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From The Blog

Senate Dynamics: Member Vote Patterns, Pt 1

Even though floor votes indicate a considerable degree of unity on the macro level, clear trends are evident in individual voting patterns—trends that shed light on party unity and cohesion, ideological fervor, and the personal predilections of individual Senators.

A political observer might postulate that, on the whole, the Democratic Party is currently the more unified, and the data in the Senate of Virginia bear that out. Seventeen (of 20) Democrats voted with the average member of their party at least 98% of the time, a threshold not cleared by a single Republican.

The average Republican voted with the majority of his or her party 96.6% of the time, compared to 98.3% for Democrats. Only three Democrats voted with their average party colleague less than 98% of the time: Petersen (96.4%), Deeds (96.2%), and Lewis (95.6%).

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Senate Dynamics: Floor Consensus

Although some of the legislative session’s most memorable moments emerge from impassioned debate on the Senate floor, the real work is done in committee—so much so that, optics aside, a bill’s defeat on the chamber floor is a rare event.

In all, there were 2,376 Senate floor votes during the 2014 regular session, but many of these were procedural: roll calls, moving bills through their readings, suspending the rules, and the like. By my count, just under 1,300 votes were substantive, though definitions are necessarily subjective. More objectivity is possible if we limit our analysis to votes on the final passage of legislation (excluding memorial and commending resolutions approved by voice vote); there were 955 such votes in 2014.

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