TagDaily Brew

77 third-party candidates received more votes than the winner’s margin of victory in 2020

Seventy-seven third-party candidates whose vote totals were greater than the winner’s margin of victory

When third-party candidates run in elections, sometimes they can receive more votes than the margin of victory in the race. We looked at last year’s races where that happened within our coverage scope of more than 10,000 races. Below are the results of that analysis.

In 2020, there were 77 third-party or independent candidates who received more votes than the margin of victory in their election. Presidential candidates were not included in the analysis. These third-party candidates included: 

  • eight running for Congress, 
  • 23 running for a statewide office, 
  • 43 running for another state-level office, 
  • and three running for a local office within Ballotpedia’s coverage scope. 

Here are some quick stats about those candidates:

  • The eight congressional candidates included two who ran for U.S. Senate. 
    • Kevin O’Connor of the Legal Marijuana Now Party received 5.77% of the vote in Minnesota’s U.S. Senate election. Tina Smith (D) won by a margin of 5.25 percentage points. O’Connor’s 185,064 votes was the largest number of votes any such third-party candidate received in 2020. 
    • In North Carolina, Shannon Bray (L) received 3.13% of the vote, while incumbent Thom Tillis (R) won re-election by a 1.75 percentage point margin.
    • Since our analysis doesn’t cover races that advanced to a runoff, we didn’t include the U.S. Senate race in Georgia. In the general election, Shane Hazel (L) received 2.3% of the vote. David Perdue (R) and Jon Ossoff (D) advanced to the runoff with 49.7% and 47.9% of the vote (a difference of 1.8 percentage points), respectively.
  • The third-party candidate who won the largest percentage of the vote in 2020 was Maine state Rep. Norman Higgins (I). Higgins, who had represented Maine’s 120th state House district since 2014, won 30.9% of the vote in 2020 but lost his bid for re-election to Richard Evans (D).
  • More than one-third of the 77 third-party candidates (26) were members of the Libertarian Party. The only other parties with five or more of these candidates were the Green Party (nine), the U.S. Taxpayer’s Party (the Michigan affiliate of the Constitution Party) (six), and the Legal Marijuana Now Party (five). There were 20 candidates who ran as independents.

In 2018, Ballotpedia identified 99 third-party candidates using the criteria above. Those 99 included five candidates for Congress, 21 running for a statewide office, 69 running for state-level offices, and four running for a local office within Ballotpedia’s coverage scope.

Libertarians made up a greater proportion of third-party candidates who received more votes than the margin of victory in their election (43) in 2018 than in 2020. That year, the only other party to run five or more of these candidates was the Green Party, with five. There were also 30 candidates who ran as independents.

There were five independent candidates who ran in both 2020 and 2018. In each election, they received more votes than the margin of victory. Four of those candidates ran for higher education boards in Michigan. The fifth, Will Hyman (L), ran to represent District 48 in West Virginia’s House of Delegates.

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Dickey defeats Stewart in special election in Iowa state Senate District 41

Adrian Dickey (R) defeated Mary Stewart (D) in the Jan. 26 special election for Iowa’s 41st Senate District. Dickey defeated Stewart 55.3% to 44.7%.

The special election was called after Sen. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R) resigned effective Jan. 2, 2021, to be seated in the U.S. House of Representatives. Democratic candidate Rita Hart contested the Nov. 3 election results. Three recounts were conducted, the last of which showing Miller-Meeks winning by six votes. Hart contested the election with the House Administration Committee, and on Jan. 21, Miller-Meeks filed a motion asking Congress to dismiss Hart’s challenge of the election results. The House committee has not yet ruled in the case. Click here for the full story.

Miller-Meeks served from 2019 to 2021. Dickey will fill the remaining two years in Miller-Meeks’s term.

Dickey’s 10.6 percentage point margin of victory is the largest in the 41st District since 2010 when Roby Smith (R) defeated Richard Clewell (D) by 19 percentage points. 

Iowa has a Republican state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers. Republicans control the Iowa state Senate by a margin of 32-18.

As of January, 24 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2021 in 16 states. Between 2011 and 2019, an average of 77 special elections took place each year. Iowa held 22 special elections from 2010 to 2020.

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A look at this year’s Supreme Court term

The Supreme Court (SCOTUS) has been in its current session since Oct. 5—its first full session where oral arguments are being conducted via teleconference. Here’s an update on the October 2020-2021 term.

On Jan. 25, SCOTUS issued one opinion in a case argued during the current term, bringing the number of opinions issued this term to 12. 

In the case Henry Schein Inc. v. Archer and White Sales Inc., the court issued a per curiam opinion—a ruling given collectively by the whole court—dismissing the case as improvidently granted. Put another way, the court concluded that it should not have granted review in the case.

The court’s next argument sitting is scheduled to begin on Feb. 22. So far, the court has agreed to hear 60 cases during this term. Of those, 12 were originally scheduled for the 2019-2020 term but were delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
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Over 4,700 candidates took Ballotpedia’s candidate survey in 2020

Over 4,700 candidates responded to Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey in 2020

For the third year in a row, Ballotpedia invited all candidates in our coverage scope to complete our Candidate Connection survey. In 2020, we covered 29,002 federal, state, and local candidates.  Our survey asks candidates about their backgrounds, priorities, and proposed solutions to the issues faced by their communities, and aims to enable voters to learn more about political candidates as people.

