Consider the following statement one might hear if they stay around the capitol very long: “If there is one consistent thing about that legislator, it is that he is consistently inconsistent!”
The average observer and voter will likely forgive a legislator for voting differently on issues than they would. But very little frustrates an observer more than a legislator who votes according to inconsistent and illogical philosophy.
A week ago, members of the House of Representatives cast 186 recorded votes in one week’s time. This year, it appears as if we are on track to cast approximately 850 votes. With so many votes to be considered, it is vital for each legislator to apply a consistent voting criteria.
It is tempting for legislators to cast votes based on the emotion of the moment, change their votes while the vote is still ongoing (depending on whether the bill is winning or losing), or vote based on personality and friendship. Legislators may cast a vote on an issue that is contrary to the principles he/she campaigned on because of their relationship with a special interest group or a particularly outspoken constituent. This creates frustration for those voters and observers who can’t predict how their legislator will vote.
Don’t think that inconsistent voting is monopolized by legislators who espouse a particular ideological point of view. Both conservative and liberal lawmakers are subject to acquiring the “change-itis” disease which sways their votes according to the most illogical of criteria.
It is a moral imperative for Legislators to do their best to resist the temptation to cast votes according to emotion. Legislators must be prepared to explain their votes in a logical way according to a consistent philosophy for which their voters and observers can hold them to account.
I learned this lesson during my second term in office.
After I cast a vote, I would often walk to the back of the House chamber on my way back to my office. This required walking past the new freshmen legislators who are traditionally seated towards the back of the House chambers.
I tend to vote no on more proposals than the average legislator. The freshmen noticed this and invariably my trek back to the office was subject to interruption from a freshman. They were new to the Legislature and wanted to know why I voted against a bill that most were supporting.
I quickly learned that I better be prepared to explain my vote before I headed back to the office.
Over the years, I put in place a system of criteria through which I filter my votes. These criteria are based on the principles that I campaigned on. They also allow me to explain my votes in a clear, understandable way.
I keep a copy of each of the materials that I distributed to the voters during each campaign and I occasionally review those materials. This allows me to adhere to the contract I have with the voters. They voted for me to be their Representative based on some very detailed principles I outlined in those materials. Now it is my obligation to apply these principles when I vote. I have attempted to translate those principles into a logical, criteria-based voting philosophy.
As these criteria have evolved over the years, they have made it easy to make most of those 850 – 1000 votes we must cast each year. They also allow me to clearly explain my votes. In a future update, I plan to explain the process I have developed for applying these criteria to the bills prior to each vote.
And if you ever have a question about how I vote on a particular bill, please don’t hesitate to ask.
Thank you for reading this article. Your interest and input are much appreciated. Please do not hesitate to email Jason.Murphey@hd31.org with your thoughts and suggestions.