Justice Jackson set for formal swearing-in ahead of court's fall term

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Friday, September 30, 2022

The Supreme Court’s newest member, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, will formally take her seat in the tribunal’s ornate courtroom Friday, making history as the first Black woman to serve on America’s highest court. Jackson, 52, will take a pair of oaths during an invite-only traditional investiture ceremony at the Supreme Court featuring the other eight justices, as well as Attorney General Merrick Garland and Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar. Jackson was officially sworn in at a private ceremony in June, two months after the Senate voted 53-47 to confirm President Joe Biden’s nomination of her to fill the seat vacated over the summer by retired Justice Stephen Breyer after 28 years on the court. Jackson’s installation is not expected to change the decidedly conservative bent of the court, which currently has six members nominated by Republican presidents and only three by Democratic ones. Jackson, who spent two years as an appellate lawyer for the federal public defender’s office in Washington, is the first lawyer with that sort of experience to sit on the Supreme Court bench. A graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School, Jackson spent eight years as a district court judge in Washington following a nomination from President Barack Obama and about eight months on the powerful D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals under a nomination from Biden before Biden tapped her in February for the high court. Jackson has already taken part in votes on various emergency applications the court ruled on over the summer but is scheduled to hear her first case as a justice on Monday, when the court’s 2022-2023 term officially opens. The first dispute set for argument before the justices is a case about the scope of the federal government’s environmental authority over water pollution. Monday’s argument session is expected to be the first attended by members of the public in more than two-and-a-half years. The high court closed its building to most visitors in March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic and was ringed with eight-foot anti-riot fencing in May of this year after raucous demonstrations broke out following POLITICO’s publication of a draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade. The court issued a largely identical opinion from Justice Samuel Alito the following month, voting 5-4 to toss out the nearly-half-century-old precedent guaranteeing a federal constitutional right to abortion. The court is set to hear arguments Tuesday in a pair of cases that could have a sweeping impact on voting rights by limiting state-court challenges to actions taken by state legislatures through redistricting or imposition of new constraints on voting. The highest profile cases of term are challenges to affirmative-action admissions policies at the nation’s most prestigious private college, Harvard, and a top public one, the University of North Carolina. Opponents of the schools’ practices say they’re blatantly discriminating on the basis of race by using significantly different admissions standards depending on a student’s racial or ethnic background. Backers of the programs say they’re needed to preserve diversity on college campuses, which is beneficial to the educational environment. Supporters of affirmative action have managed to maintain the programs’ latitude to operate in education, despite a series of close calls at the high court in recent decades. However, many observers believe explicit consideration of race in college admissions will likely be doomed by the outcome of the pending cases in front of the most conservative court in half a century. Jackson, who has served since 2016 on a Harvard alumni panel known as the Board of Overseers, is expected to sit out that school’s case as she promised to do during her confirmation hearings. However, she is expected to hear arguments in the UNC case. Both are set to be argued on Oct. 31 with decisions expected by June of next year.

Jackson’s installation is not expected to change the decidedly conservative bent of the court.

