Thursday, February 21, 2008

One Legislator, How Many Votes?!

The New York State Legislature was famously dubbed the worst in the nation following a study by the Brennan Center published in 2004 and an update in 2006. One of five key criteria or weaknesses that led to the conclusion was dysfunction in legislative committees including a rule about proxy voting.

Prior to 2004, according to state Senate rules, committee members were permitted to cast their votes by proxy, i.e., when absent. In 2005 the Senate removed language permitting proxy voting, but did not place an outright ban. In both reports, it was noted that only one other professional legislature allowed proxy committee voting, the Pennsylvania Senate.

Admittedly, in the case of proxy voting or actual rules enforcement, things could always be worse.

During floor votes in the Texas House of Representatives, members race around to cast electronic votes of absent colleagues. (See video below.) As the report on local news points out, the practice violates the chamber’s rules. If the mess weren’t already ironic enough, a member that defends the practice sponsored a strict voter ID law, which was inspired by claims of voter fraud. As our own Justin Levitt pointed out in The Truth About Voter Fraud, such claims are red herrings.

Apparently acts of voter fraud committed on floor of the Texas House dwarf the records of such acts by the public during elections. Maybe Texas does need a voter ID law after all—just for the members of its House.

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