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

In the November 2020 general election, 227 state legislative incumbents were defeated, the lowest number in any even-numbered year 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 incumbents defeated marked a 29.5% decrease from the 322 defeated in 2018 and was 54.8% lower than the decade-high 502 incumbents defeated in the 2010 general election.

By party, a larger number of Democrats were defeated in the 2020 general election compared to Republicans. This was the fourth cycle since 2010 where the number of incumbent Democrats defeated exceeded that of Republicans. The number of incumbent Republicans defeated in general elections exceeded Democrats’ in the 2012 and 2018 state legislative elections.

The chart below shows the number of incumbents defeated in general elections since 2010 broken down by party affiliation.

Incumbents defeated in the general election represent one part of Ballotpedia’s calculation of total incumbent turnover, which measures the number of seats that will be held by newcomers in 2021. The other components of the calculation are incumbents defeated in primaries and incumbents who retired.

Incumbent turnover in 2020 reached a decade-low 1,247, meaning, overall, state legislatures will see the lowest number of newcomers since before 2010.

By party, incumbent turnover was 621 for Democrats and 626 for Republicans, the smallest gap between the two parties over the preceding decade. A greater number of 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 here.

Special election to be held Jan. 23 in Texas state House district

A special general election is being held on January 23 for District 68 of the Texas House of Representatives. Charles Gregory (D), John Berry (R), Jason Brinkley (R), Craig Carter (R), and David Spiller (R) are running in the general election. A general election runoff will be scheduled if no candidate earns at least 50% of the vote.

The seat became vacant after Drew Springer (R) won a special election for Texas State Senate District 30 on December 19, 2020. Springer was elected to the state House in 2012. He won re-election in 2020 with 85.5% of the vote.

Heading into the special election, Republicans have an 82-67 majority in the Texas House. Texas 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.

As of January, 20 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2021 in 14 states. Between 2011 and 2020, an average of 75 special elections took place each year.

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Ballotpedia’s analysis of California’s 2020 local ballot measures

California voters decided 719 local ballot measures across seven different election dates in 2020. 

Here are some highlights from Ballotpedia’s annual report on local ballot measures in California:

• 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.

• Bond and tax measures made up 70% of the local measures on the ballot in California.

• There were local ballot measures in every California county in 2020 but one. 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 approval rate for school bond measures in 2020 of 50.5% 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%.

• Local school bond measures proposed $30.7 billion in new debt. Voters approved $18.7 billion and rejected $12.0 billion.

• 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. All eight measures were approved.

• Voters approved 46 (44.66%) and rejected 57 (55.34%) of the 103 parcel tax measures on the ballot. In 2018, voters approved 65% of parcel tax measures. In 2016, voters approved 64% of parcel tax measures.

• Voters approved 93 sales tax measures (71.5%) in 2020 and rejected 37 (28.5%). In 2018, voters approved 84% of sales tax measures. In 2016, voters approved 69% of sales tax measures.

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

Ballotpedia covers all statewide ballot measures, all local ballot measures in the 100 largest cities in the U.S., all local ballot measures in California, and a selection of other notable measures. In 2021, Ballotpedia will also cover all state capitals outside of the nation’s 100 largest cities.

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Voter registration deadline for Rhode Island bond election is January 31

The voter registration deadline for the Rhode Island bond election to be held on March 2 is January 31. The deadline to apply for a mail ballot is February 9.

The Rhode Island legislature referred seven bond questions totaling $400 million to the ballot as part of the state budget approved in December. The ballot titles, amounts, and purposes are listed below:

Question 1: Issues $107.3 million in bonds for the University of Rhode Island Fine Arts Center, the Rhode Island College Clarke Science Building, and the Community College of Rhode Island

Question 2: Issues $74 million in bonds for state beaches, parks, recreational facilities, and water projects

Question 3: Issues $65 million in bonds for building and renovating public housing projects

Question 4: Issues $71.7 million in bonds for transportation infrastructure

Question 5: Issues $15 million in bonds for the Early Childhood Care and Education Capital Fund

Question 6: Issues $7 million in bonds for the Cultural Arts and the Economy Grant Program and the State Preservation Grants Program

Question 7: Issues $60 million in bonds to fund improvements to industrial facilities infrastructure

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

Voters can register online, by mailing in a voter registration form, or in person at the local board of canvassers, the board of elections, or other state agencies such as the Department of Motor Vehicles, the Department of Human Services, and the Department of Mental Health.

A closer look at turnout in Georgia’s statewide runoff elections

Although most of the nation’s focus during the Jan. 5 Georgia runoffs was on the two U.S. Senate seats, there was one other runoff that didn’t receive as much attention. Voters in Georgia also decided the District 4 race for the state Public Utilities Commission (PSC), which resulted in a first for the Peach State. 

