Political insiders said voters are naïve to object to the practice of a lawmaker voting for a bill that he or she actually opposes.
The legislative process, those insiders say, is never as simple as “Aye” for a good bill and “Nay” for a bad one. Outsiders, on the other hand, often are bewildered by the bargaining and conciliation that has become routine in politics.
In interviews with a dozen voters, none of them understood why lawmakers make compromises.
“Why would they vote ‘yes’ if they didn’t like it? I don’t think they should do that. If there’s a problem with it, they should explain it to the people,” said Skip Mancini, a 64-year-old who lives in Waddell.
Carl Staggs, a voter from Surprise, said he doesn’t think lawmakers should be making compromises at all, especially when it comes to critical issues.
“I think it circumvents the system and the rights of the people they are serving,” he said.
But political experts and Capitol insiders who see the machinations of government have a much different perspective. They say it’s necessary to consider more than one dimension when casting a vote.
Fred Solop, director of Northern Arizona University’s Department of Politics and International Affairs, said changes occur incrementally, through negotiation, compromise and modification of ideas.
“Many cues (go) into voting, and the relative weighing of those cues gets played out in such a way that a legislator may actually vote for something that they personally opposed,” Solop said.
Peter Goudinoff, a former Arizona lawmaker who taught political science at the University of Arizona, said that’s the way democracy is supposed to work.
“People will say, ‘All politicians are corrupt’ and I’d say, ‘Well, it depends what you mean by corruption,’” Goudinoff said. “If you mean compromising basic principles, then yeah, all politicians are corrupt because otherwise nothing gets done.”
Indeed, lawmakers have to sort out competing interests every time they cast a vote. They have to weigh the decision against their own ideologies, their constituents’ welfare, their party agenda, their leadership teams’ programs and their political futures.
Ken Strobeck, a former Oregon lawmaker who is now director of the League of Arizona Cities and Towns, said no one person can accomplish anything on their own in the Legislature.
“In order to be effective, they have to be part of the majority,” he said.
Some politicians, though, said lawmakers who make excuses for the way they vote is a sign they have caved to political pressure from their colleagues and are trying to let people know they would have voted otherwise if they had ample courage.
“I think it really makes them look foolish in the eyes of their constituency because their constituency’s response will be, ‘We didn’t send you over there to vote the will of the political party or of the political caucus. We sent you there to vote for issues that are in our best interest,’” said Pete Rios, a longtime lawmaker who now serves as a Pinal County supervisor.