On Friday, the House of Representatives passed a resolution to “authorize remote voting by proxy during a public health emergency due to novel coronavirus”. Under H.R. 965, the House of Representatives will operate by having Members physically present act as proxy to vote for up to ten absent Members. The rule change allows for House Committees to conduct official business, such as holding virtual hearings, hearing witnesses testify remotely, and even issuing subpoenas electronically.
The rules change also requires a feasibility study to see if a secure and operable technology exists that can handle remote voting electronically. Once a technology is certified by the Chair and Ranking Member of the House Administration Committee, the rules may be updated the next legislative day to allow Members to both vote and record their presence remotely.
Blockchain is a strong frontrunner as a technology that could be certified. Under the new rule, the two Members of Congress that could certify the technology are Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Ranking Member Rodney Davis (R-IL) of the House Administration Committee. Chairwoman Lofgren represents the 19th District of California and as a Bay resident with her district including San Jose, the ‘Capital of Silicon Valley’ and Santa Clara Valley, she does not have to search very far to find the top technologies in the world.
Further supporting the case for blockchain, the Senate Subcommittee on Investigations recently issued a memo suggesting the idea of remote voting using blockchain technology for encryption purposes.
Given the backlash against cryptocurrencies in Congress that resulted from the introduction of the Facebook Libra blockchain last year,
The two Members of Congress that are tasked with determining the feasability of a technology for remote voting are Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Ranking Member Rodney Davis (R-IL). Chairwoman Lofgren will not have to look far for experts in technology who can assist her as she is a lifelong Bay resident and her district includes San Jose, the ‘Capital of Silicon Valley’ and Santa Clara Valley.
As the bill passed along party lines with a vote count of 217-189 and the Democrats control the House, it will be interesting to see how the Republican Ranking Member Davis (R-IL) coordinates with Lofgren on agreeing to a technology for remote voting. While House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has testified to the U.S. Select Committee On the Modernization of Congress indicating his belief in blockchain technology, the latest push by the Republicans is to avoid conducting the business of Congress over the Internet.
McCarthy (R-CA) stated, “As technology continues to change our life, let’s make sure Congress has the same ability to do it…to make this place more effective, more efficient, and most importantly more accountable.”
McCarthy appeared to be pushing back on the notion of modernizing Congress, when he announced on Twitter, “A virtual Congress would be a Congress that is connected to the Internet, but disconnected from the American people.” McCarthy, a Trump ally who right now is part of the push to reopen the American economy, argued during the debate on remote voting that, ‘The Founders would be ashamed.”
Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) saw the decision as a matter of the Congress being able to conduct its business in a new era. “It’s unacceptable to have Congress sidelined at any time”. Hoyer declared, “It is the use of technology to do the same thing the Congress has been doing since its inception [conduct oversight, debate, and pass legislation]…and sending it to the desk of the President.”
The full text of the House Resolution is below.