Friday, September 19, 2008

Voting records can be had ... for the inquiring voter

On Nov. 4, voters across the country will cast ballots on many important races and issues.

At the federal level, all of the 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives are up for election, while 35 – or about one-third – of the 100 U.S. Senate seats are up for grabs. At the state level, 11 governors’ seats are on ballots, while 80 percent of state legislators’ positions across America are on ballots.

While elected officials are hammering the airwaves, stuffing mailboxes and filling voice mails with their election season messages in hopes of swaying voters, those savvy to the practice will instead recall the elected officials’ full bodies of work. Past actions of politicians can help voters determine whether the pressure of getting re-elected might be causing them to seemingly change their way of thinking.

Voters with a photographic memory know all there is to know about elected officials’ voting records. They’ll have little problem figuring out who to cast a ballot in favor of. For everyone else, a little help with where to get voting records is a big help.

Tracking votes of congressional lawmakers is pretty easy. Multiple sources are available to get an inside look at their track records on issues of importance to you. Among the Web sites with good information are The Washington Post, Project Vote Smart and the sites for the U.S. Senate and U.S. House.

It is important to note that only recorded votes can be tracked for individual members. Many votes are taken in the U.S. House and Senate by voice vote or division vote, where individual members’ positions are not available.

Voting histories for elected officials at statehouses aren’t as easy to come by but, in most instances, can be found by persistent voters. One helpful site is However, on this site, voting records can be found for lawmakers only in Hawaii, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Utah and Washington.

For the remaining states, voters have to be willing to put in the time and effort to visit individual state legislative sites to research previous votes. Fortunately, those sites typically are very good about making information from the current and previous sessions available.

For instance, Illinois voters familiar with SB540 from 2007 to authorize uniform speed limits can trace back to find out which House lawmakers voted against an override of the governor’s veto. To see the voting breakdown on that issue, click here.

Other nuggets of information can be found for other states. A useful tool to help identify bills of significance to the trucking industry in your home state can be found on a Web site made available by OOIDA. Click here to visit that site.

1 comment:

  1. Taken out of context, how a legislator voted on a particular bill may mean very little. Witness the recent McCain-Obama debate. Bills that start out in a general direction pick up all sorts of hitchhikers - and legislators may vote one way on a bill in order to engineer a parliamentary maneuver allowing them to vote differently on the next call. So a simple aye or nay without examining the entire bill and taking into consideration the legislator's position is often worse than not knowing at all.

    An example was in the first presidential debate in September. McCain accused Obama of voting against funding for troops. As they say, this was accurate but not true:

    MCCAIN: And Senator Obama, who after promising not to vote to cut off funds for the troops, did the incredible thing of voting to cut off the funds for the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    OBAMA: Jim, there are a whole bunch of things we have got to answer. First of all, let's talk about this troop funding issue because John always brings this up. Senator McCain cut -- Senator McCain opposed funding for troops in legislation that had a timetable, because he didn't believe in a timetable.

    I opposed funding a mission that had no timetable, and was open- ended, giving a blank check to George Bush. We had a difference on the timetable. We didn't have a difference on whether or not we were going to be funding troops.


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