Incumbent Bubba McDonald (R) defeated challenger Daniel Blackman (D). McDonald’s victory in the 2020 runoffs marks the first time that both a Democrat and Republican have won in the same statewide runoff election in Georgia. In the two U. S. Senate runoffs, Democratic challengers Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff each won.

McDonald received the most votes of any Republican candidate in the runoffs, whereas his opponent, Blackman, received the fewest votes of any Democratic candidate.

Unlike previous runoffs, the PSC runoff in 2020 also had the greatest level of parity compared to the U.S. Senate runoffs. Compared to the previous years where both positions advanced to a runoff (1992 and 2008), the overall turnout in the 2020 PSC runoff was 49,257 votes (1.1%) less than the highest-turnout U.S. Senate race. Historically, runoff elections for PSC have had a lower turnout than those for the Senate when the two appear on the same ballot. 

To learn more about the PSC election, click here.

To learn more about the two U.S. Senate runoffs, click here.

Election still undecided in New York’s 22nd Congressional District

Results in the Nov. 3 U.S. House election in New York’s 22nd Congressional District have not yet been certified. The latest vote count, completed on Dec. 30, showed former Rep. Claudia Tenney (R) with a 29-vote lead over incumbent Anthony Brindisi (D). This race was one of 56 U.S. House rematches from 2018, when Brindisi defeated Tenney 51% to 49%.

Litigation over the validity of certain absentee and affidavit ballots began the day following the election and is ongoing. Problems with mislaid ballots, missing documentation of ballot challenges, and errors in vote tabulation slowed the process.

Oswego County Supreme Court Justice Scott DelConte has not made a final ruling on these issues, and official results have not been certified. DelConte also asked both campaigns to file legal briefs by Jan. 14 on 2,418 voter registration applications submitted through the Department of Motor Vehicles that the county board of elections did not process before election day. These voters had the option to cast an affidavit ballot, but these ballots weren’t counted since it appeared the voters weren’t registered. At least 63 affidavit ballots from this group are being reviewed.

Final oral arguments on all court proceedings in the case are scheduled for Jan. 22.

Here are some other recent elections where the result was not confirmed until weeks after the elections:

  1. In 2018, the North Carolina Board of Elections did not certify the results in the 9th Congressional District race and voted unanimously to call for a new election on Feb. 21, 2019. Rep. Dan Bishop (R) won the special election on Sept. 10, 2019. 
  2. In the 2016 North Carolina governor’s race, incumbent Pat McCrory (R) conceded on Dec. 5, 2016, after a recount in Durham County verified that Roy Cooper (D) would remain ahead. 
  3. In 2014, Martha McSally (R) was declared the winner over incumbent Ron Barber (D) in Arizona’s 2nd Congressional District at the conclusion of a recount on Dec. 17, 2014.

Voters to decide Georgia’s U.S. Senate races

Georgia was the only state to hold two Senate elections in 2020. In addition to the regularly scheduled election for the seat David Perdue (R) won in 2014, a special election was held to fill the rest of retired Sen. Johnny Isakson’s (R) term. Both races advanced to runoffs as no candidate received a majority of votes in the Nov. 3 elections.

If Republicans win at least one of the Senate elections, they’ll retain a majority in the chamber. Democrats would need to win both elections to reach a 50-50 split, which would give them effective control as Vice President-elect Kamala Harris (D) would serve as a tie-breaker for Senate votes.

The Senate seat Perdue held is currently vacant as his term ended Jan. 3. The seat will remain vacant until the runoff election results are certified. He faces Jon Ossoff (D). Kelly Loeffler (R) was appointed to the seat Isakson vacated and will fill it in her appointed capacity until the special election winner, either herself or Raphael Warnock (D), is decided. 

Perdue and Loeffler say they have delivered relief for Georgia amid the pandemic and that their opponents would work toward socialist policies if elected. Ossoff and Warnock say they would work to make progress on healthcare and COVID-19 recovery, and they have criticized their opponents’ stock trading amid the pandemic. Click the links below for more on candidates’ backgrounds, key messages, and policy proposals.

As of Jan. 1, 3 million people had cast runoff ballots, compared to 3.9 million at the same point ahead of the Nov. 3 elections in Georgia.

