Author

Douglas Kronaizl

Douglas Kronaizl is a staff writer at Ballotpedia. Contact us at editor@ballotpedia.org.

315 state legislative seats flipped partisan control in the November 2020 elections

On Nov. 3, 2020, 5,875 state legislative seats were up for regularly scheduled elections across 86 of the nation’s 99 state legislative chambers. As a result of the election, control of 315 seats flipped from one party to another.

Republicans gained a net 141 seats, Democrats lost a net 133 seats, and independent and third party candidates lost a net eight seats. At least one seat flipped parties in every state holding regularly scheduled state legislative elections except Hawaii.

Of the 315 seats that changed party control, 215 (68.3%) were Democratic seats that went to Republicans. Seventy-eight (24.8%) were Republican seats that went to Democrats.

The table below shows the total number of state legislative seats that flipped partisan control during the 2020 state legislative elections. Columns show the number of seats that flipped to the given partisan affiliation listed in the top row. Rows show the number of seats that flipped from the given partisan affiliation listed in the leftmost column.

There was a 38% decrease in flipped state legislative seats compared to 2018, which saw 508 flips. Democrats flipped 80% fewer seats from Republicans in 2020 compared to 2018. Republicans saw a 131.2% increase in flipped Democratic seats. The table below shows the total number of flipped seats in both years and the number of seats flipped between major parties.

Fifty seats flipped party control in New Hampshire, the most of any state. Forty-nine of those seats flipped to Republicans—48 from Democrats and one from a Libertarian. One seat flipped from Republican to Democrat. As a result, both chambers of the New Hampshire General Court changed from Democratic to Republican control.

The map below shows states shaded to reflect the number of seats that changed party control in 2020. Darker shades indicate a larger number of flips. States shown in gray did not hold regularly scheduled state legislative elections in 2020.

To see more analysis and the full list of state legislative seats that flipped partisan control following the 2020 elections: Election results, 2020: State legislative seats that changed party control, Overview



Biden wins all six Reverse-Pivot Counties that voted McCain-Romney-Clinton

Following the 2016 presidential election, Ballotpedia identified six Reverse-Pivot Counties that voted for Hillary Clinton (D) in 2016 after voting for John McCain (R) in 2008 and Mitt Romney (R) in 2012. 

All six of 2016’s Reverse-Pivot Counties voted for Biden in 2020.

These counties have a median population of 785,915. Voters there cast 4,015,613 ballots, representing 2.5% of all votes cast in the 2020 presidential election. All six are located in or near major metropolitan areas: Los Angeles, Atlanta, Baltimore, and Houston.

As of Dec. 11, Joe Biden (D) won all six of 2016’s Reverse-Pivot Counties by an average margin of 14.54 percentage points, roughly triple Clinton’s average margin of 4.96 in 2016.

The shift represents a continuing trend in these counties from supporting Republican presidential candidates towards supporting Democrats. Since 2008, when McCain won these counties, margins of victory have shifted 20.18 percentage points from Republicans to Democrats, on average.



A closer look at voter turnout in Retained and Boomerang Pivot counties

Ballotpedia has been analyzing the 206 Pivot Counties that voted for Barack Obama (D) in 2008 and 2012 and Donald Trump (R) in 2016. This year, we have introduced two new categories: Retained Pivot Counties, which voted for Trump again in 2020, and Boomerang Pivot Counties, which voted for Joe Biden (D).

Based on unofficial results that are subject to change, Ballotpedia has identified 181 Retained Pivot Counties and 25 Boomerang Pivot Counties.

Voter turnout in these counties has increased compared to 2016.

Nationwide, voter turnout in the 2020 presidential election was the highest since 1900 at 69.25%. Retained Pivot Counties had a total turnout of 67.81%, 1.44 percentage points below the nationwide rate, and Boomerang Pivot Counties had a total turnout of 71.64%, 2.39 percentage points above the national rate.

