Historical Highlights

Most roll call votes prior to electronic voting

October 08, 1968
Most roll call votes prior to electronic voting Individual Voting Records, 85th Congress (1957–1959), Collection of U.S. House of Representatives Before electronic voting, House tally clerks hand wrote each Member's vote on a tally sheet, compiled into folios such as the one pictured above.
On this date, the House began a marathon session which spanned two calendar days and produced 45 roll calls before a vote transpired on the floor. Representatives were considering a bill to amend a law requiring equal television coverage for candidates of third parties in presidential debates. A small group of Republican Members from the 90th Congress (1967–1969), led by Donald Rumsfeld of Illinois and Robert Taft, Jr., of Ohio, stalled passage of the legislation which would pave the way for a face-to-face debate between Republican presidential nominee Richard M. Nixon and the Democratic nominee, Vice President Hubert Humphrey. Although the majority of Democrats and Republicans supported the measure, the dissenting Representatives postponed a vote on the bill by successfully demanding a full reading of the House Journal from the previous day, along with a series of quorum calls. According to the New York Times, the repeated roll calls—which, before the advent of electronic voting in 1973, took an average of 30 minutes—broke the previous House record of 22. During the extended procedures, many Members slept in the chamber, while others ventured to the secured Speaker’s Lobby where Del Clawson of California entertained Representatives by playing his clarinet. Ultimately, Speaker of the House John McCormack ordered Sergeant at Arms Zeake Johnson to lock the chamber doors in order to maintain a quorum. On October 9, 1968, the 27-hour deadlock came to a close when the House easily passed the bill by a vote of 280 to 35.

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