Two Years Into Pandemic, House Members Eye Proxy Voting As Way To Stay On Campaign Trail

3 months ago

Sixteen years ago, amid a pitched battle to become Florida’s governor, Charlie Crist unleashed a scathing TV ad highlighting the absenteeism of his opponent, then-Rep. Jim Davis (D), showing an empty office chair rolling past Washington landmarks.

After the chair passes the Capitol, the Jefferson Memorial and the Washington Monument, the narrator asks, “If he doesn’t show up for work now, why should we elect him governor?” Crist, then a Republican, won by 7 percentage points.

Almost two decades later, Crist, now a Democrat, has perfected something Davis could only dream about: being in two places at once, at least on paper.

That’s because of the U.S. House’s continued use of proxy voting, in which lawmakers allow other lawmakers to cast their vote while they’re absent. Crist used proxy voting to vote for the Inflation Reduction Act in mid-August, even as he had a full schedule of get-out-the-vote events set for the next day in Florida.

With the heart of the midterm campaign season looming in September, Crist’s case shows a tempting use of proxy voting for something other than public health: to allow lawmakers to skip being in the House in favor of being on the campaign trail.

And with proxies becoming more widely used since 2020, this fall could see a rise in absentee voting as lawmakers weigh the practical value of being in the House chamber — where votes are usually seen as predetermined — versus pressing the flesh back home.

‘Physically Unable To Attend’

Technically, House members are only supposed to use proxy voting when they are “physically unable to attend proceedings in the House Chamber due to the ongoing public health emergency.” It’s part of a rules change that was passed in May 2020 to allow members to cast votes even if...

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