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What does the generic ballot mean for state legislatures?

Will Democrats take back the House? Won’t Democrats take back the House? It’s a favorite pundit topic of conversation, especially now that we’re less than 100 days away from Election Day 2018.

One good clue as to how well — or how not so well — Democrats will perform in November is the generic ballot. The generic ballot refers to polling that shows whether voters prefer a generic Democratic candidate or a generic Republican candidate. FiveThirtyEight has a handy generic ballot tracker that shows how the generic ballot has performed on different polls throughout the past few months.

Democrats have mostly remained ahead, with their lead ranging from +14 to a tie. For historical context, in 2006, when Democrats won 31 seats in the House and six seats in the Senate (winning majorities in both chambers), the generic ballot had Democrats up 10 points.

Given the way Republicans have gerrymandered congressional districts, Democrats will need to do more than just win the popular vote to take back the House. Forecaster estimates have ranged from Democrats needing to win by 7 to 11 points to gain enough congressional seats for the majority. Republicans have also effectively gerrymandered state legislative districts. Right now, Republicans control both houses of the state legislature in 32 states and Democrats control both houses of the state legislature in 13 states.

What would it mean for control of the states if Democrats capitalized on a large generic ballot advantage?

EveryDistrict’s Legislative District Index (LDI) has assigned a score on a scale of 100 to -100 for each state legislative district in the country. Districts with a score of 100 would vote for Democrats by 100 points, and districts with a score of -100 would vote for Republicans by 100 points. For a more realistic example, a district with a score of 4 would vote for Democrats by an average of 4 points (with Democrats getting 52% of the vote to Republicans 48%).

If Democrats are ahead by 5 points on the generic ballot, that would put districts that generally vote for Republicans by 5 points into play. If Democrats are ahead by 10 points on the generic ballot, that would put districts that generally vote for Republicans by 10 points into play. So, what does this mean for Democrats’ chances to flip legislative chambers across the country?

If Democrats lead on the generic ballot by 5 points, the following state legislatures could flip in 2018: Colorado State Senate, Maine State Senate, Minnesota State House, New Hampshire State Senate, Pennsylvania State Senate, Pennsylvania State House.

If Democrats lead on the generic ballot by 10 points, these state legislatures would be put into play in 2018: Arizona State Senate, Arizona State House, Florida State Senate, Florida State House, Iowa State House, Michigan State House, Michigan State Senate, Montana State House.

Because not all districts are on the ballot in 2018 (mostly in State Senates where some districts are on the ballot in 2018 and some districts are on the ballot in 2020), if Democrats were to lead on the generic ballot in 2018 and 2020 by 10 points, these state legislatures could be put into play between the districts up in 2018 and 2020: Iowa State Senate, Minnesota State Senate, Missouri State Senate, Montana State Senate, Ohio State Senate.

If we can make these gains happen, by 2020 Democrats could control both houses of the state legislature in 22 states, and Republicans would control both houses of the state legislature in 22 states. Democrats could even gain the upper hand if they can win both chambers of the Virginia legislature in 2019 and move New York and Connecticut into the blue column (New York is considered split because of the IDC, Democratic members who caucus with the Republicans, and Connecticut is considered split because its State Senate is a tie). Moving these three states into the blue column would mean Democrats would control both houses of the state legislature in 25 states to Republicans 21 states.

Candidate quality is also a huge factor in determining whether these districts can flip. Stay tuned for more analysis on that.

And while the generic ballot has generally looked good for Democrats, whether we see a 5 point swing, a 10 point swing, or more or less, depends on the organizing that happens between now and November. Democrats can only flip these seats — and chambers — if we organize and motivate voters to get out and vote for Democrats.

That’s where you come in. At EveryDistrict, we believe that Democrats can run and win in every district, but we can’t do it without your help. You can help us flip these chambers by making a donation to our endorsed candidates. Your dollars will go directly to our candidates — no middleman. Click here to see our endorsed candidates and make a donation.

If you’re interested in a particular state, read on for more analysis. Questions? Send us a note at info@everydistrict.us. We’d love to hear your feedback and what you’re seeing on the ground in your state.

States

See below for an analysis of each of the states mentioned above. After each district is its LDI score in parentheses.

