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Vote Smart Adds State-Legislative Voting Records to Web Site PDF Print E-mail
News/Features - Local News
Tuesday, 24 October 2006 22:26

Project Vote Smart has given voters in Iowa and Illinois a new tool to scrutinize their state legislators. The State Key Votes Program is a new addition to Project Vote Smart's Web site that will provide the voting records of each member of the state legislature in all 50 states on key issues.

Modeled after Project Vote Smart's compendium of congressional voting records, the State Key Vote Program will allow citizens to monitor their state representatives on issues selected by Project Vote Smart researchers, who reviewed local newspapers, state legislative journals, and initiatives proposed by citizen groups and special-interest groups.

"In our experience, we've found that the average voter can tell you more about their legislators in Washington than in their state capital," said Project Vote Smart spokesperson Carolyn Holmes in an e-mail. "This is somewhat odd, considering the fact that legislators in their state do more, on average, to determine their lives than their U.S. representatives."

After getting a feel for the more important issues, researchers from Project Vote Smart collect information and divide legislation into categories such as education, health, legal, and budget. Voting records for each member of the state legislature are posted on Project Vote Smart's Web site (http://www.vote-smart.org). A voter can search the issues by category, view all the bills selected for the month, and look at a particular bill's official summary, floor votes, the bill's full text, and information on amendments. And a Voter's Research Hotline is also available at (888) 868-3762.

The program was created after years of pleading from frustrated citizens who had no place to find out how they were being represented at the state level.

"Many state legislatures' Web sites are confusing and hard to use," said Colleen Candrl, director of Project Vote Smart's State Key Votes Program, in a news release. "A voter has to know exactly what bill number to search for and really dig through the pages of the state House and Senate journals. Project Vote Smart has eliminated these hassles so that citizens can easily understand the meaning of legislation and find out how their own legislators voted."

Still in its initial phases, the State Key Votes Program is first program to systematically cover state legislators' voting records across the country.

Research began in January of 2006, and only information from January through May is presently available.

In Iowa, Project Vote Smart has tracked the Prohibition of Video Gambling Machine bill and the Voter Identification Act. And in Illinois, Project Vote Smart has selected the Election Codes Revisions bill and the Support Horseracing Through Riverboat Casinos, for example.

"Before we simply included a link to the legislative Web site of any given state and left it at that," Holmes wrote. "Now that we have added this information to the candidates' pages, we are finding that is the most frequently used point of access for this type of information."

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