Ask a Wonk: Time's Expired, So How Can Members Change Their Votes?

LGBT amendment vote shows the congressional buzzer is not final

Several Republicans changed their votes to 'no' last week when voting on an LGBT anti-discrimination measure. (CSPAN Screenshot)

Last week, a measure protecting the LGBT community from job discrimination failed when several House members changed their votes after time had expired. Can they do that? Yes, they can, but not the way it happened last week.  

When time expired on the May 19 vote barring discriminatory hiring practices by federal contractors, the tally on the House scoreboard showed more yeas than nays.  

But then the numbers began shifting, and finally showed the measure had failed by a single vote .   

[7 Members Flipped Their Votes on LGBT Amendment]

Vote switching is allowed , but there are rules about how.   

Each member carries a voting card bearing his or her name and photo. When the member wants to record his vote, he simply enters his card into one of the 46 electronic voting stations throughout the chamber.   

If he changes his mind during a voting period that lasts five minutes or less, he simply needs to put his card back into one of the voting stations and press the other button.   

[ Really, 30 Republicans Switched Sides on LGBT Discrimination ]  

However, if time has expired, members need to go down to the well — the area in front of the speaker's podium — and request the switch. The same goes for members who had not recorded a vote at all before time expired.  

But that's not what happened with the LGBT amendment. Somehow — in a seemingly intentional move by Republicans — the electronic voting stations remained open after the scheduled time period, and members were allowed to use their cards to switch their votes rather than announcing the changes and putting them on the record.   

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