Vote for Me-Literally: Legislators in Olympia take credit for votes they never cast themselves.

Hypocrisy, a requisite trait of politicking, has run amok this session in Olympia. Legislators who often demand accountability from others don't seem to demand it of themselves. Most recently, they have been defending their right not to perform the primary act they were elected to do: vote.While the state Senate uses a roll-call voice vote, House members vote with electronic buttons. And that's where the subterfuge comes in. When a legislator is off doing something he or she thinks is more important than voting, someone else reaches over and presses the button for them.During one recent House session, says Scott St. Clair of the Evergreen Freedom Foundation, "I lost count of the number of times I saw two particular legislators doing it." House Majority Leader Lynn Kessler, D-Hoquiam, and House Majority Whip Sharon Tomiko Santos, D-Seattle, repeatedly cast their own votes for a measure and then reached over to cast a vote for an absent seatmate, says St. Clair.It's a little-known but long-practiced charade that allows lawmakers to fluff up their record by claiming they voted when they didn't. The reach-over vote memorably made news in the '80s after a reporter at The Olympian caught a House member casting 17 votes on one bill, 16 of them for others. The reporter also watched colleagues vote for another member who was off collecting his laundry.The controversy over absentee voting has flared anew due in part to a rift between two candidates for a seat in the U.S. House—the 3rd Congressional District, where state Rep. Deb Wallace, D-Vancouver, was battling state Rep. Jaime Herrera, R-Camas, to replace retiring Congress member Brian Baird. Wallace, shortly before she withdrew, took a parting shot at Herrera for "shirking her duties" by repeatedly allowing others to vote in her absence, according to the Vancouver Columbian. Herrera denied the shirking, and defended the vanishing.The double, triple, maybe quadruple voting appears to violate the House's own procedural rules, which note that "only [the votes of] members at their desks within the bar of the house shall be counted." But House Speaker Frank Chopp, D-Seattle, and House Minority Leader Richard DeBolt, R-Chehalis, apparently see no problem in violating this ethic. As a result, legislators who don't vote are deceptively recorded as having done so, and can continue to lie about their records.It's something to keep in mind the next time a tut-tutting state legislator asks you why you don't exercise your right to vote.

 
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