Different Ways Members of Congress Can Vote on a Bill

The U.S. Congress is made of the House of Representatives and the Senate. One of their duties is to draft and pass bills that will be submitted to the President of the U.S. for approval. Once approved, the bill becomes a law. Before a bill gets to this stage, members of Congress use one of three voting methods to pass a bill.

1 Voice Votes

Voice votes in the House of Representatives and the Senate require members of Congress to vocalize a "yea" or "nay" vote. Members vote simultaneously and collectively in response to the question posed. The chair decides which side wins the vote.

2 Division

Division or standing votes are used when a member makes a request after a voice vote. Members vote by standing up to be counted by the chair. The opposing vote is counted last and the chair announces the results. The Senate rarely uses the standing vote, but will raise their hand to be counted. The results of Senate division votes are not announced.

3 Record or Roll-Call Votes

In the House of Representatives, a member can ask for a "yea" or "nay" vote before the final tally of the record votes are announced. One-fifth of the members must agree before the vote can take place. Members use electronic voting cards to place record votes. The Senate does not use an electronic voting card. In an alphabetical roll-call vote, clerks call Senate members' names and record their vote.

4 Time Limit and Quorums

Record votes in the House and roll-call votes in the Senate are limited to 15 minutes, unless extended by the chair. According to the Constitution, a minimum number of members are required for a vote to take place. For example, the House must have 218 members present while the Senate must have 51 members present. This a called a quorum.

Tarisa Anderson Williams began writing professionally in 2011. She is an experienced tutor and curriculum writer. Williams holds a Bachelor of Science in secondary education/language arts and a master's degree in educational administration from the University of South Alabama.