State Lawmakers Hide Their Votes by Changing the Record Afterward

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


AB 1707 was a hot potato when it came up for a vote in the Assembly on August 30. Some legislators feared they might be viewed as soft on crime if they voted for a bill that would allow a limited number of people who had been designated as child abusers when they were minors―including foster children who were nicked for getting into fights―to have their names removed from the state registry.

The bill passed by one vote, according to the Associated Press news service, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at the official record that shows a comfortable 64-13 margin in favor.

The reason for the discrepancy in vote totals is a rule in the Assembly that allows legislators to change, or add, their votes to the roll after a piece of legislation has already been voted on. They can do it multiple times on a single bill.

Members of the Assembly took advantage of the rule to alter their votes, only available to party leaders in the state Senate, 5,000 times during this year’s legislative session, according to research done by the news service. They are only allowed to alter the record if their votes don’t change the outcome of the original tally.

Only nine other state legislative bodies in the country allow this kind of flip-flopping.

Termed-out Hayward Democrat Mary Hayashi was the most prolific vote changer in the Assembly, adding her vote to the mix 290 times after the fact. She also reversed one vote. Hayashi, who is running for a hotly-contested seat on the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, pleaded no contest on January 6 to misdemeanor grand theft after being arrested in October 2011 for shoplifting $2,450 worth of clothing from a Neiman Marcus store. She was sentenced to three years probation.

Lawmakers like Hayashi, who are running for a new seat in November, were found to be most likely to weigh in late or change their vote after an issue had been decided. Controversial legislation generated the most flopping around and Republicans were twice as likely to make a change as Democrats.

Although the average voter has no way to know how a lawmaker really voted on an issue when it counted, the Associated Press analyzed the Assembly’s daily file to detect changes.

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

California Lawmakers Altered 5,000 Votes (by Hannah Dreier and Juliet Williams, Associated Press)

Mary Hayashi Tops List of Assembly’s Late Votes (by Hannah Dreier and Juliet Williams, Associated Press)


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