OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Republican Sen. Doug Ericksen has missed more votes than any other state lawmaker this year, with some of his absences from the current legislative action occurring while he was observing elections in El Salvador.
Ericksen, who represents the 42nd District in Whatcom County, told The Bellingham Herald that the trip was separate from consulting and lobbying work he does for the country of Cambodia. He registered as foreign agent for his work for Cambodia in 2019, and the company he launched with former state Rep. Jay Rodne has a $500,000 contract with the country’s government.
Ericksen’s roll call voting record for the session through March 9 shows he missed 38 of 205 votes on bills’ final passage. Using that same data, senators had been marked “absent” or “excused” 131 times at that point in session for those sort of votes — Ericksen accounted for 29 percent of them.
Lawmakers are currently in the midst of a mostly remote 105-day session and there’s no rule prohibiting senators from being out of the state.
Ericksen said that while he’s sure his trip impacted his ability to vote, he noted that his one vote wouldn’t have changed the outcome of any of those bills in a chamber dominated by Democrats. And he said he took part in caucus meetings and worked with staff while in El Salvador for the Feb. 28 elections.
“Obviously if we were not working remotely, I would not have gone,” he wrote.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends travelers avoid all travel to El Salvador, where levels of the disease are “very high.” Ericksen said in a text message that he took “multiple” COVID-19 tests and “all precautions.”
In an emailed statement, Senate Minority Leader John Braun of Centralia said he knew Ericksen would be out on travel and agreed that Ericksen’s decision didn’t impact vote results.
“We are a citizen legislature,” Braun’s statement reads. “Many of us have jobs or other responsibilities that are capable of temporarily taking us away from the Senate.”
Ericksen, who says he paid for the trip with his own money, said he was invited to El Salvador by multiple people, including the country’s vice president, who visited the state last year.