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How the Senate Votes

VotingSeveral House members have introduced a bipartisan resolution to modernize how Congress operates. It includes the ability to vote remotely or take part in hearings online. A California Congressman said, “Across the nation we see the development of new, innovative ways of conducting business to improve communication and connectedness. It’s time for Congress to learn to be more mobile and adapt to the times in which we live.” Amen.

What a great idea, although long overdue. Consider how the Senate votes. On January 21, the Senate held 11 votes related to amendments to a pending resolution. First, let me say I am not going to make a political pronouncement about whether the 11 votes should or should not have been passed. I want to comment on the mechanics of how they voted, not the politics. In the House, when a vote is called, it is over in a few minutes. The count is shown in real-time and members can modify their vote up to an announced cutoff. In the Senate, they vote the same way they did 150 years ago.

Our Senate uses the NBC (No buttons or clicking) method. The roll call is the controlling technology. Each vote starts with “Mr. Alexander”. Mr. Alexander then stands up and casts his voice vote. “Ms. Baldwin”, “Mr. Barrosso”, “Mr. Bennet, “Ms. Blackburn”, and the same for the other 95. After Mr. Young stands and casts his voice vote, there is a very long silence. Not sure what somebody is doing. I would hope all the votes were entered into some kind of app which then showed the totals, but it would not surprise me if they manually counted the votes and then had a second person double check. A long document is then presented to whoever is in charge, in this case the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

As I have written in Election Attitude – How Internet Voting Leads to a Stronger Democracy and in numerous posts, mobile blockchain voting is very doable. All we need to do is impose the political and technological will to overcome the fear and the protection of the status quo. It can be done and be secure, private, accurate, and verifiable. Much more so than paper ballots. In a closed chamber where all the 100 voters are in the room, a simple wired keypad application could easily handle the voting task. It would be a near instant vote count.

Every month I get an email from a software company called Smile. It includes a report telling me how many minutes I saved for the month as a result of using an app called TextExpander. I have the app on all my devices. When I type eatl, my device types on its own “Election Attitude – How Internet Voting Leads to a Stronger Democracy”. The time savings are up to an hour a month. Imagine how many hours the Senate could save if it had electronic voting.

Our Congress is the body of politicians who the tech industry is urging to develop regulations for artificial intelligence, facial recognition, cryptocurrency, and other critical and highly technical issues. Are the politicians, especially the Senate, up to it? You can guess how I would cast my vote on that question. The latest survey shows a job satisfaction of 9% for Congress. No surprise.

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