Fast and loose with votes on the floor of the Fla. Legislature - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Fast and loose with votes on the floor of the Fla. Legislature

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TALLAHASSEE (FOX 13) -

A FOX 13 investigation discovered evidence of errors and mix-ups in both chambers of the Florida Legislature.

Under the rules of both chambers, members can cast votes on bills for other members who are away from their desks -- if those members are still in the chamber and give permission and direction to vote on their behalf.

But as the session winds down, and the voting pace picks up, members admit that voting mistakes occur more than the public may realize. That includes lawmakers voting for their peers incorrectly and without permission.

"Yes, this happens a lot," said Pasco Representative Mike Fasano. "I would say more than a hundred times I would imagine." Fasano says that is what he has observed over his 19 years of experience. He also said he knows of a prior case of a non-member casting a vote.

"It looks really sloppy and messy. If citizens knew how loose the rules were in these chambers, they'd be outraged," said Kevin King, political director for PICO United Florida.

King who previously served as a legislative aide in the Florida House.

"Politicians have a different set of rules. If they want to tighten up voting in Florida, they ought to tighten up both chambers as well," he said.

In 2011, lawmakers decided the voting rules were too loose and needed to be tightened for the public. But they have maintained a voting system that allows members to cast votes for other members for years.

"Do mistakes happen? Sure, we're human and mistakes can happen -- but for the majority of them, I've had specific instructions," said Polk County State Senator Kelli Stargel.

Stargel noted that votes often occur quickly, and members who are away from their desks, but still in the chamber, have little time to return to their desks.

"In this 60-day session, we try to accomplish as many things as we can."

Stargel also said if members discover someone else voted for them, but not as they would have wanted, they can get the vote switched. Under the rules, they can claim there was a mix up, and change their vote after the fact.

Representative Fasano said he voted against the tighter voting rules for the public in 2011, and understands why critics would question the voting process in the legislature. He said he would like to see the pace in Tallahassee slow down.

"The only excuse I can give is that a member cannot sit in his or her desk the entire 10 to 12 hours a day we're down there," Fasano said.

Senator Geraldine Thompson said lawmakers should at least get written authorization before voting for somebody else.

"We don't have anything like that in place and probably we should," she said.

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