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State Legislative Tracker: Reviewing the 2012 elections

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November 12, 2012

Edited by Greg Janetka
This week's tracker features a review of last week's elections.

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See also: Ballotpedia's update on 2012 state legislative elections and State legislative elections results, 2012

A total of 86 of the 99 chambers held state legislative elections on November 6, 2012.

1,301 (65.97%) of the country's 1,972 state senate seats were up for election and 4,714 (87.12%) of the country's 5,411 state house seats were up for election. Altogether, 6,015 (81.47%) of the country's 7,383 state legislative seats were for election this year.

  • 43 of the 50 state senates held elections.
  • 43 of the 49 state houses held elections.

The 6,015 seats up for election was 110 fewer than the 6,125 that were contested in 2010.

Prior to November, a total of 198 state legislative incumbents were defeated in a primary - 124 Republicans and 74 Democrats. Unofficial results show at least 274 incumbents were defeated in the general election - 209 Republicans and 65 Democrats.

Partisan balance

Heading into the election, Republicans held a commanding advantage in total number of state legislative chambers in which it was the majority party. Republicans controlled 51 chambers with 2012 elections while Democrats controlled 32. Democrats ended up having a better night than Republicans, gaining a total of five chambers in 2012 -- four of which were previously under a Republican majority and the Oregon House, which was split heading into the election. On the flip side, Republicans lost four seats to Democrats but they did pick up the Alaska Senate, also split heading into the election.

Chamber flips

A total of 12 chambers changed partisan control in the 2012 state legislative elections. Eight of those chambers were flipped to Democratic control while four are now in a Republican majority. Those chambers are:

Political trifectas

A trifecta is when one political party holds the governorship and a majority in both chambers of the state legislatures. It's particularly important in the state lawmaking process because the Governor, Senate Majority Leader and House Majority Leader all play decisive roles in the legislative process. The nation appears to be shifting towards state politics being controlled by one party in any given state. Prior to the 2010 election there were 25 political trifectas. That figure rose after the 2010 elections and even further in this year's elections. There are now a total of 37 trifectas throughout the country.

New trifectas

Republican Party Alaska
Democratic Party Colorado
Democratic Party New York
Republican Party North Carolina
Democratic Party Oregon
Republican Party Wisconsin

Trifectas that were lost

Democratic Party Arkansas
Republican Party Maine

Redistricting on the ballot

See also: Redistricting measures on the ballot

This year voters in three states went go to the polls to cast their vote on proposed changes to their state's redistricting process. Two measures passed, while one was defeated:

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. The first 2013 session is scheduled to begin on December 3 in California.

Current sessions capture for the week of November 12, 2012

Regular sessions

See also: Dates of 2012 state legislative sessions and Dates of 2013 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, North Dakota and Wyoming, while prefiling of legislation is going on in Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, New Hampshire, Virginia and Tennessee.[1]

Special sessions

Snapshot of State Legislatures:
Monday, November 12, 2012
There are 7,383 Total State Legislators
Total Democratic state legislators 3,301 (44.7%)
Total Republican state legislators 3,947 (53.5%)
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 39
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.

During 2012, there have been 20 special sessions in 16 states. There are no special sessions currently scheduled.


On November 6, voters approved Nevada’s Question 1. Question 1 addressed special legislative sessions, and specifically would outline that the Nevada Legislature may convene a special legislative session upon a petition signed by two-thirds of the Legislators of each chamber, on "extraordinary occasions."[2]

Under the approval of Question 1, special sessions would be limited to 20 calendar days except in the event that a special session is called to expel a legislator or impeach or remove the Nevada Governor. Other constitutional officers and judicial officers would be included in this impeachment provision. An extension of the sessions would also occur if a supermajority of 66% of members in both chambers approve of doing so.

According to reports the measure was successful approximately 53% of voters casting "yes" votes. Election results are not yet official, as a canvassing of the results will not be done until later this month.

In recess

As of today, November 12, 4 state's sessions are currently in recess:

  • California - In recess from September 1, 2012 to November 29, 2012.[3]
  • Illinois - In recess from August 17, 2012 to November 27, 2012.[4]
  • New York - In recess from June 22, 2012 to January 8, 2013.[3]
  • Wisconsin - In recess from March 17 to December 31, 2012.[3]
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See also: State legislative special elections, 2012

So far in 2012 there have been 39 special elections in 16 states.

There are no special elections scheduled to take place this week.

Recent election results

UncheckedBox.jpgRunoffArrow.jpg On November 6, Mississippi's two special elections took place and will proceed to runoffs on November 27:

CheckedBoxOffset.jpg On November 6, two New Jersey special elections were decided:

Circle question mark.png On November 6, one New Jersey special elections remains too close to call:

  • New Jersey Assembly District 16: Peter Biondi (R) passed away on November 10, 2011 after a battle with cancer.[14] Local party officials selected Donna Simon (R) to serve in the interim.[15][16] While Simon initially declared victory on November 6, Corfield refused to concede as many ballots remained outstanding and unofficial results showed Simon leading Corfield by about 1,700 votes.[17]

Looking ahead

Upcoming special elections include:

  • November 27: Mississippi State Senate District 19 and House District 52 (Runoffs)
  • 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: Kentucky State Senate District 16
  • 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


  1. StateNet, "Daily Session Summary," accessed November 12, 2012
  2. Las Vegas Review Journal, "Nevada voters approve special session question," November 7, 2012
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 StateScape, Session schedules, accessed November 12, 2012
  4. Illinois General Assembly, "Session schedule," accessed November 12, 2012
  5. The Commercial Appeal, "DeSoto County legislator Merle Flowers resigning," May 24, 2012
  6. San Francisco Chronicle, "Runoff ahead in Mississippi Senate District 19," November 7, 2012
  7. San Francisco Chronicle, "Runoff in Miss. House special election," November 7, 2012
  8. Philly.com, "N.J. Supreme Court dismisses assemblywoman's win, citing state's residency rule," February 17, 2012
  9. Courier Post Online, "Mosquera appointed to Assembly seat," February 29, 2012
  10. Philly.com, "Lovett and Mosquera face off again for Assembly seat," October 18, 2012
  11. 11.0 11.1 NJ.com, "N.J. Assemblywomen secure seats in special election," November 7, 2012
  12. NJ Assembly Republicans, "Led by DeCroce & Simon, women members of NJ Legislature surge," March 5, 2012
  13. Associated Press, "New Jersey GOP Leader Dies at Statehouse," January 10, 2012
  14. NewJerseyNewsroom.com, "Funeral service for N.J. Assemblyman Peter Biondi held in Somerville," November 14, 2011
  15. NJ.com, "Biondi succession in the 16th District complicated by timing, redistricting," November 14, 2011
  16. NJ Assembly Republicans, "Led by DeCroce & Simon, women members of NJ Legislature surge," March 5, 2012
  17. Lehigh Valley Live, "New Jersey Assembly race - Donna Simon-Marie Corfield - remains too close to call," November 7, 2012