The 2020 presidential election saw a continuation of the trend where turnout in Boomerang Pivot Counties exceeds that in Retained Pivot Counties. In 2020, the total turnout in Boomerang Pivot Counties was 3.83 percentage points higher than the turnout in Retained Pivot Counties. Since 2008, the total turnout in Boomerang Pivot Counties has exceeded that in Retained Pivot Counties by an average of 3.95 percentage points.

Seventy-nine percent of Retained Pivot Counties (143) and 76% of Boomerang Pivot Counties (19) recorded their highest turnouts since at least 2008.

Nationwide, voter turnout increased by 8.21 percentage points compared to 2016. All Retained Pivot Counties except for two—Woodruff County, Arkansas, and Benson County, North Dakota—saw increases in voter turnout compared to 2016. Voter turnout increased in every Boomerang Pivot County.

The table below shows the ten Pivot Counties with the largest increases in voter turnout compared to 2016. Of the ten, nine are in states that automatically sent absentee/mail-in ballots to voters during the presidential election. Colorado, Oregon, and Washington routinely conduct all-mail elections. New Jersey conducted its 2020 presidential election by mail in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Retained Pivot Counties are shown with red dots and Boomerang Pivot Counties with blue dots.



A closer look at the demographics of Retained and Boomerang Pivot Counties

Ballotpedia has been analyzing the 206 Pivot Counties that voted for Barack Obama (D) in 2008 and 2012 and Donald Trump (R) in 2016. This year, we have introduced two new categories: Retained Pivot Counties, which voted for Trump again in 2020, and Boomerang Pivot Counties, which voted for Joe Biden (D).

Based on unofficial results that are subject to change, Ballotpedia has identified 179 Retained Pivot Counties and 25 Boomerang Pivot Counties.

A detailed look at two characteristics, population and educational attainment, shows that Retained Pivot Counties are, on average, less populous and have lower rates of high school graduation and bachelor’s degree attainment compared to Boomerang Pivot Counties.

Collectively, Pivot Counties make up 4.9% of the U.S. population at 16,070,734. The 179 Retained Pivot Counties make up 70.9% of that total and the 25 Boomerang Pivot Counties make up the remaining 29.1%.

The average population of a Retained Pivot County is 63,615 compared to 186,852 for a Boomerang Pivot County. The nationwide county population average is 104,435. Since the 2016 presidential election, the population of Retained Pivot Counties decreased an average of 0.1% while the population of Boomerang Pivot Counties increased 1.0%.

The map below shows all Retained and Boomerang Pivot Counties by population. Larger circles indicate more populous counties. The largest Retained Pivot County is Suffolk County, New York, with a population of 1,476,701. The largest Boomerang Pivot County is Pinellas County, Florida, with a population of 974,996.

For educational attainment, Ballotpedia examined high school graduation rates and bachelor’s degree attainment as a percentage of individuals 25 years and older. The table below highlights the averages of these demographics in 2020, 2016, and shows the change between those years.

On average, Boomerang Pivot Counties have a higher rate of high school graduation than Retained Pivot Counties, but a majority of both types of counties exceed the national high school graduation rate. Ninety-two percent of Boomerang Pivot Counties (23) exceed the national rate compared to 68% of Retained Pivot Counties (122). The table below shows the counties with the five highest and lowest high school graduation rates. Red dots indicate a Retained Pivot County and blue dots indicate a Boomerang Pivot County:

Boomerang Pivot Counties also have a higher rate of bachelor’s degree attainment than Retained Pivot Counties on average. Thirty-two percent of Boomerang Pivot Counties (8) have above average attainment rates compared to 3% (5) of Retained Pivot Counties. The table below shows the counties with the five highest and lowest bachelor’s degree attainment rates:

To learn more about the demographics of these counties, click here.



Four Pivot Counties flip from Trump to Biden as results continue to be updated

Ballotpedia has been analyzing the 206 Pivot Counties that voted for Barack Obama (D) in 2008 and 2012 and Donald Trump (R) in 2016 by creating two new categories: Retained Pivot Counties, which voted for Trump again in 2020, and Boomerang Pivot Counties, which voted for Joe Biden (D). The analysis continues to shift as states certify their election results.

