House Majority Leader backs remote voting

Downplaying security concerns, Rep. Steny Hoyer said conducting House business through video teleconference software was his "clear preference" to ensure continuity of Congress during the COVID-19 crisis.

House chamber (House.gov)
 

With the House of Representatives set to return this week, supporters of remote voting got a boost when Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said it was his "clear preference" to allow members to cast their votes and conduct most regular committee business through video teleconferencing software.

In a letter sent to House Rules Committee Chair Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) and House Administration Chair Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Hoyer downplayed concerns over cybersecurity, saying that the use of teleconferencing technology offered a clear and simple way to record the will of individual members.

"These systems allow one to see and identify the person who is speaking and hear what is being said with little doubt about the identity of the participant," Hoyer wrote. "Used for the purposes of Floor and committee business, there would be little doubt who voted aye or nay. As, invariably, such action is performed in public and is public record, the issue of security appears to be minimal."

Hoyer's position seemingly puts him at odds with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who has largely resisted such proposals over the past month. She tapped McGovern and Lofgren to explore different options for keeping the body running during the pandemic, including remote voting, but expressed serious concerns about the constitutionality and security of allowing members to electronically vote.

A report issued by McGovern's committee last month was skeptical about the prospects of standing up a new system or app, but last week he came out in favor of a proxy system that would allow members of Congress who are physically present in the Capitol to vote on behalf of other colleagues.

A Rules Committee aide told FCW that under McGovern's proposal, members would be able to convey their instructions over phone, email or other communications methods, and there would be no limit for how many members can be represented by a single proxy. However, a proxy voter would need to communicate with each member before every vote, even procedural ones. McGovern endorsed this option because, in his view, there is past precedent for proxy voting and less concern about constitutional challenges in court.

The aide acknowledged that could make it difficult or impractical for committees to hold markups for legislation and other types of hearing that typically rely on rapid back and forth dialogue between members and staff, spontaneous motions and ad-hoc votes. Hoyer said the Rules Committee proposal should only represent "a first step" towards a larger move to modernize Congress for the digital age.

"While any distance-voting is less optimal that in-person voting or debating in committee or on the Floor of the House, the sound and image of the Member doing so virtually is far superior to the utilization of proxies," Hoyer wrote.

While the House's prime responsibility is voting and passing legislation, Hoyer and good government groups called for Congress to go further and ensure there are rules and technology in place that will allow them to resume their oversight role of the executive branch.

On April 20, 24 organizations spanning the ideological spectrum wrote to House leaders to urge them to adopt new rules, warning that the Trump administration was taking advantage of their absence and noting it could be months or years before the crisis abates and the House resumes normal operations.

As the depth of the coronavirus crisis has become more apparent and the prospects for substantial in-person deliberations has become more uncertain, members in the House and Senate have increasingly warmed to the idea of updating the way Congress does business. More than a hundred members of the House favor some form of remote voting, according to First Branch Forecast, and former members and non-profits conducted simulated hearings over Zoom and other video conferencing software last week to test-run the idea.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.