156 state legislators have changed their party affiliations while in office since 1994

Welcome to the Friday, July 21, Brew. 

By: Douglas Kronaizl

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

  1. 156 state legislators have changed their party affiliations while in office since 1994
  2. And that’s a wrap—final statewide filing deadline passes in Louisiana
  3. #FridayTrivia: How many states begin early general election voting in September?

156 state legislators have changed their party affiliations while in office since 1994

When we talk about districts changing partisan control, we usually think of election results with one party defeating the other at the polls. But partisan control can change mid-cycle, too, when incumbent legislators choose to change or drop their affiliation.

Ballotpedia has identified 156 state legislators who have changed their party affiliations while in office since 1994.

The most common change has been Democrats switching to become Republicans. Of the 156 changes, 76, or 49%, fall into that category.

This is followed by Democrats who switch to a third party or drop their affiliation to become an independent. There have been 27 such changes, representing 17% of the total.

Overall, since 1994:

  • Democrats have lost 103 seats and gained 25, resulting in a net loss of 78.
  • Republicans have lost 42 seats and gained 82, a net 40 gain.
  • Minor party/independent members have lost 11 seats and gained 49, giving them a net gain of 38.

The largest number of changes came in 2010 when 27 legislators changed their party affiliations. During that year, 25 Democrats switched to become Republicans and one Democrat and one Republican switched to become independents. No incumbents switched to become Democrats.

The next-largest number came in 2021, with 19 changes: one Republican and three other legislators became Democrats, four Democrats and one other legislator became Republicans, and five Democrats and five Republicans switched to a third party or dropped their affiliations.

Democrats had their largest losses and, inversely, Republicans had their largest gains, during the period around the 2010 midterm elections, which was a Republican wave at the state legislative level. 

The 2010 elections also switched which party controlled the majority of state legislative seats across the country from Democrats to Republicans, a majority that continues today with Republicans holding 54% of all seats to Democrats 44%.

More recently, a mixture of both Democrats and Republicans have switched their partisan affiliations to independent or a minor party. These changes have been most pronounced from 2017 to the present, with 39 major party incumbents making such a change. These recent years account for 80% of all changes to third party or independents since 1994.

The charts below show the number of changes over time since 2005. The first has the number of legislators who changed to the party shown. The second has the number of legislators who changed from the party shown.

The most recent incumbent to change their party affiliation, and the only so far this year, was Mississippi State Rep. Shanda Yates, who left the Democratic Party in January to become an independent.

For context, these 156 changes represent a drop in the bucket in terms of the total number of state legislators. Today, there are 7,383 state legislative seats: 1,972 in Senates and 5,411 in Houses.

But when an incumbent legislator changes their party affiliation while in office, it can speak to larger political changes at a district or statewide level. 

These changes can also shake up control of a chamber, like in the Washington Senate in 1981, when a Democratic incumbent became a Republican, breaking a tie and giving Republicans a majority.

To learn more about incumbent legislators who changed their party affiliations or to let us know of others we might have missed, use the link below.

Keep reading 

And that’s a wrap—final statewide filing deadline passes in Louisiana

Today, July 22, is the filing deadline for statewide candidates in Louisiana and the final filing deadline for major-party candidates for statewide office in the 2022 election cycle

The first statewide filing deadline was on Dec. 13, 2021, in Texas. The month with the single-most U.S. House filing deadlines was March (20) followed by June (9) and April (8). In addition to Louisiana, Delaware and Rhode Island also had filing deadlines in July.

How did we get here? While most filing deadlines are set before the election cycle begins, states might move or change their filing deadlines throughout the process. This year, redistricting affected congressional filing deadlines in seven states, as district lines must be in place so candidates know where they are running. 

Additionally, in Louisiana, a federal court moved the deadline for candidates qualifying by petition from June 22 to July 8. The July 22 deadline for candidates qualifying by paying a filing fee remained unchanged.

In the 2020 election cycle, two states postponed filing deadlines for major party, statewide candidates in response to the coronavirus pandemic: Louisiana and Michigan. Several other states left deadlines in place but reduced or eliminated petition signature requirements.

After a filing deadline, voters learn who exactly qualified to appear on their ballots. But these candidate lists can still change as candidates might withdraw or drop out of races before the election. 

We will stay on top of these changes so you can use our Sample Ballot Lookup tool to see the candidates in your upcoming elections here!

Keep reading 

#FridayTrivia: How many states begin early general election voting in September?

The November general election is 109 days away, but in some states, voters can start casting ballots even sooner. In Pennsylvania, for example, voting will begin 59 days from now on Sept. 19, the day absentee/mail-in ballots become available there. In the Wednesday Brew, we brought you a nationwide look at when states’ early voting periods begin.

How many states begin early general election voting in September?

  1. 9
  2. 13
  3. 4
  4. 20