Cage match: Herrod v Liljenquist

On bills that pass, Liljenquist and Herrod agree 97% of the time.

Chris Herrod has served in the Utah House since 2007. Dan Liljenquist served in the Utah Senate from 2009 through 2011. Both want to replace Orrin Hatch in the U.S. Senate. Orrin Hatch’s 36-year record in the U.S. Senate has given people plenty to argue about. But let’s pause and compare Herrod’s and Liljenquist’s service in the state house. I’ll focus on the three general sessions (2009, 2010, and 2011) when both men served.

Disagreements

It’s difficult to compare Herrod’s voting record to Liljenquist’s, since they served in different chambers. A bill might pass the House, but then be amended in the Senate before coming to a floor vote. To compare their voting records, we need to be sure we’re looking at times when they both voted on the exact same language.

One way to get around this problem is to compare their voting record only on bills that actually pass. (Technically, I’m looking at bills that were “enrolled.”) By looking at the last vote held in each chamber on an enrolled bill, we can be confident that both men were voting on the exact same language.1

Between 2009 and 2011, there were 565 times when both Herrod and Liljenquist participated in a final floor vote on a bill that ultimately passed. We’ll use those 565 votes for this comparison. (Incidentally, we’d have more than 565 cases to look at if not for Liljenquist’s 102 absences and Herrod’s 44. More on that in a moment.) Here’s the data:

Liljenquist “yes” Liljenquist “no”
Herrod “yes” 545 1
Herrod “no” 18 1

The dearth of “no” votes makes this comparison a bit bland. Liljenquist voted “no” twice; Herrod voted “no” 19 times. If a bill doesn’t have enough consensus behind it to pass by a wide margin on the floor, it tends to die earlier in the process. Since we’re only looking at bills that passed, there aren’t many “no” votes here.

On the whole, we see 546 agreements and 19 disagreements. On bills that pass, Liljenquist and Herrod agree 97% of the time.

Participation

Herrod Liljenquist
Bills sponsored, 2009-2011 37 41
Bills passed, 2009-2011 13 32
Absentee rate, 2009-2011 5.7% 19.0%

Herrod and Liljenquist sponsor a similar number of bills. Over the course of the 2009-2011 sessions, Herrod sponsored 37 bills compared to Liljenquist’s 41. Liljenquist manages to pass far more of those bills than Herrod does, though.

When it comes to absence during floor votes, Herrod’s participation rates beat Liljenquist’s. Herrod missed only 5.7% of his floor votes during this period, but Liljenquist missed 19.0% of his. Herrod’s absence rate was roughly average for the House, but Liljenquist’s absence rate was much higher than average for the Senate.

Maybe it’s possible that Liljenquist’s high absentee rate is explained by his high bill passage rage. Maybe he needs to leave the floor in order to work on those bills. It’s possible. I hesitate to make that conclusion, though. He passed 11 bills in 2009 with a reasonable 8.5% absentee rate. He passed roughly the same number of bills in 2010 (11 bills) and 2011 (10 bills), but with much higher absentee rates (25.8% in 2010, 24.1% in 2011). The rise in absences doesn’t seem to reflect a rise in bill sponsorship activity.

You can find detailed profiles of any Utah legislator who has served since 2007 at my personal website. Here is Chris Herrod’s profile and Dan Liljenquist’s profile.

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About Adam Brown

Adam Brown is an assistant professor of political science at Brigham Young University and a research fellow with the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy. You can learn more about him at his website.
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