OUR VIEW: Nelson’s website idea a good one; why not pursue?South Dakotans vote for their representatives in the Legislature. Why wouldn’t those voting South Dakotans want an easy, user-friendly method to see how their representatives voted?
South Dakotans vote for their representatives in the Legislature. Why wouldn’t those voting South Dakotans want an easy, user-friendly method to see how their representatives voted?
That’s a question state Rep. Stace Nelson is posing, and we couldn’t agree more. Nelson, a Republican from Fulton, was a rookie in the Legislature this past year and now is working on methods to improve the public’s access to voting records.
Of course, we’re a newspaper and in favor of all tools and methods that make it easier for the public to grasp what’s going on in government. Nelson’s efforts are refreshing.
He wants to see an Internet link that takes readers to a comprehensive site that shows how a lawmaker voted on all issues during a particular session. At present, voting history is posted on the legislative website, but they’re not categorized by individual members of the Legislature.
The only way to determine how a lawmaker voted throughout the session is to look up each individual bill. It’s a tedious process, especially considering the vast number of votes that are taken each year.
Nelson’s idea would streamline the process. Click on a lawmaker’s name, for instance, and see how that lawmaker voted on each issue. Easy enough, right?
Not so fast.
Rep. Charles Turbiville, R-Deadwood, says Nelson’s idea is a waste of time. He also chastised Nelson — a former Marine — for going outside the chain of command in this process.
“The problem is, he’s not following proper procedure,” Turbiville said. “Being a former military individual, I’m surprised he’s not following the chain of command.”
Turbiville also said that the legislative website, “as it currently exists, does everything that we want it to.”
We don’t agree.
As an elected representative of the people, Nelson is not restricted to any procedures that resemble a “chain of command.” If Nelson opts to knock on the door of the governor’s mansion, so be it. In fact, we encourage open thinking that pushes the envelope and ripples the water of any status quo in government.
And the legislative website obviously does not do “everything that we want it to.” Nelson sees that, and so would any voter who truly wants to determine the voting trends and history of an elected member of the Legislature.
The estimated cost of making this change is about $2,200 — a drop in the bucket.
We grow so weary of roadblocks to government openness. Nelson’s idea sounds like a good one and we hope other lawmakers listen to this issue when he comes calling during the 2012 legislative session.