When Congress votes on something, the vote cast by every representative is made public. Is this required by law? Specifically, is either chamber of Congress allowed to hold a binding vote without making the votes of each member known to anyone beyond the leadership?

2 Answers 2


Congress itself doesn’t even have to know which members voted which way. Both houses allow for voice votes, which is where the presiding officer says “all in favor say yea... all opposed nay...” and decides which side won based on who seemed to have more people. The Constitution only requires that members cast recorded votes if a fifth of those present want it done.

  • Do you happen to know what percentage of voice votes continue on to recorded votes? I think that everytime I've seen a voice vote, a member ends up calling for a recorded vote. Sep 27, 2019 at 2:29
  • 2
    @Michael_B I do not, although I do know that there are votes that don’t continue to a roll call. They’re often on procedural issues or amendments, and anything controversial is likely to get a roll call.
    – cpast
    Sep 27, 2019 at 2:32

It's not possible for a citizen to cast an informed vote, if he/she doesn't know the voting record of the candidate. So, I would say, there's no way members of Congress can conceal any of their votes.

In terms of the supporting documentation you're requesting, here are three sources:

  1. U.S. Constitution, Article 1, Section 5

    Record of Proceedings. Each House shall keep a Journal of its Proceedings, and from time to time publish the same, excepting such Parts as may in their Judgment require Secrecy; and the Yeas and Nays of the Members of either House on any question shall, at the desire of one fifth of those present, be entered on the Journal.

    So, at the most basic level, the Constitution requires both chambers to publish a record of members' votes ("Yeas and Nays").

  2. Rules of the House of Representatives (pdf, 47 pages)

    Five methods for members to cast their votes are listed in Section XX. Voting and Quorum Calls (page 33). None of the methods allow for members' votes to be concealed.

  3. United States Senate: Legislation & Records

    All voting in Congress is a matter of public record.

  • 4
    "excepting such Parts as may in their Judgment require Secrecy" So does this mean that the House and the Senate could establish procedures for secret votes, but does not currently have them?
    – JesseTG
    Sep 27, 2019 at 1:37
  • 1
    That's how I interpret it, and why I posted that text first and "at the most basic level". I believe the House and Senate can add layers to that standard with their own rules. Sep 27, 2019 at 1:42

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