How Loyal to Their Party Are State Senators?

Which Georgia State Senators are most likely to vote with the other members of their party? During the 2015-2016 legislative session, for Republicans, the list includes Brandon Beach, John Wilkinson, and Tyler Harper. For the Democrats, names would include Michael Rhett and Gail Davenport. Who votes least with their party? Republicans Mike Crane, Josh McKoon, and Bill Heath strayed the most, while for the Democrats, it was Vincent Fort.

What may be more interesting is the wide variation in loyalty between the most loyal and the least.

Senate-Parry-Loyalty

The chart above plots the percentage frequency a senator votes with his or her party on the vertical axis, and the number of senators on the horizontal axis. For Republicans, you can see that 31 members out of 39 voted with the majority of their party 90% of the time or more. Beyond that, there’s a sharp dropoff to as low as 52%. For Democrats, 13 of 18 senators voted with their party 90% or more of the time, however the senator voting against the majority of their party still agreed 82.7% of the time.

To determine party loyalty, we looked at all non-unanimous roll call votes and determined how the majority of each party voted on each one. If a senator voted with the majority of their party, he was considered loyal. a senator was not counted for a given vote if he or she was excused or was meeting with friends in the hall when the vote was taken. For example, on a given vote, if 35 Republicans voted yes, and 12 Democrats voted no, Republicans voting yes and Democrats voting no would be considered loyal since they voted with the majority of their caucus. This ranking is not a traditional scorecard used to determine if a senator voted the way the group publishing the scorecard wanted them to — the actual content of the bill, sponsor, etc. was not considered.

You can see the loyalty score for each senator below the fold. Keep in mind that due to resignations, some senators only voted in one year.

Republican Members

Name District 2015 Loyalty Name District 2016 Loyalty
John Kennedy 18 99.61% John Wilkinson 50 98.17%
Tyler Harper 7 98.70% Brandon Beach 21 97.84%
Ellis Black 8 98.31% Jeff Mullis 53 97.81%
Ben Watson 1 98.03% Greg Kirk 13 97.78%
John Wilkinson 50 98.03% Frank Ginn 47 97.74%
Jack Hill 4 97.91% Butch Miller 49 97.72%
Dean Burke 11 97.83% Dean Burke 11 97.56%
Tommie Williams 19 97.77% Tyler Harper 7 97.29%
Jesse Stone 23 97.52% Jack Hill 4 97.22%
Brandon Beach 21 97.22% Tommie Williams 19 97.21%
Rick Jeffares 17 96.71% Ellis Black 8 97.10%
Fran Millar 40 96.68% Larry Walker 20 96.96%
Ross Tolleson 20 96.67% Lindsey Tippins 37 96.80%
Jeff Mullis 53 96.25% Bill Jackson 24 96.44%
Renee Unterman 45 95.96% John Kennedy 18 96.14%
Mike Dugan 30 95.82% Rick Jeffares 17 95.61%
Butch Miller 49 95.82% JaNice VanNess 43 95.48%
Bill Jackson 24 95.76% Ben Watson 1 95.48%
Frank Ginn 47 95.53% David Shafer 48 95.15%
David Shafer 48 95.43% Fran Millar 40 94.88%
Chuck Hufstetler 52 95.38% Jesse Stone 23 94.83%
Greg Kirk 13 94.92% Burt Jones 25 94.74%
Bill Cowsert 46 94.35% Hunter Hill 6 94.04%
Judson Hill 32 94.06% Mike Dugan 30 93.27%
Bruce Thompson 14 93.07% Charlie Bethel 54 92.56%
P.K. Martin 9 92.47% P.K. Martin 9 92.54%
Burt Jones 25 92.37% Chuck Hufstetler 52 91.93%
Steve Gooch 51 90.70% Bruce Thompson 14 91.78%
Charlie Bethel 54 90.38% Judson Hill 32 91.24%
William Ligon 3 90.17% Renee Unterman 45 91.22%
Michael Williams 27 89.67% John Albers 56 90.21%
Lindsey Tippins 37 89.47% Bill Ccowsert 46 87.44%
Hunter Hill 6 87.93% William Ligon 3 86.28%
John Albers 56 86.36% Michael Williams 27 86.10%
Marty Harbin 16 83.81% Steve Gooch 51 85.51%
Bill Heath 31 64.50% Marty Harbin 16 81.61%
Josh McKoon 29 64.04% Bill Heath 31 65.52%
Mike Crane 28 52.19% Josh McKoon 29 56.05%
Mike Crane 28 55.27%

Democratic Members

Name District 2015 Loyalty Name District 2016 Loyalty
Valencia Seay 34 97.14% Michael Rhett 33 96.05%
Michael Rhett 33 94.72% Lester Jackson 2 94.42%
Emanuel Jones 10 94.21% Gail Davenport 44 94.27%
Harold Jones 22 93.83% Elena Parent 42 94.27%
Gail Davenport 44 93.57% Harold Jones 22 92.66%
Ronald Ramsey 43 93.22% Ed Harbison 15 92.31%
Lester Jackson 2 92.89% Emanuel Jones 10 92.11%
Elena Parent 42 92.53% Curt Thompson 5 91.76%
Nan Orrock 36 92.24% Valencia Seay 34 91.56%
Donzella James 35 92.02% Steve Henson 41 91.12%
David Lucas 26 91.89% Donzella James 35 90.69%
Ed Harbison 15 91.67% Nan Orrock 36 90.26%
Steve Henson 41 90.18% David Lucas 26 90.10%
Curt Thompson 5 89.16% Gloria Butler 55 89.96%
Horacena Tate 38 88.73% Freddie Sims 12 89.77%
Gloria Butler 55 88.57% Horacena Tate 38 88.68%
Freddie Sims 12 88.52% Vincent Fort 39 84.08%
Vincent Fort 39 82.73%

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Dave BearseWill Durant Recent comment authors
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Will Durant
Will Durant

I. Could. Not. Care. Less.

“However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.” — excerpt from George Washington’s farewell address

Dave Bearse
Dave Bearse

I appreciate the effort in the preparation of this. It omits the important consideration that legislation rarely if ever comes to the floor for a vote without leadership’s approval and the GOP votes to carry it.