SACRAMENTO — Since late 1986, state Sen. William Campbell (R-Hacienda Heights) has missed 30% of the votes he could have cast on legislation, including more than half of those logged by committees on which he serves, a computer analysis shows.
That record not only makes Campbell one of the most infrequent voters in the state Senate, where the average absentee record over the same period was 17%, but it makes him by far the member of the Orange County delegation in Sacramento with the highest percentage of missed votes, according to the analysis of legislative business conducted between December, 1986, and June 15.
Collected $88 Per Diem
In addition, Campbell and two other Orange County senators missed votes on days they checked in at the Capitol and collected their $88 per diem, attendance records show.
On the Assembly side, Orange County legislators with the highest non-voting rates include Assemblymen John R. Lewis (R-Orange) and Gil Ferguson (R-Newport Beach) at 14% and 13% respectively--records that also exceed the 8% average for missed votes in the lower chamber during the period covered by the analysis.
Campbell and other Orange County legislators contacted by The Times say they sometimes missed votes because they were busy pushing other political agendas. They cautioned that these statistics should not be taken at face value, contending that voting alone does not make someone an effective representative.
They say their voting records should not be viewed as a Sacramento batting average, but rather that their performances should be judged like those of the baseball player who comes through with a big hit in the clutch.
"I think it all depends on what votes you miss and what votes you make," Campbell said. "If you miss (bills) where nobody votes 'no' and they are all technical bills, that's not an important issue. But if you miss voting on the budget and you miss voting on the key issues of the day, that's where your constituents expect you to act," he said.
Others disagree, arguing that casting a vote on a proposed law--no matter how inconsequential--is considered one of the most important aspects of an elected official's job.
"If they are taking per diem and are getting paid, they should be representing the people. . . . It just raises a serious question as to what their priorities are," said Gus Owen, president of the Lincoln Club, a prestigious Orange County GOP support group. "If they exceed 15%, I really seriously question what they are doing."
Sacramento attorney Robert Naylor, who served in the Assembly from 1978 to 1986 and was Assembly Republican leader for two of those years, said he believes a legislator should miss no more than 10% of his votes, despite a crowded schedule.
Anything more than that, Naylor and others say, leaves a legislator vulnerable to the perception that he is not tending to business.
The number of votes missed by each senator and assemblyman since December, 1986, was compiled by Legi-Tech, a computer tracking firm used by journalists, lobbyists, government agencies and companies that have business with the Legislature.
The analysis indicates whether a legislator votes "yes," "no" or not at all on each of the thousands of bills considered each session. This includes rafts of non-controversial bills that are usually approved--all at once--by unanimous consent.
Thus, a senator or assemblyman who misses one of these consent votes will be recorded as absent for dozens--sometimes hundreds--of bills all at once, a method that Campbell and others say is unfair when considering their percentages.
The tracking also makes no allowance for differences in voting procedures between the Assembly and the Senate. In the Assembly, a person who misses a vote is allowed to add it later to the official record, as long as his vote does not affect the outcome of a bill. Senators, however, cannot change the record if they miss a roll call.
As a further cross-check to Legi-Tech, The Times reviewed attendance records of the three Orange County state senators who scored higher than 10% in missing votes. Among the results:
Campbell was the Orange County legislator who missed the most votes, failing to cast 3,070 out of the 10,201 possible votes on the floor and in committees. He missed 20% of the votes to come up on the Senate floor, and 53%--1,704 out of 3,208--on the various committees to which he is assigned.
Of the 40 state senators, the only ones to have missed more votes than Campbell are Joseph B. Montoya (D-Whittier), at 46%; Bill Greene (D-Los Angeles), at 36%, and William A. Craven (R-Oceanside) at 30%. Records show that Craven, however, has often missed votes because of illness.