We received submissions from 4,745 candidates—or 16.4% of all 2020 candidates we tracked. 

Here are five highlights:

  • The 16.4% completion rate is more than double the response rate in 2018. That year, we had 1,957 survey respondents out of 28,315 total candidates covered by Ballotpedia that year, for a completion rate of 6.9%.
  • Incumbents accounted for 5.5% of respondents, with challengers making up the remaining 94.5%.
  • Of the 4,745 candidates who completed Ballotpedia’s candidate survey, 743—15.7%—won their elections. In 2018, 477 of the 1,957 candidates who responded to our survey, or 24.4%, won their races.
  • Candidates from all 50 states and the District of Columbia responded to Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection in 2020. Texas had the most respondents with 391, followed by California at 375 respondents and Michigan at 225.
  • Over half of our survey respondents (54.0%) ran for a state legislative office. Those running for Congress were the second-largest group (27.1%), followed by candidates running for state executive seats (3.8%).

Curious what these candidates had to say? Explore a sample of their answers through our Candidate Questions tool!

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Analyzing the demographics of 2020’s Pivot Counties 

ICYMI, we held a briefing last week providing some in-depth analysis of last year’s voter turnout in Pivot Counties. 

Ballotpedia identified 206 counties nationwide that voted for Barack Obama (D) in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections and Donald Trump (R) in 2016. After the 2020 election, we labeled the 181 counties that voted for Trump in 2020 as Retained Pivot Counties and the 25 counties that voted for Joe Biden (D) as Boomerang Pivot Counties.

Here are three interesting facts I learned watching the briefing:

  • Retained Pivot Counties are less populous on average than Boomerang Pivot Counties. The average population of a Retained Pivot County is 62,980 compared to 186,852 of a Boomerang Pivot County. The nationwide county population average is 104,435. From 2016 to 2020, the population of Retained Pivot Counties decreased 0.1%, and Boomerang Pivot Counties increased 1.0%.
  • The average median home value is higher in Boomerang Pivot Counties than in Retained Pivot Counties. The national median home value is $204,900. Thirty-two percent (32%) of Boomerang Pivot Counties have a median value more than the average, compared to 4% of Retained Pivot Counties.
  • Both Retained (79.6%) and Boomerang Pivot Counties (78.2%) have a higher-than-average non-Hispanic white population compared to the national average of 60.1%. In total, 82% of Retained Pivot Counties (149) and 88% of Boomerang Pivot Counties (22) exceed that national rate.

We discussed even more interesting facts about Pivot Counties, including an analysis of counties that have flipped parties every two cycles going back to the 1970s! Click here to watch the full recording of last week’s briefing.

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U.S. Senate has confirmed three Biden Cabinet secretaries so far

One of the leading priorities of a new presidential administration involves selecting and swearing in members of the Cabinet. The president’s Cabinet includes the heads of 15 key executive agencies like the Department of Commerce and Department of Defense. 

Presidents may also give Cabinet-rank status to other specific positions, such as the director of the Central Intelligence Agency or the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers. The vice president is also part of the Cabinet. All Cabinet positions—except for the vice president and White House chief of staff—require confirmation by the U.S. Senate.

Seven days after their respective inaugurations, Trump had two main Cabinet members confirmed, and Biden had three.

Obama outpaced both of his successors with 10 confirmations at this point following his inauguration. An eleventh Obama Cabinet member—Secretary of Defense Robert Gates—was held over from the Bush administration.

The following chart compares the pace of Senate confirmations for the main 15 Cabinet members following the inaugurations of Presidents Donald Trump (R) in 2017 and Joe Biden (D) in 2021. We also have a similar chart comparing the pace of Senate confirmations between the Obama and Biden administrations here. These charts do not include other Cabinet-rank positions whose inclusion in the Cabinet varies from administration to administration.

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Ballotpedia’s Daily Brew: 94% of incumbents won re-election on Nov. 3—Here’s the breakdown by state

94% of incumbents won re-election on Nov. 3—Here’s the breakdown by state

Our researchers continue to analyze last year’s elections, and today, we’re looking at the state-by-state re-election rate for the 7,458 federal, state, and local incumbents who ran for re-election on Nov. 3.

In last year’s general elections, 94% of incumbents nationwide won re-election. This includes races in which incumbents ran unopposed but does not include recall elections. In the 2018 general election, 92% of incumbents nationwide won re-election. 

Here are five highlights by state:

  • California had the lowest incumbent re-election rate, at 85%. New Jersey was the only state where 100% of the incumbents we track won re-election. In 2018, Texas had the lowest incumbent re-election rate at 81%, and Mississippi was the only state where 100% of the incumbents we track won re-election.
  • More than 90% of incumbents won re-election in 46 states. The states with re-election rates less than 90%: California, New Hampshire, Ohio, and West Virginia. In 2018, 12 states had re-election rates less than 90%.
  • 96% of congressional incumbents were re-elected. In 38 states, 100% of congressional incumbents won re-election. 
  • 95% of state-level incumbents (state executives, legislators, and judges) were re-elected. All state-level incumbents seeking re-election were re-elected in five states—Alabama, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, and New Jersey.
  • 89% of local incumbents in Ballotpedia’s coverage scope won re-election on Nov. 3. In five states, 100% of local incumbents we track were re-elected. 

