Unanimity remained the rule in the 2016 Utah Legislature

Utah’s Republicans and Democrats vote together more often than they vote against each other.

Last fall, House Minority Leader directed a scathing op-ed at his Republican counterparts. Near the end of the 2016 session, Utah’s legislators approved changes to the (traditionally bipartisan) Legislative Management Committee placing the majority Republicans in control–a move that some have interpreted as retaliation for House Democrats’ more confrontational tone.

Whether these changes (via HB220) were retaliation or not, it appears that Democrats and Republicans continue to get along well overall. Though the Legislature remains 84% Republican, the average floor vote passed with 93% (House) or 96% (Senate) of legislators voting together. We’ve seen similarly high numbers for the past decade:

Utah Legislature - Average Voting Majority, 2007-2016

You don’t get to 93/96% unless Democrats and Republicans vote together. In fact, it was very very very rare to see a vote where most Democrats voted against most Republicans. Only 14% (House) and 6% (Senate) of floor votes divided legislators along party lines. Again, these rates were typical of the past decade:

Utah Legislature - Frequency of Party-Line Votes, 2007-2016

Moreover, majority Republicans didn’t seem to pay much mind to a legislator’s party affiliation when deciding whether to vote for that legislator’s bills. Of bills sponsored by Republicans, 59% passed; of bills sponsored by Democrats, 53% passed. That 6% gap is the narrowest party gap as we’ve seen in a long time. Pay attention to the blue bars in this chart, which show the party gap:

Maybe, as some have suggested, HB220 was retaliation by Republicans against Democrats for Brian King’s more combative tone. If it was, though, then that appears to have been the extent of it. As always, Utah’s Republicans and Democrats vote together more often than they vote against each other.

Look for more data like this on my floor voting statistics page.

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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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One Response to Unanimity remained the rule in the 2016 Utah Legislature

  1. Jay Blain says:

    It is my observation that most controversial bills are:
    killed in committee or if they make it out of committee on a close vote they are then amended to make them more likely to pass. Others are not brought to a vote unless they sponsor knows that the votes are there for passage. They get circled until the votes can be found usually by amending the bill and if not the bill is left to die.

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