Greenville County lawmakers skipped hundreds of votes, some more important than others


Citing family health reasons, state Rep. Tommy Stringer missed 836 votes in the Legislature over the past two years, the most of any member of the Greenville County legislative delegation, a review of records by The Greenville News shows.

All 22 members of the county's delegation missed some votes, and 13 House members missed more than 100 for the session that ran from January through early May of 2017 and 2018.

The state Senate held 938 votes in the session while the House held 1,341.

Family illnesses, work conflicts, meetings off the floor and a desire not to vote on legislation that's local for other parts of the state were among causes cited.

Perception of the absences' significance depends on who's asked.

Some votes are more important than others, according to Julie Hussey, co-president of the League of Women Voters South Carolina.

"The League of Women Voters encourages voters to examine the whole record of the their legislator," she said in a statement. "Attendance during floor votes is a tool, but it is not the only way and not always the best way to measure performance."

Stephen Spaulding, an attorney and chief strategist in the national office of Common Cause, a government watchdog group, said it's important to pay attention to lawmakers' missed votes.

"Lawmakers are elected to represent their communities," he said. "And when they don't show up to do their job, they don't represent their communities well. They are shirking their responsibilities, and it's something that voters certainly have a right to ask questions about. They expect their representatives to show up for work and represent them. And when they don't do that, it's troubling and it raises questions elected officials should answer."

Bobby Cox, who is running against Rep. Phyllis Henderson in the GOP contest for House District 21, said he thinks all votes matter, and he criticized Henderson for missing 700 since becoming a lawmaker in 2010.

"Our elected officials should be held to the highest standard and not the lowest," Cox said. "And that's what we've been doing in the past, holding them to a very low bar. If I perform my job only a majority of the time, especially as an Army Ranger, lives would be lost. The representative's job is to vote.

"Thinking that missing votes is not a big deal is indicative of the bigger problem that our elected officials are comfortable with mediocrity in our state. Legislators prioritizing meeting with lobbyists as an excuse over voting shows a distorted prioritization of their duty."

Henderson said her 700 missed votes over eight years is not a large amount. She missed 149 for the past two-year session.

"Sometimes you get sick," she said. "Sometimes you have a family member who has an emergency. Sometimes you get stuck in the lobby having a conversation and the bell rings and you don't get back in time. Gosh, during the budget I would be in the restroom and I would hear the bell ring and I would be like, 'OK, I'm in the restroom.'"

She said she does not recall being absent for any extended period of time during her tenure.

"I'm proud of my record," she said. "Obviously, things come up."

Read the full article here.


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Bobby Cox is a member of the Army Reserves. Use of his military rank, job titles, and photographs in uniform does not imply endorsement by the Department of the Army or the Department of Defense.

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