Imagine being a politician who cares about the environment and the safety of your constituents. Imagine having the honor to cast the deciding vote on a controversial issue. Now imagine discovering that you accidentally voted the wrong way, thus implementing the very policy you were trying to prevent.
That’s precisely what happened to North Carolina Representative Becky Carney last week, reports News & Observer. As the House voted on the issue of fracking, Carney made the relatively simple error of pressing the “AYE” button rather than the “NO” button she intended to select. Everyone makes mistakes, but not all mistakes have such drastic consequences on a statewide level.
The decision to permit fracking in the state of North Carolina has been an ongoing saga. After state legislatures approved the controversial practice, Governor Bev Perdue vetoed the bill. Republicans then bargained with Democrats to obtain the necessary votes to override the veto and allow natural gas drilling in the state.
Carney was not one of those votes. Or, well, she didn’t intend to be. Having voted against the initial bill three weeks prior, Carney held firm to her position on the matter, but her finger decided otherwise. Carney chalks up the error to being tired, as the vote took place after 11 pm. Not only that, but Carney had a mere ten seconds to vote and confirm her vote before the machine automatically locked.
She certainly woke up quickly, however. Immediately recognizing her mistake, Carney begged the House Speaker, Thom Tillis, to allow her to change her vote. Instead, Tillis ignored her plea and proceeded with the voting to make the result official. Tillis later explained, “There’s a green button and a red button, they should know which one to push.”
North Carolina regulations permit state legislatures to alter accidental votes in most cases – except when it would change the outcome. In other words, if the vote is actually of consequence, that is when it is ironclad.
There is precedence for this situation. In 2011, fellow Democrat, Rep. Jean Farmer-Butterfield, cast an errant vote in favor of term limits in North Carolina. Framer-Butterfield’s was the deciding vote in the matter, although there was no significant consequence as the State Senate declined to vote on the issue, thus effectively killing the bill.
“I feel rotten,” said Carney after fracking became legal in her state. Perhaps the only people who should feel more rotten are those who voted for the measure on purpose. A host of evidence suggests that fracking harms drinking water supplies and could be responsible for an increase in earthquakes. We’ll have to see just how many incorrect votes are cast when the ground starts trembling more frequently.
Photo Credit: Cliff Weathers