As of December 9, the results of two U.S. House elections remain uncertain. The election in New York’s 22nd Congressional District is too close to call amid an ongoing legal challenge surrounding partial recounts. In Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District, Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R) was certified as the winner by state election officials as winning by a margin of six votes. Runner-up Rita Hart (D) announced she would contest the results before the U.S. House’s Administration Committee. Both elections are on track to be among the closest Congressional races in recent decades.
In 2018, 1,894 elections within Ballotpedia’s coverage scope were decided by margins of 10 percentage points or fewer, including primaries where candidates won election outright.
Broken down by level of office, 105 of these races were federal, 1,217 were state-level, and 572 were local.
Federal races in 2018 were decided by a smaller average margin-of-victory (MOV) than in any even-year elections since 2012. The narrowest MOV in 2018 was 0.12 percentage points in Florida’s U.S. Senate election.
At the state level, the narrowest MOV was 0.008 percentage points in the election for Kentucky House of Representatives District 13. Among local races within our coverage scope, the narrowest margin was 0.017 percentage points in the election for one of Maricopa County’s seats on the Central Arizona Water Conservation board.
There were 258 races decided by margins under one percentage point in 2018. This includes 20 races where the MOV was ten votes or fewer. Two races in 2018 were decided by a single vote: the election for District 1 of the Alaska House of Representatives and the election for District 13 of the Kentucky House of Representatives.
Robert L. Carter became a justice of the Illinois Supreme Court on December 8, 2020. Carter was nominated to the court on November 10 to replace former Justice Thomas Kilbride, who lost the seat after failing to meet the 60% vote threshold required by Illinois law for judges to remain on the bench. Kilbride received 56.5% of the vote in his retention election on November 3.
Under Illinois law, the Illinois Supreme Court appoints its own interim members in the event of a vacancy, as in this case. Justice Carter will serve until December 5, 2022, when he will be required to run in a partisan election for the seat. The winner of that election will serve a full 10-year term on the seven-member supreme court. Including Carter, four justices joined the court through appointment; the other three justices were elected.
Prior to his appointment to the Illinois Supreme Court, Carter was a judge of the Illinois Third District Appellate Court from 2006 to 2020. He was appointed to the position to succeed Judge Tobias Barry. Before that, Carter was a judge of the Illinois 13th Circuit Court from 1979 to 2006. He became the chief judge in 1993.
Carter obtained an A.B. in 1968 and a J.D. in 1974 from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. He also received his M.A. in administration from Sangamon State University (now the University of Illinois, Springfield) in 1974. Before attending graduate and law school, he served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam in 1969 and 1970.
In 2020, there have been 23 supreme court vacancies in 16 of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. One vacancy occurred when a chief justice died, one vacancy occurred when a justice was not retained, and 21 vacancies were caused by retirements.
Voters in 12 states voted on 19 ballot measures addressing tax-related policies on Nov. 3. Ten of the measures addressed taxes on properties, three were related to income tax rates, two addressed tobacco taxes, one addressed business-related taxes, one addressed sales tax rates, one addressed fees and surcharges, and one was related to tax-increment financing (TIF).
The three measures concerning state income taxes were on the ballot in Arizona, Colorado, and Illinois. Arizona voters approved a measure to add a surtax for income above a certain level to fund education. Colorado voters approved an income tax decrease. Illinois voters defeated a measure to allow for a graduated income tax.
Arizona Proposition 208 was approved by a vote of 51.75% to 48.25%. The measure enacted a 3.50% income tax, in addition to the existing income tax, on taxable income above $250,000 (single filing) or $500,000 (joint filing). As of 2020, the highest income tax in Arizona was 4.50%, which was levied on income above $159,000 (single filing) or $318,000 (joint filing). Based on the existing income tax rates, the ballot initiative has the effect of increasing the tax rate from 4.50% to 8.00% on income above $250,000 (single filing) or $500,000 (joint filing). The Invest in Education PAC was registered in support of the ballot initiative. The PAC received $21.6 million in contributions. The Arizonans for Great Schools and a Strong Economy and No on 208 PACs were registered in opposition to the ballot initiative. The PACs received $5.7 million in contributions.
Colorado Proposition 116 was designed to decrease the state income tax rate from 4.63% to 4.55% for individuals, estates, trusts, and foreign and domestic C corporations operating in Colorado. It was approved by a vote of 57.88% to 42.12%.
