Shane Goldmacher is a former reporter for Capitol Weekly. He is a graduate of UC Berkeley, where he served as editor of the Berkeley Political Review.

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  • National NAACP bucks CA chapter, backs tobacco tax initiative
  • NAACP's Huffman assailed for tobacco, telecom payments
  • Schwarzenegger targets the 'ElimiDate Voter'
  • Legislators tap Sacramento interests for campaign cash
  • New York developer's eminent-domain crusade comes to California
  • Schwarzenegger's election-year olive branches
  • Dems, Gov. tapped same spots for campaign cash
  • Schwarzenegger has a special interest in Capitol-area money
  • Schwarzenegger's million-dollar woman
  • The kings and queens of the California political quotation
  • All about Phil: Angelides is strategist in own campaign
  • "Women of the year" married to men of Legislature
  • With new law, chase for campaign cash becomes family affair
  • High school student gives governor $44,600
  • Going to interview with CTA? Be sure to look into the camera
  • David Crane: Arnold's other Democratic adviser
  • The rise of the blogs: How the GOP uses the Web to organize

  • 1A: 76.9-23.1
    1B: 61.3-38.7
    1C: 57.4-42.6
    1D: 56.6-43.4
    1E: 64-36
    83: 70.6-29.4
    84: 53.7-46.3
    85: 45.9-54.1
    86: 48-52
    87: 45.2-54.8
    88: 23-77
    89: 25.5-74.5
    90: 47.6-52.4

    U.S. Sen.
    Feinstein 59.7
    Mountjoy 34.9
    Schwarzenegger 55.8
    Angelides 39.2
    Lt. Gov
    Garamendi 49.5
    McClintock 44.9
    Atty. Gen.
    Brown 56.7
    Poochigian 37.9
    Sec. of state
    Bowen 48.5
    McPherson 44.7
    Lockyer 54.8
    Parrish 37
    Chiang 50.9
    Strickland 40.1
    Insur. Comm.
    Poizner 50.7
    Bustamante 38.9

    For complete election results click here.

    Angelides 48.2
    Westly 43.1
    Lt. Gov
    Garamendi 42.9
    Speier 39.3
    Figueroa 17.8
    Atty. Gen.
    Brown 63.2
    Delgadillo 36.8
    Sec. of state
    Bowen 61.1
    Ortiz 38.9
    Parrish 56.4
    Richman 43.6
    Democratic primary
    Chiang 53.4
    Dunn 46.6
    Republican primary
    Strickland 40.9
    Maldonado 36.9
    Insur. Comm.
    Bustamante 70.5
    Kraft 29.5
    Supt. of Schools
    O'Connell 52.5, avoids run-off

    For complete election results click here.

    73: 47.4-52.6
    74: 45-55
    75: 46.6-53.4
    76: 38-62
    77: 40.5-59.5
    78: 41.5-58.5
    79: 38.9-61.1
    80: 34.3-65.7

    For complete election results click here.

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    Thursday, September 08, 2005

    Latest Articles in Capitol Weekly

    I have two pieces in the latest issue: the first is a legislative roundup on how the leg is headed out with a whimper.

    The second (see below) is on the forbidden but common practice of ghost voting...

    The absent voting legislator

    By Shane Goldmacher (published September 8th, 2005)

    As the Senate voted to approve gay marriage last week, Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, who authored the bill, celebrated by holding an impromptu press conference just outside the Senate chambers. But across the Capitol rotunda, the very same Mark Leno voted on several bills on the Assembly floor without ever stepping foot inside the chambers of the lower house.

    It’s called "ghost" voting, and it’s a common practice in the state Assembly, where votes are recorded by pressing an electronic button located at each individual member’s desk. That electronic system allows for legislative seatmates to vote on behalf of one another, which happens increasingly often during the marathon floor sessions that occur at the end of session.

    The practice is expressly forbidden in the Assembly Rules--except for the Speaker, who may instruct another member to vote on his behalf. The Rules state that "a Member may not operate the voting switch of any other Member." But the rule is rarely, if ever, enforced, and it contains no explicit penalties.

    "It’s a long tradition in California," said Bob Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies. "It ebbs and flows and whenever there is press about it, they try to crack down."

    Only a week ago, Sen. Carole Migden, D-San Francisco, was caught casting a vote in favor of her own bill on the Assembly floor at a Republican desk, despite being neither an Assemblywoman nor a Republican.

    And today, ghost voting on the Assembly floor continues to be as rampant as it is bipartisan.

    During a floor session on Tuesday, Assemblywoman Patty Berg, D-Eureka, was briefly manning the voting switches for three legislators: herself, Assemblymen Dave Jones, D-Sacramento, and Paul Koretz, D-West Hollywood, two seatmates who had simultaneously stepped off the floor.

    State Sen. Wes Chesbro, D-Arcata, saw her hustling from desk to desk and joked that she "looked like a musician" pressing so many buttons.

    When Assemblyman Jones did return to the floor, he continued to vote on behalf of Koretz, including a decisive 41st vote on SB 645, a contentious bill that establishes a commission to address the forced deportation of American citizens of Mexican descent during the 1930s and 40s. Jones declined to comment on ghost voting for this story.

    Since seatmates are usually (and in the current session are all) of the same party, they often entrust one another to cast votes when one member is away from his or her desk. Some legislators leave a voting cheat sheet. Others simply trust the judgment of their seatmate. Nearly every legislator takes part.

    And if their neighbor were ever to err, every Assemblymember does have the opportunity to amend their vote before the end of session, so long as it does not change the outcome of the vote in question.

    Still, the system has its critics.

    "If members are on the other side of the room and they yell ‘vote for me,’ I don’t have a problem with that," said Stern. "But the problem [with ghost voting] is a member doesn’t know what they are voting on and they weren’t there during the debate."

    He adds that the requirement of 41 votes for passage--instead of a majority of present members--creates "so much pressure, they cut corners."

    Minority leader Assemblyman Kevin McCarthy said, "I’d rather have the rules like the Senate," where votes are tallied by a voice vote rather than electronically.

    "People would be at their desk, they would be forced to listen to bills more often," McCarthy added. But McCarthy himself casts ghost votes and, as Republican leader, is often away from his desk, conferring with members of his caucus during session.

    With 80 members of the Assembly, a voice vote would be both cumbersome and time-consuming, particularly for bills that pass with near unanimous support. Thus, the electronic system, and the prevalence of absentee voting, is likely here to stay.

    "I don’t think there ought to be ghost voting," said Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, a professor at the School of Policy, Planning and Development at the University of Southern California. "But what’s the penalty? That’s the point."

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