Definitions

voice-vote

Voice vote

A voice vote in a legislative body refers to a vote taken on a topic where the participants merely respond verbally to a question with a spoken "yea" (yes), "nay" (no), or "present" (abstain) vote. Typically the chairperson or speaker of the assembly will ask a question to the effect of "All in favor?" followed by "All opposed?" and so on. The decision is then decided based on the chairperson or speaker's discretion, although it can be challenged. In such a case, if a certain proportion of the assembly agrees, a recorded vote or division vote takes place.

As a result—when utilizing the voice vote procedure—no names or numbers on who voted for what are recorded due to its impracticality, and the record will often stand as something to the effect of "unanimously approved by Voice Vote." This tactic is used when the matter in question is either uncontroversial or paradoxically when the matter at hand is quite controversial and participants wish to enjoy "political cover."

One such example is the Hughes Amendment. The restrictions on full-auto firearms are a result of the Hughes Amendment (99th Congress, H.AMDT.777). The amendment prohibited the general public from possessing fully-auto firearms manufactured after May 19, 1986. Rep. William Hughes (D-N.J.) proposed the amendment late in debate and at night when most of the members of the House were gone. Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), a long proponent of gun control, was presiding over the House at that time and a voice vote was taken. Despite the fact that the bill appeared to fail, Rep. Rangel declared the amendment approved and it was incorporated into House Bill 4332. Once passing the House, H.R.4332 was incorporated in its entirety into S.49. The Senate passed the final S.49 on April 10, 1986 by voice vote and it was signed by the President on May 19, 1986.

Alternative formulations for the vote, depending on the custom of the body, include "aye" for the affirmative and "no" for the negative.

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