Who missed the most votes in the 2016 Utah Legislature?

The perfect attendance award goes to Rep. Michael Kennedy, the only legislator to miss zero votes.

Utah Legislators had only 45 days to consider 819 bills, passing 475 of them. The Legislature moves at such a breakneck pace that falling ill for a day or two can mean missing a lot of votes; running around persuading legislators to vote for a bill you’re running can mean missing even more votes. Nevertheless, absenteeism tends to be pretty low in the Utah House, with an average of only 6% of Representatives (4.5 out of 75 total) missing any given vote. The rate is a bit higher in the Utah Senate, at 14% (4.1 of 29 total). Absenteeism in the Senate has been rising steadily, but it has remained steady in the House:

Utah Legislature - Average Absentee Rate, 2007-2016

Of course, some legislators contribute more to those averages than others. The perfect attendance award goes to Rep. Michael Kennedy, the only legislator to miss zero votes. Honorable mentions (for missing fewer than 1% of votes) go to Kay Christofferson, Fred Cox, John Westwood, Val Peterson, and Bruce Cutler, all in the House, and all Republican.

At the other end are those who missed many, many, many votes. Last year, Speaker Greg Hughes set a record (for my data, which span 10 sessions) with his 37% absentee rate. It’s common for chamber leaders to miss votes as they work behind the scenes hashing out compromises, but 37% was far higher than we had seen from other legislative leaders. This year, he brought his absentee rate down to 29%–still far higher than the 21% absentee rate of his Senate counterpart, Wayne Niederhauser, and still far higher than 22% rate of his predecessor, Becky Lockhart, in 2014, but enough of a reduction that Greg Hughes didn’t have the highest absentee rate this year.

This year’s most absent? Sen. Jani Iwamoto, who was excused for several days near the end of the session for medical reasons, missed 46% of votes. Close on her heels was Sen. Mark Madsen, who poured his soul into SB 73, his medical marijuana bill, and appears to have had little appetite for much else. Perhaps for similar reasons, Sen. Steve Urquhart came in third, with a 37% absentee rate, having poured his soul into hate crimes legislation and ending the death penalty.

You’ll find absentee rates for all legislators at my personal website.

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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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