TagElection policy

Extended candidate filing period for congressional races to end in Michigan

The statewide filing deadline to run for congressional offices in Michigan is on May 8, 2020. The filing period was originally set to end on April 21, but the deadline was extended by court order in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. To qualify for the extended May 8 deadline, congressional candidates must have filed a statement of organization with the Federal Election Commission or formed a candidate committee under Michigan state law on or before March 10. The order also permits candidates to collect and submit signatures electronically. A provision reducing the required number of signatures by 50% is the subject of a pending appeal.

Prospective candidates in Michigan may file for the following congressional offices:
  • U.S. Senate (1 seat)
  • U.S. House (14 seats)

Michigan’s primary is scheduled for August 4, and the general election is scheduled for November 3, 2020.

Michigan’s extended deadline is the 37th congressional filing deadline to take place in the 2020 election cycle. The next is on May 15 in Washington.

Additional reading:


New York cancels Democratic presidential preference primary

On April 27, 2020, the New York State Board of Elections canceled the Democratic presidential preference primary, which had been scheduled to take place on June 23, 2020. The Republican presidential preference primary had already been canceled. The statewide primary election is scheduled to proceed as planned on June 23, 2020.

Earlier in April, the state enacted a law authorizing the board of elections to remove candidates from ballots upon the suspension or termination of their campaigns. Senator Bernie Sanders (I) suspended his presidential campaign on April 8, 2020, making former Vice President Joe Biden (D) the presumptive Democratic nominee.

To date, 20 states and one territory have either postponed or otherwise changed the dates of state-level elections.



Methods for signing candidate nominating petitions: ink versus electronic

In every state, at least some candidates are required to collect petition signatures in order to appear on the ballot. Campaigns usually must collect wet signatures, or those made with pen and paper.

 

At least three voting jurisdictions allowed candidates to gather nominating petition signatures electronically as of 2020:

 

Arizona voters may sign candidate nominating petitions from home or anywhere with internet access using the E-Qual platform.

 

Washington, D.C. and Denver, Colorado allow petition circulators to use mobile devices on which they can collect digitized signatures in person through the eSign app.

 

In addition, New Jersey made a temporary change in response to the coronavirus pandemic allowing primary and general election candidates in 2020 to gather nominating petition signatures electronically.
Details on each voting jurisdiction’s petition signature rules are below.

 

Arizona: In 2012, Arizona implemented the E-Qual electronic nominating petition-signing platform. As of 2020, the platform was available for use by federal, statewide, and state legislative candidates.

 

New Jersey (COVID-19 response): In response to the coronavirus pandemic, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) issued two executive orders allowing primary and general election candidates to gather signatures electronically through a form created by the secretary of state.

 

Denver, Colorado: In 2015, Denver introduced eSign, a petition-signing application used for candidate nominating petitions. The city stated that this was the first electronic petition app of its kind in the nation. Petition circulators use the app on a mobile device, which voters sign using a stylus or other marking device.

 

Washington, D.C.: As part of the Fiscal Year 2017 Budget Support Act of 2016, the Council of the District of Columbia amended the district’s election code ordering the Board of Elections to “make a mobile application available to all candidates, qualified petition circulators, and proposers to install on a mobile device registered with the Board” for the 2018 general election and all subsequent elections. Washington, D.C. began using the eSign petition-signing app in January 2018.

 

Additional Reading:


Ballot Bulletin: The latest on election policy in the midst of COVID-19

In recent weeks, policymakers across the country have postponed elections and otherwise modified their election procedures in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. In order to chart these developments with greater precision, we will, beginning this week, publish The Ballot Bulletin on a biweekly basis. 

