Accidental Vote Legalizes Fracking in North Carolina


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.

Related Stories:

What’s With All this Fracking? Drilling May Endanger Drinking Water

Fracking May Have Caused 50 Earthquakes in Oklahoma

EPA Chief Tells Congress ‘There’s No Proof Fracking Is Dangerous

Photo Credit: Cliff Weathers


Robert O.
Robert O5 years ago

Talk about a huge mistake.

Pamela W.
Pamela W5 years ago

Lack of time, human error, tiredness .......... all viable reasons for this error. But none of these are the reason for the disastrous result of the vote ..... that was down to the inflexibility exercised once the error was recognised !!!!! Disgusting lack of "correct" procedure !!! Incidentally as for the coloured-button process .... why have them red green anyway (there ARE some people who can't distinguish colours) why not make them "yes" or "no" ???

Elizabeth O.
.5 years ago

Petition signed.

Jane R.
Jane R5 years ago

Tired or not, I don't see how it could have been a mistake. Anyone can see the difference between red and green. Just an excuse for voting in favor.

NO ANY FW to me Rumbak
ANA MARIJA R5 years ago

Petition signed...

Olivia S.
Past Member 5 years ago

Thanks for posting; already signed the petition...I agree that it's tragic...also a travesty

Susan V.
Susan V5 years ago

Actually Georgia it happens quite often in NC. This is part of the reason for my petition. I show that members in the NC house aren't given enough time to vote and check their vote before the machine is locked up- -- as compared to many other states that give a "sufficient time" - then the speaker asks if anyone needs to change a vote and gives them a little more time to do so.

I found that is the norm. NC is NOT the norm -- They even reduced it from 15 seconds - allowed in their official rules - to 10 seconds all this year.

You have to put yourself in that position for a minute - and a minute is a lot more time than they get to vote on these important issues.

Imagine you're 67 years old. You've been at this all day - listening to debate - voting -- listening some more -- talking to others about the issues. It's after 11 pm. One GOP rep just finishes saying to "hit the green button" as almost the final word before the vote is quickly announced. You hit the wrong (the green) button. Your 10 seconds is up and although you try to hit the right one, the machine is already locked - you can't. (Knowing NC I wouldn't be surprised if they just sprayed the whole building down with pesticides and put "carpet fresh" on the carpets and have an acetone-based "air freshener" pumping out indoor air poisons - but that's just based on what other buildings in NC are like)--

Anyway, aside from any possible indoor neurotoxins that can certainly adversely affect my brain -- t

Georgia Armstrong
Georgia a5 years ago

I am from North Carolina and was greatly disturbed fracking is to be allowed. Rep. Carney was supposedly against it, yet "accidentally" pushed the wrong button. Yeah, and I've got some land down in Florida I'd like to sell you. NO INTELLIGENT INDIVIDUAL WOULD HAVE DONE THAT IF THEY HAD TRULY INTENDED TO VOTE AGAINST IT.

Sue H.
Sue H5 years ago

What the hell is wrong with our "government"?? If there was a mistake made and voiced, there should/must be another vote taken. Petition signed, damnit.

Susan V.
Susan V5 years ago

Bill OReally O -

Please elaborate.