The gun control bill in question would have passed regardless of whether or not Rep. Hugh McKean, the House minority leader in the Colorado legislature, had voted “yes,” but the mistake could prove to be a costly one with voters in his district.
The snafu happened a couple of days ago, during the voting on a bill that would prevent individuals convicted of some misdemeanor offenses from legally purchasing a firearm for five years after their conviction or guilty plea. Republicans in the Colorado House had been unified in their opposition to the Democrats’ gun control bills, until the vote for HB 1298 was tabulated.
So Assistant Minority Leader Tim Geitner said he and the minority leader, Hugh McKean, each did a double-take when they looked at the large electronic boards that tally House votes and realized one Republican had been a yes on the bill.
“We were trying to look at the count like, ‘Well, who did we lose?’” Geitner said. “And it clicked for him like, ‘Oh …’”
Geitner said that’s the moment they both realized the lone GOP yes vote came from McKean, who had hit the wrong button by accident.
“And I could tell you, his face turned about 50 shades of red. You could see that he was, you know, like, ‘I need to make this right.’”
Ordinarily this wouldn’t be a big deal. There’s nothing stopping Democrats from allowing McKean a do-over, other than the fact that they could now spin their gun control bill as having bi-partisan support, even though McKean didn’t mean to vote for the bill. As it turns out, when McKean asked that his vote be corrected, the Democrats in control of the House said no.
His request for a redo required support from two-thirds of his colleagues, but not enough Democrats backed him, instead following the recommendation of their leadership to vote no.
“I understand and appreciate your situation, and will take this moment to remind us all that on third readings, we really should have our computers closed and our phones down and paying attention,” said Democratic House Majority Leader Daneya Esgar.
Esgar mentioned that she’s had to remind her own members to avoid distractions during voting too. She told CPR she understands mistakes happen, but that her decision wasn’t about one person, one bill, or even one vote.
“It was about protecting the customs and practices of the House and about being fair to everyone who has cast a vote in this building,” Esgar said. “This happens more frequently than a lot of people think, but rarely has reconsideration been agreed to, or even been requested. We have to respect the legislative process, and when a vote is closed, the vote is closed.”
“Rarely” isn’t “never,” and I’d bet that if a Democrat had accidentally voted against the bill, Esgar would have allowed the mistake to be corrected. Instead, McKean’s vote will stand, and Second Amendment groups like Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, who already had a problem with McKean being elevated to House leadership, are demanding he step down.
As Colorado Public Radio points out, though, McKean might actually get a chance at a do-over after all. A Senate committee has amended HB 1298, and if the full Senate votes to accept the changes the bill will have to go back to the House for a final concurrence vote, which would allow McKean to cast one more vote on the legislation. This time, I’m guessing he won’t be distracted and will keep his eyes on his voting finger to make sure it doesn’t accidentally land on “aye” instead of “nay,” though whether or not that’ll be enough to get him back in the good graces of Second Amendment groups like RMGO remains to be seen.