Elections in the midst of a pandemic: four experts speak to the challenges that lie ahead 

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, dozens of states have either postponed upcoming elections or made modifications to voting and candidate filing procedures. This has prompted policymakers, pundits, voters, and others to discuss and debate the changes and challenges that might lie ahead  We asked four election policy experts, each occupying a different point on the spectrum of debate, the following questions: 

  • What types of further modifications do you anticipate over the course of the next few months? 
  • What is the greatest challenge we face as we move out of the primary season and into the general election season?

Here are their responses. 

Logan Churchwell: The biggest challenge is fear. States should not be reaching for increased mail balloting out of panic. There are several reasons for this. First and foremost, states do not maintain their voter rolls for accuracy to the level required to be throwing millions of ballots in the mail with any sort of automation. Too many states rely on polling place check-ins to be a last line of defense against an outdated record. Mail ballots go to the last address on file regardless if the person is dead, moved, registered in duplicate, or in prison. Second, local officials do not have the manpower for universal mail balloting nationwide. Hundreds of thousands or more human hands will be required to open envelopes, verify signatures, and handle the ballots for tabulation. Elections offices risk cutting into still scarce medical PPE supplies if this happens. In the best of times, this work is done largely by volunteers. Third, it makes no sense to close polling places down if Americans can still go grocery shopping whenever they want. Voting booths can be cleaned just as easy as the check-out aisle. Election officials should reach for the Lysol before massive changes to voting on shoestring budgets and little time. Finally, Americans tend to trust their elections because most saw with their own eyes that nothing went wrong in the voting place. That basic level of trust is ripped away with all voting in the mail.

 

  • Logan Churchwell is Communications and Research Director of the Public Interest Legal Foundation, a law firm that “exists to assist states and others to aid in the cause of election integrity and fight against lawlessness in American elections.”

 

Edward Foley: What happened in Wisconsin should be a wake-up call that we can’t let anything like that happen again for the November election. What went wrong? While there’s plenty of blame to spread around among all three branches of Wisconsin’s government (legislature, governor, supreme court), the big-picture problem was failure to separate the health-specific question of whether in-person voting on Election Day was appropriate given the pandemic (short answer, no) from the election-question remedy of what adjustments to the voting process should be made, and by whom, as a consequence of the health necessity. The Wisconsin legislature and governor were locked in a partisan tug-of-war over who has the power to change the date of the election, when that wasn’t the relevant question. Instead, what mattered is who had the power to prohibit public gatherings at polling places, like sporting events and other public venues. The answer to that, as the dissenting opinion in the Wisconsin Supreme Court pointed out (by quoting the relevant state statute), was the state’s Department of Health Services. But by the time this observation was made (at the end of the night before Election Day), it was too late. As a result, Wisconsin was unable to achieve what Ohio successfully did, closure of the polls on Election Day to protect public health, with subsequent remediation of the electoral process in order to assure that all eligible voters had an adequate opportunity to cast a ballot in the election. Ohio’s remediation was accomplished, first, by the Secretary of State and then the state’s legislature modifying the remedial plan—an outcome that the federal court deemed constitutionally sufficient to protect voting rights.

Looking ahead to November, it’s essential to put in place plans for absentee voting that recognize both the need for substantially increased reliance on absentee ballots and the risks of problems, including litigation, that flows from greater use of absentee voting. Without spelling out all the details here, the basic principles must be (1) genuine opportunity for all eligible voters to cast a ballot without a health-related fear caused by COVID-19; and (2) reasonable measures to secure the integrity of the voting process for the benefit of the entire electorate. It is possible to satisfy both principles as long as there is the good will to do so, for the sake of electoral accountability (“governments … deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed”), rather than attempting to structure the voting process to secure a partisanship or incumbency advantage. If appropriate measures are adopted in advance, it will be significantly easier to avoid the kind of 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court decision that is so distressing to public confidence that the judicial enforcement of election rules is nonpartisan. The key is to prevent a situation where the outcome of the presidential election is perceived to rest on a vote tally that does not accurately reflect the will of the participating electorate because either (a) there has been an unremedied integrity breach, or (b) unremedied disenfranchisement of valid voters.

