With proxy voting set to expire, lawmakers split on its usefulness
WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Voting by proxy is still an option for U.S. House members despite other COVID guidelines being dropped on Capitol Hill. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is allowing House members to vote by proxy at least through May 14. Proxy voting became an option for lawmakers in 2020 for public health reasons. Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Nevada) says it is a useful tool.
“They do it in other organizations you know. There’s such thing as sick leave,” said
Over 4,400 proxy voting letters have been filed over the past two years. Amodei accounts for 16 of them. Each one says, “I am unable to physically attend proceedings in the House Chamber due to the ongoing public health emergency,” then lists another member he gives permission to vote in his place.
Amodei says it is helpful for those who have to fly long distances or tend to other matters that require them to miss votes.
“My mother passed away. I missed some votes. Or when I had to have retina surgery on my eye. I missed some votes,” said Amodei.
He says it is better to have someone cast a vote on behalf of the district than to miss a vote entirely. But some lawmakers, like Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) want to do away with proxy voting. He thinks it is having a negative impact on how the House operates.
“It doesn’t help forward the body. And, you know, we’re not the most respected body as it is, I actually think it further denigrates our standing in the community,” said Biggs.
Molly Reynolds is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution tracking proxy voting. She says a tool like voting by proxy is a positive adaptation to the pandemic. But Reynolds says some are abusing the option.
“Proxy voting was not designed to allow people to say, run for governor and continue to vote on the House floor,” said Reynolds.
Reynolds says some members are using proxy voting to stay home and campaign. She says misusing the system undermines trust and raises questions about the future of legitimate proxy voting.
“What’s the best way to balance these competing tradeoffs?” said Reynolds.
While proxy voting is set to end in 10 days, it is unclear if it will be extended once again with some areas of the country seeing a spike in COVID cases.
Copyright 2022 Gray DC. All rights reserved.