Author

Douglas Kronaizl

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

How incumbent turnover will affect state legislatures next year

At least 1,607 incumbents will not be returning to their seats next year, representing an increase compared to recent election cycles, one that will alter the makeup of legislatures across the country.

Ballotpedia uses a metric called “incumbent turnover” to determine how many incumbents are leaving office. This important figure tells us how many incumbents remained in office at the end of the cycle and how many newcomers will be entering office.

Historically, most incumbent turnover doesn’t happen at the ballot box, but rather through retirements. That broad term covers incumbents who leave office by any means apart from losing an election, meaning things like stepping away from office, term limits, and disqualifications.

Election defeats—both in primaries and general elections—make up the rest of the turnover figures.

Eight states have yet to hold primaries and we are still months away from the general elections, but the incumbent turnover in 2022 so far is greater than the total turnover in 2014, 2016, and 2020.

Only the 2018 election cycle had more turnover than where we are right now in 2022, but that will likely change by the end of the current election cycle.

The number of state legislative seats up for election changes every cycle, which can affect the raw numbers when it comes to turnover. There are 6,278 seats up for election this year, the largest number compared to recent cycles.

But even when taken as a percentage, the turnover figures in 2022 so far show that newcomers will hold at least 26% of the state legislative seats up for election and that’s assuming that every incumbent wins their general election in November, which is unlikely.

Incumbent turnover will have a varying effect across different states. For example, Delaware currently has the lowest turnover rate at 11% of the seats up for election. Indiana, New York, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island also have low turnover rates presently, though, apart from Indiana, these states have not yet finished their primary elections.

At the high end, in Arizona and Nebraska, newcomers are guaranteed to win over half of the seats up for election. Michigan and Idaho also have some of the highest turnover rates.

The reason for these high turnover rates vary. Nebraska’s came entirely from retirements, with 12 incumbents leaving office, 10 of whom were term-limited. Arizona and Michigan had a large number of retirements and increased rates of incumbents defeated in primaries. And in Idaho, 18 incumbents lost to primary challengers—the largest number among any state so far—which contributed to its high turnover rate.

Ballotpedia will continue to track incumbent turnover throughout and at the end of the election cycle. Regardless of the outcome in November, the increased turnover rates so far guarantee that the make-up of state legislatures will look very different come 2023.



Contested state legislative primaries reach highest point in five election cycles

Voters have been making more decisions in state legislative primaries this year than at any point in the past five election cycles.

The number of contested state legislative primaries reached a high mark this year with 2,349 contested primaries representing 21% of all possible primaries, both the largest number and percentage of contested primaries compared to the preceding four election cycles.

A primary is contested when more candidates file to run than there are nominations available, meaning at least one candidate must lose.

Contested Republican primaries outnumbered those for Democrats. There were 1,395 contested Republican primaries, representing 25% of all possible Republican primaries. For Democrats, 828 primaries were contested, or 15% of all possible Democratic primaries.

Four states—Alaska, California, Nebraska, and Washington—held top-two/four primaries where every candidate runs on the same primary ballot regardless of their political affiliations. Across those states, there were 126 contested primaries, 41% of all possible top-two/four primaries.

The frequency of contested primaries varied by state.

In 11 states, more than 30% of all possible primaries were contested.

California topped the list, with 60% (60) of its top-two primaries contested. Among states holding partisan primaries, Michigan had the most with 47% (139) of its possible major party primaries contested.

In four states, less than 10% of all primaries were contested.

Alaska had the lowest rate at 2% with a single contested top-four primary. This was the state’s first cycle using a top-four primary system where, in order for a primary to be contested, at least five candidates must file to run. Among states holding partisan primaries, Connecticut had the lowest rate at 2% (8).

In 21 states, between 10 and 20% of all primaries were contested, and in 10 the rate fell between 20 and 30%.

These numbers are still subject to change as the primary election cycle finishes in September. Figures will be updated if any changes occur.

Use the link below to view more historical state- and chamber-specific data about contested state legislative primaries.



Tomorrow’s statewide primary (yes, Saturday)

Welcome to the Friday, August 12, Brew. 

By: Douglas Kronaizl

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

  1. Previewing Hawaii’s Saturday primary election
  2. Campaigns for four ballot initiatives in Colorado submit signatures
  3. #FridayTrivia: How many states place no restrictions on who can purchase voter file data?

