Regarding the remarkable clip of rule breaking Texas legislators voting for their colleagues, here is the transcript, including a statement from Alexis DeLee, Spokesperson for House Speaker, Tom Craddick:
There’s been a lot of debate at the State Capitol on bills relating to voter integrity. Some lawmakers are pushing for measures such as requiring voters to show a photo identification before being allowed to cast a ballot.
Another bill would criminalize anyone who delivers a ballot for someone unable to drive to the polls.
With so much emphasis on one vote for one person, you’d think lawmakers would make sure they follow the rules, too.
In this CBS 42 Investigates, Nanci Wilson found many don’t.
State Representative Debbie Riddle, R-Tomball, authored the bill that would require voters to show a photo ID.
“It’s all about integrity,” Riddle said.
But the integrity of one person, one vote doesn’t apply at the legislature. CBS 42 found many lawmakers vote more than once.
During a vote, Riddle votes, turns around and votes again for another state representative.
There’s so much going on during the vote on the HPV vaccine mandate, you really have to pay attention.
First, State Rep. Mike Hamilton is at his desk. He leans over to vote a second time for his deskmate Dan Branch. Hamilton reaches back to vote for Charlie Howard, then casts a fourth vote for Wayne Smith.
He’s not the only one scrambling to vote. State Rep. G.E. West and State Rep. Larry Phillips both lean over to vote for themselves and their deskmates.
Phillips votes a third time for State Rep. Wayne Christian. Donna Howard votes for State Rep. Hubert Vo.
State Rep. Jim Dunnam didn’t have to leave his chair to cast four votes–one for himself then for Garnet Coleman, Trey Martinez Fischer and Marc Veasey.
Sometimes the voting is across party lines.
Will Hartnett, a Republican, reaches back to vote for Democrat Rene Oliveira.
Democrat Jim McReynolds votes for Republican Kirk England, and Republican John Davis votes for Democrat Rick Noriega.
Most voters have no way of knowing if their lawmakers are actually casting their own votes. Even though the legislature is broadcast on cable TV, the cameras change when it’s time to vote.
But if you’re sitting in the third floor gallery, you have a better view.
“I certainly noticed. There appears to be far more votes on the tick board than there were people in the room,” capitol visitor Laurel Weiss said.
Arnie and Laurel Weiss were baffled when they came to see the legislature in action.
“It seems very inappropriate and they should do something about it,” Arnie Weiss said.
Riddle says voting for other members is done out of necessity.
“We have a lot of amendments,” Riddle said. “We don’t have lunch breaks, dinner breaks, restroom breaks.”
Necessity or not, one thing is clear, they aren’t supposed to be doing it.
According to the official House rules–written, voted and approved by lawmakers at the beginning of the session–”Any member found guilty by the House of knowingly voting for another member on the voting machine shall be subject to discipline deemed appropriate by the House.”
So, should lawmakers do it?
“No, there’s no question,” Weiss said. “On face value it appears to be a blatant violation, an affront, of their own rules.”
It is against their own rules. But the issue is with enforcement. It is the speaker’s job to make sure rules are followed. When CBS 42 asked Speaker of the House Tom Craddick’s spokesperson about it, she just shrugged her shoulders and said it was up to the House members to decide what do to if there’s a violation.
Although the practice is widespread, CBS 42 couldn’t find any instances of lawmakers being disciplined for voting more than once.
Statement from Alexis DeLee, Spokesperson for House Speaker, Tom Craddick.
“Since the membership has adopted the requirement for a record vote on 3rd reading, it is probable that members may vote for other members when they leave the floor to eat, meet with constituents or go to the restroom. Like many House rules dealing with the interactions between members, we leave the enforcement of the rules to the good judgment of the members. Members shouldn’t be voting for members who aren’t here, but if they do, everyone has the right to ask for a verification vote. A member may always lock their voting machine and take their key when they are off the floor so they may not be voted in their absence. When a verification is called and a member is not found, the House Sergeant’s office locks their machine and takes their key. When strict enforcement is asked for by a house member, the Speaker allows each member time to get to their desk to vote.”