Question about Proxy Voting on the House Floor

… er, is it legal?
While I caught only the last twenty minutes of the House session tonight, I sat next to a friend had arrived before myself. She cheerfully pointed out three or four House members who had voted on behalf of other House members. Each had pushed their own “Yea” or “Nay” button and then hurriedly pushed the button at the desk of a neighbor. Or neighbors. My friend said a couple of reps looked like they were working several bingo cards.
This was presumably done with the permission of those absent House members. (“… wait, I don’t remember voting to reinstate slavery.”) That doesn’t make it legal, though, does it?
ADDENDUM
Thanks to Will and Andrew for advising that proxy voting is, indeed, legal. Andrew kindly supplied the pertinent House rule.

No member shall speak or vote, unless within the bar of the House and at his or her seat, except as hereinafter provided. Every member (except as provided in Rule 3) who shall be in his or her seat in the House Chamber when the question is put, shall give his or her vote, unless prior thereto the Speaker shall have excused him or her in accordance with the provisions of the Code of Ethics statute (RIGL 36-14-6). No member may vote for another member, nor activate another member’s voting machine except by the express direction of that member who is present in the House chamber. No one may occupy the vacant seat of a member

Andrew has a point when he remarks,

There’s something weird about a rule that says you can vote in place of another person, but don’t sit in their seat.

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Will
11 years ago

Monique,
Your observation is eerily reminiscent of something I noticed repeatedly at the end of last year’s House session. The answer that I got from a GOP rep — although by no means a satisfactory one from my perspective — is that proxy voting (voting on behalf of someone else with their permission) is allowed under House rules, so long as the person who’s vote is being “cast” is located somewhere in the chamber. As far as I know, it is not permissible if they are completely absent (like on vacation in Hawaii).
PS Last year, I noticed Rep. Amy Rice repeatedly casting the votes of the people all around her, including that of Rep. Dave Segal who occasionally came by to sit in his chair with was next to hers. Dave spent most of his time chatting with other House members along the wall, but wasn’t far away though. She also voted for some really old looking guy.
PPS After tomorrow night’s RI Young Republicans event, I’ll probably drop by to watch the session, so maybe I’ll see you there.

Andrew
Editor
11 years ago

I believe the situation you are discussing is covered by House Rule 37(a)

No member shall speak or vote, unless within the bar of the House and at his or her seat, except as hereinafter provided. Every member (except as provided in Rule 3) who shall be in his or her seat in the House Chamber when the question is put, shall give his or her vote, unless prior thereto the Speaker shall have excused him or her in accordance with the provisions of the Code of Ethics statute (RIGL 36-14-6). No member may vote for another member, nor activate another member’s voting machine except by the express direction of that member who is present in the House chamber. No one may occupy the vacant seat of a member

There’s something weird about a rule that says you can vote in place of another person, but don’t sit in their seat.

Steve
Steve
11 years ago

One member cast ELEVEN votes for others on either side of her. I was there. I started writing down which #’s they were, but Monique’s friend and I lost count. Another cast at least three votes for a neighbor, and there’s more. How can they possibly remember the others’ “choice” by proxy that many times??
What about the recording? Can we ask to see it?

Steve
Steve
11 years ago

Hey, this thing post without saying; “thank you” That’s why I posted three times, three times, three times.
sorry!

Tom W
Tom W
11 years ago

Who cares?
The rank and file in the General Assembly are just trained monkeys who vote whichever way the organ grinder at the podium instructs them to.
In return for being obedient, they then get their bananas, err, I mean, legislative grants.
Psychologists call this “operant conditioning.”
The General Assembly could have one monkey, err, I mean Representative, sitting in the chamber and pushing the buttons – the vote totals would be the same. “Representative Cheetah, District AFL-CIO, present and voting!”
The General Assembly motto:
Hear no evil. Speak no evil. See no evil.

Will
11 years ago

Steve,
The cameras are generally angled in such a way as to make it difficult to see most of the “activities” you are referring to. The House leadership directly controls the TV feed. Generally, it focuses on “the board” and the individual speakers. I think if they panned too much, people might get a hint of how little they actually do on the floor. I nearly went insane last year watching Amy Rice playing with her hair. Reminded me of high school.
Tom,
Two thoughts:
Organ grinder monkeys are actually intelligent (for animals) and hardworking. As a whole, the General Assembly is neither.
If I remember correctly from the 1990s, then Rep. Rod Driver made it a little crusade to try to change the way votes were done. Basically, you stick your voter card in the voting machine at your desk, and as long as you don’t remove it, anyone who wants to can vote on your behalf.
I have a shorter General Assembly motto: Evil.

Patrick
Patrick
11 years ago

Tom, the way it matters is not how the vote is cast, but the fact that the vote is casted at all. If you’re running against a representative or senator and can show they only voted 57% of the time, that’s a great campaign point. But now that they have someone else voting for them, the record shows them voting a much larger percentage of the time.

Steve
Steve
11 years ago

Tom,
The people of the represented district should be grinding the organ.

Tom W
Tom W
11 years ago

>>Organ grinder monkeys are actually intelligent (for animals) and hardworking. As a whole, the General Assembly is neither.
I stand corrected! ; -)
>>the way it matters is not how the vote is cast, but the fact that the vote is casted at all.
Excellent point.
>>The people of the represented district should be grinding the organ.
True. I’m afraid that the electorate in this state suffers from mass “Stockholm Syndrome” – identifying with (and reflexively) reelecting their Democrat captors who torture them with high taxes, bad roads, notorious political corruption and a state economy that drives their children out in search of jobs.

Steve
Steve
11 years ago

I could try to understand voting for a colleague who motions to you with a thumbs up/down. Amy Rice however, was halfway across the floor for seven votes, and not even looking towards her seat. In fact, Hearn had the opportunity to vote against her should she have wished.
So, If your rep is A. Rice or Marcello, make sure you contact Rep Hearn with any of your concerns.
And there were others….

kathy
kathy
11 years ago

Bring your camera phones.

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