.
Washington SB5502: Moves the deadline by which the redistricting commission must submit its plan to the legislature from Jan. 1 of the year ending in two to Nov. 15 of the year ending in one following completion of the census.
The map below shows which states having taken up redistricting policy legislation this year. A darker shade of red indicates a greater number of relevant bills.
Electoral systems legislation: This year, we’ve tracked 142 bills pertaining to electoral systems policy, addressing such issues as ranked-choice voting and approval voting. This represents a 35 percent increase over the 105 relevant bills introduced in 2018. Of the 142 bills introduced in state legislatures this year, 21 (or 15 percent) have become law.
Examples of enacted legislation:
Colorado SB042: Enters Colorado into the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact.
Maine LD1663: Technical revisions to the state’s election laws relating to ranked-choice voting.
The map below shows which states having taken up electoral systems legislation this year. A darker shade of red indicates a greater number of relevant bills.
Primary systems legislation: This year, we’ve tracked 13 bills pertaining to primary systems policy, addressing such issues as top-two primaries and open primaries. This represents a 41 percent decrease from the 22 relevant bills introduced in 2018. Of the 13 bills introduced in state legislatures this year, none have become law.
Examples of proposed legislation:
North Carolina H994: Proposes implementation of a top-four primary and ranked-choice voting in the subsequent general election for all state and federal offices (except the presidency).
New York A07934: A proposed constitutional amendment creating top-two primaries for state and federal offices.
The map below shows which states having taken up electoral systems legislation this year. A darker shade of red indicates a greater number of relevant bills.
North Carolina court allows remedial U.S. House maps to stand for 2020, opens candidate filing period
On Dec. 2, 2019, a three-judge panel of North Carolina’s state superior court ruled unanimously that U.S. House elections in 2020 will take place under a remedial map (depicted below) that state lawmakers adopted in November. The court had earlier ruled that the original map was an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander under state law. The court also ordered that the candidate filing period open immediately, having previously delayed the filing period pending consideration of the remedial map and the objections to it.
How did this start? On Sept. 27, opponents of North Carolina’s congressional district plan filed suit, alleging that the district map enacted by the state legislature in 2016 constituted a partisan gerrymander in violation of state law. The plaintiffs asked that the court bar the state from using the maps in the 2020 election cycle. On Oct. 28, the court granted this request, enjoining further application of the 2016 maps. In its order, the court wrote, “The loss to Plaintiffs’ fundamental rights guaranteed by the North Carolina Constitution will undoubtedly be irreparable if congressional elections are allowed to proceed under the 2016 congressional districts.” The court did not issue a full decision on the merits, stating that “disruptions to the election process need not occur, nor may an expedited schedule for summary judgment or trial even be needed, should the General Assembly, on its own initiative, act immediately and with all due haste to enact new congressional districts.” The same three-judge panel, comprising Judges Paul C. Ridgeway, Joseph N. Crosswhite, and Alma L. Hinton, struck down the state’s legislative district plan on similar grounds on Sept. 3.
The House approved the remedial map (HB1029) 55-46 on Nov. 14 .The vote split along party lines, with all Republicans voting in favor of the bill and all Democrats voting against it. The Senate approved the bill 24-17 on Nov. 15, also along party lines.
What were the reactions to the remedial map? Democrats opposed the remedial plan and announced their intention to challenge it in court. Eric Holder, former U.S. Attorney General and chair of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, said, “The congressional map passed by Republicans in the North Carolina legislature simply replaces one partisan gerrymander with a new one. This new map fails to respond to the court’s order by continuing to split communities of interest, packing voters in urban areas, and manipulating the district lines to provide Republicans with an unfair partisan advantage.” Rep. Patrick McHenry (R) dismissed Holder’s criticism: “Eric Holder and (former President) Barack Obama have raised a lot of money for this outcome, and they’ve pursued a really aggressive legal strategy for their partisan outcomes, and right now they’re calling it partisan gerrymandering, but what they’re seeking is partisan gerrymandering for the left. We basically have a Wild West of redistricting. This will be the fourth map in six cycles, and I think that is so confusing for voters and has a major negative impact on voters.”
What comes next? In 2020, North Carolina’s 13 seats in the U.S. House will be up for election. Heading into 2020, Republicans hold 10 of those seats, and Democrats hold the remaining three. In the wake of the court’s Dec. 2 order confirming the implementation of the remedial map in 2020, Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball, said via Twitter, “Not going to officially make NC House ratings changes until we know the new map is final, but here’s what’s tentatively coming: NC-2: Likely R to Safe D; NC-6: Safe R to Safe D; NC-8: Safe R to Likely R; NC-13: Likely R to Safe R. Ratings changes suggest a two-seat D net gain.”
California Supreme Court rules law requiring presidential candidates to disclose income tax returns unconstitutional
On Nov. 21, 2019, the California Supreme Court ruled unanimously that SB27, which requires presidential candidates to file copies of their income tax returns with the California secretary of state in order to qualify for placement on the primary ballot, violates Article II, Section 5(c) of the state constitution. Article II, Section 5(c) states that “the Legislature shall provide for partisan elections for presidential candidates, and political party and party central committees, including an open presidential primary whereby the candidates on the ballot are those found by the Secretary of State to be recognized candidates throughout the nation or throughout California for the office of President of the United States, and those whose names are placed on the ballot by petition, but excluding any candidate who has withdrawn by filing an affidavit of noncandidacy.” Writing for the court, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, joined by Associate Justices Goodwin Liu, Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar, Carol Corrigan, Leondra Kruger, Ming Chin, and Joshua Groban, said, “The Legislature may well be correct that a presidential candidate’s income tax returns could provide California voters with important information. But article II, section 5(c) embeds in the state Constitution the principle that, ultimately, it is the voters who must decide whether the refusal of a ‘recognized candidate throughout the nation or throughout California for the office of President of the United States’ to make such information available to the public will have consequences at the ballot box.”
Enforcement of SB27, which was signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom (D) on July 30, 2019, had already been enjoined by Judge Morrison England of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California. In his opinion, dated October 1, 2019, England wrote, “[The] Court finds that Plaintiffs are likely to prevail on the merits of their arguments that the Act 1) violates the Presidential Qualifications Clause contained in Article II of the United States Constitution; 2) deprives Plaintiffs of their rights to associate and/or to access the ballot, as guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution; 3) further violates the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause as set forth in the Fourteenth Amendment; and 5) is preempted by the provisions of [the Ethics in Government Act of 1978] in any event.”
On Oct. 8, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla (D) appealed England’s ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. In light of the state supreme court’s ruling on the matter, Padilla announced Nov. 21 he would abandon his appeal to the Ninth Circuit.