Connecticut state Senator Alex Kasser (D) resigned from the legislature on June 22. Kasser, who represented District 36, cited her ongoing divorce proceedings as the reason for her resignation.
In a statement, Kasser said, “It is with deep sadness that I announce my resignation as State Senator. Serving the residents of Connecticut’s 36th Senate district has been a profound honor and a great joy. However, due to personal circumstances, I cannot continue.”
Kasser was first elected to the state Senate in 2018, defeating incumbent Scott Frantz (R), 50% to 49%. She won re-election in 2020, defeating challenger Ryan Fazio (R), 51% to 49%. Before entering politics, Kasser worked as the chair of Mount Sinai Children’s Environmental Health Center and as the director of Greening Our Children. She also founded The Parity Partnership, a non-profit organization that works to achieve equality for women in business.
When a vacancy occurs in the Connecticut state Senate, the governor must call for a special election within ten days. After the governor declares the special election, it must be held within 46 days.
Ballotpedia has identified 57 vacancies in state legislatures in 2021. Twenty-eight of these vacancies were in seats previously held by Democrats, and 29 were in seats held by Republicans. Thirty-nine of the vacancies have been filled.
Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman retired from her seat on the state’s highest court effective Friday, June 11. Her resignation letter to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) did not provide a reason for her departure. Guzman’s replacement will be Gov. Abbott’s fifth nominee to the nine-member supreme court.
Under Texas law, in the event of a midterm vacancy, the governor appoints a replacement. The Texas State Senate must then confirm the nominee. Appointees serve until the next general election, in which he or she must participate in a partisan election to remain on the bench for the remainder of the unexpired term.
Guzman joined the Texas Supreme Court in 2009. She was appointed by former Gov. Rick Perry (R).
Guzman was the first Hispanic woman appointed to the state’s highest court. Upon winning election to the seat in 2010, she became the first Hispanic woman elected to statewide office in Texas. Prior to her appointment to the supreme court, Guzman served as a district judge for Texas’ 309th District Court and as an appellate judge for Texas’ Fourteenth Court of Appeals. She practiced law as a litigator in Houston before becoming a judge. Guzman earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Houston, a J.D. from the South Texas College of Law, and an LL.M. from Duke University School of Law.
Following Guzman’s retirement, the Texas Supreme Court includes the following members:
• Nathan Hecht, appointed by Perry in 2013
• Jimmy Blacklock, appointed by Abbott in 2018
• Debra Lehrmann, appointed by Perry in 2010
• John Devine, elected in 2012
• Rebeca Huddle, appointed by Abbott in 2020
• Jane Bland, appointed by Abbott in 2019
• Jeffrey S. Boyd, appointed by Perry in 2012
• Brett Busby, appointed by Abbott in 2019
All current members of the court identify as Republicans.
In 2021, there have been 13 supreme court vacancies in 11 of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. The vacancies have been caused by retirements.
Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman resigned on June 11, 2021. Guzman’s replacement will be Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R) fifth nominee to the nine-member supreme court. At the time of Guzman’s resignation, all nine judges on the court identified with the Republican party.
Guzman was appointed to the court by Gov. Rick Perry (R) in 2009. She was elected to a full term in 2010, becoming the first Latina woman elected to statewide office in Texas. Guzman was re-elected in 2016, defeating Democrat Savannah Robinson, 56% to 39%.
Before she was appointed to the state supreme court, Guzman served as a district judge for Texas’ 309th District Court and as an appellate judge for Texas’ Fourteenth Court of Appeals.
The Texas Supreme Court is the state’s court of last resort for civil matters and has nine judgeships. Under Texas law, in the event of a midterm vacancy, the governor appoints a replacement. The appointment is subject to confirmation from the Texas State Senate. Once confirmed, the judge will serve until the next general election, at which point they must run in a partisan election to remain on the bench for the rest of the unexpired term.
In 2021, there have been 13 supreme court vacancies in 11 of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected.
Ruth Ruggero Hughs resigned as Texas secretary of state effective May 31, after the Nominations Committee of the Texas State Senate did not take up her nomination for another term.
Gov. Greg Abbott (R) appointed Hughs on August 19, 2019, to succeed David Whitley after he did not receive enough confirmation votes from the state Senate to remain in office. Hughs previously served as the chair of the Texas Workforce Commission.
The Texas secretary serves as the chief election officer for Texas, assists election officials at the county level, and ensures that election laws are uniformly throughout Texas. Additionally, the secretary publishes government rules and regulations and commissions notaries public.
Texas is one of nine states where the governor selects the secretary of state. So far, Gov. Abbott has appointed four secretaries of state.
Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter (R) announced on May 26 that he would be resigning effective June 1. Hunter cited “personal matters that are becoming public” as the reason for his resignation. The Oklahoman reported that Hunter allegedly had an affair with another state employee.
In a statement, Hunter said, “It has been a distinct and absolute privilege of a lifetime to serve as the state’s attorney general…I cannot allow a personal issue to overshadow the vital work the attorneys, agents, and support staff do on behalf of Oklahomans.”
Gov. Mary Fallin (R) appointed Hunter attorney general of Oklahoma in 2017 after former Attorney General Scott Pruitt (R) was sworn in as administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Hunter was then elected to a full term in 2018. Before his appointment as attorney general, Hunter served as secretary of state of Oklahoma from 2016 to 2017 and from 1999 to 2002. Hunter began his political career by serving in the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1984 to 1990.
The attorney general is an executive office in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, serving as the chief legal advisor and chief law enforcement officer for the state government. The office is empowered to prosecute violations of state law, represent the state in legal disputes, and issue legal advice to state agencies and the legislature.
The attorney general is an elected position in 43 states and the District of Columbia, including Oklahoma. However, when a vacancy occurs in the Oklahoma attorney general’s office, the governor appoints a successor to serve until the next election.
Idaho state Representative Aaron von Ehlinger resigned on April 29 after the Idaho House Ethics and Policy Committee found his “conduct unbecoming” of a representative and voted unanimously to recommend his immediate suspension and expulsion from the House.
Von Ehlinger said in his resignation letter, “I maintain my innocence of any wrongdoing of which I have been accused in this matter, let alone any violation of any law, rule, or policy of the state of Idaho or of this body.”
Representative Wendy Horman (R) said, “His behavior has poisoned the reputation of all of us and tarnished and discredited other elected officials who serve.”
Von Ehlinger was appointed to the Idaho House of Representatives to represent District 6A by Gov. Brad Little (R) on June 3, 2020.
If there is a vacancy in the Idaho State Legislature, the governor is responsible for appointing a replacement. The political party committee that last held the vacant seat has 15 days after the vacancy to submit a list of three recommended candidates to the governor, who selects from among those three.
Illinois state Rep. Michael Madigan (D) announced on Feb. 18 that he would resign from the Illinois General Assembly. Madigan has been a member of the state House since 1971, representing District 22.
“Fifty years ago, I decided to dedicate my life to public service,” Madigan said in a statement. “Simply put, I knew I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives. I believed then and still do today that it is our duty as public servants to improve the lives of the most vulnerable and help hardworking people build a good life. These ideals have been the cornerstone of my work on behalf of the people of Illinois and the driving force throughout my time in the Illinois House.”
Madigan served as House speaker from 1983 until 1995, when the Republican Party gained control of the chamber, and again from 1997 to 2021. In 2017, Madigan became the longest-serving state House speaker in U.S. history. In 2021, he was not re-elected as speaker after Illinois utility company Commonwealth Edison admitted its involvement in an effort to influence Madigan to pass favorable legislation through offering jobs, contracts, and payments to his associates. Madigan was not charged with a crime and has denied any wrongdoing or knowledge of the scheme. Chris Welch (D) was elected to succeed Madigan as speaker on Jan. 13.
Vacancies in the Illinois General Assembly are filled by appointment by the party which last held the seat. Vacancies must be filled within 30 days by the respective party organizations covering the legislative district. As a member of the Cook County Democratic Party, Madigan has a role in choosing his successor.
The Illinois House of Representatives is the lower chamber of the Illinois General Assembly. With Madigan’s resignation, the partisan breakdown of the chamber will be 72 Democrats, 45 Republicans, and one vacancy.
On Feb. 15, Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson announced her intention to resign, citing health and family reasons. Lawson said she will be leaving office as soon as a successor appointed by Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) is ready to take office.
“I have dedicated the last 32 years of my life to public service,” Lawson said in a statement. “I have served with all of my heart and soul. It has been an honor to serve, but it is time for me to step down. Like many Hoosiers, 2020 took a toll on me. I am resigning so I can focus on my health and my family. I will work with Governor Holcomb to ensure our next Secretary of State is up to the task and has the tools and resources to hit the ground running.”
Lawson was first appointed as secretary of state by Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) on March 16, 2012. She filled the vacancy created by the resignation of Charlie White after he was convicted of six felonies related to voter fraud. Lawson was re-elected in 2014 and 2018, defeating Democratic challengers Beth White and Jim Harper. She will resign before her term would have expired in January 2023. Her tenure of nearly nine years is the longest in the history of the office.
