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“From Maine to Hawaii, Democratic candidates simply did a better job talking to voters and addressing issues that are important to working families,” said Mr. Sargeant, noting that Republicans had been projecting net gains at the state level going into the election.

One-party dominance can have direct policy consequences. States such as Florida and Pennsylvania with GOP dominance of the governorship and state legislature have been at the forefront of efforts to impose more stringent voter-ID laws in recent years, while states where Democrats dominate, such as Maryland and Massachusetts, have led the way on legalizing gay marriage.

Party ticket loyalty at the state level could be a trickle-down effect from Washington’s increasingly partisan politics, observers say. But governing as a state legislator is very different from working at the federal level, said Tim Storey, elections analyst for the National Conference of State Legislatures.

“At a time when D.C. is frozen and in gridlock, legislators have to get stuff done. They have to balance their budget, and to do that they have to compromise. [Partisan division] may be how voters vote, but it’s not how legislators legislate,” Mr. Storey said.

Mr. Storey pointed to states such as Oregon, where the legislature had a productive year despite a House where the parties were tied and a closely divided Senate.

“For the most part, these folks are hard-wired to get stuff done,” he said. “What happens to them from the time they leave their state capital to the time they get to Washington mystifies us.”