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A “confused” South Carolina Senator who was “distracted by other Senate business” received bad information on a critical budget amendment and cast an erroneous vote, according to S.C. Senate Clerk Jeffrey Gossett.

Accordingly, Gossett agreed to change this Senator’s vote in the official Senate Journal after the fact – which he did at the Senator’s request.

Such is the official explanation being offered for a controversial “Switcheroo” of GOP Sen. Shane Martin’s vote to accept a portion of federal stimulus money in the state budget – a vote that was changed shortly after a story on FITS highlighted Martin’s previous well-publicized opposition to accepting this particular pot of money.

From the official response of the S.C. Senate, submitted to us this morning by Gossett:

It is my understanding that (Sen. Martin) was distracted by other Senate business at the time Amendment #72 was debated and during the call of the roll someone gave him a brief explanation of the amendment that was in error. This confusion caused him to vote “aye”. Once he realized the true import of the amendment, Sen. Martin approached me about his options for changing his vote to “no”. I reviewed the vote, noted that this correction would not change the result of the vote, and informed him that I would make that correction along with other corrections that were being made to the daily Journal.

Well, well, well …

We’ll obviously have much more on Martin’s vote – and this lame explanation for it – in future posts, but Gossett’s letter also seeks to address some of the broader issues we’ve raised in recent days.

For example, contrary to reports received from numerous Senators, lobbyists and other political insiders, Gossett says that an official Journal of the Senate will be printed this year.

He also disputed the claim that Senators must put their vote changes “on the record,” and in so disputing seemingly grants wide latitude for future vote switches.

“There is no rule or requirement that a vote change be made with unanimous consent during a Senate session,” Gossett writes. “However, changes of this type would never be made if the change would alter the outcome of a vote taken during session or after publication of the permanent Senate Journal.”

So basically, according to Gossett, at any point during a legislative session any Senator can switch their vote on any tally at any time as long as it doesn’t change the final outcome of a bill or amendment.

That’s downright disturbing … and frankly a mockery of the Democratic process.

Finally, Gossett manages to get in a parting shot at FITS in his letter.

“This answer may not fit neatly into the conspiracy theories being woven on your website, but it has the advantage of being true,” Gossett writes.

Dated last Friday, we received Gossett’s letter at 10:30 a.m. this morning, shortly after our most recent article about the “Switcheroo” was published.

Obviously, we’re just beginning to dissect the two-page document, so stay tuned … and of course, you can read Gossett’s letter for yourself in its entirety by clicking on the link below.

WEB EXTRA

S.C. Senate Responds To Vote-Switching Scandal