State Legislative Tracker: Regular, special and recall elections on the ballot tomorrow

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November 7, 2011

Edited by Greg Janetka

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This week's tracker features a spotlight on tomorrow's state legislative elections in Mississippi, New Jersey and Virginia. There will also be 13 special elections and two recall elections.


So far this year, 45 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] This week, no states are scheduled to adjourn their 2011 regular session.

Current sessions capture for the week of November 7, 2011

Regular sessions

The following 5 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 good number of legislators remain active this fall with redistricting hearings and meetings. Meanwhile, although most states have concluded 2011 business, some states are already seeing 2012 action beginning. Drafting for 2012 has begun in Kentucky and Maine, while prefiling of legislation is going on in Alabama, Florida, Kansas, Oklahoma and Tennessee.[2]

Special sessions

Special sessions have been and are expected to be 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 began a special session on November 1 to consider challenging a planned transnational oil pipeline.[3]
  • North Dakota began a special session today to conduct redistricting. However, since the next regular session is not until January 2013, it is expected that other issues, such as flood relief, will also be addressed.[4]
  • North Carolina began a special session on today to correct mistakes in the laws establishing new legislative and congressional districts. Other legislation might be considered, but the session is expected to adjourn November 8.[5]
  • Illinois begins the last three days of a two-week veto session on November 8. Issues include the budget, gambling and private sector job growth.[6]

So far this year, there have been 39 special sessions in 27 states.

State Legislative Tracker: A glance at state legislatures
Number of special elections this year 90
Number of special sessions this year 39
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:

  • West Virginia: To begin November 13 to certify October 4 election results and swear in Gov.-elect Earl Ray Tomblin (D)[7]
  • Washington: To begin November 28 to cut $2 billion from the budget[8]
  • Minnesota: A special session was to begin November 22 regarding Vikings Stadium, but Gov. Mark Dayton (D) announced he would not call a special session before Thanksgiving. It now appears that one will not take place.[9]

In recess

As of November 7, 19 states' sessions are currently in mid-term recess:

  • Alaska - Mid-term recess April 18 through January 16, 2012[10]
  • California - Mid-term recess September 9 through January 4, 2012.[11]
  • Delaware - July 1, 2011 through January 10, 2012[10]
  • Georgia - Mid-term recess April 15 through January 8, 2012[10]
  • Hawaii - Mid-term recess May 6 through January 7, 2012[10]

  • Illinois - June 23 through January 12, 2012[10]
  • Iowa - Mid-term recess June 30 through January 8, 2012[10]
  • Kansas - Mid-term recess June 1 through January 8, 2012[10]
  • Maine - Mid-term recess June 30 through January 3, 2012[10]
  • Minnesota - Mid-term recess May 24 through January 23, 2012[10]

  • Tennessee - Mid-term recess May 22 through January 9, 2012[10]
  • Vermont - Mid-term recess May 7 through January 3, 2012[10]
  • Washington - Mid-term recess April 23 through January 8, 2012[10]


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

In this year's 2011 election cycle, all legislative primaries have been held. New Jersey held statewide primaries on June 7, 2011, Mississippi held statewide primaries on August 2, Virginia held statewide primaries on August 23, and Louisiana held statewide primaries on October 22, 2011.

Since Louisiana uses the blanket primary system, the majority of races have been determined - a candidate winning over 50 percent in the primary wins the seat with no need for a general election. Currently, 4 Louisiana State Senate and 21 Louisiana House of Representatives races remain undecided - the top two vote getters in these races will meet in the general election on November 19, 2011.

Elections spotlight

See also: Election preview: More than 400 state legislative seats up for election tomorrow
Competitiveness Overview
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Competitiveness Studies by Year
Year-by-year comparison of results

There are three states holding state legislative elections tomorrow. A total of 434 seats will be won in Mississippi, New Jersey and Virginia.

Expectations are that the two chambers that could switch parties are the Mississippi House and Virginia State Senate.

Polls will be open in each state during the following times (times reflect local time zones):

  • Mississippi: 7am-7pm
  • New Jersey: 6am-8pm
  • Virginia: 6am-7pm

Despite the fact that all three states are holding general elections for all legislative seats, a high number of seats feature only one major party candidate. A Ballotpedia analysis looked at the competitiveness in state legislative elections this year. In Mississippi and Virginia, more than half of the seats up for election feature only one major party candidate on the ballot.

Below are brief breakdowns of what to expect in each state with general elections tomorrow.


See also: Mississippi State Senate elections, 2011 and Mississippi House of Representatives elections, 2011

The state legislature did not complete redistricting this year. Thus, candidates are running for election under the same districts that were drawn with 2000 Census data. The State Senate is controlled by Republicans while Democrats are the majority in the House. The two chambers could not agree on maps and the stalemate led to court decisions that kept old maps in place for this year's election.

Republicans are expected to retain control of the Senate and possibly increase their advantage. If the GOP wins control of the House, then it paves the way for a GOP-controlled redistricting process. Democrats are looking to hold onto the House to maintain split government in Mississippi.

