Our Newsbeats:

  • The Federal Vacancy Count

    March 11, 2015

    Vacancies continued to rise this week after four judges either assumed senior status or retired from their respective courts.[1] The Western District of New York became the first district over 40 percent vacant since the Western District of Kentucky fell below 40 percent vacant in December 2014.

    The vacancy warning level remained at blue this week after four new vacancies, no new nominations and no new confirmations. The vacancy percentage rose to 6.3 percent, and the total number of nominees waiting for confirmation remained at 15. The number of vacancies of Article III judges rose to 55 out of 874. A breakdown of the vacancies on each level can be found in the table below. For a more detailed look at the vacancies on the federal courts, see our Federal Court Vacancy Warning System.



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  • New York Senate leader under investigation

    April 22, 2015

    This week’s tracker includes a look at a federal grand jury investigation in New York, the opening prayer in the Iowa State House by a Wiccan priestess and a bill in Tennessee that would make the Holy Bible the official state book.

    Rep. Liz Bennett (D)

    • Iowa: History was made April 9, 2015, when the Iowa House of Representatives started their work session with a prayer from a Wiccan priestess.[1] The blessing is believed to be the first of its kind for Iowa’s legislature, and drew peaceful protest from members of the chamber.[2] One such protestor was State Rep. Rob Taylor (R), who turned his back when the Wiccan faith leader Deborah Maynard of the Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans gave the opening invocation. More than a third of the legislature’s lawmakers arrived late to avoid attending the daily prayer, but Taylor told reporters he felt the appropriate response was to be in attendance but to protest peacefully.[3] Maynard was invited to give the opening prayer by State Rep. Liz Bennett (D), who told reporters: “My purpose in inviting Deborah was not to force anyone to listen to anything they are uncomfortable listening to. Iowa
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  • Nebraska and Wyoming remove bans on pay-per-signature

    April 9, 2015

    As of April 8, at least 125 bills concerning ballot measure law were proposed or reconsidered during the 2015 legislative sessions of 37 states. Of the total, 111 were pending, five were approved, and nine had been defeated or abandoned. At least four more bills had passed through the state legislatures and merely awaited gubernatorial signatures for full approval. Most of the bills — 119 — were introduced this year, and the other six were carried over from the 2014 legislative session in New Jersey.

    The changes in law proposed this year include efforts to make the initiative and referendum process more difficult, attempts to regulate campaign contributions and circulators, and bills that would establish the power of initiative in non-I&R states or make the power more accessible.

    See “Changes in 2015 to laws governing ballot measures” for a periodically updated list of proposed ballot measure law changes organized by state. This page also includes a brief summary of each proposed bill, the status of the bill and links to more information.

    Recent legislative news

    Nebraska legislators encourage initiatives by voting to repeal the state’s ban on pay-per-signature:

    On April 7, 2015, Nebraska

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      Ballot Law Update
  • Changes to supreme court on today’s ballot in Wisconsin

    April 7, 2015

    The battle between Ann Walsh Bradley and James Daley is not the only Wisconsin Supreme Court issue on the Wisconsin ballot today. Voters across the state will decide how the state’s chief justice is selected by voting on Question 1. A number of prominent local topics will be featured on ballots in Missouri and Kansas today. In Springfield, voters will be determining whether an LGBT non-discrimination ordinance should stand and, in the neighboring state, Wichita voters will be voting on whether to decriminalize marijuana. Voters in Kansas City will face two questions, one regarding a city property and the other asking voters to renew a fee on short-term loan establishments.

    Wisconsinites will vote on the first statewide ballot measure of 2015 today:

    Voters in Wisconsin are the first to vote on a statewide measure in 2015. The measure, titled Question 1, that is appearing on today’s ballot involves how the chief justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court is selected. Currently, the Wisconsin Constitution mandates that the chief justice be appointed based on seniority from the pool of seven justices sitting on the court. Question 1, if approved by voters, would require the sitting justices to …

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Press Release

Ballotpedia to absorb Judgepedia
Sister sites will merge to provide optimum reader experience Madison, Wisconsin - February 25, 2015: This week, the Lucy Burns Institute (LBI) announced the merger of its two flagship websites, Ballotpedia and Judgepedia. All articles from Judgepedia will be transferred to Ballotpedia.org, adding to its already extensive encyclopedic database. The merger will provide … Read More