Ghost voting is a practice in which a member of a legislative assembly casts a vote without being present in the voting chamber. While it might seem impossible to vote without being present, there are in fact several ways in which ghost voting can occur, and the practice is actually quite widespread. In some cases, it is such common practice that legislative reformers have suggested specifically banning the practice to put a stop to it, or legalizing it so that it can be regulated.
In a classic example of ghost voting, a legislator might agree to push the voting button of another legislator when an important vote comes before the chamber. The absent legislator would therefore record a vote on the issue while being able to attend to other matters. Members of the same party often agree to perform ghost votes for each other, and in some cases, members of opposing parties have even cast votes which run contrary to the beliefs of the absent legislator.
Legislators can also sometimes rig their voting buttons to be triggered remotely, allowing them to activate the buttons when they see that a call for a vote has come up. This allows legislators to go home when debate stretches into the small hours of the morning, or to attend to constituent issues in the office while still voting in the legislature.
Some people argue that if ghost voting were legalized, it could be regulated, and that there are some advantages to it. For example, a legislator could respond to an emergency at home while still serving constituents in the legislative chamber. The codification of this type of voting would also mean that legislators would have no excuse for missing a vote, thereby eliminating a common political dodge in which a politician simply fails to show for a controversial vote.
The term “ghost voting” is also used in reference to voter fraud. In this case, it involves adding a voter who does not exist to the voting rolls with the goal of altering the outcome of an election. Ghost voters are often dead, double-registered, or otherwise ineligible to vote. Many nations have steps in place to prevent this practice, using various techniques to vet voter rolls prior to the election to make sure that all of the listed voters are valid, but it can be difficult.