Arizona

Arizona State Senate terms are two years, which means all State Senate districts will be on the ballot in 2018 and 2020. Democrats need to win 3 seats to flip the Arizona State Senate. Democrats can flip the Arizona State Senate if they’re able to compete in Republican territory; there’s one Democratic leaning seat, and three others above R+5.

Lean Democratic up to R+5: District 28 (1)

R+5 up to R+10: District 8 (-6), District 20 (-8), District 6 (-9)

Arizona State House members also serve two-year terms, and all State House districts will be on the ballot in 2018 and 2020. Democrats need to win six seats to take the majority. There are two State House members per district. In the Democratic-leaning districts, Democrats control one seat, and Republicans control one seat, leaving three seats that Democrats can win. In the Republican leaning districts, Republicans control both seats.

Lean Democratic up to R+5: District 10, 1 seat (9), District 18, 1 seat (4), District 28, 1 seat (1)

R+5 up to R+10: District 8, 2 seats (-6), District 20, 2 seats (-8), District 6, 2 seats (-9)

Colorado

Democrats already control the Colorado House, and they only need to pick up one seat to take back the majority in the State Senate. Half of the State Senate is up this year, and there are two Democratic leaning seats Democrats can win. There’s one more Democratic-leaning seat and two more Republican-leaning seats that will be on the ballot in 2020.

Lean Democratic up to R+5: District 24 (1), District 16 (0)

R+5 up to R+10: None

On the ballot in 2020: District 25 (1), District 27 (-6), District 8 (-7)

Florida

Democrats need to win five seats to flip the Florida State Senate. Even-numbered districts are on the ballot in 2018, and odd numbered districts are on the ballot in 2020. If Democrats can compete in R+10 territory, there are six seats on the ballot this year that could be in play. If Democrats can only compete in R+5 territory, it may take until 2020 for Democrats to flip the chamber.

Lean Democratic up to R+5: District 36 (14), District 18 (6), District 8 (0)

R+5 up to R+10: District 22 (-7), District 24 (-7), District 20 (-8)

On the ballot in 2020: District 39 (10), District 9 (-4)

Democrats face a steeper, but not wholly impossible task, to flip the Florida State House. There, Democrats need to pick up 20 seats, and there are exactly 20 seats that either lean Democratic or lean Republican up to an R+10 district. With two-year terms, State House districts will be on the ballot in 2018 and 2020.

Lean Democratic up to R+5: District 103 (3), District 120 (0), District 63 (-1), District 47 (-2), District 69 (-2), District 105 (-3), District 67 (-3), District 115 (-3), District 30 (-3)

R+5 up to R+10: District 93 (-5), District 36 (-6), District 21 (-6), District 119 (-6), District 89 (-7), District 83 (-7), District 27 (-7), District 72 (-7), District 59 (-8), District 53 (-8), District 42 (-9)

Iowa

Democrats need to win back five seats to take the majority in the Iowa State Senate. Democrats need to compete in Republican territory to make gains in the Iowa Senate; there are no Democratic leaning seats held by a Republican. In 2018, the odd-numbered districts are on the ballot, and there are three potential pick up opportunities for Democrats. In 2020, when the even-numbered districts are on the ballot, there are nine potential pick up opportunities for Democrats.

Lean Democratic up to R+5: District 41 (-1), District 7 (-4)

R+5 up to R+10: District 47 (-9)

On the ballot in 2020: District 44 (-2), District 36 (-4), District 8 (-6), District 26 (-7), District 32 (-7), District 28 (-8), District 46 (-8), District 48 (-9), District 20 (-9)

Democrats need to win ten seats to take the majority in the Iowa State House. With two-year terms, all Iowa House districts will be on the ballot in 2018 and 2020. There are two districts that barley lean Democratic; the other 14 potential districts in play lean Republican.

Lean Democratic up to R+5: District 43 (0), District 68 (0), District 42 (-3), District 55 (-3), District 73 (-5)

R+5 up to R+10: District 95 (-5), District 58 (-6), District 91 (-6), District 38 (-7), District 47 (-7), District 67 (-8), District 60 (-8), District 76 (-8), District 51 (-9), District 92 (-9), District 72 (-9)

Maine

Democrats already control the Maine House, and they only need to pick up one seat to take back the majority in the State Senate. State Senate terms are two years, so all districts are on the ballot in 2018 and 2020. There are several seats that lean strongly Democratic that Democrats can pick up this year to take back the majority.