Since publishing our initial Pivot County analysis, four Retained Pivot Counties have flipped to become Boomerang Pivot Counties. Additionally, ten new counties have released vote totals, resulting in nine new Retained Pivot Counties and one new Boomerang Pivot County.

There are currently 179 Retained Pivot Counties and 25 Boomerang Pivot Counties. These numbers are still subject to change.

The four counties that flipped from Retained to Boomerang are all located in New York: Broome, Essex, Rensselaer, and Saratoga.

Based on current results, Biden’s margins of victory in Broome, Essex, and Rensselaer are lower than Obama’s in 2012, the last time a Democrat won these counties. Biden exceeded Obama’s 2012 margin in Saratoga County. The table below shows the unofficial results with vote totals in parentheses.

Biden also won Kennebec County, Maine, by a margin of 0.39 percentage points, less than Obama’s 2012 margin of 12.85 percentage points,

Trump won nine new Retained Pivot Counties, two in Mississippi and seven in Maine. Compared to 2016 results, his margins of victory increased in four and decreased in five. Those counties are listed below, split into those where his margin increased and those where it decreased:

Two counties—Alexander and Henderson, Illinois—have not yet released results.

Ballotpedia will continue to provide updates as results become available. For more information updated weekly, click here.



A closer look at historical margins of victory in Boomerang and Retained Pivot Counties

Following the 2016 presidential election, there were 206 Pivot Counties that voted for Barack Obama (D) in 2008 and 2012 before voting for Donald Trump (R) in 2016.

Based on unofficial 2020 results, there were 22 Boomerang Pivot Counties, which flipped to Joe Biden (D), and 174 Retained Pivot Counties, which voted for Trump again.

In 2016, Trump’s average margin of victory in what are now the 22 Boomerang Pivot Counties counties was 1.97 percentage points, 9.45 points fewer than his average across all Pivot Counties. By contrast, Obama overperformed in these counties, relative to his overall averages, in 2012 and 2008.

On the other hand, compared to 2016, Trump’s average margin of victory in the 174 Retained Pivot Counties increased by 2.15 percentage points. Trump had overperformed in the Retained Pivot Counties in 2016, exceeding his overall average margin of victory by 1.06 percentage points. Obama underperformed in these counties in 2008 and 2012.

To learn more about Boomerang Pivot Counties, click here: https://ballotpedia.org/Election_results,_2020:_Boomerang_Pivot_Counties

To learn more about Retained Pivot Counties, click here: https://ballotpedia.org/Election_results,_2020:_Retained_Pivot_Counties



Former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder wins re-election

Incumbent Larry Householder (R) defeated four write-in candidates—Marci McCaulay (D), Jay Conrad (R), Robert Leist (L), and Kaitlyn Clark (I)—in the general election for Ohio’s House of Representatives District 72. Householder ran unopposed in the April 28 Republican primary.

On July 21, 2020, after the filing deadline for additional candidates to appear on the ballot, Householder was arrested and charged with conspiracy to participate in a racketeering scheme. He was accused of collecting more than $60 million in exchange for legislation that would bail out two nuclear plants in Ohio. The bailout was valued at $1.5 billion.

At the time of his arrest, Householder had been serving as Speaker of the House since 2019 when he defeated sitting House Speaker Ryan Smith (R). The House removed him from the position by a 90-0 vote on July 30.

In response to his arrest, on Sept. 1, Householder said, “[I]n the United States, we believe that you’re innocent until you’re proven guilty. And that day has not occurred … And so, I am innocent. I am going to defend myself vigorously.” Householder entered a plea of not guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephanie Bowman on Sept. 3.

Householder previously served in the House from 1997 to 2004, including a tenure as Speaker of the House from 2001 to 2004. He returned to the House representing District 72 in 2016 and won re-election in 2018.



Analyzing margins of victory in the 206 Pivot Counties nationwide

Voters in 206 Pivot Counties across the country backed Barack Obama (D) in 2008 and 2012 and Donald Trump (R) in 2016. How did these counties vote in 2020?

