Utah news has been aflutter for the past week about an error made by the Utah County Clerk’s office that results in Rep. Craig Frank losing his seat. Seems that a couple thousand Utahns–including Frank–who thought they lived in Frank’s district actually live in Rep. John Dougall’s district. So now those voters–who voted for Frank in the 2010 elections–will be represented by Dougall, who they didn’t have an opportunity to vote for or against.
Here’s a question. Does it matter? Can those voters expect the same sorts of policy choices from Dougall that they could have had from Frank? Let’s turn to the numbers.
Each year, several interest groups rate Utah’s legislators on their votes. By averaging across these ratings, we can assign each legislator a score from 0 (solidly liberal) to 100 (solidly conservative). In practice, nobody ever scores a perfect 0 or a perfect 100. But it looks like Frank is a fair amount more conservative than Dougall. Here it is:
You see that the typical Democratic legislator has a score between 30 and 40, and the typical Republican legislator has a score between 70 and 80. Dougall’s score was 73, placing him left of ousted speaker David Clark (74.8), new speaker Becky Lockhart (80.8), and especially Craig Frank (84.7). So based on these scores from 2010, Dougall is quite a bit more moderate than Craig Frank. Frank is clearly in the Republican party’s conservative wing; Dougall is in the party’s more moderate wing.
Even if we reach back to data from 2008, we see the same general pattern. Here’s the same figure, but using older data:
In 2008, the gap between Dougall and Frank wasn’t as big as in 2010. Both Dougall and Frank were in the Republican party’s conservative wing in 2008. Still, there was a bit of a gap.
My point isn’t that Dougall’s views are better than Frank’s, or that Frank’s are better than Dougall’s. My point is that this mistake by the Utah County Clerk may have meaningful differences for a few thousand voters residents who were effectively disenfranchised. (Update: Apparently the 2500 or so residents translates into a few hundred actual voters.)