Continuity in Legislatures Amid COVID-19

Blog by Sam DeJohn, Anirudh Dinesh, and Dane Gambrell: “As COVID-19 changes how we work, governments everywhere are experimenting with new ways to adapt and continue legislative operations under current physical restrictions. From city councils to state legislatures and national parliaments, more public servants are embracing and advocating for the use of new technologies to convene, deliberate, and vote.

On April 20th, GovLab published an initial overview of such efforts in the latest edition of the CrowdLaw Communique. As the United States Congress wrestles with the question of whether to allow remote voting, the GovLab has compiled an update on those international and state legislatures that are the furthest ahead with the use of new technology to continue operations.


In the US, On April 16, over 60 former members of Congress participated in a “Mock Remote Hearing” exercise to test the viability of online proceedings during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Kentucky, when they last met on April 1, that State’s House of Representatives adopted new rules allowing lawmakers to vote remotely by sending in photos of a ballot to designated managers on the House Floor.” (WFPL). Lawmakers have also altered voting procedures to limit the number of lawmakers on the House floor. Members will vote in groups of 25 and may vote by paper ballot (NCSL).

New Jersey lawmakers made history on March 25 when members of the General Assembly called into a conference line to cast their votes remotely on several bills related to the coronavirus pandemic. NJ lawmakers moved 12 bills that day via remote voting.

On the west coast of the United States, the city council of Kirkland, Washington, recently held its first virtual city council meeting. Many cities and counties in California have also begun holding their meetings via Zoom.

As compiled by the National Council of State Legislatures, states that have changed rules — many just in the past few weeks — to allow full committee action and/or remote voting include: Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Carolina, Utah, and Vermont. Other states have specifically said they are seriously considering allowing remote action, including New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, and Wyoming.


In the European Union, Parliament is temporarily allowing remote participation to avoid spreading COVID-19 (Library of Congress). With regard to voting, all members, even those participating in person, will receive a ballot sent by email to their official email address. The ballot, which must contain the name and vote of the MP in a readable form and the MP’s signature, must be returned from their official email address to the committee or plenary services in order to be counted. The ballot must be received in the dedicated official European Parliament mailbox by the time the vote is closed.

In Spain, MPs have been casting votes using the Congress’s intranet system, which has been in place since 2012. Rather than voting in real time, voting is typically open for a two-hour period before the session to vote for the alternative or amendment proposals and for a two-hour period following the session in which the proposals are debated to vote the final text….(More)”.