Friday, April 15, 2011

Certified Vote Published for "Family and Traditional Values" Amendment

The certified results on the House vote to accept amendment 143 to House Bill 1 were posted on Friday. Amendment 143 by Rep. Wayne Christian (R-Center) requires state universities that have a center for gender and sexuality to equality fund a "center for family and traditional values." (read LQ's original coverage of the amendment.)

The contingent results of House votes are posted in real time on the Texas Legislative Online. The official results, however, contain important information about why representatives choose to vote the way they did and, in some circumstances, explains that members intended to place a different vote than what was recorded. This was explained in LQ's ongoing series Bipartisan Votes Key to LGBT Legislative Successes:
"In cases of record votes each member of the house uses a voting machine embedded into their desk to record their vote. The machine allows them to vote either 'yea', 'nay' or 'present not voting' for each item before the House.

If a member is away from the House Chamber due to illness, family emergency or similar circumstance they can ask a fellow member to request that the Speaker excuse them, if a vote happens while they are away they are notated as being "Absent-Excused" in the record. Typically a member who is "Absent-Excused" will miss an entire day of votes.

The House often meets for hours on end without breaks. Members must often step out of the chamber the eat meals, meet with constituents or take bathroom breaks. If a member happens to be away from their desk and unable to vote when a record vote is taken they are recorded as being 'absent' from that vote.

So on any vote there are five different ways that a members position could be recorded: Yea, Nay, Present - Not Voting, Absent-Excused and Absent.

The issue is further complicated by a long standing tradition of members voting for each other. Many representatives feel that it is appropriate for them to record a vote on the machine embedded in the desk of a colleague who is absent, obstinately voting in the manner that member would and sparing them a record of being "absent" for a vote. The practice is strictly prohibited by House Rule 5, section 47, but it still happens (and was famously defended by Rep. Debbie Riddle after she was caught, on tape, voting for Rep. Kuempel).

These votes are jokingly referred to as "voting machine malfunctions". The House Rules allow members to enter a statement in the official house record explaining that their voting machine "malfunctioned" and stating how they intended to vote. Members can enter a similar statement if they are absent for a vote and would like a record of their position on the record."
In the case of the vote on Amendment 143 five members entered examinations of how they intended to vote. Rep. Roberto Alonzo (D-Dallas) explained that his voting machine did not register his vote and that he intended to vote "Nay." Rep. Joe Deshotel (D-Port Arthur) and Rep. Mike Villarreal (D-San Antonio) both said that they intended to vote against the amendment, although their voting machine registered their votes as "Yea." Marisa Marquez (D-El Paso) stated that she intended to vote "Nay," but that her machine recorded her as being "present, not voting."

Sarah Davis (R-Houston), the sole Republican shown as voting against the amendment by the uncertified results, stated that she intended to vote for it. This conforms with a statement made by her staffer to Legislative Queery. Davis, who received the endorsement of the Houston Log Cabin Republicans during the campaign, has not responded to requests that she explain her support for the amendment.

The uncertified results showed amendment 143 passing 110 yeas, to 24 nays. If these votes had been recorded as the members intended the vote would have been 109 yeas to 26 nays.

Rep. Rafael Anchia, who voted "present, not voting," did not enter a note in the record. Anchia represents part of the historic "gayborhood" of Oaklawn in Dallas and is historically a staunch ally of the queer community. His chief of staff, Timothy Dickey, told the Dallas Voice:
“He [Anchia] said the PNV [present, not voting] was basically just a, ‘This amendment’s stupid. I’m not even going to grace it with a yes or no. It’s a ridiculous amendment, and that’s what the PNV was. … We’re going to try to talk him out of doing that in the future. A ‘No’ is stronger than a PNV.”

LQ's House scorecard has been updated to reflect the notes entered in the official record.

No comments:

Post a Comment