A Betrayal of Representative Democracy

by Emilio Jaksetic

Citing the public health danger of COVID-19, the House of Representatives on May 15 passed H. Res. 965, a rule allowing Members of the House to vote by proxy. Passage of that rule was a blow to representative government in the United States and an affront to the right of Americans to be represented in Congress by the people they elected.

Six of the seven Virginia Democratic Members of the House voted for this historic betrayal of the American people: Don Beyer (VA-8), Gerald Connolly (VA-11), Donald McEachin (VA-4), Bobby Scott (VA-3), Abigail Spanberger (VA-7), and Jennifer Wexton (VA-10). (The only exception was Rep. Elaine Luria, VA-2.)

Congressional Democrats embraced an inappropriate analogy by voting for H. Res 965. Stockholders own and control their voting rights because they own the stock.  Members of a homeowners association own and control their voting rights because they own their homes. By contrast, the right to vote in Congress is not property that can be transferred to another by proxy; votes are held in trust by Members of Congress as the agents of the people of their congressional district.  Proxy voting based on personal property rights cannot justify proxy voting by elected officials.

The right of people to be represented by their elected representative is effectively nullified if their representative presumes to issue a proxy that gives control of his or her vote to another Member of Congress. That right also is effectively nullified if a representative of another district presumes to vote and act for them. The rule authorizing proxy voting makes a mockery of peoples’ right to be represented by the person they elected.

Proxy voting also nullifies the people’s ability to hold their elected representatives accountable.

The people in a congressional district could remove their representative from office if they disapprove of their representative’s votes in Congress. But the people cannot exercise that right to hold accountable representatives from other Congressional Districts who use proxies to cast votes unacceptable to them.

No member of Congress has the right to transfer his or her lawful status to represent a particular congressional district to another member of Congress. No member of Congress has the right to presume to cast a vote on behalf of a congressional district that he or she does not lawfully represent. No House rule can authorize such abuses of power.

Our rights must not be trampled on by a House rule that places the personal convenience and individual health concerns of members of Congress above the duties and obligations they owe to the people. The House rule authorizing proxy voting is not a mere internal House procedure, but a travesty that disenfranchises the people.

Any member of Congress who gives control of his or her vote to another betrays the people of his Congressional District. Any member who presumes to cast the vote of another usurps the vote of the member who issued the proxy. Members who acquiesce in proxy voting by others are complicit in the other members’ violation of the people’s rights.

The passage of H. Res. 965 constitutes an historic betrayal of the American people.

By voting for H.Res. 965, six of the seven Virginia Democrats in the House showed that they do not respect the people of their Congressional Districts; that they do not respect the right of the American people to be represented by their elected representatives in Congress; and that they do not consider fidelity to their constituents to be as important as their personal convenience and health concerns.

If Virginia Democrats who voted for the House rule authorizing proxy voting are not held accountable by the people of their respective districts, then who knows what other rights of the American people will be similarly sacrificed in the future under the pretext of a House rule?

Virginia voters should ask whether they can afford to place their faith in elected representatives who are willing to betray the people’s rights to vote and choose their elected representatives in order to satisfy the partisan convenience and interests of the Democratic Party.

In the Gettysburg Address, President Abraham Lincoln spoke of the resolve “that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”  The Virginia Congressional Democrats who voted for H.Res. 965 showed that they stand for government of the party, by the party, and for the party.

Emilio Jaksetic, a retired lawyer, is a Republican in Fairfax County.

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14 responses to “A Betrayal of Representative Democracy

  1. What a load of hyperbole! The proxy merely lets that member cast a vote as directed by the member issuing the proxy.

    • Yeah so long as the proxy can’t make the decision for the person they’re a proxy for….I don’t see the problem.

      OTOH I don’t see the real need, either. They already set up and per,otter remote voting a few months back. What’s the problem with sticking to that?

  2. Given that it’s not overwhelming a Democrat to Republican ratio, it’s likely you could wind up with more Covid dead Republicans with in person voting.

  3. I see Warner Hall is for sale. 16 bed, 22 bath, blt circa 1740.

  4. OK it took me a minute to recalibrate my thinking from Virginia House to US House of Reps, which we do not usually talk too much about here. Unless this is some kind of special issue with intense public scrutiny the Dems are just going to vote party line except maybe if they feel they need to appear more neutral, due to living in semi-Repub area or something. Fairfax no such concerns. Virginia Beach area more worried about shore business recovery at the time in May? and we can see where that lead to.

  5. Proxy votes are cast in committee in the Virginia Senate, but only if the member first does attend the meeting and leaves the proxy. Proxies are not cast on the Senate floor. No proxy voting in either venue has been allowed in the Virginia House of Delegates. As temporary measures some of these accommodations are not troubling, but “temporary” passed about June 1…..

    • If they don’t show for in-person voting, then where else can they meet with the lobbyists to pick up their checks?

      • Checks? Who uses checks anymore? Wouldn’t you expect them to have a website where “campaign contributions” can be made via PayPal or credit card?

        Then again, these ARE Virginia politicians we’re talking about, so maybe they do only take checks.

  6. If you feel that proxy voting is a betrayal of representative democracy then how do you feel about the sale of votes to lobbyists?

  7. Does anyone know what this is going to look like when the votes for and against are recorded in the Congressional Record? If Congressman X votes for a Bill by proxy, will his or her constituents be able to look that up to hold them accountable? What happens when a proxy-holder votes differently than the one who gave them their proxy wanted? Seems that there might some unanswered questions because no one has bothered to ask.

    • Perhaps, even better. There’s a paper trail. Take for example the old “voice vote”. When things go south, it’s virtually impossible to find an “aye” six months later.

  8. Are we talking about pure proxy voting here or proxy associated with and enabling remote participation?

    If the Va GA won’t meet in-person indoors in their chambers, are we surprised that the more than 400 in Congress would not want to either?

    Interesting that those who see this as a problem – don’t seem very interested in alternatives, just legal action.

  9. There’s a serious problem here. Anyone who has ever served on a board of directors that deal with “public policy issues,” from the local PTA to one’s HOA to a nonprofit, knows that, during debate, the nature of a resolution, etc,. , can change dramatically. A gives a proxy to B on the assumption that the resolution (or in this case, bill) does X but not Y. An amendment is proffered and the resolution/bill does Y, beginning in two years. How does B vote?

    Dealing with remote hearings and, even, floor sessions electronically can be addressed. But being someone else’s agent in a trusted position requires the agent to vote personally and not delegate the vote to someone else.

    Harry Truman is rolling over in his grave.

    • I’m still not fully understanding. I sit on a transportation advisory board that has had to meet remotely for several months now.

      Early on, we were told that we could not vote remotely because of the current law.

      At some point, changes were made and we were allowed to vote remotely.

      No proxies… they just take roll call votes…

      So again – is this about remote voting or proxies or is there something in the language itself that basically treats remote voting as “proxy”?

      As long as public bodies have to meet remotely – how can action requiring votes be done?

      Is that what this is about?

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