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Ballotpedia publishes state court partisanship study

Each state has at least one supreme court, or court of last resort. Oklahoma and Texas each have two such courts, one for civil appeals and one for criminal appeals. Ballotpedia Courts: State Partisanship—a culmination of eight months of research and compilation of raw data—supplies Partisan Confidence Scores for 341 active state supreme court justices on all 52 courts of last resort. 

We gathered a variety of data on each justice and, based on that data, placed each justice into one of five categories indicating our confidence in their affiliations with either the Democratic or Republican Parties.

These categories are Strong Democratic ConfidenceMild Democratic ConfidenceIndeterminate ConfidenceMild Republican Confidence, and Strong Republican Confidence

The study does not specifically describe the partisan affiliation of judges. We call our scores Confidence Scores because we believe they provide insight into the degree of confidence we have in each justice’s political leanings because of their previous partisan activity.

Here are some of the key findings from the study:

  1. Of the 341 justices studied, we assigned Republican scores to 178 (52.2%), Democratic scores to 114 (33.4%), and Indeterminate scores to 49 (14.4%). 
  2. Twenty-seven states (54%) have a majority of justices with Republican scores. Fifteen state supreme courts (30%) have a majority of justices with Democratic scores. Eight state supreme courts (16%) do not have a majority of justices with Democratic scores or Republican scores. 
  3. 39.9% of the population live in a state which has a majority of justices with Democratic scores on the court. 51.1% of citizens live in a state which has a majority of justices with Republican scores on the court. 9% of citizens live in a state with a split court, or a court with a majority of justices with indeterminate partisan leanings. 

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How much debt does your state’s government have per person?

The average per capita debt across all 50 states in 2018 was $3,600. Nineteen states were above this per-capita average, with 31 states below. In 2000, average state debt per capita was $1,942.

In 2018, the states with the least debt per capita were: 

  • Tennessee ($929 per capita)
  • Nebraska ($1,068)
  • Nevada ($1,135)
  • Georgia ($1,266)
  • Florida ($1,299). 

The states with the highest debt per capita were: 

  • Massachusetts ($11,423)
  • Connecticut ($11,280)
  • Rhode Island ($8,593)
  • Alaska ($8,011)
  • and New York ($7,576). 

The US Census Bureau defines debt as “all long-term credit obligations of the government and its agencies whether backed by the governments’ full faith and credit or non-guaranteed, and all interest-bearing short-term credit obligations,” and includes “judgments, mortgages, and revenue bonds, as well as general obligations bonds, notes, and interest-bearing warrants.” State debt includes financial arrangements where a state-affiliated institution (like a public university), a hospital, or a quasi-governmental authority (like a stadium district) issues debt that the state government guarantees, but the entity makes the debt payments. The definition does not include underfunded pension obligations as state debt.



Democrats, Republicans each defending eight vulnerable trifectas this year

Sixteen state trifectas are vulnerable in 2020, according to Ballotpedia’s trifecta vulnerability rating system. Both major parties will be defending eight trifectas.

A state government trifecta occurs when one party holds the governorship and majorities in both chambers of the state legislature. There are currently 21 Republican trifectas and 15 Democratic trifectas. The remaining 14 states have divided governments.

Ballotpedia calculates the chances of trifectas breaking and forming by assessing the chances of each individual component changing control. We assess gubernatorial races with ratings from The Cook Political ReportInside Elections, and Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball. We assess state legislatures according to the absolute number of seats up for election and the proportion of seats that would need to flip for partisan control to change. Both chambers in a state’s legislature are evaluated individually.

Ballotpedia classifies the Democratic trifectas in five states as moderately vulnerable—Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Nevada, and Oregon. Three Democratic trifectas—Delaware, Illinois, and New Mexico—are considered somewhat vulnerable.
The Republican trifecta in Florida is the only trifecta Ballotpedia rated as highly vulnerable this year. Four Republican trifectas—in Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, and West Virginia are classified as moderately vulnerable. The Republican trifectas in Ohio, South Carolina, and Texas are somewhat vulnerable.

Ballotpedia also assessed the chances of new trifectas forming in states that are currently under divided government. States that qualified as a possible Democratic trifecta pickup according to our methodology are Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, while Republicans have pickup chances in Alaska and New Hampshire. In Montana and North Carolina, both parties qualify for a pickup opportunity.

For more details and the full report, click here:
https://ballotpedia.org/Trifecta_vulnerability_in_the_2020_elections

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When do election winners take office?

Image of several stickers with the words "I voted"

With the 2020 election cycle coming to a close, voters may be wondering how quickly those they elected will take office. At the federal level, members of Congress will be sworn in on January 3, 2021, and the president will be sworn in on January 20, 2021.

Wondering about state-level offices? Check out Ballotpedia’s page, “Swearing-in dates of state legislators elected on November 3, 2020.” We also have information for state executives on their office overviews.

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Candidates advance from Democratic and Republican conventions in Michigan

In Michigan, the Democratic Party and Republican Party both held their nominating conventions for state supreme court and state executive offices on August 29, 2020. Candidates were nominated to advance to the general election scheduled for November 3, 2020.

Candidates were selected for nomination to the following offices:
• Michigan Supreme Court (2 seats)
• Michigan State Board of Education (2 seats)
• University of Michigan Board of Regents (2 seats)
• Michigan State University Board of Trustees (2 seats)

• Wayne State University Board of Governors (2 seats)

In the state supreme court election, one incumbent—Bridget Mary McCormack—filed for re-election and advanced to the general election as one of two candidates nominated by the Democratic Party. In Michigan, state supreme court candidates are nominated in partisan primaries, but the general election is nonpartisan.

In the state executive races, four incumbents filed for re-election and four were confirmed as nominees to advance to the general election. Four incumbents did not file for re-election.

The remaining candidates up for election to these offices were selected by the following parties at their respective nominating conventions:
• Green Party: June 20, 2020
• Libertarian Party: July 18, 2020
• U.S. Taxpayers Party of Michigan: July 25, 2020

• Natural Law Party: July 30, 2020

Additional reading


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