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Democrats have notched wins in state legislatures — with likely more to come

President Barack Obama speaks during a Get Out the Vote rally in Detroit on October 29 in Detroit.  | Dominick Sokotoff/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images Here’s where Democrats have flipped or are likely to flip state legislatures. Contests for control of state legislatures were even more consequential than usual this midterms cycle, with abortion rights and election security policy on the line. Though Republicans still control the majority of state legislatures, as they long have, Democrats have managed to flip control of at least one legislature in a critical battleground, with more wins possibly to come. As of Wednesday evening, Democrats had successfully flipped the Michigan Senate; they appear likely to take control of the Michigan House as well. Minnesota also seems likely to see a chamber flip, with Democrats closing in on a majority in that state’s Senate (Democrats already control the House there). They fell short of flipping either chamber in North Carolina but at least headed off a GOP supermajority in the state’s General Assembly, meaning Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto will continue to be a bulwark against the Republican agenda there. Other legislatures that Democrats targeted — like the Arizona House and Senate, the Pennsylvania House, and the New Hampshire House and Senate — remain too close to call. Here’s where Democrats have already successfully flipped state legislative chambers or are most likely to do so: Michigan It’s hard to overstate just how big Democrats’ victory in the state Senate is: They haven’t controlled the chamber since 1984 and have essentially averted the doomsday scenarios for abortion rights and election security that they had warned about ahead of Election Day. Democrats were worried that state Republicans, including those who campaigned on the notion that they would have attempted to subvert the election in 2020, would be well positioned to try to overturn the results in 2024. And they had feared that Republicans would be able to enforce an ultra-restrictive 1931 abortion ban or alternatively pass other restrictions, making it much harder to get an abortion in Michigan. Democrats essentially neutralized those threats on Tuesday, in part because Michiganders voted to enshrine protections for abortion rights in the state constitution. And given that they also appear on track to win control of the statehouse, according to Associated Press results, and Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has won reelection, they are now facing the prospect of trifecta control. Michigan Democrats are already starting to lay out their agenda, now that it has a real chance of becoming law. They’ve talked about repealing the 1931 abortion ban and the state’s “right to work” law, expanding state civil rights law to cover LGBTQ rights, advancing environmental protections, and eliminating the tax on pension income. Minnesota The Minnesota Senate looks likely to flip to Democrats but hasn’t yet been called by the Associated Press. Democrats have already won control of the House, and Democratic Gov. Tim Walz was easily reelected, meaning Minnesota could also be a newfound Democratic trifecta. That would allow Walz and Democrats in the statehouse to reach an agreement on how to spend a $9.25 billion budget surplus. The divided legislature failed to do so before it adjourned earlier this year, but funding for schools, nursing homes, roads and bridges, and significant tax cuts were on the table. Bonus checks for frontline workers during the pandemic were approved, but they weren’t as big as Democrats wanted. Minnesota Democrats have also proposed new environmental regulations and abortion access policies that may be taken up. Pennsylvania Democrats in Pennsylvania have already claimed that they’ve won a majority in the statehouse, but the Associated Press has yet to call it. If true, it would be an upset; redistricting had made the electoral map more competitive for Democrats, but the Pennsylvania House was rated “lean Republican” ahead of Election Day by Sabato’s Crystal Ball and hasn’t been held by Democrats since 2010. Should they prevail, Democrats will be able to vote down further restrictions on abortion and funds to health care centers that perform abortions proposed by Republicans. And they will be able to reject a measure that could have gone on the ballot in 2023 to amend the state constitution to declare there is “no constitutional right to taxpayer-funded abortion or other right relating to abortion.” Regardless of the outcome, though, Pennsylvania will have a divided government: Democrat Josh Shapiro won the governor’s race, and Republicans maintained control of the state Senate. That could limit the realm of what’s possible from a policy standpoint. Arizona It will probably be a while before we know the results in Arizona. The Arizona Senate was rated a toss-up and the House “lean Republican” by Sabato’s Crystal Ball ahead of Election Day, and races up and down the ticket have been too close to call across the state. But the outcome could determine the future of elections and abortion rights in the state, which will likely continue to be a major battleground. With contests involving election deniers yet to be determined — including the races for governor, secretary of state, and attorney general — it’s even more critical for Democrats to win control of at least one legislative chamber. As in Michigan, Democrats worried that Republicans could try to subvert the election result in 2024 if they have unified control of government in Arizona. Arizona’s GOP-controlled state legislature passed legislation earlier this year that banned abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy with no exceptions for rape or incest. But the state also has a 121-year-old total abortion ban on the books, which only has an exception for when the life of the pregnant person is in jeopardy. Both of those bans are currently being challenged in court, and even if they don’t survive, Republicans could enact other restrictions on abortion if they maintain control of the state legislature. A Democratic governor would be able to veto such legislation, given that the GOP will be far from having a supermajority in the legislature. New Hampshire The New Hampshire House was rated “lean Republican” and was looking like a bit more of a reach for Democrats as of Wednesday afternoon. With Republican Gov. Chris Sununu winning reelection, Democrats’ role would be as a check on GOP authority if they win the state House, as Republicans are also expected to control the state Senate. Democrats have already outlined their agenda of focusing on addressing voter concerns about abortion rights, energy costs, increased property taxes, and public education. They may not have a chance to enact it, however.

