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State Legislative Tracker: 2012 primary dates continue to change

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November 21, 2011

Edited by Greg Janetka

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This week's tracker features a spotlight on the changing nature of 2012 primary election dates as well as a wrap-up of the final regular state legislative elections of the year that took place in Louisiana.


So far this year, 46 out of 50 state legislatures have officially adjourned their regular session. However, several special sessions remain on tap for the rest of the year.[1] No states are scheduled to adjourn this week. Massachusetts adjourned their 2011 regular session on November 16.

Current sessions capture for the week of November 21, 2011

Regular sessions

The following 4 states remain in regular legislative sessions:

Click here to see a chart of each state's 2011 session information.

While most state legislatures are not currently in session, a number of legislators remain active this fall with redistricting hearings and meetings. Meanwhile, although most states have concluded 2011 business, a number of states have already begun 2012 action. Drafting for 2012 has begun in Kentucky, Maine and Montana, while prefiling of legislation is going on in Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Oklahoma and Tennessee.[2]

Special sessions

Special sessions have been a widespread occurrence in the state legislatures in 2011, in particular due to the necessity of states to conduct the redistricting of state legislative and congressional districts.

  • Nebraska is expected to finish up its special session tomorrow. The session, which began November 1, was called to consider challenging a planned transnational oil pipeline, but during the session the State Department announced the pipeline would be delayed at least a year. Two bills are expected to be passed - one mandates state approval of future pipelines and the second allows the state to collaborate on environmental studies with federal organizations.[3]
  • Arizona has experienced a tumultuous redistricting process. Last week, the state Supreme Court reinstated Arizona Independent Redistricting chair Colleen Mathis, after she was impeached earlier this month by Governor Jan Brewer (R). Now, Brewer and state legislative leaders are said to be considering a special session to further address the matter -- including possibly removing Mathis once again. Another alleged proposal being discussed is the complete withdrawal of the ballot measure that established the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission. Nothing formal has yet been scheduled.[4]

So far this year, there have been 40 special sessions in 27 states.

State Legislative Tracker: A glance at state legislatures
Number of special elections this year 92
Number of special sessions this year 40
Number of states that held special sessions this year 27
Number of seats up for general election this year 578

The following states also have special sessions scheduled:

  • Washington: To begin November 28 to cut $2 billion from the budget[5]

In recess

As of November 21, 21 states' sessions are currently in mid-term recess:

  • Alaska - Mid-term recess April 18 through January 16, 2012[6]
  • California - Mid-term recess September 9 through January 4, 2012.[7]
  • Delaware - July 1, 2011 through January 10, 2012[6]
  • Georgia - Mid-term recess April 15 through January 8, 2012[6]
  • Hawaii - Mid-term recess May 6 through January 7, 2012[6]

  • Illinois - June 23 through January 12, 2012[6]
  • Iowa - Mid-term recess June 30 through January 8, 2012[6]
  • Kansas - Mid-term recess June 1 through January 8, 2012[6]
  • Maine - Mid-term recess June 30 through January 3, 2012[6]
  • Massachusetts - Mid-term recess November 17 through January 3, 2012[6]
  • Minnesota - Mid-term recess May 24 through January 23, 2012[6]

  • Tennessee - Mid-term recess May 22 through January 9, 2012[6]
  • Vermont - Mid-term recess May 7 through January 3, 2012[6]
  • Washington - Mid-term recess April 23 through January 8, 2012[6]


See also: State legislative elections, 2011 and State legislative elections results, 2011
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A total of 578 seats were up for general election in state legislatures in 2011.

General elections were held in New Jersey, Mississippi and Virginia on November 8, 2011. Louisiana's general election took place on November 19. Since Louisiana uses the blanket primary system, the majority of races were already determined - a candidate winning over 50 percent in the primary wins the seat with no need for a general election. Four Louisiana State Senate and 21 Louisiana House of Representatives races went to a general election. Of the 25 seats, Democrats won 14 while Republicans won 10 and an Independent won one. Partisan control was not at stake in either chamber - when the Louisiana legislature next convenes, Republicans will hold comfortable margins in both the senate and house.

Five of the eight incumbents who ran were defeated. All told, 28 incumbents were defeated in the 2011 state legislative elections -- eight in primaries and 20 in the general election. Thus, 94.1% of incumbents who ran for re-election in 2011 were victorious.

Louisiana State Senate
Party As of November 2011 After the 2011 Election
     Democratic Party 17 15
     Republican Party 22 24
Total 39 39
Louisiana House of Representatives
Party As of November 2011 After the 2011 Election
     Democratic Party 46 45
     Republican Party 57 58
     Independent 2 2
Total 105 105

Thus, of the 578 seats up for election, Democrats won 264 (45.7%) while Republicans won 311 (53.8%).

Partisan breakdown of state legislators in Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey and Virginia
Before November 2011 election After November 2011 election
Party Senators Representatives Total state legislators Senators Representatives Total state legislators Gain/loss legislators
87 200 287 77 179 256 -23
83 202 285 92 223 315 +26
Independent or nonpartisan
0 4 4 0 3 3 -1
1 1 2 0 0 0 -2

Filing deadlines

See also: Signature requirements and deadlines for 2012 state legislative elections

Signature filing deadlines for candidates who wish to run in 2012 state legislative elections are approaching in several states. There are no states with filing deadlines this week.

States with upcoming deadlines:

However, all three states have had discussion over altering dates based on ongoing redistricting troubles in the courts.

Elections spotlight

Primary dates have been in the news lately as several states have considered - or have been told to - change their date.



