State legislative elections, 2012
|Other 2012 Election coverage|
1,300 (65.92%) of the country's 1,972 state senate seats are up for re-election in November 2012, and 4,714 (87.12%) of the country's 5,411 state house seats are up for re-election. Altogether, 6,014 (81.46%) of the country's 7,383 state legislative seats will be up for re-election during the presidential election year.
The 6,014 seats up for election is 111 fewer than the 6,125 that were contested in 2010.
Because of the decennial redistricting process, the total number of seats could vary from a typical election year. For example, in Alaska, there are usually 10 seats up for election every two years. However, because of the newly drawn map, a total of 19 seats will be on the ballot in November 2012. Elections immediately following redistricting historically demonstrate a higher number of open seats and a higher rate of new legislators than in typical election years.
According to Louis Jacobson of Governing Magazine, the percent of state legislative turnover from an election was between 14.4 percent and 21.5 percent from 1998 to 2008. However, during the year of redistricting in 2002, that figure jumped to 24 percent. In 2010, the turnover rate was just below 2010, as the GOP boom created a higher than normal exodus of legislators. Because 2012 is another redistricting year, the rate of turnover is expected to once again be higher than usual.
Heading into the 2012 elections, the Republican Party holds a commanding advantage in total number of state legislative chambers in which it is the majority party. Republicans control 52 chambers with 2012 elections while Democrats control 31.
|Partisan Balance of Chambers with 2012 Elections|
|Partisan Balance of All 99 Chambers Before and After 2012 Elections|
| This map displays the month of each|
State legislative primary in 2012
The first state legislative primary in 2012 is in Illinois on March 20. The dates of the primaries are as follows:
Days to campaign
This year 44 states will hold state legislative elections. While each state holds a primary, the amount of time between the signature filing deadline and the primary differs widely from 60 days in North Dakota all the way to 158 days in Connecticut. What this essentially means is that candidates in Connecticut have 98 days more days to campaign than those in North Dakota.
Looking at it geographically, one can see a few clusters - western states with 80-89 days and midwestern states that have 90+ days - but for the most part the variation is spread throughout the country.
Filing deadlines and primary dates have been, and continue to be, in flux in a number of states, primarily due to the once-a-decade redistricting process.
- Texas had an original filing deadline of deadline of December 12, but that was pushed back to December 15 and then to December 19 due to redistricting troubles in the courts. The primary was set to be the first in the nation on March 6, but that was delayed as well, to April 3. It was ruled that the filing process would re-open on February 1, but with maps still not agreed to, that was thrown out. The state is waiting on a three-judge federal court panel to draft temporary maps. The primary was moved to April 3, but it will likely be moved again.
- Idaho saw their new state legislative districts rejected by the Idaho Supreme Court. Legislators are considering moving the state's primary from May 15 to August 8. This would move the filing period from February 27-March 9 to May 21-June 1.
- In January the New Hampshire State Senate voted to move the state primary from the second Tuesday in September to the last Tuesday in August. The filing deadline would be moved from the first Wednesday in June to the third Wednesday in May. The bill now goes to the House - if approved it would be the first change to the primary date since 1944.
- Kentucky had an initial filing deadline of January 31, Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd delayed the deadline for state legislative candidates until February 7 in order to consider a challenge to newly drawn districts.
- Lawmakers in the Missouri General Assembly are attempting to push back the filing period for their August primary by one month. The move is intended to allow time for Missouri courts to settle issues with state house and senate, and congressional districts. Currently, the filing period in Missouri runs from February 28th until March 27th for all state and federal races.
- In January, federal judge Gary Sharpe moved New York's congressional primary date from September 11 to June 26 in order to keep the state in line with federal election law. The change to congressional primary dates is pressuring a move for state legislative primaries. However, the 2012 session of the Legislature will not end until June 21, allowing lawmakers little time to return home in order to campaign.
Impact of term limits
Thirteen state senate chambers and thirteen state house chambers holding general elections on November 6, 2012 include some state legislators who are unable to run for re-election in 2012 because of their state's legislative term limits. A total of 15 states have term limits for their legislators. However, Louisiana will not be holding elections for its state senate or state house in 2012. Additionally, Michigan will not have a state senate election in 2012, and Nebraska does not have a lower house to hold an election for.
- 83 state senators will be termed-out in 2012. This represents 25.3% of the 328 total state senate seats up for election in November in the 13 term-limited state senates with elections in November 2012.
