Voters Show Interest In Committee Vote Transparency


A vast majority of voters in 20 of the House's 160 districts told their representatives this November that they want to know how lawmakers vote on committee polls that set bills up for passage or demise.

On Election Day, an average of 84 percent of voters across the 20 districts -- including the House speaker's own district -- recommended that committee votes be made publicly available on the legislature's website, according to the transparency advocacy group Act on Mass which worked to put the non-binding question to voters.

Currently, the Massachusetts House is only required to make available upon request the names of legislators voting adversely in committees. Committee polls, often taken electronically and with no public notice, either send bills forward in the lawmaking process or stuff them into a dead end.

"Session after session, the Massachusetts State House writes their own rulebook to exclude their constituents from monitoring and participating in the legislative process," Brenna Ransden, organizing director of Act on Mass, said. "This overwhelming victory for Question 6 is an unmistakable mandate for Beacon Hill to finally, after all these years, open itself up to the public."

Erin Leahy, the group's executive director, said in September that the push is part of a "People's House" campaign Act on Mass is running with other organizations to put more pressure on lawmakers to move their business out from behind the opaque curtain that hangs over much of Beacon Hill.

The advocacy group ran a similar policy question in 2020 in 16 state House districts where it passed with an average 90 percent of the vote, according to Act on Mass. Top Democrats, however, have long resisted the publicizing each representative's stance on committee polls.

"This issue is just not controversial anywhere outside the walls of the State House. 84 percent of Massachusetts voters don't agree on much, but they do agree on this: they deserve to see how their state legislators vote on their behalf," Leahy said. - Sam Drysdale/SHNS

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