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Government and Politics

Ohio Senate's unrecorded voting process raises questions
The Statehouse method lays out plans to spend nearly $62 billion with no written record of votes

Jo Ingles
Democrats stand in a vote for on amendment to the State budget June 6.
Courtesy of Jo Ingles
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The Ohio Senate used a less common way of voting on some amendments when it passed the budget yesterday. Some are questioning the process.


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Usually when state lawmakers vote, they hold a roll call so that every member states whether they support or oppose a bill or an amendment.  But in nine out of two dozen amendments considered by the Ohio Senate during the budget debate, President Keith Faber used a different method, where he counted standing members as in favor of the amendment.

That type of vote is rarely used in the Ohio Legislature these days. 

"We had a whole long list of amendments and we wanted to make sure we went through the process," Faber says.

Republicans stand in a vote for on amendment to the State budget June 6.Who votes for what?
On the Ohio Channel, when they film this, they don’t show who is standing and who is not standing. A lot of people question the accountability.

"On motions to table, it is a procedural matter," Faber says. "It is accountable by the yays and nays of the total vote. And so that’s their accountability. Anyone who is in the chamber has the opportunity to see that and certainly you can ask people how they voted."

But when these type of votes are cast, there is no written record of how each lawmaker voted on the measure. John Green, a professor with the Bliss Institute at the University of Akron says there might be reasons, other than expediency, why lawmakers might opt for these types of votes rather than a roll-call record.

"Sometimes members of the Legislature and Congress, city council and so forth would really rather not have people know how they voted because a lot of issues are controversial and sometimes legislators find themselves in a bit of a bind with some people in their district wanting one thing and others in their districts wanting another thing so there can be some advantages to individual members to not have their vote recorded precisely," Green says. "But then, of course, there are people outside of the Legislature or those who might want to lobby a particular member or run against a particular member might be frustrated because they wouldn’t know how a member voted on a particular piece of legislation."

Problems for opponents, loobyists, voters
Catherine Turcer with Common Cause Ohio says it is not only lobbyists and potential opponents who might be frustrated with the voice and standing vote process.

"The voters have no idea who voted for these amendments," Turcer says. This strictly lets our legislators off the hook when it comes time to be responsible when it comes time for us to go to the polls."

Some of the amendments under consideration that were voted on this way include a bill that would have required businesses receiving tax incentives to account for how those dollars are being used and an amendment that would have added money for Ohio’s food banks.  Turcer says voters have the right to know where their Senators stand on amendments like these.

"It’s these kinds of silly maneuvers that make voters distrustful of the process," Turcer says.

The vote on the budget itself was a roll call vote where each lawmaker had to vote in favor or against it. It passed along party lines with Republicans voting yes and Democrats voting no. The Ohio House will vote on the budget bill in the coming days, likely sending it to a conference committee that will be charged with hammering out, behind closed doors, the difference between the house and senate versions of the budget.

Listener Comments:

This type of voting strikes me as down right unconstitutional AND very un-American...quite similar to what one expects in eastern block countries of Europe and definitely Russia. Our elected officials must remain accountable for their votes and actions. Prof. John Green's explanation is correct, "members of the Legislature and Congress, city council and so forth would really rather not have people know how they voted.." for which they should be impeached, in my opinion.

Posted by: S W Marcy (Northeast Ohio) on June 9, 2013 1:06AM
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