Calculating Ratings of Congress:

There's the ADA way. . . and then there's the right way.

Many interest groups rate members of Congress, from single-issue militants like the AFL-CIO (liberal-labor union) and abortionist groups like Planned Parenthood to the more diverse ones that we display on this site because they address a wider range of issues. All of these groups determine their ratings using similar methodology -- by identifying a set of votes which are important to them ("key votes") and then calculating the percentage of the time which that Representative or Senator votes the way the interest group wants them to.

On this website we display the ratings from two groups:

Both groups normally select about 20 key votes in the House and Senate each year and assign ratings to members of Congress based on those votes. The groups naturally differ as to exactly which votes they consider to be pertinent, but they also differ regarding the simple mathematical computation that is used to determine those ratings.

The ACU divides the number of conservative votes by the number of key votes that member cast in a particular year; if Congressman Squish took the conservative position on 13 out of 20 votes, he is rated at being 65% conservative for that year. However if Congressman Sqush had voted as follows on the ACU's 20 key votes:

Conservative: 13 votes
Liberal: 6 votes
Failed to Vote: 1 time

He is assigned a rating of 68% (13 of 19) instead of 65% (13 of 20). The one time he failed to cast a vote on a key issue is not held against him by artificially lowering his rating. This is the normal way of computing ratings of Congressmen and Senators.

But that's not how the ADA does it, and an illustration is shown below.

In paranoid fashion, the liberals believe that "If you ain't fer us, youse agin' us". This neurosis, applied to instances where a member of Congress misses a key vote, causes members of Congress to be misleadingly rated as if they were actually more moderate or conservative than they really were, the degree of the deception varying depending on how many of the ADA's key votes they missed. The more times they failed to vote, the more inaccurate their ratings are. Only in the cases where a member never missed a key vote during a session of Congress does the ADA rating accurately reflect how liberal she really is. Otherwise, the rating is erroneously low unless that rating is zero; ratings can't go any lower than that.

The following table is a slightly modified extract from the most recent data (2021) published by the ADA: https://adaction.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/2021.pdf, page 24.

New Mexico 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 %
District 1 Haaland D + + + + + + + + + + + I I I I I I I I I 55%
District 1 Stansbury D I I I I I I I I I I I I I + + + + + + + 35%

The chart shows the 2021 ADA ratings for a pair of ultra-liberal Democrats from New Mexico Congressional District 1, Debra Haaland and Melanie Stansbury. The chart in the linked PDF shows 19 votes but there were actually 20; the ADA carelessly omitted a column from their report. A plus sign indicates a liberal vote. A minus sign would indicate a non-liberal vote, but there weren't any for these two far-lefties. An "I" means the person was ineligible to vote due to not actually being a member of Congress at the time.

The reason that there were two representatives for New Mexico CD-1 in 2021, with each one ineligible during some period, is because Haaland resigned from Congress on March 16 after being appointed as Secretary of the Interior. Two and a half months later, the heavily-Democrat New Mexico district replaced Haaland with Stansbury in a special election.

Because neither Haaland nor Stansbury were in office for the entire year, obviously neither one could possibly have voted on all 20 issues which were critical to the liberals at the ADA. Haaland supported the liberal position 100% of the time on the 11 votes in which she participated; Stansbury voted liberal 100% of the time during her 7 opportunities. We therefore show both of them as being 100% liberal in 2021, however the official ADA position is that Haaland was only 55% liberal and Stansbury only 35% liberal.

Missed votes for any reason, not simply ineligibility, are handled in the same manner by the ADA. The ADA demands that Democrats march in complete lockstep with them without exception (which nearly all Democrats tend to do these days, except when excused for tactical purposes). Even legitimate absences are not condoned and are in fact punished by resulting in lower ratings.

This inflexible and unforgiving approach is equivalent to treating a missed vote exactly as if the member had voted the conservative position on that issue, which is clearly asinine. Neither Haaland nor Stansbury nor the vast majority of other Democrats in Congress in at least the past quarter-century are the slighest bit conservative about anything.

It's ridiculous to ever presume otherwise, as these ratings do, particularly if you want your evaluations to be taken seriously.