Jones: "Remote Voting" and "Proxy Voting" Declared Unconstitutional by Legislative Counsel

Legislative Counsel has ruled that legislators can’t “call it in” – they must be physically present at committee hearings or Floor sessions to cast votes

El Cajon, CA – State Senator Brian Jones (R-Santee) today publicly released an official opinion by the Office of Legislative Counsel that declares it unconstitutional to allow legislators to cast votes by “proxy” or by “remotely calling in” their vote from anywhere in the world.

“The Office of Legislative Counsel, the attorney for both the Senate and Assembly, has produced multiple written opinions over the years making it crystal clear that in order to vote on legislation, Senators and Assemblymembers must be physically present at committee hearings or on the Senate or Assembly Floor.

“Legislative Counsel has recently confirmed that long held position – remote voting by legislators is not permitted under the California Constitution – in a written opinion I received in May of this year.

“On March 16 of this year, our Senate leaders quickly jammed through a hastily written Senate Resolution (SR) 86 on a voice vote.  Since then, my office staff has had in-depth discussions with Legislative Counsel and it’s become increasingly clear that the Senate leadership apparently did not do their due diligence prior to forcing a vote on SR 86.

“Today, Assembly leaders are foolishly considering jamming through House Resolution 100 which would let the Speaker and Minority Leader get ‘proxies’ from absent colleagues and then vote them in blocs.

“Just what California doesn’t need, more secret deal-making with Tammany Hall style rigged voting by political Party leaders.

“If legislative leaders want to change the Constitution, they need the approval of someone very important: the voters.

“And if legislative leaders want to ask to vote by proxy, by calling-in and never showing up at the Capitol, then legislators ought to be prepared for voters adding one important stipulation – move the Legislature back to part-time status.  Casting votes from the beach, from a ballgame or while vacationing out of state may seem ‘trendy,’ but it is hardly serious representative government.

“I greatly respect the courage of legislators such as Assemblywoman Autumn Burke (D-Inglewood) and Assemblyman Tom Lackey (R-Palmdale) who were diagnosed with COVID-19 but after quarantine and hospitalization, respectively, both came back to the Capitol to represent their districts.  I also have great admiration my colleagues such as Senator Pat Bates (R-Laguna Niguel) who has remotely participated, but declined to remotely vote, in Senate hearings out of respect for our Constitution and the will of the voters.

“I also take no issue with colleagues who have chosen for health or family reasons not to return to the Capitol out of concern for perhaps unknowingly catching COVID-19 and taking it back to their homes and communities. 

“But if legislators want to vote in Senate or Assembly Committees, or on the Senate or Assembly Floor, they must be present to do so.  Our Constitution requires it and our voters demand it.”

Jones’ statement regarding the written opinions on remote voting relate from:

  1. The May 11, 2020 written opinion from Legislative Counsel which among other things states:

    “… to the extent that virtual legislative sessions necessarily permit Members to be located in different physical places to which members of the public lack access, legislating remotely arguably violates the constitutional guarantee of open and public meetings.”

    “… the California Constitution does not contemplate that members of the Legislature may participate or vote in legislative proceedings, including floor sessions and committee hearings, by means of remote access.”

  2. A 2008 written opinion issued to then-State Senator Jeff Denham from Legislative Counsel that in part stated:  “a Member of the Legislature serving on a committee may not lawfully cast his or her vote by telephone, rather than by being physically present at a hearing.”  Click here to read about that opinion.