Who missed the most votes in the 2014 Utah Legislature?

Legislators miss a lot of votes in the Utah Legislature, and some miss more than others. As the figure below shows, there wasn’t much change in the overall absenteeism rate, with 12% of Senators and 6% of Representatives missing a typical vote.

Percent of legislators absent during an average vote, by chamber and year

Percent of legislators absent during an average vote, by chamber and year

The table below shows legislators with the top 10 and bottom 10 attendance rates. (Due to a tie for 10th, there are actually 11 in the first table.) You can click here for data on all 104 legislators.

Westwood, John R. R House 0.0%
Poulson, Marie H. D House 0.5%
Eliason, Steve R House 0.6%
Handy, Stephen G. R House 0.8%
Kennedy, Michael S. R House 0.9%
Redd, Edward H. R House 0.9%
Cox, Jon R House 1.1%
Christofferson, Kay J. R House 1.5%
Wiley, Larry B. D House 1.5%
Anderson, Jerry B. R House 1.8%
Greenwood, Richard A. R House 1.8%
Hughes, Gregory H. R House 18.4%
Stanard, Jon E. R House 18.8%
Urquhart, Stephen H. R Senate 18.8%
Okerlund, Ralph R Senate 19.0%
Bramble, Curtis S. R Senate 19.3%
Stevenson, Jerry W. R Senate 20.6%
Madsen, Mark B. R Senate 21.2%
Lockhart, Rebecca D. R House 22.1%
Brown, Melvin R. R House 23.6%
Hillyard, Lyle W. R Senate 28.6%

A few things jump out:

  • The 10 legislators with the best attendance records are all in the House. Maybe that’s because the Senate holds two floor votes on each bill (unlike the House), and Senators have a habit of skipping the first of those two votes. (I gave the data on this in a previous post.)
  • Those responsible for putting together the budget tend to miss a vote. The House and Senate budget chairs are Mel Brown and Lyle Hillyard; their vice chairs are Jerry Stevenson and Brad Wilson. Three of these four show up in the “most absent” list (and the fourth, Brad Wilson, barely escaped.
  • It’s common to see legislative leaders in the “most absent” list, which may explain the presence of Becky Lockhart (Speaker), Greg Hughes (House majority whip), and Ralph Okerlund (Senate majority leader). With only seven weeks in the session, they leave the floor at times to handle their leadership duties. (Of course, a medical emergency also pushed Sen. Okerlund’s absentee rate up.)
  • It’s also common to see active bill sponsors miss a lot of votes. Curt Bramble sponsored more bills than anybody this year and also missed a lot of votes. With only seven weeks, an active bill sponsor will need to leave the floor at times to work on legislation.

As for the rest of the legislators in the “most absent” club, I am unaware of any special circumstances (budget duties, leadership responsibilities, or active bill sponsorship) that would explain their high absentee rate.

Update: I’ve learned that Rep. Jon Stanard was excused from the last day of the session to attend a family funeral. Given how many votes were held on the last day, this unfortunate event undoubtedly contributed to his high absentee rate.

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About Adam Brown

Adam Brown is an associate 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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