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In a meeting with the South Florida Sun Sentinel editorial board on July 1, 2010, U.S. Senate candidate Maurice Ferre blasted Democratic rival Kendrick Meek for, basically, having a consistent voting record. In the words of Ferre, a former Miami mayor, Meek has voted 98.6 percent of the time with his political party.
Ferre's point is to distinguish himself from his Democratic rival, whom he accuses of leaning too far from the political center. "I think the Democrat party needs to be a centrist party," Ferre tells an off-camera audience from a wooden table. The interview was recorded and posted on YouTube in a 7:12-minute clip.
"In the case of Kendrick Meek, Kendrick Meek, in the Washington Post's view of each of these candidates, has voted 98.6 percent of the times with the Democrat party," Ferre said.
Seconds later, Ferre compares Meek's voting record to that of other Florida Democrats -- namely, Sens. Bill Nelson, Bob Graham and the late Lawton Chiles.
"None of them has voted 98.6 percent of the time with the Democrat party," Ferre said.
The percentage is so high and so specific, to the tenth of a decimal point, we decided to look into it.
Ferre refers to a Washington Post online database that shows how members of the U.S. Congress have voted since 1991. It indeed reveals that in the current session of Congress, Meek has voted with a majority of his Democratic colleagues slightly below 98.6 percent of the time -- 98.4 percent, to be exact. That's based on 1,355 votes and does not include votes in which Meek did not vote.
For comparison, 79 other House members, all Democrats, voted with their party at the same percentage or an even higher level in the current session. All Democrats combined voted with their party 92.3 percent of the time, and all Republicans voted with their party 88.4 percent of the time. As expected, a high level of party allegiance is common for most members.
We next looked at OpenCongress.org, run by the Participatory Politics Foundation and the Sunlight Foundation, which also tracks votes by party. That site too put Meek at 98 percent for the current session.
Meek's current figure largely mirrors his record in earlier sessions, according to the Washington Post database. In the 108th Congress (2003-2004), Meek voted 94.2 percent of the time with the Democratic party. In the 109th Congress (2005-2006) and 110th (2007-2008), he voted with a majority of his Democratic colleagues 98.4 percent of the time.
But what about the other three Democrats Ferre mentions? Did they vote fewer times with their party? Nelson voted with a majority of his Democratic colleagues 92.7 percent of the time during the current Congress, according to the Washington Post database. Nelson was at 85.5 percent and 91.8 percent in two previous sessions. Similarly, Graham's percentages between 1991 and 2002 ranged from 81.8 percent to 92.9 percent. The Washington Post database keeps records back until 1991. Chiles left the U.S. Senate in 1989.
The only issue with Ferre's claim is the minor difference between 98.6 and 98.4 percent. And so we rate his statement True.
Editorial board meeting, "Sun Sentinel Broward Politics: Senate candidate Maurice Ferre visits newspaper editorial board," posted on YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CpJz9givSwY
The U.S. Congress Votes Database http://projects.washingtonpost.com/congress/
OpenCongress.org, Head-to-Head Voting Comparisons http://www.opencongress.org/people/compare
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