According to the Morning Call, state Representative Justin Simmons (R-Lehigh) missed 498 legislative votes and 28 daily roll call votes since he started in the state House in January 2011.
Simmons’ missed votes have been increasing over the years he has been in office. In the 2011-12 session Simmons missed 5% of votes, and then in 2015-16 he missed 13% of votes for the session, which totals 245 votes. Simmons has missed 16% of the votes so far in the current session. State Representative Ryan Mackenzie (R-Lehigh), who is also running for the 15th district, has missed 28 votes and three roll call votes since entering the state House in May 2012.
“The fact is I have a 92 percent voting record during my seven years in office,” Simmons said in a statement to the Morning Call.
“Unfortunately, I have missed some votes due to family funerals, my wedding, the birth of my daughter, illness and other things beyond my control. I know the corrupt political establishment and Do Nothing Dent are trying to smear me by lying about my voting record, but a 92 percent voting record speaks for itself.”
From the Morning Call:
To compare Simmons’ and Mackenzie’s records, Morning Call reporters clicked through 6,538 online House floor votes and built a database. Committee votes were not included. A House-wide average was not readily available and would have meant doing the same for 1.3 million voting records.
A legislator’s voting record can be easy for opponents to portray out of context, cautioned Chris Borick, a political science professor at Muhlenberg College, noting that there may be legitimate absences or ceremonial votes tallied in what may seem like a damning record.
But it also is a way to assess whether a legislator is performing his most basic tasks: being present in the state Capitol and voting on legislation, Borick added.
“This is a cornerstone function [of legislating] that’s easily translated to voters,” Borick said. “It’s not hard to build a case that he’s falling down on a key aspect of their work.”
Mackenzie accused Simmons of abandoning his state constituents and said he could follow the same pattern if he got elected to Congress. “Taxpayers pay us to be there to vote,” said Mackenzie, 35, of Lower Macungie Township.
Simmons didn’t explain specific absences, but public records indicate the timing of two life events cited by Simmons.
Simmons and his wife, Erica, were married Dec. 3, 2011, according to Lehigh County records — after which Simmons missed six session days and 98 votes. Erica Simmons gave birth to their daughter Jan. 10, 2016, and Simmons was absent for 15 votes taken the following two days.
Votes missed after those events account for less than a quarter of his total missed votes.
While he was in office, Dent said, he got married and had three children, and Simmons “should stop blaming others for his own failures.”