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Off-year election


Off-year election

Off-year elections[1][2] refer to general elections in the United States that are held in odd-numbered years. These elections rarely feature any election to a federal office, few state legislative elections, and very few gubernatorial elections. Instead, the vast majority of these off-year elections are held at the municipal level. On the ballot are many mayors, a wide variety of citizen initiatives in various states, and many more local public offices. Off-years may also feature a number of special elections to fill vacancies in various federal, state and local offices.

Because off-year elections feature far fewer races than either presidential or midterm elections, they generate far lower voter turnout than even-numbered election years.[3][4]


  • Federal elections 1
  • State elections 2
  • Local elections 3
  • Comparison with other U.S. General Elections 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6

Federal elections

Off-year elections only feature special elections, if any, to the U.S. Congress to fill vacant seats, usually either due to incumbents resigning or dying while in office. Regularly scheduled elections for the Senate and the House of Representatives are always held in even-numbered years.

Special elections are never held for the U.S. President. If the President resigns or dies while in office, the successor is determined by the presidential line of succession, as specified by the United States Constitution and the Presidential Succession Act.

State elections

Five states elect their respective governors to four-year terms during off-year elections: Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey and Virginia.[5] Kentucky, Louisiana, and Mississippi hold their gubernatorial elections during the off-year before the presidential election; and those in New Jersey and Virginia are held in the off-year after the presidential election. Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, and Virginia also hold off-year state legislative elections.

Off-years may also feature a wide variety of citizen initiatives in various states, as well as a number of special elections to fill various state offices. States may also allow recall elections, such as the 2003 California gubernatorial recall election, when California voters replaced Governor Gray Davis with Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Local elections

A majority of races held during off-year elections are those for offices at the municipal and local level. Many major cities around the country elect their mayors during off-years, including the top five most populous cities: New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, and Philadelphia. However, as a matter of convenience and cost saving, many other city and local governments may instead hold their elections during even-numbered years to coincide with either the presidential or midterm elections.

Comparison with other U.S. General Elections

See also


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