Who voted “nay” most often in the 2013 Utah Legislature?

Perhaps it takes a few terms of service to pick up the “consensus culture.”

Although most votes in the Utah Legislature pass with overwhelming 90+% majorities, there are some legislators who really like to vote “nay.”

There aren’t enough of them that many votes actually fail, of course. The figure below shows the percentage of floor votes that don’t pass in each chamber. Consistent with previous years, it was less than 5% in both chambers for the 2013 session. This despite Speaker Becky Lockhart’s plea early in the 2013 session urging legislators to pass fewer bills: “We’ll add another 200 pages of [Utah] code to the 200 pages we added last year. That’s on top of the thousands and thousands of pages already on the books. Do we really want to keep doing that? Really? Really?”

Percentage of floor votes that DON'T pass, by year

Percentage of floor votes that DON’T pass, by year

Of course, a few legislators try their darnedest to change that. Early in the session, Rep. Dan McCay took to Twitter to lament that he was the only vote “against dumb ideas.” (You should follow this link to see the great image he attached to his tweet.) Whether he was voting against dumb ideas or not is in the eye of the beholder, but he was right about one thing: He was often the only vote “against” bills. Rep. McCay was the most enthusiastic “nay” voter of 2012. The table below lists legislators ranked in the top 10 and bottom 10 for “nay” voting in 2013. Take a look:

Rank Legislator Party Chamber Nay votes
1 McCay, Daniel R House 15.7%
2 Roberts, Marc K. R House 14.9%
3 Greene, Brian M. R House 12.5%
4 Romero, Angela D House 11.2%
4 Anderson, Johnny R House 11.2%
6 Wilcox, Ryan D. R House 11.1%
6 Briscoe, Joel K. D House 11.1%
8 Bird, Jim R House 10.6%
9 Nielson, Jim R House 10.5%
10 Knotwell, John R House 10.3%
10 Dayton, Margaret R Senate 10.3%
95 Valentine, John L. R Senate 2.2%
96 Shiozawa, Brian E. R Senate 2.1%
96 Knudson, Peter C. R Senate 2.1%
98 Urquhart, Stephen H. R Senate 1.8%
98 Adams, J. Stuart R Senate 1.8%
100 Bramble, Curtis S. R Senate 1.7%
101 Stevenson, Jerry W. R Senate 1.6%
102 Osmond, Aaron R Senate 1.3%
103 Okerlund, Ralph R Senate 1.0%
103 Niederhauser, Wayne L. R Senate 1.0%

There are a few striking observations about these rankings.

  • There is only one Senator in the top 10–actually, she’s tied for #10–and no Representatives in the bottom 10. I suspect this is heavily driven by the presence of a Second Reading Calendar in the Senate, where votes routinely pass by massive margins.
  • Although we might expect most “nay” votes to come from the minority party, they don’t. Rather, the differences in “nay” voting seem to be picking up the major factional split within the Republican party.
  • There are a LOT of freshmen in the top 10, but a lot of old-timers and leaders in the bottom 10. Perhaps it takes a few terms of service to pick up the “consensus culture.”
  • Leaders don’t vote “nay” much. Senate President Wayne Niederhauser cast fewer “nay” votes of anybody. And Speaker Becky Lockhart ranked #82 out of 104 legislators–that’s #72 of 75 in the House–with only 3.6% “nay” votes.

Additional data

On my personal site, you can get “nay” voting rates for all 104 legislators. (You can also get data for years back through 2007.)

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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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