Previewing Hawaii’s Saturday primary election

When you think elections, you might think Tuesdays, but tomorrow, Saturday, Aug. 13, voters in Hawaii will cast their primary ballots. Let’s look at the races on the ballot and how their primaries work.

Most Hawaii voters have already made their primary picks. This is the state’s second cycle using all-mail voting, where every eligible voter receives a ballot in the mail ahead of time. 

Those ballots need to be received by election officials by the time polls close on Aug. 13. Still, the state allows for in-person voting on Election Day at voter service centers, too. Learn more here.

Brian Schatz (D) is running for a second full term in the U.S. Senate and faces a contested primary. Republicans are also holding a primary to select their nominee. Hawaii has not elected a Republican to the Senate since 1970.

The state’s two U.S. House districts are also holding both Democratic and Republican primaries. U.S. Rep. Ed Case (D) is running for re-election in the 1st District, but the 2nd District is open, with U.S. Rep. Kai Kahele (D) instead running for governor.

In addition to the gubernatorial election, Hawaiians will also decide state executive primaries for lieutenant governor and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. There are contested Democratic and Republican primaries for governor and lieutenant governor. The Office of Hawaiian Affairs is nonpartisan, so every candidate runs on the same ballot without party labels, and the top finishers then advance to the general election.

Hawaii has a Democratic trifecta with the party controlling the governorship and both legislative chambers. Democrats currently hold a 24-1 majority in the Senate and a 47-4 majority in the House, making Hawaii’s legislature the most partisan in the country, with Democrats controlling 93% of all seats.

At the state legislative level, all 51 House and 25 Senate districts are holding elections this year, and voters will have plenty of choices. The number of contested primaries is up 65% this year compared to 2020, with 51 primaries—36 for Democrats and 15 for Republicans—on the ballot.

In most states, nonpartisan or independent candidates file to run on the general election ballot, bypassing the primaries, but in Hawaii, these nonpartisan candidates need to stand for a vote during the primaries.

The state uses a set of calculations to determine whether a nonpartisan candidate can advance to the general election ballot. There are two ways that can happen: the nonpartisan candidate receives votes equal to at least 10% of the votes cast in the primary OR receives “a vote equal to or greater than the lowest vote received by the partisan candidate who was nominated,” according to state documents. 

If a nonpartisan candidate does not meet either of these thresholds, they will not advance to the general election.

Hawaii has open primaries. Elections for all parties are included on the same ballot, so voters must indicate their preference and only vote in one party’s primaries.

If you have primaries coming up, use Ballotpedia’s Sample Ballot Lookup to see what’s on your ballot and bring your choices to the polls with our My Vote app!

Keep reading 

Campaigns for four ballot initiatives in Colorado submit signatures

Campaigns for four Colorado ballot initiatives submitted signatures ahead of the Aug. 8 signature deadline. These measures may appear on the state’s November ballot if state officials determine the campaigns submitted at least 124,632 valid signatures.

Three initiatives would change state alcohol laws, and one deals with revenue for housing projects. Here’s a look at those measures:

  • Initiative 96 would incrementally increase the number of retail liquor store licenses an individual may own or hold a share in. Currently, retailers can open a maximum of three liquor stores in Colorado. Under this initiative, that number would gradually increase to 20 and become unlimited in 2037.
  • Initiative 108 would allocate a percentage of federal income tax revenues, estimated at $300 million per year, to housing projects. This would include financing programs to reduce rent, purchase land for affordable housing, and assist people experiencing homelessness.
  • Initiative 121 would create a new type of license to allow grocery stores, convenience stores, and other businesses licensed to sell beer to also sell wine.
  • Initiative 122 would allow retail establishments licensed to sell alcohol for off-site consumption, like liquor stores, to offer delivery services or provide third-party delivery services.

The secretary of state has 30 days to determine whether the campaigns submitted enough valid signatures. If no decision is made within that time, the initiatives will be placed on the November ballot.

Seven measures have already qualified to appear on Coloradoans’ November ballots.

From 1985 to 2020, an average of nine measures appeared on the statewide ballot during even-numbered years in Colorado. The approval rate for such measures was 47%.

Keep reading 

#FridayTrivia: How many states place no restrictions on who can purchase voter file data?

Since 2002, federal law has required each state to maintain electronic voter registration files. These files typically contain voters’ names, addresses, and a record of elections in which they have participated, information that might be useful to campaigns, pollsters, and researchers.

Voter file data is available for purchase in every state, but some states place limitations on who can make those purchases while others do not.

How many states place no restrictions on who can purchase voter file data?



