Trying to track down a legislator's voting record might be a little like chasing Bigfoot: First, you have to find out if it really exists.
Open-government advocates argue the state Legislature's lack of roll-call votes — revealed in a new study — is designed so that legislators have "plausible deniability" when comes to taking a stance on controversial bills.
South Carolina's legislative leaders, though, say they and their colleagues want to be on record when it comes to important bills, that taking roll call on procedural matters would clog the system and cost money. Besides, they reason, a bill that passes without a roll-call vote indicates unanimous support on the House and Senate floors.
Further, the South Carolina Policy Council's analysis of roll-call votes on its own is misleading, legislators say.
What the conservative think tank found is that the House called roll on 8 percent of the bills that became law this year, while the Senate did so only 1 percent of the time. That practice is at odds with standards in most states nationally and in South Carolina's neighboring states.
Gov. Mark Sanford's office did not hesitate in condemning the Legislature.
"It's a shocking lack of accountability," the governor's press secretary, Joel Sawyer, said. "Our entire system is built upon this idea of people standing up and being counted and then being held accountable for their actions come November.