Which political party will control the Senate when the next legislative term starts on January 3, 2023?
I don’t know.
(I hope someone gets the reference.)
Five seats are still undecided, three of which have implications for control. If the Democratic Party wins 2 out of 3 seats, they will control the Senate by virtue of either a 50-50 tie plus the Vice President as tiebreaker, or by a 51-49 majority. If the Republicans win all three, they will control the Senate with a 51-49 majority.
Here are the seats whose Senators are still unknown, ordered from least to most interesting.
Nebraska Group 3 (next election 2026): Ben Sasse will resign immediately at the beginning of the next term to become President of the University of Florida, a job for which he is extremely well qualified. He has been one of the few Republicans to even try to stand up to Trump, so I wish him well. His successor will be named by the Governor of Nebraska, pending an off-cycle special election in 2024. It’s technically possible that Republican Governor Pete Ricketts will name a Democratic Senator, but hahahahahahahahahaha no.
Alaska Group 3 (current cycle): Alaska has a weird system using Australia-style ranked choice voting, independent of party. Currently, Trump-backed Republican candidate Kelly Tshibaka leads incumbent Republican Lisa Murkowski. The margin is hard to evaluate because of the ranked choice voting system, but it looks like the predicted comfortable victory by Tshibaka will turn into a close victory. But a win is a win – and even if Murkowski comes back, the seat will still be held by Republicans.
Arizona Group 3 (current cycle): With 82 percent of the vote counted, Democratic incumbent Mark Kelly currently leads Republican challenger Blake Masters by 115,000 votes, for a 52%-46% edge (plus a few percentage points for minor parties). Most of the remaining ballots are from Maricopa County (Phoenix and suburbs) and/or are mail-in ballots, both of which lean Democratic. Kelly will almost certainly be re-elected.
Nevada Group 3 (current cycle): This one is hella close. With 90 percent of the vote counted, Nevada’s Republican Attorney General Adam Laxalt leads Democratic incumbent Catherine Cortez Masto by just 9,000 votes, just a 49%-48% edge. With mostly mail-in ballots from Clark County remaining, Cortez Masto could still win – but so far the margin of those appears to be 50-50 as Laxalt holds a slight edge. I have no idea what will happen here. If Laxalt holds, then once again it all comes down to the runoff election in…
Georgia Group 3 (current cycle): Georgia has a Brazil-like system where, if no candidate gets a majority, the election heads to a second round with the top two candidates. Democratic incumbent Reverend Raphael Warnock leads Republican challenger Herschel Walker by 35,000 votes for a 49.5%-48.5% margin, but neither candidate got the required majority of votes cast to win outright. The runoff is scheduled for Tuesday, December 6th. Again, this one could go either way. Runoff elections tend to have higher turnout, which would favor Warnock. But without a Libertarian candidate to pull votes away, Walker could do better in a one-on-one matchup.
So where does that leave us? On the news, you have probably seen visualizations of the composition of the Senate, either as a map or as a series of dots in a half-circle. Both visualizations have major disadvantages. The map massively overstates the importance of large-area, low-population states, resulting in a skewed view. The dot-half-circle view fairly represents the balance of power by depicting area, but removes all geographic context.
With my passion for data visualization and mapmaking, I figured we can do better. So here is the state of the U.S. Senate at this moment. All states have equal areas in the map, are in their approximate relative locations, and are surrounded by yellow borders. Each hexagon shows one Senator, gives that Senator’s last name, and is color coded by party. Red means Republican, blue means Democratic, and light blue means independents who vote with the Democratic Party. The red hexagons with ? labels mean that we know the Senator will be Republican, but we don’t know which Republican. The white hexagons with ? labels mean that we don’t know either the next Senator or the next Senator’s party. Click on the image for a larger view.
I’ll keep updating the map as we learn more. Check back here to learn what the future of the USA will look like!