Saturday, October 31, 2020

SCOTUS upholds absentee/mail-in ballot return extensions in North Carolina, Pennsylvania

Previewing this week's state, local elections
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The State and Local Tap

Welcome to the weekend! We've compiled the noteworthy happenings in state and local politics below. To read the full version, follow the link as always.

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SCOTUS upholds absentee/mail-in ballot return extensions in North Carolina, Pennsylvania

On Oct. 28, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to block absentee/mail-in ballot return deadline extensions in North Carolina and Pennsylvania.

  • North Carolina: The court declined to reinstate North Carolina's statutory absentee/mail-in ballot return deadline, allowing the state election board's extension to stand. Ballots postmarked on or before Election Day will be counted so long as they are received by 5 p.m. on Nov. 12.
  • Pennsylvania: The court declined to expedite consideration of a case involving the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's extension of the state's mail-in ballot return deadline, allowing the extended deadline to stand. Ballots postmarked on or before Election Day will be counted so long as they are received by 5 p.m. on Nov. 6.

Voters to decide 196 state executive elections

Ballotpedia is covering 196 state executive seats across 29 states, Washington, D.C., and the five United States territories—American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S Virgin Islands. Our coverage includes 13 governors, 10 lieutenant governors, 10 attorneys general, seven secretaries of state, and 156 down-ballot seats. There are 118 incumbents on the ballot, leaving 78 seats guaranteed to go to newcomers. Governors in Montana, Utah, and American Samoa did not file for re-election.

  • Ballotpedia has identified 10 state executive elections as battleground races. Here are two races we're watching:
    • Governor of North Carolina: Incumbent Roy Cooper (D) faces challengers Dan Forest (R), Al Pisano (Constitution Party), and Steven DiFiore II (L). Cooper was first elected in 2016, defeating incumbent Pat McCrory (R) 49.0% to 48.8% as Donald Trump (R) won the state 50% to 46% over Hillary Clinton (D). 
    • Washington Secretary of State: Incumbent Kim Wyman (R) faces challenger Gael Tarleton (D) as she seeks a third term as Washington's top elections administrator. Wyman and state Treasurer Duane Davidson (R) are the only Republican state executives in Washington government. Tarleton would be the first Democrat to win election to the office since 1960.

5,904 state legislative seats in 44 states up for election on Nov. 3

Forty-four states and five United States territories—American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S Virgin Islands—are holding state legislative general elections on Nov. 3.

  • There are 5,904 seats up for regular election, and 15 seats up for special election, meaning 5,919 state legislative seats are on the ballot on Nov. 3. Incumbents running for re-election make up 82.4 percent (4,870) of the candidates running for the state legislative seats.
  • Alabama, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, New Jersey, and Virginia are the six states not holding regular state legislative elections in 2020.

Ballotpedia to cover races for 2,449 local seats on Nov. 3

There are 2,336 local seats on the ballot this November in America's 100 largest cities based on population, the 200 largest school districts based on student enrollment, and Washington, D.C. Ballotpedia is also covering a cumulative 113 seats in Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and Puerto Rico.

Ballotpedia identified three local races as battlegrounds:

  • Miami-Dade County Mayor: Esteban Bovo Jr. and Daniella Levine Cava are running for Miami-Dade County's open mayoral office. Although the race is officially nonpartisan, organizations associated with the Republican Party have backed Bovo and organizations associated with the Democratic Party have backed Levine Cava. No Democratic-associated candidate has won election as Miami-Dade county mayor since 2004.
  • Mayor of Portland, Oregon: Incumbent Ted Wheeler faces challenger Sarah Iannarone and write-in challenger Teressa Raiford in a nonpartisan election for mayor of Portland. In the May 19 primary, Wheeler won 49.1% of the vote, falling short of the 50% needed to win outright. Wheeler's endorsers include United for Portland, a group that includes the Service Employees International Union, the Portland Business Alliance, and the Portland NAACP. Iannarone's include Our Revolution and the Oregon Progressive Party.
  • Los Angeles County District Attorney: Incumbent Jackie Lacey faces challenger George Gascón in a nonpartisan election to run the nation's largest prosecutorial office. Lacey and Gascón received 48.7% and 28.2% of the vote in the top-two primary, respectively. Gascón served two terms as San Francisco's district attorney, having first been elected in 2011.

