Friday, March 7, 2008

Legislature takes accountability plunge

Management Council backs study of electronic voting

Knock us over with a feather ... the Management Council on Friday directed its Select Committees on Legislative Technology and Legislative Process to figure out how the Wyoming Legislature can integrate electronic voting into its procedures.

The Management Council, made up of most of the legislative leadership with a few other legislators thrown in, took the long-awaited step very carefully, and laid out a series of concerns.

House Speaker Roy Cohee and Senate President John Schiffer serve as chairman and vice-chairman. Cohee asked the Council to discuss electronic voting, citing letters sent to the Council this week by the ESPC and the League of Women Voters that requested an interim study.

Schiffer, who sounded off against the change last year, Friday expressed fears that electronic voting will somehow diminish the gravity of the Senate's voting.

"The most important thing we do is vote," Schiffer said.

Which is the reason the ESPC and others have urged the Legislature to move to electronic voting for years. It assures accountability in the most specific way.

Under present rules, the Legislature records floor votes when a bill is killed, on third readings of bills, when an amendment to any bill increases or decreases state spending, or when a member makes a motion to record the yeas and nays and gets a second for the motion. Votes on amendments are conducted as voice votes, making it impossible to determine who supports or opposes what can be critical motions.

This move means the select committees will figure out how to integrate electronic voting into all its procedures. We'll have to work hard to encourage recording of all votes. The Council already appears ready to get the votes up on its website.