Martin Hawver
Guest columnist
You’ve seen the mailings in election years, you know, the ones with a photo of a few lines apparently ripped from the official journal of the House or Senate.
The scrap is always tilted a bit to make it more visually interesting.
And, by gosh, that bit of an official document almost always shows—usually with a swipe of yellow highlighter—that a candidate voted for or against something that the rest of the brochure deems politically or fiscally or culturally important.
There isn’t much that is as good as being recorded in some unassailably accurate important official document as having voted right or wrong on something that you think your voters care strongly about.
But this year, we might want to read carefully just what official document is being mined for political profit.
We’re thinking this is the year, with candidates scrapping to keep their seats and opponents looking for damaging material, that we see not only votes made on the floor of the House or Senate, but even votes made in committees being highlighted.
There are lots of times in committees when a motion is made to do something, and the chairman looks around the table and sees that most everyone favors or opposes the motion and declares it either passed or failed with no roll-call, or even just show of hands.
That isn’t very memorable and probably not even worth the cost of a bulk mailing to send to potential voters.
But when we Statehouse denizens hear “I would like to be recorded” and see that legislator’s vote formally entered into the minutes of the committee where it becomes a permanent record of the legislators action, we seen an upcoming campaign ad.
This is the year that we’re expecting those almost procedural votes on issues—maybe to introduce a bill or to send it to the full House or Senate for debate, or maybe to make just some little change in it—to need to be considered in terms of their political value.
Sometimes, it’s better to put something in a bill that you think will either secure its passage or doom it to defeat. Strategies vary, but almost all of them produce at least one of those formal yes or no votes on which a campaign can be built.
So, we’re going to be watching closely, to see whether a vote in a committee on something relatively unimportant becomes the theme of a campaign or two out there, and whether the public will be much moved by a vote even when it is dramatically presented as a fact “ripped from the official record” of some committee or another.
Key might be that it’s the final votes, not necessarily some little acting-out behavior in a committee, that is the real indication of just where a legislator is on legislation that you care about.
Yes, we’ll get the mailings. Yes, we’ll see the official documentation of some vote somewhere in the process of a bill passing into law or failing.
But chances are a little better we’re going to consider just what we’re seeing dramatically portrayed on a mailing.
Syndicated by Hawver News Company LLC of Topeka; Martin Hawver is publisher of Hawver’s Capitol Report—to learn more about this statewide political news service, visit the website at