 

  • Edward Foley is the Ebersold Chair in Constitutional Law at The Ohio State University. He also directs the university’s election law program. His most recent book, Presidential Elections and Majority Rule (Oxford University Press), was published earlier this year. 

 

Walter Olson: The November 1918 national vote held during the Spanish flu epidemic was a triumph of legitimate democratic succession, but at some cost: turnout sagged and scholars say in-person rallies, permitted in the final days, spread the infection. We can do better. Whatever your previous thinking on absentee and vote-by-mail procedures, minimizing the need for in-person voting is now the need of the hour. Every vote cast by mail is one that doesn’t add to waiting lines (already a headache even before social distancing) and the need for interaction at sign-in tables. 

Use of the mails aside, we should encourage as much of the process as we can to move online or even where appropriate outdoors (sunlight and fresh air probably disrupt virus transmission). Our greatest challenge is lack of time from being caught unprepared.

  • Walter Olson is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, a public policy research organization “dedicated to the principles of individual liberty, limited government, free markets and peace.” In 2015, Olson served as the Co-Chair of Gov. Larry Hogan’s Maryland Redistricting Reform Commission.

 

Drew Penrose: There are really two kinds of changes we have seen so far: changes to how voters can cast a ballot while still complying with all the measures in place to prevent spread of the disease, and changes to how candidates and campaigns comply with new COVID-19 restrictions. The former has gotten a lot of much-deserved attention, with more places making it possible for people to request absentee ballots, new deadlines for returning mailed-in ballots, and adjusting election dates entirely. We will certainly see more of that. The latter deserves additional attention as well: candidates and ballot measure campaigns were actively underway before COVID-19 hit us and made it impossible to gather petition signatures in-person. Although some states have adjusted petition requirements and deadlines, much more should be done, and several campaigns are bringing their cases into court. This issue is just as much about fairness to voters as it is fairness to these campaigns – ballot access is what determines what choices voters will have on their ballots, and having real choices when voting is absolutely critical to a functional democracy.

This crisis has demonstrated how frail much of our electoral infrastructure is. We need to make sure that the November election has safeguards in place to ensure that a representative democracy can survive and thrive beyond this pandemic. That includes more than just voting: in between the primaries and general election, we will have the national conventions of the political parties and candidates and ballot measure committees attempting to reach voters during the campaign itself. It will also be necessary for our legislatures and courts to be able to meet and do business to pass new rules and adjudicate important disputes prior to Election Day.

 

  • Drew Penrose is Law and Policy Director for FairVote, a nonprofit group that describes itself as “a nonpartisan champion of electoral reforms that give voters greater choice, a stronger voice, and a representative democracy that works for all Americans.

 

Wisconsin’s April 7 election proceeds as 17 other states postpone March, April, and May state-level elections

Wisconsin’s spring elections proceeded as scheduled on April 7. The elections on the ballot included the state’s Democratic presidential primary, a state supreme court and three state appeals court elections, a statewide ballot measure, and several municipal and school board contests.

On April 6, the Wisconsin Supreme Court voted 4-2 to block an executive order issued earlier in the day by Governor Tony Evers (D) that would have postponed in-person voting in the spring elections to June 9. As a result, in-person voting proceeded as scheduled. Also on April 6, the U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 to stay a lower court order that had extended the absentee voting deadline. As a result, the absentee ballot postmark and in-person return deadlines were both reinstated to April 7.

Meanwhile, 17 states and one territory that were scheduled to conduct state-level elections in March, April, or May, have postponed them. These states are colored in dark blue on the map below. In another six states, state-level officials have modified, or have authorized the modification of, municipal election dates. These states are colored in light blue on the map below. Further details are provided below the map. 

