State Legislative Tracker: Minnesota legislators raise issues over online voting registration

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October 28, 2013

Edited by Joel Williams
This week’s tracker includes a look at the controversy over online voting registration in Minnesota.

Weekly highlight

Last week, no state ended its legislative session. Here is a brief look at issues making headlines across the country:

  • Colorado: Nearly 19,000 valid signatures are needed by December 3 to force a recall vote on Democratic Senator Evie Hudak. Hudak is under scrutiny again after voting in favor of stricter gun control legislation. Another group organized a recall against Hudak earlier in the year, after her questioning of a rape victim during a debate drew national attention. Although the initial efforts to recall Hudak failed, the successful recalls of John Morse and Angela Giron last month encouraged Hudak's critics to try again. Morse and Giron were replaced "by gun-rights Republicans," resulting in the Democratic majority being reduced to one seat. A leader of the efforts to recall Hudak, Mike McAlpine, stated that she "has infringed upon our constitutional right to keep and bear arms." Hudak is considered especially vulnerable to a recall because of her close win in the 2012 election, in which she defeated her opponents by less than 600 votes in a three-way race. If the valid signatures are collected, Democratic strategists plan to lobby Hudak to resign so that the Democratic single-seat majority would not be lost. Hudak, however, has revealed that she has "no intentions" of resigning. Hudak claims that she does her best to represent the diverse views of her district saying, "I voted the way I believe my constituents wanted."[1][2][3]
  • Minnesota: Minnesota began offering online voting registration last month, but state legislators have taken issue with its implementation. Secretary of State Mark Ritchie (DFL) argues that his office had the legal authority to implement the system, but a number of Republicans, as well as some Democrats, believe their authority was sidestepped. Last Thursday, Ritchie met with Senate Minority Leader David Hann, Sen. Scott Newman and Rep. Tim Sanders, all Republicans, to discuss his legal rationale, but said that he did not plan on "[taking] this service away from citizens." Ritchie's office refused to release a legal analysis that the Secretary cited in his arguments for acting on his own, but he said that the authority comes from a 2000 law equating electronic signatures with markings on paper. The same week, Gov. Mark Dayton said that such a system "should get legislative support." Democratic Rep. Steve Simon and Senate Deputy Majority Leader Katie Sieben say that they will introduce a bill clearing the system in next year's session. While Republicans have not said they will challenge the system in court, the conservative activist group Minnesota Majority began fundraising for a potential lawsuit. Earlier this month, House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt (R) said that the implementation was "at best unclear and at worst [Ritchie] doesn’t have the authority." Sanders voiced concerns over the system's security, citing recent data breaches of state data including that of the Minnesota health exchange, MNsure. Hann said that even though the legislature passed a number of changes to election law in bipartisan fashion in 2013, Ritchie did not refer to online registration during the legislative session. Legislative auditor Jim Nobles vowed to review the system. Nobles and Daudt argue that even if Ritchie had the legal authority, it would be more beneficial to receive legislative approval. Minnesota, which has a Democratic state government trifecta, is the 15th state to allow online voting registration.[4][5][6][7][8]
  • Ohio: Governor John Kasich (R) has circumvented the Ohio General Assembly to expand Medicaid coverage under President Obama's Affordable Care Act. After months of debate between the governor and the legislature on accepting $2.5 billion in federal funding to expand Medicaid, Kasich turned to the State Controlling Board to approve his expansion plan. Kasich opposes the Affordable Care Act, but wants the federal funding for Medicaid. The board voted 5 to 2 to expand Medicaid coverage, which will provide coverage for 275,000 Ohioans who have not been eligible previously under the program. Ohio has become the 25th state to expand Medicaid, with other states such as Virginia, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire still debating the issue. Republican majorities in both the senate and house opposed Medicaid expansion because they were worried that Ohio taxpayers would have to pay most of its costs. Six Ohio Republican lawmakers have filed a lawsuit to stop Kasich's Medicaid expansion on the grounds that it did not have legislative approval. The court filing stated that, "The Ohio Controlling Board's expansion of Medicaid violates the clear limits on its own authority, and accordingly, also violates the clear limits of the Ohio Constitution." Republicans hope that the high court will declare the board's decision as void and halt the state's expansion of Medicaid.[9][10][11][12]
  • Pennsylvania: The lawyer of Democratic Senator LeAnna Washington has confirmed that investigators with the state Attorney General’s Office were called in on Oct. 18 to search the 60-year-old’s legislative offices. According to reports, agents obtained search warrants to retrieve electronic and paper files documenting the District 4 senator’s fundraising and campaign activity. Two former high-level employees of Washington’s have also been questioned, specifically about an annual fundraiser that coincides with Washington’s birthday. According to Washington’s lawyer, the investigation is believed to be linked to a “disgruntled former employee” fired earlier in the year. “Sen. Washington will cooperate and will continue to work hard for her constituents and mentor her staff, as she has done for the past 20 years,” said Washington’s Philadelphia-based attorney, Henry E. Hockeimer. The Attorney General’s Office has yet to confirm or deny the investigation.[13][14][15]

