Photo of California State Assembly chambers courtesy of Flickr user: LWY
You’ve registered to vote. Now it’s time to go over all of the ballot measures and candidates before you head to the polls. And with just weeks until the general election, I’m sure you welcome any information to help you make a decision.
Well, here’s a headline that’s sure to make your jaw drop—when it comes to incumbents in California’s Assembly, who are running for re-election—you will have a hard time determining their actual voting record.
The Associated Press, this week, reported exclusively that it had analyzed every vote cast during the 2012 session and discovered California Assembly members changed and added their votes to legislation more than 5,000 times.
It’s a common practice. Assembly members can change or add their votes as long as they don’t change the outcome of the floor vote.
The AP analysis goes on to state that all 80 Assembly members changed their votes after the fact.
It also reported that the changes in votes happened to be on bills dealing with powerful lobbies or hot-button social issues. And those running for a new office did it most often.
Critics of the practice say it allows lawmakers to mislead constituents by changing their official record.
“Californians love their state and want to see government work, but shenanigans like these undercut the public trust, which is already very low,” said Jim Mayer, executive director of California Forward. “This vote changing practice, while some may see it as harmless, in many ways, is another example of a behavior that erodes the public confidence in lawmakers.”
California Forward, which is a catalyst for accountable government in California, has been working for years to engage and inspire Californians to demand more transparency from their government.
“The November elections will send a large group of newcomers to Sacramento—as much as half the Assembly will be made up of first termers next year. That gives those new lawmakers an opportunity to change the rules so they can create a more transparent and accountable process that will start to restore the public’s trust,” Mayer said.