Lean Democratic up to R+5: District 7 (12), District 30 (9), District 34 (1), District 11 (1), District 13 (0), District 16 (-1), District 15 (-5)

R+5 up to R+10: District 17 (-6), District 20 (-7)

Michigan

Democrats need to pick up nine seats in the State Senate to win a majority. There are some Democratic leaning seats, but Democrats will need to make gains in Republican territory to get to nine wins. All Michigan State Senate districts are on the ballot this year, but they won’t be on the ballot again until 2022.

Lean Democratic up to R+5: District 20 (13), District 29 (11), District 13 (3), District 32 (1), District 7 (1), District 12 (-1), District 34 (-1), District 15 (-5)

R+5 up to R+10: District 24 (-6), District 10 (-9), District 38 (-9)

Democrats need to also pick up nine seats in the State House to win a majority. Like the State Senate, there are some Democratic leaning seats, but Democrats will need to make gains in Republican territory to get to nine wins. All Michigan State House seats are on the ballot every two years.

Lean Democratic up to R+5: District 62 (4), District 17 (3), District 71 (1), District 99 (-2)

R+5 up to R+10: District 85 (-5), District 91 (-5), District 61 (-5), District 101 (-7), District 66 (-8), District 24 (-8), District 56 (-8), District 39 (-9), District 40 (-10)

Minnesota

Democrats only need to pick up one seat in the State Senate to take back the majority in Minnesota, but State Senate districts aren’t on the ballot until 2020. In 2020, Democrats have several competitive districts that lean in their favor.

On the ballot in 2020: District 44 (11), District 26 (1), District 28 (1), District 56 (1), District 25 (-1), District 14 (-2), District 39 (-6), District 38 (-7), District 5 (-7), District 34 (-7), District 20 (-9)

Minnesota House terms are two years, so all House districts are on the ballot this year. Democrats need to win 11 seats to take the majority. There are 12 districts that lean Democratic and several others than lean Republican that Democrats can put in play.

Lean Democratic up to R+5: District 49A (17), District 42A (10), District 54A (9), District 52B (8), District 44A (6), District 48B (4), District 14B (3), District 56B (3), District 53B (2), District 57B (2), District 34B (0), District 56A (0), District 39B (-2), District 36A (-2), District 27A (-3), District 37B (-3), District 54B (-3), District 5A (-3), District 38B (-3), District 21A (-4), District 55A (-5)

R+5 up to R+10: District 33B (-5), District 28B (-6), District 14A (-7), District 47B (-8), District 39A (-9)

Missouri

In Missouri, Democrats need to win three seats to break the Republican supermajority, and nine seats to take the majority. Only the even-numbered districts are on the ballot this year. This year, there are four potentially competitive districts on the ballot, and there are another six competitive districts on the ballot in 2020.

Lean Democratic up to R+5: District 34 (2), District 30 (-1), District 22 (-2)

R+5 up to R+10: District 8 (-6)

On the ballot in 2020: District 19 (12), District 17 (8), District 3 (-1), District 23 (-5), District 15 (-8), District 21 (-8)

Missouri State House terms are two years, so all districts are on the ballot this year. Democrats’ best goal there is to break the Republican supermajority; Democrats need to win nine seats to do so, and there are 13 potentially competitive districts.

Lean Democratic up to R+5: District 62 (4), District 17 (3), District 71 (1), District 99 (-2)

R+5 up to R+10: District 85 (-5), District 91 (-5), District 61 (-5), District 101 (-7), District 66 (-8), District 24 (-8), District 56 (-8), District 39 (-9), District 40 (-10)

Montana

Democrats need to win eight seats to gain the majority in the Montana State Senate. Half of the districts are on the ballot this year, with six potentially competitive districts. In 2020, there are another four potentially competitive districts that will be on the ballot.