Click the link below to see how incumbents fared by state broken down by congressional, state executive, state legislative, judicial, and local offices. 

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California voters to decide flavored tobacco ban referendum in 2022 

California voters will decide a veto referendum next year of a state law banning the sale of flavored tobacco products. The secretary of state’s office confirmed on Jan. 22 that petitioners submitted more than 623,212 valid signatures to place the measure on the ballot in November 2022. 

The veto referendum would overturn Senate Bill 793 (SB 793), which bans the sale of flavored tobacco products and tobacco product flavor enhancers, except for hookah tobacco, loose-leaf tobacco, and premium cigars. Under SB 793, retailers would be fined $250 for each sale violating the law. California enacted SB 793 in August, and it was scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1. Because the veto referendum was certified, the law is suspended pending the outcome of the election.

The California Coalition for Fairness is supporting the veto referendum to repeal SB 793. The campaign raised $21.2 million through Jan. 1, including $10.4 million from R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and $9.8 million from Philip Morris USA. Ballotpedia has not yet identified any committees opposing the veto referendum. Supporters of upholding the ban include Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

If SB 793 had gone into effect, California would have been the second state after Massachusetts to ban all flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes. California would have been the fifth state to ban flavored e-cigarettes. In 2017, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance banning the sale of flavored tobacco. Voters subsequently upheld the measure in a local veto referendum in June 2018.

This measure is the 50th veto referendum in California since that process was adopted in 1911. Of the previous 49 veto referendums, voters upheld 20 (41%) of the laws and repealed 29 (59%). California voters last decided a veto referendum in 2020, when they repealed a law to replace cash bail with risk assessments for detained suspects. 

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Governor’s appointment shifts partisan balance of New Mexico Supreme Court

After New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) appointed former appeals court judge Julie Vargas to succeed Judith Nakamura (R) on the state supreme court last month, all five New Mexico Supreme Court justices will have been either elected as Democrats or appointed by Democratic governors. Nakamura retired on Dec. 1. Gov. Susana Martinez (R) appointed Nakamura in November 2015.

Under New Mexico law, state supreme court vacancies are filled through assisted gubernatorial appointment, in which the governor selects a nominee based on recommendations from a judicial nominating commission. Gubernatorial appointees must stand in a partisan election in the next election cycle to remain on the court. 

Gov. Lujan Grisham has appointed three state supreme court justices, and Chief Justice Michael Vigil and Associate Justice Barbara Vigil (no relation) were elected as Democrats. 

New Mexico is one of seven states that use partisan elections to select state supreme court justices for either initial or subsequent terms. Of those seven states, four—Illinois, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania—have a majority of Democratic justices while three—Alabama, Louisiana, and Texas—have a Republican majority.

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Pennsylvania state Senate District 48 special election set for May 18

Election officials have scheduled a special election in Pennsylvania’s state Senate District 48 for May 18. The former incumbent, David Arnold (R), died of brain cancer on Jan. 17, creating the vacancy. There is no primary, and political parties will nominate candidates directly.

Ballotpedia’s Daily Brew: 80% of local ballot measures were approved in 2020

80% of measures in top 100 cities were approved in 2020

Last week, we gave you a summary of our annual report on California local ballot measures. Today, we’re back with an analysis of the approval rates, notable topics and measures, and more in the top 100 largest cities last year.

Ballotpedia covered 314 local ballot measures in the nation’s 100 largest cities in 2020. The 314 measures appeared in 26 different states and Washington, D.C. 

Here are some highlights from the report:

  • Voters approved 252 measures (80.3%) and defeated 62 (19.7%). That approval rate was five percentage points below what it was in 2019 (85.1%) and eight percentage points below 2018 (88%).
  • There were 109 measures (34.7%) in California. 
  • 174 measures (55.4%) proposed bond issues or taxes. Of those, 126 were approved, and 48 were defeated.
  • There were 92 local bond measures. The measures proposed a total of $32.16 billion in bond money. Voters approved 67 measures amounting to $25.567 billion. Voters rejected 25 measures amounting to $6.593 billion.
  • Twenty-two measures (7.0%) concerned elections, campaigns, voting, and term limits.
  • Twenty measures (6.4%) concerned law enforcement or police policies.
  • Washington, D.C., became the fifth city to decriminalize psilocybin and the first city to decriminalize all entheogenic plants and fungi.
  • Fourteen measures were put on the ballot by initiative signature petitions, and 300 were referred to the ballot by city councils, county boards, school boards, special district boards, or, in two cases, state legislatures.

Keep reading at the link below to view the full analysis.

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$1.337 billion bond issue to appear on Colorado’s 2021 ballot

As yesterday’s Tuesday Count—a weekly report showing ballot measures that have been certified in the past week—showed, we’re off to a busy start for the 2021 ballot measures cycle. So far, eight state ballot measures have been certified for this year. This is the largest number of ballot measures to be certified by the second week in January of an odd-numbered year since at least 2011 (the average number is two).

