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In the UK, Members of Parliament vote on things by shouting either ‘aye’ or ‘no’, and when the winner is not clear it will go to division. I understand the US takes a lot of cues from Parliamentary procedure, but I was just watching the House Judiciary Committee vote on Articles of Impeachment and I noticed that not everyone replied to the roll call with ‘aye’ or ‘no’:

  • at 1:12 of that video, Rep. Richmond replies ‘yes’;

  • at 2:30, Rep. Gohmert replies ‘my vote is no’; and

  • at 3:08, Rep. Reschenthaler seems to reply ‘nay’ (although in the C-SPAN coverage it is difficult to be sure)

Meanwhile, the tally along the bottom of the screen reads ‘Yes’ and ‘No’.

Robert's Rules of Order call for ‘aye’ and ‘no’, whilst the Senate Web site says that it's ‘yea’ and ‘nay’ for roll call votes (which I guess this was an example of) and ‘yea’ and ‘no’ for voice votes. Taking the time to specify different words for the different types of vote suggests there is some importance attached to the specific words used, yet the range of replies in the aforementioned footage suggest that there is flexibility in what is and isn't accepted as a valid vote, and for how buried in superfluity that vote may be (e.g., Rep. Gohmert's response).

So my questions are twofold:

  1. What is the rule on what is and isn't accepted as a vote in the affirmative/negative?
  2. What is the strangest thing that has been accepted as a valid vote? (a la this possibly-fictious article about a EU election ballot with ‘wank’ beside all but one candidate being accepted as a vote for the sole candidate with ‘not wank’ next to their name)
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    It might not be entirely relevant, but a voice vote is one where all the ayes speak at once, then all the nays speak at once, and the chair attempts to determine the result based on what is heard. This is in contrast to a roll-call vote where each member speaks one at a time and provides a vote. It is conceivable the rules (assuming there even are any) could differ between the two types of votes. – cobaltduck Dec 13 '19 at 18:00
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Robert's Rules of Order call for ‘aye’ and ‘no’, whilst the Senate Web site says that it's ‘yea’ and ‘nay’ for roll call votes (which I guess this was an example of) and ‘yea’ and ‘no’ for voice votes.

Robert's Rules of Order.

The manual was first published in 1876 by U.S. Army officer Henry Martyn Robert, who adapted the rules and practice of Congress to the needs of non-legislative societies.

A bit of history there: Congress does not follow Robert's Rules of Order.


What is the rule on what is and isn't accepted as a vote in the affirmative/negative?

Voting on the floor of the House and Senate is more formal than voting in committee. The rules for "floor" votes use "aye" or "no" for voice votes. The House and Senate use "yea" and "nay" for roll call votes. The House uses electronic voting for its "recorded" vote, which "shall be considered a vote by the yeas and nays". The written rules, in part, for the House are shown below.

There is also the following:

MEMBER: I request unanimous consent.
SPEAKER: Without objection, [pause to hear any objection] so ordered.

Regarding voting in committee, whatever is acceptable to the committee chair is allowed.


What is the strangest thing that has been accepted as a valid vote?

No idea! If an answer is not available by web search, an exhaustive search of committee votes is out of the question.


RULES of the HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES.

RULE I
Form of a question

  1. The Speaker shall rise to put a question but may state it sitting. The Speaker shall put a question in this form: ‘‘Those in favor (of the question), say ‘Aye.’’’; and after the affirmative voice is expressed, ‘‘Those opposed, say ‘No.’’’. After a vote by voice under this clause, the Speaker may use such voting procedures as may be invoked under rule XX.

RULE XX
VOTING AND QUORUM CALLS

  1. (a) The House shall divide after the Speaker has put a question to a vote by voice as provided in clause 6 of rule I if the Speaker is in doubt or division is demanded. Those in favor of the question shall first rise from their seats to be counted, and then those opposed.

(b) If a Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner requests a recorded vote, and that request is supported by at least one-fifth of a quorum, the vote shall be taken by electronic device unless the Speaker invokes another procedure for recording votes provided in this rule. A recorded vote taken in the House under this paragraph shall be considered a vote by the yeas and nays.

(c) In case of a tie vote, a question shall be lost.

Clause 2 requires the recording of votes in the Journal.

Clause 3 specifies a "roll call" vote, if the "electronic voting system is inoperable or is not used".

Clause 4 is for quorum calls.

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