All legislative votes should be recorded
Editorial: San Antonio Express-News
May 3, 2004
A majority of the legislation passed in last year's regular session of the Legislature was approved without a recorded vote. That means Texans have no way of finding out where their senators and representatives stood on many important issues affecting the state.
The lack of recorded votes is contrary to the open government that a healthy democracy requires, and the situation cries out for change.
Sen. Juan Carona, R-Dallas, has introduced a constitutional amendment in the ongoing special session that would solve the problem. So far, only Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, has signed on as a co-sponsor.
But if the proposed amendment were brought to the floor, an overwhelming majority could be expected to support it.
That's because most lawmakers would not want to take a public stand against giving their constituents the opportunity to see their entire voting records.
Many lawmakers may privately object to such openness because they prefer to cut some deals outside the spotlight. They would rather not be accountable to voters.
"It would make us all more careful," Wentworth said.
The Senate and House could change their rules to require recorded votes, but a constitutional amendment would block any future attempts to return to the current slippery techniques.
Carona's proposed amendment would require that votes on the floor and in committees to approve or reject of any piece of legislation, including amendments and substitutions, be recorded and made available on the Internet.
The requirement would extend to votes on appointments and leadership elections.
We urge all lawmakers to support Carona's bid to bring more openness to the Legislature.
Recorded votes are an important tool that should be available to voters when they decide whether their representatives merit re-election.
Anything less invites deception. If lawmakers don't act now, Texans should make recorded votes a key issue in future elections.