State representatives make the laws the rest of us have to follow, but they don’t always follow their own rules.
NBC10 Investigative Reporter George Spencer went to Harrisburg to dig through the allegations, and found two representatives were not in the room, or even in Harrisburg, when budget-related votes were cast on December 22, 2015. Yet, somehow, their vote buttons were pushed.
“I consider it voter fraud on the floor of the House,” Republican Representative Daryl Metcalfe said. Metcalfe was among the first to notice several colleagues missing.
Democrat Peter Daly told NBC10 he was in western Pennsylvania at legal hearings for his private practice at the time of the vote, and Democrat Leslie Acosta said she was out of the country in Nicaragua, caring for her sick father. Yet, both of their names were listed as voting “yes” to the budget.
Rep. Daley said he was as surprised as anyone.
“I said, I’m on leave. I sent the leave in, that’s what I’m required to do. I should not be voting,” Daley said.
Other members had apparently "punched in" votes for the absent members', swaying the outcome in favor of supporters.
“I watched Rep. Schlossberg lean over and push Rep. Daley’s button,” Rep. Metcalfe said.
So-called "ghost voting" is against the rules set by these lawmakers, which state "No member shall be permitted to vote and have his or her vote recorded on the roll call unless present in the hall of the house during the roll call vote."
When NBC10 combed through every voting record for that December 22nd day, the NBC10 Investigators discovered Acosta and Daley were listed as voting five times each between late morning and mid-afternoon, before they were finally marked “on leave” for the last vote of the day.
Barry Kauffman of Pennsylvania Common Cause says ghost voting can change outcomes and fuel public cynicism.
“What this really comes down to is government integrity, and the ability for the public to hold their officials accountable,” Kauffman said.
In order to hold those officials accountable now, the NBC10 Investigators contacted Allentown Rep. Mike Schlossberg, who Metcalfe allegedly saw double-voting.
Rep. Schlossberg did admit to NBC10 that he pressed another Rep.’s button that day, and that it’s a practice that happens in the House from time to time.
Rep. Schlossberg says House votes happen so quickly, members sometimes vote for an absent neighbor who is in the restroom or away from their floor desk.
He insists a miscommunication left him thinking Rep. Daley was nearby.
“I think it is safe to say that this is something that happens, from time to time, in the House from both parties. Calling it voter fraud is a serious over-exaggeration, without question,” Schlossberg said.
House Democratic Caucus spokesperson Bill Patton told NBC10 the practice of one representative voting for another doesn’t happen very often.
Patton said members are supposed to put themselves "on leave" when they're away. Rep. Daley did just that, but the request never made it onto the record, until the final vote.
Rep. Acosta admits she forgot to submit the leave request, leaving members like Rep. Metcalfe to notice and speak up, as he did that day. Rep. Acosta declined an on-camera interview, and said she did not want to get anyone in trouble.
“That person’s vote that was their vote, was cast by somebody that they don’t elect, that they most likely don’t even know, “Metcalfe said.
He’s called on the House Ethics Committee to investigate, but the committee will neither confirm nor deny that it actually is.
Both parties say they’re looking at ways to prevent voter fraud, including ID badges that must be swiped to cast a vote. They’re also considering a rule change that would allow a member to cast a vote in another member’s name through a tracking process, so everyone can know who is casting a vote for whom.
And for now, it’s still a mystery as to who pushed the voting button of the other representative.