Seven of the measures will appear on the ballot in Rhode Island, and one will appear on the Colorado ballot. Today, let’s take a look at the Colorado measure.

The Colorado Transportation Bond Issue would authorize $1.337 billion in bonds to fund statewide transportation projects with a maximum repayment cost of $1.865 billion over 20 years.

The measure was initially proposed in Senate Bill 1, which was passed by the state legislature during the 2018 legislative session. The measure was set to appear on the November 2019 ballot provided neither of the two citizen initiatives designed to issue transportation revenue anticipation notes were passed in November 2018. Both 2018 measures failed. The legislature then delayed the bond issue to the 2020 ballot and then delayed it to the 2021 ballot.

From 1999 to 2019, 14 ballot measures appeared on the statewide ballot in Colorado during odd-numbered years. Voters approved six of them and defeated the other eight.

Between 2010 and 2020, 50 transportation-related measures appeared on ballots across the U.S. Click here to learn more. 

And to keep up on ballot measure certifications, subscribe to our State Ballot Measure Monthly email. 

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Judith French appointed Ohio Director of Insurance

January brings inaugurations, which often cause a chain reaction of newly appointed officeholders. Over the past few weeks, we’ve been processing hundreds of officeholder changes. Here’s an example of a state executive change in Ohio.

On Jan. 19, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) appointed Judith French (R) as the state director of insurance. She succeeds interim director Tynesia Dorsey. 

The director is a cabinet-level executive position in the Ohio state government and the chief officer of the Department of Insurance. The director is responsible for ensuring the laws and regulations related to insurance are enforced across the state.

The office of insurance commissioner is nonpartisan in 38 states. The 12 states in which the position is partisan include the 11 states where the insurance commissioner is elected, as well as Ohio. Of the 12 states where the insurance commissioner has a partisan affiliation, the office is held by a Democrat in three and a Republican in nine.

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Ballotpedia’s Daily Brew: 30 state legislative races decided by < 100 votes in 2020

30 state legislative races were decided by fewer than 100 votes in 2020

The saying goes, “every vote counts.” For these races, fewer than 100 votes decided the winner. 

Out of the 5,875 total state legislative elections in 2020, 30 (0.5%) races were decided by fewer than 100 votes. Twenty-nine of the races were for a state House, and one was for a state Senate.

Here are some more highlights for you:

  • Partisan control changed in 15 (50%) of the 30 races. Thirteen of the partisan changes (43.3%) were Republican pickups, and two (6.67%) were Democratic pickups. Fifteen seats did not change partisan control.
  • Of the 30 seats, 15 were won by Democratic candidates and 15 by Republicans.
  • Of the 86 state legislative chambers that held elections in 2020, 14 (16.3%) had at least one race that was decided by fewer than 100 votes.
  • The narrowest margin in any state legislative election last November was for a seat in the New Hampshire House of Representatives. Incumbent Timothy Fontneau (D) defeated Harrison deBree (R) by four votes.
  • The New Hampshire House of Representatives had 11 races decided by fewer than 100 votes—more than any other chamber. As of 2010, there were, on average, 3,291 people in each New Hampshire House district, making them the smallest state legislative districts in the country. 
    • The Vermont House of Representatives had five races decided by fewer than 100 votes—the second-highest number after the New Hampshire House.
  • Most of the races took place in districts with small population sizes compared to the rest of the country. Twenty-four races (80%) were in districts with a population of less than 25,000. Districts that size made up 26.3% of all state legislative districts as of 2010.

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New York voters to decide redistricting-related constitutional amendment at the 2021 general election

The first year of a decade means redistricting, and in New York voters will have an opportunity to weigh-in on a ballot measure that could impact how the state draws districts for the next decade.

On Jan. 20, the New York State Assembly approved an amendment that would make changes to the redistricting process in the state, including the redistricting cycle to be based on the 2020 U.S. Census. The amendment will appear on the Nov. 2, 2021 ballot.

The measure would change vote thresholds for adopting a redistricting plan when one political party controls both legislative chambers. It would also add requirements for counting certain persons for redistricting purposes. 

Proponents of the measure argue that the current system will give Republicans an undue advantage in the redistricting process. Opponents argue that the amendment reduces, or eliminates, a minority power’s ability to have any input and thus makes redistricting more partisan.

The state Senate approved the amendment on Jan. 12. Since the state constitution requires that constitutional amendments be approved during two successive legislative sessions before going to voters, both legislative chambers approved the amendment in 2020 as well. 

The state Senate vote was 42- 20, along party lines. The state Assembly vote was 100-50. Most Assembly Democrats (99 of 106) voted ‘yes’ on the amendment, and seven Democrats and all 43 Republicans voted ‘no’ on the amendment.

The New York State Legislature could place several other constitutional amendments on the ballot in 2021, including several related to electoral policy and an environmental rights amendment.

Keep reading at the link below to learn more about the amendment.

