For now, unrecorded votes will continue under the Gold Dome.
When they had the biennial opportunity on the first day of the General Assembly session Monday, Georgia state senators refused change the rule in place that allows an unrecorded hand-vote on changing legislation that has already passed through the public committee process. On, Monday the change could have been done with a simple majority.
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Readers should ask their state senators about this one. Some of the uneasy responses are priceless. We have even heard of cases in which some senators deny the existence of unrecorded floor votes. We send all concerned to Senate Rule 5.1-3.
As we explained here (online) last week (‘State senators hide behind a rule that allows unrecorded votes on controversial issues’) amendments made on the floor of the Senate chamber to bills about to be voted on for final passage are often altered with no record of how — or if — any senator voted on the amendment. If you are thinking that this leaves room for, ahem, hanky panky, you would be correct.
To quickly repeat the lesson in how the Georgia Senate works, when any senator suggests a change in a bill on the floor of the Senate (called a floor amendment), the default manner of voting on that amendment is a raise-your-hand vote that is not recorded anywhere. Neither is a non-vote.
It takes five senators to insist on a recorded vote, that is put on the vote tally machine and in the permanent Senate Journal. Most floor amendments do not get a recorded vote.
Let us make it clear here that one of the most dependable tools used by politicians is the knowledge that most Americans have no idea how their government works. If you are looking for a voluntary explanation on all of this from your own state senator, regardless of party, it will be a very long wait.
Let us be equally clear here that this writer has watched numerous times while some senators scurry around the chamber or get under the overhang of the Senate gallery to avoid being seen during an unrecorded hand vote — even by citizens watching in person.
Monday’s vote on Senate rules was recorded on the Senate tally machine. It should be noted that Columbus Sen. Josh McKoon made remarks noting this problem with the Senate rules and it is likely that the topic will be revisited.
Curious critics of this lack of transparency in government who take the time to talk to their own state senator about the above should also be armed with the knowledge that it is never too late to change the rule allowing unrecorded votes.
According to Secretary of the Senate, the Senate rules can be changed anytime. But now it requires a two-thirds majority vote. Which could be unrecorded.
The unrecorded vote rule in the Georgia Senate should be scrapped and all Georgians should be making that demand.
D.A. King of Marietta is president of the Georgia-based Dustin Inman Society and a reluctant denizen of the Gold Dome.