Exclusive: Volume 9 of Ballotpedia’s state legislative competitiveness report

The Daily Brew
Welcome to the Tuesday, September 10, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. More than half of all state legislative seats this year have only one major party candidate
  2. Mississippi group submits signatures for initiative legalizing medical marijuana
  3. 49% of Ballotpedia survey respondents prefer to vote early or absentee 

More than half of all state legislative seats this year have only one major party candidate

We released our 9th Annual State Legislative Competitiveness Report September 4 analyzing the 538 regular state legislative elections taking place this fall in Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, and Virginia. We’ve prepared this report annually since 2010.

Our Annual State Legislative Competitiveness Report focuses on three factors affecting competitiveness:

  • Incumbents not seeking re-election

  • Number of races with at least two candidates on the ballot in primary elections

  • Races without major party competition

We do this analysis every year and in odd-numbered years, it only covers elections in the four states holding state legislative contests in those years. During even-numbered years, it covers elections in up to 46 states.

Here are three highlights from this study:

  • 56% of all regular state legislative races have a candidate from either the Democratic or Republican Parties, but not both. In 2015—the last time these seats were up for regular election—61% of races had a candidate from one major party, but not both. In 2011, this figure was 43%. 

  • More incumbents—129 out of 435, or 30%—faced primary challengers in 2019 than in 2015 or 2017. In 2017, 16% of incumbents faced primary challengers, and in 2015, 22% of incumbents faced primary challengers.

  • 103 state legislative incumbents—19%—are not seeking re-election. Of those, 62  are Republicans, 39 are Democrats, and two are Independents. This is the highest percentage of incumbents not running for re-election in odd-year state legislative elections this decade. In 2011, 18% of state legislative incumbents did not seek another term. 

This analysis also contains lots of historical data, including breakdowns of our findings by state and legislative chamber, the effect of term limits, and incumbents defeated in party primaries. And we compare these statistics with previous odd-numbered election years this decade so you can see relevant averages and trends. There’s so much great information here – click the link to read more.

Mississippi group submits signatures for initiative legalizing medical marijuana 

Mississippi voters may soon have the opportunity to legalize medical marijuana. 

A Mississippi group—Mississippians for Compassionate Care—reported submitting more than 214,000 signatures last week in support of an initiative to legalize medical marijuana in the state. A total of 86,185 valid signatures are required to qualify the measure for the November 2020 ballot.  

If enough signatures are found valid, the initiative goes to the state legislature, which cannot prevent it from going before voters but can put an alternative measure on the ballot along with the initiative.

This initiative would provide for a medical marijuana program in Mississippi under the direction of the Mississippi Department of Health. Individuals with certain debilitating medical conditions—as specified in the initiative—could seek a certification from a Mississippi-licensed physician to obtain medical marijuana. Nothing in the measure would require a physician to issue a certification for a patient to obtain medical marijuana. 

These signatures must be certified by the county clerks in each county and verified by the secretary of state to ensure they are from voters distributed across the state’s congressional districts. No more than one-fifth of all signatures can be from one of the Mississippi’s five congressional districts. Any signatures over that amount from one district will be disregarded.

The measure also specifies that no qualified patient could possess more than 2.5 ounces of medical marijuana at one time and that no more than 2.5 ounces could be provided to a patient in a 14-day period. Under the measure, no medical marijuana treatment center could be located within 500 feet of a school, church, or child-care establishment.

Thirty-three states and Washington, D.C., have passed laws legalizing or decriminalizing medical marijuana. Additionally, 13 states—including Mississippi—have legalized the use of cannabis oil, or cannabidiol (CBD)—one of the non-psychoactive ingredients found in marijuana—for medical purposes.

Medical marijuana by state

The last time Mississippi voters had a statewide measure on the ballot was in 2015 when they defeated both a citizen-initiated constitutional amendment and its alternative put on the ballot by the legislature regarding education.

49% of Ballotpedia survey respondents prefer to vote early or absentee 

Voters in North Carolina will decide two congressional special elections today—in the 3rd and 9th districts. Ballotpedia will have live results from both races on Tuesday night and provide a summary of the results in the Brew Wednesday morning.

Our preview of these two elections last week discussed the number of mail-in absentee and in-person early ballots that had been accepted in both races. This prompted last week’s What’s the Tea? question:  


Click here to learn more about early voting