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Extenuating circumstance prompted Butler proxy votes

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Assemblyman Marc Butler, who was redistricted into part of St. Lawrence County for his Nov. 6 re-election race, was named in a Legislative Gazette article about so-called proxy voting, which runs afoul of Assembly rules.
But it was only the illness of a colleague that prompted the practice of having other assemblymembers vote on his behalf, said Mr. Butler, R-Newport.
"The majority is aware of our situation," Mr. Butler said. "I don't think think there's any problem with that."
Assemblyman Jim Conte, R-Huntington Station, was previously one of two Assembly minority floor leaders. The floor leaders sit apart from most legislators; they're in constant communication with the Assembly minority office and the majority's office via telephones at their desks.
When Mr. Conte fell ill about six weeks ago, Mr. Butler took over for him, meaning that Mr. Butler had to move his seat up to the top of the class. The minority didn't want to change the program at Mr. Conte's former desk, because he is expected to return.
That meant that Mr. Butler couldn't vote via the electronic vote tally machine at his former desk, or his new one. Instead, other members of the Assembly minority pressed the "yes" or "no" button on his behalf at his former desk.
"I think it's been an accepted practice here," Mr. Butler said. "If you're on the floor, in a meeting with somebody or talking to somebody, you could signal to your colleague. Whether that's in written language, it's accepted practice."
Now that Mr. Butler's situation as acting floor leader has become more permanent, he makes a hand signal to the Assembly speaker's desk to say how he intends to vote. The speaker's desk can record his vote from there.
The rules indicate that the acting minority leader — aka, the floor leader or assistant floor leader — doesn't have to vote from his or her assigned seat. The rules don't say whether the member can have someone else vote on their behalf, but if it is indeed against the rules, it would appear that even the office of Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, participates.
Mr. Butler's new district includes the towns of Norfolk, Stockholm, Madrid, Parishville, Pierrepont, Clare, Colton, Clifton and Fine. Joe Chilelli, a Herkimer County Democrat, has filed paperwork to launch a campaign against Mr. Butler.

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