Lincoln Laboratory launches summer internships for local high schoolers

Guided by mentors, students explore STEM careers and home in on college majors.

Every summer, hundreds of students come to Lincoln Laboratory to gain hands-on research experience. Historically, the laboratory’s summer research program has primarily served undergraduate and graduate students, with their internships complementing their fields of study. A few local high school students have participated in this program over the years through AFCEA International, a nonprofit providing educational and networking opportunities. But this summer, as the laboratory reopened its doors for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic began, the program was officially expanded to offer on-site internships for local high schoolers. “The internships provide students with an opportunity to explore STEM careers while they're still in high school, before they commit to an area of study in college,” says Gary Hackett, who manages the laboratory’s campus recruiting program, summer research program, and now the new high school internship program, in collaboration with human resources administrator Cheryl Bartolone, K–12 STEM outreach coordinator Chiamaka Agabsi-Porter, and K–12 STEM outreach administrator Daphne-Ann Vessiropoulos. “This opportunity goes beyond engaging in hands-on research to include mentoring on educational and career paths, developing interpersonal skills in a professional workplace environment, and networking with staff across the laboratory. Following their experience, hopefully students will consider the laboratory as a place for future employment.” Agbasi-Porter and Vessiropoulos helped spread the word about the new opportunity to local-area high schools with which they had already established partnerships through two STEM programs they lead: Lincoln Laboratory Radar Introduction for Student Engineers (LLRISE) and Lincoln Laboratory Cipher (LLCipher). The initial application round was highly competitive; more than 100 high schoolers applied. Ultimately, laboratory staff selected four interns for the inaugural six-week program, which ran from July 6 to Aug. 12. To align the internships with student interests, staff accordingly placed the interns in laboratory research groups. Inaugural interns “During the interview process, I explained my interest in helping the environment,” says Chloe Kindangen, now a senior at Philips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. “I grew up in Jakarta, Indonesia, and the skies would always be really dark because of the factories. All the rivers are quite polluted, and it's heartbreaking to see because a lot of people depend on those waters for bathing and cooking. With the privilege of my education, I want to give back to my community.” This summer, Kindangen interned in the laboratory's Advanced Sensor Systems and Test Beds Group, which develops radar, optical systems, and airborne surveillance platforms. Aggregating data from online sources, she assessed the environmental impacts of drones operating at the Pacific Missile Range Facility at Makaha Ridge in Hawaii. In particular, she researched the impacts on wildlife and considered how to mitigate risks posed by stimuli such as light and noise. Possible mitigations include changing the color of lights the drone uses and avoiding testing during critical times, like bird nesting season, as fledglings are more sensitive to light. From her experience, Kindangen realized she enjoys conducting this kind of research, as opposed to hands-on lab-based projects. She remains interested in continuing on the environmental path, with plans to register for her school's environmental science class in the upcoming school year. Kindangen also took advantage of other opportunities at the laboratory, including its introduction to radar course, which sparked her interest in deriving math equations that represent real-world situations.  “Coming out of this experience, I know I definitely want to do something STEM-related that involves reading through reports, understanding what they mean, and seeing where and how I can fill in the gaps,” says Kindangen. “In talking to some college interns on site, I realized I had this misconception that as a senior I should know exactly what major I want to declare and how it translates to a professional field. I now plan to attend a college with a core curriculum so I can expose myself to different fields and make sure I enjoy my major.” Kindangen's mentor, Robert Natividad, sees the benefit of offering internships at this educational stage: “High school is an ideal time for students to have informative experiences that help them refine their understanding of where they would like to go in the future.” Even for students who have already been exposed to a field of interest through classes or extracurricular activities, the internships enable them to experience the field in a professional workplace setting. “I've been wanting to get more into electrical engineering,” says Mya Gordon, now a senior at Lexington High School in Lexington, Massachusetts. “I've taken one robotics