The naysayers: Which Utah legislators vote “no” the most?

I’ve heard Rep. Dan McCay called Dan McNay. It seems his claim to that nickname is secure.

The Utah Legislature governs by consensus. In the Legislature’s 2015 General Session, the typical floor vote saw 92% (House) or 95% (Senate) of legislators voting the same way. Republicans control 84% of the seats.

These high percentages mean that Republicans and Democrats alike generally vote the same way. Party line votes, where a majority of Democrats votes against a majority of Republicans, are rare. In 2015, only 13% (House) and 7% (Senate) of votes divided legislators along party lines.

As a result, it is very, very rare for floor votes to fail. In 2015, only 4% (House) and 1% (Senate) of votes held on the floor resulted in a negative outcome. (All these percentages have been pretty stable for years. You can see charts with data for the past several years here.)

So why are legislators loathe to vote no? There are several reasons. The worst bills are either rejected or watered down in committee. If a divisive bill does manage to get out of committee, chamber leadership has ways of keeping it from coming to the floor for a vote. And even if it does get to the floor, it is likely to be watered down on the floor before the final vote. Taken together, this means that the most difficult bills seldom get to a floor vote unless they’ve been heavily reworked–making negative floor votes rare.

Though the general pattern is consensus, there are still several legislators who seem to relish voting “nay.” I’ll start with the most agreeable legislators–those who voted “nay” less than 5% of the time. It’s not surprising that everybody in this list belongs to the majority party. It’s also not surprising that many majority party leaders show up in this list–after all, leaders who oppose bills have ways of preventing them from coming to the floor at all.

Adams, J. Stuart R Senate 1%
Millner, Ann R Senate 1%
Okerlund, Ralph R Senate 2%
Bramble, Curtis S. R Senate 2%
Niederhauser, Wayne L. R Senate 2%
Weiler, Todd R Senate 2%
Urquhart, Stephen H. R Senate 2%
Thatcher, Daniel W. R Senate 2%
Osmond, Aaron R Senate 2%
Knudson, Peter C. R Senate 3%
Hughes, Gregory H. R House 3%
Stevenson, Jerry W. R Senate 3%
Christensen, LaVar R House 4%
Van Tassell, Kevin T. R Senate 4%
McIff, Kay L. R House 4%
Last, Bradley G. R House 4%

And now for those who vote “nay” most often. It is not surprising that several minority party lawmakers show up in this list. What may be surprising to some, though, is that the most active “nay” voters belong to the majority party. There’s a running joke in the Capitol that the Legislature has three parties: The Democratic party, the Republican party, and the other Republican party. Lists like the one below reveal just how much truth lies behind this gag.

King, Brad D House 11%
Duckworth, Susan D House 11%
Miller, Justin J. D House 11%
Moss, Carol Spackman D House 12%
Peterson, Val L. R House 12%
Poulson, Marie H. D House 12%
King, Brian S. D House 13%
Arent, Patrice M. D House 13%
Hollins, Sandra D House 13%
Dayton, Margaret R Senate 13%
Romero, Angela D House 14%
Thurston, Norman K. R House 14%
Knotwell, John R House 14%
Chavez-Houck, Rebecca D House 14%
Briscoe, Joel K. D House 15%
Greene, Brian M. R House 15%
Roberts, Marc K. R House 16%
McCay, Daniel R House 17%

Incidentally, Rep. Dan McCay just completed his fourth General Session in the Utah House of Representatives. In the past three sessions, he has cast more “nay” votes than any other legislator (of either chamber or party).

When I look back at all the data I have (the past 9 sessions) and average each legislator’s voting across all the sessions she or he has served in, I find that Dan McCay has cast more “nay” votes over his four sessions than any other legislator over the past 9 sessions. I’ve heard Rep. Dan McCay called Dan McNay. It seems his claim to that nickname is secure.

Visit if you want “nay” voting rates for all legislators or for past years.

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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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