House Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., is requesting a switch to remote voting amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic in an April 21 letter to Chairperson of the Committee on House Administration Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., and Chairperson of the Rules Committee Rep. James McGovern, D-Mass.

Hoyer wrote that he supports video-conferencing tech to support remote voting as it allows the chamber to record the vote “with little doubt about the identity of the participant.” While he admitted that this is “less optimal” than in-person vote or debate, he said that it would allow Congress to continue working in full and security risks “appear to be minimal.”

Members of Congress already participate in daily teleconferences, virtual meetings, and video discussions, Hoyer said, and allowing remote voting “will make it clear to those we serve that their representatives are doing their part in this crisis.”

“We must update our rules explicitly to allow remote committee proceedings or change the rules to define ‘present’ in a way that allows for members participation through an approved video-conferencing platform,” Hoyer said.

He said that he believes Congress could overcome any initial hurdles to implementation and implementing a remote vote now will ease the transition back to in-person work as members require accommodations “to maintain the necessary social distancing.”

“Beyond implementing the proxy voting as a first step, we ought to use this time as an opportunity to prepare for Congress to be able to work according to its full capabilities even with social and physical distancing guidelines in place,” Hoyer said.

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Katie Malone
Katie Malone
Katie Malone is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.