Legal Dictionary

proxy voting

Legal Definition of proxy voting

Related terms

  • proxy
  • proxy marriage - common amongst European monarchs, where one party is not present in person to their marriage to the other
  • proxy murder - a murder committed on behalf of somebody else
  • proxy statement - information published related to a U.S. stockholders' meeting

Definition of proxy voting

Further reading

Proxy voting, has two forms delegable voting and delegated voting, and are procedures for the delegation to another member of a voting body of that member's power to vote in his absence, and/or for the selection of additional representatives, as in the case with transitive proxies. Proxy appointments can be used to form a voting bloc that can exercise greater influence in deliberations or negotiations. A person so designated is called a "proxy" and the person designating him is called a "principal."

The parliamentary manual Riddick's Rules of Procedure notes that under proxy voting, voting for officers should be done by ballot, due to the difficulties involved in authentication if a member simply calls out, "I cast 17 votes for Mr. X."

Proxy voting is also an important feature in corporate governance through the proxy statement.


The rules of some assemblies presently forbid proxy voting. For example, in both houses of the U.S. Congress, as well as in most if not all state legislatures, each member must be present and cast his own vote for that vote to be counted. This can result, however, in the absence of a quorum and the need to compel attendance by a sufficient number of missing members to get a quorum.

Various proposals have been made for a kind of automatic proxy voting in legislatures. For example, it has been proposed that instead of electing members from single-member districts (that may have been gerrymandered), members be elected at large, but when seated each member cast the number of votes he or she received in the last election. Thus, if, for example, a state were allocated 32 members in the U.S. House of Representatives, the 32 candidates who received the most votes in the at-large election would be seated, but each would cast a different number of votes on the floor and in committee. This proposal would allow for representation of minority views in legislative deliberations, as it does in deliberations at shareholder meetings of corporations.

The New Zealand Parliament allows proxy voting. Sections 155-156 of the Standing Orders of the New Zealand House of Representatives specify the procedures for doing so. A member can designate another member or a party to cast his vote. However, a party may not exercise proxies for more than 25% of its members (rounded upwards). The New Zealand Listener notes a controversial occurrence of proxy voting. The Labour Party was allowed to cast votes on behalf of Taito Phillip Field, who was frequently absent. Theoretically, this was to be allowed only if a legislator was absent on parliamentary business, public business or pressing private business, such as illness or bereavement.

Until the Republican reforms of 1995 banished the practice, proxy voting was also used in U.S. House of Representatives committees. Often members would delegate their vote to the ranking member of their party in the committee. Republicans opposed proxy voting on the grounds that it allowed an indolent Democratic majority to move legislation through committee with antimajoritarian procedures. That is, the Democratic leader in the committee would successfully oppose the sitting Republican majority by wielding the proxies of absent Democrats.

Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein write, "In a large and fragmented institution in which every member has five or six places to be at any given moment, proxy voting is a necessary evil".


Proxy voting is sometimes described as "the frequency with which spouses, union workers, and friends of friends are in effect sent off to the polls with an assignment to complete." The potential for proxy voting exists in roughly one voter out of five, and it is about twice as high at the middle levels of the sophistication continuum. According to W. Russell Neuman, the net effect of the cues provided by friends and associates is not likely to be as significant as those of the political parties.

The possibility of expanded use of proxy voting has been the subject of much speculation. Terry F. Buss et al. write that internet voting would result in de facto approval of proxy voting, since passwords could be shared with others: "Obviously, cost-benefit calculations around the act of voting could also change substantially as organizations attempt to identify and provide inducements to control proxy votes without violating vote-buying prohibitions in the law."

One of the criticisms of proxy voting is that it carries a risk of fraud or intimidation. Another criticism is that it violates the concept of a secret ballot, in that paperwork may be filed, for instance, designating a party worker as one's proxy.

Proxy voting can eliminate some of the problems associated with the public choice dilemma of bundling.


  1. Wiktionary. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.


1.     lex situs
2.     landed property
3.     lex causae
4.     lex fori
5.     AORO
6.     adjudication order
7.     Miranda warning
8.     lex loci celebrationis
9.     lex loci delicti commissi
10.     prejudice