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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

What does it mean to vote "Present"

Last week at the Republican National Convention, Republican leaders mentioned over and over and over again that Senator Barack Obama had voted "present" on several occasions. The inference of the statement by the Republican leadership was that Senator Obama had voted "present" in order to avoid taking a stand on an issue.

Did Senator Obama actually vote "present" on several occasions? Absolutely.

Let's just take a moment to learn what voting present really means. The "present" vote, while not counted as a "no" vote, is in effect a "no" vote that sends a message. The "present" vote is used by lawmakers in situations where they agree with a bill in spirit, however the current version of the bill is not good enough to vote "yes;" either it is too expensive, it is inadequately planned or funded, it will not stand constitutionally, or it has riders or earmarks attached that are entirely inappropriate.

A "present" vote is taking a stand. In fact the "present" vote says more than if the Senator had just voted "no."

Did the leaders of the Republican Party understand this? Of course they did. This is what they do and part of their every day job. What the Republican leadership was counting on, was that you would not understand the meaning of the "present" vote.

Now you do.


Update: it became clear to me in conversations stemming from this post that some people do not know the difference between abstaining from a vote and voting present. Abstaining from a vote is choosing not to vote. Voting Present is a vote that counts against the bill passing. Bills pass by the percentage of yes votes to the total number of all votes (yes, no, and present).

cross-posted from BlogHer

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Ronda's Rants said...

Thanks for saying this!! It drives me to drink when either party does this...slant information in a way that is really just lying! Most people don't know this and then some still won't care!

Nanny Goats In Panties said...

We need more of you telling more of us this kind of stuff. Too many people vote according to what they see on commercials and that is as far as I will go on the subject or else I will get myself all riled up and nobody wants to see that (think Incredible Hulk).

Judy Haley (coffeejitters) said...

Earlier today I deleted a comment that I shouldn't have. The deleted comment said this: "Present votes are not counted at all as yes OR no. So basically he was saying that he didn't feel strongly enough about any of those issues to vote yes or no. He was willing to sit back and let the chips fall where they may. If it could pass without him fine. If it would fail without him fine."

Now let me correct the incorrect statements in that comment.

Bills that require a simple majority to pass count the total number of "yes" votes vs. the total number of votes. So if a bill had 30 "yes" votes, 5 "present" votes, and 29 "no" votes, the bill would fail.

However, if those five lawmakers had actually abstained from voting, as the Republicans suggest is the net result of a "present" vote, the bill would have passed with a simple majority.

If those five lawmakers had voted "no" instead of "present" there would have been no difference in the outcome of bill.

The present vote makes a statement and affects the net result of the voting carrying the weight of a no vote.

michelle of bleeding espresso said...

I am so sick of the leaders of the Democratic party just ignoring this stuff and letting it slide; I still think if Gore had done more of that in 2000, there wouldn't even have been a race and our country would be in a far different position today. This stuff simply *has* to be corrected and the Republicans *must* be called out on it. Thank you for this.

Kia said...

Ciao Judy, nice too meet you! I found your blog while surfing the net looking for bagpipes pics. You sure posted beautiful pictures! I moved from Italy to Scotland 3 months ago and I'd love watching the Highland games one day soon. Jave a nice day!

The Outlaw Baker said...

It's no secret that I am not a Obama fan, and on the other hand I am not a McCain fan either, I am far to cynical to believe that anyone is right. BOTH parties suck. What I am a fan of is having the balls to openly vote or speak your conscience. If you vote is a no have the balls to vote no, if it is a yes have the balls to say yes. Any way you explain it a "present" vote is a cop out, even if it counts as no.

The Outlaw Baker said...

I apologize if my last comment seamed a little less than cordial. I was misinformed and upset. Put simply, I was wrong. I'm just sick and tired of politicians dancing around issues and not giving any straight answers. Republicans slant information, and Bill Clinton did not have sexual relations with that woman. You understand my frustration.

Judy Haley (coffeejitters) said...

thanks Tim

Anonymous said...

So why not "no"?

Anonymous said...

Rather.... after hitting submit too quick, why would "no" be counted less than "present".


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