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U.K. House of Commons ends virtual voting

The House of Commons on Tuesday backed a proposal to end virtual voting in the U.K.’s lower chamber, casting their votes using a socially-distanced queuing system for the first time. The motion passed 261 votes to 163.

Members of Parliament (MPs) will now file into the chamber to cast their votes in a socially distanced queue that will make the voting process last roughly 45 minutes. The new system will replace the historical “divisions” where MPs generally walk into the Aye or No lobby to vote. That process generally takes 15 minutes.

The move comes shortly after the U.S. House of Representatives has instituted a proxy voting system which allows Congressmen to cast votes through other members. Proxy voting was instituted by House Democrats who felt it was too dangerous for many of their 435 voting members to travel to D.C. and to be in the Capitol at the same time.

The House of Commons has far more members than the U.S. House coming in at around 639 voting members.

The Leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg, came up with the plan. He said parliament must be conducted in person.

“Voting while on a sunny walk or watching television does democracy a disservice,” said Rees-Mogg.

Rees-Mogg says it is in voter’s best interest to have parliament back up and running as legislation continues to be clogged with no detailed, line-by-line consideration of bills.  

Some MPs were not happy with the process of waiting in line and said the new policy isn’t appropriate for the 21st century. They predicted the House of Commons would return to virtual voting soon.

The Commons have operated under a hybrid model since the end of April allowing members to take part in debates in person or virtually. Virtual voting was allowed on May 13 for the first time in the chamber’s history.

Up against calls from some MPs to allow some of the COVID-19 measures to continue, Rees-Mogg, said that the government would introduce a motion today to allow MPs at high risk of catching the virus to participate in debates remotely. He stood firm, however, on putting an end to online voting.

With many MPs believing the new system is flawed and like “herding cats” it is unknown how long the queue voting system will last. It’s the latest example of how governments across the world are struggling to find the best way to continue operations during COVID-19.

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