OK, election math fans, it’s time to sharpen your pencils.
Although the general election ballot still could change with resignations, deaths, expulsions and so on, in the larger sense, the stakes are established for November’s General Assembly races.
This November is especially worth watching because all 177 legislative seats are contested following the census and redistricting process. Democrats currently control both chambers, holding a 41-18 Senate majority and 73-45 House margin.
Of the 59 Senate seats, only 18 will be contested. There are 24 Democrats and 17 Republicans running unopposed, so Democrats must win just six to retain a simple majority but would need to go 17-1 to retain their current position.
On the House side, 58 races are uncontested, or nearly half. Of those, it’s an even split: 29 from each party. That means Democrats need to win 44 of the contested races to hold at 73 seats and would have to go 51-9 to get to 80, the coveted supermajority.
Republicans would need to win 31 contested elections to reclaim a House majority. That’s not especially likely, but at this stage in 2020 the GOP had nominated so few House candidates it had to finish 51-4 in contested races to regain control. Given those odds, aiming to go 31-29 isn’t nearly as unrealistic.
None of this analysis factors the influence of minority party candidates, who have struggled to gain even a modest foothold in a state so engrained with majority control.
This raw counting also doesn’t factor the extreme uphill battles of a write-in challenging an incumbent or the many instances where someone may be a sitting lawmaker but not technically an incumbent candidate because they are seeking to represent a new district of largely unfamiliar voters or hoping to move up from the House to the Senate. There also are some former lawmakers looking to return to the legislature who are not coded as incumbents.
We do know with certainty seven sitting senators and nine representatives won’t be back in January by virtue of retirement or losing a primary. Another two senators and 10 House members opted to pursue another office, though some of them also lost primary efforts such as Grayslake Democrat Sam Yingling, who lost a state Senate primary, and Morrisonville Republican Avery Bourne, a lieutenant governor hopeful on a losing ticket.
Which is to say even if the math shakes out in the Democrats’ favor, there undoubtedly will be personality shifts in Springfield, which means new committee assignments and perhaps changes among leadership. Those adjustments can dictate how business is conducted and how parties respond to constituent influence.
Plan now to be an educated voter.