Regular sessions

Current sessions capture for the week of October 28, 2013
See also: Dates of 2013 state legislative sessions
Click here to see a chart of each state's 2013 session information.

Currently three out of 50 state legislatures are meeting in regular session. One state is meeting in special session.

As of April 8, all states states have convened their 2013 legislative sessions.[16]

The following states have ended their regular session:[17]

Special sessions

Snapshot of State Legislatures:
Saturday, April 18, 2015
There are 7,387 Total State Legislators
Total Democratic state legislators 3,440 (46.6%)
Total Republican state legislators 3,815 (51.6%)
There are 99 Total State Legislative Chambers
Total Democratic Party-controlled chambers 40
Total Republican Party-controlled chambers 57
Total tied or nonpartisan chambers 2
2013 Session Information
Total Special Elections 56
Total Special Sessions 21

Hawaii's legislature will convene this week to discuss Senate Bill 1. SB1 would recognize same-sex marriages within the state and extend to same-sex couples the same rights, benefits, protections, and responsibilities of marriage that opposite-sex couples receive. If it passes, the bill would be effective November 18, 2013.[18]

In recess

As of today, October 28, there are 5 state legislatures currently in recess:[19]

Redistricting Roundup.jpg

State news

Redistricting Facts
Maps submitted for vote: 140 out of 142 (98.6%)** No votes on initial maps in the following: MT (2)
States that have completed Congressional Maps 42/43 (Maps ordered redrawn: TX)
States that have completed State Legislative Maps 46/50 (Maps unfinished: ME, MT; Maps ordered redrawn: AK, TX)
**With 50 states, there are 142 possible maps. 50 State Senate, 49 State House (No House in Nebraska), and 43 Congressional (7 states have 1 seat)
See also: Status of redistricting maps after the 2010 census

While the great majority of states have completed their redistricting following the 2010 census, the issue still remains for a handful of states. Maine and Montana are not required to have their maps completed until 2014. Alaska and Texas, however, saw their maps rejected for legal reasons and will have to take up the drawing of maps once again.

See also: State legislative elections, 2013

A total of 3 of the 99 chambers will hold state legislative elections on November 5, 2013.

The 3 chambers with elections in 2013 are in 2 states. They are:

Louisiana and Mississippi also typically hold elections in odd years. However, legislators are elected to 4-year terms in those states and those will not be up for election again until 2015.

40 of the country's 1,972 state senate seats are up for re-election in November 2013, and 180 of the country's 5,411 state house seats are up for re-election. Altogether, 220 of the country's 7,383 state legislative seats are up for re-election on November 5, 2013.