The Colorado individual income tax rate has been a flat tax rate since 1987. The flat tax was 5% from 1987 to 1998. It was lowered to 4.75% in 1999. The rate has been 4.63% since 2000. Energize our Economy (306 Real Fair Tax) and Americans for Prosperity Colorado Issue Committee raised $1.55 million in contributions to support the measure. Protect Colorado’s Recovery and Fair Tax Colorado reported $3.19 million in contributions to oppose the measure.
An amendment to authorize the state to enact legislation providing for a graduated income tax was on the ballot in Illinois where it was defeated by a vote of 45.46% to 54.54%. The ballot measure would have repealed the state’s constitutional requirement that the state’s personal income tax is a flat rate across income. Instead, the ballot measure would have allowed the state to enact legislation for a graduated income tax. In Illinois, income is taxed at a flat rate of 4.95%.
The Vote Yes For Fairness, Vote Yes for Fair Tax, and Yes to a Financially Responsible Illinois PACs were registered to support the constitutional amendment. Together, the committees had raised $60.33 million. Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) contributed 94 percent of the PACs’ total combined funds.
The Vote No On The Blank Check Amendment, Coalition To Stop The Proposed Tax Hike, and Chambers Against Progressive Income Tax PACs were registered to oppose the constitutional amendment. Together, the committees had raised $60.86 million. Ken Griffin, the founder and CEO of Citadel, contributed 88 percent of the PACs’ total combined funds.
Going into the 2020 election, 43 states levied a tax on personal income. Of these 43 states, 11 states had a flat income tax rate, meaning there is a constant rate across income before deductions and exemptions. The flat income tax rates ranged from 2.00% in Tennessee to 5.25% in North Carolina. Tennessee’s income tax was scheduled to be reduced to 1.00% in 2020 and to be repealed entirely in 2021. Most (32 of 50) states had a graduated income tax, with different rates applied to different levels of income.
Incumbent Rodney Davis (R) defeated challenger Betsy Londrigan (D) in Illinois’ 13th Congressional District, winning a fifth term in the U.S. House.
The race was one of 56 U.S. House rematches taking place this year; Londrigan was Davis’ challenger in 2018 as well. That year, he won 51% to 50%, down from 60% to 40% in 2016 and 59% to 41% in 2014. Preliminary results suggest Davis expanded his margin over Londrigan this year, winning 55% to 45%.
Both parties’ national committees targeted this district; the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) named Davis to its Patriot Program and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) named Londrigan to its Red to Blue program. The NRCC and Congressional Leadership Fund spent a combined $5.5 million on the race, while the DCCC and House Majority PAC spent a combined $6.2 million.
Illinois voters rejected a constitutional amendment to allow for a graduated income tax by a vote of 55% against to 45% in favor.
The ballot measure would have repealed the state’s constitutional requirement that the state’s personal income tax is a flat rate across income. Instead, the ballot measure would have allowed the state to enact legislation for a graduated income tax.
More than $121 million was raised by supporters and opponents of the measure. Supporters raised $60.33 million, including $56.5 million from Gov. J.B. Pritzker. Opponents raised $60.86 million, including $53.8 million from Citadel CEO Kenneth C. Griffin.
This measure was the most expensive of 2020 outside of California.
On October 22, 2020, the Illinois Supreme Court decided Goral v. Dart, a case on police officers’ right to due process to claim backpay.
The case concerned a decision regarding the legitimacy of Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart’s Merit Board. The Illinois Supreme Court upheld an appellate court’s decision which determined that officers suspended without pay could sue the sheriff’s office over the legitimacy of the merit board’s determination that those officers would be suspended without pay. The decision allows the officers to resume their case in circuit court where they may seek repayment for lost wages during their suspensions.
Justice P. Scott Neville (D) wrote the majority opinion in the case and was joined by Justices Thomas Kilbride (D) and Lloyd Karmeier (R) as well as Chief Justice Anne M. Burke (D). Justice Michael J. Burke (R) dissented, with opinion, joined by Justices Rita Garman (R) and Mary Jane Theis (D).
Attorneys Chris Cooper and Cass Casper, attorneys for the suspended police officers, said “Today Tom Dart is being told in crystal clear language that the officers are entitled to due process and entitled to their backpay.”
