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Sep 20: Biden 347 EV (D+5.2% from toss-up), Senate 52 D, 48 R (D+3.7%), House control D+3.0%
Moneyball states: President NV AZ PA, Senate MT KS AK, Legislatures KS TX NC

New PEC feature: 50-State Guide to 2020 Elections

September 1st, 2020, 8:00am by Zachariah Sippy


While the Presidential election is hogging most of the attention, there are literally thousands of other races on the ballot. All 435 US House of Representatives seats, and a large Senate class (35 elections) are up for grabs. These races will have a massive impact on legislation and the composition of federal courts.


Our 50-state guide to the election is designed to ensure that these downballot races are not overlooked. In addition to noting which U.S. House and Senate seats are competitive (using Cook Political Report rankings and our own measure of voter power), we have also noted major ballot initiatives, Supreme Court elections, state legislative and local races for each state.  

Last month, we introduced our readers to our 2020 Redistricting Moneyball project, a model built to locate which state legislative elections will have the most impact in preventing partisan gerrymandering for the next decade. Beyond redistricting the power that state legislatures have is immense; of the 99 state legislative chambers in the country, 86 will have elections this fall. Just like Moneyball, we point our readers to which races (according to CNAlysis) are most important for determining control.

Lastly, in a year marked by social unrest and protests for racial equality and the criminal justice reform, there will be more than 2,300 elections to determine local prosecutors, and sheriffs. Leaning on The Appeal’s Daniel Nichanian, we have also marked localities with key criminal justice races. 

If we missed something or made a mistake, reply in comments or let our team know directly! Between now and Election Day we will be refining and updating our guide to ensure it is as useful as possible.

At a state and county level, you can take advantage of our research and donate to the most high-impact races using our PEC 2020 ActBlue (for Democrats) and PEC 2020 WinRed (for Republicans). 

Who did the work: Map interactive, Hope Johnson. Site administration, Mike Hallee. Content intern, Adam Krauss. Moneyball redistricting, Jacob Wachspress, Connor Moffatt, and Chaz Nuttycombe of CNalytics. Project editor, Zachariah Sippy.

Tags: 2020 Election · Politics · Redistricting

11 Comments so far ↓

  • Joseph Bland

    It would seem to me that a lot in these elections depends on the future trajectory of the US economy, which in turn depends on (1) the future trajectory of the pandemic in the US and (2) the stimulus supplied by Washington (the fed having used all its bullets). Is there someone tracking this relationship statistically, particularly on a state and local level?

    • Sam Wang

      No, this year there’s no relationship between the economy and Presidential approval or the Presidential race. Not worth tracking. Basically, it seems to only be correlated if the President is within a normal range of competence and performance.

    • Joseph Bland

      Thanks for the response, Dr. Wang. That’s actually rather surprising. In my experience, many folks think of pocketbook first…..

    • Sam Wang

      Thinking more, you are asking a pretty interesting question, which is how federal aid will affect local sentiments. The trend for federal downticket races has been to track national opinion on the Presidential race, which has been remarkably insensitive to economic variables. So now we have an open question of what will happen for unrelated state-level races.

      Probably the answer lies in your personal advocacy and volunteer actions in a state or local race near you.

  • ArcticStones

    There has been a significant downtick in the House control metamargin, from 6.9 % to 3.9 %. I seem to recall you mentioning that the House metamargin as the second-most responsive, after the national Presidential polls.

    Sam, what are your thoughts on this three-percentage downtick? Is it an anomaly of the specific polls released? A simple case of the generic House polls “reverting to the mean”? Or do you see it as a harbinger of deeper tendencies that may have significant implications also for both Senate control and the Presidential meta?

    • Sam Wang

      ArcticStones, I’m going to give a you a long answer that amounts to: I thought I knew, but I’m realizing that the analytical approach we took is not sufficient to give an indicator that can report small changes (which is what we’re talking about – the race is so frozen that any change would be tiny, and likely temporary).

      The generic Congressional graph reports a simple median of last 3 polls or last 3 weeks, whichever gives more data. It only counts the most recent survey from each organization. Currently it includes 5 surveys with data taken after the Republican convention, as well as some older surveys. It’s a less-reliable measure than candidate specific polls such as Biden v. Trump, Gideon v. Collins, and so on.

      As you can see, the graph jumps around a lot. My usual use of it is to look for long, slow trends. In past midterm years, it does show breaks toward one party or the other, usually after Labor Day.

      When I wrote the other day, I think I made a mistake trying to read too much into its fluctuations. To do a better job, one might want to (a) disaggregate each survey into the dates that the survey was taken, (b) potentially adjust individual surveys for bias (this might be unnecessary), and then (c) calculate a moving median or average.

      I will fall back on what I’ve said in previous years: National Presidential polls can show rapid effects of events, and the state Meta-Margin is also surprisingly good at this. I think we’re just a few days away from getting a clear result from that analysis. Hate to say it, but just watch that?

      Normally I would also suggest the Senate aggregate, but polls in key states (MT/KS/AK/SC/IA/GA) are *really* stale right now.

    • ArcticStones

      Thank you for your response. It’s heartening to know that you consider this three-percent movement to be a small change.

      Your idea of a moving mean or median is quite interesting. I often see this used in the visualization of Covid-19 data, and it does “smooth out the curve”, better revealing longer-term movements.

      I’ll be patient and wait for more data. :)

  • tom

    I’m disturbed that your Senate race numbers in most crucial states look quite different than the most current polls listed on 538. My reading of the latter is that Republican candidates have closed gaps in a serious way, possibly indicating a trend. Since this is happening in all races with Sept polling, might it not indicate a trend your numbers are missing?

    • Sam Wang

      The medians shown here are calculated directly from the FiveThirtyEight feed. If you take only the most recent single survey for each state, and counted ties as 0.5 seat, you would end up 51 Democrats and 49 Republicans.

      Several top voter-power states, notably Montana, Kansas, and South Carolina, have no polls for the last month. This is a problem that can only be solved with new data.

      There is relatively recent data for Arizona, North Carolina, and other states. In a particularly notable narrowing, Minnesota shows a 3-point margin at the moment.

  • Pechmerle

    Bad news for Florida ex-felons:
    Eleventh Circuit (6-4 vote en banc) permits Florida to bar ex-felons from voting if they haven’t paid all fees and fines that are part of their sentence. Even if they can’t afford to pay. Circuit overruled district court judge who had treated this as a form of poll tax (rightly in my view). Circuit does not agree with that analysis.

    https://www.cnn.com/2020/09/11/politics/florida-ex-felons-voting/index.html

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