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 USAvotes.org. 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.