We have split the Pivot Counties into two categories based on the unofficial results: 

  1. Retained Pivot Counties, which voted for Trump again in 2020, and 
  2. Carousel Pivot Counties, which voted for Joe Biden (D) this cycle.

Preliminary analysis shows the following breakdown for the 206 Pivot Counties:

  1. 174 Retained Pivot Counties
  2. 20 Carousel Pivot Counties
  3. 12 unclear/too-close-to-call

Trump has been winning the 174 Retained Pivot Counties with an average margin of victory of 14.9 percentage points. Compared to his 2016 results, Trump’s margin of victory decreased in 49 Retained Pivot Counties and increased in 125.

Biden has been winning the 20 Carousel Pivot Counties with an average margin of victory of 3.1 percentage points. Compared to Obama’s results in 2012, the last time a Democrat won in these counties, Biden’s margin of victory represents a decrease in 18 and an increase in two.

The five counties with the largest change in margin of victory for Democrats and Republicans since 2016 are in the tables below.

Trump:

Biden:



Revisiting the two presidential election recounts in 2016

Following the 2016 presidential election, two states—Wisconsin and Nevada—conducted recounts after receiving requests from candidates. Neither recount changed the election outcome. Below is a brief look at those recounts, who requested them, and what effect they had on vote totals

Wisconsin

Green Party candidate Jill Stein requested a full recount in Wisconsin on Nov. 25, saying the election had been hacked. Prior to the recount, Donald Trump (R) led Hillary Clinton (D) by 27,257 votes. The recount began on Dec. 1 and finished on Dec. 12. As a result, Clinton gained 713 votes and Trump gained 844, adding 131 votes to his margin of victory.

Nevada

Partly in response to Stein’s requested recount in Wisconsin, Reform Party candidate Rocky De La Fuente requested a partial recount of four counties and Carson City, Nevada, on Nov. 29. The recount began on Dec. 5 and finished on Dec. 8. As a result, Trump lost six votes and Clinton lost nine, subtracting three votes from her margin of victory.

Stein also requested recounts in Michigan and Pennsylvania but neither was completed. In Michigan, Stein ended her request after a series of court challenges, which involved a state ruling that Stein had no standing to request a recount. In Pennsylvania, Stein withdrew her request amid additional court challenges.

According to a study by FairVote, between 2000 and 2015, there were 4,687 statewide general elections, 27 of which (0.58%) resulted in statewide recounts. Of those 27, three changed the election outcome: Minnesota’s 2008 U.S. Senate election, Vermont’s 2006 State Auditor election, and Washington’s 2004 gubernatorial election. None of those three swung the winning candidate by more than 500 votes. FairVote describes itself as a “nonpartisan champion of electoral reforms that give voters greater choice, a stronger voice, and a representative democracy that works for all Americans.”



22 of Ballotpedia’s 57 federal battleground elections taking place in states with automatic recount procedures

Image of donkey and elephant to symbolize the Democratic and Republican parties.

This November, 22 of the 57 U.S. House and Senate races Ballotpedia identified as battlegrounds are taking place in states where a close vote could automatically trigger a recount under state law.

An automatic recount occurs if election results meet certain criteria laid out in state law. The most common trigger for an automatic recount is when election results fall within a close vote margin.

The table below lists those battleground races alongside the most recent margin as well as the state’s close vote trigger.

For seven of the races listed below, an automatic recount is only triggered if the race ends in a tie. For the remaining fourteen races, a recount is triggered if the vote total falls within the given close vote margin.

Nationwide, there are twenty-three states where a close or tie vote could trigger an automatic recount. However, a close vote is not the only way a state might trigger an automatic recount. Four states—Kentucky, Minnesota, New York, and North Carolina—require an automatic recount if an error is discovered while tabulating the votes or while conducting a post-election procedure such as an audit of voting machines. The map below shows those states with policies requiring an automatic recount under certain circumstances.

Additional reading: