Delaware United’s 2019 Legislative Accountability Report Card

Over the last few months, after the close of the 2019 half of the 150th General Assembly, the good folks at Delaware United, along with various partners, which included myself, representing Blue Delaware, helped craft the 2019 Legislative Accountability Report Card. It is a good tool to grade the votes and engagement of our legislators on important Democratic and progressive issues that faced the General Assembly this year.

From Delaware United:

The Legislative Accountability Report Card (LARC) is created by about half a dozen statewide groups and numerous citizen activists working together to hold State Senators and Representatives accountable for their voting records. LARC Committee members compile, analyze, and format data so Delawareans can easily see how their legislators performed throughout the year.

The LARC only includes legislation that made it to a vote in one chamber or another and does not include resolutions in either chamber. Resolutions are often ceremonial, normally are unanimously supported, and sometimes only require a voice vote, all of that makes them hard to track and not necessary in the grand scheme of things with regard to the LARC’s purpose.

Legislators’ issue scores are based on a four-point scale. Let’s say you are a legislator. If you voted as the LARC Committee preferred, you receive a “4” for that bill. If you voted to oppose the way the LARC Committee preferred, you receive a “0” for that bill. If you were absent, you receive a “2.” If you abstained from voting, you receive a “0.”

Being absent on one bill likely will not reduce a legislator’s score much, but excessive absenteeism can impact the LARC grade. Further, a legislator’s job is to research proposed legislation and vote on it. By abstaining, legislators deny constituents the right to know where they stand on important topics. Therefore, abstaining from voting can seriously impact a legislator’s grade.

In the past, Legislators’ final letter grades have been based on quintiles. All legislators’ issue grades are averaged and based on those averages, each legislator falls into one of the quintile grades–A, B, C, D, or F. Legislators’ final grades show Delawareans how individual legislators compare to each other. The grades are based on quintiles, so an “A” is excellent, a “B” is very good/above average, a “C” is satisfactory/average, a “D” is needing improvement, and those with an “F” are the bottom tier performers.

Starting in 2019, to reduce confusion the LARC final grades were not translated into letter grades. Instead, the scores remained in number format, so people can better see the spread of the scores across all legislators without having to go back and forth to the full datasheets.

If you do not know who your current legislators are, please visit Legis.Delaware.Gov and use the “Who Is My Legislator” tool.

Some other updates in 2019: In 2018, concerns were raised that some bills were not included in the final project. We surveyed the bills last year and found that it would not have made an impact on the overall score of any legislator, so we elected not to do a re-release. In 2019, we decided to include virtually all non-housekeeping or hyper-local bills (such as routine charter changes). This means that some days there were multiple pieces of legislation that were voted on in a single day that made it onto the LARC this year. So, if a legislator missed that day, their attendance on that one day could have impacted their overall score more drastically than it did in 2018.

Delaware politics from a liberal, progressive and Democratic perspective. Keep Delaware Blue.

17 comments on “Delaware United’s 2019 Legislative Accountability Report Card

  1. Newark Dem

    Just curious…was there any allocation for an abstention because of a conflict of interest? I would think we would want to encourage abstentions in those cases and with as small a state as Delaware is, the occasional conflict is unavoidable.

    • Delaware Dem

      In the voting records that are published on the General Assembly website, votes were a member is abstaining due to a conflict are not noted as “Absent” with an “A” but as “Conflict” with a “C.” In putting together our own Vote Trackers here at Blue Delaware, I can recall that happening only once in the last session, and I classified it as a “Not Voting” for our purposes rather than being Absent. I am uncertain how the folks at Delaware United addressed the issue, but my point is that it is a rare occurrence.

      • Dustyn Thompson

        Great question. There was actually a couple of bills that had people abstaining because of conflict of interest. They were marked as such, and those votes did not count for or against the person citing conflict.

  2. Newark Dem

    Thanks for the info. I look forward to digging into the raw data. This is great work by all involved.

  3. Thanks for all the work you put into it DD. Couldn’t have done it without you.

  4. The fact that Poore and Longhurst have perfect or near-perfect scores is a joke. I assume this rubric doesn’t include any demerit if you block progressive legislation?

    • Seems like that is correct. No negative points for Poore procedurally killing any shot at gun reform in the state.

