A legislator’s duty is to vote on legislation, yet legislators routinely miss votes. Existing studies of absenteeism have focused on the US Congress, producing useful but partial explanations. We provide added insight by examining absenteeism in American state legislatures. Our data include 2,916,471 individual votes cast by 4392 legislators from 64 legislative chambers. This rich, multistate dataset produces insights that build on and sometimes conflict with Congressional research. We use a multilevel logistic model with nested and crossed random effects to estimate the influence of variables at five different levels. In particular, we investigate whether state legislators miss unimportant votes or important votes. Contrary to what Congressional studies have found, we find that state legislators avoid participating in close or major votes, favoring reelection concerns over policy influence. We also find that state-to-state variations in legislative professionalism—in particular, the length of the session—affect absenteeism, with shorter sessions leading to higher absenteeism.
Political Behavior – Springer Journals
Published: Sep 14, 2016
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