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After KPIX 5 Exposes 'Ghost Voting' In California State Assembly, Members Continue Practice

SACRAMENTO (CBS SF) -- One vote per person: That's the way it's supposed to work. Yet last year, KPIX 5 showed you members of our State Assembly casting votes for other lawmakers. It's called "ghost voting." The practice is against the rules, but it's still going on.

It seems like nothing ever changes in the hallowed halls of our State Capitol. Last year, KPIX 5 caught Los Angeles Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer casting a vote for hometown Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez, who was nowhere to be seen.

This year, he's still at it: This time helping out Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal.

Ghost Voting
Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer seen "ghost voting" for other members, in 2013 (left) and in 2014 (right). (CBS)

San Francisco Assemblyman Phil Ting was a ghost voting pro last year, making multiple votes at a time. On this visit, he's on his best behavior, only voting for himself.

But look at Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla. After casting her own vote on a house resolution to declare April child abuse prevention month, she gets up to push Assemblyman Steve Fox's voting switch, then does it again for two other bills.

"Where is he?" seems to ask nearby Assemblyman V. Manuel Perez from Riverside.

The rule book can't be clearer: "A member may not operate the voting switch of any other member."

Of course, there's the rule itself and how politicians interpret the rule. And when it comes to ghost voting on the Assembly floor, there's a difference.

"It is truly is custom and practice," said John Walde, the Assembly's Chief Administrative Officer.

Walde said we got it wrong last year: What we saw is not called ghost voting. "To me that's what we called the assisted voting."

He says as long as the lawmaker is somewhere in the chambers, it's okay.  But we couldn't find any definition of "assisted voting" in the rule book.

"Would you admit there's a discrepancy?" KPIX 5 asked him.

"Yes, but I think that's definable by, you always have rules, and then you have custom and practice," Walde said.

We asked them if it would be technically loosening the rules a bit.

His response: "Well your definition would be loosening it. My definition would be clarifying the actual practice."

Bonilla turned down our request for an interview but sent KPIX 5 a statement saying voting for another Assembly Member at their request is a custom. Bottom line: Don't expect any changes any time soon.

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