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Democrats suffer big losses in state legislatures during a crucial year for redistricting

November 5, 2020, 11:03 PM UTC

As the results of Election Day head into their third day of counting, Democrats are inching close to a presidential victory, and the dream of flipping the Senate is still alive thanks to encouraging returns in Georgia. But any victory that emerges from this week may be a hollow one, as the consequential balance of power in state legislatures across the country remains in the hands of Republicans.

Heading into the election, Democrats were counting on record-breaking fundraising and a vulnerable GOP to flip a number of state legislatures in a crucial Census year. That would have allowed Democrats to redraw unfavorable congressional and state legislative maps that would influence election results for the next decade. Instead, it’s the Republicans that will do just that after Democrats seem poised to miss nearly all their statehouse targets.

Democrats lost key races in the New Hampshire state House and Senate, which flipped back to GOP control, and suffered defeats in Texas, North Carolina, and Florida. Democrats will remain blocked from having any say over the mapmaking in those states after failing to flip those legislatures, which could combine for 82 congressional seats by 2022.

Democrats hoped to flip 10 legislative chambers this year but look set to fall short in all of them except, potentially, the Arizona House and Senate. All in all, the results mean Republicans will control 59 out of the country’s 98 partisan chambers—Nebraska has just one nonpartisan legislative chamber. And Republicans will control both the House and Senate in 24 out of 36 states that will draw district lines for U.S. Congress, the state legislature itself, or both, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Tim Storey, the conference’s executive director, called it a “remarkably status quo election in the U.S. states.”

“It looks like this will be the least party control changes on Election Day since at least 1944 when only four chambers changed hands,” he wrote Wednesday in a blog post.

The results appear to mirror those of the GOP’s presidential and congressional elections, where Republicans performed significantly better than expected. Increased turnout for President Trump additionally saw the GOP bat away Democrats’ challenge to convincingly flip the Senate and even saw Democrats lose seats in the House despite being heavily favored to increase their majority.