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113th Congress House Floor Procedures Manual

IV. Voting by Electronic Device

When the Speaker or the Chair announces that the yeas and nays are ordered and a recorded vote is ordered or announces that a quorum is not present and the yeas and nays are automatic, the vote is taken by electronic device. A Member casts a vote by electronic device by inserting a voting card into the nearest voting station and pressing the appropriate button: “yea,” “nay” or “present.” It is advised that Members go to another voting station and reinsert their voting card until the light comes on and verifies the vote cast at the first station. Members should also visually check the voting board to make sure that the light next to their name reflects their intended vote.

Members that do not have their voting card should go to the table in the Well and obtain an appropriate voting card from the boxes placed there (green card for yea, red card for nay, orange card for present). The Member should sign the card and give it to the Tally Clerk who will be standing on the first level of the rostrum. The Clerk will then register the vote into the computer, but the Member should visually check the board to make sure the vote is recorded correctly.

Members deciding to change their vote may do so by reinserting their card into a voting station and pressing the appropriate button during the first ten minutes of a fifteen-minute vote, or at any time during a five- or two-minute vote. However, during the last five minutes of a fifteen-minute vote, a change in a Member’s vote can only be made by going to the Well, taking a card from the table, signing it, and handing it to the Tally Clerk on the rostrum. The Clerk then registers the change and a statement will appear in the Congressional Record indicating that the Member changed his or her vote. Members using this procedure to change their vote should be sure to check the board to see that it reflects the change. Also, Members may change their vote during a five- or two-minute vote by machine and no statement about the change will appear in the Congressional Record unless it comes after the voting stations are closed and before the result of the vote is announced.

NOTE: Once the recorded vote ends (by the Chair announcing the result), and the motion to reconsider is laid on the table, the vote is final — no further voting or changing is permitted. However, if a Member has missed the vote he or she may submit a statement declaring how he or she would have voted had he or she been present. Such an explanatory statement containing the Member’s original signature will be inserted in the Congressional Record at the point immediately after the vote. A suggested script for such an explanatory statement on missed or mistaken votes may be obtained from the Floor staff. It is important to remember that this statement does not affect whether or how the Member is recorded on the vote.

Clause 2 of rule III specifically prohibits Members from allowing another person to cast their votes and from casting the vote of another Member. This unethical action was banned at the beginning of the 97th Congress.

The allotted time for a quorum call or recorded vote under the rules of the House is not less than fifteen minutes (clause 2 of rule XX). It is the prerogative of the Speaker or presiding officer to allow additional time beyond the fifteen minutes. One may hear Members calling “regular order” when an electronic vote extends beyond fifteen minutes under the mistaken impression that recorded votes are limited to fifteen minutes — they are not limited. The regular order is to allow more time on recorded votes if the Chair desires.

In the 110th Congress, clause 2 of rule XX was amended to prohibit a vote from being held open for the sole purpose of reversing the outcome of the vote.  This provision was not included in the 111th Congress rules package on the recommendation of a bipartisan select committee because it was found to be unworkable in practice.

It has been the custom of the House since the 104th Congress to attempt to “limit” these fifteen-minute votes to seventeen minutes. The Chair should allow all Members who are on the Floor before the final announcement to be recorded, but is not obliged to hold the vote open to accommodate requests through the Cloakrooms for Members “on their way” to the House Floor.

If several votes have been ordered and the Chair has announced that the time for voting will be reduced, the first vote in the series will consume not less than fifteen minutes and all subsequent record votes will take not less than five minutes each. It is important for Members to be mindful of when a five-minute vote is expected, so that it will not be missed.

In the event of a series of two or more votes in which any votes after the first one will be reduced to not less than five minutes, the Member will be summoned to the Floor by two bells followed by five bells.

In the 112th Congress, clause 6 of rule XVIII was modified to allow for two-minute voting in the Committee of the Whole.

In the 113th Congress, clause 9 of rule XX was modified to allow for five-minute voting on motions to recommit.

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