Missouri state legislative incumbents lost in primaries at an increased rate

Seven state legislative incumbents—four Democrats and three Republicans—lost to primary challengers on August 2. 

This represents 5.3% of incumbents who filed for re-election, the largest number and highest rate of incumbent primary defeats in the state in five election cycles.

A list of incumbents defeated, all of whom were first elected to office within the past four years, is included below:

Of these seven defeats, one was guaranteed before a single ballot was cast. This is because two incumbents—Reps. Mike Person and Raychel Proudie—were drawn into the same district following redistricting, meaning one or the other had to lose.

This year, Democratic incumbents lost at a higher rate than Republicans. Among Democrats, the four defeats represent 8.7% of the 46 incumbents who ran for re-election. For Republicans, the three defeats represent 3.5% of the 86 incumbents in that party who ran.

Learn more about incumbents defeated in Missouri and across other states by clicking “Learn More” below.



Number of contested state legislative primaries in Alaska drops as state introduces top-four primary system

There is one contested state legislative primary in Alaska this year, fewer than in previous election cycles. This decrease comes after the state began using a new top-four primary system, which voters approved in 2020.

Under the new top-four primary system, every candidate appears on the same ballot and the top-four finishers advance to the general election. As a result, at least five candidates must run to create a contested primary.

This year, the one contested primary represents 2% of all possible primaries, down from 31% in 2020.

Overall, 147 candidates filed to run in the state’s top-four primaries: 39 Democrats, 81 Republicans, and 27 minor party or independent candidates. Every candidate who filed will advance to the general election apart from the one candidate who will lose in the one contested primary.

There are fewer than four candidates on the ballot in 52, or 88%, of districts. 

Previously, Alaska had partisan primaries where members of the same party would compete against each other for a place on the general election ballot. Under this system, if more than one candidate from the same party filed, there would be a contested primary.

Alaska has had a divided government since a multi-partisan coalition formed in the House in 2019. While Republicans hold a numerical majority of seats in the chamber, a group of Democrats, Republicans, and minor party/independent officeholders formed their own governing majority.

Alaska’s state legislative primaries are scheduled for Aug. 19, the 14th statewide primary date of the 2022 state legislative election cycle.

Additional reading:



4.6% of state legislative incumbents who filed for re-election have lost in primaries

So far this year, 182 state legislative incumbents—48 Democrats and 134 Republicans—have lost to primary challengers.

Across the 38 states that have held primaries, 4.6% of incumbents running for re-election have lost, an elevated level of incumbent losses compared to previous cycles.

These totals include data from Tennessee, which held primaries on Aug. 4, as well as Connecticut, Minnesota, Vermont, and Wisconsin, which held primaries on Aug. 9. So far:

  • Connecticut: one Democrat lost;
  • Minnesota: three Democrats lost; and,
  • Tennessee: two Republicans lost.

No incumbents have lost in Vermont or Wisconsin, though races featuring incumbents remain uncalled.

This year, Republican incumbents have lost at a higher rate than Democrats. Of the 2,186 Republican incumbents who filed for re-election, 134 (6.1%) have lost to primary challengers. For Democrats, 48 of the 1,753 who filed for re-election (2.7%) have lost.

Forty-one of these 182 incumbent defeats (23%) were guaranteed due to redistricting. When states redraw legislative lines, incumbents can oftentimes end up in a new district with other incumbents leading to incumbent v. incumbent primaries or general elections. Since, in these races, there are more incumbents running than nominations or seats available, at least one incumbent must lose.

Of the 38 states that have held primaries so far, 10 have Democratic trifectas, 19 have Republican trifectas, and nine have divided governments. Across these 38 states, there are 5,106 seats up for election, 81% of the nationwide total.

The figures for 2022 will likely increase. There are currently 23 uncalled primaries featuring incumbents: nine Democratic, nine Republican, and five top-two.



Contested state legislative primaries increase in Hawaii this year

There are 51 contested state legislative primaries in Hawaii this year, representing 34% of the total number of possible primaries. This is a 65% increase from 2020.

A primary is contested when more candidates files to run than there are nominations available, meaning at least one candidate must lose.

Of the 51 contested primaries, 36 are for Democrats and 15 are for Republicans. For Democrats, this is up from 29 in 2020, a 24% increase. For Republicans, the number increased 650% from two in 2020.

Twenty-five contested primaries feature an incumbent, representing 40% of all incumbents running for re-election. This is a higher rate of incumbents in contested primaries compared to 2020, but lower than rates in the 2018 and 2016 cycles.

