Election 2012

Control of State State Legislatures Features Big in Election

Supermajorities leave the minority party to be steamrolled

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Democrats have been the majority party in the California Senate for more than 40 years, and even the most optimistic Republicans don't believe that will change on Election Day. Nonetheless, both parties will be in suspense as the election results roll in on Tuesday night because there is one political prize that still eludes the Democrats: a supermajority.

California Democrats are only two seats short of a two-thirds majority in the Senate. In California and many other states, a party with a supermajority—usually two-thirds of the seats—possesses greatly expanded powers. Depending on the state, supermajorities are needed to approve constitutional amendments, expedite legislative business and override a governor's vetoes. With one, the majority party can render the minority party virtually irrelevant in the policy-making process.