State Legislative Tracker: Partisan count update

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November 28, 2011

Edited by Greg Janetka

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This week's tracker features an update on the current state legislative partisan breakdown and a brief look at a developing controversy in Virginia.

Partisan breakdown

As of today, November 28, 2011 the following figures represent the cumulative partisan breakdown of the 50 state senates and state houses. In the 50 states, Republicans currently control 53.3% of all seats while Democrats hold 45.1%. All told, Republicans control 59 chambers while Democrats are the majority in 37 chambers.

The totals represent a loss of three Democratic and a loss of four Republican legislators from the October 31 tracker.

Note: The figures do not reflect the changes as a result of the 2011 legislative elections. Those partisan differences will be accounted for in 2012 once legislators are sworn in.

Representation in 50 State Legislatures
Party Number of Percentage
Democratic state legislators 3,331 45.1%
Republican state legislators 3,936 53.3%
Independent state legislators 67 0.90%
Third party (and non-voting) legislators 11 0.15%
Vacancies 26 0.36%

The partisan composition of state houses refers to which party holds the majority of seats in the state house or the lower level of each state legislature. Altogether, in the 49 state houses, there are 5,413 state representatives.

As of today, November 28, 2011, the breakdown of chamber control by party is as follows:

  • Democratic Party 18 chambers
  • Republican Party 30 chambers
  • Purple.png 1 chamber (Oregon)
See also: Partisan composition of state senates

Cumulative numbers

As of today, November 28, 2011 5,361 state representatives are affiliated with either the Republican or Democratic parties.

Party Number of Percentage
Democratic state representatives 2,453 45.3%
Republican state representatives 2,908 53.7%
Independent state representatives 14 0.25%
Third party (and non-voting) representatives 9 0.17%
Vacancies 17 0.31%


There are 17 state house vacancies in 14 different states as of today, November 28, 2011. They are as follows:

State Vacancies
Alabama 1
Georgia 1
Illinois 1
Kentucky 1
Maine 1
Michigan 2
Minnesota 1
New Hampshire 2
New Jersey 2
Ohio 1
Oklahoma 1
Texas 1
Vermont 1
Virginia 1


There are 23 state representatives in 12 states identifying as independents or parties other than Democratic and Representative as of today, November 28, 2011. They are as follows:

State Independents/Third Party
Georgia 1 (Independent)
Louisiana 2 (Independent)
Maine 3 (2 non-voting Native American representatives, 1 Independent)
Missouri 1 (Independent)
New Mexico 1 (Independent)
New York 1 (Independence Party of New York)
North Carolina 1 (Independent)
South Dakota 1 (Independent)
Tennessee 1 (Carter County Republican)
Vermont 8 (5 Vermont Progressive Party, 3 Independent)
Virginia 2 (Independent)
Wisconsin 1 (Independent)
The partisan composition of state senates refers to which political party holds the majority of seats in the state senate. Altogether, in the 50 state senates, there are 1,971 state senators.

As of today, November 28, 2011, the breakdown of chamber control by party is as follows:

See also: Partisan composition of state houses

Cumulative numbers

As of today, November 28, 2011, 1,906 state senators are affiliated with either the Republican or Democratic parties.

Party Number of Percentage
Democratic state senators 878 44.5%
Republican state senators 1,028 52.2%
Nonpartisan state senators 49 2.49%
Independent state senators 4 0.2%
Third Party state senators 2 0.10%
Vacancies 10 0.50%


There are 9 state senate vacancies as of today, November 28, 2011.

State Vacancies
Colorado 1
Georgia 2
Massachusetts 1
Mississippi 1
New Mexico 1
North Carolina 1
Ohio 1
Washington 1


There are 6 state senators in 5 states identifying as independents or parties other than Democratic and Representative as of today, November 28, 2011. They are as follows:

State Independents/Third Party
Alabama 1 (Independent)
Kentucky 1 (Independent)
Maine 1 (Independent)
Rhode Island 1 (Independent)
Vermont 2 (Vermont Progressive Party)


So far this year, 45 out of 50 state legislatures have officially adjourned their regular session. No states are scheduled to adjourn this week. Illinois convenes tomorrow for the fall's extended session.[1][2]

Current sessions capture for the week of November 28, 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 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 three states: Kentucky, Maine and Montana, while prefiling of legislation is going on in eight states: Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Virginia.[3]

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.

