Voting Rules… Unknown, Bent, and Broken
On site for part of a Rhode Island House session, Monique watched several members vote for representatives who were not at their seats, a ritual that a friend described as ongoing. The answer to Monique’s question about the legality of that act came in the form of a House rule that allows it if the member is “present in the House chamber.” I’m not sure how broadly the word “chamber” is averred to apply, but if proxy voting had been going on for a substantial duration, I’m curious where in the chamber those members were for so long.
Today’s Political Scene in the Providence Journal is suggestive of the possibility that General Assembly voting rules are subject to such vagaries as whether the leadership has “suspended all the rules”:
After he had settled in, [Sen. Leonidas] Raptakis [D, Coventry] said he simply asked the clerk, Joseph Brady, to add his missed “votes” to the tallies for the first three bills on the calendar.
Asked how he would explain this to a member of the public who might view a “vote” as evidence of actual attendance, Raptakis cited a Senate rule titled: “Who May Vote.” …
But Raptakis acknowledges he was not in the chamber when the Twin River bill came up, and did not request — or receive — unanimous consent to have his votes counted toward that bill or the two that followed involving sex-offender registration and insurance. But maybe, he suggests, there was no such rule in effect because Senate leaders had “suspended all the rules” days earlier for what they thought would be the final days of this year’s legislative session.
Well OK, then. As long as it’s possible for a handful of part-time elected representatives to permit chaos, I suppose we haven’t any grounds for complaint.