Off-year election

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Off-year elections[1][2] refer to general elections in the United States that are held in odd-numbered years. These elections rarely feature any election to a federal office, few state legislative elections, and very few gubernatorial elections. Instead, the vast majority of these off-year elections are held at the municipal level. On the ballot are many mayors, a wide variety of citizen initiatives in various states, and many more local public offices. Off-years may also feature a number of special elections to fill vacancies in various federal, state and local offices.

Because off-year elections feature far fewer races than either presidential or midterm elections, they generate far lower voter turnout than even-numbered election years.[3][4]

Federal elections[edit]

Off-year elections only feature special elections, if any, to the U.S. Congress to fill vacant seats, usually either due to incumbents resigning or dying while in office. Regularly scheduled elections for the Senate and the House of Representatives are always held in even-numbered years.

Special elections are never held for the U.S. President. If the President resigns or dies while in office, the successor is determined by the presidential line of succession, as specified by the United States Constitution and the Presidential Succession Act.

State elections[edit]

Five states elect their respective governors to four-year terms during off-year elections: Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey and Virginia.[5] Kentucky, Louisiana, and Mississippi hold their gubernatorial elections during the off-year before the presidential election; and those in New Jersey and Virginia are held in the off-year after the presidential election. These same five states 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 2003 California gubernatorial recall election, when California voters replaced Governor Gray Davis with Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Local elections[edit]

A majority of races held during off-year elections are those for offices at the municipal and local level. Many major cities around the country elect their mayors during off-years, including the top five most populous cities: New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, and Philadelphia. However, as a matter of convenience and cost saving, many other city and local governments may instead hold their elections during even-numbered years to coincide with either the presidential or midterm elections.

Comparison with other U.S. General Elections[edit]

Basic rotation of U.S. general elections (fixed-terms only[1])
Year 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Type Presidential Off-yeara Midterm Off-yearb Presidential
President Yes No Yes
Senate Class I (33 seats) No Class II (33 seats) No Class III (34 seats)
House All 435 seats No All 435 seats No All 435 seats
Gubernatorial 11 states
DE, IN, MO, MT, NH, NC, ND, UT, VT, WA, WV
2 states
NJ, VA
36 states[2]
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
3 states
KY, LA, MS
11 states
DE, IN, MO, MT, NH, NC, ND, UT, VT, WA, WV
Other state and local offices Varies from state-to-state, county-to-county, city-to-city, community-to-community, etc.
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 Both the Governors of New Hampshire and Vermont are each elected to two-year terms. The other 48 state governors serve four-year terms.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "POLITICAL NOTES: Off-Year Elections". Time magazine. 1927-11-21. Retrieved 2010-08-21. 
  2. ^ Chaggaris, Steve (2009-11-03). "Politics Today: Off-Year Election Day is Here". CBS News. Retrieved 2010-08-21. 
  3. ^ "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 
  4. ^ Hunter, Bridget (2007-11-07). "2007 State, Local Elections Important Despite Low Voter Turnout". america.gov. Retrieved 2001-04-08. 
  5. ^ Biesk, Joe (2007-06-18). "Governor's Race in the Spotlight – Race to Draw National Focus". The Kentucky Post.