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NCSL Town Hall Takeaways: Midterm Elections Preview

By Kelley Griffin  |  November 8, 2022

A majority of state legislative seats are on the ballot today, and since it’s the first midterm election since redistricting, new districts and departures mean many seats will be filled with newcomers. 

That’s one reason NCSL elections experts say this midterm election will be a major event. 

Ben Williams and Amanda Zoch discussed what to watch for today in a recent NCSL Town Hall. 

In addition to choosing state legislators, voters will decide on ballot issues addressing abortion, election administration, recreational marijuana, taxes and sports betting.

Williams, a program principal in NCSL’s Elections and Redistricting Program, says 85% of state legislators are up for reelection across the country. 

“And when you have an election of that size, immediately following a redistricting cycle, where you have new districts and the political geography in every state has changed, you can anticipate more turnover than you might in a usual year,” Williams says. “This year, we’re expecting that of 6,279 seats, over 20% are going to be filled with new members.”

Voters also will decide on 133 ballot measures this election, says Zoch, a project manager in the Elections and Redistricting Program.

“There are five abortion measures, no surprise given the (Supreme Court’s) Dobbs decision,” Zoch says. “Five is the most that there have ever been in a single year in terms of ballot measures.” 

In Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the court overturned Roe v. Wade and the federal constitutional right to abortion, returning authority on the issue to the states. Zoch says other issues on ballots in multiple states include election administration, recreational marijuana, taxes and sports betting. 

Election proposals show up in about a dozen states, she says. “They’re dealing with the kind of big trending issues that legislators and voters have been thinking about since 2020,” Zoch says. Among the measures: “You’ve got voter ID in Nebraska and Arizona, early in-person voting in Connecticut, ranked choice voting in Nevada.”

Thank You for Your Patience

As for results, Zoch and Williams are urging patience because of the many different methods and timing states use to count ballots. And it looks like there could be a strong turnout, which means more votes to count, Zoch says.

“Early voting is above where we were at the same point in time in 2018,” Zoch says. “Now, whether that means that more voters have just shifted to voting early or whether there will be greater turnout overall remains to be seen.”

Some states will handle more early voting, in-person absentee and mail voting than others. “Those ballots just take longer to process, because you’ve got to check ID numbers,” Zoch says. “So it could take a while.”

Williams adds, “I think it’s important for people to keep in mind that different states count different ballots at different times, so there might be states that count mail-in and early votes first and then count in-person on Election Day, and vice versa.” 

Results will be tracked on NCSL’s website, with special election night coverage. Also election night, there will be two Facebook live updates at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. EST. On Nov. 9, NCSL will host another town hall update at 1 p.m. EST. On Thursday, the elections team and NCSL CEO Tim Storey will present a deep dive into results at an event at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The discussion will be streamed live.

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