2023 election results analysis – 29 state legislative incumbents (6.5%) lost re-election bids

Welcome to the Monday, November 27, 2023, Brew. 

By: Juan Garcia de Paredes

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

  1. Twenty-nine state legislative incumbents lost re-election in 2023, more than 2021, but less than 2019
  2. Eugene, Oregon, to decide on STAR voting initiative at May primary election
  3. Giving Tuesday starts tomorrow!

Twenty-nine state legislative incumbents lost re-election in 2023, more than 2021, but less than 2019

Now that the last statewide election of the year (Louisiana) is behind us, it’s time to take a look at how incumbents–specifically, state legislative incumbents–fared in 2023. Over the next couple of months we will be releasing our series of election analyses. Let’s dive into the numbers. 

Twenty-nine state legislative incumbents were defeated in 2023: 13 in general elections and 16 in primaries. That’s more than in 2021, when 22 incumbents lost, but fewer than in 2019, when 31 were defeated.

The 29 incumbents who lost this year represent 6.5% of all incumbents who ran for re-election. That’s less than the odd-year average of 6.7% defeated incumbents between 2011 and 2023, and less than the even-year average of 9% between 2010 and 2022. 

The 13 incumbents who lost in general elections this year were the most for an odd-numbered year since a dozen lost in 2015.

The 16 incumbents defeated in primaries this year are tied with 2015 as the second-most for an odd-numbered year since 2011–the first year Ballotpedia began gathering re-election data.

The table below shows incumbent defeats in each of the four states that held legislative elections this year.

Overall, Republican incumbents lost at a higher rate than Democrats. Below is a partisan breakdown of how incumbents fared in general elections this year.

In 2019, 10 (4.6%) of 217 Republican incumbents who advanced to the general election lost, while two (1%) Democratic incumbents out of 196 did. 

Of the four states that held elections this year, Mississippi had a Republican trifecta, New Jersey had a Democratic trifecta, and Louisiana and Virginia had divided government. The only chamber to change partisan control was the Virginia House of Delegates, where Democrats won a 51-48 seat majority, with one district too close to call. Virginia’s Governor, Glenn Youngkin, is a Republican, so the Commonwealth will still have a divided government.

Across these states, there were 578 seats up for election, 7.8% of the nationwide total. This was the most seats up for election in an odd-numbered year since 2011.

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Eugene, Oregon, to vote on STAR voting initiative at May primary election

Regular Brew readers know that we pay very close attention to election policy. Here’s a local story that caught our eye. Voters in Eugene, Oregon, will decide on an initiative on May 21, 2024, which would institute a new electoral system, STAR voting. If approved, Eugene would be the first jurisdiction to adopt STAR voting.

STAR is an acronym for Score-Then-Automatic-Runoff. Here’s how it would work:

  • There would be no primaries. All candidates would run on the same ballot. 
  • Voters would score each candidate on a scale of zero to five. The idea is that if a voter doesn’t have any preference for a candidate, they could give that candidate a score of zero. If the voter has a strong preference for a candidate, they could give that candidate a score of five. A voter could give multiple candidates the same scores.
  • Scores are then tabulated. In an election with three voters, for example, a candidate could receive a five, three, and zero, equaling a score of eight. Another candidate could receive a score of three, three, and three, equaling a score of nine. This tabulation would occur for each candidate. The two candidates with the highest scores are known as finalists and advance to an automatic runoff.
  • During the automatic runoff, a voter’s ballot counts as one vote for the finalist that the voter scored higher. For example, if a voter gave the two finalists a score of three and two, respectively, the vote would go to the candidate whom the voter scored with a three. If the voter gave the two finalists the same score, the voter’s ballot would be counted as a vote of no preference between the two finalists.

In 2018, voters in Lane County, Oregon, which includes Eugene, defeated Measure 20-290, which would have adopted STAR voting for county officers. Voters defeated the measure 52.40%-47.60%. Sara Wolk, the chief petitioner for next year’s ballot initiative, said that while Measure 20-290 was defeated countywide, the measure won a majority of votes within Eugene.

Supporters of the 2024 initiative–Measure 20-34–collected 14,430 signatures. City officials deemed 10,040 of those signatures valid, more than the 9,689 valid signatures needed to put the measure on the ballot.

From 1998 to 2022, Ballotpedia identified six local ballot measures relating to electoral systems in Oregon. Voters defeated three and approved three. Click here to learn more.

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Giving Tuesday starts tomorrow!

We hope you treated yourself for Black Friday and today for Cyber Monday. Now it’s time to give back! Giving Tuesday is an international, annual day dedicated to giving that celebrates the causes that mean the most to you.

As we enter the 2024 election season, we are working hard to come up with new ways to better serve you and expand our ability to provide nonpartisan political information. 

A key part of this is Ballotpedia’s Fellows program, which offers students across the country the chance to volunteer and develop research and writing skills, all while fostering political engagement.

Since 2020, Ballotpedia Fellows have contributed more than 12,000 hours of research work, helping Ballotpedia provide voters with robust information about candidates on their ballot. 

Tomorrow, as people around the world support causes they believe in, we hope you will choose to donate to Ballotpedia and help us support this important work.
Please visit donate.ballotpedia.org/givingtuesday and help nurture the next generation of non-partisan information providers!