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Port: Say what you want about North Dakota's lawmakers, but they're good about showing up for work

The average North Dakota senator missed just 1% of recorded floor votes in 2021. The average representative missed 2%.

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North Dakota's House of Representatives on Thursday, April 27, 2017.
Tom Stromme / Bismarck Tribune
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MINOT, N.D. — We're coming into campaign season, and the process of picking candidates for the ballot is nearly completed.

That has voters weighing a lot of things about their representatives, like votes and ideology.

But how about attendance? After all, a lawmaker can't vote if they don't show up for work. Their ideology is meaningless if they aren't in committee rooms to help shape policy.

The folks at Club for Growth, a right-of-center nonprofit, combed back through the legislative journals and took attendance for North Dakota's lawmakers . What they found was gratifying.

North Dakota's elected leaders are, on average, pretty good about showing up for work. The average state senator missed just 1% of the 882 recorded floor votes they took during their 2021 session — the average was the same for both Republicans and Democrats — and 28 of the 47 senators had perfect attendance.

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The average representative, meanwhile, missed 2% of the 949 recorded floor votes, with Republicans doing slightly better at making their votes (1percent missed on average) than the Democrats (3% missed).

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The House had 23 members with perfect records. That includes former Rep. Luke Simons, though he was expelled from the House after 502 floor votes amid accusations of sexual harassment .

Maybe you don't always like how your lawmaker pushes those red and green buttons in Bismarck, but it's hard to accuse them of shirking their duties. Remember, too, that this legislative session happened during the COVID-19 pandemic, which added an extra degree of difficulty when it comes to attendance.

Even the lawmakers who missed the most votes had good reasons. In the House, Rep. Tracy Boe, a Democrat from Mylo, missed 231 or 24% of the floor votes, but it was for medical reasons. "I was recovering from colon surgery," he told me when I spoke with him. "I showed up as soon as I could make it," he continued, adding that he also missed some time during the session due to follow-up treatments.

In the Senate, Sen. Brad Bekkedahl, a Republican from Williston, missed 47, or 5%, of the floor votes. "The first week of the session I was at home ill with COVID, but participated in the floor sessions through online streaming and voted that way as well," he told Club for Growth, per their news release. "The only votes I missed in the 2021 session were when I was emergency hospitalized for 2 days during the session and the few days I was called to active duty as a Colonel in the North Dakota National Guard."

If you want to see specifics on the attendance for each lawmaker, you can check out the Club for Growth's scorecard . If you don't like what you see, consider contacting your lawmaker and having a conversation with them about it before taking to social media and ripping them.

In my experience, when lawmakers miss time in Bismarck, it's usually for a good reason, and it's worth finding out.

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at rport@forumcomm.com. Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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