This Week in Statehouse Motion: Grasp Debater version

Even in a … well, let’s just say “normal” year, dozens and dozens of state legislative races across the country are decided by 500 votes or fewer—sometimes far fewer. (Raise your hand if you remember the 2017 debacle that kept the GOP in control of the Virginia House of Delegates for an extra two years.)

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That means no early calls.

Every vote will need to get counted before a winner is declared—including absentee/mail-in and provisional.

And as I’ve pointed out in this space previously, counting those ballots—with the removing from envelopes and unfolding and matching signatures and whatever other validation measures a particular state requires—takes way more time than counting votes cast in person.

Add to that all the legislative chambers that Republicans could lose majority control of by just a seat or two— 


Arizona House (Dems need to flip two for a majority)
Arizona Senate (Dems need to flip three)
Michigan House (Dems need to flip four)
North Carolina House (flip six)
North Carolina Senate (flip five)
Pennsylvania House (flip nine)
Texas House (flip nine)

I’m exempting Minnesota Senate (flip two) from this list because I legitimately think it won’t be all that close.

((knocks on all the wood))

All told, 44 states are electing 5,875 state legislators on Nov. 3.

We’ll know if a couple of those key chambers flipped (or didn’t) by the time we go to bed on election night ( … okay maybe you don’t stay up until 4 AM for these things), but definitely not all.

So hold on to your butts, folks.

But hold on to them patiently. Election week is going to be a journey.

Clip ‘n’ Save: Here’s a thing to bookmark for election night: A handy new spreadsheet via my Daily Kos Elections colleagues that not only highlights the most flippable seats in the above chambers, but also includes the Kansas House and Senate, where Democrats could break Republicans’ veto-proof supermajorities (a constant vexation for Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly).

The reason I’ll definitely have the spreadsheet open on one of my monitors on election night?

Even when you’re just looking to flip a handful of chambers, that’s still a lot of seats to keep track of winning and losing.

In the above listed (excepting Kansas), that’s a total of 890 seats!
Add Kansas and you’re trying to keep track of 1,055 separate races.

But in the end, majority control of these chambers comes down to just a handful of seats in each.

This cheat sheet is a little on the over-inclusive side, but if there’s one lesson to take away from the Trump era, it’s that absolutely nothing is off the table. Anything can happen.

So yeah. Keep an eye on these.

Everything Is Terrible, part 894,331: One of the key strengths of the candidates Democrats are running for state legislatures across the country is their diversity.

So of course some white people want to turn that into a liability.

Over the weekend, three Black candidates (incumbent state Rep. Marshall Bullock, aspiring state representative Chokwe Pitchford, and county commission candidate Rayonte Bell) in Michigan were engaging in some safely socially distanced door-knocking when someone in the “overwhelmingly white” community of St. Joseph called the police on the men.

The caller claimed that “three suspicious Black men” were “walking up to homes and peeking into windows,” which was not at all what these guys were doing—nor is that even remotely how one canvasses, COVID-19 or no COVID-19.

Like all properly trained canvassers these days, they rang doorbells and then took several steps back from the doors to be at a safe distance when they (hopefully) spoke with the homes’ occupants.

Thankfully, the officers (one white and one Black) were “friendly and not intimidating,” according to the candidates.

The View From Up Here: Obviously most folks’ focus right now is (and should be!) on winning ALL THE ELECTIONS on Nov. 3.

But when you’ve been doing state politics as long as I have, you take a longer view.

And when you remember chamber after chamber after chamber after chamber after chamber—21 total—flipping to Republican control on Nov. 2, 2010, you may end up, like me, 

(… okay you probably don’t want to end up like me)

sharply focused on the implications of this year’s election results on a whole host of things in the long term.

What does Democratic or divided control of various states mean for the next president?
How will state legislatures be equipped to stymie—or take advantage of—rulings from a super-conservative U.S. Supreme Court?
And—both most immediately and with implications for political power for the next ten years—what about the next round of redistricting?

Glad you asked!

As things stand now, right now, as you’re reading this (providing you’ve gotten around to it before Election Day), Republicans have complete control over the drawing of anywhere from 37% to 45% of all congressional districts nationwide.

Democrats would control the drawing of just 10% to 11%.

The remaining districts would be drawn via redistricting commissions (with varying degrees of independence), compromises reached in states with divided governments, and/or the courts (when some of those divided governments inevitably deadlock).

Sure, this three- or four-to-one advantage is bad, but it’s not as bad as it was in 2011, when Republicans had a better than five-to-one advantage in drawing congressional districts.

But on Nov. 3, Democrats have an opportunity to deny the GOP total control over drawing a heap of those districts—specifically in places like North Carolina and Texas.

They also have the opportunity to increase Democratic leverage in Pennsylvania and protect independent redistricting commissions in Arizona, Iowa, and Michigan.

Bonus: Possible total control over redistricting in Minnesota if Democrats flip the state Senate and pick up a governing trifecta in the state.

And, well, while we don’t know how reapportionment is going to shake out (who’s excited for Redistmas? … well, whenever it happens this time around), we do know that those states have a slew of congressional districts among them.

So whichever party does or doesn’t control the map-drawing process in each state is going to have a massive impact on which party controls the U.S. House of Representatives through 2030.

As apportionment currently stands, depriving Republicans of complete control of redistricting in North Carolina by flipping either the state House or Senate would prevent them from drawing 13 districts to suit their partisan whims.
Taking away complete GOP control in Texas by flipping the state House would prevent them from gerrymandering 36 districts.
Increasing Democratic leverage in Pennsylvania by giving the Democratic governor an allied chamber would boost the prospect of fair maps in 18 districts.
Protecting commissions in Arizona, Iowa, and Michigan would insulate nine, four, and 14 seats, respectively, from GOP meddling.
And flipping the state Senate in Minnesota would give Democrats complete control over the drawing of another eight congressional districts.

Again, these state-by-state numbers are subject to change (and almost certainly will) next year, but not by a ton.

(If you’re into this stuff, you should definitely check out this amazing state-by-state breakdown of how redistricting functions literally everywhere in the country, courtesy of your very smart friends at Daily Kos Elections.)

So that’s a whole lot of long-term potential partisan impact on Congress that’s going to be determined by just a few handfuls of state legislative seats on Nov. 3.

And that’s to say nothing of the other outsized impacts state legislative control has on other stuff, from candidate benches to policy incubators to … well, hopefully I’ll have some time to get into that next week.

But despite the fact that every day seems so so long right now, time (insofar that it’s not an illusion, which, well … ) is short.

Please spend it well.

Including on yourself.

Because we have so much to do yet.

And you’re important.

We need you.

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