Classes of United States Senators
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Classes of United States Senators

The three classes of United States senators are made up of 33 or 34 Senate seats each. The purpose of the classes is to determine which Senate seats will be up for election in a given year. The three groups are staggered such that senators in only one of the classes are up for election in any two-year cycle, rather than having all 100 seats up for election at once. Thus, the 33 Senate seats of class 1 were up for election in 2018, the elections for the 33 seats of class 2 took place in 2020, and the elections for the 34 seats of class 3 will be held in 2022.

The three classes were established by Article I, Section 3, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution. The actual division was originally performed by the Senate in May 1789 by lot, with a rule being that a state's two seats had to be in different classes.[1] Whenever a new state subsequently joined the union, its two senate seats were permanently assigned to two different classes by coin toss, while keeping the three classes as close to the same size as possible.[2]

A senator's description as junior or senior senator is not related to their class. Rather, a state's senior U.S. senator is the one with the greater seniority in the Senate. This is mostly based on length of service.

History and constitutional footing

When the Founding Fathers agreed to give six-year terms to senators, they also decided to stagger the elections, so that a third of the Senate was up for election every two years. With this staggered turnover, the Founding Fathers wanted to promote stability in the Senate, and encourage senators to deliberate measures over time, rather than risk a rapid turnover of the entire chamber every six years. At the same time, they wanted more frequent elections as opposed to waiting every six years, to prevent senators from permanently combining for "sinister purposes".[1]

The three classes of the Senate were then specified by Article I, Section 3 of the U. S. Constitution:

Immediately after they shall be assembled in Consequence of the first Election, they shall be divided as equally as may be into three Classes. The Seats of the Senators of the first Class shall be vacated at the Expiration of the second Year, of the second Class at the Expiration of the fourth Year, and of the third Class at the Expiration of the sixth Year, so that one third may be chosen every second Year.

This was achieved in May 1789, several weeks after the first Senate assembled. Only 20 senators from 10 states were present; North Carolina and Rhode Island and Providence Plantations had not yet ratified the U.S. Constitution, and New York, because of its late ratification, had not yet selected its senators.[3] To decide on how to implement the division into classes, on May 11 the Senate appointed a committee consisting of Senators Ellsworth, Carroll, and Few.[4] In accordance with their recommendation, on May 14 the Senate divided the members into three classes:[5]

Thursday, May 14, 1789. The committee appointed to consider and report a mode of carrying into effect the provision in the second clause of the third section of the first article of the Constitution, reported:

Whereupon, Resolved, That the Senators be divided into three classes:

That three papers of an equal size, numbered 1, 2, and 3, be, by the Secretary, rolled up and put into a box, and drawn by Mr. Langdon, Mr. Wingate, and Mr. Dalton, in behalf of the respective classes in which each of them are placed; and that the classes shall vacate their seats in the Senate according to the order of numbers drawn for them, beginning with number one: And that, when Senators shall take their seats from States that have not yet appointed Senators, they shall be placed by lot in the foregoing classes, but in such manner as shall keep the classes as nearly equal as may be in numbers.

On the next day, May 15, the term expiration of each class was determined by drawing lots.[5] Lot 1 was drawn by Dalton, 2 by Wingate, and 3 Langdon.

Upon the expiration of a senator's term of any length, someone starts a new six-year term as senator (based on election by the state legislatures until the Seventeenth Amendment required direct popular election of senators).

Because each state is represented by two senators, regardless of population, each class varies in electorate and populace. Since the early nineteenth century it so happens Class 2 senators cumulatively co-represent 50-60% of the population; senators from each of the other two classes: 70-75% of the population of the United States.[6] (Because each state has two senators, the sum total of these figures is 200%, not 100%.) Relatively populous states California, New York, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Ohio have their senators in classes 1 and 3, provoking this imbalance.

Class 1

Map shows the classes in each U.S. State:
  Classes 1 and 2
  Classes 1 and 3
  Classes 2 and 3

Class 1 consists of:

States with a class 1 senator: Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

Class 2

Class 2 consists of:

States with a class 2 senator: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

Class 3

Class 3 consists of:

States with a class 3 senator: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin.

Election cycle years

This table is re-sorted every two years so that the next scheduled election year appears at the top.

