It's harder to get a recorded vote in Massachusetts than in Texas, Ohio, Arizona and Florida
Posted on 16 Dec 2019
In Massachusetts, it is exceptionally hard to get a recorded vote when bills are voted on by the full House. When comparable states only require 1 to 5 Reps to stand to get a recorded vote on the floor, Massachusetts requires a whopping 16 Reps or 10% of the legislature.
Getting 16 Reps to coordinate is hard, and this presents a challenge to Reps who want to get votes on the record. This is why Massachusetts records so few meaningful votes. And when we do, it’s almost always unanimous or straight down the party line.
Lack of transparency leads to bad laws
Why does it matter if we record votes? Isn’t the legislature passing amazing progressive legislation all the time?
No. When votes aren’t made public, it leads to a disconnect between what voters want and what our government does.
In 2018, when the House raised the minimum wage to $15/hour, they also removed retail workers’ time-and-a-half pay on Sundays and Holidays. Many retail workers depend on that time-and-a-half pay to make ends meet, and so the law didn’t make a meaningful difference in their take home pay.
There was an amendment to save time-and-a-half, but because it didn’t get a recorded vote, you don’t know who was on your side or not. We don’t even know how close it was! Had there been a recorded vote on the issue it’s likely many Reps would have opposed ending time-and-a-half. But without a roll call, it’s easy for Reps to claim they individually opposed the change without having to take a stand in public.
Also, in 2018, during the Criminal Justice Reform debate, the House added a new mandatory minimum sentence into the bill without a recorded vote. At a time when criminal justice advocates were seeking to remove all mandatory minimums because they don’t work, Massachusetts added a new one that Republicans were pushing for. It’s hard to believe the amendment would have passed if Reps were on the record, and that’s precisely why it was passed without a recorded vote.
Democrats aren’t all the same and we deserve to know which ones are fighting for our issues
We know among Democrats there’s a wide range of views on important issues. But in terms of recorded votes, we rarely get to see any difference between the most conservative Democrat who called a group of Black Lives Matter protestors “terrorists” and the most progressive Democrats who stood up to their colleagues to file a bill addressing sexual harassment in the State House.
Unfortunately, there’s no way for the public to make any distinction between conservative and progressive Democrats because there are so few recorded votes. As a result, almost everything before a bill becomes law is decided behind closed doors.
We can get more recorded votes if more reps stand for roll call
As of now, 12 Reps are committed to standing for roll call on bills they have co-sponsored. Those 12 Reps are committed to getting more recorded votes on issues we all care about but they need your help. Without 4 more Reps standing with them, they can’t get a roll call because we need 16. Join the hundreds of other activists and voters who organized constituent meetings with their Reps to demand they tell us how they vote.
If your Rep is not on the list above, call them and ask them to sign our pledge. Here are some talking points to guide you. Let us know how it goes! Find out more about our pledge here. And you can look up your Rep’s number here
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