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Looking at 2021 state supreme court vacancies

Another 2021 landscape we’re looking at is upcoming state supreme court vacancies. So far this year, there have been two new state supreme court vacancies in two of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. The vacancies have both been caused by retirements. Those two vacancies bring the total number of 2021 state supreme court vacancies to five.

  • In Colorado, Chief Justice Nathan Coats retired on Jan. 1, when he reached the mandatory retirement age of 72. Gov. Jared Polis (D) appointed Maria Berkenkotter to the state Supreme Court on Nov. 20, 2020. Berkenkotter is Polis’ first nominee to the seven-member supreme court. 
  • In South Dakota, Chief Justice David Gilbertson retired in early January, when he reached the mandatory retirement age of 70. Gov. Kristi Noem (R) appointed Scott P. Myren to the state Supreme Court on October 28, 2020.

Currently, Maine is the only appointment state which had a vacancy in 2020 which has yet to be filled.

Three more states will see vacancies from retirement on their state supreme courts in 2021:

  • Leslie Stein, June 4, New York
  • Joel Bolger, June 30, Alaska
  • Eugene Fahey, Dec. 31, New York

In Alaska, Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) will fill the vacancy. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) will fill both of the vacancies on the New York Supreme Court.

In 2020, there were 23 supreme court vacancies in 16 of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected.
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Ballotpedia’s Daily Brew: The history of U.S. Senate ties

U.S. Senate split evenly for fourth time in history

After Vice President Kamala Harris took the oath of office on Jan. 20, she presided over the swearing in of three new Democratic Senators: Alex Padilla (Calif.), Jon Ossoff (Ga.), and Raphael Warnock (Ga.). The U.S. Senate now has 50 Republicans, 48 Democrats, and two independent Senators who caucus with the Democrats. As vice president, Harris casts votes in case of a tie.

Democrats will control committee leadership. The last time the Senate was split evenly in 2001 (when Republicans held the tie-breaking vote), Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) reached a power-sharing agreement with Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.). The agreement included equal representation and division of staff on all Senate committees, and party leaders agreed to certain restrictions on cloture motions and floor amendments.

Here are the other three times when the Senate was evenly split:

  • 2001—The Senate was split 50-50 as a result of the 2000 elections, and this continued for a five-month period from January to June. During the final days of Bill Clinton’s (D) second term, Al Gore (D) held the tie-breaking vote. After George W. Bush (R) was inaugurated on Jan. 20, Vice President Dick Cheney (R) cast tie-breaking votes. Sen. Jim Jeffords (Vt.) changed his party affiliation from Republican to Independent and began caucusing with Democrats on June 6, 2001, giving Democrats the majority, 51-49.
  • 1953-1954—The Senate was evenly split during five separate periods in the 83rd Congress. In January 1953, Republicans held 48 seats to Democrats’ 47. Sen. Wayne Morse (I-Ore.) left the Republican Party following Dwight Eisenhower’s (R) election as president but caucused with Republicans throughout this period. Control of the U.S. Senate changed nine times from 1953 to 1955 as nine senators died and one resigned. Vice President Richard Nixon (R) cast tie-breaking votes during this period. 
  • 1881—Democrats and Republicans each had 37 seats, in addition to one independent who caucused with Democrats and one who caucused with Republicans. Vice President Chester Arthur (R) had the tie-breaking vote until he succeeded to the presidency following James Garfield’s (R) assassination. Before the 25th Amendment was ratified in 1967, there was no procedure for filling a vacancy in the vice president’s office. With no vice president, there was no one to cast tie-breaking votes, meaning that measures with tied votes did not pass.

The graph below shows the partisan composition of the Senate since 2000:

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Texas voters to decide state legislative special election Saturday 

The nation’s fourth state legislative special election happens in a state House district in northern Texas tomorrow—Jan. 23. 

The former incumbent, Drew Springer (R), was re-elected to the 68th District on Nov. 3, defeating Patsy Ledbetter (D), 85%-15%. Springer then ran in and won a special election on Dec. 19 for the 30th District in the Texas Senate. That seat came open when incumbent Pat Fallon (R) won the 4th Congressional District race on Nov. 3.

Four Republicans and one Democrat are running. In Texas state legislative special elections, all candidates appear on the same ballot with their party affiliations designations. If no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote, a runoff election is held between the top two candidates. Republicans currently have an 82-67 majority in the Texas House.

So far, 23 state legislative special elections in 16 states have been scheduled this year. There was an average of 75 state legislative special elections each year from 2011 to 2020.

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Friday trivia: How has the average age of members of Congress changed over time?

For this week’s Friday trivia, I want to introduce you to a new feature—trend quizzes. The one I want to highlight today enables you to guess How the age of members of Congress has changed over time.

Here’s how it works. 

Today’s quiz has two parts. First, graph the average age of U.S. House members from 1840 to 2020. You’re provided with one data point—the average age of a U.S. House member in 1940 was 52 years old. Then, do the same for U.S. Senators.

Once the game loads, instructions will appear to show you how to draw the line on the graph.

The best part of the quiz is when you see how close your guess is to the correct answer. I took the quiz yesterday and scored above an 80 on both the House and Senate portions, so I was pretty excited about that! Can you beat my score? Click the link below to get started, and let me know how you do!

