Off-year election

An off-year election is a general election in the United States that is held when neither a presidential election nor a midterm election takes place.[1][2] Almost all "off-year" elections are held on odd-numbered years. At times, the term "off-year" may also be used to refer to midterm election years.[3] "Off-cycle" can also refer to any election that doesn't take place on November of an even-numbered year.[4]

A 2013 general election ballot for the offices of Ward 1 of Nashua, New Hampshire.

Off-year elections during odd-numbered years rarely feature any election to a federal office, few state legislative elections, and very few gubernatorial elections. Instead, the vast majority of these elections are held at the county and municipal level. On the ballot are many mayors, a wide variety of citizen initiatives in various states, and many more local public offices. They may also feature a number of special elections to fill vacancies in various federal, state, and local offices.

RationaleEdit

Off-year elections often feature far fewer races than either presidential or midterm elections and generate far lower voter turnout than even-numbered election years.[5][6][7] A major reason why some states and local governments hold their elections in odd years is because it is less likely that they would be affected by the same level of federal authority and national influence during presidential and midterm elections.[8] The lower turnout also benefits well-organized special interest groups that often make up local political machines,[9] making it easier for their favored candidates to capture more of a government.[10] Even though large majorities from both major political parties want to shift to on-cycle elections,[11] these interest groups have used their political power to slow down some but not all of the reform efforts, with California, Arizona and Nevada seeing significant success in shifting local elections on-cycle.[12]

Federal electionsEdit

Regularly scheduled elections for the Senate and the House of Representatives are always held in even-numbered years. Elections for these offices are only held during odd-numbered years if accommodating a special election—usually either due to incumbents resigning or dying while in office.

Special elections are never held for the U.S. President. If the President dies, resigns or is (via impeachment conviction) removed from office, the successor is determined by the presidential line of succession, as specified by the United States Constitution and the Presidential Succession Act, and serves the rest of the presidential term.

State electionsEdit

Five states elect their respective governors to four-year terms during off-year elections: Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey and Virginia.[13] Kentucky, Louisiana, and Mississippi hold their gubernatorial elections during the off-year before the presidential election; e.g. the 2019 elections. New Jersey and Virginia then hold theirs in the off-year after the presidential election; e.g. the 2021 elections.

Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, and Virginia also hold off-year state legislative elections.

Off-years may also feature a wide variety of citizen initiatives in various states, as well as a number of special elections to fill various state offices. States may also allow recall elections, such as the 2021 California gubernatorial recall election.

Local electionsEdit

Many races held during off-year, odd-numbered election years are for offices at the municipal and local level. Other municipalities and local governments instead consolidate their elections in even-numbered years to save costs, increase voter turnout, have a far more representative group of voters.[12]

