PD Editorial: Game of hide and seek with votes must end

  • FILE - In this Nov. 25, 2008 file photo, Assemblwoman Cathleen Galgiani, D-Tracy, casts her vote for one of the state budget measures during a special session held to deal with the state budget crisis at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif. An examination of lawmakers' voting records by the Associated Press found that Galgiani was among the top 10 lawmakers to add or switch their votes after the official tally, doing so 139 times. The California Assembly is one of 10 state legislative bodies nationwide that allow lawmakers to change the official records for how they acted on specific pieces of legislation. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

Kudos to the Associated Press for shining light on a longstanding rule in the state Assembly that allows some lawmakers to change their votes after the fact — sometimes repeatedly.

It's a contemptible practice, one that allows legislators to avoid taking clear positions and, thus, hiding their true votes from constituents. Worse, it casts doubt on all legislative votes, leaving one to question what is real and what is fiction about voting records.

Under this rule, all 80 members of the Assembly are allowed to change or add votes as long as it does not alter whether the bill passed or failed. The state Senate allows such changes to be made only by its Democratic and Republican leaders.

The Associated Press analysis shows that in this year's legislative session alone, state Assembly members made 5,012 vote changes or additions to the record.

Three North Coast lawmakers were included in on the list: Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, a candidate in the 2nd Congressional district; Michael Allen, D-Santa Rosa, a candidate in the 10th Assembly District, and Wes Chesbro, D-Arcata, a candidate in the 2nd Assembly District.

Allen changed or added his vote 12 times, including switching his vote from yes to not voting on a bill that called for raising a $250,000 cap on pain-and-suffering damages in medical malpractice cases. The bill failed.

Chesbro added or altered his vote 26 times including changing his vote from yes to no on a controversial bill that would have allowed media greater access to prisoners. The bill passed but was vetoed last month by Gov. Jerry Brown.

Huffman, meanwhile, did not change any of his votes. But he was second among all Bay Area legislators in having the most voting additions with 144.

As Staff Writer Derek Moore reported, Huffman says the add-ons were a reflection of his busy legislative schedule. "I was not playing politics," he said.

Maybe not. But it's evident that politics is often the key motivation.

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