14 1 LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE

RALEIGH, N.C. - As much as we'd like to it's impossible to be in more than one place at a time. That's why we Americans elect lawmakers to represent us - be our voice in government . But when lawmakers don't show up for work, it's like you don't have a voice. 2 Wants to Know found that scenario playing out right here in the North Carolina legislature's short session.

Investigative reporter Ben Briscoe went line by line through thousands of voting records. He uncovered lawmakers missing votes on everything from coal ash regulations to budget decisions.

Missing the most was a democrat from Forsyth County. Senator Earline Parmon missed 168 votes or 66 percent. Way above the average 6 percent. But it's not her fault. Her husband was very sick and ended up dying. We feel for her loss... and understand her absence. And just like her - the other lawmakers say they have their own reasons too.

Behind Senator Parmon was Republican Representative Debra Conrad - again from Forsyth County. She missed votes on coal ash regulations, requiring 9-1-1 call centers to have a backup facility and streamlined improvements for Medicaid. In all Conrad missed 17 percent of short session votes. She e-mailed me:

"I think after 20 years as a public servant, my voters know my reputation as a serious and responsible elected official, but we are also human and get sick like everyone else.
I was listening to everything on audio from home, but unfortunately remote voting is not allowed."

Triad League of Women Voters Co-President Anna Fesmire understands being sick. But her voting record shows she hasn't missed voting in a single election for at least a decade. So she expects similar behavior from her lawmakers.

"They have tremendous control over what happens to us in our lives. And if they are not there to stand up for positions that their constituents want them to take, then what are they for?" Fesmire said.

Missing the third most votes - Representative Marcus Brandon - a democrat from Guilford County. He missed votes on budget decisions, sales taxes, and also coal ash regulations. But Brandon says it's okay because there are several opportunities to vote on each bill.

"There's not a bill in the world that someone can say I didn't vote on. I might have missed an amendment. I might have missed vote number two and three, but I always vote on the policy," Brandon said.

2 Wants To Know fact checked him after our interview. Brandon's statement is true - technically. We found five new state laws Brandon never voted on from the House floor. But the bills did go through his committees before those votes. Still Wake Forest political science professor Rogan Kersh says it's the floor votes that count.

"A floor vote is ultimately what we elect for. They stand up on a major floor vote, could be an amendment that's the key to a bill getting through or not, it could be the final vote for passage if it's a closely fought. But they are registering their vote," Kersh said.

What really gets interesting is when you hear why Brandon misses some of the votes. He actually gets up and walks out of the room.

"What we do is called a walk. I'll just leave out of the building so I don't have to vote on that bill. I don't like voting on things unless I absolutely know. I'm a person that reads the bill. Not everybody reads the bill, but I read the bill. And if I haven't had a chance to read the bill, then I don't vote on it," Brandon said.

Brandon claims it's all about the speed at which bills are pushed through in Raleigh. We're investigating those claims right now and hope to bring everyone that part of the story next week.

Here's how many votes all the lawmakers from our area missed:

Lawmaker

Votes Missed

% of votes missed in their chamber

PARMON

168

66%

CONRAD

72

17%

BRANDON

57

14%

JONES

56

13%

BINGHAM

34

13%

TILLMAN

32

13%

LAMBETH

52

13%

ROSS

47

11%

SOUCEK

23

9%

HOLLOWAY

30

7%

RIDDELL

27

7%

BROWN, R

18

4%

HOWARD

13

3%

HANES

12

3%

BERGER

7

3%

GUNN

7

3%

ADAMS

10

2%

WOODARD

6

2%

BURR

4

1%

ELMORE

4

1%

GOODMAN

4

1%

ROBINSON

2

1%

WADE

2

1%

BLUST

2

0%

TERRY

2

0%

HARDISTER

1

0%

BROCK

0

0%

KRAWIEC

0

0%

RANDELMAN

0

0%

FAIRCLOTH

0

0%

HARRISON

0

0%

HURLEY

0

0%

MCNEIL

0

0%

STEVENS

0

0%

YOUNTS

0

0%

HOLLO

0

0%

For more stories like this, follow Ben Briscoe on Twitter @WatchDogBen

14 1 LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE
Read or Share this story: http://www.wfmynews2.com/story/news/investigations/2014/07/31/lawmakers-miss-votes/13420355/