Introducing Vote Hound: In Connecticut, does one party really rule?

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Most roll call votes in the Connecticut legislature are easy to analyze: They are either unanimous or follow party lines.

Vote Hound helps you find and analyze the other kind of votes, the ones where the patterns are not quite so clear.

Click on the hyperlinks in our index of bills for the past three years, and you can graphically see how the votes break down by every legislator’s party affiliation, gender, race, occupation, victory margin in the most recent election, average income of their constituents and the year when the legislator was first elected.

The impetus for this project came last December when legislators had a back and forth about whether Connecticut is a ‘one-party-rule’ state, since Democrats dominate the legislature. Sen. Beth Bye (D-West Hartford) pointed out that Republicans side with the Democratic majority in 83.3 percent of votes that make it to the Senate floor. But Senate Republican leader Len Fasano (R-North Haven) pointed out that, usually, only votes with enough support to pass even make it to the floor.

Well, here at TrendCT, we decided it was time to look at the numbers.

We wanted to answer a few basic questions:

  • How many votes in the legislature break on party lines?
  • How often do people vote against their party?
  • Who votes against their party most often?
  • If a vote does not fall along party lines, is there another factor (like race) that correlates with yays and nays?

logoAnd that’s how Vote Hound was born.

Vote Hound classifies each roll call on the House and Senate floors by how legislators vote: unanimously, along party lines, or mostly along party lines, with a few defectors. If there are defectors, we list who they are and how often they defect.

What we found for the past three years was, among other things:

  • About three out of every four roll calls are unanimous. This is because bills that make it to the floor usually have support to pass.
  • There aren’t too many votes that split exactly along party lines.
  • If a vote isn’t unanimous, it is often along party lines with a few defectors.
  • Sometimes other factors correlate with a split vote, like margin of victory in the previous election.
  • There are votes that we classify as ‘a split,’ but that often means there is a bigger group of legislators who vote against their party. Very rarely are there groups of legislators from both parties who defect.

Vote Hound will update with every vote in the legislature. The main index page will only include the most recent action on each bill, which is usually the final action. Users can see amendments by clicking into a page for a specific vote.

We created Vote Hound using data from Open States, a project from the Sunlight Foundation that tracks votes in state legislatures. Next week, we will explain the process of linking roll call data with our Political Guide to create this tool.

If you see trends or do some analysis using Vote Hound, let us know.

What do you think?