If a vote isn't recorded, does it make a sound?

The following was written by Zhina Kamali, VCOG's first Chip Woodrum Legislative Internship and was published in The Roanoke Times on Feb. 16, 2015.


By Zhina Kamali

Each day I am at the General Assembly Building I think I have seen it all. And each day something new comes up that surprises me even more than the last.

About two weeks ago, I attended my first Privileges and Elections Committee meeting and witnessed a practice that completely baffled me. I got there early, and patiently waited for something interesting to happen. As with other committee meetings, the bills were presented and voted on. I very much appreciated that in the appropriations meeting room there was a television screen that showed exactly how each delegate voted on each of the bills in real time. This was appreciated because there could be no hiding. Each delegate had to take full responsibility for his or her vote.

I watched the red and green come and go on the screen attaching names to votes to action. Then something interesting happened breaking the routine. There was a motion to lay the bill on the table. I looked to the television screen in anticipation of if the motion would pass, but it was blank. Instead I heard delegates say “Yea” and then a few practically yelling “Nay” and then the bill was killed.

I felt cheated. Maybe the screen had spoiled me, but I had been interested in seeing how many delegates voted and in what way.

Then it happened again. This time I was sure I heard more delegates say “Nay” than “Yea,” yet there was no way to tell for sure. And with that, the bill was killed. Are we at the GAB or at a concert where the band with the loudest crowd wins? This is our government, with bills that individuals put up to be heard with the expectation that they would be given an equal chance. In this case, it turns into a scenario where whoever put in the motion to table the bill has complete control over its outcome. Is that what our leadership has succumbed to? The idea that the loudest voice must be the leader is the philosophy that runs dysfunctional and unproductive high school student organizations and has no place in our government.

This is the first op-ed I’ve written, so I looked to some outside sources for guidance, and Google suggested that I include a solution to the problem. In this instance this struck me as comical, as if this is an elaborate problem with many factors hindering the change.

So after much careful thought and deliberation here is my solution: Let’s count these votes exactly the same way as we do when bills are being reported. Done.


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