AUGUST 07, 2009
Though it blatantly violates the key principles of democracy, lawmakers in the nation’s most populous state regularly expunge voting records on controversial legislation so that the public can never access the information that could later hurt them politically.
The secret voting system by elected officials in California was exposed this week when the state’s Assembly purged its roll-call record on a heated issue—off shore oil drilling—to hide members’ actions from the public. The measure would have allowed oil drilling off of southern California’s precious coast for the first time in four decades.
The bill ultimately failed but residents can’t access how their representative voted on the controversial issue because it has been wiped out from the state’s otherwise user-friendly website, which claims to post all of California’s legislative votes (in the Assembly and Senate) on bills.
This sort of thing happens frequently in the Golden State’s lower house (Assembly), especially during late-night sessions when there is less media coverage and virtually no activists paying attention. In the last six years 71 votes on Assembly bills have vanished, according to one news report, which lists a few of the more notable ones that disappeared from the record.
One is a final tally on a contentious bill designed to “eliminate the racially disparate impact of existing law” by reducing the penalty for crack cocaine crimes and increasing it for powder cocaine offenses. Voting records have also been purged on measures relating to weaker penalties for crimes, healthcare and the state lottery.
A San Francisco newspaper editorial blasts Democrats, who control the Assembly, for allowing this unacceptable voting record purge to occur unopposed by a single member. The bottom line is that Democrats bear the ultimate responsibility for this anti-democratic whitewash, it points out. Incidentally, the piece lists the recent offshore drilling vote lawmakers didn’t want you to see.
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