That may sound like the introduction to a bad joke, but I actually have a serious answer.Except for the rich and famous who manage to parachute into elections at the national level (think Jon Huntsman, Jr. and Mitt Romney), politicians often progress from local to state and then to national office. So if you want to know something about the possible national politicians in the future, you can get an idea from those serving at the state level.
So who are the Mormons serving at the state level?
Until last month I would have suggested that figuring how how many Mormons were serving in state legislatures was too much effort for the information. But last month the National Conference of State Legislatures indicated in their blog, The Thicket, that they had compiled a database with some of the information.
To compile the information, the group looked at the biographies on the websites for each state legislature, collecting what each legislator indicated about his or her religious affiliation.
Unfortunately, 43% of state legislators don’t indicate a religious affiliation, either because they don’t have one, or because they don’t see any advantage to indicating what it is. Unfortunately, several states that seem more likely to have LDS state legislators, including Utah, Arizona and Nevada, are among the least likely to indicate religious affiliation — less than 40% of their legislators indicate their affiliation.
Since they didn’t give all the information about Mormon legislators in their blog post, I asked for a breakdown by state.
Because of this lack of information in some cases, the numbers the NCSL reports should be taken only as a broad guide, instead of as complete information. Still, even with this limitation, the results are revealing. Here are the number of state legislators reporting that they are Mormon by state:
- Utah 27
- Idaho 24
- Wyoming 11
- Arizona 3
- Montana 2
- West Virginia 2
- Alabama 1
- Colorado 1
- Connecticut 1
- Kentucky 1
- Nevada 1
- New Mexico 1
- Rhode Island 1
- South Carolina 1
The total is 77, which apparently rounds to 1% of all state legislators (including those that indicated no religious affiliation). Despite the inaccuracy in the count, I can’t see the actual total as much more than double this number (which would jive with the nearly 2% of the U.S. population that is LDS).
Some of the above numbers are quite surprising. I’d love to know how West Virginia ended up with 2 Mormon legislators! Other states in the East like Alabama, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Kentucky and South Carolina are also interesting. Conversely, I have a hard time seeing how the numbers for Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico could be anything but erroneous.
Please, if you know of state legislators in your state (outside of Utah, Idaho and Wyoming) who are LDS, especially if they don’t so indicate on their official biography, please comment and let us know!