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Scholars in political science have spent a great deal of time researching the impact of women and minorities on the legislative process and on voter participation and trust. Some research demonstrates that female and minority representatives are more likely to advocate for policies that are of interest to or will benefit minorities, women, and children.

Chris T. Owens. 2005. “Black Substantive Representation in State Legislatures from 1971–1999,” Social Science Quarterly 84, No. 5: 779–791; Robert R. Preuhs. 2005. “Descriptive Representation, Legislative Leadership, and Direct Democracy: Latino Influence on English Only Laws in the States, 1984–2002,” State Politics and Policy Quarterly 5, No. 3: 203–224; Sue Thomas. 1991. “The Impact of Women on State Legislative Policies.” The Journal of Politics 53, No. 4: 958–976.
Other research suggests that the presence of African American and Latino representatives increases voter turnout by these groups.
Rene Rocha, Caroline Tolbert, Daniel Bowen, and Christopher Clark. 2010. “Race and Turnout: Does Descriptive Representation in State Legislatures Increase Minority Voting?” Political Research Quarterly 63, No. 4: 890–907.
Thus, increased diversity in state legislature s can have consequences for voter engagement and for the type of legislation pursued and passed within these bodies.

In 2014, twenty-six states had Republican majorities in the state house and senate, while in twenty states Democratic majorities were the norm. In just four states, party control was split so that the Democratic Party maintained control of one house while the Republican Party maintained control of the other.

“2014 Legislative Partisan Composition,” http://www.ncsl.org/portals/1/ImageLibrary/WebImages/Elections/2014_Leg_Party_Control_map.gif (March 14, 2016).
[link] illustrates the partisan composition across the United States. Note that states in New England and the West Coast are more likely to be unified behind the Democratic Party, while Republicans control legislatures throughout the South and in large parts of the Midwest. This alignment largely reflects differing political ideologies, with the more liberal, urban areas of the country leaning Democratic while the more conservative, rural areas are Republican.

A map of the United States titled “Legislative Control of State House and Senate by State, 2015”. Nevada, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Arizona, Alaska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire are marked Republican. Oregon, California, Hawaii, Illinois, DC, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Vermont are marked Democrat. Washington, Colorado, New Mexico, Minnesota, Iowa, Indiana, Kentucky, Virginia, New York, and Maine are marked Split. Nebraska is marked Unicameral.
This map illustrates which party is in control of the house and senate within each state. When one party controls the senate and another party controls the house, the partisan composition is split. Nebraska is white because the state has nonpartisan elections and only one chamber (senate).

Like diversity, party composition has consequences for policymaking. Governors who are not from the same party as the one controlling the legislature can find it more difficult to achieve their agenda. This governing circumstance is popularly referred to as divided government . In a time of divided government, a governor may have to work harder to build relationships and to broker consensus. In addition, when state party control is divided between the legislative and executive branches, the governor may find that legislators are more likely to muster the numbers to overturn at least some of their vetoes. In contrast, when the governor’s own party controls the legislature—a situation known as unified government —conventional wisdom suggests that they will have a smoother and more productive relationship with the legislature.

Questions & Answers

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Irene Reply
wat is decentralization
Irene Reply
Good question? its another way of emphasizing locality as a first principle value. assumed is self suffiency, sustainability, redundancy in critical systems but most of all it represents an individual citizens liberty; our rights, a dependence from and freedom from centralized power.
it's also assumed that this freedom is critical to our ability and advantages to be resilient. our full capacity to adapt w out any headwinds or yoke from an over reaching central world power as found in empires and dynasties or for example global neoliberalism virus.
Well said Lance! It's easy to forget how decentralized our government is. Local people have skin in the game.
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Source:  OpenStax, American government. OpenStax CNX. Dec 05, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11995/1.15
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