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PolitiFact: No, Nancy Pelosi does not oppose remote voting by House members

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif. speaks before she signs the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. (Associated Press)

*This story is reported by Tom Kertscher for Politifact.

Claim: Nancy Pelosi said "Congress shall not vote remotely because it is not secure!" while also saying that “Americans should all vote for president by mail!”

If your time is short:

  • Pelosi initially expressed concerns about technological, legal and other issues on the idea of allowing members of the House to cast votes remotely.
  • But Pelosi has said she is open to the idea, if issues can be resolved, and backed a measure that requires the House study remote voting for its members.
  • Pelosi is a prominent supporter of voters casting ballots by mail.

A Facebook  post paints House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., as hypocritical on voting.

An image with the post shows two photos of Pelosi. One caption reads: "Congress shall not vote remotely because it is not secure!" The other reads: "Americans should all vote for president by mail!" The post itself says: "Yes she did say them both."

Pelosi didn’t utter either of those quotes, according to our Google and Nexis searches.

Pelosi is a  prominent  supporter of letting voters cast ballots by mail — a process opposed by President Donald Trump,  who claims it is open to fraud. But this post mischaracterizes her stance on congressional voting. The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our  partnership with Facebook.)

In late March, as the House moved to pass a $2 trillion stimulus package in response to the coronavirus outbreak, Pelosi expressed reluctance about lawmakers voting remotely  on the package. But by May, she voted for a measure that requires a House committee to study remote voting.

Initial reluctance

March 24,  interviews:

On the idea of holding a remote vote on the $2 trillion stimulus, Pelosi told MSNBC: "There are serious constitutional, technological and security concerns about it. They can be addressed, but for right now, we're just working very hard to get unanimous consent so we can get this bill done, and then consider what the options are later."

In an interview with CNN moments later, she was even more terse, The Hill reported, saying it may be an option in the future, but at the moment "we're not prepared for (it)."

April 9,  teleconference with reporters:

Pelosi said any changes to the requirement that House members vote in person are a long way off, the San Francisco Chronicle reported, saying that Pelosi said: "We’re not there yet, and we’re not going to be there no matter how many letters somebody sends in — with all the respect in the world for that." 

Her concerns included the security of any technology used, the constitutionality of changes to the rules and the time needed to be sure any new system is well thought out and bipartisan.

Pelosi’s tone changed in the weeks before the May 10 Facebook post as the need for social distancing amid the outbreak became better understood.

Open to study

April 16,  teleconference with reporters:

"I've said" to the House committee chairs about remote voting, "give our members options; show us how we can do what. What are the options that the Constitution, the rules of the House, the technology, the security enables us to do, and that is what they have been working on. Until we have an appropriate way to do it, we can’t do it. So, it’s not about being negative on it, it’s just, show us the way … . Everybody is working so hard on all of these initiatives, including how we can come together, whether it’s by proxy voting or remote voting or whatever it is. When we are ready, we will do it."

Sometimes the terms remote and proxy voting are used interchangeably, but they mean different things in this context. Remote refers to the concept of a member using technology to cast a vote; proxy refers to a member who is not on the House floor authorizing another member, who is on the floor, to cast their ballot.

April 26, CNN  interview:

Asked if it’s time to allow remote voting during the pandemic, Pelosi said: "I'm all for doing the remote voting by proxy. I want it to be bipartisan. The Republican leader, Mr. (Kevin) McCarthy, has assured me that he will consider this. He's not there yet; he could be there. But whether he is or not, we will — our process was to strive to make it bipartisan."

May 20, authorization:

Pelosi formally  authorized a 45-day period during which House members can vote by proxy. The House had  adopted the change in rules on May 15, in a 217-189 vote, mostly along party lines; Pelosi voted  yes. Any member attending a House vote can cast as many as 10 votes on behalf of colleagues.

The  new  rules also allow, pending certification, for a process in which lawmakers will eventually be able to cast their votes from home, either via a secure online portal or a video conferencing system. The measure requires the House Administration Committee study the feasibility of using technology to conduct remote voting in the House.

On May 26, House Republicans  sued Pelosi to stop the new proxy voting system, claiming it is unconstitutional. 

Our ruling

A Facebook post claimed Pelosi said "Congress shall not vote remotely because it is not secure!" while also saying that "Americans should all vote for president by mail!"

Pelosi is a prominent supporter of voters casting ballots by mail. Initially, she raised concerns about House members voting remotely and said the House was not ready, but weeks before the post her tone changed and she backed a measure that requires a House committee to study the feasibility of using technology for remote voting.

The post contains only an element of truth. We rate it Mostly False.

VPM News is the staff byline for articles and podcasts written and produced by multiple reporters and editors.
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