Class Most Recent
Election Year
Next Scheduled
Election Year
Class 3 2016 2022
Class 1 2018 2024
Class 2 2020 2026

Comparison with other U.S. general elections

Basic rotation of U.S. general elections (fixed-terms only[1])
Year 2020 2021 2022 2023 2024
Type Presidential Off-yeara Midterm Off-yearb Presidential
President Yes No Yes
Senate Class II (33 seats) No Class III (34 seats) No Class I (33 seats)
House All 435 seats[2] No All 435 seats[3] No All 435 seats[2]
Gubernatorial 11 states, 2 territories
DE, IN, MO, MT, NH, NC, ND, UT, VT, WA, WV, AS, PR
2 states
NJ, VA
36 states, DC, & 3 territories[4]
AL, AK, AZ, AR, CA, CO, CT,FL, GA, HI, ID, IL, IA, KS, ME, MD, MA, MI, MN, NE, NV, NH, NM, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, VT, WI, WY, DC (Mayor), GU, MP, VI
3 states
KY, LA, MS
11 states, 2 territories
DE, IN, MO, MT, NH, NC, ND, UT, VT, WA, WV, AS, PR
Lieutenant Governor[5] 5 states, 1 territory
DE , MO , NC , VT , WA , AS
1 state
VA
10 states [6]
AL , AR , CA , GA , ID , NV , OK , RI , TX , VT
2 states
LA , MS
5 states, 1 territory
DE , MO , NC , VT , WA , AS
Secretary of State 8 states
MO, MT, NC, OR, PA, VT, WA, WV
None 26 states
AL, AZ, AR, CA, CO, CT, GA, ID, IL, IN, IA, KS, MA, MI, MN, NE, NV, NM, ND, OH, RI, SC, TX, VT, WI, WY
2 states
KY, MS
8 states
MO, MT, NC, OR, PA, VT, WA, WV
Attorney General 10 states
IN, MO, MT, NC, OR, PA, UT, VT, WA, WV
1 state
VA
29 states, DC, & 2 territories
AL, AZ, AR, CA, CO, CT, FL, GA, ID, IL, IA, KS, MD, MA, MI, MN, NE, NV, NM, NY, ND, OH, OK, RI, SC, TX, VT, WI, WY, DC, GU, MP
2 states
KY, MS
10 states
IN, MO, MT, NC, OR, PA, UT, VT, WA, WV
State Treasurer[7] 9 states
MO, NC, ND, OR, PA, UT, VT, WA, WV
None 23 states
AL, AZ, AR, CA, CO, CT, FL (CFO), ID, IL, IN, IA, KS, MA, NE, NV, NM, OH, OK, RI, SC, VT, WI, WY
2 states
KY, MS
9 states
MO, NC, ND, OR, PA, UT, VT, WA, WV
State Comptroller/Controller None None 7 states
CA, CT, IL, MD, NV, NY, SC
None None
State Auditor 9 states
MT, NC, ND, PA, UT, VT, WA, WV, GU
None 15 states
AL, AR, DE, IN, IA, MA, MN, MO, NE, NM, OH, OK, SD, VT, WY
1 state
KY
9 states
MT, NC, ND, PA, UT, VT, WA, WV, GU
Superintendent of Public Instruction 4 states
MT, NC, ND, WA
1 state
WI
8 states
AZ, CA, GA, ID, OK,
SC, SD (incl. Land), WY
None 4 states
MT, NC, ND, WA
Agriculture Commissioner 2 states
NC, WV
None 6 states
AL, FL, GA, IA, ND, SC
2 states
KY, MS
2 states
NC, WV
Insurance Commissioner 3 states
NC, ND, WA,
None 5 states
DE, CA GA, KS, OK,
2 states
LA, MS
3 states
NC, ND, WA,
Other Commissioners & Elected Officials 1 state
NC (Labor)
None 8 states
AZ (Mine Inspector), AR (Land), GA (Land), NM (Land), ND (Tax), OK (Labor), OR (Labor), TX (Land)
None 1 state
NC (Labor)
State Legislatures[8] 44 states, DC, & 5 territories
AK, AZ, AR, CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, GA, HI, ID, IL, IN, IO, KS, KY, ME, MA, MI, MN, MO, MN, NE, NV, NH, NM, NY, NC, ND, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VT, WA, WV, WI, WY, DC, AS, GU, MP, PR, VI
