Most ND House Republicans vote with the other side

It’s hard to imagine a political party dominating a state legislature more than North Dakota Republicans. They have super-supermajorities in both bodies, 84-12 in the House and 43-4 in the Senate. Most legislative battles aren’t Republican/Democrat but rather Conservative Republican/Moderate Republican.

Anyone following North Dakota state politics lately knows there is a divide in the Republican Party of North Dakota between conservatives and moderates. This dynamic played out in the 2022 election as Republicans from each side faced off in Republican primaries, with the Dakota Leadership PAC (funded by Gov. Doug Burgum) recruiting moderate candidates to run against conservatives.

The results of the election battle were mixed, but a new analysis of legislative votes from the 2023 session shows moderates are winning the longer war.

Minot Republicans Mike Blessum and Zach Lessig used a computer algorithm to analyze the votes of every North Dakota legislator to determine how they voted. Or more accurately, who they voted with. The results in the North Dakota House are stunning — 45 of the 84 members who caucus Republican vote more with the liberal members of the House than with the conservatives.

Some are only marginally to the left of center, but there are more than enough moderate Republicans (shown in light blue) voting with the 12 Democrats (dark blue) to effectively control the agenda in the House. Click here to see the full analysis of North Dakota legislative votes. The website compares the votes of each member with every other member and then aggregates that into one chart.

We spot checked the most moderate Republican in the chart, Rep. Emily O’Brien of Grand Forks. She voted with the most liberal member (Rep. Karla Hanson) 80% of the time and with the most conservative member (Rep. Larry Bellew) 40% of the time. Ironically, she also voted with House Republican Leader Rep. Mike Lefor 87% of the time, indicating the problem with moderate voting might begin with leadership.

Senators are more true to their party, according the to the data. Only seven of the 43 Republican Senators had a voting record that aligned more with liberals than conservatives (shown in light blue).

Blessum and Lessig ran the same analysis of the 2022 legislative session in Minnesota and got drastically different results. In Minnesota, Republicans vote with Republicans and Democrats vote with Democrats. Closer margins in the House and Senate obviously make this a necessity.

An outsider might look at North Dakota and say, “It must be easy for Republicans to pass a conservative agenda with those huge majorities.” But the data shows having such lopsided numbers allows many Republicans to vote more with the Democrats than with their own party.