    • Dustyn Thompson

      If you can come up with a provable objective way to measure that, the team would certainly love to hear it. Conjecture and inside information, which of course we all have on this matter, cannot be used in an objective measurement of data. It is very unfortunate that this is the case, but nonetheless. Also, Delaware United specifically pointed out the fact that many important bills did not get a vote in their posting on Facebook, just as an fyi.

      No system is perfect, and that is why it is important to use this tool in the context of other measures and in context of the the historical data we provide on the webpage.

      Poore was not alone on the gun bills, and I’d be curious to hear what legislation you are speaking about in relation to Longhurst. Just out of curiosity.

      • Option 1 is to account for blocked bills in your index. Count it as a no vote, subtract a sponsorship, invent something else. That is no more arbitrary than giving leadership the same points for a rubber stamp sponsorship that Sean Lynn gets for actually landing the plane.

        Option 2 is not to create and publish GPAs if you don’t believe they are (or even can be) accurate. Misleading data is worse than no data at all. I understand what you wanted here. But the fact that lackeys like Poore, PAL Longhurst, Jaques and McBride “outrank” Townsend, Lynn, Kowalko and Lockman should set off some alarms about your standards and metrics.

        What you’ve put together here doesn’t support progressives, it enables corporatists who undermine progressives as long as they check bare-minimum boxes in public. You’re making it easy for Delaware Way dinosaurs to tell voters they’re just the same as progressive legislators doing real work because of pro forma “sponsorship” by leadership and bad behavior that gets written off in the rubric. Thurman Adams would’ve made your Dean’s List.

        • Thanks for your input. Just as an fyi lead sponsors and additional sponsors do not get the same points, as is evident in the data sheets, and co-sponsors get no points added. You can’t count something as a no vote without having a vote to base everyone’s support off of. Otherwise you have some people getting votes with no data to back it up and others not getting any. That is wildly arbitrary. To your point of not doing anything, I disagree that this is the solution. I think the solution is to be educated and take this in context of everything else available, including the leadership cards provided, the historical data and actual endorsements, but to each thier own.

          • cassandram

            One potential solution is to evaluate each legislator’s alignment with the state Dem Party platform. That doesn’t lend itself to a scorecard as well, but it does provide the opportunity to evaluate and discuss legislators who are all talk but no action. This could be the “written” section of your evaluation with the opportunity for the evaluators to adjust point scores accordingly. This is a good chance to ask your members for specific input too that might help you adjust the overall points. And a good chance to publish good sound bites, too.

  5. PARADEE comes along and kills the assault weapon bill with his ridiculous amendment (hey he has friends with assault weapons who’s collections would be devalued) somehow scores higher than Bryan Townsend??

    • Dustyn Thompson

      Sorry, hate to be repetitive, but look at the data and the statements we made on our facebook and webpage. The only thing that hurt Townsend was that he missed a couple days work, which I’m going to assume normally happens when you have a baby. He did not vote against any legislation, and he sponsored many of the bills that made it to a vote. Hence his strong representation on the leadership cards.

      • Do you believe that Nicole Poore and Earl Jaques are more progressive than Bryan Townsend and Sean Lynn?

        • The LARC is only one part of how we evaluate a legislator and how we . We don’t treat it as the be all and end all, nor should anyone else.

          This is also only one year of data, and shouldn’t be viewed in a vacuum. Delaware United has two previous LARCs and looking at the past data, you can see a pattern emerging with certain legislators where there score steadily approved as we approached the next election and the likelihood of drawing a primary challenger from the left increased.

          • OH THANK GOD! i was worried that sewer rats like poore were gonna tell people DU called her the senate’s top progressive but i feel better now that Nate silver explained that voters just have to look up two years of obscure “past data” and find “emerging patterns”! if only someone told hillary!

            Don’t be naive. people will treat this like the be all end all because you enabled them to on this no context having picture that you guys ran to this here website to advertise. if the exposure (and whatever “accountability” means) is worth a dime to you it’s worth a dollar to the corporatists you excused.

            If you don’t think Jaques is more progressive than Lynn then don’t tell the world that he is. Especially while a real progressive is running against him.

  6. Joe Connor

    Let me get this straight Parental absence = points off . Demonstrably kill progressive bill= no problem.
    Great report ya got there , sport!

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