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Special Elections To Congress Increase Over Last 20 Years

Average number of special elections per meeting rose from 7.6 to 13.4
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WASHINGTON — The number of special elections to each meeting of Congress has steadily increased over the past twenty years, from an average of 7.6 special elections in the five meetings beginning in 1993, to 11.6 in the five meetings starting in 2003, and to 13.4 in the five meetings that began in 2013 and ended in 2022.

“A meeting of Congress spans the period of time between two-year election cycles for the full U.S. House and one-third of the U.S. Senate. Each meeting of Congress typically has two sessions, one in each calendar year, as the Constitution requires that Congress meet annually,” said Ballotpedia.

The trend of more special elections to Congress in recent years held for both the U.S. House and Senate. The average number of House special elections per meeting increased from 6.2 in the earliest period analyzed to 11 in the most recent. The average number of Senate special elections per meeting increased from 1.4 in the earliest period analyzed to 2.4 recently.

U.S. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) (C) takes his seat as he arrives for the start of the 118th Congress in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol Building on January 03, 2023, in Washington, DC.The average number of Senate special elections per meeting increased from 1.4 in the earliest period analyzed to 2.4 recently. WIN McCNAMEE/GETTY IMAGES

“Special elections to Congress occur when a legislator resigns or is removed from office. The Constitution requires that vacancies in the House be filled through an election. The process for filling House vacancies is distinct from filling vacancies in the U.S. Senate, where 37 states fill vacancies through gubernatorial appointment, and the remaining 13 require a special election,” said Ballotpedia

Depending on the specific state laws governing vacancies, a state can either hold an election within the same calendar year or wait until the next regularly scheduled election.

See the table below for the number of special elections by meeting of Congress from 1993 through the end of 2022, or the 103rd meeting of the U.S. Congress to the 117th.

Produced in association with Ballotpedia

Edited by Judy J. Rotich and Newsdesk Manager

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