2 states
VA, NJ
46 states, DC, & 4 territories
AK, AL, AZ, AR, CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, GA, HI, ID, IL, IN, IO, KS, KY, ME, MA, MD, MI, MN, MO, MN, NE, NV, NH, NM, NY, NC, ND, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VT, WA, WV, WI, WY, DC, AS, GU, MP, VI
4 states
LA, MS, NJ, VA
44 states, DC, & 5 territories
AK, AZ, AR, CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, GA, HI, ID, IL, IN, IO, KA, KY, ME, MA, MI, MN, MO, MN, NE, NV, NH, NM, NY, NC, ND, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VT, WA, WV, WI, WY, DC, AS, GU, MP, PR, VI
State Boards of Education [9] 8 states, DC, & 3 territories
AL, CO, KS, MI, NE, OH, TX, UT, DC, GU, MP, VI
None 8 states, DC, & 3 territories
AL, CO, KS, MI, NE, OH, TX, UT, DC, GU, MP, VI
None 8 states, DC, & 3 territories
AL, CO, KS, MI, NE, OH, TX, UT, DC, GU, MP, VI
Other state and local offices Varies
1 This table does not include special elections, which may be held to fill political offices that have become vacant between the regularly scheduled elections.
2 As well as all six non-voting delegates of the U.S. House.
3 As well as five non-voting delegates of the U.S. House. The Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico instead serves a four-year term that coincides with the presidential term.
4 The Governors of New Hampshire and Vermont are each elected to two-year terms. The other 48 state governors and all five territorial governors serve four-year terms.
5 In 26 states and 3 territories the Lieutenant Governor is elected on the same ticket as the Governor: AK, CO, CT, FL, HI, IL, IN, IA, KS, KY, MD, MA, MI, MN, MT, NE, NJ, NM, NY, ND, OH, PA, SC, SD, UT, WI, GU, MP, VI.
6 Like the Governor, Vermont's other officials are each elected to two-year terms. All other state officers for all other states listed serve four-year terms.
7 In some states, the comptroller or controller has the duties equivalent to a treasurer. There are some states with both positions, so both have been included separately.
8 This list does not differentiate chambers of each legislature. Forty-nine state legislatures are bicameral; Nebraska is unicameral. Additionally, Washington, DC, Guam, and the US Virgin Islands are unicameral; the other territories are bicameral. All legislatures have varying terms for their members. Many have two-year terms for the lower house and four-year terms for the upper house. Some have all two-year terms and some all four-year terms. Arkansas has a combination of both two- and four-year terms in the same chamber.
9 Most states not listed here have a board appointed by the Governor and legislature. All boards listed here have members that serve four-year staggered terms, except Colorado, which has six-year terms, and Guam, which has two-year terms. Most are elected statewide, some are elected from districts. Louisiana, Ohio, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands have additional members who are appointed.

