Monday, July 26, 2010

What do the votes of incumbents reveal?

If the only things you know about political candidates is what they tell you (about themselves and their opponents), and we presume that they will tell you only what they want you to hear, can you really call yourself an informed voter?

That's why I like voting record scorecards. Typically, they list a large number of key bills and amendments that came before the state legislature or Congress and show how each and every legislator voted. Each vote is given a point value, and each elected official gets a score. A candidate can say anything on the campaign trail, but incumbents should live or die on their voting records.

The specific bills chosen and whether a particular vote is considered "good" or "bad" depends on who's keeping score, yet the scores are objectively calculated in the same way for each legislator. Most voters don't have the time or expertise to track voting records by poring over the journals of the House or Senate over the course of several legislative sessions. Voting scorecards are a fast and methodical way to do your voter due diligence apart from the hue and cry of political parties and candidate campaigns.

So how do SD43 incumbents and gubernatorial candidates fare on three right-leaning scorecards?

Taxpayers League of Minnesota "Friends of the Taxpayer"
  • SD43 Sen. Terri Bonoff (DFL) - 2010: 25%, 2009: 8%, Lifetime: 22%
  • HD43A Rep. Sarah Anderson (R) - 2010: 87%, 2009: 87%, Lifetime: 81%
  • HD43B Rep. John Benson (DFL) - 2010: 6%, 2009: 7%, Lifetime: 9%
  • HD19B Rep. Tom Emmer (R) - 2010: 87%, 2009: 100% "Best Friend of the Taxpayer," Lifetime: 91%
  • HD60A Rep. Margaret Anderson Kelliher (DFL) 2010: 0%, 2009: 0%, Lifetime: 10%
  • HD64A Rep. Matt Entenza (DFL): 2006: 10%, Lifetime (2003-2006): 16%
Minnesota Majority "Heroes and Zeros"
  • SD43 Sen. Terri Bonoff (DFL) - 2009: 11%, Career: 10%
  • HD43A Rep. Sarah Anderson (R) - 2009: 100% "Hero," Career: 94%
  • HD43B Rep. John Benson (DFL) - 2009: 0% "Zero," Career: 9%
  • HD19B Rep. Tom Emmer (R) - 2009: 100% "Hero," Career: 100%
  • HD50A Rep. Margaret Anderson Kelliher (DFL) - 2009: 0% "Zero," Career: 0%
  • HD64A Rep. Matt Entenza (DFL): (data unavailable prior to 2007)
Bills and Votes
  • SD43 Sen. Terri Bonoff (DFL) - 2010: 27%
  • HD43A Rep. Sarah Anderson (R) - 2010: 86%
  • HD43B Rep. John Benson (DFL) - 2010: 13%
  • HD19B Rep. Tom Emmer (R) - 2010: 93%
  • HD50A Rep. Margaret Anderson Kelliher (DFL) - 2010: 12%
  • HD64A Rep. Matt Entenza (DFL): (2010 data only available)
How did these legislators earn each of these scores? What does that tell you about them, given who is keeping score? Which legislators are best representing their districts? We'll look into the details in subsequent blog posts. You can play this game yourself by clicking on the scorecard links or by referring to the list of voting scorecards compiled by the nonpartisan Minnesota Legislative Reference Library.

Share your favorite scorecards with us in the comments section.

UPDATE: Taxpayers League scorecard updated with 2010 scores, which were just released.


R-Five said...

I agree, these scorecards can tell you much about an incumbent. My Rep. Hillstrom had 20-30 percent moderate streak that ended abruptly when the DFL took the House in 2006. MAK expanded the number of committees, gave Hillstrom a gavel, and we haven't seen a taxpayer friendly vote from her since. She clearly now works for MAK, not us in Brooklyn Center.

Master of None said...

I generally like scorecards, but in this year's Tax Payer League scorecard I disagree with a couple of their verdicts.

Sarah Anderson voted against TPL wishes on two votes, and on both of those I agree with her. One of those was a tax cut that the TPL didn't like because it wasn't broad enough, and the other was the GAMC compromise that saved the state millions while responsibly transition people into different care.

So if you're going to compare people with similar scores it pays to dig into the issues.

Scholar said...

Master of None: Digging into specific votes is exactly what I plan to do in the coming weeks. Your comment will get the discussion of the Taxpayers League scorecard off to a great start.

Matt Abe