The number of state legislators is increasing

By: Douglas Kronaizl

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

  1. Wyoming creates three new state legislative seats
  2. Election spotlight—North Carolina’s U.S. Senate Republican primary
  3. #FridayTrivia: How many state legislative seats were vacant as of March 30?

The number of state legislators is increasing

When we talk about redistricting, it’s usually about how states redraw districts that already exist. But the once-in-a-decade process also opens up the door for states to remove or add new seats to their legislatures. 

On March 25, Wyoming became the first state to do just that in the current redistricting cycle when its new legislative districts became law. These maps create one new Senate seat and two new House seats. This means that after the 2022 elections, Wyoming will have 31 state Senators and 62 state Representatives.

Nationwide, there are currently 1,971 state Senators and 5,411 state Representatives. After the 2022 elections, there will be at least 1,972 Senators and 5,413 Representatives.

In Wyoming, the Republican-controlled legislature passed the maps 17-12 in the Senate and 44-12 in the House. Gov. Mark Gordon (R) allowed the maps to go into effect without his signature. 

When the proposal to increase the number of legislators was brought up in committee, Sen. Tara Nethercott (R) said, “Historically, the Legislature has had even more legislators than this amount. This is not a new concept for us to consider, or particularly profound in that way.”

Lines shifted statewide to accommodate the new districts. The new Senate District 31 includes parts of Cheyenne, the state’s capital and largest city. The new House District 61 is also located in Cheyenne with House District 62 covering a large rural area east of Casper.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Wyoming changed its number of legislators five times between 1964 and 1992. During that period, the House had between 56 and 64 members and the Senate had between 25 and 30 members.

While Wyoming is the first state to create new legislative seats, it is not the first to restructure its legislature during this cycle. West Virginia adopted a redistricting plan that changed the state House from having 47 single-member and 20 multi-member districts to having, instead, 100 single-member districts. While the number of districts changed, the number of seats remained the same at 100.

It is relatively uncommon for states to change their numbers of legislators during redistricting. New York increased its number of state Senators by one after both the 2010 and 2000 censuses. Also after 2000, two states—North Dakota and Rhode Island—reduced their number of legislators in both chambers.

As of April 14, 44 states have completed legislative redistricting after the 2020 census. That’s the same number of states that had completed legislative redistricting at this point during the 2010 redistricting cycle.

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Election spotlight—North Carolina’s U.S. Senate Republican primary

Twelve states are holding statewide primaries in May and, today, we’re taking a look at another one of those battlegrounds, this time in North Carolina on May 17.

Fourteen candidates are running in the Republican primary election for U.S. Senate in North Carolina. Incumbent Sen. Richard Burr (R) is retiring, leaving the field open to a slate of newcomers. Three candidates—U.S. Rep. Ted Budd, former Gov. Pat McCrory, and former U.S. Rep. Mark Walker—have received the most support in recent polls and received the most media attention.

In addition to the role this race will play for North Carolinians, this primary is also one of the first U.S. Senate races in 2022 to include a candidate endorsed by former President Donald Trump (R). Intelligencer’s Ed Kilgore wrote, “[North Carolina is] a particularly big deal for Trump, whose midterm strategy is to show his clout in both primary and general election races.” 

Budd, who has represented the state’s 13th District since 2017, received Trump’s endorsement on June 5, 2021, and has made that endorsement a key focus of his campaign.

McCrory served as North Carolina’s governor from 2013 to 2017 and as mayor of Charlotte from 1995 to 2009. McCrory has focused his campaign on economic issues and his record as governor.

Walker represented the state’s 6th Congressional District from 2015 to 2021, and has described himself as “both a conservative warrior and a bridge builder for all of our communities.” 

The three candidates have clashed at varying points throughout the primary. McCrory and Walker criticized Budd for not participating in some public events, including a debate on Feb. 26. Budd said McCrory did not support Trump and highlighted his electoral history—McCrory lost his first gubernatorial bid in 2008 and his re-election in 2016.

An average of three polls conducted since the start of April shows Budd supported by 34% of respondents followed by McCrory with 22% and Walker with 8%. An average of 32% of respondents were undecided. If no candidate receives over 30% of the vote in the primary, the top two candidates will advance to a July 26 runoff.

Three independent race forecasters currently rate the general election as Lean Republican. Democrats won several statewide offices in 2020 but have not won a U.S. Senate seat in North Carolina since Kay Hagan’s (D) election in 2008.

Keep reading 

#FridayTrivia: How state legislative seats were vacant as of March 30?

Earlier this week, we brought you findings from Ballotpedia’s March partisan count of state legislative seats. Every month we take a look at the partisan affiliations of all 7,383 state legislators (soon to be 7,386!) to let you know the balance of party control at that level of government. We also take a look at the number of vacant seats, those with no legislators at the moment.

As of March 30, how many state legislative seats were vacant?

  1. 144
  2. 53
  3. 12
  4. 98