Correction: A previous version of this post stated that Fuentes “switched” his vote 138 times. That was incorrect. The legislator missed 138 votes. He later “added” his vote 138 times, after knowing the outcomes of the bills. Corrections have been made throughout the post.
Now there's one more reason why former California Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes is known as the “Worst Legislator in California.” More than any other lawmaker from the San Fernando Valley, Fuentes secretly added his vote 138 times after missing the initial vote on the Assembly floor, according to an Associated Press report.
Incredibly, Fuentes is considered the frontrunner in the L.A. City Council District 7 race — he recently grabbed an endorsement from the Los Angeles Times, which caused a lot of head scratching around town. But Fuentes' vote-adding habit is seriously troubling.
First, here's some background. In October 2012, the Associated Press released a report that showed California State Assembly members make ample use of their privileged ability to switch or add their votes.
Across the United States, vote switching and adding is not routine: Only 10 state legislative bodies allow such a thing. The widely despised California State Assembly, which regularly gets extremely low marks from voters in polls, is one of them. With such vote switching and adding, voters don't get a clear picture of where a legislator truly stands on an issue.
Fuentes had been an assembly member between 2007 and 2012. The Associated Press analyzed the assembly's vote-amending record for the 2012 legislative session.
Now it's very difficult for the public to know when someone like Fuentes has switched or added his vote. There's no easily accessible state-run database called Assemblyvoteswitch.gov or anything like that. Here's how it works.
After a bill has been voted on, an assembly member has until the end of that day to switch or add his or her vote. When switching a vote, the assembly member walks up to the rostrum in the chamber and announces verbally that he's switching his vote from a 'yes' to a 'no' or vice versa. He cannot switch his vote if it will suddenly pass or kill a bill. If he's missed a vote, he can come back and add it to the final count after already knowing the outcome.
Then the assembly member walks off without a care in the world and his switch or add is recorded in the voluminous and not widely known assembly journal. If voters want to know how many times a politician has switched or added his vote after missing it, they have to look up all the bills he's voted on and add it up themselves, which can obviously take forever. There's no quick way to find that information.
So essentially what you have is a system that allows assembly members to secretly switch or add their votes.
Some political observers say the assembly members are merely switching or adding their votes because they may have incorrectly voted the first time around or simply missed it. Maybe so, but not 138 times like Fuentes. There are plenty of other legislators who were able to cast their votes on time.
Unless something miraculous happens, though, Fuentes, with his sordid vote-adding record, may end up being the next councilman for the Valley's District 7. The primary is March 5.
Contact Patrick Range McDonald at firstname.lastname@example.org.