945 state legislative special elections since 2010

Welcome to the Wednesday, July 19, Brew. 

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

  1. There have been 945 state legislative special elections since 2010
  2. Harris ties Calhoun for most vice presidential tie-breaking votes in U.S. history
  3. Ballotpedia’s Volunteer Fellows Program applications are open!

There have been 945 state legislative special elections since 2010

Yesterday, July 18, we told you about the status of this year’s state legislative special elections. Today, we’re taking a broader look at the history of special elections and how states fill legislative vacancies.

There have been 945 state legislative special elections in 37 states since Ballotpedia began tracking them in 2010.

Georgia and Pennsylvania have held the most during that time, with 79 and 64, respectively. Five other states have held more than 45 special elections: New York (54), Massachusetts, Louisiana, and Connecticut (51), and Mississippi (48).

Thirteen states have held no special elections, though 12 of them can’t because of how their state law handles legislative vacancies.

Twenty-five states require a special election to fill any legislative vacancy, including the seven mentioned above that have held more than 45 since 2010.

The other 25 states use appointments to fill vacancies. Depending on state law, appointed legislators may have to run in a special election if they want to serve the remainder of the term.

But in 12 states, appointed legislators assume and remain in office until the next regularly-scheduled general election.

The only state that can hold special elections but has not since 2010 is Indiana. There, the political party of the outgoing incumbent appoints a replacement who serves the remainder of the term. But if the outgoing incumbent is an independent, a special election is held instead.

Here’s a closer look at the different ways states use appointment processes to fill legislative vacancies:

  • In four states, like Indiana, the political party of the previous incumbent appoints a replacement;
  • In seven states, the board of county commissioners selects a replacement;
  • In nine states, the governor fills the vacancy;
  • In Ohio, members of the legislative chamber with the vacancy vote to fill it; and,
  • In four states, a hybrid system is used that combines one or more of the above methods plus special elections. The exact method used typically depends on the amount of time remaining in the previous incumbent’s term.

For more information on how each state fills legislative vacancies, click here. And use the link below to learn more about our historical coverage of state legislative special elections.

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Harris ties Calhoun for most vice presidential tie-breaking votes in U.S. history

Vice President Kamala Harris (D) cast her 31st tie-breaking vote on July 12 in order to invoke cloture on the nomination of Kalpana Kotagal to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

In doing so, Harris tied with John C. Calhoun for the most vice presidential tie-breaking votes in U.S. history

But while Calhoun had seven years to reach that number—during the presidencies of John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson—Harris reached 31 tie-breaking votes in less than three years.

After Harris and Calhoun, John Adams (1789-1797) has the third-most tie-breaking votes with 29, and George M. Dallas (1845-1849) has the fourth-most with 19.

As of July 18, 37 vice presidents have cast 299 tie-breaking votes, with most of those (156) cast during the 19th century.

Less than a quarter of the way into the 21st century, four vice presidents have cast 52 tie-breaking votes, not far off from the 60 tie-breakers cast during the entire 20th century.

The Senate that Harris presides over is almost evenly split: Democrats and independents who caucus with Democrats hold 51 seats to Republicans’ 49.

During Calhoun’s tenure, the Senate was divided primarily between Jacksonian and Anti-Jacksonian members in reference to President Andrew Jackson (D). Jacksonian senators held majorities ranging from two to five seats during Calhoun’s time presiding over the then-48-member chamber.

Back in the 21st century, here’s a look at what Harris has been deciding with those tie-breakers:

  • 25 have advanced the confirmation of judges and administration officials; and,
  • Six were in relation to a pair of budget reconciliation bills, the American Rescue Plan Act and the Inflation Reduction Act.

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Ballotpedia’s Volunteer Fellows Program applications are open!

Are you, or is someone you know, a politically-minded high school, college, or graduate student? If so, we’re excited to share the opening of our Fall 2023 Volunteer Fellows Program applications!

Ballotpedia Fellows work closely with our staff and expand their knowledge of American politics. Our Fall 2023 program will include a strong focus on researching officeholders and candidates on the ballot in the upcoming elections.

Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis until Aug. 13. The program runs from Sept. 11 through Nov. 3, with flexible scheduling to accommodate school, work, and extracurricular commitments.

Don’t miss this unique opportunity to make a difference in American politics and earn a nationally recognized service honor from Ballotpedia!

Interested candidates can apply by filling out the application at the link below.
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