During the past year, the Senate took 665 roll call votes and the House took 591, not counting purely procedural votes.
Although the number of missed votes this year is lower than the 2,234 votes missed by individual lawmakers in 2012, on a percentage basis it’s a bit higher since nearly twice as many total votes were taken the previous year. Nevertheless, both figures represent a dramatic departure from the 21,162 missed votes in the 2001-02 legislative session, the year MichiganVotes.org began.
“The days of some legislators who just stop coming to work are long past,” McHugh said, noting that politicians’ habits changed almost immediately when MichiganVotes.org began making this information easily accessible 10 years ago.
Just one senator and three representatives missed 50 or more votes in 2013. There were nine senators and 71 representatives who missed no votes.
The full report showing the missed votes of all members of the Michigan Legislature can be seen at www.michiganvotes.org/MissedVotes.aspx. It can be sorted by name or by the number of missed votes. The total number of possible votes is also listed for each legislator (those who were not in office for the entire session have lower numbers). By clicking on a legislator’s name, you can see a brief, plain-English description of the actual votes he or she missed. Missed vote totals for previous sessions can be viewed by entering a different date range.
McHugh noted that, in most cases, missed votes occur when other demands within the legislative process call a lawmaker off the floor for a few minutes, or when serious family or personal issues require an absence of an entire day or longer.
“Legislators are people, too,” McHugh said. “No one should jump to conclusions or assume bad faith — but if a legislator demonstrates a consistent pattern of missed votes for months on end, voters have a right to ask why.”
While large numbers of missed votes get people’s attention, McHugh said voters should be more concerned about the votes their legislators actually do take.
“Too many of these votes appear to serve the system ahead of the people,” he added.
To illustrate, McHugh points to the 1,028 bills and votes accumulated on the site’s “economic development” category over 13 years, and observes that promoting corporate welfare is something politicians never talk about on the campaign trail, even though these measures usually pass with large bipartisan majorities.
MichiganVotes.org is searchable and sortable by legislator, category, keyword and more. It has described more than 25,000 bills since 2001.
McHugh said while the service was started to give citizen-activists access to more information to help them influence the legislative process, its main benefit is transparency.
“We now have 13 years of bills and votes in the system — the complete legislative careers of many lawmakers,” he said. “To obtain this information anywhere else, it would be necessary to pore through thousands of pages of legislative journals.”