2020 Elections & Congress: Party Composition

In the House of Representatives, Democrats in 2020 were defending a majority in the 435-member House. Republicans held 197 House seats and needed 218 to win control. The results of the November 3 election show that the Democrats will have at least 222 seats and Republicans will have at least 211. As of this writing, there are still 2 races that are being decided in the courts. New York’s 22nd district had a 12-vote difference with 2500 disputed ballots, while Iowa’s second district was a 6-vote difference.

In the Senate, Republicans held a 53-47 Senate majority. Democrats needed to gain at least three seats to win. 35 Senate seats were contested in 2020. After the November 4th election, the Republicans controlled 50 seats and the Democrats controlled 48. In Georgia, no candidate can advance through a primary or a general election system without first earning more than 50 percent of the votes. If no one does, the top two vote getters advance to a runoff election, ensuring that one will earn the majority of votes cast. This election cycle, the state’s two Senate races—one regular, the other a special election to fill the remainder of a retired senator’s seat—went to runoffs on January 5. The regular election race was between Republican Sen. David Perdue and Democrat Jon Ossoff; the other was between Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Democrat Rev. Raphael Warnock. Since the Democrats won both runoffs and picked up the two seats, the senate will be tied with fifty Republicans and 50 Democrats. This gives control of the Senate to the Democrats since the Vice-President is able to cast any tiebreaking votes.

Instructors, click the link below to download this week’s lecture for use in your classroom. The deck contains a writing prompt and a debate question as well as other assessment questions.

Download the PowerPoint Lecture Spark for “Congress"

Links

“US House races: Democrats retain control while facing upsets in key states”
https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/nov/03/us-house-races-results-democrats-predicted-win-more-seats

“Democratic House Majority May Drop to Two Seats in January”
https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/12/democratic-house-majority-may-drop-to-two-seats-in-january.html

“The biggest surprises of the 2020 Democratic House debacle”
https://www.politico.com/news/2020/11/11/2020-election-surprises-democratic-house-436190

“Why did House Democrats underperform compared to Joe Biden?”
https://www.brookings.edu/blog/fixgov/2020/12/21/why-did-house-democrats-underperform-compared-to-joe-biden/

“Georgia Senate race: What’s at stake in Tuesday’s runoff elections”
https://nypost.com/2021/01/05/georgia-senate-race-whats-at-stake-in-the-runoff-election/

“Georgia Highlights: Democrats Win the Senate as Ossoff Defeats Perdue”
https://www.nytimes.com/live/2021/01/06/us/georgia-election-results

“Why Warnock and Ossoff Won in Georgia”
https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/07/upshot/warnock-ossoff-georgia-victories.html

Assessment

  • Debate: It is better for one party to control the presidency and Congress because voters can more easily evaluate government before the next election.
  • The incumbent advantage undermines the democratic purposes of elections.
  • Poll: In a democratic government, Congress should resemble the demographic characteristics of the country.        
  • Short Answer: What factors led to Democrats losing seats in the House even as they won the presidency and gained seats in the Senate?

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Featured Image Credit: Prachatai

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