>Click here to play

Ballotpedia’s Daily Brew: Looking back—CA voters approved 62% of local measures in 2020

62% approval rate for California’s 2020 local ballot measures

Ballotpedia’s annual report on California local ballot measures is out. We’ve been covering all local ballot measures in California since 2008. California voters decided 719 local ballot measures across seven election dates last year. Below are some highlights from the report. 

  • Voters approved 62.4% percent of California’s local measures in 2020, which was 14 and 15 percentage points lower than their approval rates in 2016 and 2018, respectively.
  • Local ballot measures were in every California county in 2020 but one (Modoc County). Los Angeles County had the most measures at 109. The median number of measures per county was nine.
  • There were 191 local bond issues on ballots across California in 2020. Of that total, 182 (95.8%) were school bond issues.
    • The 50.5% approval rate for 2020 school bond measures was the lowest in any even-numbered year since at least 2008. The average approval rate for school bond measures in even-numbered years from 2008 through 2018 was 83%.
  • In addition to the local bond measures, California voters defeated a statewide $15 billion school and college facilities bond measure—Proposition 13—on Mar. 3. Proposition 13 was the first statewide education-related bond issue that voters rejected since 1994.
  • Voters in two cities in California approved measures to enact ranked-choice voting for city elections.
  • There were eight local measures concerning law enforcement policies, police oversight, police practices, or law enforcement budgeting, not including tax measures designed to provide funding for law enforcement services. Voters approved all eight measures.

Keep reading at the link below for the full 2020 California ballot measures report.

California voters also decided 13 statewide ballot measures. Click here to read more about the 2020 statewide measures.

Four candidates file to run for St. Louis mayor in first primary of its kind

Four candidates filed to run in the nonpartisan top-two primary for St. Louis mayor on Mar. 2. This will be the first time the city utilizes approval voting for its primary, a method in which voters choose any number of candidates to vote for. For instance, if there are four candidates on the ballot, a voter may select up to all four candidates. The two candidates who receive the most votes then advance to the general election. Approval voting was first passed via Proposition D on Nov. 3, 2020.

The candidates for the open seat are 2017 mayoral candidate Andrew Jones, St. Louis Treasurer Tishaura Jones, Alderman President Lewis Reed, and Alderwoman Cara Spencer. 

Candidates of all political affiliations will run in the primary election without partisan labels. Andrew Jones ran as a Republican candidate in 2017, and Tishaura Jones, Reed, and Spencer have previously run for office as Democrats. 

Incumbent Mayor Lyda Krewson (D) announced on Nov. 18, 2020, that she would not seek re-election. Krewson became the city’s first female mayor after winning election in April 2017 with more than 67% of the vote. 

The last 10 mayors of St. Louis have all been Democrats. The last time a Republican held the mayor’s office was Aloys Kaufmann, who was mayor from 1943 to 1949.

Thirty-one cities in the top 100 cities by population are holding mayoral elections in 2021. Heading into the elections, the partisan breakdown of the mayors is 64 Democrats, 25 Republicans, four independents, and seven nonpartisan.

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Voter registration deadline for Rhode Island bond election approaches

Rhode Island is holding a bond election on Mar. 2, and the voter registration deadline is Jan. 31. The deadline to apply for a mail ballot is Feb. 9.

The Rhode Island Legislature referred seven bond questions totaling $400 million to the ballot as part of the state budget approved in December. To put a legislatively referred bond question before voters, a simple majority vote is required in both the Rhode Island state Senate and the Rhode Island House of Representatives. 

Between 2008 and 2020, voters in Rhode Island decided 22 bond measures, totaling $1.3 billion in principal value. Voters approved 100% of the bond measures, with support ranging from 55.23% (Question 2 of 2010) to 83.89% (Question 3 of 2016). The last odd-year bond election in Rhode Island was in 1985 when nine bond measures were approved.

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Ballotpedia’s Daily Brew: Average MOV in last year’s House races—29 percentage points

Average margin of victory in last year’s U.S. House races was lowest since at least 2012

The average margin of victory (MOV) in last year’s U.S. House elections was 28.8 percentage points, down from 31.8 percentage points in 2018 and the narrowest average MOV in U.S. House elections since at least 2012. Ballotpedia has analyzed the margin of victory in congressional elections after each election cycle from 2012 to the present. 

The average Democratic winner of a U.S. House election had a MOV of 31.5 percentage points. The average Republican winner’s MOV was 26.0 percentage points.

The margin of victory refers to the difference between the vote shares of the winning and losing candidates. For example, if Candidate A defeated Candidate B, 55% to 45%, the margin of victory is 10 percentage points. 

The average MOV in last year’s 35 Senate elections was 18.1 percentage points. That’s up from 2018’s 16.8 percentage point MOV, but less than any other year since 2012.

In 2020, there were:

  • Five Senate races decided by margins less than five percentage points—Democrats won four of these and Republicans won one,
  • Twelve Senate races decided by margins between five and 15 percentage points—Republicans won eight and Democrats won four, and
  • Eighteen Senate races decided by margins more than 15 percentage points—Republicans won 11 and Democrats won seven.

