At least 28 state legislators have been expelled since 2000

Last month, three elected officials were expelled from state legislatures: Reps. Liz Harris (R-Ariz.), Justin Jones (D-Tenn.), and Justin Pearson (D-Tenn.). 

Local officials later re-appointed Jones and Pearson to their seats. The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors appointed Julie Willoughby (R) to Harris’ seat on May 5. 

In order to determine how often lawmakers are expelled, we have been digging into the historical data.

Including the three recent expulsions in Arizona and Tennessee, we have found 28 cases of elected officials expelled from state legislatures since 2000. For 20, the chambers voted to expel them, and eight were removed automatically following criminal convictions under state law.

Of those 28, 22 expelled legislators were members of their chamber’s majority party, and six were minority party members, shown below:

Looking further back, we have found 79 expulsions, in total, between 1813 and 2023. This includes 39 Democrats, 29 Republicans, and six members of the Socialist Party.

Some noteworthy cases include:

  • John Wilson (D), former Speaker of the Arkansas House, was expelled in 1837 after killing a colleague during a knife fight on the chamber floor;
  • John P. Slough (D), a member of the Ohio House of Representatives, was expelled in 1857 after punching a colleague during an argument on the floor;
  • E.L. Alford (R), a member of the Texas State Senate, was expelled in 1870 for resisting arrest by the body’s sergeant-at-arms;
  • Frank Raguse, a Wisconsin state senator and a member of the Socialist Party, was expelled in 1917 for alleged disloyalty to the United States;
  • Dean Skelos (R), former New York Senate Majority Leader, was automatically expelled in 2015 after being convicted on federal corruption charges; and,
  • Sheldon Silver (D), former Speaker of the New York Assembly, was automatically expelled in 2015 after being convicted of federal corruption charges.