We made it through November 3! Joe Biden is on track to win the election, and this country is poised to have our first ever woman and Black and Asian-American Vice President. As for Sister District, we are pleased to say that we are seeing the impact of our work in many important places. Check out our results highlights and early analysis below:
See the end of this post for some initial thoughts on how the political landscape and larger trends of this election year shaped Sister District’s outcomes. We’ve also now completed a deeper dive into the impact of gerrymandering, ticket-splitting/roll-off, and an enthusiasm/awareness gap for state legislative candidates.
Here’s a bit more detail (note: results are as of 11/6):
North Carolina: Democrats needed 5 to flip the senate and 6 to flip the house.
Michigan: Democrats needed 4 to flip the house.
Wisconsin: Democrats were down 14 in the Assembly.
Texas: Democrats needed 9 to flip the state house.
Florida: Democrats were down 14 in the House.
Georgia: Democrats were down 16 in the House.
Pennsylvania: Democrats needed 4 to flip the senate and 9 to flip the house.
Arizona: Democrats needed 3 to flip the senate and 2 to flip the house.
Similarly to 2018 and 2019, Sister District candidates were in some of the most competitive races in their chambers. As of 10 am ET on 11/6:
We still have some numbers to crunch, but so far, Sister District volunteers supported our candidates and programs with:
Some of our field and fundraising efforts were astounding in magnitude. Here are a few examples.
Here’s a quick look at where our 2020 field and fundraising efforts went:
Quick stats regarding our 2020 Sister District candidate class:
There are some incredible firsts among our Sister District legislators-elect. These include:
We must count every vote and not do too much analysis before all of the dust has settled. However, here are a few takeaways from what we’ve seen so far.
Conventional wisdom from both parties going into the election (despite some research to the contrary) was that the early and absentee vote would disproportionately benefit Democrats. However, as we’ve seen, turnout was historic across the political spectrum. Over 100 million people voted early, and in several states, early vote turnout exceeded the entirety of 2016’s votes.
We are on track to hit 66% turnout nationally, which would be the highest turnout rate since 1900 (though it isn’t a great comparison because only white men could vote back then). This huge increase in early and absentee vote was driven by at least three things:
In many state chambers, Democrats did not continue 2018’s trajectory of wins. This was in no small part because much of the low-hanging fruit in gerrymandered chambers had been won in 2018. For example, Democrats picked up 12 seats in the Texas House and 7 in the North Carolina House that year. This year, we were competing for harder seats, mostly on the same bad maps. While we had wins in both chambers, they were more modest. This is also what happened in Virginia over the 2017-2019 cycle. Democrats picked up 15 lower chamber seats in the 2017 election, putting the chamber in flip range. Then, a set of court decisions required a redraw of the badly gerrymandered chamber. These fairer lines resulted in several 2019 flips, tipping the chamber blue. It was a similar story in North Carolina, where court-mandated redraws in the Senate resulted in the only two flips we saw this year. These examples demonstrate how difficult it is to succeed on unfair maps, and help explain why we were unable to achieve more flips.
We’ll be studying this election for years. And while we don’t yet fully have a grasp on its implications, we do know that this was clearly a campaign cycle unlike any other. The pandemic changed campaigning and voting in numerous ways. Some were positive, such as the expansion of early and absentee voting options in some states. But it may have had negative effects on campaigns as well.
Among others, the pandemic prevented candidates from running robust canvassing operations and from being able to spend time in their communities. As Dave Daley and I wrote back in April, the pandemic significantly cut into down-ballot candidates’ abilities to get out into their communities and build relationships with voters. The inability to canvass, attend events and run traditional field programs may have resulted in lower name recognition when it came time for voters to fill in their ballots.
Democrats pushed hard to flip seats and chambers in states where the legislature controls redistricting. Unfortunately, we fell short of the goalpost. Nonetheless, Democrats are going into the next redistricting cycle in a better position, at least in some states, than we had been in 2010. In part, this is because of the hard work of so many in defeating Republican trifectas and supermajorities over the past few years.
For instance, in 2011 the GOP had trifecta control of Michigan and Pennsylvania. Going into this cycle, Democrats control at least one branch of government in both of those states. Wins in 2018 broke GOP supermajorities in both chambers in North Carolina, the Pennsylvania Senate, Michigan Senate. And wins this year kept the GOP from gaining supermajorities in either of Wisconsin’s chambers. Finally, it’s important to remember that we have additional tools in our toolbox to fight for fair districts, including citizen advocacy and strategic litigation.
Democrats are in a much better position to use these tools now than in 2010 because of increased public awareness in the importance of redistricting and the growth of partner organizations that focus on it.
Presidential coattails is a phenomenon that researchers have identified wherein increased turnout for the top of the ticket results in more votes for candidates of the same party at the bottom of the ticket, who “ride the presidential coattails.” This year, Joe Biden did not carry states like Florida and Texas, where Democrats had targeted legislative districts. Biden’s performance in these areas may have affected down ballot races, who were not able to ride strong coattails.
Local organizing in states like Arizona and Georgia led the way for the tremendous results in those states. In Georgia, organizations like Stacey Abrams’ Fair Fight worked hand-in-hand with other community-based organizations to register 800,000 new voters, and turn people out to at the polls.
At the same time, courageous down ballot candidates ran strong campaigns, working to expand the electorate. It is vital to center the voices of those most affected, and invest at the state and local level. Sister District is committed to supporting and amplifying work that is happening on the ground in each of the states we work in. One of the ways we do that is to work in coordination with our campaigns. This “hardside” work is challenging, but it ensures that we are helping to build the strength of the local candidates and campaigns, who know their communities best, and who know how to win.
We’re proud to have supported incredible candidates in Arizona and Georgia, and grateful for the tireless work of local organizations who create the conditions under which campaigns can succeed. Democrats and progressives must learn from these shining examples of the power of local organizing, and gear our work as a party and a movement toward supporting and amplifying those efforts in all that we do to help folks get elected.