Aye versus Yea: What’s the difference?

Today’s ques­tion comes from Erika M:

I see yea, nay, no, aye as the way con­gress­men voted. What does aye mean?

Ah par­lia­men­tary pro­ce­dure. There’s no mean­ing­ful dif­fer­ence be­tween Yea and Aye, and Nay and No. They both mean “I vote in favor” or “I vote against”. The dif­fer­ence is just a mat­ter of pro­ce­dure. The Con­sti­tu­tion ac­tu­al­ly re­quires “Yea” and “Nay” for votes on the pas­sage of bills (Ar­ti­cle I Sec­tion 7), and so the House and Sen­ate both do that for those par­tic­u­lar votes.

In fact, the Sen­ate uses Yea and Nay for all votes. Good for them for keep­ing things sim­ple. It’s an­oth­er story for the House.

There are two pe­cu­liar­i­ties of the House that make the an­swer to the ques­tion not so sim­ple. First, they use Aye and No for all voice votes, where con­gress­men just shout out their vote and the chair judges who won just by lis­ten­ing. (Any­one can sub­se­quent­ly de­mand that the votes be record­ed in­di­vid­u­al­ly, in which case a record­ed vote is used. In the Sen­ate, voice votes use Yea and Nay.)

The sec­ond pe­cu­liar­i­ty of the House is that it op­er­ates in two modes of pro­ce­dure, and that de­ter­mines which kind of vote is used for record­ed votes not on the pas­sage of bills (be­cause those are al­ways Yea and Nay). These final types of votes could be for amend­ments, mo­tions, etc. The first mode is nor­mal House floor de­bate, which uses Yea and Nay for record­ed votes, so you will see Aye and No for voice votes but Yea and Nay for record­ed votes. Yea and Nay are re­served for this mode of de­bate only. The sec­ond mode is when the House op­er­ates as if it were a com­mit­tee made up of ev­ery­one, called “The Com­mit­tee of the Whole on the State of the Union,” and in this mode Aye and No are used for record­ed votes as well as voice votes.

Some more de­tails are in House Rules, if you want to pour through the de­tails. It’s in Rules of the House, Rule XX, and House Prac­tice in the sec­tion Vot­ing.

Advertisements

12 Comments

  1. Thanks for the clarification. As a first time visitor to the site I was a bit confused when I saw the votes and wondered why a simple yes or no would have been so much clearer.

    Like

  2. There was H. Res.605 that passed on 3/16/10, with 412 Yes, 1 No, and 17 Did Not Vote. What does Did Not Vote Mean. Were they there and chose not to vote. Please explain.

    Thanks
    Clearine Hunter

    Like

    1. There are two types of not voting. The first is a sort of registered abstention called “present”. This is when the person is there but doesn’t cast a yes or no vote. The second vote, which is really “not voting”, is that the person just wasn’t there.

      Like

  3. You might want to “pore” through the details rather than “pour” though the details. Although to pore through the details of the House Rules may require pouring a few to make it palatable.

    Like

  4. “Present” are those representive who cannot make-up his/her mind for political reason. They are thingking of the upcoming election and they do not like to offend the electorate. A “fence seater”, that they lean to the left or to the right depending on where the wind blows.

    “Not Voting” is almost but not always the same as “Present” voters. The only exception are those representative(s) who can not attend the session for medical reason to cast the vote.

    Like

  5. By being “Present” but not voting, they maintain a good attendance record so that a future opponent cannot say they missed X number of votes. They didn’t miss it, they just didn’t vote, for political reasons. No one can say they voted for the bill or against the bill.

    Like

  6. Present could also mean that they have not had time to read the full legislation and do not feel they know exactly what they are voting on…. which has been happening alot. Like anwering a question after the asker has only spoken the first 3 words.

    Like

  7. Voting Present can also mean that they are in favor of the general idea of the measure, but that it is a bad bill. Only the Yeas matter, so everything else is against, whether it is not voting, voting present, or voting Nay.

    Like

  8. Perhaps you’d care to reconsider that, Chris. Both the Yeas and Nays matter. Since ‘Present’ and not voting doesn’t change the final ratio, it doesn’t matter a whit.

    Like

  9. I don’t understand the meaning of ‘not voting’. If they are those who are not there, the sum of YES+NO+PRESENT+NOT-VOTING should be always the same between any roll-calls, but it’s not so instead.
    Thank you.

    Like

Comments are closed.