Letting the Public Know How They Vote

Last week, EPL/Environmental Advocates, the accountability arm of Environmental Advocates of New York released its annual Environmental Scorecard. The document tracks how all 213 state legislators voted on environmental and energy issues in this year’s legislative session, and gives them a score between 0 and100.

It’s a process which has been in place for years: it is not political in content, does not guide how the public should vote in elections in the way endorsements or voters’ guides do, and simply lays out how state legislators voted on the issues that matter to our environment. They can’t even be surprised to learn they are at odds with our stance, as legislators receive our position on legislation in advance of their voting yay or nay.

Yet without fail, certain legislators take great exception to the very concept of their votes being tracked.

Vehemently they attack not just environmental advocates, but any public interest group or organization that dares question their judgment.

Which raises the question: how did Albany politicians get so thin-skinned as to shy away from simply defending their own actions? Gone, it seems, is rational discourse from New York’s legislators (state Senators, in particular). Gone, it appears, are the days when a public official would say, “I voted against that bill, and here’s why…”

New Yorkers are conditioned to politicians who say one thing to their constituents but do another once they get inside the Capitol. And oftentimes, they get away with hypocritical behavior because, as media outlet after media outlet has noted, many Albany pols have gone to great extreme to keep the public in the dark.

But no matter how secretive some of New York’s elected officials want to be, how they vote is how they vote. It is recorded, it is preserved. The public is right to be outraged if their elected officials votes against our environment; elected officials have no right to be outraged at the public’s right to know.