  • Alabama: Primary runoff, originally scheduled for March 31, postponed to July 1.
  • Connecticut: Presidential primary, originally scheduled for April 28, postponed to June 2.
  • Delaware: Presidential primary, originally scheduled for April 28, postponed to June 2. 
  • Georgia: Presidential primary, originally scheduled for March 24, postponed to May 19.
  • Indiana: Primary, originally scheduled for May 5, postponed to June 2.
  • Kentucky: Primary, originally scheduled for May 19, postponed to June 23.
  • Louisiana: Presidential primary, originally scheduled for April 4, postponed to June 20.
  • Maryland: Primary, originally scheduled for April 28, postponed to June 2.
  • Massachusetts: Two special state Senate elections, originally scheduled for March 31, postponed to May 19. Two special state House elections, originally scheduled for March 31, postponed to June 2.
  • Mississippi: Republican primary runoff for the state’s 2nd Congressional District, originally scheduled for March 31, postponed to June 23.
  • New York: Presidential primary, originally scheduled for April 28, postponed to June 23. Special elections in the following districts also postponed to June 23: 27th Congressional District, State Senate District 50, State Assembly District 12, State Assembly District 31, State Assembly District 136.
  • North Carolina: Republican primary runoff for North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District, originally scheduled for May 12, postponed to June 23.
  • Ohio: Absentee voting in the state’s primary, originally scheduled for March 17, extended to April 27. Final date for in-person voting, restricted to individuals with disabilities and those without home mailing addresses, set for April 28.
  • Pennsylvania: Primary, originally scheduled for April 28, postponed to June 2.
  • Puerto Rico: Democratic presidential primary, originally scheduled for March 29, postponed to an unspecified future date.
  • Rhode Island: Presidential primary, originally scheduled for April 28, postponed to June 2.
  • Texas: Special election for Texas State Senate District 14, originally scheduled for May 2, postponed to July 14. Primary runoffs, originally scheduled for May 26, postponed to July 14.
  • West Virginia: Primary, originally scheduled for May 12, postponed to June 9.


Legislation tracking 

To date, we have tracked 32 bills that make some mention of both election policy and COVID-19. States with higher numbers of relevant bills are colored in darker blue on the map below. States with lower numbers of relevant bills are colored in lighter blue. In states colored white, we have tracked no relevant bills. 

Legislation related to elections and COVID-19, 2020 

Current as of April 7, 2020

Looking ahead 

In our next issue, due out April 22, we will examine the legal mechanisms states can use to modify or postpone elections. We will also take a closer look at those states that have temporarily expanded absentee voting.



Delaware becomes latest state to postpone elections in response to coronavirus outbreak

On March 24, Delaware postponed its presidential preference primary election to June 2. It was originally scheduled to take place on April 28.

Delaware is the latest state to postpone elections in response to the coronavirus outbreak. To date, the following 10 states and one territory have postponed statewide primary elections:

  • Alaska: In-person voting in Democratic presidential preference primary canceled; vote-by-mail deadline extended to April 10
  • Connecticut: Presidential preference primary postponed to June 2
  • Delaware: Presidential preference primary postponed to June 2
  • Georgia: Presidential preference primary postponed to May 19
  • Indiana: Primary postponed to June 2
  • Kentucky: Primary postponed to June 23
  • Louisiana: Presidential preference primary postponed to June 20
  • Maryland: Primary postponed to June 2
  • Ohio: In-person primary voting postponed to June 2
  • Puerto Rico: Democratic presidential preference primary postponed to April 26
  • Rhode Island: Presidential preference primary postponed to June 2

Another four states have postponed primary runoffs in congressional contests:

  • Alabama: Primary runoff elections postponed to July 14
  • Mississippi: Republican primary runoff election for the state’s 2nd Congressional District postponed to June 23
  • North Carolina: Republican primary runoff for North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District postponed to June 23
  • Texas: Primary runoff elections postponed to July 14


Missouri school board election date changed in response to COVID-19

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.

Additional reading:


Coronavirus daily update: March 19, 2020

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.

