||The examples and perspective in this article deal primarily with the United States and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (December 2010)|
A recorded vote is a vote in which the names of those voting for and against a motion may be recorded.
In many deliberative bodies (e.g. the United States Congress), questions may be decided by voice vote, but the voice vote does not allow one to determine at a later date which members voted for and against the motion. In the US Congress, upon the demand of any member, a division may be held; the members supporting and opposing the motion stand successively and are counted. However, even in the rarely used division procedure, the names of the individuals voting on each side are not officially recorded. A recorded vote, under the Constitution, may be obtained upon the demand of one-fifth of the members present. Other methods may be provided by Rules of the Houses.
United States Congress
In the Senate, there is only one way to obtain a recorded vote on a pending question, and it is the roll call vote. The request for the roll call vote is known as the Yeas and Nays. The request will be granted, if it is seconded by one-fifth of the Senators present, assuming that a quorum (a majority of Senators) is present.
The granted "Yeas and Nays" does not mean the end of the current debate; it only means that whenever debate does end, a roll call vote will occur.
If the "Yeas and Nays" are granted and are about to happen, then a Clerk proceeds to call the Roll of Senators in alphabetical order. Senators are technically required to vote from their seats, responding "Aye" or "No" upon the call of their names. In practice, however, Senators vote at the rostrum, sometimes by giving a "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" signal. The Senators vote from their desks only at the most formal times.
After the Clerk repeats the roll call, they wait at the rostrum for further Senators to vote. The vote remains open for at least fifteen minutes, but is normally kept open for up to thirty minutes, and sometimes for longer.
House of Representatives
The House of Representatives provides rules that are much more complicated than those of the Senate.
There are four ways in which a recorded vote may be demanded:
- Demand by one-fifth present: The Yeas and Nays may be demanded in the same way as in the Senate, by one-fifth of those present (but a quorum is not assumed present).
- Demand by one-fifth of quorum: A recorded vote may be demanded by forty-four members, or one-fifth of the quorum.
- Point of Order for lack of quorum: Recorded votes are automatically held when a member makes a point of order that a quorum is not present.
- Certain subjects: Recorded votes are automatically held when the House is voting on:
However, when the House is meeting in the Committee of the Whole (a Committee consisting of every member of the House, meeting to consider a bill in detail), a recorded vote may be held only by the demand of 25 members and for no other reason.
Regardless of how the House arrives at a recorded vote, it is taken in one of three ways:
- Calling the roll: The Speaker may ask the Clerk to call the roll of members, as in the Senate. However, this procedure is reserved for formal votes, considering the amount of time consumed by calling over four-hundred names.
- Teller vote: The House may hold a teller vote, in which each member signs a green card for "Aye," a red card for "No," and an orange card for "Present" (an abstention), and hands it to a Clerk, who counts the votes.
- Vote by electronic device: The House may vote by electronic device. Members vote by inserting a plastic voting card, which doubles as a photo ID, into terminals located on the backs of seats in the House chamber. The member presses a red button to vote "No, "a green button to vote "Aye," and a yellow button to vote "Present." Members' names are displayed on a blue, backlit panel above the Speaker's chair, and when a member votes, a red, green, or yellow light appears adjacent to his or her name. Displays on the side walls of the chamber display a running vote total.
The recorded vote remains open for 15 min, after which members may vote in the same manner as in a teller vote: by signing a card and handing it to the Clerk, or by announcing their votes to the Clerk but not by electronic device, until the Speaker announces the result. Sometimes, an important vote will be held open by the presiding officer (the Speaker or the Speaker's delegate), for much longer, so party leaders can have time to convince members to change their votes. The longest-ever recorded vote was held in the early hours of November 22, 2003, when the Republican Party held a vote on a Medicare bill open for approximately 3 hours, during which President George W. Bush personally worked to convince two Republicans who had voted "No" to change their votes to "Aye."
United Nations General Assembly
Votes on all matters in the United Nations General Assembly, whether procedural or substantive, are always recorded if any delegation requests a vote. If no vote is requested, the motion or proposal is understood to have been accepted unanimously. The standard method of holding a recorded vote is electronic; delegates can elect to vote "yes", "no", or "abstain", with all delegations' votes displayed instantaneously on a vote tally display. A traditional roll call vote is technically permitted in the rules of procedure, but its use has been superseded by electronic voting.