Signature filing deadlines

See also: Signature requirements and deadlines for 2013 state legislative elections

The state legislative filing deadlines were as follows:

  • New Jersey:
  • April 1, 2013 (Major party)
  • June 4, 2013 (Independent)

Nomination petitions must contain the signatures of at least 100 voters in the legislative district. Candidates are required to disclose any criminal convictions.[20]

  • Virginia:
  • March 28, 2013 (Major party)
  • June 11, 2013 (Independent)

Nomination petitions must contain the signatures of at least 125 qualified voters in the legislative district. Major party candidates are required to submit a primary filing fee equal to 2% of the annual salary for the office sought in effect in the year in which the candidate files. In 2013, the primary filing fee was $352.80.[21]


The state primaries were as follows:

  • New Jersey:
  • June 4, 2013
  • Virginia:
  • June 11, 2013


New Jersey had a quiet election, with all competing incumbents winning their primaries.

There were only three hotly contested races, all in the Senate, but none resulted in the ousting of an incumbent:[22]

Republican PartyDistrict 13: Incumbent Joe Kyrillos, Jr. defeated challenger Leigh-Ann Bellew.
Democratic PartyDistrict 20: Incumbent Raymond Lesniak defeated challenger Donna Obe.
Democratic PartyDistrict 34: Incumbent Nia H. Gill defeated challengers Mark C. Alexander and Vernon Pullins, Jr..

Virginia experienced two upsets in an otherwise quiet day of primaries for the House of Delegates. Voter turnout was expected to fall below 5 percent based on projections at polling locations.[23]

Virginia's legislative primaries yielded a pair of defeats for incumbent legislators. The defeated incumbents were supporters of a recently passed transportation bill that increases sales and gas taxes to improve roadways.[24][25] The successful challengers lodged primary challenges in part to protest the bill's passage, which they called the biggest tax increase in the state's history.[26]

Republican Party Mark J. Berg defeated Beverly Sherwood in District 29.
Republican Party Dave A. LaRock defeated Joe T. May in District 33.

Five incumbents were able to fend off primary challenges in the June 11 primaries:

Republican Party C. Todd Gilbert defeated Mark W. Prince in District 15.
Republican Party Bill Howell defeated Craig E. Ennis in District 28.
Republican Party Bobby Orrock defeated Dustin R. Curtis in District 54.
Democratic Party Roz Dance defeated Evandra D. Thompson in District 63.
Democratic Party Algie Howell defeated Richard James in District 90.
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See also: State legislative special elections, 2013

There is one special election scheduled for this week in South Carolina.

UncheckedBox.jpgSouth Carolina House of Representatives District 93

Rep. Harry Ott, Jr. (D) resigned on July 20, 2013 to work as the state director for the Farm Service Agency in the federal government. A special election has been called for October 29. The filing period for candidates ran from July 12 to July 26.[27]

October 29 Special election candidates:
Democratic Party Russell L. Ott
Republican Party Charles H. Stoudemire Jr.

Recent election results

October 22, 2013

CheckedBoxOffset.jpgIowa House of Representatives District 33
Rep. Kevin McCarthy (D) resigned on August 15, 2013, to work in the Iowa Attorney General's office. A special election has been called for October 22. The filing period ends on September 27.[28][29][30]

October 22 Special election candidates:
Democratic Party Brian Meyer Green check mark transparent.png
Republican Party Michael Young

UncheckedBox.jpgWisconsin State Assembly District 21
Rep. Mark Honadel (R) resigned on September 16, 2013, to take a job in the private sector. A special election has been called for November 19, with a primary on October 22 if necessary. Candidates had until September 24 to file certified nomination papers.[31][32][33]

Democratic PartyOctober 22 Democratic Primary:
Republican PartyOctober 22 GOP Primary:
November 19 Special election candidates:
Democratic Party Elizabeth Coppola
Republican Party Jessie Rodriguez

UncheckedBox.jpgWisconsin State Assembly District 69
Rep. Scott Suder (R) resigned on September 2, 2013, to take a job as an administrator with the state Public Service Commission. A special election has been called for November 19, with a primary on October 22 if necessary. Candidates had until September 24 to file certified nomination papers.[34][35][36]