Sheriff’s office spokesman Matthew Walberg said, “Today’s Illinois Supreme Court decision is a catastrophic blow to law enforcement accountability… The decision rewards employees who engaged in criminal, unethical and despicable conduct at the expense of Illinois taxpayers.”
The election on November 3, 2020, will decide three seats on the Illinois Supreme Court:
District 1: Justices Neville is up for election. He was appointed by the Illinois Supreme Court to fill a vacancy on the court. Illinois is the only state in the country that allows the state supreme court to choose who fills a vacant seat on the court.
District 3: Justice Kilbride faces a yes-no retention election to keep his seat on the state supreme court.
District 5: Justice Karmeier’s seat is also up for election. Karmeier announced his retirement on December 6, 2019.
Over $107 million has been raised for and against a constitutional amendment that would allow for a graduated income tax in Illinois. On November 3, voters will decide the constitutional amendment, which wouldn’t require a graduated income tax itself. Rather, the amendment would repeal the state constitution’s requirement that the state personal income tax is a flat rate. In 2019, the Illinois State Legislature passed a bill that would enact a graduated income tax with six brackets should voters approve the amendment.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker advocated for a graduated income tax on the campaign trail in 2018. Through October 2, Pritzker provided $56.50 million, or 96 percent, of the support campaign’s $59.00 million. “People like me should pay more and people like you should pay less,” said Pritzker.
Opponents of the constitutional amendment have organized several PACs, which together raised $58.69 million through October 2. Kenneth Griffin, CEO of the investment firm Citadel, contributed $46.75, or 96 percent, of the opposition campaign’s total funds. Griffin said a graduated income tax would mean “the continued exodus of families and businesses, loss of jobs and inevitably higher taxes on everyone.”
Pritzker and Griffin have each provided 96 percent of their respective side’s total campaign funds. On the support side, other top donors include the AARP ($674,445), the Omidyar Network ($500,000), and the National Education Association ($350,000). On the opposition side, other top donors include the Illinois Opportunity Project ($550,000), Duchossois Group Executive Chair Craig Duchossois ($200,000), and Petco Petroleum CEO Jay Bergman ($200,000).
Of the 128 statewide ballot measures in 2020, the Illinois constitutional amendment has the second-largest sum of contributions to its support and opposition campaign. In September, The Chicago Tribute reported that the Illinois constitutional amendment “is expected to be the most expensive ballot proposition debate in Illinois history.”
The most expensive in the country for 2020 is California Proposition 22, which would define app-based drivers as independent contractors. The combined support and opposition campaign contributions exceeded $200 million on October 2. Uber, Lyft, Instacart, Doordash, and Postmates provided $186.19 million to the campaign supporting Proposition 22. Opposing PACs received $13.91 million through October 2, with top funders including labor unions, such as the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, SEIU-UHW West, and Service Employees International Union.
There is one state constitutional amendment on the ballot in Illinois for November 3, 2020. The constitutional amendment would repeal the requirement that the state’s personal income tax is a flat rate across income. Instead, the amendment would allow for legislation to enact a graduated income tax. Contributions to the campaigns surrounding the amendment have topped $80 million.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) advocated for a graduated income tax structure for Illinois during his 2018 gubernatorial campaign. One of his former staffers, Quentin Fulks, is chairing the campaign Vote Yes for Fairness to support the amendment. Through September 18, the campaign Vote Yes For Fairness, along with allied committees, had received $58.97 million. Gov. Pritzker provided the campaign with $56.5 million, or 96 percent of supporters’ total funds. Other top donors include the AARP ($664,680), Omidyar Network ($500,000), National Education Association ($350,000), and American Federation of Teachers ($250,000).
Opponents of the constitutional amendment have organized four PACs, and two of them have received funds through September 18—the Coalition to Stop the Proposed Tax Hike and the Say No to More Taxes. Between the PACs, opponents had received $21.65 million. Kenneth Griffin, CEO of the investment firm Citadel, contributed $20.00 million to the Coalition to Stop the Proposed Tax Hike. The Illinois Opportunity Project, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization, donated $550,000. Other top donors—who each gave $100,000—include Richard Uihlein, the Samuel Zell Revocable Trust, and MacNeil Automotive Products.
