State Legislative Tracker: Recall campaign targeting Louisiana Speaker of the House fails

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September 24, 2012

Edited by Greg Janetka
This week's tracker features news about a failed recall attempt in Louisiana.

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Weekly highlight

State legislative recalls in Wisconsin made national headlines in 2011 as voters in Arizona, Michigan and Wisconsin successfully used the process to remove a total of three senators and one representative from office. The trend continued in 2012 as Wisconsin once again saw recalls make the ballot, resulting in the removal of one senator.

Alongside those successes, however, most recall efforts fizzled out long before going to a vote. The latest recall to fail took place last week in Louisiana. In March of this year, recall organizers started circulating petitions to recall Republican Speaker of the House Charles "Chuck" Kleckley from office.

The efforts, led by a group of teachers, began largely as a result of public education reforms backed by Kleckley and Gov. Bobby Jindal (R). Organizers had to collect signatures equal to one-third of the registered voters of Kleckley's district, which came out to roughly 9,000, by September 19.[1] The recall effort failed to collect enough signatures by the deadline and the signatures that were collected were never turned in as organizers were worried about reprisals against those who had signed. The effort against Jindal also failed.[2]

Three other recall campaigns are continuing on in the state as organizers have also targeted three other Republican legislators - Kevin Pearson, George Cromer and Ray Garofalo. It appears unlikely that any of them will succeed.

While the most recent round of Wisconsin recalls have been over for several months, the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, the agency that oversees elections, released a new report this month detailing the cost of those elections. Their findings? Local governments spent approximately $13.5 million on the recalls, most of which ultimately falls to local taxpayers. In a statement GAB director Kevin Kennedy said, “Instead of conducting two primaries and two elections this year, Wisconsin election officials will be conducting six elections, which added approximately $13.5 million in unbudgeted costs. These unplanned elections also put significant stress on Wisconsin’s clerks, who have many other duties beyond elections.”[3]

Currently, 18 states permit the recall of state officials. Between 1913 and 2008, there were just 20 state legislative recall elections in five states. Of the 20 state legislative recall elections, 13 out of 20 resulted in the state legislator being recalled. Since 2011, there have been 15 state legislative recalls in three states, five of which resulted in the legislator being recalled.


This week 4 out of 50 state legislatures - Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio and Pennsylvania - are meeting in regular session, while Massachusetts is meeting in informal session, which it will continue to do throughout the rest of the year. As of May 16, all states had convened their 2012 sessions.

Forty states have adjourned for the year, while four states - Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, and Texas - were not scheduled to hold regular sessions in 2012.

Current sessions capture for the week of September 24, 2012

Regular sessions

See also: Dates of 2012 state legislative sessions
Click here to see a chart of each state's 2012 session information.

Although most states have concluded 2012 business, some states have already begun 2013 action. Drafting for 2013 has begun in Montana and North Dakota, while prefiling of legislation is going on in Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, and Virginia.[4]

Special sessions

Snapshot of State Legislatures:
Monday, September 24, 2012
There are 7,383 Total State Legislators
Total Democratic state legislators 3,300 (44.7%)
Total Republican state legislators 3,947 (53.5%)
There are 99 Total State Legislative Chambers
Total Democratic Party-controlled chambers 37
Total Republican Party-controlled chambers 58
Total tied or non-partisan chambers 4
2012 Session Information
Total Special Elections 32
Total Special Sessions 20

In 2011, special sessions were a widespread occurrence in state legislatures. This was largely due to states' having to complete the redistricting process for legislative and congressional districts. Overall in 2011, there were 45 special sessions in 28 states.

Since the beginning of 2012, there have been 20 special sessions in 16 states. There are no special sessions currently scheduled.

