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'Top Vote Missers' Among Lawmakers

July 02, 1989

Your article on "top vote missers" among Orange County lawmakers (June 19) conveyed the false impression that unless a legislator has a 100% voting record, he or she is either playing hooky, gone fishing or taking an afternoon nap.

I happen to be a former aide to one of the legislators you listed as exceeding the so-called "average" of missed votes. Every person you listed in that category happens to be among the Republican leadership.

The fact is, however, that only yes or no votes are recorded by the Legislature. The records don't distinguish between abstaining from a vote and missing it. Nor do they distinguish between a true absence from a committee or floor session, and a momentary stepping out to confer with staff, attend to official matters of significant importance, or even to present a bill before a different committee.

By throwing out mounds of statistics without explaining in any depth what they may or may not mean, you have done your readers a disservice.

Voting on every bill tells the voter nothing good about the legislator, except that he or she was there. What the public really needs to know is, how did our legislators vote on the bills which are significant--those which are helpful or harmful. Most of the bills deal with minor technical or bureaucratic matters, or are pure claptrap--a waste of taxpayer dollars.

It is common knowledge that the leadership in both parties sometimes must skip portions of committee meetings or floor sessions in order to work out compromises on legislation, meet with affected interest groups and resolve many other matters.

The article and the study totally ignored this aspect of leadership, and also ignored the "missed votes" of the Democratic leadership, which prompts this reader to question the motives.

Instead of helping the public become better informed about legislative conduct, you probably have succeeded only in making people more cynical.

JOHN J. CARVELLI

Newport Beach

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