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Period Ending November 6, 2020

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This weekly roundup of election news and notes is compiled for Thompson Coburn by the The Ellis Insight.

President

At this writing, it appears former Vice President Joe Biden is poised to score a close victory and will unseat President Trump. Legal challenges are underway in several states, as the late counting of mail ballots has switched Michigan, Wisconsin, and possibly Georgia and Pennsylvania from a Trump lead a Biden advantage. Michigan and Wisconsin have been projected for Biden. Arizona could possibly switch from Biden to Trump, while Nevada should still yield a close Biden win. If Arizona switches and Georgia and North Carolina hold for Trump, the race will then come down to the final count in Pennsylvania.

At the end of the preliminary process, we will likely see a Biden Electoral College victory that the Trump campaign will challenge in court over various legal issues particularly relating to the Pennsylvania and Michigan process, and possibly also Georgia. Because the Wisconsin result fell within the one percentage point victory margin, the votes will be recounted in accordance with state law.

Senate

At this point, only three states saw incumbent Senators being defeated: Doug Jones (D-AL), Martha McSally (R-AZ), and Cory Gardner (R-CO). Under Georgia law, since both of their Senate races, the regular cycle campaign and the special election, failed to produce a majority winner, a runoff election will be held for each position on January 5th.

In races of note, Maine Sen. Susan Collins (R) defied pollsters projecting a Democratic victory for state House Speaker Sara Gideon (D) and won by nine percentage points. Despite over $100 million being spent against both Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), both were re-elected with victory percentages exceeding 58 and 54%, respectively. Democratic Sen. Gary Peters (MI) scored a close win over GOP challenger John James; Sens. Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Steve Daines (R-MT) recorded strong victories despite polling suggesting that both could lose.

In the four open seat campaigns, the incumbent party won each. The new Senators are Roger Marshall (R-KS), Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM), Bill Hagerty (R-TN), and Cynthia Lummis (R-WY).

Two races, in addition to both Georgia Senate seats going to runoffs, remain uncalled but with a clear trend. With only 50% of the votes counted in Alaska, Sen. Dan Sullivan (R) has a strong 62-32% lead. In North Carolina, with the post-election ballot reception period closing on November 12th, Sen. Thom Tillis (R) looks to have a small lead that won't be surpassed, again despite polling projecting a Democratic victory for party nominee Cal Cunningham.

Assuming the uncalled races remain Republican, the GOP will have a 50-48 advantage heading into the Georgia runoffs, meaning they will retain the majority with a win in at least one of the two Senate races to be decided January 5th.

House

The Democrats maintained the House majority, but not without seeing their margin decline. Currently, 32 races remain uncalled. In those, Republicans are leading in 22, but their leads in many will dissipate when all of the votes are counted. At this point, no GOP incumbent was defeated for re-election.

If the final result remains as all the uncalled races stand today, the GOP would gain a net 14 seats, but in the end their true net total will likely yield an increase within the range of two to eight seats, and probably closer to the higher number.

The results suggest that a reasonable new House party division would yield an approximate 228D - 207R split. If the final number is in this range, Republicans could re-claim the House majority after the 2022 elections with a net gain of approximately 11 seats. Since the modern political era almost always sees a reduction in House support for the new President's party in the first midterm election, the Republican prospects for returning to power in the 118th Session that would begin in January of 2023 would be heightened, assuming Joe Biden is elected President.

States

Eleven states held gubernatorial elections on Tuesday, and in ten of them the same party retained control of the Governor's mansion. The lone exception was in Montana, where at-large US Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Bozeman) scored a 54-42% win over Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney (D). The incumbent Governor, Steve Bullock (D), was ineligible to seek a third term. He ran for the Senate but lost to incumbent Steve Daines (R).

Missouri Governor Mike Parson (R), who ascended to the Governorship when the elected incumbent, Eric Greitens (R), resigned from office, won a full four-year term in his own right. He defeated State Auditor Nicole Galloway (D), 57-41%.

In the only other open seat Governor's race, Utah Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox (R) scored an easy 64-30% win over Democrat Chris Peterson. Mr. Cox will replace retiring three-term Gov. Gary Herbert (R).

All nine incumbents seeking re-election were successful, with an average winning percentage of 61.2%. The Governor winning with the highest percentage was North Dakota's Doug Burgum (R), recording a 69.2% victory.

The state legislatures saw a status quo election. Only one state has flipped chambers. Both the New Hampshire House and Senate went from Democratic control to Republican. The Arizona vote totals are not complete, so no majority projection has yet been made in that state.

At this writing, Republicans will control 59 legislative chambers in the next session as compared to 37 for the Democrats. Nebraska has a non-partisan unicameral chamber and the two Arizona houses are uncalled pending final vote totals. Only one state, Minnesota, sees split control of the legislature: Democrats have the House; Republicans the Senate.

In terms of controlling the legislative trifecta (both legislative chambers and the Governor), Republicans will hold this position in 23 states as compared to 15 for the Democrats.

Voters decided interesting ballot initiatives in several states. Some of the notable results are listed below:

Alaska: Defeated a proposal to adopt a Top-Four primary election system: 56.5% No.

Arizona: Though final totals are not yet available; projections were made on several ballot propositions. Marijuana legalization was approved: 59.8% Yes; an income tax increase measure also passed: 52.0% Yes.

California: The Prop 13 property tax rollback proposal targeted only to businesses appears headed for defeat, 51.8% against with votes still being counted. The bid to restore affirmative action in the higher education admittance system was defeated: 56.1% No; the measure to exempt drivers from Uber and Lyft, and related situations, from being classified as employees was approved: 58.5% Yes; an initiative to end the cash bail system was defeated: 55.6% No.

Colorado: The measure to join the compact of states pledging to send electors to the Electoral College and vote for the national popular vote winner passed: 52.0% Yes; a measure to ban late-term abortions was defeated: 58.8% No; the financial measure to reduce the state income tax passed: 57.7% Yes.

Florida: Note: In Florida, initiatives must obtain 60% to pass. The measure to adopt a Top-Two primary election system fell short of passage: 57.1% Yes; a proposal to allow initiatives to take effect only if passing in two general elections was defeated: 52.5% No.

Iowa: The referendum to establish a Constitutional Convention was defeated: 70.4% No.

Massachusetts: A measure to adopt the Ranked Choice Voting system that Maine employs was defeated: 54.7% No.

Michigan: Voters overwhelmingly approved a proposal to force the government to obtain a warrant to access personal e-data: 88.7% Yes.

New Jersey: Garden State voters joined Arizona in legalizing marijuana: 66.7% Yes; they also favored a proposal to delay redistricting until 2023 because the Census Bureau is unable to deliver their new numbers in time for 2021 state legislative elections. Therefore, the current maps will remain in place for one more election cycle: 58.8% Yes.

Virginia: Adopted the establishment of a hybrid citizen/legislature redistricting system: 65.9% Yes.

Washington: Voters began repealing several taxes the legislature and Governor enacted. Repeal of the plastic bag tax: 60.6% Yes; repeal of the equipment rental tax: 58.7% Yes; repeal of the business tax increase: 61.3% Yes.