Parliamentary Outreach Program


Methods of Voting. Under the rules of the House there are four regular methods of voting. These methods are outlined in House Rule XX and may be employed one after the other or in other combinations before a decision is reached. All four methods are available when operating in the House. When the House is operating in the Committee of the Whole, all of these methods of voting are available except for the yeas and nays.

  • Voice vote. A voice vote occurs when Members call out "Aye" or "No" when a question is first put by the Speaker. The Speaker will say, "As many as are in favor [of the question], say `Aye'." Then the Speaker will ask: "As many as are opposed, say `No'." Sometimes it is difficult for the Speaker to determine, based on the volume of each response, whether more lawmakers shouted "Aye" or "No." When considering a measure by unanimous consent, the Speaker may simply say "without objection the question is adopted" in lieu of a vote. However, any Member can object to that and force a vote.

  • Division vote. If the Speaker is uncertain about the outcome of a voice vote, or if a Member demands a division vote after a voice vote is taken, the Speaker may have "those in favor of the question...first rise from their seats to be counted, and then those opposed." Only those present and voting are announced in this rarely used method of voting.

  • Yea and Nay Vote. A vote in which members usually respond "aye" or "no" (despite the official title of the vote) on a question when their names are called in alphabetical order. Article I, Section 5 of the Constitution declares that "the Yeas and Nays of the Members...on any question" shall be obtained "at the Desire of one fifth of those present." Clause 6(a) of Rule XX provides that a yea and nay vote can be ordered "automatically" in the House when a Member objects to a pending vote on the ground that a quorum is not present. Yea and nay votes are usually taken by electronic device.

  • Record Vote. Clause 1(b) of Rule XX states that "if any Member... requests a recorded vote and that request is supported by at least one-fifth of a quorum, the vote shall be taken by electronic device." Record votes are taken in the same manner as the yeas and nays. The allotted time under the rules for a record vote is "not less than 15 minutes." It is the prerogative of the Speaker or presiding officer whether or not to allow additional time beyond the 15 minutes. The Chair also has the discretion in certain circumstances to reduce the voting time to not less than five minutes.

Less frequently used but still available methods are roll call votes, in which each Member's response is given orally as the Clerk calls the roll in alphabetical order, and teller votes, in which each Member fills out and signs a vote tally card and submits it to a designated clerk teller.

Required Method of Voting. Votes on certain issues are required by House rule to be taken by the yeas and nays. When the Speaker puts the question on final passage of general appropriation bills, budget resolutions or bills increasing Federal income tax rates, the vote must be taken by the yeas and nays. House rules and the Constitution also require that the question of passing a bill over the veto of the President must also be by the yeas and nays. The yeas and nays are usually taken by electronic device. A vote to close a conference committee meeting is also required to be a record vote.

Obtaining a Record Vote. Because the Constitution requires a quorum to be present to do business, whenever a quorum of the House (218 Members) is not present, a record vote can be obtained by a Member stating: "Mr. Speaker, I object to the vote on the grounds that a quorum is not present and I make a point of order that a quorum is not present." An alternate means of obtaining a recorded vote in the House when a quorum is not present is to request the "yeas and nays" which requires that one-fifth of those Members present stand up to order the vote. This could be as many as 87 if all 435 Members are present or as few as 1, if less than 5 Members are on the Floor. This request can be done by stating: "Mr. Speaker, on that vote I demand the yeas and nays." The Speaker will respond by saying, "All those in favor of taking this vote by the yeas and nays will stand and remain standing while the Chair counts." Once the Chair determines that one-fifth of those present support the demand, the vote is ordered. To obtain a record vote when a quorum (218 Members or more) is present a Member would state: "Mr. Speaker, on that I demand a recorded vote." A "recorded vote" under these circumstances requires only one-fifth of a quorum in the House (44 Members) to stand and support the request. To obtain a recorded vote in the Committee of the Whole any Member may say, "I request a recorded vote," and, if 25 Members (including the Member who made the request) rise in support of the request to be counted by the chair, the record vote will occur by electronic device.

Postponement of Votes. Under clause 8(a)(1) of Rule XX, the Speaker has the discretion to postpone votes for up to two legislative days on a number of questions. Other questions which can be postponed by the Speaker include adoption of resolutions and ordering the previous question on: (1) the adoption of a resolution; (2) the question of final passage of a bill; (3) the adoption of a motion to suspend the rules; (4) the question of instructing conferees; (5) the question of agreeing to a conference report; and, (6) votes on amendments or motions to recommit Corrections Calendar bills. The special rule governing consideration of a bill in the Committee of the Whole often provides that the Chair may postpone votes on amendments.

Clustering of Votes. Under clause 9 of rule XX, the Speaker may reduce to no less than five minutes the voting time for electronic voting on any question after a record vote on: a motion for the previous question, an amendment reported from the Committee of the Whole, and a motion to recommit a bill, resolution or conference report, or the question of passage or adoption of a bill, resolution, or conference report. Under clause 6 of Rule XVIII, the Chairman of the Committee of the Whole has the authority to postpone votes during consideration of a bill, and to reduce voting time to 5 minutes on a postponed question if the vote follows a 15 minute vote.