When the Mackinac Center launched its MichiganVotes.org website, the concept was an anomaly. Since 2001, the Center has posted a weekly roll call report of Michigan votes in the Senate and House, making public which legislators precisely voted on what legislation. Granting transparency to voters has become so popular that media outlets, from traditional print to online publications, have been catching on.

The year-end “Missed Votes Tally” is especially popular. At the end of 2011, The Muskegon Chronicle, The Flint Journal, The Grand Rapids Press, Adrian Daily Telegram and The Kalamazoo Gazette all used the tally to run stories about how many roll call votes legislators in their respective coverage areas missed in 2011. WHTC AM1450 in Holland referenced the report concerning west Michigan lawmakers, while WSJM AM1400 in St. Joseph did the same for legislators in southwest Michigan and Interlochen Public Radio did the same in northern Michigan. Midland Daily News reprints the weekly tally every week for its online readers.

Some tea party groups are also using the weekly reports to identify which votes many be worth including in legislator voting record guides that they have created using the MichiganVotes “Scorecard” feature. One example is a Michigan Tea Party Scorecard, created by the Independent Tea Party Patriots group in Clarkston. Another is a Michigan Conservative Union “Labor Watch” tally, scoring all legislators on votes in the area
of union reform.

Ray Hamann of ITTP helped create the Tea Party Scorecard, and said this about the weekly reports: “With the hundreds of votes cast every year, identifying the ones that matter has always been a huge challenge for grassroots citizens. The weekly reports mostly take care of that for us now.”

The appeal of the site for both media and the general public lies in its concise, plain-language and objective descriptions of every bill, amendment, roll call vote and voice vote taken in the Michigan Legislature. Online users and subscribers can even track votes by a particular issue, such as education or taxes. What’s more, it is a free public service, brought to readers like you by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.