- 172 state representatives will be termed-out. This represents 13.6% of the 1,263 total seats up for election in the 13 term-limited states with elections in November 2012.
Altogether, 255 current state legislators will have to leave office after the November elections because of term limits. This is 16% of the 1,591 state legislative seats up for election in the 14 term-limited states with 2012 elections, and about 4% of the 6,014 state legislative seats that will be up for election altogether in 2012, including the non-term-limited states.
- Main article: Impact of term limits on state senate elections in 2012
43 state senates will hold general elections in November 2012. In 13 of these states, state senators are subject to term limits. Louisiana and Michigan are the only states with state senate term limits that will not have a general election for their state senates in 2012.
- 35 incumbent Democratic state senators
- 40 incumbent Republican state senators
- 8 non-partisan state senators.
In 5 states, the term limits axe falls more heavily on incumbent Republicans: Arizona, Florida, Missouri, Ohio and South Dakota. In 4 states, the term limits axe falls more heavily on incumbent Democrats: Arkansas, California, Colorado, and Montana. In 3 states, the axe falls equally on both parties (Maine, Oklahoma, and Nevada) while Nebraska's senate is officially non-partisan.
43 state houses will hold general elections in November 2012. In 13 of these states, state house terms are subject to term limits. 15 states have state legislative term limits, but Louisiana will not hold a state house election in 2012 and Nebraska does not have a state house.
172 current state representatives are ineligible to run for re-election in November because of term limit laws in their state. This includes:
- 87 incumbent Democratic state representatives
- 85 incumbent Republican state representatives
In 7 states, the term limits axe falls more heavily on incumbent Republicans: Arizona, Florida, Missouri, Montana, Ohio, Oklahoma and South Dakota. In all of these states, the current majority party is also the Republican Party.
In 6 states, the term limits axe falls more heavily on incumbent Democrats: Arkansas, California, Colorado, Maine, Michigan, and Nevada. In 3 of these states, the current majority party is also the Democratic Party. These states include Arkansas, California and Nevada. In 3 of the 6 states where term limits affect incumbent Democrats more heavily, the current majority party is Republican -- Colorado, Maine and Michigan.
Impact on Parties
Although the difference is marginal, the Republican Party is taking more of a hit from term limits in the 2012 state legislative elections than the Democratic Party, both in terms of how many individual incumbent legislators the Republican Party will lose (125, versus 122 for the Democratic Party) and in terms of how many state legislative chambers lost more Republicans (12, versus 10 for the Democratic Party).
Chart indicating impact on individual legislators by party
|Party||# of termed senators||# of termed representatives||Total|
Chart indicating impact on legislative chambers by party
|Party||Senates with most losses||Houses with most losses||Total|
|Equal D/R losses (or non-partisan chamber)||4||0||4|
Chart indicating change in party control of seats after 2010
After the 2010 election results were in, it was possible to see the effect that term limits had on party control of termed-out seats. While incumbents generally have an advantage in elections, elections for termed-out seats lack an incumbent running for re-election. In some cases, this preceded a change in party control of the termed-out seat.
|Term-limited seats that changed party control in the 2010 elections|
|State||Senators Termed Out 2010||Representatives Termed Out 2010||Democratic Seats lost to other Parties - Senate||Republican Seats lost to other Parties - Senate||Democratic Seats lost to other Parties - House||Republican Seats lost to other Parties - House||Percent of Termed-Out Senate Seats that Changed Party||Percent of Termed-Out House Seats that Changed Party||Total Legislative Seats that Changed Party|
Alabama will not hold any state legislative elections in 2012.
After a strong Republican showing in the 2010 elections, Democrats control both chambers by slim margins heading into the 2012 election. "The elections that matter to the state Republican Party are the legislative elections of 2012, which are going to determine who controls both houses of the Legislature," said Jay Barth, a political science professor at Hendrix College.
The Democratic Party has partisan control of the California State Senate 25-15 heading into the 2012 elections. They need to gain two seats in order to achieve a 2/3 supermajority. They currently hold 14 even-numbered seats and are expected to win 12 of the 20 odd-numbered seats already, meaning that they just need one more to hit the 27 seat mark. Three of the odd-numbered seats are rated as toss-ups and will most likely determine whether Democrats gain their supermajority, Districts 5, 27, and 31. Currently, District 27 is lacking a strong Republican candidate, making it the most likely to be won by Democrats in 2012.
