Edited by Greg Janetka
This week 5 out of 50 state legislatures are meeting in regular session. As of May 16, all states had convened their 2012 sessions. No states are projected to adjourn this week.
Voter ID Laws have been a major issue in many states during 2012. All states must meet the minimum requirement set by the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) which requires photo ID for those who register by mail and did not provide identification. However, some states have stricter requirements set by state law. Here are the most recent developments:
- New Hampshire
- On June 27, 2012 the New Hampshire State Senate and House of Representatives voted to override the governor’s veto of Senate Bill 289. Both re-introduced and approved an amended version of House Bill 1354. The governor has five days from June 27 to sign, veto or let HB 1354 become law without his signature. The bill would require people to present photo identification when voting. Those who do not have a photo ID can vote a valid ballot after executing an affidavit right there at the polls.
- South Carolina
- Pre-clearance for South Carolina’s new photo ID law was denied on December 23, 2011. The state applied for reconsideration. However, on June 29, 2012, the U.S. Department of Justice again denied the new photo law, saying the law failed to meet the requirements of the Voting Rights Act. In a letter to an attorney representing the state, Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Perez wrote, “I remain unable to conclude that the State of South Carolina has carried its burden of showing that the submitted change in Section 5 of Act R54 neither has a discriminatory purpose nor will have a discriminatory effect.”
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 15 special sessions in 13 states. One is currently ongoing in New Jersey.
2012 Legislative Elections
A total of 86 of the 99 chambers will hold state legislative elections on November 6, 2012.
1,300 (65.92%) 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, 6,014 (81.46%) 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 6,014 seats up for election is 111 fewer than the 6,125 that were contested in 2010.
No states have signature filing deadlines this week.
So far, deadlines have passed in 42 states:
- Illinois – December 5, 2011
- Ohio – December 7, 2011
- West Virginia – January 28
- Kentucky – January 31
- Indiana – February 10
- Nebraska – February 15 (incumbents), March 1 (non-incumbents)
- Pennsylvania – February 16
- North Carolina – February 29
- Arkansas – March 1
- Oregon – March 6
- California – March 9
- Idaho – March 9
- Texas – March 9
- Montana – March 12
- Maine – March 15
- Iowa – March 16
- Nevada – March 16
- Utah – March 16
- New Mexico – March 20
- Missouri – March 27
- South Dakota – March 27
- South Carolina – March 30
- Colorado – April 2
- Tennessee – April 5
- North Dakota – April 13
- Oklahoma – April 13
- Michigan – May 15
- Washington – May 18
- Georgia – May 25
- Arizona – May 30
- Alaska – June 1
- Wisconsin – June 1
- Wyoming – June 1
- Hawaii – June 5
- Minnesota – June 5
- Massachusetts – June 5
- Florida – June 8
- Kansas – June 11
- Connecticut – June 12
- Vermont – June 14
- New Hampshire – June 15
- Rhode Island – June 27
States with upcoming deadlines:
- See also: 2012 election dates
There are no state legislative primaries taking place this week.
So far, primaries have taken place in 24 states:
- Ohio – March 6
- Illinois – March 20
- Pennsylvania – April 24
- Indiana, North Carolina, West Virginia – May 8
- Idaho, Nebraska, Oregon – May 15
- Arkansas, Kentucky – May 22
- Texas – May 29
- California, Iowa, Montana, New Mexico, South Dakota – June 5
- Maine, Nevada, North Dakota, South Carolina – June 12
- Colorado, Oklahoma, Utah – June 26
A total of 75 state legislative incumbents have been defeated in a primary – 53 Republicans and 22 Democrats.
States with upcoming primaries:
- July 31: Georgia
- August 2: Tennessee
- August 7: Kansas, Missouri, Michigan, Washington
- August 11: Hawaii
Incumbents Scott Fitzgerald (R) and Terry Moulton (R) won easy victories. Republican Jerry Petrowski easily won Pam Galloway‘s (R) former seat. Unofficial results showed John Lehman (D) defeated Van Wanggaard (R) by 779 votes and he declared victory. Wanggaard considered a recount – the county’s board of canvassars had until June 15 to submit final vote totals.  With the official canvass showing Lehman winning by 834 votes, Wanggaard called for a recount on June 15.
The recount began on June 20 and concluded today. Candidates now have five business days to appeal in Racine County Circuit Court. Final tallies released today show Lehman won by 819 votes – 36,358 to 35,539. Wanggaard is looking at possible legal challenges.
In calling for the recount, Wanggaard released a statement saying “I hope a trusted and verified result of the election will finally allow us to move forward” and that the move “is not about maintaining power.” Wanggaard had to pay a fee of $685 to request the recount, but the costs will ultimately fall to the taxpayers of Racine County.
Meanwhile, both parties are discussing possible changes to the state’s recall laws. Bill Feehan, a Republican candidate for state Senate, pointed to the position held by many in his party, stating, “Polls show 70 percent of people want to see the standard raised to some kind of legal definition where a crime has been committed or they’ve been convicted of a crime.” Some Democrats, however, have said that’s already covered in the Wisconsin Constitution. What is needed, they say, is to allow for the recall of legislation so voters can hold a referendum on certain bills.