Although there are 122 House races to be decided, 60 candidates are virtually winners already because they are major party candidates that do not face major party opposition on Tuesday. Meanwhile, 19 Senate candidates are major party candidates without major party opposition.

Mississippi State Senate
Party As of November 2011 After the 2011 Election
     Democratic Party 24 21
     Republican Party 27 31
     Vacancy 1 0
Total 52 52
Mississippi House of Representatives
Party As of November 2011 After the 2011 Election
     Democratic Party 68 59
     Republican Party 54 63
Total 122 122

New Jersey

See also: New Jersey State Senate elections, 2011 and New Jersey General Assembly elections, 2011
New Jersey

As a result of the redistricting process, consensus in New Jersey is that there are only a handful of competitive districts out of 40. Thus, with the Democratic Party controlling both chambers heading into the election, expectations are that there will be no change in partisan control.

In 2007, the last time both chambers were up for election in New Jersey, Democrats held a partisan advantage of 23-17 in the Senate and 48-32 in the General Assembly.

However, when the votes were totaled, Republicans won more votes than their percentage of seats would indicate. In the 36 Senate races where a Democrat and a Republican both ran, Republicans actually garnered more votes. Meanwhile, of votes cast for Democrats or Republicans for the General Assembly, Democrats received 52% while Republicans had 48%. However, the partisan breakdown of the chamber -- 48-32 -- reveals that Democrats held 60% of the seats in the General Assembly.

Because redistricting produced essentially the same map as before -- one that placed a higher emphasis on incumbency protection than competitive districts -- election analysts will be watching to see if the vote totals paint a different picture from the post-election partisan breakdown of the chambers.

New Jersey State Senate
Party As of November 2011 After the 2011 Election
     Democratic Party 24 24
     Republican Party 16 16
Total 40 40
New Jersey General Assembly
Party As of November 2011 After the 2011 Election
     Democratic Party 47 48
     Republican Party 33 32
Total 80 80


See also: Virginia State Senate elections, 2011 and Virginia House of Delegates elections, 2011

While the Republicans maintain a comfortable control of the House of Delegates, Democrats have a slim 22-18 margin in the State Senate. The GOP is making a large push to take control of the Senate.

While Virginia did complete its state legislative redistricting -- which relocated six incumbents -- the new Congressional map was not finalized. If Republicans win control of the Senate tomorrow, they will have a trifecta in state government and effectively have free reign over the new U.S. House map.

Virginia State Senate
Party As of November 2011 After the 2011 Election
     Democratic Party 22 20
     Republican Party 18 20
Total 40 40
Virginia House of Delegates
Party As of November 2011 After the 2011 Election
     Democratic Party 39 32
     Republican Party 58 67
     Independent 2 1
     Vacancy 1 0
Total 100 100

Special elections

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

There are 7 states holding legislative special elections this week. On November 8 a total of 8 senate and 5 house seats will be up. Seven of those seats were last held by Republicans, while six belonged to Democrats.

The most compelling special election race tomorrow will be in Iowa, where partisan control of the Iowa State Senate is at stake.

Tomorrow's special elections include:

State District Polls Winner  Winner Vote %   Party-Before   Party-After 
 Georgia Georgia  House District 10   7:00am - 7:00pm EST     Pending...   Republican Party
 House District 25 7:00am - 7:00pm EST   Pending...   Republican Party
 Senate District 28 7:00am - 7:00pm EST   Pending...   Republican Party
 Senate District 50 7:00am - 7:00pm EST   Pending...   Republican Party
 Iowa Iowa  Senate District 18 7:00am - 9:00pm CST   Pending...   Democratic Party
 Mississippi Mississippi   Senate District 8 7:00am - 7:00pm CST   Pending...   Democratic Party
 Missouri Missouri  House District 15 6:00am - 7:00pm CST   Pending...   Republican Party
 House District 39 6:00am - 7:00pm CST   Pending...   Democratic Party
 House District 41 6:00am - 7:00pm CST   Pending...   Democratic Party
 House District 83 6:00am - 7:00pm CST   Pending...   Democratic Party
 Tennessee Tennessee  Senate District 6 8:00am - 8:00pm EST   Pending...   Republican Party
 Texas Texas  House District 14 7:00am - 7:00pm CST   Pending...   Republican Party
 Wisconsin Wisconsin  Assembly District 95  6:00am - 8:00pm CST   Pending...   Democratic Party

Looking ahead

  • November 29: Alabama House District 45
  • January 10, 2012: Massachusetts Senate 2nd Suffolk and Middlesex
  • February 14, 2012: Oklahoma House District 1

Recall elections

See also: Russell Pearce recall, Arizona State Legislature (2011) and Paul Scott recall, Michigan House of Representatives (2011)

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.

On November 8, 2011, there will be two state legislative recall elections.

  • Arizona: State Senate President Russell Pearce (R) faces recall over his efforts against illegal immigration, especially controversial legislation SB 1070. He faces Jerry Lewis in the election.
  • Michigan: Representative Paul Scott (R) faces recall over his support for cuts to education. Scott's recall is not an election, but rather a question, asking voters if they want to recall Scott or not. If approved Scott will be removed from office and a special election for the seat will take place on the next regular election date.