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State legislatures post election: more united, more divided

November 08, 2018
By: Mark Skinner

The 2018 general election Tuesday proved to be a better day for Republicans in state legislative races across the country than would have been expected based on average losses for a midterm election. That said, it was also a good day, for the most part, for the political parties already in control of the statehouse chambers, regardless of affiliation: more chambers holding elections this year saw the party in control increase its numbers than lose seats.

Heading into Tuesday, four states had legislatures where the control of the two chambers was split between the Democrats and Republicans. With the election results, only Minnesota’s legislature remains divided.

Only seven state legislative chambers flipped parties after Tuesday’s election, far below the average of a dozen in most midterm elections.  Democrats picked up control of the Senate in Colorado, Connecticut, Maine and New Hampshire. Republicans secured control of the Minnesota Senate.  Minnesota and New Hampshire are the only two states to see control change in their House of Representatives, both switching to the Democrats.

Alignment of the state legislatures and governors now crosses party affiliations in 13 states, providing an opportunity to see if the appetite for cooperation and compromise is stronger in those statehouses than is anticipated for the divided federal government next year.

Republicans held 4,107 of total 7,383 state legislative seats before Tuesday, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).  Of the decided races, the Republican share fell to 3,882.  Generally, in midterm elections, the party in control of the White House loses an average of 400 seats. While NCSL still lists roughly 100 races as undecided, the 225 seats lost by the Republicans so far is exceptionally low. Democratic-leaning analysts might point to concerns of gerrymandering to favor incumbents since Republicans controlled redistricting in most states after the 2010 census; Republican-leaning analysts might prefer to credit voter satisfaction with the economy and the direction of the country under the Trump Administration.