Electoral Competitiveness for State Legislatures on the Decline

Electoral Competitiveness for State Legislatures on the Decline

Return to Election Data Dispatches.

In November, Pew released a data dispatch illustrating the high cost of uncontested elections. A study by John McGlennon and Ian Mahoney at the College of William and Mary found that the prevalence of such races is increasing, at least for state legislative seats, for which competition was lower in 2012 than at any time in the previous decade.

Nationwide, just 60 percent of all state legislative districts on the ballot had a contest between candidates from the two major parties. In contrast, more than 64 percent of state legislative races were competitive in 2004 and 2008.

Among the states, Michigan ranked as the most competitive, with two-party contests in more than 98 percent of state legislative seats, followed by Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, and Minnesota, each with challenges in more than 85 percent of state legislative races. Georgia had the lowest competitiveness, at less than 22 percent. Other states with little electoral competition were Massachusetts, South Carolina, Vermont, and Wyoming, with less than 34 percent of state legislative seats challenged. The authors suggest that redistricting is playing a role in reducing the competitiveness of state legislative seats.

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