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Fact Check: Obama's Present Votes in State Senate [View All]

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Connie_Corleone Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Dec-20-07 01:12 PM
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Fact Check: Obama's Present Votes in State Senate
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Edited on Thu Dec-20-07 01:25 PM by Connie_Corleone
Obama Was Praised for Showing Leadership on Tough Issues -- Representing a Safe Democratic District, He Used His Position To Help More Vulnerable Senators Do The Right Thing. Zorn wrote, "Obama, however, was in a safe district and never faced a serious challenge for his legislative seat. He had no need to shy from hard-line stands on gun control and abortion rights. He actually took such stands frequently and is now highly praised by advocates for both causes." (Chicago Tribune, Zorn, 3/9/04)

Planned Parenthood President: Anyone Who Thinks A Present Vote Is A "Duck" Doesn't Understand How the Process Works. "There is a presumption, if one is not familiar with the mechanics of the General Assembly, that a present vote is a 'duck.' Pam Sutherland, the CEO and President of Illinois Planned Parenthood said of Hull argument: "I think it's not well-based...I think it's somebody who doesn't understand how the legislative process works." (Chicago Daily Herald, 3/10/04)

Handgun Violence Opponents: Criticizing Present Votes Indicates "You Don't Have A Great Understanding Of The Process." "'Criticizing Obama on the basis of 'present' votes indicates you don't have a great understanding of the process,' said Thom Mannard, director of the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence." (Chicago Tribune, Zorn, 3/9/04)

(on edit: since this is from the campaign website, I can post this whole thing)

Specific Bills Raised By The New York Times


Obama Voted Present On Bill To Charge Minor As Adult For Gun Crime Near A School Because There Was No Proof That The Measure Would Reduce Juvenile Crime. Obama voted present on a bill to allow a minor to be tried as an adult if he/she is charged with aggravated battery with a firearm at or near a school. Obama said, "I did just want to point out that last year we worked on a almost complete overhaul of the Juvenile Justice Code, and this provision was debated at length during negotiations with the various State's attorney's office. Part of the reason that we negotiated it out of that original bill was at least the sense of some of us that there is really no proof or indication that automatic transfers and increased penalties and adult penalties for juvenile offenses have, in fact, proven to be more effective in reducing juvenile crime or cutting back on recidivism. I know there's disagreements with other folks, but I did just want to point out that last year when we worked -- guided so ably by Senator Hawkinson -- on this bill, the sense was that we had more or less completed an overhaul of the code and that we were going to pause for a moment, see how that worked before we moved on. And I guess I'd just like to point out that here we are, a year later, doing the exact same thing that we had been doing prior to the changes that we initiated last year and that is to increase penalties further for juveniles and try them further as adults and expand the number of offenses. So for that reason, I'm going to be voting present." (91st GA, SB 0759, 3/25/99, 3R P; 52-1-5 (BO: P); Session Transcript, 3/25/99, p.209)


Obama Voted Present On The Floor And In Committee On A Bill That Would Seal Sexual Assault Victims' Court Records; Illinois Press Association And Obama Argued That The Bill Was Unconstitutional. Obama voted present on a bill to amend the Criminal Identification Act by allowing certain assault victims to petition to have their court records sealed, only to be opened for public inspection if good cause is shown. Under the bill the trials involving sex crimes would remain open, but upon a conviction, a victim of a sex crime could ask a state's attorney to petition a judge to seal the records of the case. If the judge agreed, the public could not open those records unless someone petitioned the court and showed good cause. The State Journal-Register reported, "But the Illinois Press Association argued that the measure violates the First Amendment. The U.S. Constitution does not allow judges to seal the records of trials that have been held in open court, said association attorney Don Craven. Besides, Craven argued, the legislation does not allow defendants the same opportunity if they're found not guilty. And there's no indication what would happen to the case files if the verdict were appealed. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Chicago, agreed that the bill probably wouldn't pass constitutional muster, although he said it's not unusual for his colleagues to pass such measures to show political resolve." (91st GA, HB 0854, 5/11/99, 3R P; 58-0-1; State Journal-Register, 4/28/99)

3 Of The 4 Democrats On The Judiciary Committee Voted Present On This Bill. In committee, Senators Shadid and Silverstein joined Obama in voting Present on HB 854. (91st GA, HB 854, Jud Committee, 7-0-3, 4/28/99)

When Similar Measures Were Passed In Other States Following A Scandal, The Press Raised Similar Constitutional Objections. The AP reported, "News executives in both states said the legislation was unnecessary and would hinder freedom of the press. 'It's another case where in order to achieve some possible good, legislatures are often willing to run right over basic constitutional rights,' said J. Randolph Murray, editor of The Anchorage Times in Alaska. 'We are against the thing because of the blanket restrictions it would impose,' said Doug Crews, executive director of the Missouri Press Association. 'Once a restriction such as this is made, where is the line drawn and where does it stop in the area of law enforcement records?'"


