State Legislative Tracker: A look at potential "game-changer" races across the country
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.
|Chambers where partisan control could swing||12||13||2||0||27|
|Chambers that are unlikely to change partisan control||20||38||0||1||59|
Chambers that could swing
Alaska State Senate
Alaska House of Representatives
Arkansas State Senate
Arkansas House of Representatives
Colorado State Senate
Colorado House of Representatives
Iowa State Senate
Iowa House of Representatives
Kentucky House of Representatives
Maine State Senate
Maine House of Representatives
Michigan House of Representatives
Minnesota State Senate
Minnesota House of Representatives
Nevada State Assembly
Nevada State Senate
New Hampshire State Senate
New Hampshire House of Representatives
New Mexico State Senate
New Mexico House of Representatives
New York State Senate
Oregon State Senate
Oregon House of Representatives
Pennsylvania State Senate
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Washington State Senate
Wisconsin State Senate
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.
- 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.
| 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.
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.
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.
As of today, October 22, 4 state's sessions are currently in recess:
|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.
Brain stated that the suit could continue on the following three original arguments:
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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. 
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:
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.
As of July 12, all signature filing deadlines had passed.
- See also: 2012 election dates
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:
- 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
- Georgia - July 31
- Tennessee - August 2
- Kansas, Missouri, Michigan, Washington - August 7
- Hawaii - August 11
- Connecticut, Florida, Minnesota, Wisconsin - August 14
- Wyoming - August 21
- Alaska, Arizona, Vermont - August 28
- Massachusetts - September 6
- Delaware, New Hampshire, Rhode Island - September 11
- New York - September 13
So far in 2012 there have been 32 special elections in 13 states.
There are no special elections scheduled to take place this week.
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
- State legislative elections, 2012
- 2012 state legislative calendar
- Signature requirements and deadlines for 2012 state government elections
- State legislative special elections, 2012
- State legislative recalls
- StateNet, "Daily Session Summary," accessed October 22, 2012
- Mercury News, "Brown decides January is best for special session," October 16, 2012
- Las Vegas Review Journal, "Nevada to vote again on special sessions," October 15, 2012
- StateScape, Session schedules, accessed October 22, 2012
- Illinois General Assembly, "Session schedule," accessed October 22, 2012
- Arizona Central, "Suit vs. Ariz. congressional map partially tossed," October 16, 2012
- Billings Gazette, "Gazette opinion: Keeping tabs on state redistricting commission," October 17, 2012
- Texas Tribune, "Texas Appeals Redistricting Decision; Elections Proceed," October 19, 2012
- New York Times, "Way Cleared for November Vote in Texas," August 31, 2012
- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Lawyers in GOP redistricting case withheld 34 emails from groups," October 16, 2012