All 25 incumbents in contested primaries are Democrats.

Overall, 205 major party candidates—126 Democrats and 79 Republicans—filed to run. All 51 House districts and 25 Senate districts are holding elections.

Hawaii has had a Democratic trifecta since the party won control of the governorship in 2010. Democrats currently hold a 47-4 majority in the House and a 24-1 majority in the Senate.

Hawaii’s state legislative primaries are scheduled for Aug. 13, the 13th statewide primary date of the 2022 state legislative election cycle.

Additional reading:



There are 75 vacancies in the federal judiciary with 42 to come

Welcome to the Tuesday, August 9, Brew. 

By: Douglas Kronaizl

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

  1. There are 75 vacancies in the federal judiciary with 42 to come
  2. Here’s what’s on the ballot in Vermont
  3. Previewing the Republican primary in Wyoming’s At-large Congressional District

There are 75 vacancies in the federal judiciary with 42 to come

There are currently 75 vacancies on the federal judicial bench and another 42 judges are slated to retire or assume senior status in the weeks ahead.

These vacancies are for Article III judgeships, a term used to describe judges on the U.S. Supreme Court, the Court of International Trade, courts of appeal, and district courts.

Article III judgeships are lifetime presidential appointments. All nominees are subject to Senate confirmation.

As of Aug. 1, Biden had nominated 130 individuals to Article III judgeships. Fifty-six are in the confirmation process and 74 had been confirmed.

When looking at presidents since Ronald Reagan (R), Biden is tied with former President Bill Clinton (D) for the most Article III appointments made through Aug. 1 of the second year in office.

With the upcoming vacancies, the president and the Senate do not need to wait for a position to become vacant before starting the confirmation process for a successor. For example, Biden nominated Bradley Garcia to replace Judge Judith Rogers on the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit once Rodgers assumes senior status on Sept. 1.

There are currently 18 nominees pending for upcoming vacancies.

We don’t know when each vacancy will take place. Twenty-six judges did not announce a specific date when they will leave the bench. The next scheduled vacancy is Aug. 13, when Judge Gershwin Drain assumes senior status on the District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.

Keep reading 

Here’s what’s on the ballot in Vermont

Four states—Connecticut, Minnesota, Vermont, and Wisconsin—are holding primaries today, Aug. 9. We’ve previewed the primaries in all of those states but one: Vermont. 

Vermont is one of 34 states holding U.S. Senate elections this year and one of seven where that seat is open. U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D), first elected in 1974, is retiring. Both Democrats and Republicans are holding contested primaries to select their nominees for the general election.

The open U.S. Senate race led to another opening, this one in the state’s at-large U.S. House district. U.S. Rep. Peter Welch (D), first elected in 2006, is one of the three Democrats running to succeed Leahy. 

All six of the state executive offices elected statewide are on the ballot this year. Two incumbents—Gov. Phil Scott (R) and Auditor Doug Hoffer (D)—are on the ballot, with the remaining four positions open. Democrats are holding three contested primaries and Republicans are holding two.

All 180 state legislative seats—30 in the Senate and 150 in the House—are also on the ballot. 

Regardless of how the primaries turn out, we already know that at least 32% of the Legislature will be made up of newcomers next year. This is because 57 seats are currently open, meaning no incumbents are running. This is the largest number of open seats in the past five election cycles.

Democrats currently hold a 21-7 majority in the Senate and a 91-56 majority in the House, with the remaining seats either vacant or held by minor party/independent officeholders.

Vermont is one of 13 states with a divided government and one of three—along with Maryland and Massachusetts—where Republicans control the governorship and Democrats control both chambers of the legislature.

If you have primaries coming up, use Ballotpedia’s Sample Ballot Lookup to see what’s on your ballot and bring your choices to the polls with our My Vote app!

Keep reading 

Previewing the Republican primary in Wyoming’s At-large Congressional District

For today’s preview of upcoming battleground primaries, we are looking at the Republican primary in Wyoming’s At-large Congressional District. Here’s what you need to know.

Incumbent U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney (R) is running for re-election and faces challengers Anthony Bouchard, Harriet Hageman, Robyn Belinkskey, and Denton Knapp.

This is the final Republican primary featuring an incumbent—Cheney—who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump (R) following the breach of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Cheney is also the only Republican seeking re-election this year who is a member of the select committee formed to investigate the events on and leading up to Jan. 6, 2021.