State legislators, candidates test positive for coronavirus

  • On Oct. 24, several Utah officials and candidates announced positive COVID-19 tests:
    • State Sen. Dan McCay (R), who represents District 11, announced he had tested positive for COVID-19.
    • Robert Burch Jr. (D), a candidate for Utah House of Representatives District 30, announced he had tested positive for COVID-19.
    • Fatima Dirie (D), a candidate for Utah House of Representatives District 33, announced she had tested positive for COVID-19.
  •  On Oct. 24, Arkansas state Rep. Charlene Fite, who represents District 80, announced she had tested positive for COVID-19.
  • On Oct. 25, Aurora, CO, Mayor Mike Coffman (R) announced he had tested positive for COVID-19.
  • On Oct. 26, Arkansas State Senate president Jim Hendren (R) announced Sen. Cecile Bledsoe (R) had tested positive for COVID-19.

Mississippi adds counties to mask mandate

  • Gov. Tate Reeves (R) issued an executive order extending the state's additional mitigation measures to seven more counties, bringing the total number of counties under the order to 16. The order limits gatherings to 10 people indoors and 50 people outdoors. It also requires masks in all indoor public places where social distancing cannot be maintained.
  • Thirty-three states have statewide orders requiring individuals to wear masks in indoor or outdoor public spaces. All 24 states with a Democratic governor have statewide mask orders, while nine out of 26 Republican states require face coverings.

Connecticut, New Jersey modify travel restrictions list

On Oct. 28, Govs. Ned Lamont (D-Conn.) and Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) announced that Massachusetts had been added to the quarantine list. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) urged New Yorkers to limit non-essential travel to Massachusetts and other neighboring states.

Hawaii governor appoints Eddins to state supreme court

  • Hawaii Gov. David Ige (D) appointed Todd Eddins to the Hawaii Supreme Court. Pending confirmation from the Hawaii State Senate, Eddins will succeed Justice Richard W. Pollack, who retired on June 30 after reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70 years. Eddins is Ige's first nominee to the five-member supreme court.
  • Under Hawaii law, state supreme court justices are selected through the assisted appointment method. The governor chooses an appointee from a list of candidates submitted by the judicial nominating commission. The nominee requires confirmation from the Hawaii State Senate.
  • Eddins became a judge of the O'ahu First Circuit of Hawaii in 2017 after being appointed by Gov. Ige on Feb. 9. The Hawaii State Senate confirmed Eddins on Mar. 3, 2017.
  • Before his appointment to the O'ahu First Circuit, Eddins worked as a trial lawyer for the Office of the Public Defender. He also served as a clerk for Justice Yoshimi Hayashi of the Hawaii Supreme Court.

October 2020 breakdown of state legislative party membership: 46.80% Democrats, 52.07% Republicans

  • 46.80% of all state legislators are Democrats and 52.07% are Republicans, according to Ballotpedia's October partisan count of the 7,383 state legislators across the United States.
  • Nationally, the state legislatures include 1,972 state senators and 5,411 state representatives.

Ballot measures update

  • Unless courts remove other measures from the ballot, the 2020 statewide measures are finalized. Voters in 32 states will decide 120 statewide ballot measures on Nov. 3.
  • Notable topics addressed by Nov. 3 measures include:
    • Elections policy: Eighteen measures in 14 states concern election policy, including campaign finance, election dates, election systems, redistricting, suffrage, and term limits.
    • Taxes: Voters in 12 states will vote on 19 ballot measures addressing tax-related policies.
    • Marijuana and drug policy: Four states will vote on recreational marijuana legalization initiatives, and two states will vote on medical marijuana initiatives. Oregon could also become the first state to establish a program for legal psilocybin mushroom use and decriminalize all drugs if voters approve Measure 109 and Measure 110.
  • Including the eight measures on the ballot earlier this year and one measure on the ballot in December, a total of 129 statewide ballot measures were certified for the 2020 ballot in 34 states.
    • Forty-three of the certified measures are citizen-initiated measures. Eighty-one are legislative referrals. One is an automatic constitutional revision commission question. Four are advisory measures in Washington.

State legislative special elections

Fifty-nine state legislative special elections have been scheduled in 27 states so far this year, with 41 elections having taken place already. Heading into those races, Democrats had previously controlled 15 of the seats, while Republicans previously controlled 26. One seat flipped from Democratic control to Republican control, and six seats flipped from Republican control to Democratic control.

Upcoming special elections include:

States in session

Six states—Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania—are in regular session.

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