The Indiana secretary of state is one of five statewide, elected offices established by Indiana’s Constitution. They are responsible for maintaining state records, overseeing the state’s elections, and chartering new businesses, among other duties.
Sen. Heather Steans (D) resigned from the Illinois state Senate on Jan. 31. She represented District 7 from 2008 to 2021.
Steans ran uncontested for re-election on Nov. 3, 2020. According to ABC 7, Steans said she was resigning because “it’s time for fresh faces and new energy…I’ve benefited tremendously from the many perspectives of the people I’ve represented. We’ve made great progress together, and now it’s time to pass the baton.”
If there is a vacancy in the Senate, the Illinois Constitution mandates that the seat must be filled by appointment within 30 days after the vacancy. If a vacancy by a member of the Senate has more than 28 months remaining in the term, the appointment is interim until the next general election and in this case, a special election must be held to fill the balance of the unserved term. All other Senate vacancies should be made by appointment with the person appointed being a member of the same political party that last held the seat. The vacancy must be filled by the respective party organizations covering the legislative district.
As of Feb. 4, 2021, there have been 22 vacancies in 17 state legislatures this year. Four of those vacancies have been filled, with 18 vacancies remaining. Stean’s vacancy is one of ten Democratic vacancies that have occurred in 2021. So far, two vacancies have been filled by Republicans, while two have been filled by Democrats.
Pennsylvania Secretary of the Commonwealth Kathy Boockvar (D) is expected to resign on February 5, 2021, after her office failed to advertise a constitutional amendment as the state constitution requires. Voters could have decided the constitutional amendment at the election on May 18, 2021, but the two-session process will need to restart. The earliest the amendment could be referred to the ballot is now May 16, 2023.
The constitutional amendment would have created a two-year period in which persons can file civil suits arising from childhood sexual abuse that would otherwise be considered outside the statute of limitations. A 2018 grand jury report that investigated child sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church recommended the two-year litigation window.
A constitutional amendment must be approved at two successive sessions of the Pennsylvania Legislature. During the 2019-2020 legislative session, both legislative chambers approved the amendment. It was reintroduced during the 2021-2022 session, and the state House re-approved it on January 27.
The Pennsylvania Constitution (Section 1 of Article XI) required Secretary of the Commonwealth Kathy Boockvar (D) to publish the constitutional amendment in at least two newspapers in each of the state’s 67 counties during each of the three months before the general election following approval in the first legislative session (November 3, 2020). On February 1, 2021, the Pennsylvania Department of State announced that officials did not advertise the constitutional amendment as required. The department’s press released said, “While the department will take every step possible to expedite efforts to move this initiative forward, the failure to advertise the proposed constitutional amendment means the process to amend the constitution must now start from the beginning.”
Gov. Tom Wolf (D), in announcing Boockvar’s resignation, said, “The delay caused by this human error will be heartbreaking for thousands of survivors of childhood sexual assault, advocates, and legislators, and I join the Department of State in apologizing to you. I share your anger and frustration that this happened, and I stand with you in your fight for justice.” State Rep. Jim Gregory (R-80), one of the amendment’s legislative cosponsors in 2019, responded, “The gravity of this ‘error’ is of the magnitude that the secretary’s resignation will not be enough for the victims. I do not want to believe that this is willful misconduct on the part of someone, but I will need to be shown that is not the case.”
Pennsylvania is not the only state to miss a constitutionally required advertisement period for a constitutional amendment in recent years. In 2019, Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate (R) said that his office failed to report two constitutional amendments that the 86th Iowa General Assembly (2017-2018) approved in 2018. This meant those amendments couldn’t go on the 2020 ballot and the process had to start over. One of those amendments, a measure to add a right to firearms to the state constitution, was certified for the 2022 ballot on January 28.
Like the Pennsylvania Constitution, the Iowa Constitution required notifications of the constitutional amendments to be published at least three months before the general election following approval in the first legislative session. Unlike Pennsylvania, the Iowa Constitution doesn’t specify who needs to publish the amendment. Rather, it is set in statute. In response to the error, the Iowa Legislature passed a bill to make the state legislature, rather than the secretary of state, responsible for publishing proposed constitutional amendments passed in one legislative session.
Since the Pennsylvania Constitution specifically requires the secretary of the commonwealth to publish amendments, a constitutional amendment would be needed to pursue a similar policy change as Iowa.
Thirty-six state constitutions have a publication requirement for proposed constitutional amendments. Most require public notice prior to the election at which voters are to decide a constitutional amendment.
In six states (out of 13) with a two-session process for legislatively referred constitutional amendments, there are constitutionally mandated publication requirements in between approval in the first legislative session and the second legislative session. Those states are Iowa, Nevada, New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Wisconsin.