Green Voting in the Midterm Election

November/December 2006


Election Day is this Tuesday, Nov. 7 ? it's time to make your voice heard. And your vote matters more now than ever before. Every state will have ballots, covering everything from local propositions to federal representation. This year, voters get to send a clear message to Congress: 33 Senate seats are up for re-election and each of the 435 representatives in the House will either keep his or her job, or have to clear out for someone new. So, don't think for a second that your vote doesn't matter or isn't worth the time ? this election could bring about sweeping change and set a new tone for the direction of our country.

From the Iraq war to the economy to political corruption, a handful of front-and-center issues will be on voters' minds. But just as relevant are looming energy and environmental issues, such as global warming, unstable gas prices and our addiction to oil. The leaders we elect now will either keep us going on the same course or implement real solutions.

The good news is it's easy to make sure your vote goes to those who will support sustainable, alternative energy (such as wind and solar) and action to curb greenhouse gases.

The best resource comes from the nonprofit League of Conservation Voters (LCV), which maintains its National Environmental Scorecard. The Scorecard provides an easy way to gauge congressional voting records on top environmental issues. If you want to know what legislators have done, rather than just what they promise, this is a great tool. Each senator and representative gets a score based on his or her voting record, from zero to 100; the higher the number, the better. The League maintains lifetime scores for legislators, as well as scores for their voting records in the most recent sessions of Congress. The Scorecard provides objective and factual analysis of votes on the most important environmental legislation considered. To select the votes and issues on which to grade members of Congress, the League relies on experts from more than 20 respected energy, conservation and environmental organizations.

It may come as a surprise that there are quite a few legislators with perfect scores for this session: 93 representatives and 19 senators. Of those, all are Democrats except for two Independents.

One example of how the scorecard could swing votes is with Sen. George Allen, R-Va., who faces a tight race in his bid for re-election. Allen has an LCV score of zero percent for the most recent session of Congress. Another close contest is in New Jersey, where incumbent Democrat Sen. Robert Menendez has a score of 100 percent.

Among the many incumbents caught in tight races for the House of Representatives, two examples are Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Calif., who has an LCV score of 17 percent; and Rep. Jim Ryun, R-Kan., who has a score of zero percent.

The latter two Republicans also earned dismal scores from the nonprofit Republicans for Environmental Protection (REP) in its first scorecard. REP seeks to 'resurrect' the conservation tradition of the GOP exemplified by President Theodore Roosevelt and others. REP scores are similar in methodology to those from LCV, except REP also adds or subtracts credit for non-voting actions that demonstrate positive or negative leadership on environmental issues; this factor gave Rep. Pombo a score of -12.

Republicans with the best REP scores are Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (N.Y.), 108; Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick (Pa.), 100; Rep. Jim Saxton (N.J.), 100 and Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R.I.), 87.

Check out the resources below to learn more about the candidates and issues in this election.

League of Conservation Voters
Republicans for Environmental Protection
U.S. Public Interest Research Group

Sierra Club

Election Guides
The New York Times
The Washington Post
Utne Reader

Candidates' Backgrounds and Contributors
Center for Responsive Politics
Project Vote Smart