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Posted at 7:05 PM ET, 02/22/2010

Let Virginians see how their legislators are voting

By washingtonpost.com editors

By Jim LeMunyon and Mark Keam
Richmond

In recent years, Internet technology has provided greater government transparency and accessibility. Virginia maintains an excellent Web site that enables the public to track legislation, follow committee and floor schedules and view video of proceedings. The history of every bill introduced in Virginia since 1994, including recorded votes, also can be easily retrieved.

But one feature is lacking. While recorded votes can be retrieved by bill number, they cannot be compiled using a member’s name. To assemble a member’s voting record, a user would have to know all of the bills that received votes (many die in committee) and type in each number, one by one, to view the “yeas” and “nays.”

Such an exercise would take days, if not weeks. The public deserves an easier way. That is why we introduced House Bill 778 — to require voting records to be organized by member name as well as bill number. On Feb. 16, the House bill passed 86 to 13. No member spoke against the bill on the floor, although some noted privately that this tool might help candidates challenging incumbents by making it easier to retrieve incumbents’ voting records. That may be so, but this bill would also help citizens hold their leaders accountable.

H.B. 778 is pending before the Senate Rules Committee. A former member of the Virginia House, Thomas Jefferson, once remarked, “If the people are well informed, they can be trusted with their own government.” Virginia’s delegates have affirmed their confidence in Mr. Jefferson’s words. Now it’s up to the Senate.

The writers are, respectively, first-term Republican and Democratic members of the Virginia House of Delegates from Fairfax County.

By washingtonpost.com editors  | February 22, 2010; 7:05 PM ET
Categories:  HotTopic, Va. Politics, Virginia  
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