  • North Carolina began a special session yesterday. A schedule was not readily available, but it is believed the main reason for the session is to discuss overriding the governor's vetoes of new laws, including the "Energy Jobs Act." The session is expected to adjourn this week.[4][5]
  • Washington began a special session today to cut $2 billion from the budget. Some analysts predict the session could last at least three weeks.[6]

So far this year, there have been 42 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 42
Number of states that held special sessions this year 27
Number of seats up for general election this year 578

No states have future special sessions scheduled. However, there has been talk of possible special sessions in several states.

  • Arizona has experienced a tumultuous redistricting process. Two weeks ago, 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.[7]
  • New York may have a special session in early December to deal with the state's budget.[8]

In recess

As of today, November 28, 20 states' sessions are currently in mid-term recess:

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

  • Iowa - Mid-term recess June 30 through January 8, 2012[9]
  • Kansas - Mid-term recess June 1 through January 8, 2012[9]
  • Maine - Mid-term recess June 30 through January 3, 2012[9]
  • Massachusetts - Mid-term recess November 17 through January 3, 2012[9]
  • Minnesota - Mid-term recess May 24 through January 23, 2012[9]

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


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.

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.

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

The Republican push to take control of the Virginia Senate resulted in a split chamber, now 20-20. Although the chamber is tied, Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling (R), declared the parties would not share power. Acting in his capacity as President of the Senate, Bolling said he would vote to let Republicans organize as the majority.[11] Democrats, however, are considering taking the matter to court.

Last Monday, Sens. Dick Saslaw and Donald McEachin said they would ask that a judge decide whether the Lieutenant Governor can cast a vote in organizing the Senate. According to McEachin, while the state Constitution clearly outlines the right of the lieutenant governor to break ties on general legislation, it is unclear regarding votes on organizational matters. "This lieutenant governor says there's nothing he can't vote on. So it's not just a matter of this year; it ought to get settled for all time, and that's the purpose behind this," Saslaw stated.[12] The lawsuit has not yet been filed.

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:

Special elections

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

There is one state holding a special election tomorrow, Alabama House District 45. Owen Drake (R) passed away on June 27, 2011 after a battle with cancer. A special primary was held on August 30 and a Republican primary runoff was held on October 11.[14]

Democratic Party Democratic Candidate:
Republican Party Republican Candidates:

Special general election candidates:

Democratic Party Paige Parnell
Republican Party Dickie Drake

Looking ahead

Upcoming special elections include:

  • 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.[15] Supporters of the recall have 60 days to collect the necessary signatures in order to force recall elections in 2012.


  1. Northwest Herald, "As Sears EDA bill looms, D-300 leaders make plans," November 22, 2011
  2. Gant Daily, "Illinois lawmakers to take up tax plan to keep CME, Sears in state," November 28, 2011
  3. StateNet, "Daily Session Summary," November 28, 2011
  4. NBC 17, "Protesters greet NC lawmakers as controversial session begins," November 28, 2011
  5. Mountain Xpress, "Downhill from here: Legislators roll back to Raleigh," November 27, 2011
  6. Public News Service, "Predictions for WA's Special Legislative Session," November 28, 2011
  7. Arizona Capitol Times, "AZ Capitol Times: Special session over reinstalling redistricting commission chairwoman?," November 21, 2011
  8. New York Daily News, "A December Session For The Legislature? Depends Who You Talk To!," November 25, 2011
  9. 9.00 9.01 9.02 9.03 9.04 9.05 9.06 9.07 9.08 9.09 9.10 9.11 9.12 9.13 9.14 9.15 9.16 9.17 StateScape, Session schedules, accessed November 28, 2011
  10. The Sacramento Bee, California Democrats, backed by business, roll out last-minute proposal on regulations, Sept. 2, 2011 (dead link)
  11. Washington Post, "Va. GOP won’t share power in split Senate; Lt. Gov. Bolling to cast deciding vote for control," November 9, 2011
  12. Pilot Online, "Va. Senate Democrats say GOP can't seize majority," November 22, 2011
  13. Reporter News, "Court orders primary filing period pushed back," November 7, 2011
  14., "Gov. Robert Bentley calls special election to fill two legislative seats," July 11, 2011
  15. FOX 6 Now, "Recall paperwork filed Tuesday for four senators, including Van Wanggaard," November 15, 2011