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Published January 01 2012

Ask Your Government: Reader asks about tracking legislators’ voting records

Dear Teri,

I really enjoy your articles and column in The Forum. Could you please help me with the following request?

What is the process to obtain a North Dakota legislator’s voting record?

Tom Tracy

Jamestown

Thanks for writing! I only knew of a long, time-consuming way to do this, so I called Kylah Aull, who works in library and records services at Legislative Council. I asked her if she knew of a shorter way, but she confirmed there is not a state site that compiles individual legislators’ votes.

“We don’t really have a good way to do it at our office,” she said.

I also contacted Dustin Gawrylow, executive director at North Dakota Taxpayers Association, who agreed there isn’t an easy way. Certain organizations will rank legislators according to their particular issue, but that’s a small slice of a particular session, he said.

Therefore, if you have a particular issue in mind, the best advice I can give to find out where your legislator stands is to simply ask him or her. Otherwise, you’re going to have to sort through hundreds and hundreds of bills to understand what they say and then check how your legislator voted.

The long way to look at their voting record is to go to http://legis.nd.gov. Click on Regular Session Quick Links on the right side of the page. Scroll down and then click on Senate (or House) Journal, depending if you want to look at the voting record of senators or representatives. You will then see links for every day of the legislative session and can click on them to see floor votes on the bills. This will show you votes for the 2011 session.

However, the journals only give a small snippet of what the bill relates to. To learn more, you would need to look at the bill number and then click on Senate (or House) Bills to find the bill and read it.

If you want to know bills that your legislator sponsored in 2011, you can go to http://legis.nd.gov and click on Regular Session Quick Links. Scroll down and click on Senate (or House) Sponsors and then your legislators’ names.

To look at older voting records, you would need to go to legis.nd.gov and then click on Previous Assemblies. Click on the year that you want to look at and then click on Legislation: 2007 (or whatever the year may be). Then read the House or Senate Journals.

On a side note, if legislators are voting on controversial bills, I immediately get the floor votes and put them on my blog and Facebook for the public to easily and immediately find them. I also send these voting records to my newspapers in case they want to publish them.

But to grasp the full voting record of your legislators, you’ll either need to ask them where they stand or get ready for many hours of research.

Do you have a question for a North Dakota state government official or agency? Send us your question, and we’ll do our best to find an answer.

Email politics@wday.com (Subject: Ask your government).

You may also write to Teri Finneman c/o Forum Communications, Press Room, State Capitol, Bismarck, ND 58505.

Please include your name, town and a phone number to reach you for verification.