Legislators' voting records

UPDATE: The bill was effectively defeated in committee this morning. Lawmakers voted to "continue" the bill until 2011. Sens. Houck and Quayle voted against the motion. HB 778 is up for consideration by the Senate Rules Committee on Friday, March 4, at 9 a.m.

On the General Assembly's Web site, you can currently find out which legislators voted for or against a particular bill. Unfortunately, there's no manageable way to find out how one particular legislator voted on any number of bills.

HB 778 would require that the Web site be tweaked to allow citizens to search the voting of each individual legislator.

The measure is officially sponsored by Republican delegate Jim LeMunyon, but he and his fellow freshman legislator from Fairfax, Democrat Mark Keam, have been working together to get the word out. The pair penned a column for the Washington Post that ran in late February.

The bill passed the House with 85% of the vote. Freshman and veteran legislators voted for the measure. Republicans and Democrats.

The bill was less well-received in a Senate Rules subcommittee Tuesday, however. Sen. Phillip Puckett (D-Tazewell) moved to report the bill to the full committee, but Sen. John Edwards (D-Roanoke), the only other subcommittee member present (the third, Sen. Fred Quayle (R-Suffolk), was not present), refused to second the motion.

Political opponents and political consultants are already mining existing data to pick and parse voting records, spinning them to their own purposes, and churning out political advertisements that are misleading at best, untrue at worst.

If voting records of legislators are easily searched and identified by citizens, too, there will be a mechanism for people to independently verify the truth of those assertions. They also let constituents quickly keep track of their legislator's votes on a myriad of issues, not just select ones.

Let's hope the full committee takes the measure seriously and gives it its full consideration. The bill is good for citizens, and furthers the goal of transparency in government.

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