Whatcom's state lawmakers don't miss many votes

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJuly 5, 2013 

Whether as a result of a family member's major milestone or being stuck in traffic, many state legislators can't avoid missing at least a few votes.

But none of the lawmakers who represent Whatcom County missed a significant number of votes during the 51/2 months they were in session, according to the annual report by WashingtonVotes.org, released Tuesday, July 2.

Those who missed more than a dozen votes cited personal reasons or other duties of office that kept them off the floor.

Three of the six representatives or senators were perfect in their voting attendance, or nearly so.

Rep. Vincent Buys, R-Lynden, and Rep. Kristine Lytton, D-Anacortes, didn't miss any votes.

Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, missed just one vote despite being chairman of a key environmental committee. Legislative leaders are often in negotiations when bills are scheduled for a vote.

Buys, who was the Republican leader in the House Government Operations and Elections Committee, said representatives can instruct someone else on how to vote for them when they are in another meeting. Senators must vote in person.

Lytton said it was her job to be on the floor as deputy floor leader. She needed to make sure her colleagues understood the bills up for debate and to round up fellow Democrats for votes.

"It's really important for me to be there, just to help people get organized," she said.

Rep. Jason Overstreet, R-Lynden, missed six votes. He and Ericksen could not be reached for comment.

Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island, missed 15 of the 619 roll-call votes cast in the Senate. Ranker, the top Democrat on Ericksen's environmental committee, missed seven votes due to meetings off the capitol campus. Another seven votes occurred when he was returning from his father's wedding. During one vote, he was stuck in traffic, Ranker said.

"Sometimes during the course of a session, especially a long session like we just completed, absences are unavoidable," Ranker said in an email. "It's important to note that my vote was not crucial for the passage or failure of any of these bills." Otherwise, he said, he would have been there.

Rep. Jeff Morris, D-Mount Vernon, missed 23 votes, or 3.3 percent of the House's 694 roll-call votes. Of those, nine or 10 happened in the first special session during his daughter's high school graduation, Morris said.

"No one planned for the first special session," Morris said.

Not to mention the second special session, which ended June 29. The Legislature began conducting business on Jan. 14.

Lytton, who was reclining on a hammock at her home when reached by telephone Tuesday, July 2, said she was in Olympia about twice as long as in an ordinary year.

"It was a challenge," she said about making every vote. "I can't tell you how glad I am to be home."

Reach RALPH SCHWARTZ at ralph.schwartz@bellinghamherald.com or call 715-2298.

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