Metcalfe Calls for House Ethics Committee Investigation Into Ghost Voting
January 18, 2016
From the Pittsburgh Post Gazette: Harrisburg lawmakers, who drew the ire of citizens with their obstructionism over a state budget, topped their fractious actions by allowing one of the oldest forms of political trickery — ghost voting. When the state Republican-led House convened on Dec. 22, a stopgap budget was ready for action. There wasn’t enough support for it, though, so a vote was called instead to scrap that plan and go with a Senate-adopted, $30.78 billion version. That was the deal worked out by Gov. Tom Wolf and Republican and Democratic leaders from both chambers. In order for that measure to advance toward a final vote, it needed to pass by a simple majority of members in attendance. And it looked as if it had, by the slimmest of margins, 100-99. Except that three of those Yes votes came from members who were not on the House floor at the time — Republican John Maher of Upper St. Clair and Democrats Peter J. Daley of California, Pa., and Leslie Acosta of Philadelphia. State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, the Cranberry Republican, raised the question about how that could be, and those three members were subsequently listed as being on leave for the day. Nonetheless, their votes counted on that preliminary maneuver. Given the subsequent tanking of the larger budget and Mr. Wolf’s line-item veto of key elements of the budget that did reach his desk, it could be argued there was no harm and no foul. But ghost voting is foul, and the fact that it happened during such high-profile legislative action can’t help but make Pennsylvanians wonder just how often this sort of thing goes on. The Harrisburg Patriot reported that Mr. Metcalfe is calling for a House Ethics Committee investigation into the matter, and he’d like to see a better process for members to question the actions of their colleagues. We agree with him. It’s bad enough that lawmakers have accomplished so little in this legislative session. The least they can do is show up. When they don’t, other members on the House floor should not be casting votes in their place, and leaders should not ignore it if they try.