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News about: elections, politicians and candidates at all levels of government: elections, congress, state executive officials, state legislatures, recall elections, ballot measures and school boards. You can find a full list of projects here.

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State Legislative Tracker: Sports betting passes in New Jersey, awaiting signature

Edited by Joel Williams
This week’s tracker includes a look at another attempt to legalize sports betting in New Jersey.


Midterm Election Countdown: The West Regional Review

By Tyler King

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The West has no shortage of elections rated as toss-ups or with just a slight lean. Voters will head to the polls on November 4 to choose candidates for offices ranging from local school boards to the U.S. Senate. There are a total of 10 governor's mansions, 54 other state executive offices, 102 U.S. House seats, eight U.S. Senate seats, 1,106 state legislative seats, 51 statewide ballot measures, 987 judicial offices and 526 school board seats in the nation's largest school districts up for grabs.

Ballotpedia and Judgepedia are providing comprehensive coverage of all these elections from now to November. Click here for links to more detailed information on each race.


The Tuesday Count: Michigan's wolf hunting referendums would have short-term effect on law

Edited by Ryan Byrne

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This week's Tuesday Count features how an anti-wolf hunting campaign in Michigan is moving forward following legislative actions rendering the group's referendums moot, fracking and GMO bans in California, and the toppling of voter-approved same-sex marriage bans in multiple states.


Have you seen these ballot measures?

By Brittany Clingen and Ryan Byrne

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It's definitely confusing, and not immediately clear, how an approved state ballot measure could essentially disappear between the close of a state's legislative session and the upcoming general election on November 4. However, such has been the case this year in New Mexico, Virginia and Rhode Island. At least three ballot measures went missing, and several others have flown below the radar of most national news organizations and election resource websites.

Every election cycle features measures that receive little or no media attention, but it's rare for measures to go missing entirely. During the first week of August, Ballotpedia contacted all 50 of the country's secretary of state offices, in an effort to confirm the number of statewide ballot measures set to appear on the November ballots. Further research has turned up several discrepancies.

The full ballots were initially unclear in at least three states. Six measures in Rhode Island and one in Virginia went unnoticed by national election resource organizations until these states published information regarding the measures in their official voter's guides. In New Mexico, three bond measures were omitted from the New Mexico Legislature's online voter's guide. It was not until the measures were addressed in the secretary of state's official voter's guide, which was published several months after the legislative session concluded, that the complete contents of the ballot were made available.

When initially contacted by Ballotpedia on August 7, a spokesperson at the Rhode Island's Secretary of State office incorrectly confirmed there was just one measure - an automatically-referred question addressing a Constitutional Convention - set to appear on the November ballot. No mention was made of the six other measures - two legislatively-referred constitutional amendments addressing gabmling and four bond questions - even though these measures were approved for the ballot during a state legislative session which ended on June 23, nearly a month and a half prior.

Michael Narducci, deputy director of elections at Rhode Island's Secretary of State office, explained after the legislative session ends, confirming which measures will appear on the ballot still takes several weeks. "The General Assembly finished its session on June 23,” said Narducci. “We waited a week to have the Governor sign the bills or veto the bills. We then have to have bond counsel and our office do a search to make sure we have all the questions that will appear on the ballot. Once that is complete Bond Counsel prepares the language, and it is then reviewed. This process usually takes two to four weeks. Once that is complete we send the language over to the agencies to sign off on. This takes about one to two weeks. Once all these processes take place we make the language and the ballot questions public. This is for the information coming out of this office."[1]

It's less clear how ballot measures got lost in the shuffle in Virginia. After an extensive, initial conversation with a representative at Virginia's Board of Elections office, Ballotpedia was informed there would be no measures appearing on the statewide ballot in 2014. On September 28, the Northern Virginia Media Services's Inside NOVA reported otherwise, noting that one legislatively-referred constitutional amendment addressing taxes will appear on the statewide ballot in November.[2]

Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Elections Edgardo Cortés responded to follow-up questions after Ballotpedia received the misinformation, saying, "Any type of statewide ballot measure (constitutional amendment or referendum) must pass through the General Assembly to get onto the ballot. Information about all legislation is continually updated on Virginia’s Legislative Information System (LIS). This system is maintained by the Division of Legislative Automated Systems (DLAS). Generally, they are your best source for guidance on how to track potential statewide ballot measures." He further added, "Our partnership with the Division of Legislative Services assures that we get the information needed in a timely fashion. The Department of Elections distributes information on statewide ballot measures in compliance with statutory requirements. We are unaware of an instance in which the Department has failed to meet those requirements."[3]

New Mexico's situation was, by far, the most complex and confusing. The 2014 legislative session concluded on February 20, 2014. In the spring, five legislatively-referred constitutional amendments were identified on the secretary of state's website. By August, this number had inexplicably decreased to two. Then the state legislature put out a voter's guide including the original five amendments. However, at the end of September, the state office put out a guide with five legislatively-referred constitutional amendments and three bond measures, not previously referenced. Multiple phone calls and emails directed at the New Mexico Secretary of State's office were not returned.

Paul Jacob, an activist and expert on the initiative and referendum process, told Ballotpedia, "I've not heard of anything like this happening before, but there is often too little information provided to voters about ballot measures. Secretaries of State and other officials don't need to 'educate' voters on the pros and cons of ballot measures, but citizens do need to know that an issue is going to be on their ballot to be decided, which, as Ballotpedia's work uncovered, is not always the case."

He also emphasized the importance of educating voters prior to elections, saying, "Election officials could also do much more to publicize ballot measures and thereby generate more media coverage alerting folks in advance about issues on which they may want to find out more information. It is as important to inform voters about ballot measures they will see in the voting booth as it is to inform voters where their polling place is. Getting people out to vote is better when they know in advance what will be on the ballot for them to decide."[4]


Incumbents dominate in two Alaska school board elections, Alabama runoff decided

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By Lauren Dixon

Incumbents dominated in two Alaska school board elections held on October 7, 2014, although only one district actually needed to send voters to the ballot box. The incumbents largely succeeded through a lack of opposition, since just two seats were contested.

The Fairbanks North Star Borough School District Board of Education had three seats up for election this year. Challenger Michael O'Brien triumphed over incumbent John Thies for Seat E, while incumbent Wendy Charmaine Dominique defeated newcomer Denis Gardella for Seat G. Incumbent Sean Rice ran unopposed to retain Seat G.

On the Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District Board of Education, both incumbents ran unopposed. R. "Ole" Larson and Tiffany R. Scott were re-elected to Seats D and E, respectively.

Elsewhere in the country, the fate of an Alabama runoff election on the Huntsville City Schools Board of Education was also decided following a close August election. Challenger Elisa Ferrell defeated Anson Knowles by just 408 votes to win the District 3 seat and a four-year term.


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References

  1. Email interview with Michael Narducci, conducted by Ballotpedia State Ballot Measures Writer Ryan Byrne, October 6, 2014
  2. Inside NOVA, "Arlington GOP joins Democrats in support of constitutional amendment," September 28, 2014
  3. Email interview with Edgardo Cortés, conducted by Ballotpedia State Ballot Measures Writer Ryan Byrne, October 8, 2014
  4. Email interview with Paul Jacob, conducted by Ballot Measures Project Director Brittany Clingen, October 9, 2014