class, participate in a robotics club outside of school, and do programming independently. The laboratory's internship program allowed me to apply these things to real projects and expose myself to different subfields and applications of electrical engineering.” This summer, Gordon interned in the Tactical Networks Group, where researchers develop communication systems capable of effectively operating in congested and contested environments. She programmed a receiver for a wireless communications-based Battleship-like game, which the group demonstrated at the laboratory's open house event in September. Her two mentors, YaYa Brown and Nicholas Smith, provided a general overview of what she needed to do, but it was up to Gordon to structure and write the code. As Gordon explains, the game is a version of Battleship, but instead of ships existing at a certain location on a grid, their location is translated into a particular frequency and time. If an opponent sends a signal at that same frequency and time, they'll jam any messages coming from the ship. “I've learned a lot about software-defined radios and object-oriented programming,” says Gordon. “My experience this summer solidified my desire to go to a college that offers internships and co-ops and pursue a STEM degree involving both hardware and software elements.” The internship similarly pointed Ryan Wempen, now a junior at King School in Stamford, Connecticut, toward a college degree path. Mentored by Robert Palladino and Elisheva Shuter, Wempen interned in the Interceptor and Sensor Technology Group, which develops technologies that enable air and missile defense systems to identify, track, and intercept potential threats. “The internship opened my eyes to aerospace engineering,” says Wempen, who for his project simulated the physics of hypersonic vehicle flight. Able to travel five times faster than the speed of sound, hypersonic vehicles could transform space exploration, military defense, and commercial air travel. But, as Palladino explains, vehicles traveling at hypersonic speeds experience extreme heat, making their design an engineering challenge. With a grandfather who worked on NASA's Apollo mission, Wempen has long been drawn to aerospace. He applied to the internship through his school's engineering program, in which students pursue research opportunities and compete in science fairs. His interest in hypersonics took off through a wind tunnel project for a science fair. During his internship, he toured the laboratory's shock tube, a type of wind tunnel for exciting gases to the temperature and pressure conditions relevant to hypersonic flight. “In researching my science fair project, I learned a lot about physics and math laws,” says Wempen, who is continuing to receive mentorship this school year and will come back to the laboratory next summer to continue his research. “As an intern, I was able to apply these theories to real-world scenarios relevant to an expanding field with lots of unanswered science questions. My mentors were quick to jump in when I didn't have the technical knowledge about specific subjects such as advanced calculus. The lab moves at a fast pace, even for interns, and it was exciting to see how quickly me and the other interns were able to learn and develop our projects.” Veronica Cheng, now a senior at Westford Academy in Westford, Massachusetts, also felt proud about what she accomplished in a short amount of time. She came into her internship in the Advanced Concepts and Technologies Group — whose expertise is developing radar, electronic warfare, and system-of-systems technologies for air and missile defense — with limited knowledge of radars and not having taken any calculus courses. Mentor Kristan Tuttle helped bring her up to speed, and, on her own, Cheng read technical documentation on radars and user manuals for assembling evaluation boards with the firmware necessary for testing a thumb-size car radar. Armed with this knowledge, Cheng performed calculations needed to test the range of this radar. A corner reflector — a structure made of perpendicular, intersecting flat surfaces — served as the test target. “I moved the corner reflector away from the radar at different distances to see when and where it would show up,” explains Cheng. “I had to figure out the dimensions of the reflector that would be compatible with the radar and interpret my results from the radar graphs I generated. I really like math and figuring out how things work based on calculations.” For Cheng, the internship confirmed electrical engineering is the major she intends to pursue in college. Like Gordon, she had some exposure to the field through her participation on a robotics team, but she didn't know what it would entail in the real world. Beyond the technical knowledge they acquired, the high schoolers developed a new set of social skills, particularly in networking with other interns and staff and presenting their research. Like the college summer research interns, the high schoolers were invited to several events, including presentations from the laboratory’s research divisions; a National Intern Day celebration; the I3C (for Intern Innovative Idea Challenge) shark tank, where teams of summer research students at the college level present their ideas to a judging panel of laboratory leadership; and an end-of-summer breakfast to engage with fellow interns. Their mentors also took them on tours of facilities and hosted lunch get-togethers with other group staff.  