Reviewing wave election data from From 1918 to 2018

Welcome to the Friday, January 14, Brew. 

By: Douglas Kronaizl

Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Six of 11 wave elections in the U.S. House took place during a president’s first midterm election
  2. Ohio Supreme Court orders state legislative maps redrawn
  3. #FridayTrivia: How many school board recall efforts is Ballotpedia tracking so far in 2022?

Six of 11 wave elections in the U.S. House took place during a president’s first midterm election

With the 2022 election cycle upon us, you might start hearing the term wave election more and more. The term is often used to describe an election in which one party makes significant electoral gains.

In 2018, we published a study spanning from Woodrow Wilson’s (D) second midterm in 1918 to Donald Trump’s (R) election in 2016. We defined wave elections as the 20 percent of elections during that time that had the greatest swings against the president’s party. According to this definition, a U.S. House election cycle qualifies as a wave election if the president’s party loses at least 48 seats.

Between 1918 and 2016, 11 wave elections took place in the U.S. House. Six of these waves occurred during a president’s first midterm election, four during Democratic presidencies (Obama, Clinton, Johnson Truman) and two during Republican presidencies (Harding and Hoover). The president’s party lost an average of 58 seats in the U.S. House during these six election cycles.

As of Jan. 13, Democrats held 221 seats in the U.S. House. A wave election would result in them controlling no more than 173 seats in the chamber. Since the House grew to 435 seats in 1913, Democrats have held fewer than 173 seats twice: 131 during the 67th Congress (1921-23) and 164 during the 71st Congress (1929-31).

The 2018 U.S. House elections were the most recent first midterm election of a presidency, taking place after Trump’s election in 2016. Democrats won a majority in the chamber by gaining a new of 40 seats, meaning the 2018 midterm election was eight seats short of qualifying as a wave election.

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Ohio Supreme Court orders state legislative maps redrawn

On Jan. 12, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that the state legislative district maps approved by the Ohio Redistricting Commission were partisan gerrymanders in violation of the state constitution. The court struck down the maps and ordered the commission to draw new maps in accordance with the constitution within 10 days. The Republican-controlled commission voted 5-2 along party lines in favor of the maps on Sept. 16, 2021.

In its ruling, the court cited a constitutional amendment approved by Ohio voters in 2015 that revamped the state’s redistricting process by creating the bipartisan commission responsible for drawing state legislative maps without partisan bias. Voters approved the amendment with 71% of the vote.

The amendment also included a proportionality requirement, which directed the commission to try to match districts with statewide vote totals over the past decade. During the redistricting process, it was determined that Republicans had won 54% of the statewide vote since 2010 and Democrats had won 46%. The court said the commission’s maps favored Republicans in 68% of the House districts and 70% of the Senate districts, in violation of the amendment.

This is the first overturned redistricting map during the 2020 redistricting cycle, dropping the total number of states with enacted legislative maps from 28 to 27.

After the 2010 redistricting cycle, Ballotpedia tracked redistricting lawsuits in 37 states. During that redistricting cycle, at least 14 states had to redraw all or parts of their legislative maps following court orders.

As of Jan. 13, Ballotpedia has identified redistricting-related lawsuits in at least 30 states as part of the 2020 redistricting cycle.

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#FridayTrivia: How many school board recall efforts is Ballotpedia tracking so far in 2022?

In the Tuesday Brew, we gave you a breakdown of the elections we covered on Jan. 11 including two school board recalls in Nebraska. We also shared that, despite being only two weeks into the new year, Ballotpedia has already identified as many school board recall efforts in 2022 as we did throughout the entirety of 2009, 2011, and 2019.

Including the two recall elections in Nebraska, how many school board recall efforts is Ballotpedia tracking so far in 2022?

  1. 13
  2. 38
  3. 5
  4. 20

About the author

Douglas Kronaizl

Douglas Kronaizl is a staff writer at Ballotpedia. Contact us at