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People you never voted for -- representing you in the Legislature

People you never voted for -- representing you in the Legislature

Wayne Hoffman
May 22, 2009
Wayne Hoffman
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May 22, 2009

You never imagined it possible, but in some cases, you elect people to serve in the Idaho Legislature -- and then those people select someone else entirely to serve. Here's a preview of my Sunday column:

In the late spring of 2003, as lawmakers considered a bill to raise taxes, Moscow Republican Rep. Gary Young rose to his feet on the floor of the House of Representatives and announced, “My constituents tell me they don’t want a tax increase.” The problem is Young’s constituents also told him that they didn’t want him either. They ousted Young. Democrat Shirley Ringo beat Young in the 2002 general election by 736 votes. So how did Young end up in the same office from which voters dismissed him?

State law allows legislators to appoint temporary replacements, but the law has virtually no sideboards to prevent abuse – defeated lawmakers from serving or elected legislators from permanently sending their temporarily proxies to vote. Even lobbyists get to cast votes in the Idaho Legislature – and they have.

By the end of the 2009 legislative session, seven members – 20 percent of the Senate’s membership – were temporary replacements that never stood for an election. That might be convenient for elected legislators, but it’s not so good for the folks who take the time to go to the polls, elect their representatives and have un-Pollyannaish trust that those representatives will be the ones who show up and cast votes.

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