Mentor reflections Students weren't the only ones who benefited from the experience. The mentors note how mentoring enabled them to enhance their communication skills, reignite their passion for their respective field, and consider problems from new perspectives. “It's been rewarding to learn how to define a problem for someone in a way that makes sense for them,” says Brown. “Serving as mentors challenged us to make topics we work on, which almost always require a college education, accessible to a high schooler,” says Palladino. “Seeing our work through an intern's eyes is a good reminder of how exciting and interesting it is,” adds Shuter. “It's cool to hear ideas totally out of the box and be asked questions that get us thinking, too.” Though the internships have concluded, they are only the beginning of what the laboratory hopes will be long-term interaction and engagement. “We aim to maintain relationships with the students over time, with groups encouraged to keep in touch with their mentees,” says Hackett. In future years, the goal is to expand the program, recruiting more mentors across all of the laboratory's R&D areas to serve more students. For information about the summer 2023 program, contact Gary Hackett.

Don’t Forget the State Houses: The Five States Where Democrats Could Take Control

It’s almost Election Day, and everything is on fire.…which is, frankly, normal. Particularly since 2016, every Election Day feels a little more urgent these days than it used to.But not all fires are created equal. Federal elections are your ordinary, throw-a-match-on-something-soaked-in-gasoline fires: straightforward, each a little different but fundamentally operating under the same set of rules and norms. State-level elections, however, are coal-seam fires burning deep underground: more difficult to see and keep track of but with the power to fundamentally change how ordinary humans live their lives for many years to come.State legislatures have an outsized impact on Americans’ lives; if there’s an issue you care about, your state house member has passed a law impacting it—education, traffic, environmental protections, gun safety, health care, the economy, voting rights, reproductive freedom—well, you get it. While legislation often takes months or even years to make its way through Congress, any given state’s legislature passes anywhere from dozens to hundreds of laws each year. Further, the aftermath of the 2020 election revealed the extent to which some lawmakers are willing to go to usurp the will of their states’ voters in service of installing the candidate of their own choosing. Dozens of legislators across the country participated either in attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election results or the January 6 riot. Hundreds more of these election deniers are on the ballot this year, and they’re certain to be a threat to free and equal elections in 2024. Fittingly, the home of the most disastrous coal-seam fire in our nation’s history is also one of the top priorities in the state legislative landscape this year: Pennsylvania.The Keystone State is one of the few swing states where Democrats have non-GOP gerrymandered legislative maps for the first time in decades, though the road to the majority in both the state House and Senate remains pretty steeply uphill; flipping these chambers from Republican to Democratic control is likely to be a two-cycle endeavor.Specifically, Democrats need to flip 12 seats (of 203) in the House to win majority control of that chamber. The Pennsylvania Senate has staggered terms, and half of the upper chamber’s 50 seats are on the ballot in November; Democrats need to flip four of them to win a majority.Speaking of states with freshly un-gerrymandered maps, Michigan is another where Democrats are positioned to make significant gains this year. Thanks to a successful 2018 citizen-initiated ballot measure that created an independent redistricting commission, Democrats have a solid shot at flipping at least one chamber—and possibly even both!