In 2018, the closest U.S. House election was incumbent Rob Woodall’s (R) 433-vote win over Carolyn Bourdeaux (D) in Georgia’s 7th Congressional District. Last year, three U.S. House elections were decided by margins of 500 votes or fewer. 

  • Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District—Mariannette Miller-Meeks’ (R) defeated Rita Hart (D) by six votes in the closest U.S. House election since 1984. 
  • New York’s 22nd Congressional District—Claudia Tenney (R) currently leads incumbent Anthony Brindisi (D) by 29 votes. These results have not yet been certified, and the outcome of this election has not yet been determined.
  • California’s 25th Congressional District—Incumbent Mike Garcia (R) defeated Christy Smith (D) by 333 votes.

Republican candidates won seven of the closest U.S. House races. Democrats won two of those races, and the outcome of New York’s 22nd District has not been decided.

Of the 434 called U.S. House elections, there were:

  • Thirty-six decided by margins less than five percentage points. Democratic candidates won 19, and Republicans won 17,
  • Eighty-two decided by margins between five and 15 percentage points, with Republicans winning 44 and Democrats winning 38.
  • Three hundred and sixteen decided by more than 15 percentage points. Democrats won 165 of these, and Republicans won 151.

The map below shows the location of all U.S. House races decided by a MOV of 5 percentage points or less. Democrats won in the 19 districts shaded in blue, and Republicans won in the 17 districts colored red. 

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Biden to be inaugurated as 46th president 

Later today, President-elect Joe Biden (D) will be inaugurated as the nation’s 46th president. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) will also be sworn in as the 49th vice president of the United States, becoming the first Black woman and person of South Asian descent to serve in the office. The events are scheduled to begin at 11:30 a.m. ET.

Due to security concerns stemming from the breach of the U.S. Capitol, up to 25,000 National Guard members are expected to be in Washington, D.C. The National Mall is closed to the general public, and there will be no public parade from the Capitol to the White House.

The ceremony will be broadcast on major television networks and streamed online on various platforms. President Donald Trump (R) will not participate in the event. The last president to skip his successor’s inauguration for political reasons was Andrew Johnson in 1869.

After Harris is inaugurated as vice president, she is expected to swear in Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.), Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), and Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) to the U.S. Senate.

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Register for our Jan. 21 briefing on Pivot County election results

We’re hosting our first webinar of the year on Thursday—Jan. 21—with an in-depth look at Pivot Counties. Ballotpedia identified 206 counties nationwide that voted for Barack Obama (D) in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections and Donald Trump (R) in 2016. 

We’ll start with why we began tracking these counties in 2016, and we’ll introduce you to our two new definitions—Retained and Boomerang Counties. Retained Pivot Counties are those Trump won in 2020, while Joe Biden won Boomerang Pivot Counties.

In this week’s briefing, we’ll review the results from these counties and the numbers of counties in each category. We’ll also explore Pivot County demographics and turnout, what role these counties played in 2020, and how they might continue to shape politics in the future. 

The briefing is at 11 a.m. CT on Jan. 21, and you can register—for free—by clicking on the link below. And if you can’t listen to the presentation live, we’ll send you a link to the recording when it’s available so you can watch it on your schedule. I hope you’ll join us!

Register here!

Ballotpedia’s Daily Brew: Biden to inherit fewest judicial vacancies since 1989

A look at judicial vacancies and appointments under Trump

From time to time, we’ve brought you updates on the federal judges who have been nominated and confirmed under the Trump administration. With inauguration day tomorrow, let’s wrap up the numbers of the 45th President with a look at where things stand today.


President Trump was inaugurated four years ago on Jan. 20, 2017. At that time, there were 108 lifetime federal judicial vacancies requiring a presidential nomination. This was the largest number of vacancies at the beginning of a presidency since 1992, when there were 111 vacancies at Bill Clinton’s (D) inauguration. 

As of Jan. 18, there were 46 federal judicial vacancies requiring a presidential nomination. This is the lowest number of at the beginning of a presidency since there were 37 vacancies when George H.W. Bush (R) was inaugurated in 1989.


Since taking office, Trump nominated 274 individuals to federal judgeships. Trump made the most Article III judicial nominations in April 2018 (27). There were nine months in his presidency during which he made no Article III judicial nominations.


Of Trump’s 274 federal judicial nominations, the U.S. Senate confirmed 234 of them. The average number of judicial confirmations for the first four years of a presidency since Jimmy Carter (D) is 205. The Senate confirmed 261 of Carter’s judicial nominees, the most confirmations through four years. President Ronald Reagan (R) had the fewest at 166.

The Senate has confirmed 54 of President Trump’s appellate court nominees, the second-most on the list. President Jimmy Carter had the most with 56. Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama had the fewest number of appellate confirmations with 30. The median number of appellate court confirmations is 35. 

The median number of U.S. District Court confirmations is 168. The Senate confirmed 202 of  President Jimmy Carter’s district court nominees, leading the list. President Ronald Reagan had the fewest number of district judges confirmed, with 129.

For more on this subject, keep reading at the link below.

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Special election canceled for Louisiana state House after lack of candidates

After Brett Geymann (R) was the only candidate to file for the special election for Louisiana state House District 35, the Feb. 6 primary and March 20 general elections were canceled. Geymann was then automatically elected without appearing on the ballot.

