State Legislative Tracker: A look at potential "game-changer" races across the country

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October 22, 2012

Edited by Greg Janetka
This week's tracker features a look at potential "game-changer" races and which chambers could change hands in the November election.

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Weekly highlight

While there are 6,015 seats to be elected in 2012, only a handful will ultimately impact which party controls a state legislative chamber. Because of a number of factors including competitiveness and redistricting, many state legislative seats are virtually decided before voters even head to the polls. Thus, in swing states, it is likely that a select few races will dictate which party has the majority after November 6, 2012.

Ballotpedia has been following these races throughout the year and has complied a detailed picture of the country as a whole as well as highlighting specific state races.

There are 86 chambers holding elections on November 6, 2012. The following table shows a summary of how each chamber falls in the "game-changer" category. For full details on individual races check out Ballotpedia:"Game-changers" in the 2012 state legislative elections.

Game-Changer Chambers
Type Democratic Party Republican Party Purple.png Grey.png TOTALS
Chambers where partisan control could swing 12 13 2 0 27
Chambers that are unlikely to change partisan control 20 38 0 1 59
TOTALS 32 51 2 1 86

Chambers that could swing

Purple.png Alaska State Senate
Republican Party Alaska House of Representatives
Democratic Party Arkansas State Senate
Democratic Party Arkansas House of Representatives
Democratic Party Colorado State Senate
Republican Party Colorado House of Representatives
Democratic Party Iowa State Senate
Republican Party Iowa House of Representatives
Democratic Party Kentucky House of Representatives
Republican Party Maine State Senate
Republican Party Maine House of Representatives
Republican Party Michigan House of Representatives
Republican Party Minnesota State Senate
Republican Party Minnesota House of Representatives
Democratic Party Nevada State Assembly
Democratic Party Nevada State Senate
Republican Party New Hampshire State Senate
Republican Party New Hampshire House of Representatives
Democratic Party New Mexico State Senate
Democratic Party New Mexico House of Representatives
Republican Party New York State Senate
Democratic Party Oregon State Senate
Purple.png Oregon House of Representatives
Republican Party Pennsylvania State Senate
Republican Party Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Democratic Party Washington State Senate
Democratic Party Wisconsin State Senate

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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 October 22, 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, Nevada and North Dakota, while prefiling of legislation is going on in Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, New Hampshire and Virginia.[1]

Special sessions

Snapshot of State Legislatures:
Monday, October 22, 2012
There are 7,383 Total State Legislators
Total Democratic state legislators 3,301 (44.7%)
Total Republican state legislators 3,945 (53.4%)
There are 99 Total State Legislative Chambers
Total Democratic Party-controlled chambers 37
Total Republican Party-controlled chambers 58
Total tied or nonpartisan 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.

California

Back in August, Gov. Jerry Brown (D) told legislators that he planned to call a special session in December to address health care reform. Last week, Brown announced he would put the special session on hold until January so that it would take place during the normal legislative working schedule, thus saving taxpayer money.[2]

Nevada

If supporters of Question 1 have their way, Nevada will become the 35th state to allow legislators to call a special session. Currently, only the governor has that power. Voters rejected a similar measure in 2006 by a margin of 52-48 percent. Opponents of the measure are worried that it would give legislators too much power and turn the part-time legislature into a full-time governing body.[3]

In recess

As of today, October 22, 4 state's sessions are currently in recess:

  • California - In recess from September 1, 2012 to November 29, 2012.[4]
  • Illinois - In recess from August 17, 2012 to November 27, 2012.[5]
  • New York - In recess from June 22, 2012 to January 8, 2013.[4]
  • Wisconsin - In recess from March 17 to December 31, 2012.[4]

Redistricting Roundup.jpg

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 48/50 (Maps unfinished: 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)

Redistricting in Arizona

See also: Redistricting in Arizona

On October 16, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Mark Brain dismissed parts of a lawsuit brought by Republicans against the state's new congressional map, but said it could continue and gave plaintiffs until November 9 to file a new complaint.[6]

Brain stated that the suit could continue on the following three original arguments:[6]

  • The commission "abandoned" the initial grid-like map once it started to make adjustments per state Constitution requirements.
  • The commission did not take into consideration suggestions by the Legislature.
  • Commissioners may have violated the state's open meeting law when drawing up what eventually became Congressional District 9.

The complaints dismissed included arguments that the commission failed to advertise a proper congressional map and that it violated Open Meeting Law when discussing hiring potential mapping firms.[6]

Redistricting in Montana

See also: Redistricting in Montana

The Montana Districting and Apportionment Commission is scheduled to meet October 25 to correct technical errors in the plan for House legislative districts that was introduced in August. Additionally, a public hearing is scheduled for November 15 in Helena to introduce amendments and discuss how House districts will be paired to make up the state's 50 senate districts.[7]

Montana and Maine are the only states who have yet to pass legislative maps.

Redistricting in Texas

See also: Redistricting in Texas

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott (R) announced on October 19 that the state was appealing the decision of a federal court that denied preclearance to maps drawn by the Legislature. Under federal law, states which have had a history of discrimination have to seek approval for their maps through either the US Department of Justice or the federal court system. Abbott decided to go through the courts, who rejected the maps in August because they discriminated against minority voters.[8]

The lawsuit, however, will have no effect on this year's elections as they will proceed using maps drawn by a court earlier this year.[9]

Redistricting in Wisconsin

See also: Redistricting in Wisconsin

Controversy over new maps in Wisconsin began long before work on them got under way and shows no sign of stopping. After a drawnout lawsuit, the court eventually approved the maps but chided Republicans for the secretiveness of the process. Additionally, after lawyers for the Legislature continually refused to release documents the court fined the firm of Michael Best & Friedrich over $17,000. That, however, was not enough to get them to release all of the records.

A new investigation shows the firm withheld 34 emails that discuss the process Republicans used to draw up the maps, including the details related to a July 2011 public hearing that was highly orchestrated to support Republicans. Attorneys for the legislature recruited people to testify, outlined witness testimony, and wrote questions for Republican committee members. There was also a concentrated effort to keep Latinos within the same Senate district so if changes were required they would be limited. [10]

Redistricting on the ballot

See also: Redistricting measures on the ballot

This year voters in five states will go to the polls to cast their vote on proposed changes to their state's redistricting process. The measures are as follows:

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.

Primaries

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 198 state legislative incumbents were defeated in a primary - 124 Republicans and 74 Democrats.

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

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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 and House District 52
  • 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
  • December 11: Iowa State Senate District 22
  • December 18: Virginia House of Delegates District 89
  • January 8, 2013: California State Senate District 4
  • January 8, 2013: Georgia State Senate District 30

See also

References