In both races, Democratic candidates led in total election cycle fundraising as of Dec. 16. Ossoff raised $140 million to Perdue’s $90 million. Warnock raised $125 million to Loeffler’s $92 million. The majority of candidates’ fundraising occurred in the reporting period from Oct. 15 to Dec. 16:

  • Ossoff: $107 million
  • Warnock: $103 million
  • Perdue: $68 million
  • Loeffler: $64 million

As of December 28, satellite groups supporting the Republican candidates had spent $181 million in the runoff alone, and groups supporting the Democratic candidates had spent $63 million.

Georgia has held two runoff elections for U.S. Senate prior to this year: one in 2008 and the other in 1992.

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Voter turnout in 2020 increased the ballot initiative signature requirements in 10 states

Voter turnout in 2020 elections caused a change in the number of valid signatures required for initiatives and veto referendums in 10 of the 26 states with at least one form of statewide initiative or referendum.

Signature requirements are determined differently depending on the state and, in 2022, will vary from 16,961 for initiated statutes in South Dakota to 997,139 for initiated amendments in California.

The majority of states with citizen-initiated measures—16—base signature requirements on ballots cast for gubernatorial candidates in the preceding gubernatorial election. Four states base signature requirements on total ballots cast in the preceding general election. Of the remaining states, three states base requirements on registered or active voters, one state bases requirements on voters for presidential candidates within the state, one state bases requirements on votes cast for secretary of state candidates, and one state bases requirements on the state population.

Below are some of the changes to ballot measure signature requirements caused by 2020 voter turnout:

• Ballot measure signature requirements increased by a range of between 7.4% and 44.2% in ten states.

• Signature requirements in the four states that base requirements on either presidential election turnout or gubernatorial election turnout in presidential election years increased by between 7.4% and 25%.

• Signature requirements for the four states that base requirements on general election turnout increased by between 26.8% and 44.2%.

• In those four states, turnout was higher than in 2016 as well, causing between 7.6% and 25.1% higher signature requirements than following the last presidential election.

• Signature requirements in the two states that base requirements on voter registration increased by 18% and 18.6%, respectively.

• Washington’s initiative signature requirement increased by 25% to 324,516 for 2021 through 2024. Since at least 2008 when the requirement was 224,880, Washington’s requirement has increased every four years by between 2% and 7%.

• Florida’s signature requirement for citizen-initiated constitutional amendments increased to 885,396 for 2022 and 2024. Since at least 2008 when the requirement was 611,009, Florida’s requirement has increased every four years by between 1% and 12%.

Read Ballotpedia’s full analysis on initiative signature requirement changes caused by 2020 voter turnout to get all of the details.

Voter registration deadline for Georgia’s Senate runoff elections is Dec. 7

Dec. 7 is the deadline to register to vote in Georgia’s Jan. 5 runoff elections. Eligible voters may vote in the runoff even if they did not vote in the Nov. 3 general elections, as long as they are registered by the deadline.

Georgia’s regular and special Senate runoffs will determine control of the next U.S. Senate. Republicans have secured 50 seats and Democrats, 48. If Democrats win both seats, they would have effective control of the chamber as Vice President-elect Kamala Harris (D) will have the tie-breaking vote. Republicans need to win at least one race to maintain their majority in the chamber.

Incumbent David Perdue (R) and Jon Ossoff (D) are running in the regular election. Incumbent Kelly Loeffler (R) and Raphael Warnock (D) are running in the special election.

Ballotpedia’s coverage of these elections includes answers to frequently asked questions such as:

  • Why is Georgia holding runoffs for U.S. Senate?
  • Why is Georgia holding a special Senate election?
  • Can I vote early?
  • Can I vote by mail?
  • Can I vote in both races?
  • Do I have to vote in both races?

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Voters decide runoff elections for two school board seats in Little Rock, Arkansas

A runoff election was held on December 1 for two seats on the Little Rock School District school board in Arkansas. The general election took place on November 3, with the top two candidates in each district advancing to the runoff. The seven other seats on the board were decided in the general election.

Evelyn Hemphill Callaway defeated Tommy Branch with 67% of the unofficial election night vote for the Zone 3 seat. Vicki Hatter defeated FranSha’ Anderson with 59% of the vote for the Zone 6 seat. Callaway and Hatter will join Michael Mason, Sandrekkia Morning, Leigh Ann Wilson, Ali Noland, Norma Johnson, Greg Adams, and Jeff Wood on the newly elected board.

The nine newly elected board members will be the school district’s first elected board since 2015. In 2015, the Arkansas State Board of Education voted 5-4 to dissolve the district’s board of education following poor academic performance in six of the district’s schools. The state board of education voted in 2019 to return the school district to local governance after the election of a new board in 2020.

Ballotpedia covers school board elections in the 200 largest school districts by student enrollment and the school districts that overlap the 100 largest cities by population.

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