Although votes are usually scheduled in advance, Members are scattered throughout the Capitol and House Office Buildings, and need reminders when it is time hustle over to the chamber to cast their votes. Before the Capitol got electricity, a gong was struck to indicate an imminent vote. Later, clocks equipped with lights and buzzers, using different numbers of buzzes and illuminated lights to differentiate between different votes (as well as quorum calls and recesses), came into use throughout the House’s office buildings. In the 1960s, separate light boards, with star-shaped lights, brought these practical devices some decorative flair.
Today, the House generally votes in one of two ways—by voice vote or by recorded vote. But it has also used different methods of voting, like the division vote, in previous decades. This print dating to 1869 shows the low-tech version of voice votes and recorded votes. In a voice vote, the presiding officer decides whether the “yeas” or “nays,” called out en masse by Members in response to the presiding officer’s question, have prevailed. This imprecise method is employed for uncontroversial measures.
For a roll call vote, a type of recorded vote, a clerk called the roll and recorded each Member’s vote. The division vote, another type of recorded vote, required Members to hand staff acting as tellers their votes on paper. Manually recorded votes like these continued through much of the 20th century, until electronic voting came into use in 1973.