—of the GOP-controlled Michigan legislature for the first time in a decade.Democrats need to flip just two House seats (of 110) to take control of that chamber, and flipping four state Senate seats (of 38) would give Dems a majority there.Arizona is another state where Democrats appear poised to flip one or both legislative chambers, but here, looks are somewhat deceiving. Dems need to flip just two seats (of 60) in the state House to take majority control there, and flipping just one seat in the Senate would break the Republican majority and tie the chamber 15-15.The path to majority control of either chamber is narrower than it appears, however; just a few of the districts on the state’s new legislative maps are considered competitive, and since districts in Arizona are nested (two House seats and one Senate seat within each), two or three competitive districts comes out to four to six competitive House seats and two to three competitive Senate seats. Democrats absolutely have a path to a majority in both chambers, but it’s narrower than it appears.Minnesota is a state attracting almost no national attention this year in terms of federal or statewide races, but for folks who work in and around statehouse elections, the North Star State is a top priority. As one of the few states with a divided legislature—Democrats control the House, Republicans control the Senate—both parties have a lot to gain from both protecting and flipping a chamber. If Democrats hold on to the governorship and the state House, they have a chance to pick up a governing trifecta here by flipping the State Senate.Netting two State Senate seats (out of 67) would give Democrats control of that chamber and a shot at full control of state government. The 134-member House chamber is currently split 69 D/63 R (plus one independent and one vacancy). Republicans need a net gain of at least four seats to win majority control.The final state of the top five is Nevada, where national politicos are in a full-on frenzy over federal and statewide contests—Republicans smell blood in the water, and Democrats are the chum. Democrats currently have full trifecta control of government in the Silver State (governorship, State Assembly, State Senate) and Republicans are itching to blow it up. The Nevada Senate is especially vulnerable, since Republicans only need to flip two of the 11 seats on the ballot this November (terms here are staggered—the other 10 members are up in 2024). The battle for chamber control is a tougher one for the GOP in the Assembly, as they’ll need to flip five of those 42 seats to win the majority.Now, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Arizona, Minnesota, and Nevada aren’t the only states with watch-worthy legislative races, but the possibility of shifts in majority control elevates them to the top of any smart list. If you’re really looking to expand your horizons, however, Maine, Colorado, Wisconsin, and North Carolina should absolutely be on your radar. But when everything’s on fire, it’s only natural to conserve one’s water—er, attention. No matter where you live or what you care about, a lot of elections are happening at every level of the ballot that will have tangible impacts on your life.It’s easy to keep an eye on the big, bright, smoky fires. And arguably, they’re easier to douse—or, for reign in this tortured conceit, easier to hold these officeholders accountable and even flip these seats in two, four, or six years. The coal-seam fire of statehouse races, however, is coming straight off of a round of redistricting that has likely cemented legislative chamber control for one party or the other (more for Republicans than Democrats) for the next decade. This list isn’t short out of any desire for brevity; it’s simply where we are now in terms of legislative chamber competitiveness. General lack of attention and resources (from Democrats, especially) is likely to keep this list short over the next several election cycles. But maybe, just maybe, more folks will start to notice this dangerous fire of GOP statehouse hegemony burning beneath our feet.

It’s almost Election Day, and everything is on fire.…which is, frankly, normal. Particularly since 2016, every Election Day feels a little more urgent these days than it used to.But not all fires are created equal. Federal elections are your ordinary, throw-a-match-on-something-soaked-in-gasoline fires: straightforward, each a little different but fundamentally operating under the same set of rules and norms. State-level elections, however, are coal-seam fires burning deep underground: more difficult to see and keep track of but with the power to fundamentally change how ordinary humans live their lives for many years to come.State legislatures have an outsized impact on Americans’ lives; if there’s an issue you care about, your state house member has passed a law impacting it—education, traffic, environmental protections, gun safety, health care, the economy, voting rights, reproductive freedom—well, you get it. While legislation often takes months or even years to make its way through Congress, any given state’s legislature passes anywhere from dozens to hundreds of laws each year. Further, the aftermath of the 2020 election revealed the extent to which some lawmakers are willing to go to usurp the will of their states’ voters in service of installing the candidate of their own choosing. Dozens of legislators across the country participated either in attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election results or the January 6 riot. Hundreds more of these election deniers are on the ballot this year, and they’re certain to be a threat to free and equal elections in 2024. Fittingly, the home of the most disastrous coal-seam fire in our nation’s history is also one of the top priorities in the state legislative landscape