Comparison with other U.S. General ElectionsEdit

Basic rotation of U.S. general elections (fixed-terms only[1])
Year 2022 2023 2024 2025 2026
Type Midterm Off-yeara Presidential year Off-yearb Midterm
President No Yes No
Senate Class III (34 seats) No Class I (33 seats) No Class II (33 seats)
House All 435 seats[3] No All 435 seats[2] No All 435 seats[2]
Governor 36 states, DC, & 3 territories[4]
AL, AK, AZ, AR, CA, CO, CT, FL, GA, HI, ID, IL, IA, KS, ME, MD, MA, MI, MN, NE, NV, NH, NM, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, VT, WI, WY, DC (Mayor), GU, MP, VI
3 states
KY, LA, MS
11 states, 2 territories
DE, IN, MO, MT, NH, NC, ND, UT, VT, WA, WV, AS, PR
2 states
NJ, VA
36 states, DC, & 3 territories[4]
AL, AK, AZ, AR, CA, CO, CT, FL, GA, HI, ID, IL, IA, KS, ME, MD, MA, MI, MN, NE, NV, NH, NM, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, VT, WI, WY, DC (Mayor), GU, MP, VI
Lieutenant Governor[5] 10 states [6]
AL, AR, CA, GA, ID, NV, OK, RI, TX, VT
2 states
LA, MS
5 states, 1 territory
DE, MO, NC, VT, WA, AS
1 state
VA
10 states [6]
AL, AR, CA, GA, ID, NV, OK, RI, TX, VT
Secretary of State 26 states
AL, AZ, AR, CA, CO, CT, GA, ID, IL, IN, IA, KS, MA, MI, MN, NE, NV, NM, ND, OH, RI, SC, TX, VT, WI, WY
2 states
KY, MS
8 states
MO, MT, NC, OR, PA, VT, WA, WV
None 26 states
AL, AZ, AR, CA, CO, CT, GA, ID, IL, IN, IA, KS, MA, MI, MN, NE, NV, NM, ND, OH, RI, SC, TX, VT, WI, WY
Attorney General 29 states, DC, & 2 territories
AL, AZ, AR, CA, CO, CT, FL, GA, ID, IL, IA, KS, MD, MA, MI, MN, NE, NV, NM, NY, ND, OH, OK, RI, SC, TX, VT, WI, WY, DC, GU, MP
2 states
KY, MS
10 states
IN, MO, MT, NC, OR, PA, UT, VT, WA, WV
1 state
VA
29 states, DC, & 2 territories
AL, AZ, AR, CA, CO, CT, FL, GA, ID, IL, IA, KS, MD, MA, MI, MN, NE, NV, NM, NY, ND, OH, OK, RI, SC, TX, VT, WI, WY, DC, GU, MP
State Treasurer[7] 23 states
AL, AZ, AR, CA, CO, CT, FL (CFO), ID, IL, IN, IA, KS, MA, NE, NV, NM, OH, OK, RI, SC, VT, WI, WY
2 states
KY, MS
9 states
MO, NC, ND, OR, PA, UT, VT, WA, WV
None 23 states
AL, AZ, AR, CA, CO, CT, FL (CFO), ID, IL, IN, IA, KS, MA, NE, NV, NM, OH, OK, RI, SC, VT, WI, WY
State Comptroller/Controller 8 states
CA, CT, IL, MD, NV, NY, SC, TX
None None None 8 states
CA, CT, IL, MD, NV, NY, SC, TX
State Auditor 15 states
AL, AR, DE, IN, IA, MA, MN, MO, NE, NM, OH, OK, SD, VT, WY
1 state
KY
9 states
MT, NC, ND, PA, UT, VT, WA, WV, GU
None 15 states
AL, AR, DE, IN, IA, MA, MN, MO, NE, NM, OH, OK, SD, VT, WY
Superintendent of Public Instruction 8 states
AZ, CA, GA, ID, OK,
SC, SD (incl. Land), WY
None 4 states
MT, NC, ND, WA
1 state
WI
8 states
AZ, CA, GA, ID, OK,
SC, SD (incl. Land), WY
Agriculture Commissioner 7 states
AL, FL, GA, IA, ND, SC, TX
2 states
KY, MS
2 states
NC, WV
None 7 states
AL, FL, GA, IA, ND, SC, TX
Insurance Commissioner 5 states
DE, CA GA, KS, OK,
2 states
LA, MS
3 states
NC, ND, WA,
None 5 states
DE, CA GA, KS, OK,
Other commissioners & elected officials 8 states
AZ (Mine Inspector), AR (Land), GA (Land), NM (Land), ND (Tax), OK (Labor), OR (Labor), TX (Land)
None 1 state
NC (Labor)
None 8 states
AZ (Mine Inspector), AR (Land), GA (Land), NM (Land), ND (Tax), OK (Labor), OR (Labor), TX (Land)
State legislatures[8] 46 states, DC, & 4 territories
AK, AL, AZ, AR, CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, GA, HI, ID, IL, IN, IO, KS, KY, ME, MA, MD, MI, MN, MO, MN, NE, NV, NH, NM, NY, NC, ND, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VT, WA, WV, WI, WY, DC, AS, GU, MP, VI
4 states
LA, MS, NJ, VA
44 states, DC, & 5 territories
AK, AZ, AR, CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, GA, HI, ID, IL, IN, IO, KS, KY, ME, MA, MI, MN, MO, MN, NE, NV, NH, NM, NY, NC, ND, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VT, WA, WV, WI, WY, DC, AS, GU, MP, PR, VI
2 states
VA, NJ
46 states, DC, & 4 territories
AK, AL, AZ, AR, CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, GA, HI, ID, IL, IN, IO, KS, KY, ME, MA, MD, MI, MN, MO, MN, NE, NV, NH, NM, NY, NC, ND, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VT, WA, WV, WI, WY, DC, AS, GU, MP, VI
State boards of education [9] 8 states, DC, & 3 territories
AL, CO, KS, MI, NE, OH, TX, UT, DC, GU, MP, VI
None 8 states, DC, & 3 territories
AL, CO, KS, MI, NE, OH, TX, UT, DC, GU, MP, VI
None 8 states, DC, & 3 territories
AL, CO, KS, MI, NE, OH, TX, UT, DC, GU, MP, VI
Other state, local, and tribal offices Varies
1 This table does not include special elections, which may be held to fill political offices that have become vacant between the regularly scheduled elections.
2 As well as all six non-voting delegates of the U.S. House.
3 As well as five non-voting delegates of the U.S. House. The Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico instead serves a four-year term that coincides with the presidential term.
4 The Governors of New Hampshire and Vermont are each elected to two-year terms. The other 48 state governors and all five territorial governors serve four-year terms.
5 In 26 states and 3 territories the Lieutenant Governor is elected on the same ticket as the Governor: AK, CO, CT, FL, HI, IL, IN, IA, KS, KY, MD, MA, MI, MN, MT, NE, NJ, NM, NY, ND, OH, PA, SC, SD, UT, WI, GU, MP, VI.
6 Like the Governor, Vermont's other officials are each elected to two-year terms. All other state officers for all other states listed serve four-year terms.
7 In some states, the comptroller or controller has the duties equivalent to a treasurer. There are some states with both positions, so both have been included separately.
8 This list does not differentiate chambers of each legislature. Forty-nine state legislatures are bicameral; Nebraska is unicameral. Additionally, Washington, DC, Guam, and the US Virgin Islands are unicameral; the other territories are bicameral. All legislatures have varying terms for their members. Many have two-year terms for the lower house and four-year terms for the upper house. Some have all two-year terms and some all four-year terms. Arkansas has a combination of both two- and four-year terms in the same chamber.
9 Most states not listed here have a board appointed by the Governor and legislature. All boards listed here have members that serve four-year staggered terms, except Colorado, which has six-year terms, and Guam, which has two-year terms. Most are elected statewide, some are elected from districts. Louisiana, Ohio, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands have additional members who are appointed.