The seat became vacant after the resignation of Stephen Dwight (R) on Dec. 1, 2020.  He had represented the district since 2016.

Ballotpedia has identified 14 states with laws that explicitly allow for elections to be canceled at the state level. The individual laws governing when and how elections can be canceled vary. For example, in North Carolina, a canceled election can lead to a vacancy, appointment, or leaving the incumbent in place. In Connecticut, if a candidate does not gain endorsement from their party or at least 15% of the party’s delegation, then the election will be canceled. Click here for details.

As of January 2021, 20 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2021 in 14 states. Between 2011 and 2019, an average of 88 special elections took place each odd-numbered year.

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SEIU asks CA Supreme Court to declare Prop 22 unconstitutional

Here’s an update on California Proposition 22, an initiative that defined app-based transportation (rideshare) and delivery drivers as independent contractors and not employees or agents. With $225 million between supporters and opponents, Prop 22 was the most expensive ballot measure in California history, surpassing the next closest measure by $70.5 million. 

On Jan. 12, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and four app-based drivers sued the state government in the California Supreme Court. The SEIU is seeking to have Proposition 22 declared unconstitutional and unenforceable.

Bob Schoonover, president of SEIU California, said, “Prop. 22 doesn’t just fail our state rideshare drivers, it fails the basic test of following our state constitution. The law as written by Uber and Lyft denies drivers rights under the law in California and makes it nearly impossible for lawmakers to fix these problems.” 

Kathy Fairbanks, a spokesperson for Yes on Proposition 22, provided a statement from an app-based driver, which said, “Meritless lawsuits that seek to undermine the clear democratic will of the people do not stand up to scrutiny in the courts.”

Prop 22 was approved at the Nov. 3, 2020, election with 58.6% of the vote. The measure overrode Assembly Bill 5 (AB 5), signed in September 2019, on the question of whether app-based drivers are employees or independent contractors.

Click the link below to stay up-to-date on the case.
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Ballotpedia’s Daily Brew: 227 state legislative incumbents defeated Nov. 3

Welcome to the Monday, Jan. 18, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Decade-low 227 state legislative incumbents defeated on Nov. 3
  2. Recall, special elections set for Jan. 19
  3. Five states to swear in newly elected officials this week

Decade-low 227 state legislative incumbents defeated on Nov. 3

With the state legislatures back in session, let’s look at the state legislative incumbents who were defeated in the Nov. 3 elections. 

Following the November election, 227 state legislative incumbents were defeated, the lowest number in the past decade. By party, those defeated incumbents include 165 Democrats, 52 Republicans, and 10 independents and members of a third party.

The 227 defeated incumbents marked a 29.5% decrease from the 322 defeated in 2018. It was 54.8% lower than the decade-high 502 incumbents defeated following the 2010 general election.

This was the fourth cycle since 2010 where the number of incumbent Democrats defeated exceeded that of Republicans.

There are three ways a seat can change hands from cycle-to-cycle: an incumbent can choose not to run for re-election and retire, an incumbent can lose in a primary, or an incumbent can lose in a general election. Ballotpedia uses all three figures to calculate incumbent turnover each year.

The chart below shows incumbent turnover since 2010 by party affiliation, with figures for retirements, primary losses, and general election losses.

Incumbent turnover in 2020 reached a decade-low 1,247, meaning state legislatures are seeing the lowest number of newcomers, 16.9% of all state legislators, since before 2010.

By party, incumbent turnover was 621 for Democrats and 626 for Republicans, the greatest level of parity over the preceding decade. More Republicans were defeated in primaries than Democrats. Both Democrats and Republicans saw their lowest numbers of retirement since at least 2010 at 396 and 480, respectively.

The table below shows turnover figures from 2010 to 2020. The rightmost column shows the decade average for each metric.

For additional analyses and a full list of defeated incumbents, click the link below.

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Recall, special elections set for Jan. 19

Although the Georgia runoffs are over, elections certainly haven’t stopped. Here are two interesting races coming up tomorrow, Jan. 19.

  • The first is a general special election for District 33 of the Alabama House of Representatives. Fred Crum (D) and Ben Robbins (R) are running, with the winner serving until November 2022. The seat became vacant after the death of Ronald Johnson (R). Heading into the election, Republicans have a 76-28 majority in the Alabama House. 
  • The first recall election of this year will also be held on Jan. 19. Voters in Woodmere, Ohio, will decide whether to recall four village councilmembers. Petitioners allege a number of grounds for recall, including the village council’s failure to install a sidewalk along a main road, its failure to keep the village’s website up-to-date, and an effort by the four councilmembers to pit residents against each other. 

Speaking of recalls, we featured our 2020 Recall Report in last week’s Brew. Here’s the link if you missed it.

Five states to swear in newly elected officials this week

Five states will swear in newly elected officials this week. They are:

  • Alabama State Board of Education and court members (Jan. 18)
  • West Virginia governor (Jan. 18)
  • Delaware governor and lieutenant governor (Jan. 19)
  • New Mexico Legislature (Jan. 19)
  • Pennsylvania state executives (Jan. 19)

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