Over the past few years, our divided Congress has been caught in a virtual standstill, with the government body passing only 31 laws in 2023, making the 118th Congress the least effective since the Great Depression. As important issues remain unaddressed, state legislatures have taken on the task of leading the way on issues such as gun and LGBTQ+ rights and climate change.

With so much legislative action happening at the state level, understanding how many legislatures are controlled by each party is integral for any organization in developing a public affairs strategy.

This article explores the 99 state legislative bodies and 7,386 seats across the country, focusing on how many state legislatures are controlled by each party and how it impacts which laws get passed and why.


The Structure of State Legislatures

State legislatures are typically bicameral, meaning they consist of two chambers: the upper house, often called the Senate, and the lower house, known as the House of Representatives or Assembly. The number of representatives in each chamber varies from state to state, with population size as a key determinant. Larger states have more representatives, mirroring the principle of proportional representation.


Nebraska’s State Legislature - The Exception to the Rule

Nebraska stands as a unique exception with its unicameral legislature. Nebraska's single-chamber legislature, known as the Unicameral, consists of 49 senators who represent various districts across the state.


Why State Legislatures Matter

State legislatures have the primary responsibility for crafting and passing state laws. These laws cover a wide range of issues, including education, health care, criminal justice, infrastructure and more. State laws directly affect the daily lives of residents, making legislatures critical in shaping state policies.

State legislatures also provide a forum for the representation of diverse local interests within a state. By having both urban and rural representation, legislators can advocate for policies that address the unique needs and concerns of different communities.

Additionally, state legislatures have an outsized influence on the following issues:

  • Checks and Balances - State legislatures scrutinize, approve or reject proposals put forth by the governor, ensuring a system of checks and balances within the state government.
  • Budget Approval - State legislatures have the authority to approve state budgets, determining how public funds are allocated across various programs and services, such as funding for education, healthcare, infrastructure projects and other essential services.
  • Electoral Redistricting - Every ten years, state legislatures are responsible for redrawing electoral districts based on the U.S. Census results through a process known as redistricting.
  • Policy Innovation and Experimentation - States often serve as laboratories of democracy, experimenting with different policies to address local challenges and serve the specific needs and preferences of their constituents.
  • Election Laws and Administration - State legislatures have the authority to establish election laws and procedures within their jurisdictions, such as voting, voter registration, absentee ballots and other aspects that directly impact the democratic process.
  • Criminal Justice and Public Safety - Legislatures shape criminal justice policies, including sentencing laws, policing practices and the operation of the criminal justice system.
  • Constitutional Amendments - State legislatures have the authority to propose and ratify amendments to their state constitutions, allowing them to adapt to changing circumstances and address evolving societal values.




Who Controls State Legislatures in 2024?

As of Jan. 1, 2024, Republicans control 28 state legislatures, making up 59% of all states (excluding Nebraska, whose senators have no formal party affiliations). Democrats control 21, or 40% of state legislatures across the nation.

The states of Michigan and Pennsylvania remain divided legislatures, meaning that Republicans and Democrats hold an equal number of seats in the state legislatures.

Of the 98 chambers using a bicameral model, Republicans control 57 chambers to the Democrats’ 40 chambers. Two chambers, the Alaska House and Senate, remain divided.


State Control in State Legislatures

Republicans also come out on top when we consider state control or states having single-party control in the state House, Senate and governorship. Among states with state control, Republicans dominate in 23 states, or 46% of the country. Meanwhile, state control by Democrats makes up 16 states, or 29%.

Ten states are split on state control by having a member of the minority party serve as governor. These states include:

  • Nevada
  • Colorado
  • Kentucky
  • Pennsylvania
  • Virginia


State Houses

Of the 5,353 state House seats in the U.S., 2,939 members are Republicans while 2,414 state legislators are Democrats. Additionally, 22 state representatives identify as Independents or nonpartisan or are members of a minor party, such as the Vermont Progressive Party and the Independent Party for Maine.


