Monday, September 10, 2012
Missing In Action: Illinois Congressmen
When it comes to attendance, Illinois’ congressional delegation earns above-average marks.
All of Illinois’ seats in the U.S. House of Representatives — 18 in all after losing one in the redistricting process — are up for grabs in November. “But for the average voter who’s maybe not very engaged, they’re going to be looking for these kinds of cues that give them some sense of how effective somebody is,” said longtime Illinois political observer Kent Redfield. “Whether they take it seriously and, for better or worse, whether they miss a lot of roll calls are measures.”
Of the state’s 19 sitting U.S. representatives, only Chicago Democrats Bobby Rush of District 1 and Luis Gutierrez of District 4 have missed more than 10 percent of roll-call votes, according to the latest figures from Govtrack.us, which follows federal legislation and lawmaker votes in Congress.
U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren, R-District 14, including most of McHenry County, has the best record, missing only four of 1,503 votes during his tenure since Jan.,2011.
Some candidates say they miss more mundane and procedural votes, because they are meeting with constituents and interest groups as well as advocating for particular issues and meeting with interest groups — all of which make them better representatives of those who elected them. But a candidate’s voting record, especially missed votes on key legislation, can be damaging material for an opponent’s campaign ads, said Redfield, a political science professor at the University of Illinois at Springfield. “It really can be political dynamite because it translates so easily into an appeal that the average voter can understand,” he said.
“So when a congressman misses a lot of roll calls, it’s really easy to make the case that the congressman is skipping work and therefore is not paying attention to the basics. And if they don’t have the kind of character to show up for work, then how can you trust them on all of this other stuff. It fits very easily into a more extended narrative of whether they’re really up to the job.”
Rush, who has missed 13 percent of roll-call votes during his tenure,especially in 2008 when he was being treated for cancer. That, Redfield noted, is an example of why voting records alone without context can cause confusion for voters. “It’s just that without any context, missing votes translates into not doing your job and not taking the job seriously. Without context that’s a very compelling negative argument.”
Click here for a complete, searchable list of Illinois’ U.S. representatives’ voting records:
You can read Jayette's full report at: http://watchdog.org/54638/missed-votes-in-congress-not-the-only-factors-voters-should-consider/