this year: Pennsylvania.The Keystone State is one of the few swing states where Democrats have non-GOP gerrymandered legislative maps for the first time in decades, though the road to the majority in both the state House and Senate remains pretty steeply uphill; flipping these chambers from Republican to Democratic control is likely to be a two-cycle endeavor.Specifically, Democrats need to flip 12 seats (of 203) in the House to win majority control of that chamber. The Pennsylvania Senate has staggered terms, and half of the upper chamber’s 50 seats are on the ballot in November; Democrats need to flip four of them to win a majority.Speaking of states with freshly un-gerrymandered maps, Michigan is another where Democrats are positioned to make significant gains this year. Thanks to a successful 2018 citizen-initiated ballot measure that created an independent redistricting commission, Democrats have a solid shot at flipping at least one chamber—and possibly even both!—of the GOP-controlled Michigan legislature for the first time in a decade.Democrats need to flip just two House seats (of 110) to take control of that chamber, and flipping four state Senate seats (of 38) would give Dems a majority there.Arizona is another state where Democrats appear poised to flip one or both legislative chambers, but here, looks are somewhat deceiving. Dems need to flip just two seats (of 60) in the state House to take majority control there, and flipping just one seat in the Senate would break the Republican majority and tie the chamber 15-15.The path to majority control of either chamber is narrower than it appears, however; just a few of the districts on the state’s new legislative maps are considered competitive, and since districts in Arizona are nested (two House seats and one Senate seat within each), two or three competitive districts comes out to four to six competitive House seats and two to three competitive Senate seats. Democrats absolutely have a path to a majority in both chambers, but it’s narrower than it appears.Minnesota is a state attracting almost no national attention this year in terms of federal or statewide races, but for folks who work in and around statehouse elections, the North Star State is a top priority. As one of the few states with a divided legislature—Democrats control the House, Republicans control the Senate—both parties have a lot to gain from both protecting and flipping a chamber. If Democrats hold on to the governorship and the state House, they have a chance to pick up a governing trifecta here by flipping the State Senate.Netting two State Senate seats (out of 67) would give Democrats control of that chamber and a shot at full control of state government. The 134-member House chamber is currently split 69 D/63 R (plus one independent and one vacancy). Republicans need a net gain of at least four seats to win majority control.The final state of the top five is Nevada, where national politicos are in a full-on frenzy over federal and statewide contests—Republicans smell blood in the water, and Democrats are the chum. Democrats currently have full trifecta control of government in the Silver State (governorship, State Assembly, State Senate) and Republicans are itching to blow it up. The Nevada Senate is especially vulnerable, since Republicans only need to flip two of the 11 seats on the ballot this November (terms here are staggered—the other 10 members are up in 2024). The battle for chamber control is a tougher one for the GOP in the Assembly, as they’ll need to flip five of those 42 seats to win the majority.Now, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Arizona, Minnesota, and Nevada aren’t the only states with watch-worthy legislative races, but the possibility of shifts in majority control elevates them to the top of any smart list. If you’re really looking to expand your horizons, however, Maine, Colorado, Wisconsin, and North Carolina should absolutely be on your radar. But when everything’s on fire, it’s only natural to conserve one’s water—er, attention. No matter where you live or what you care about, a lot of elections are happening at every level of the ballot that will have tangible impacts on your life.It’s easy to keep an eye on the big, bright, smoky fires. And arguably, they’re easier to douse—or, for reign in this tortured conceit, easier to hold these officeholders accountable and even flip these seats in two, four, or six years. The coal-seam fire of statehouse races, however, is coming straight off of a round of redistricting that has likely cemented legislative chamber control for one party or the other (more for Republicans than Democrats) for the next decade. This list isn’t short out of any desire for brevity; it’s simply where we are now in terms of legislative chamber competitiveness. General lack of attention and resources (from Democrats, especially) is likely to keep this list short over the next several election cycles. But maybe, just maybe, more folks will start to notice this dangerous fire of GOP statehouse hegemony burning beneath our feet.

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