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New legislative Statistic – Critical Defections

The main reason for this website is to give voters access to data about their legislators and how they vote. I’m continually trying to find new ways to relate information about legislators voting tendencies and patterns.

One area that always bugs me is the small margins of many votes in the House of Representatives. It amazes me that five or fewer votes decide even five percent of votes.

The analysis tool already relates the number of votes that are decided by five or fewer votes. Unfortunately, that doesn’t tell you who, legislator-wise, is voting to make things so close.

To answer that question, I thought up the idea of a ‘critical defection.’

To be a ‘critical defection,’ a vote cast by the legislator must:

  1. Must be cast in the ‘winning’ direction. ‘Aye’ if it passes, or ‘nay’ if it fails.
  2. The majority of the legislator’s party must vote opposite to the legislator’s vote.
  3. Be a roll-call vote in the Committee of the Whole (Fancy way of saying a roll-call vote during a legislative session.)

As an example, Republican Representatives X, Y, and Z and eighteen other Republicans (21 votes), the lone Independant and all nine Democrats all vote ‘aye’ in favor of an amendment to get a majority of thirty-one votes against, the remaining twenty-nine Republicans that voted ‘nay’ against the measure.

As 29 Republicans voted against the measure, a clear majority of Republicans were against the amendment. But the amendment passed because Rep. X, Y, Z, and eighteen other Republicans defected from the Republican majority to vote for the change.  

These 21 Republican ‘critically defected’ to thwart the majority of their party.

By tallying the number of times each legislator critically defects, we can get an idea of which legislator is more likely to abandon the majority position of their party.

You can view the latest critical defection statistics for the current session. Go to the 2020 Legislative Analysis Tool Transparency Report and scrolling down to the bottom of the page the see the number of ‘critical defections’ for the House and Senate.

The statistics the Legislative Analysis provides gives you only part of the information you need to make a wise decision when voting for a candidate. I suggest you talk to your legislator to get an explanation for their votes.

Ultimately you and your political preference will decide who earns your vote come election time.

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