Democratic PartyOctober 22 Democratic Primary:
Republican PartyOctober 22 GOP Primary:
Third-party candidates:
Independent Tim Swiggum (Putting People Ahead of Politics)
November 19 Special election candidates:
Democratic Party Kenneth A. Slezak
Republican Party Bob Kulp
Independent Tim Swiggum (Putting People Ahead of Politics)

Looking ahead

Upcoming special elections include:

  • November 5: Fifteen special elections in various states. List available here.
  • November 16: Louisiana House of Representatives District 87
  • November 19: California State Assembly District 45 (Runoff)
  • November 19: Iowa State Senate District 13
  • November 19: Wisconsin State Assembly District 21
  • November 19: Wisconsin State Assembly District 69
  • November 21: Tennessee House of Representatives District 91
  • December 3: Alabama House of Representatives District 74
  • December 3: California State Assembly District 54

See also


  1. The Washington Post, Gun rights advocates plan another Colorado recall, October 7, 2013
  2. CBS Denver, Court Reaffirms Ruling On Colorado Recall Elections, October 21, 2013
  3. The Denver Post, In Colorado, another recall effort over guns seeks GOP Senate control, October 23, 2013
  4. Minneapolis Star Tribune, "Minn. Secretary of State Ritchie defends online voter registration," October 24, 2013
  5. Minneapolis Star-Tribune, "Dayton says online voter registration system should go through Legislature," October 23, 2013
  6. Minneapolis Star Tribune, "Minnesota's new online voter registration system challenged," October 11, 2013
  7. The Washington Post, "Minnesota feuds over online voter registration," October 17, 2013
  8. Minneapolis Star Tribune, "Online voter registration offered in Minnesota," September 26, 2013
  9., "Ohio opponents of Medicaid expansion file lawsuit," accessed October 24, 2013
  10., "Ohio conservative lawmakers sue to stop Medicaid expansion," accessed October 24, 2013
  11., "Medicaid Expansion Is Set for Ohioans," accessed October 24, 2013
  12., "Ohio will expand Medicaid after months-long battle between governor and legislature," accessed October 24, 2013
  13. “Montgomery News”, “Updated: State Sen. LeAnna Washington under investigation”, accessed October 25, 2013
  14. “Philadelphia Business Journal”, “Search warrants issued for State Senator’s office”, accessed October 25, 2013
  15. “”, “Pa. Senator’s lawyer: Disgruntled worker caused search”, accessed October 25, 2013
  16. Stateside Associates, " Session Calendar 2013," accessed October 28, 2013
  17. Stateside Associates, " Session Calendar 2013," accessed October 28, 2013
  18., "2013 Second Special Session," accessed October 28, 2013
  19., "Daily Session Summary," accessed October 28, 2013 (dead link)
  20. New Jersey Department of State, "Petition filing instruction sheet," accessed January 14, 2013 (dead link)
  21. Virginia State Board of Elections, "Candidacy Requirements for House of Delegates," accessed January 16, 2013
  22., "Polls close in 2013 N.J. primary elections as votes are tallied," June 4, 2013
  23. Washington Post, "Voter turnout sparse for down-ticket races in Virginia," June 11, 2013
  24. CBS DC, "Virginia Primary Results Roll In," June 11, 2013
  25., "Howell’s transportation PAC helping candidates," June 7, 2013
  26. WRIC, "Virginia Primary Round Up," June 11, 2013
  27., "State House of Representatives District 93 Special Election," accessed July 31, 2013
  28., "State House District 33 - 10/22/2013 Special Election," accessed August 19, 2013
  29., "Official candidate list," accessed October 1, 2013
  30., "Des Moines councilman, a Democrat, wins special election to fill Iowa House District 33 seat," October 23, 2013
  31., "Special election called for 21st Assembly District," September 18, 2013
  32. "Official candidate list," accessed September 25, 2013 (dead link)
  33., "Fields Finalized For Special Elections," October 23, 2013
  34., "2013 Assembly District 69 Special Election," accessed September 5, 2013
  35. "Official candidate list," accessed September 25, 2013 (dead link)
  36., "Fields Finalized For Special Elections," October 23, 2013