While the constitutional amendment itself would not adopt a graduated income tax, the Illinois State Legislature passed legislation to go into effect if voters approve the amendment. The legislation would change the state’s income tax from a flat rate to six graduated rates beginning on January 1, 2021. Currently, income is taxed at a flat rate of 4.95% in Illinois. Under the bill, the proposed tax rates would range from 4.75% to 7.99%.
At the election on November 3, the constitutional amendment needs to receive either (a) 60 percent of votes cast on the ballot measure itself or (b) a simple majority of all of those voting in the election. Since 1996, voters have approved 83 percent of the constitutional amendments put on the ballot by the legislature. The last amendment that was rejected would have required a three-fifths approval by the General Assembly, city councils, and school districts to increase the pension benefits of their employees.
The Illinois constitutional amendment is one of three income tax-related ballot measures in 2020. In Arizona, Proposition 208 would enact a 3.50% income tax, in addition to the existing income tax (4.50% in 2020), on income above $250,000 (single filing) or $500,000 (joint filing). Proposition 208 would distribute the revenue from the 3.50% income tax to teacher and classroom support staff salaries, retention programs, and career and technical education programs. In Colorado, Proposition 116 would decrease the state’s flat income tax rate from 4.63% to 4.55%.
Through June 30, 2020, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) contributed $56.5 million to the campaign Vote Yes For Fairness. The campaign is backing a ballot measure to repeal the state’s constitutional requirement that the state personal income tax be a flat rate. It would, instead, allow the state to enact legislation for a graduated income tax.
Quentin Fulks, a former campaign staffer for Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s (D) 2018 gubernatorial campaign and the leader of the 501(c)(4) nonprofit Think Big Illinois, is chairperson of Vote Yes for Fairness. He said, “We’re grateful for the contribution [from Gov. Pritzker]… and we hope other individuals who have the means will step up and contribute to our effort to get the fair tax passed.”
Pritzker advocated for a graduated income tax during his campaign for governor in 2018. He defeated incumbent Gov. Bruce Rauner (R), giving Democrats control of the state Legislature and governor’s office in Illinois. In May 2019, legislative Democrats voted to pass the constitutional amendment. Legislative Republicans opposed the constitutional amendment. Legislators also passed a statute, which would go into effect upon voter approval of the constitutional amendment, to change the state’s income tax from a flat rate to six graduated rates beginning on January 1, 2021.
Opponents of the ballot measure have organized two PACs—Vote No On The Blank Check Amendment and the Coalition to Stop the Proposed Tax Hike. Vote No has not reported contributions, and the Coalition registered as a committee on July 14. Greg Baise, former president of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association and the leader of the 501(c)(4) nonprofit Ideas Illinois, is the chairperson of Vote No On The Blank Check Amendment. Members of the Coalition include NFIB, the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, and the Illinois Farm Bureau. Todd Maisch, president of the Illinois Chamber, said, “We don’t need to spend dollar for dollar because this is, frankly, an unpopular idea once voters figure out what’s really going on. … If the proponents were certain that they had this in the bag, would they have written a $51 million check? I don’t think so.”
In Illinois, the vote requirement for constitutional amendments is either (a) 60 percent of votes cast on the ballot measure itself or (b) a simple majority of all of those voting in the election. The income tax constitutional amendment is the only ballot measure that has been placed on this year’s statewide ballot in Illinois.
Arthur Turner II (D), formerly the Deputy Majority Leader in the Illinois House of Representatives, resigned on July 3. He had represented the 9th District in the chamber since 2011. Turner’s father, Arthur Turner, previously held the seat from 1981 until his son took office.
Turner did not file for re-election this year. Lakesia Collins won the Democratic primary in the district on March 17 with 46% of the vote. The Republican primary was canceled. Collins is running unopposed in the general election on November 3. Officials from the Democratic Party committee in Turner’s district will appoint a replacement to serve until the end of his term, which expires in January 2021.
There are nine open seats in the Illinois House of Representatives elections this year in which the incumbent did not file for re-election, including Turner’s. That’s the fewest number of any election in the chamber in the last decade. Of the incumbents who did not file for re-election, six are Republicans and three are Democrats. Two incumbents were defeated in the March primaries, both Democrats who had been appointed to their positions.
In the 2018 elections, which had the most open seats of any election since 2010, Democrats increased their seat holdings in the Illinois House from 67-51 to 74-44. The gain created a supermajority for the party in the chamber.