State Senate

Among the 1,964 state Senators nationwide, 1,108 are members of the Republican party while 852 are Democrats. Five additional state Senators identify as Independents or, in the case of Vermont, the Vermont Progressive Party. Additionally, eight state Senate seats remain vacant.


What Are the Most Partisan State Legislatures?

In some states, the difference in partisanship is significant, with Democrats and Republicans holding insurmountable numbers. In these states, a party’s legislative agenda is easier to accomplish given the lack of partisan challenge.

In recent years, the gap in partisanship has grown across state legislatures, causing a deep divide between so-called “blue” and “red” states. This trend has effectively rendered minority parties futile in overcoming legislative hurdles. Some criticize this trend for contributing to the increasing divisions we witness across the nation.

The most partisan state legislatures include:

  1. Massachusetts House - 134 Democrats/25 Republicans
  2. West Virginia House - 10 Democrats/88 Republicans
  3. North Dakota House - 12 Democrats/82 Republicans
  4. Vermont House - 106 Democrats/37 Republicans
  5. Arkansas House -  18 Democrats/82 Republicans


How Did State Legislatures Change in 2022?

In the 2022 midterm elections, 46 states held elections, representing 6,279 state legislative races and 36 governors. Both parties experienced some success, with Republicans gaining 40 new legislators and Democrats gaining control of four new chambers.

The election led to some changes in how many state legislators are controlled by each party, with Democrats taking control of two states from the Republicans.

The midterm elections left two states with divided legislatures, the fewest number of divided legislatures since 1914. Similarly, veto-proof majorities increased from 21 to 26 states, further showing how state legislatures are becoming more partisan over time.

While state legislatures continue to be dominated by Republicans overall, Democrats made some gains in 2022, which may point to a changing tide come 2024. Democrats gained state control in three states while Republicans lost state control in one state (Arizona).




State Legislature Changes in 2023

While 2023 wasn’t a major election year, a handful of states held state-level races, meaning a new crop of incoming state legislators this year.

The states holding elections in 2023 included:

  • Virginia 
  • Louisiana
  • New Jersey 
  • Mississippi 

In Virginia, Democrats flipped the House of Delegates and go into 2024 controlling both chambers of the state legislature, providing a counterweight to Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin.

In contrast, Louisiana’s elections saw Republicans cement control of the legislature, with the GOP now holding every statewide office. In addition, former State Rep. Jeff Landry (R-LA) sailed to an easy win for the Louisiana governorship and avoided a runoff, further bolstering Republican control in the state.


Who Will Control State Legislatures in 2024?

As the 2024 general elections draw near, it remains to be seen whether we’ll see a change in how many state legislatures are controlled by each party. With 47 states set for state-level elections in November, we’re sure to see some surprises that may tip the power balance in state legislatures nationwide.

For public affairs professionals, changes in state legislatures can be tracked using public affairs software such as LegiStorm. The LegiStorm platform helps public affairs professionals stay up on staff and leadership changes within state legislatures and Congress, along with the ability to track congressional hearings, press releases, town halls, congressional publications and more.

LegiStorm also provides the latest trends and data on the world of lobbying to allow organizations to devise an effective government relations strategy for the years ahead. If you want to further your cause in 2024, just follow the data.







  1. https://www.congress.gov/public-laws/118th-congress
  2. https://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2023/12/20/2023-congress-year-in-review-inactive-session/4791703087623/
  3. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/29/us/state-legislatures-voting-gridlock.html
  4. https://nebraskalegislature.gov/about/history_unicameral.php
  5. https://apnews.com/article/state-legislatures-supermajorities-extreme-policies-5cff2be330289aa034dce295fa0a3a56
  6. https://siepr.stanford.edu/news/roots-legislative-polarization-how-state-elections-are-producing-more-extreme-pipeline
  7. https://documents.ncsl.org/wwwncsl/Elections/NCSL_Elections_INFOGRAPH_v5.pdf
  8. https://www.governing.com/archive/gov-state-politics-governors-2019.html
  9. https://www.virginiamercury.com/2023/11/08/virginia-democrats-triumph-in-statehouse-elections-reducing-youngkins-power/

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