Massachusetts Lawmakers Hold First Remote Vote in State History

Barnstable, Dukes, Nantucket State Rep. Dylan Fernandes

HYANNIS – The Massachusetts House of Representatives voted in a remote formal session for the first time in state history last week.

The unanimous vote passed legislation allowing the treasurer to borrow funds needed to keep the state financially solvent.

Votes were recorded through a conference call line while the session was televised on the legislature website.

Barnstable, Dukes and Nantucket State Representative Dylan Fernandes said that the change was necessary in order to keep people safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Obviously, this is what the time requires, and this is what we’re going to be doing moving forward,” said the Democrat.

“It’s pretty fascinating that, for the first time, the oldest constitutional democracy in the world is voting from home.”

Fernandes said that the conference call line was chosen because of its security after the legislative offices determined it to be the safest means of communication over other video-based mediums such as Zoom.

 “It might be nicer to see your colleague’s face, and that’s kind of an interaction that plays well for debate and deliberation, but we at the end of the day settled on what we think would be the most secure while also making sure that each member, all 160 of us, are allowed to have their voice heard in the process and by extension their constituents voices heard,” said Fernandes.

Despite the success, Fernandes does not think that this remote way of voting will continue after the COVID-19 pandemic passes.

“As soon as we get a vaccine and we’re ready to move passed the pandemic, we’ll be there in person. Nothing really can replace a robust debate in the Massachusetts House chamber. I don’t think anyone wants to get away from doing that. It’s a historic building and some of our nation’s most prominent people have come through there,” said Fernandes.

“With the pandemic, you can’t do that responsibly while also adhering to social distancing guidelines, but we’re all going to get through this.”

About Grady Culhane

Grady Culhane is a Cape Cod native currently living in Eastham. He studied media communications at Cape Cod Community College and joined the News Center in 2019.
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