In recess

As of today, September 24, 4 state's sessions are currently in recess:

  • California - In recess from September 1, 2012 to November 29, 2012.[5]
  • Illinois - In recess from August 17, 2012 to November 27, 2012.[6]
  • New York - In recess from June 22, 2012 to January 7, 2013.[5]
  • Wisconsin - In recess from March 17 to December 31, 2012.[5]
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State news

Redistricting Facts
Maps submitted for vote: 138 out of 142 (97.2%)** No votes on initial maps in the following: ME (2), MT (2)
States that have completed Congressional Maps 43/43
States that have completed State Legislative Maps 47/50 (Maps unfinished: AL, ME, MT)
**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)


State senator Jack Crumbly and a group of residents from eastern Arkansas sued the three-member Board of Apportionment on January 23, 2012. The suit was filed in federal court.[7] The lawsuit alleged that the new boundaries diluted the black vote in Crumbly's district, as the number of voting-age blacks was lowered from 58 percent to 53 percent. The maps were defended by Board of Apportionment members Governor Mike Beebe (D) and Attorney General Dustin McDaniel (D).[8] Crumbly (who is black) lost to state Rep. Keith Ingram (who is white) in the May primary.

The hearing began on May 7.[9] A panel of three federal judges on May 9 dismissed Secretary of State Mark Martin (R) from the suit.[10] The court ruled it would not delay the May 22 primary as it considered the case.[11]

On September 17, a three-judge panel upheld the new districts, rejecting Crumbly's allegations. The judges stated that the decrease was an unintended consequence, not purposeful discrimination, saying, "This may be regrettable, but it is not unconstitutional." The ruling went on to say, "We find credible Governor Beebe's and Attorney General McDaniel's testimony that they did not engage in intentional discrimination or know that Representative Ingram, or any other white incumbent, would run for senator against Senator Crumbly in Senate District 24 at the time that the district map was drawn."[12]


On September 14, 2012, the U.S. Department of Justice approved of Mississippi's new legislative districts, but noted that legal action could still be taken against them. Assistant U.S. Attorney General Thomas E. Perez stated, "The Attorney General does not interpose any objection to the specified changes. However, we note that Section 5 expressly provides that the failure of the Attorney General to object does not bar subsequent litigation to enjoin enforcement of the changes."[13]

Due to partisan tensions, the legislature failed to approve a plan prior to the 2011 elections, finally passing a plan this spring. Opponents allege the plans reduce the number of districts where blacks have enough of a population to sway elections, which led to a pending lawsuit by the NAACP.[14]

See also: State legislative elections, 2012 and State legislative elections results, 2012
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A total of 86 of the 99 chambers will hold state legislative elections on November 6, 2012.

1,301 (65.97%) of the country's 1,972 state senate seats are up for election in November 2012, and 4,714 (87.12%) of the country's 5,411 state house seats are up for election. Altogether, 6,015 (81.47%) of the country's 7,383 state legislative seats will be up for election during the presidential election year.

  • 43 of the 50 state senates are holding elections.
  • 43 of the 49 state houses are holding elections.

The 6,015 seats up for election is 110 fewer than the 6,125 that were contested in 2010.

Filing deadlines

See also: Signature requirements and deadlines for 2012 state government elections and 2012 Elections preview: Comparing state legislative filing deadlines

As of July 12, all signature filing deadlines had passed.


See also: 2012 election dates

The 2012 state legislative primary session began on March 6 in Ohio and wrapped up for the year in New York on September 13.

A total of 197 state legislative incumbents were defeated in a primary - 123 Republicans and 74 Democrats.

Primaries took place in 44 states in 2012. For a review of what happened, click on the state below:

See also: State legislative special elections, 2012

So far in 2012 there have been 32 special elections in 13 states.

There are no special elections scheduled to take place this week.

Looking ahead

Upcoming special elections include:

  • November 6: Kentucky Senate District 19
  • November 6: Mississippi State Senate District 19
  • November 6: New Jersey Assembly Districts 16, 26, 68
  • December 4: Wisconsin State Senate District 33
  • December 11: Alabama House of Representatives Districts 30, 34
  • January 8, 2013: California State Senate District 4
  • January 8, 2013: Georgia State Senate District 30

See also