Federal responses
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
Election changes
Overview to date:
  1. Nine states changed primary or municipal election dates.
  2. One state (New York) adjusted its candidate filing requirements.
  3. Three states have either implemented or attempted to implement changes to its voting procedures.
  4. Political parties in six states have made changes to party events on a statewide basis.
Details:
  1. Connecticut – Governor Ned Lamont (D) announced the postponement of the state’s presidential preference primary to June 2.
  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.
  3. Missouri – The Missouri GOP voted to cancel its county caucuses.
State legislative changes
Overview to date:
  1. Sixteen state legislatures have suspended their sessions.
  2. Two states (Maine and Maryland) have adjourned early.
  3. Four states have implemented partial suspensions.
Details:
  1. Mississippi – The Mississippi State Legislature suspended its session, effective March 18, through April 1.
  2. 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
  1. 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.
  2. Kansas – The Kansas Supreme Court issued an order that suspended all jury trials and restricted courts to emergency operations.
  3. Washington – The Washington Supreme Court suspended all criminal and civil jury trials until after April 24.
School closures
Overview to date
  1. 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.
Details:
  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Florida
  1. U.S. Representative Mario Diaz-Balart (R) announced on March 18 that he tested positive for coronavirus.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
Georgia
  1. State Senator Brandon Beach (R) announced on March 18 that he tested positive for coronavirus.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Read more:
  1. Political responses to the coronavirus pandemic, 2020
  2. Changes to election dates, procedures, and administration in response to the coronavirus pandemic, 2020
  3. Federal, state, and local government policy changes in response to the coronavirus pandemic, 2020
  4. Political incumbents, candidates, and government officials diagnosed with COVID-19 or quarantined due to the coronavirus pandemic, 2020
  5. Changes to state legislative sessions in response to the coronavirus pandemic, 2020
  6. School closures in response to the coronavirus pandemic, 2020
  7. State court closures in response to the coronavirus pandemic, 2020
  8. Changes to ballot measure campaigns, procedures, and policies in response to the coronavirus pandemic, 2020


Filing deadline passes for state executive, legislative offices in Maine, Colorado, and Utah

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)
  • Governor
  • Lieutenant Governor
  • Attorney General
  • Auditor
  • Treasurer
  • 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.

Additional reading:


Ballot Bulletin March 2020

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 

On March 5, the Virginia House of Delegates voted 54-46 to approve a resolution placing a redistricting-related constitutional amendment on the ballot for Nov. 3, 2020. The ballot measure would transfer the authority to draft the state’s congressional and legislative district plans from the Virginia General Assembly to a 16-member redistricting commission comprising eight state legislators and eight citizens. 

What does the constitutional amendment propose? 

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

Legislation tracking 

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. 

Redistricting legislation in the United States, 2020 

Current as of March 9, 2020

Electoral systems legislation

The map below shows which states have taken up electoral systems legislation this year. A darker shade of red indicates a greater number of relevant bills. 

Electoral systems legislation in the United States, 2020 

Current as of March 9, 2020

Primary systems legislation

The map below shows which states have taken up electoral systems legislation this year. A darker shade of red indicates a greater number of relevant bills. 

Primary systems legislation in the United States, 2020 

Current as of March 9, 2020



The Ballot Bulletin: February 2020

Wisconsin governor establishes advisory redistricting commission 

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

Legislation tracking 

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. 

Redistricting legislation in the United States, 2020 

Current as of Feb. 10, 2020

Electoral systems legislation: The map below shows which states have taken up electoral systems legislation this year. A darker shade of red indicates a greater number of relevant bills. 

Electoral systems legislation in the United States, 2020 

Current as of Feb. 10, 2020

Primary systems legislation: The map below shows which states have taken up electoral systems legislation this year. A darker shade of red indicates a greater number of relevant bills. 

Primary systems legislation in the United States, 2020 

Current as of Feb. 10, 2020