Lean Democratic up to R+5: District 13 (11), District 11 (10), District 32 (3), District 14 (-4)

R+5 up to R+10: District 22 (-7), District 30 (-8)

On the ballot in 2020: District 21 (23), District 47 (10), District 40 (-3), District 28 (-8)

Democrats need to pick up ten seats to win the Montana State House, and with two-year terms, all districts are on the ballot. There are eight districts that either lean Democratic or slightly Republican, and another five that lean even more Republican.

Lean Democratic up to R+5: District 65 (13), District 25 (13), District 22 (10), District 52 (10), District 51 (4), District 96 (2), District 92 (1), District 97 (-3)

R+5 up to R+10: District 44 (-6), District 12 (-6), District 55 (-7), District 43 (-9), District 56 (-10)

New Hampshire

Democrats need to win back three seats to pick up the New Hampshire State Senate. New Hampshire State Senators serve two-year terms, so all districts are on the ballot this year. There are 11 districts that either lean Democratic or slightly Republican.

Lean Democratic up to R+5: District 2 (4), District 8 (2), District 7 (2), District 3 (0), District 24 (-1), District 9 (-1), District 23 (-2), District 11 (-3), District 17 (-3), District 12 (-4), District 6 (-5)

R+5 up to R+10: None

Ohio

Democrats need eight seats to win the Ohio State Senate, and there are eight potential pick up opportunities between 2018 and 2020. The odd-numbered districts are on the ballot in 2018, and the even-numbered districts are on the ballot in 2020.

Lean Democratic up to R+5: District 3 (11), District 13 (3), District 5 (1), District 19 (-5)

R+5 up to R+10: District 29 (-7)

On the ballot in 2020: District 16 (2), District 24 (-1), District 2 (-6)

Democrats face a more uphill climb to take back the Ohio State House. Democrats need to win 17 seats to take back the majority, and we’ve identified 16 potential pick up opportunities.

Lean Democratic up to R+5: District 21 (6), District 24 (4), District 55 (3), District 19 (3), District 16 (3), District 28 (0), District 43 (-1), District 6 (-1), District 37 (-1), District 3 (-2), District 36 (-2), District 94 (-2), District 89 (-2), District 23 (-4)

R+5 up to R+10: District 7 (-6), District 79 (-7)

Pennsylvania

Democrats have a strong opportunity to take back the Pennsylvania State Senate this year, even though they need to win ten districts to do so with only even-numbered districts on the ballot. EveryDistrict has identified six Democratic-leaning districts, and eight Republican-leaning districts that Democrats could potentially pick up. In 2020, there are another seven pick up opportunities on the ballot.

Lean Democratic up to R+5: District 26 (10), District 6 (10), District 16 (8), District 46 (2), District 40 (2), District 12 (1), District 10 (-1), District 38 (-2), District 44 (-4), District 24 (-5)

R+5 up to R+10: District 32 (-5), District 34 (-7), District 50 (-8), District 20 (-10)

On the ballot in 2020: District 49 (17), District 9 (7), District 15 (1), District 47 (3), District 13 (-8), District 29 (-8), District 37 (-8)

Democrats need to win 20 State House seats to take back the majority in the Pennsylvania State House. EveryDistrict has identified 18 districts that lean Democratic and another 33 districts that lean Republican that Democrats could put in play this year.

Lean Democratic up to R+5: District 177 (34), District 74 (26), District 170 (21), District 18 (16), District 120 (15), District 162 (13), District 49 (12), District 163 (10), District 152 (7), District 189 (6), District 157 (5), District 176 (4), District 61 (4), District 146 (3), District 151 (3), District 142 (1), District 150 (1), District 58 (0), District 51, (-1), District 10 (-1), District 122 (-1), District 183 (-2), District 46 (-2), District 53 (-2), District 165 (-2), District 167 (-2), District 4 (-2), District 137 (-3), District 104 (-3), District 52 (-3), District 158 (-3), District 168 (-4), District 155 (-4)

R+5 up to R+10: District 62 (-6), District 105 (-6), District 29 (-6), District 107 (-6), District 160 (-6), District 73 (-7), District 143 (-7), District 131 (-7), District 109 (-8), District 138 (-8), District 116 (-9), District 26 (-9), District 144 (-9), District 171 (-9), District 134 (-9), District 106 (-9), District 39 (-9), District 130 (-10)