Two primaries will be held in Ohio in 2012. The first, held in March, will be for U.S. Senate, state House, state Senate and county races. The second, held in June, will be for U.S. House of Representatives as well as the Presidential primaries and local issues.

The two primaries is a result of redistricting - a court case is pending against the new state congressional districts, which have yet to be finalized. However, if an agreement is reached, things could still change.[8]



Over 60 communities have pledged their support for a bill that would combine the state and presidential primaries on the first Tuesday of June.[9] The presidential primary is currently scheduled for March, with the state primary in September.[10]

Woburn city clerk William C. Campbell, who wrote the law, said the move would save taxpayers an estimated $8 million. Additionally, the bill would also bring the state into compliance with the federal Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act, which mandates ballots that include federal offices must be sent to citizens living abroad at least 45 days prior to an election.[11]

The bill, H.1972, was sent to the Joint Committee on Election Laws on January 24, 2011, where it remains. As of November 16, 2011, the Massachusetts Legislature is in mid-term recess, meaning the bill will not be acted on until next year.

New York

New York

The U.S. Department of Justice filed suit against New York for failing to comply with the MOVE Act in 2010. The two sides compromised, giving New York a wavier for 2010 while the state promised to comply with special terms, which included moving the primary date in 2012. With New York failing to change the date on its own, the DOJ took action and sued the state on September 19, 2011. Numerous proposals were floated by legislators this year, but the two sides refused to compromise - Republicans are pushing for a primary date in August, while Democrats want a primary in late June.[12] New York's primaries are currently set for September 11, 2012, with a signature filing deadline of July 12.

The State Board of Elections asked for another wavier for 2012, stating, “New York State’s redistricting process in 2012 and the short time frame leading up to any newly selected primary date will render it extremely difficult, if not virtually impossible, to administer the numerous elections in 2012 in an orderly fashion and in compliance with the MOVE Act.”[13]

On November 17, the Department of Defense rejected the wavier, allowing the court case to proceed. It is scheduled for December 1.[14]



On November 16, 2011, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (R) signed a bill into law changing the state's legislative primary date from the second Tuesday in September to the second Tuesday in August in order to comply with the MOVE Act.[15]

Special elections

See also: State legislative special elections, 2011 and State legislative special elections, 2012

There are no states holding special elections this week. Seven states held legislative special elections on November 8 - four races remain undecided and are headed to a runoff.

Looking ahead

Upcoming special elections include:

  • November 29: Alabama House District 45
  • December 6: Georgia House District 25 runoff
  • December 6: Georgia Senate District 28 runoff
  • December 6: Georgia Senate District 50 runoff
  • December 13: Texas House of Representatives District 14 runoff
  • December 20: Kentucky House of Representatives District 82
  • January 10, 2012: Massachusetts Senate 2nd Suffolk and Middlesex
  • February 14, 2012: Oklahoma House District 1
  • February 28, 2012: Michigan House of Representatives District 29
  • February 28, 2012: Michigan House of Representatives District 51


See also: State legislative recalls

Currently, 18 states permit the recall of state officials. This year has seen a flurry of recall activity take place, most notably in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Arizona. In Wisconsin, nine state senators faced recall elections this past summer, resulting in the removal of two Republicans from office. Dozens of state legislators in Michigan were targeted for recall, but only one campaign successfully made the ballot. Two recalls - Russell Pearce in Arizona (R) and Paul Scott in Michigan (R) - took place on November 8, 2011, both of which succeeded.

To put the use of recall into perspective, 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. In 2011 there have been 11 state legislative recalls in three states, 4 of which resulted in the legislator being recalled.

On the heels of this success, Democrats in Wisconsin filed recall petitions on November 15 against four Republican state senators - Pam Galloway, Scott Fitzgerald, Terry Moulton and Van Wanggaard.[16] Supporters of the recall have 60 days to collect the necessary signatures in order to force recall elections in 2012.


  1. StateScape, Session updates, accessed November 21, 2011
  2. StateNet, "Daily Session Summary," November 21, 2011
  3. KFBB, "Nebraska's Special Session Over Keystone XL Pipeline Ends Tuesday," November 20, 2011
  4. Arizona Capitol Times, "AZ Capitol Times: Special session over reinstalling redistricting commission chairwoman?," November 21, 2011
  5. Businessweek, "Washington’s Gregoire Calls Special Session to Cut Budget," September 22, 2011
  6. 6.00 6.01 6.02 6.03 6.04 6.05 6.06 6.07 6.08 6.09 6.10 6.11 6.12 6.13 6.14 6.15 6.16 6.17 6.18 StateScape, Session schedules, accessed November 21, 2011
  7. The Sacramento Bee, California Democrats, backed by business, roll out last-minute proposal on regulations, Sept. 2, 2011 (dead link)
  8. Times Bulletin, "Possible ballots for 2012 primaries announced," November 19, 2011
  9. Email from Woburn city clerk William C. Campbell, November 22, 2011
  10. The Hingham Journal, "Hingham selectmen support combining election primaries," November 3, 2011
  11. Braintree Patch, "Braintree Officials Support Bill to Change 2012 Election Dates," October 27, 2011
  12. Capitol Confidential, "State asks more time in primary date defense," November 1, 2011
  13. Capitol Confidential, "Feds set to force August 2012 primary," September 20, 2011
  14. Thomson Reuters, "Defense Dept. rejects NY request for primary date waiver," November 17, 2011
  15. Green Bay Press Gazette, "Law officially moves date of Wisconsin fall primary," November 17, 2011
  16. FOX 6 Now, "Recall paperwork filed Tuesday for four senators, including Van Wanggaard," November 15, 2011