In 2020, 44 states will hold legislative elections and 46 states will hold regularly-scheduled legislative sessions.
In 19 of the states holding legislative elections in 2020, filing deadlines were scheduled to occur after the end of the state legislative session. Candidates in the remaining 25 states have to file either during or before their legislative session.
In the 40 states holding state legislative elections and sessions, 33 primaries were scheduled to take place after the end of the state’s legislative session. Two states’ primaries—Arkansas and North Carolina—were scheduled to take place before their legislative sessions. In those states, then, an incumbent could be challenged and defeated in a primary but still have a legislative session to attend.
The length of time between a filing deadline and primary impacts the amount of time legislative candidates have to campaign. The three states with the shortest length of time between the two are Connecticut, Delaware, and South Dakota, where candidates have 63 days between the filing deadline and primary. The three states with the longest length of time all border one another: Kentucky (130 days), Missouri (126), and Tennessee (126).
Legislative sessions in states with Republican trifectas are 100 days long, on average, whereas sessions in states with Democratic trifectas average 130 days. States with divided governments have an average session length of 151 days. Of the states with the ten longest sessions, only one—Ohio—has a Republican trifecta. The remaining nine consist of five states with Democratic trifectas and four with divided governments.
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