North Carolina Legislator Accidentally Hits The Wrong Button, Fracking Ensues.

My day job is very time-sensitive. We have to be very careful if we are filling out forms online to be quick, but also make sure we select the right options. It isn’t hard, though mistakes do happen, and luckily for me, when they do we can fix it. However, if you are a legislator in North Carolina, don’t press the wrong button! One minute you think you’re voting against a bill, the next minute fracking is suddenly legal.

Apparently, in North Carolina they use electronic voting for the legislature. If you hit the wrong option, you can explain you made a mistake and change it…unless you cast the deciding vote. That’s what happened to Rep Becky Carney:

Carney pointed out that she has voted against fracking in the past, and said she spent the day lobbying other Democrats to uphold the veto of Senate Bill 820.

“And then I push the green button,” she said.

Just after the vote, Carney’s voice could be heard on her microphone, saying “Oh my gosh. I pushed green.”

Carney said she turned her light on, but Speaker Thom Tillis would not recognize her, so she went to the front to speak to him.

“I made a mistake, and I tried to get recognized to change it, as people have been doing all night on other bills, and it was too late,” Carney said. “Because it would have changed the outcome of the vote.”

Under House rules, members can change their vote if they’ve made a mistake – unless the change would affect the bill’s passage.

So what this poor rep had was a perfect storm: tight vote, late night, and a system that doesn’t allow for human error. Or, more specifically, a system that only allows for the error if the error didn’t matter. I honestly don’t know much about fracking, but regardless of what the vote was about, this seems like a terrible way to run a state!

Would a non-technological system have been more accurate? Unless Rep Carney was asleep during voting, a verbal vote would have probably been accurate. Likewise, the act of writing down “yes” or “no” probably would have been more mindful and therefore less likely to be an error. It’s easy to hit the wrong button, but hard to physically write out the wrong word.

At the same time, while all of us are not North Carolina state reps, we all have to adapt to faster, more digital ways of doing our jobs. And while it is highly likely none of us will be in a position to accidentally pass laws, there’s lots of little things that slide, emails that get sent too soon or to the wrong person, or errors that cause problems when we don’t pay attention to the buttons that get pressed. This is a good lesson: while “measure twice, cut once” isn’t always applicable, “read twice, press once” certainly is!



Categories: Gear Bits


2 replies

  1. It only sounds terrible if you don’t know any politicians. Say you’re pro-frac but your district is anti-frac. You vote for an pro-frac bill. It passes and you rush to change your vote so you can tell your district you voted against it. NC doesn’t want this to affect the outcome because, if it could, the legislature would accomplish even less than they do now. Politicians can make trolls look reasoned. And this applies to those of all stripes (although Gov. Mitt and candidate Mitt sometimes amaze even me).