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Wednesday, July 17, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Justices Sort Out Voting Snafu in Massachusetts

(CN) - If the governor's council in Massachusetts is split when voting on judicial appointments, the governor must be present for the lieutenant governor to act as tiebreaker, the state Supreme Court ruled.

Gov. Deval Patrick asked the Massachusettes Supreme Court to clarify the rule in a December 2011 letter. Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray has the power to break a tie vote in the state's Executive or Governor's Council, which gives advice and consent in matters such as judicial appointments and pardons.

The council had six instances in 2011 in which Murray cast the tie-breaking vote, but it claimed this could not happen if he was also presiding over the meeting in the governor's absence.

The justices of the Massachusetts Supreme Court cited the "care and craftsmanship" of the framers of the state constitution in ruling that the governor must be present for the lieutenant governor to cast a decisive vote.

"The lieutenant governor remains a member of the council but may not vote on matters of advice and consent until the governor returns to preside over the council," the 18-page answer states.

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