The NCSL Blog

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Legislative turnover trivia: The election year ending in “4” is usually the election cycle in every decade with the lowest turnover.

Projections this year say turnover is expected to be within the usual range of 19 to 20 percent.

“It looks like we’re on track to be what we’ve always seen. There were very few surprise losses in the primaries,” said Tim Storey, NCSL’s expert on legislative elections.

Turnover in the last midterm election (2010) was 24 percent of all seats and 28 percent of the seats up for election.

“There was so much upheaval after redistricting that you got a lot of new people and they’re not leaving after one term,” said Storey.

Wisconsin has been experiencing a larger-than-normal pattern of turnover since 2010’s rancorous debate over a law that curtailed collective bargaining for most state employees. When the Legislature convenes in January, a majority of the state’s 99 legislators will have been elected since the passage of Gov. Scott Walker’s union bargaining law.

What drives the change in Wisconsin? Jason Stein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes:

“The trend in Wisconsin is driven by the Republican victories in 2010, recalls, redistricting, retirements of aging senators and the increasingly polarized atmosphere of today's politics. Another potential contributor is a deliberate strategy by Assembly Republicans to announce retirements in this more favorable election cycle rather than in 2016, a presidential year when Democratic candidates in Wisconsin typically perform better.”

The hyper-competitive New Hampshire House of Representatives, where the 400 members receive a $200 salary per biennium, traditionally has high turnover—46 percent in 2010 and nearly 50 percent in 2012.

 

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About the NCSL Blog

This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.