November 24, 2004

"Empty seat voting"

Since I wrote Congressman Boehlert this morning, I figured it might be nice to continue my letter-writing to some of Dryden's other representatives on my lunch. I've written before about Assemblywoman Lifton's response to my letter and the preliminary report on reform from the State Senate Task Force on Government Reform, which includes Senator James L. Seward. (He's also published a press release about it.)

Both of them represent Dryden, and neither of them seem particularly enthusiastic about changing the ways their chambers operate. I'd like to see that change, so I've written them each a letter about a practice that seems to deviate pretty substantially from the way we teach civics students that government should operate.

"Empty seat voting," or "fast roll call voting", lets legislators vote yes even when they aren't in the chamber. The Brennan Center report notes on page 31 that among professional legislatures, only New York's two chambers use the practice regularly. Pennsylvania permits it, but only uses it half the time, "never on significant legislation," while New Jersey permits it and only uses it in a limited number of cases. California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin don't use it.

I've posted my letter to Lifton (69KB PDF) and my letter to Seward (68KB PDF). I'll also post any replies I get back, and evaluate whether they answered the question.

(I did attach notes asking them to consider their replies as on the record, though I believe that's normal for this kind of correspondence in any case.)

Posted by simon at November 24, 2004 12:45 PM in ,
Note on photos