List of current senators by class

The following table lists the senators by party by class.

Class 1 Class 2 Class 3 Total
Democratic 21 12 12 45
Republican 10 21 22 53
Independent 2 0 0 2
Last election 2018 2014 2016  
Next election 2024 2020 2022  
TOTAL 33 33 34 100

The following table lists the senators by state and by class, including the states' Cook Partisan Voting Index ratings, which indicate the party direction in which a state tends to lean and the extent of that lean.

State Class 1 Class 2 Class 3 Cook PVI
Alabama -- Doug Jones (D) Richard Shelby (R) R+13
Alaska -- Dan Sullivan (R) Lisa Murkowski (R) R+9
Arizona Kyrsten Sinema (D) -- Martha McSally (R) R+5
Arkansas -- Tom Cotton (R) John Boozman (R) R+15
California Dianne Feinstein (D) -- Kamala Harris (D) D+12
Colorado -- Cory Gardner (R) Michael Bennet (D) D+1
Connecticut Chris Murphy (D) -- Richard Blumenthal (D) D+6
Delaware Tom Carper (D) Chris Coons (D) -- D+6
Florida Rick Scott (R) -- Marco Rubio (R) R+2
Georgia -- David Perdue (R) Kelly Loeffler (R) R+5
Hawaii Mazie Hirono (D) -- Brian Schatz (D) D+18
Idaho -- Jim Risch (R) Mike Crapo (R) R+19
Illinois -- Dick Durbin (D) Tammy Duckworth (D) D+7
Indiana Mike Braun (R) -- Todd Young (R) R+9
Iowa -- Joni Ernst (R) Chuck Grassley (R) R+3
Kansas -- Pat Roberts (R) Jerry Moran (R) R+13
Kentucky -- Mitch McConnell (R) Rand Paul (R) R+15
Louisiana -- Bill Cassidy (R) John Kennedy (R) R+11
Maine Angus King (I) Susan Collins (R) -- D+3
Maryland Ben Cardin (D) -- Chris Van Hollen (D) D+12
Massachusetts Elizabeth Warren (D) Ed Markey (D) -- D+12
Michigan Debbie Stabenow (D) Gary Peters (D) -- D+1
Minnesota Amy Klobuchar (D) Tina Smith (D) -- D+1
Mississippi Roger Wicker (R) Cindy Hyde-Smith (R) -- R+9
Missouri Josh Hawley (R) -- Roy Blunt (R) R+9
Montana Jon Tester (D) Steve Daines (R) -- R+11
Nebraska Deb Fischer (R) Ben Sasse (R) -- R+14
Nevada Jacky Rosen (D) -- Catherine Cortez Masto (D) D+1
New Hampshire -- Jeanne Shaheen (D) Maggie Hassan (D) Even
New Jersey Bob Menendez (D) Cory Booker (D) -- D+7
New Mexico Martin Heinrich (D) Tom Udall (D) -- D+3
New York Kirsten Gillibrand (D) -- Chuck Schumer (D) D+12
North Carolina -- Thom Tillis (R) Richard Burr (R) R+3
North Dakota Kevin Cramer (R) -- John Hoeven (R) R+17
Ohio Sherrod Brown (D) -- Rob Portman (R) R+3
Oklahoma -- Jim Inhofe (R) James Lankford (R) R+20
Oregon -- Jeff Merkley (D) Ron Wyden (D) D+5
Pennsylvania Bob Casey Jr. (D) -- Pat Toomey (R) Even
Rhode Island Sheldon Whitehouse (D) Jack Reed (D) -- D+10
South Carolina -- Lindsey Graham (R) Tim Scott (R) R+8
South Dakota -- Mike Rounds (R) John Thune (R) R+14
Tennessee Marsha Blackburn (R) Lamar Alexander (R) -- R+14
Texas Ted Cruz (R) John Cornyn (R) -- R+8
Utah Mitt Romney (R) -- Mike Lee (R) R+20
Vermont Bernie Sanders (I) -- Patrick Leahy (D) D+15
Virginia Tim Kaine (D) Mark Warner (D) -- D+1
Washington Maria Cantwell (D) -- Patty Murray (D) D+7
West Virginia Joe Manchin (D) Shelley Moore Capito (R) -- R+19
Wisconsin Tammy Baldwin (D) -- Ron Johnson (R) Even
Wyoming John Barrasso (R) Mike Enzi (R) -- R+25

Addition of new states to the Union

When a new state is admitted to the Union, its two senators have terms that correspond to those of two different classes, among the three classes defined below. Which two classes is determined by a scheme that keeps the three classes as close to the same size as possible; one that avoids the largest class differing by more than one senator from the smallest class.[2] A coin toss determines which new senator enters which of the classes selected to be expanded.[2]

This means at least one of any new state's first pair of senators has a term of more than two and up to six years, and the other has a term that is either two or four years shorter.

When the last state, Hawaii, was admitted in 1959, candidates for the Senate ran either for "seat A" or "seat B". The new senators, in a process managed by the Secretary of the Senate, drew lots to determine which of the two would join the class 1 (whose term would end in five-and-a-half years), and which would join class 3 (whose term would end in three-and-a-half years).[7][8]

Should a 51st state be admitted, it would receive senators in classes 1 and 2, at which point all three classes would have 34 senators.[2]

References

  1. ^ a b "The Senate and the United States Constitution". senate.gov. Retrieved 2011.
  2. ^ a b c d "Frequently Asked Questions about a New Congress". United States Senate. Retrieved 2013.
  3. ^ "Senators Receive Class Assignments". Senate History. United States Senate. Retrieved 2015.
  4. ^ "Annals of Congress". Constitution Society. Retrieved 2016.
  5. ^ a b "Journal of the Senate of the United States of America". Journal of the Senate of the United States of America, 1789-1793. Library of Congress. May 14, 1789. Retrieved 2013.
  6. ^ Skelley, Geoffrey (May 29, 2014). "Senate Class Population Imbalance". Sabato's Crystal Ball. Retrieved 2014.
  7. ^ Davies, Lawrence E. (July 30, 1959). "G.O.P. Wins Governorship in Hawaii's First State Vote". The New York Times.
  8. ^ Trussell, C. P. (August 25, 1959). "Congress Hails Three New Members from 50th State". The New York Times.

External links


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