Cheney said she is “proud of [her] strong conservative record,” adding, “It is tragic that some in this race have sacrificed those principles, and their duty to the people of Wyoming, out of fear and in favor of loyalty to a former president.”

Trump endorsed Hageman, an attorney and legal consultant, in the primary. Hageman said, “Wyoming is entitled to a representative in Congress who remembers who sent her there and remembers what their wishes are … Liz Cheney is doing neither, and I will do both.”

A July 15 poll found Hageman leading Cheney 52% to 30% with 11% undecided. Wyoming effectively has an open primary system, where voters can choose to participate in either the Democratic or Republican primary on Election Day.

Five primaries featuring Republican incumbents who voted to impeach Trump in 2021 have already occurred.

Two incumbents lost to primary challengers Trump endorsed. Both incumbents ran in partisan primaries—similar to Wyoming’s—which are limited to voters participating in either a Democratic or Republican primary.

Two incumbents advanced to the general election and one remains in an uncalled primary. These three incumbents ran in top-two primaries, where every candidate appears on the same primary ballot, regardless of party affiliation, and the top-two finishers advance to the general election.

Keep reading



Primary watch: number of contested state legislative primaries is up 23% compared to 2020

There are 23% more contested state legislative primaries this year than in 2020, including 53% more Republican primaries and 8% more top-two/four primaries. Democratic primaries are down 10%.

These figures include elections in 39 states that account for 5,011 of 6,166 state legislative seats up for election this year (81%).

A primary is contested when there are more candidates running than available nominations, meaning at least one candidate must lose.

Since our last update on Aug. 1, we have added post-filing deadline data from Florida and Vermont. Overall, 11 states in this analysis have Democratic trifectas, 20 have Republican trifectas, and eight have divided governments.

Of the 39 states in this analysis, 36 are holding partisan primaries. Three states—California, Nebraska, and Washington—use top-two primaries.

The number of Democratic primaries has increased in 11 states, decreased in 21, and remains the same in three. The number of Republican primaries has increased in 31 states, decreased in four, and is unchanged in one. The table below shows partisan statistics for the three states with the largest increases and decreases so far.

In addition to a state’s political makeup and party activity, redistricting is another reason for an increase in primary competitiveness.

After redistricting, some states—like Arkansas—hold elections for every district, while in other years, fewer districts are up each cycle. This creates more opportunities for primaries to occur. Or, like in West Virginia, redistricting creates new districts and, by extension, more primary opportunities. Currently, the total number of possible primaries affected by these changes is up 3.0% compared to 2020.

For states like New Mexico and South Carolina, where only one chamber is up for election every two years, only those chambers holding elections in 2022 that also held elections in 2020 are included.

Ballotpedia will continue to update these figures as information becomes available. In addition to this analysis, Ballotpedia collects competitiveness statistics at all levels of government, available here. This data is calculated following candidate filing deadlines and readjusted at the time of the primary to account for any changes to candidate lists.



Newcomers will represent at least 32% of Vermont’s state legislative seats next year

Fifty-seven state legislative seats up for election in Vermont this year are open, meaning no incumbents filed to run. This represents 32% of the state’s legislature, a marked increase compared to recent election cycles.

Since no incumbents are present, newcomers are guaranteed to win all open seats.

Vermont restructured its House and Senate during the state’s redistricting process. Previously, the state had 117 state legislative districts containing 180 seats. After redistricting, there are 125 districts, still containing 180 seats.

While the number of open seats increased this year, other competitiveness metrics—like the number of contested primaries—decreased compared to the 2020 election cycle.

Across all districts, there are 24 contested primaries, representing 10% of all possible primaries.

A contested primary is one where there are more candidates running than nominations available, meaning at least one candidate must lose.

There are 17 Democratic primaries, a 23% decrease from 2020. Republicans are holding seven contested primaries, the same number as in 2020.

Overall, 276 major party candidates filed to run for the state’s 150 House and 30 Senate seats this year: 174 Democrats and 102 Republicans.

Vermont has had a divided government since Republicans won the governorship in 2016. Democrats hold a 91-46 majority in the House, with 12 other seats held by minor party or independent officeholders and one vacancy. The party holds a 21-7 majority in the Senate, with two seats held by minor party officeholders.

Vermont’s state legislative primaries are scheduled for Aug. 9, the 12th statewide primary date of the 2022 state legislative election cycle.

Additional reading:

Vermont House of Representatives elections, 2022

Vermont State Senate elections, 2022