In light of the Senate passing SB 5082 to end advisory votes, I thought I’d highlight a personal project that shows their value even if they aren’t legally binding. Specifically, I wanted to make it easy for voters to determine how often their representatives in Olympia match their district on legislation that is referred to the ballot.
It’s codenamed Project Fidelity, and you can access it from my WhipStat site here:
To create this I researched the LD breakdowns of all ballot measures since Initiative 960 went into effect in 2012. Some of these were already posted on the WA Secretary of State website, but several years were missing and needed to be obtained via public records request. I then compared them to voting records for all members using Legislative Web Services, something that I’d already been leveraging for the Partisan Leaderboard and Identify Friend or Foe projects.
To use this tool, simply select the chamber and date range that interest you and a stacked scatter chart will be displayed on the left showing individual member fidelity scores, with 0% meaning that they never matched their district, and 100% meaning that they were always consistent with the majority of their constituents. The data points (with tooltips) are color coded by party and you’ll also see vertical lines that represent the median score for each party. Clicking an individual member in the chart will show a table below breaking down every bill that went before voters during their tenure, their last floor vote on the bill, the percentage of their constituents that supported it, and whether they matched.
If you click the Download button, it will create a tab-delimited file for each member on the chart and their score, allowing you to create an easy leaderboard in Excel for the best and worst members at voting their district. (It’s also worth noting that the Republicans median score is 60%, compared to 50% for Democrats. That might help explain why they seem so invested in ending advisory votes.) One thing that surprised me is that members from swing districts aren’t very good at representing the majority of their constituents. For example, I only got 50% of them right and I still had the best score of anyone representing the 5th LD.
We at Voter Science hope that Project Fidelity can provide a little more transparency into our state government, allowing WA taxpayers to easily determine which state legislators are voting with their district on legislation referred to the ballot, and which might be selling out to special interests or simply voting party line. It’s an opportunity to hold them more accountable for their voting record when they’re up for reelection, using a mechanism that was created with Initiative 960 and may soon be disappearing.