At the Los Angeles city council, "yea" is the default rule

As final chapter of the book points out, nudges really are everywhere. Smart nudges on the other hand…

It’s called the automatic “yes” vote, and the Los Angeles Times reports that half of the City’s council members have used the automatic yes votes in order to be two places at once, usually meeting privately with others during the vote.

Many council votes are routine, and members could argue that time spent with lobbyists, mayoral aides or even reporters is more valuable than responding to repeated roll calls. But few make that case. A spotty voting record can easily become a political liability.

So instead of being recorded as absent, the council members have a technological fix: The chamber’s voting software is set to automatically register each of the 15 lawmakers as a “yes” unless members deliberately press a button to vote “no.”

The “yes” votes then flash on video screens throughout the chamber — and are placed in the clerk’s official record — even when members have left to grab a snack in the hall or hold a meeting.

Council members say they have a radio nearby that plays an audio feed so that they can change their vote if necessary. The Nudge blog can’t help but wonder if some private managers, who don’t have responsibilities to the general public, would ever adopt this kind of rule on the grounds of efficiency? And if the automatic “yes” vote says something more interesting about the number of uncontroversial, routine decisions that local politicians make?

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