The Ballotpedia News Update

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Ballotpedia News

The Ballotpedia News Update provides a list of the latest news articles on Ballotpedia about elections, politicians and candidates at all levels of government, state policies, ballot measures and more. Use the tabs to navigate to specific weekly reports or news archives. Read more about Ballotpedia's areas of coverage here.

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Ballot Law Update: 2015 could feature big changes in ballot law

By Josh Altic

As of January 28, at least 60 bills concerning ballot measure law were proposed or reconsidered during the 2015 legislative sessions of 21 states. Of the total, 54 were introduced this year, and the other six were carried over from the 2014 legislative session in New Jersey. The changes in laws proposed this year range from efforts to make the initiative and referendum process more difficult or regulate campaign contributions to bills that would establish the power of initiative in non-I&R states or make the power more accessible. There are also some important changes in the forecast for local petition laws in Nashville-Davidson County, Tennessee, where activists are suing for the right to use electronic signatures in a marijuana decriminalization initiative, and Springfield, Missouri, where the city council is looking at ways to make referendum petitions more difficult in the wake of a successful signature campaign against the council's LGBT non-discrimination ordinance.

See this article for a periodically updated list of proposed ballot measure law changes in each state. The page also includes a brief summary of each proposed bill, the status of the bill and links to more information.


Open offices draw big names, new faces to Kentucky state executive elections in 2015

Kentucky

By Nick Katers

Frankfort, Kentucky: The Bluegrass State will see new faces in state executive offices following the general election on November 3, 2015, with only two of seven incumbents seeking re-election to their current posts. Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D) and Auditor Adam Edelen (D) filed for re-election by the January 27 deadline for major-party candidates. Four of the remaining five incumbents were ineligible to seek new terms because of term limits while Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, Jr. (R) bypassed re-election to run for governor.

The partisan primary on May 19, 2015, attracted high-profile candidates including former 2014 U.S. Senate candidates Grimes and Matt Bevin (R). Grimes, who lost to incumbent Mitch McConnell (R) in the November 2014 general election, opted against skirmishes with formidable Democratic candidates for governor and attorney general by filing for a second term as secretary of state.[1] Bevin, who challenged McConnell in the May 2014 Republican primary, filed for the governor's race only two hours prior to the filing deadline.[2]


The Tuesday Count: First statewide measure of 2015 to be voted on in Wisconsin

Edited by Brittany Clingen

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In Wisconsin, voters will see a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment addressing the state's judiciary system on the April 7 ballot, bringing the total number of 2015 statewide measures to four. In the meantime, marijuana continues its reign as one of the most prevalent topics on state and local ballots. Most recently, local measures have materialized in Tennessee, Kansas and California.

First statewide measure of 2015 to be voted on in Wisconsin:
The first statewide measure to go before voters in 2015 will appear on the April 7 ballot for voters in the Badger State. The measure, if approved, would provide for the election of the Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice by a majority of the justices serving on the court. The justice would serve a two-year term.[3]

Currently, the Wisconsin Constitution mandates that the Chief Justice be appointed based on seniority from the pool of justices sitting on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson has served as the court's chief justice since 1996. She's considered a "liberal," but the court majority is considered "conservative," according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.[4] Opponents argue that the amendment is a political attack on Chief Justice Abrahamson. Justice Ann Walsh Bradley of the Wisconsin Supreme Court deemed the amendment a "tool to settle political scores," saying, "I think the constitutional amendments are being targeted at replacing our chief justice. That's short-sighted because the political pendulum swings; all of us know that. And we don't want 10 years from now, this constitution, which is the foundation of our state, to be used by another party that may be in power as some kind of political pingpong to go back and forth."[5][6]

However, supporters argue the amendment is a "common-sense measure" that would allow for a more democratic system of choosing the Supreme Court Chief Justice. Rep. Rob Hutton (R-13), one of the measure's supporters, said, "[The measure] not only minimizes the politics but it introduces more collaboration and cohesion."[4][5]

In order to refer the measure to the ballot, the state legislature was required to approve the amendment by a simple majority vote in two successive legislative sessions. The measure was approved by the legislature in November 2013 and again in January 2015. No Democrats voted in favor of the amendment during the 2015 vote. However, it was still approved by margins of 54.84 percent in the senate and 64.58 percent in the assembly.


State Legislative Tracker: Trio of legislators in legal trouble

Edited by Joel Williams
This week’s tracker includes a look at three legislators in legal trouble in Kentucky, New York and Virginia.


New Mexico school board elections attract numerous educators as candidates

By Abbey Smith

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Twenty seats in the eight largest school districts by enrollment in New Mexico are up for general election on February 3, 2015. Candidates in these school board races include a number of both current and former educators, with at least eight candidates having worked as a classroom teacher or college professor. There are also multiple event and elections coordinators, college students and U.S. military veterans. Some other candidates include a business owner, a musical artist, an engineer, a children's book author and a marketing manager.

A total of 41 candidates filed to run for the 20 seats, leaving seven unopposed. One of those unopposed seats is still open, as no one filed to run for it. It will remain vacant after the election until the Farmington Municipal Schools Board of Education appoints someone to the position.

Four of those unopposed seats will automatically welcome back incumbents after the election, but two unopposed newcomers, Ramon Montano and Ryan Parra, will join the Rio Rancho Public Schools Board of Education, as incumbent Carl Harper withdrew from the race. Newcomers are also guaranteed to win seats on the school boards of Albuquerque Public Schools, Las Cruces Public Schools and Santa Fe Public Schools. All three of those districts had one incumbent decide not to run for re-election.

Two districts with school board elections this year are in the middle of searching for new superintendents. Both Albuquerque Public Schools and Farmington Municipal Schools saw superintendents leave their districts in the 2014-2015 school year. Janel Ryan retired from Farmington Municipal Schools in December 2014 after suffering from a heart attack the previous summer. Winston Brooks resigned from Albuquerque Public Schools in August 2014. The Albuquerque Board of Education bought out his contract with two years remaining after Brooks was involved in accusations of intimidation and retaliation.[7][8][9]


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