Obama Voted Present On A Bill That Would Require Aggravating Allegation To Be Included To The Trier Of Fact As An Element Of The Offense; The Bill Was Not Deemed Ready At The Time Of The Vote With Promises From Its Supporters To Revisit It In The Spring, Which They Did Not Do. Obama voted present on a bill to amend the Code of Criminal Procedure to provide that, in all cases in which the death penalty is not a possibility, if an alleged fact -- other than the fact of a prior conviction -- is not an element of an offense but is sought to be used to increase the range of penalties for the offense beyond the statutory maximum that could otherwise be imposed for the offense, the alleged fact shall be included in the charging instrument or provided to the defendant through a written notice before trial, submitted to the trier of fact as an element of the offense, and proved beyond a reasonable doubt. (91st GA, HB 1511, 3R P 54-2-2, 11/30/00; PA 91-0953, 2/23/01)

Illinois State Bar Association: "Bill Needs More Time, It Needs More Discussion, It Needs More Input By The Legislators And I Don't Think That Has Happened To This Point." Chicago Daily Law Bulletin reported, "But Daniel L. Houlihan, legislative counsel to the Illinois State Bar Association, said the bill appeared to be so flawed that lawmakers shouldn't rush to pass it. 'This bill needs more time, it needs more discussion, it needs more input by the legislators and I don't think that has happened to this point,' he said." (Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, 11/29/00)


Obama Voted Present On Teacher Curriculum Requirements. Obama voted present on a bill to amend the School Code by requiring public school teachers to teach pupils discipline and respect for others. (90th GA, HB 3793, 5/13/98, 3R P; 44-10-1; P.A. 90-0620, 7/10/98)

Bloomington Pantagraph: Bill Would Create A Mandate With No Objective Standards, General Assembly Was 'Wasting Its Time.' The Bloomington Pantagraph wrote in an editorial, "Illinois schools have enough problems without the General Assembly wasting its time on measures that are at best symbolic, mostly meaningless and at worst meddlesome…the Legislature sent a bill to the governor that would require public school teachers to teach pupils discipline and respect for others. The school code already requires honesty, kindness and justice to be taught to students...All this bill will do is...clutter the school code and widen the rift between teachers and lawmakers who try to micromanage their classrooms." (Bloomington Pantagraph Editorial, 5/20/98)


Obama Voted Present On Adult Business Location Restrictions Because Of Home Rule; The Bill Failed. Obama voted present on a bill creating the Adult Uses Location Restriction Act, providing restrictions on the proximity of adult entertainment establishments to schools, parks, places of worship, pre-schools, day care facilities, mobile home parks, and/or other residential areas, (Senate Amendment No. 1) constituting minimum restriction on the location of adult uses for all governmental units, including home rule units and allows governmental units to enact more stringent restrictions. When discussing the bill, Obama said, "ost of us would prefer not to have an adult bookstore or -- movie theater or something next to our -- next to our residence, but that's exactly why we have local zoning ordinances...And it seems to me that if there's ever been a function that has historically been relegated to local control and is appropriately there, it's these kinds of zoning matters." (92nd GA, SB 0609, 3/29/01, 3R L; 33-15-5 (BO: P); 92nd General Assembly, Session Transcript, 3/29/01, p.160)

Even Though Present Votes Attack Was Raised And Rebutted In 2003, Clinton Campaign Recycles Old Opposition Research

The "Dirt" On Attacks on Obama's Present Votes Is "All Over The Hands of Those Pointing The Finger." "This column has the dirt on the issue of state Sen. Barack Obama's "present" votes on tough issues in the Illinois Legislature--votes that at least two of his opponents in the March 16 Democratic U.S. Senate primary say mark him as a coward... There's dirt here all right. It's all over the hands of those pointing the finger." (Chicago Tribune, Zorn, 3/9/04)

Emily's List Head Ellen Malcolm Held A Press Conference To Discuss Obama's Present Votes. First Read reported, "Describing it as a press conference gone awry would be putting it mildly. Before the start of the NPR debate yesterday afternoon, the Clinton campaign arranged for Ellen Malcolm, the head of Emily's List, to hold a press conference with reporters. Malcolm took the podium and argued that Clinton was the only candidate in this race who had stood up when it was tough, especially on women's issues...Malcolm hadn't mentioned Obama by name, but she said that those who vote "present" at tough times don't show a true commitment to leadership - referring to Obama's "present" votes on some anti-abortion measures while serving in the Illinois state Senate. But reporters asked Malcolm why the head of the Illinois Planned Parenthood had said in the Los Angeles Times that Obama was getting in trouble for a "present"-vote strategy that the pro-choice group had devised." (First Read, 12/5/07)

Hillary: Obama "Voted Present" On Choice And Gun Issues As A Member Of The Illinois Senate. Hillary Clinton said, "Well, in the Illinois state senate, on issue after issue, my opponent voted present instead of yes or no. Seven of those votes were on a women's right to choose, two of those votes were on measures to protect families from gun violence, one of which was a measure about firing guns on or near school grounds." (Hillary Clinton, Clear Lake Event, 12/3/07)

Blair Hull Criticized Obama For Voting Present. The Chicago Tribune reported, "Obama's commitment to abortion rights has also been questioned in campaign mailings from rival Blair Hull, who has criticized the state senator for several "present" votes he cast on bills relating to abortion. 'It's inexcusable,' Hull said while campaigning Downstate Tuesday. 'If you are absolutely pro-choice, you don't vote present.' But abortion-rights advocates have been quick to defend Obama, arguing that his "present" votes were strategic legislative maneuvers that many other lawmakers who support their cause also participated in." (Chicago Tribune, 3/10/04)

Hull Sent Out Mail That Said That Obama "Ducked" Present Votes; Maria Pappas Criticized Obama At A Debate. The Daily Herald reported, "Recent campaign mailers sent by Democrat Senate hopeful Blair Hull accuse Barack Obama of ducking key abortion rights votes in Springfield by voting 'present.' But the head of Illinois Planned Parenthood said Obama's critics are misguided. 'I think it's not well-based,' Pam Sutherland, chief executive and president of the Illinois Planned Parenthood Council, said of Hull's criticism. 'I think it's somebody who doesn't understand how the legislative process works.' The campaign pieces accuse Obama of failing to stand up for a woman's right to choose because he voted 'present' on legislation that dealt with parental notification of abortions...The mailings, sent to voters in recent days, show a rubber duck above the headline 'He Ducked!'... Hull is not the only candidate to criticize Obama's voting record. Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas has offered similar criticism at recent debates." (Daily Herald, 3/10/04)
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