The Virginia Citizens Defense League has released a new voting record scorecard for members of the Virginia General Assembly. We’ve got some heroes, and then we’ve got some legislators who fall well short of that mark.[read_more]
It’s been quite a while since VCDL has provided a voting record for legislators, and we’ve never done one like this before. We now have internally developed software that allows us to automate the laborious task of creating a voting record for 140 legislators. Thanks to that software we have been able to not only score the 2015 General Assembly session, but we’ve gone back to score the 2014 and 2013 sessions, as well. We can go back further if we wish.
HOW THE VOTING RECORD WAS COMPILED
The beauty of this new voting record system is that it WEIGHS votes based upon each bill’s importance to gun owners and creates a “score.” It also allows us to apply a weighted score to non-voting actions which impact bills, such as pocket vetoes by the Speaker of the House, pocket vetoes by a committee chairman, and rulings on germaneness by the Speaker (“For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required” Luke 12:48).
We count every vote on the contentious gun bills (where the bills are not passing by massive majorities) – subcommittee votes, full committee votes, Floor votes, conference committee votes. We also add points for introducing pro-gun bills (negative points for anti-gun bills) and additional positive points for introducing a bill on VCDL’s behalf.
Thus, legislators will have varying total scores, depending on how often they get to vote on any given bill, if they introduce gun bills, and if they introduce a bill on VCDL’s behalf.
Each voting record scorecard is contained in a single PDF file (embedded below, but also available here), which has the voting record sorted by name, so you can quickly see your legislators’ scores. It also has the voting record sorted by the percentage pro-gun score, which allows you to see how your legislators stack up to everyone else.
If two legislators both have, say, a 100% voting record, the one with the most points will be considered to have the better overall voting record and will be sorted higher. That’s because that legislator had more chances to vote correctly or incorrectly, and we need to consider that fact.
The last section of each scorecard gives more details on how the scores are calculated.
SOME OBSERVATIONS ON THE SCORES
VCDL has long been weary of pocket vetoes, where the Speaker and a committee chair never allow a vote on a bill, causing it to die for a lack of attention. One or two people, out of 140, should not be allowed to determine the fate of a bill. Gun owners have been the victims of pocket vetoes of many important bills – from Constitutional Carry bills to Airport Carry to K-12 Carry.
In 2013 the bills that were introduced were mostly mild and there weren’t any pocket vetoes. In that year the Speaker and the House committee chairs had excellent voting records. But again, there were not many really strong bills introduced that year. Even a few normally very anti-gun Senators got high scores because they voted on only a few gun bills and the bills were mild enough, or dealt with things like privacy, that they supported the bills (Favola and Northam fall into that category). The pro-Second Amendment leader-of-the-pack in the House in 2013 was Delegate Todd Gilbert and in the Senate it was a three-way tie: Senators Tom Garrett, Mark Obenshain, and Jill Vogel.
In 2014 a whole lot of aggressive, pro-liberty bills were introduced, many by Republican freshmen, but also by more senior legislators. The pocket vetoes that year flowed like wine, changing some ratings dramatically. The Speaker’s pro-gun rating dropped from 100% in 2013 all the way down to 36% in 2014, putting him at the bottom of the pack for House Republicans. Delegate Scott Lingamfelter, who headed the critical Militia, Police, and Public Safety committee, where most of the the pocket vetoed bills ended up, also took a hit, dropping from a 94% rating in 2013 to a 60% rating in 2014. The leader-of-the-pack in the House in 2014 was Delegate Todd Gilbert (again) and in the Senate it was Senator Tom Garrett (again).
In 2015, another large group of excellent bills were introduced and, again, there were a lot of pocket vetoes. Although the Speaker improved his score, he still received a dismal 59% pro-gun score and Delegate Lingamfelter jumped back up to 90%, he exercised few pocket vetoes in his committee. Delegate Steven Landes wasn’t so lucky as he is held accountable for the lion’s share of pocket vetoes in his committee (Education), which dragged his score down to 66%. The leader-of-the-pack in the House in 2015 was a two-way tie between Delegates Todd Gilbert (yet again) and Matthew Fariss and in the Senate it was Senator Tom Garrett (yet again). Garrett had one minor bad vote, giving him a 99% score, while Ben Chafin, Mark Obenshain, and Bryce Reeves all had perfect scores. But Garret had a dramatically higher number of points than anyone else giving him the final edge (Garrett introduced some strong bills and many on VCDL’s behalf – all of which increased his point count).
Because of the mild bills in 2013, the Democrats and Republicans intermixed on scores quite a bit.
In 2014 the only Democratic Senator to score up with the Republicans was Lynwood Lewis with a score of 67%. The Senate Democrats were pretty much at the bottom of the barrel other than that. The House Democrats had two stars – Johnny Joannou and Lynwood Lewis (Lewis served in both the House and the Senate that year, having won a special election) – both with 100% scores. Most of the House Democrats joined their Senate counterparts at the bottom of the barrel.
This year the best Senate Democrat was Lynwood Lewis (again), with an 87% score. John Edwards followed him with a disappointing 76% score. House Democrats were led by Johnny Joannou at 91%, leaving all the other House Democrats down in the mud.
If you agree that legislators should be held accountable for their actions impacting the Second Amendment, please consider joining VCDL, the premier gun rights advocacy organization in Virginia. Please also consider signing up for our email list, through which we send out regular updates of interest to gun owners and all citizens interested in gun rights.
HERE ARE THE SCORECARDS