Illinois Present Votes
The Illinois Legislature has, via the 'Present' vote, another option by which to vote against a bill. The difference is, with a 'Present' vote, most Americans are not aware such votes have the same effect as a 'No' vote, making the vote attractive for politicians seeking to hide their votes on controversial bills.
Barack Obama 'Present' Votes Controversy
During the 2008 Democratic primary election, Hillary Clinton accused Barack Obama of not standing up for women's rights, due to his use of 'Present' votes on major abortion bills during his 8 years in the Illinois legislature. The National Organization for Women initially criticized Obama, following this claim by Hillary Clinton.
Nevertheless, CEO and President of the Illinois Planned Parenthood Council, Pam Sutherland, came to Obama's aid, and pointed out that it was a devised strategy between Planned Parenthood and Obama to have him vote 'Present' on controversial 'Born Alive' abortion bills to avoid public scrutiny.
As Sutherland would attest in Obama's defense:
- "We at Planned Parenthood view those as leadership votes. . . . We worked with him specifically on his strategy. The Republicans were in control of the Illinois Senate at the time. They loved to hold votes on 'partial birth' and 'born alive'. They put these bills out all the time . . . because they wanted to pigeonhole Democrats. . . . He came to me and said: 'My members are being attacked. We need to figure out a way to protect members and to protect women. . . . A 'present' vote was hard to pigeonhole which is exactly what Obama wanted. . . . What it did was give cover to moderate Democrats who wanted to vote with us but were afraid to do so... A 'present' vote would protect them. Your senator voted 'present.' Most of the electorate is not going to know what that means."
- "It was our strategy from Planned Parenthood. . . . Se. Obama was key to that present-vote strategy. . . . He was always gong to be no votes on all of these bills. But we specifically asked him to vote present because he was so respected among his fellow Democrats that, if he did the present vote, they would follow suit. And that ended up being the case. They did follow suit. And not only did many of the Democrats follow suit. So did a couple of Republicans follow suit. . . . It actually worked because the then-Senate President was no longer able to use these votes against candidates in their races."
- PolitiFact, "He voted 'present,' which is similar to 'no'" and "Yes, but it's complicated"
- Washington Post Fact Checker, "Obama's voting record on abortion"
- New York Times, "It's Not Just 'Ayes' and 'Nays': Obama's Votes in Illinois Echo"
- Associated Press, "Fact Check: Obama's Present Votes"
- "Clinton camp criticizes Obama 'present' votes," Chicago Tribune, December, 2007.
- "NOW Again Attacks Obama's Illinois Voting Record on Abortion Bills," Washington Post, February, 2008.
- "Obama Abortion Dodges Blessed by Planned Parenthood," ABC News, July, 2007.
- "Obama campaign defends his abortion-rights record," Chicago Tribune, January, 2008.