NotesEdit

  1. ^ "POLITICAL NOTES: Off-Year Elections". Time magazine. 1927-11-21. Archived from the original on November 25, 2010. Retrieved 2016-07-30.
  2. ^ Chaggaris, Steve (November 3, 2009). "Politics Today: Off-Year Election Day is Here". CBS News. Retrieved July 30, 2016.
  3. ^ Bowman, Ann O'M.; Kearney, Richard C. (2014). State and Local Government: The Essentials (6th ed.). Cengage Learning. pp. 79–80. Most states schedule their gubernatorial elections in "off-years"--that is, years in which no presidential election is held
  4. ^ Anzia 2013, p. 6-7
  5. ^ "Voter Turnout". FairVote. Retrieved 2001-04-08. Low turnout is most pronounced in off-year elections for state legislators and local officials as well as primaries
  6. ^ Hunter, Bridget (November 7, 2007). "2007 State, Local Elections Important Despite Low Voter Turnout". america.gov. Retrieved April 4, 2001.
  7. ^ Anzia, Sarah F. (2011). "Election Timing and the Electoral Influence of Interest Groups". The Journal of Politics. 73 (2): 412–427. doi:10.1017/S0022381611000028. ISSN 0022-3816.
  8. ^ "Why These 5 States Hold Odd-Year Elections, Bucking The Trend". NPR. November 4, 2019.
  9. ^ Anzia 2013, p.78-79
  10. ^ Anzia 2013, p.210
  11. ^ Anzia 2013, p.210
  12. ^ a b Hajnal, Zoltan L.; Kogan, Vladimir; Markarian, G. Agustin. "Who Votes: City Election Timing and Voter Composition". American Political Science Review. 116 (1): 374–383. doi:10.1017/S0003055421000915.
  13. ^ Biesk, Joe (June 18, 2007). "Governor's Race in the Spotlight – Race to Draw National Focus". The Kentucky Post.

Works citedEdit