The NCSL Blog


By Wendy Underhill

The midterm elections are doubly important this year.

us flag jigsaw puzzleState control—and control of Congress—are at stake, as in every midterm election.

Less talked about is that the 2018 elections are the unofficial start to the 2020 redistricting cycle, which begins after the census data are released in early 2021. The elections for those who will be in their offices when it is time to draft new maps for congressional and legislative seats next decade begins this November.

Purists may say the start came in 2017, when the governor of Virginia, Ralph Northam, was elected. It’s true. He was the first official elected this decade who will have a role in 2020 redistricting. In his case, he’ll have veto power when the Old Dominion’s General Assembly adopts new maps.

Other than Northam, the midterms will be the real start for the politics of controlling the process of mapmaking. In November, voters will elect 30 governors and well over 800 legislators who will be part of redistricting using the 2020 census data.

But 2018 is just the appetizer. The 2020 elections are the main course, with more than 5,000 legislators who will be part of redistricting elected then.

This year’s elections will seat these redistricters:

  • All legislators in Alabama and Maryland, both senators and representatives. In fact, Alabama and Maryland get first-in-the-nation status in that their entire set of redistricters—legislators and governors—all elected this year.
  • All senators in Michigan and roughly half the senators in 22 of the 26 states where senators serve staggered four-year terms. The other four states use a commission, so their legislators don’t draw maps.
  • Half the representatives in North Dakota, who serve staggered four-year terms. The other half will be elected in 2020.
  • Thirty governors who will have veto power regarding maps, including those from Alabama and Maryland.

See NCSL’s new webpage, Election Dates for Legislators and Governors Who Will Do Redistricting, for all the details. States where commissions have primary responsibility for redistricting are marked as such.

Wendy Underhill is NCSL’s director of elections and redistricting.

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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.