State government trifectas

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A state government trifecta occurs when one political party holds the following three positions in a state's government:

In other words, a trifecta occurs when there is no divided government, which is also referred to as "single party government." The concept of the trifecta is important in state lawmaking because in many states, the governor, senate majority leader and house majority leader play decisive roles in the legislative process.

Following the November 2014 elections, there are trifectas in 30 of the 50 states.

Prior to the November 2014 elections, trifectas existed in 36 of the country's 50 states.

The nation's 36 trifectas prior to November 2014 were the highest total in more than 60 years.[1][2] A New York Times series in January 2014 explored the growing number of trifectas. At the time of that series, there were 88 million Americans living in Democratic trifecta states; 157 million people living in Republican trifecta states; and 69 million people living in states with divided government. The series listed six issues that have been increasing in prominence in trifecta states: abortion, Medicaid, minimum wage, same-sex marriage, unions and voter identification.[3][4]

Ballotpedia covers the latest developments in state partisan control of state governments here. Our page on state partisan control covers the number of state officials by party, current trifectas and historical data about trifectas.

Trifecta variations

Trifecta plus

Trifectas can be further analyzed by adding in an additional dataset -- State Supreme Courts. In some states, supreme court justices are elected on a partisan ticket, while in some cases the elected justices are nonpartisan. Still in other states, the justices are appointed. However, in many cases, there is an effective understanding that a working majority of the court sides with either conservative or progressive issues.

A Trifecta Plus for the Democratic Party is a state with a trifecta and a working majority of the state's high court that tends to support progressive jurisprudence. A Trifecta Plus for the Republican Party is a state with a Trifecta and a working majority of the State's High Court that tends to support conservative or libertarian jurisprudence.

Trifectas with supermajorities

Another layer of analysis for state government trifectas is the existence of a supermajority in both legislative bodies. The term supermajority varies from state to state, though states most commonly define a supermajority as either 60 percent or two-thirds of seats held by a single party. A trifecta with a supermajority increases the odds of a party passing new bills with only token opposition from the minority party.

Maps of trifecta variations

 Trifecta maps 

Who Runs the State report

See also: Ballotpedia: Who Runs the States

To further investigate the concept of trifectas and their impact on state government and policy, Ballotpedia analyzed state government control from 1992-2013, focusing specifically on trifectas. For the last information on state government trifectas, check out our page dealing with partisan control of state governments.

Trifecta analysis

The trifecta analysis over this period shows a notable trend toward one-party control of state governments. At the outset of the study period (1992), 18 states had trifectas while 31 states had divided governments. In 2013, only 13 states had divided governments, while single-party trifectas hold sway in 36 states, the most in the 22 years we studied. The number of states with trifectas doubled between 1992 and 2013.

The trifecta analysis also allowed us to identify seven states that have experienced dramatic changes in partisan state government control from the first 11 years of the study to the last 11 years of the study. Studying the partisan composition of state governments as we do also allows a clean way to assess whether a state is "moving red" or "moving blue."


Ballotpedia has tracked the party control of state government, going back to 1992. Click on show on the charts and infographics below to see how state partisan control has evolved in the recent past:

Visualization of state party control

Legend for State government trifecta visualization -- Figures 10 and 11

Trifectas and presidential voting

Legend for State government visualization with Presidential Voting -- Figures 19 and 20

Infographic of state government partisanship

Legislatively-referred constitutional amendment

See also: Legislatively-referred constitutional amendment

A legislatively-referred constitutional amendment is a proposed constitutional amendment that appears on a state's ballot as a ballot measure because the state legislature in that state voted to put it before the voters. A state government trifecta, especially a trifecta with supermajority, increases the odds of adding measures to the ballot.

A legislatively-referred constitutional amendment is a limited form of direct democracy with comparison to the initiated constitutional amendment. With the initiated constitutional amendment, voters can initiate the amendment and approve it, whereas they can only approve or reject amendments initiated by their state's legislature with the legislatively-referred amendment.

Forty-nine states have a law in place that allows citizens to vote on proposed constitutional amendments offered by the state legislature. The exception is Delaware, where the legislature alone acts on constitutional amendments.

Breakdown by states

The breakdown of states below is current as of December 2012, after the 2012 elections.

Breakdown of all 50 states
Requirement By Type Total States
Majority one session 9
Majority two sessions 7
60 percent supermajority 9
2/3 supermajority 18
Multiple options 6
Note: Delaware is not included above. The Legislature acts alone on constitutional amendments.

Majority (One session)

Nine states allow a referred amendment to go on the ballot after a majority vote in one session of the state's legislature. All 10 states have both chambers of the legislature controlled by a single party.

Majority (Two sessions)

Seven states allow a referred amendment to go on the ballot after a majority vote in two successive sessions of the state's legislature. With the exception of New York, all other states have both chambers of the legislature controlled by a single party.

60 percent supermajority

Nine states allow a referred amendment to go on the ballot after a 60 percent supermajority vote in one session of the state's legislature. States with a 60 percent supermajority include Alabama and Maryland. Illinois, North Carolina, and Ohio have the required supermajority if you assume some independents caucus with the majority party.[5]

Two-thirds Supermajority

Eighteen states allow a referred amendment to go on the ballot after a two-thirds supermajority vote in one session of the state's legislature. States with a two-thirds supermajority include California, Idaho, Kansas, Tennessee, Utah, and Wyoming. Georgia has the required supermajority if you assume some independents caucus with the majority party.[5]

Multiple options

Six states (Connecticut, Hawaii, New Jersey Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Vermont) have an either/or system: a proposed amendment must be passed by simple majority in two separate legislative sessions, or by a supermajority vote of one session.[6] All four states have both chambers of the state legislature controlled by a single party. Additionally, Hawaii Democrats control both chambers with a supermajority.

New Mexico has a unique provision such that any amendments to the New Mexico Constitution proposed by the New Mexico State Legislature that would "restrict the rights created by Section 1 or Section 3 of Article VII or Section 8 and Section 10 of Article XII must win a 75 percent vote of the state legislature to go on the ballot.

See also