- Incumbent Republicans Marsha Looper and Amy Stephens will face-off in a primary battle for House District 19.
- Incumbent Democrat Annazette Collins and activist Patricia Van Pelt Watkins faced-off in a heated primary battle for Senate District 5, with Watkins ultimately emerging victorious. They first met in the February 2011 primary election to replace Rickey Hendon
Louisiana will not hold any state legislative elections in 2012.
Maryland will not hold any state legislative elections in 2012.
Michigan will not hold any state senate elections in 2012.
- State Senate: Republicans won control of the Senate after the 2010 election. The new redistricting maps could give the advantage to the DFL (Democrats), according to a report in the Minnesota Post. A total of 16 incumbent senators have been paired together and there will be eight open seats with no incumbent. DFL State Chair Ken Martin said that a party analysis of the new Senate districts indicates that the partisan lean of the 67 districts is 34-33 in favor of the DFL. However, an analysis by The Pioneer Press indicated a partisan lean of 36-31 for Republicans.
- State House: Republicans won control of the House after the 2010 election. The new redistricting maps could give the advantage to the DFL (Democrats), according to a report in the Minnesota Post. A total of 30 incumbent representatives have been paired together and there will be 15 open seats with no incumbent. DFL State Chair Ken Martin said that a party analysis of the new Senate districts indicates that the partisan lean of the 67 districts is 73-61 in favor of the DFL. A similar analysis by The Pioneer Press indicated an identical result if the results were strictly based on party-line voting.
Mississippi will not hold any state legislative elections in 2012.
The Democratic Party has partisan control of the Nevada State Senate 11-10 heading into the 2012 elections. The two seats that are expected to ultimately determine party control are Districts 5 and 6 -- seats currently held by Democratic incumbents Allison Copening and Shirley Breeden -- who are both not seeking re-election.
New Jersey will not hold any state legislative elections in 2012.
Historically, the state legislative primary is held in September of the election year. But lawmakers have discussed moving the primary to June 2012 in order to further comply with federal HAVA regulations.
- In 2010, Marcus Brandon defeated incumbent Earl Jones in the Democratic primary. In 2012, Jones is seeking a rematch. There are no Republican candidates that have filed in the race. The Brandon-Jones matchup is one of several races with the same candidates as 2010.
Virginia will not hold any state legislative elections in 2012.
- Anchorage Daily News, "New legislative map forces early elections for senators," June 13, 2011
- The Marketplace of Democracy "Electoral Competition and American Politics," Page 64 of 296
- Governing Magazine "State Legislatures May Experience a Mass Exodus," May 25, 2012
- Texas: moved from original date of March 6 and April 3
- Reporter News, "Court orders primary filing period pushed back," November 7, 2011
- Ballot Access, "U.S. District Court Suspends Some Texas Election Deadlines," January 27, 2012
- NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth, "Judges To Discuss Texas Primary Date," February 13, 2012
- The Republic, "Idaho lawmakers introduce bill to move state's primary election from May to August," January 19, 2012
- Boston.com, "NH Senate votes to change state primary date," January 25, 2012
- Kentucky Herald Leader, "Judge delays filing deadline for state legislative candidates," February 1, 2012
- missourinet.com "Primary election filing date change advances in House Committee", February 20, 2012
- cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com "Judge Moves Congressional Primary Date to June", January 27, 2012
- Nebraska has no lower house
- Arkansas News "State GOP shows renewed vigor in attacks on Beebe," July 3, 2011
- Bakersfield Californian "Our view: Likely turnover is opportunity for state voters," August 31, 2011
- scrippsnews.com, "Walters: California Democrats set to boost state Senate clout", February 22, 2012
- Denver Post ""Amycare" sparks fight for two Colorado House members redrawn into same district," January 15, 2012
- Chicago Sun-Times "State Senate: Incumbent vs. activist in 5th District," February 17, 2012
- Minnesota Post "Redistricting maps give DFL advantage in legislative races, but..." March 14, 2012
- Pioner Press "Redistricting promises to shake up Minnesota Legislature," February 22, 2012
- Las Vegas Sun "Matchup set for race that could decide control of the state Senate," January 5, 2012
- Wall Street Journal "Earlier Primary Eyed in New York," August 10, 2011