Questions over state senator's phantom vote - FOX 13 News

Questions over state senator's phantom vote

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

Florida Senate Majority Leader Lizbeth Benacquisto appeared to be in two places at the same time: campaigning in southwest Florida with Sarah Palin, while voting on the Senate floor in Tallahassee.

Senator Benaquisto said she left the capitol early Thursday, though we confirmed business did not conclude that day until 6 p.m.

She spent that evening at a barbecue fundraiser for her Congressional campaign with Palin in Naples.

Yet, the voting record showed she stayed in the Senate to continue to vote -- indicating someone voted in her place (in violation of legislative rules.)

A FOX 13 investigation last year revealed how lawmakers vote over and again for other lawmakers who are away from their desks.

The rules allow them to vote for peers -- if they're in the chamber, give permission and tell them which way to vote. But we found evidence that those rules are broken, and former legislator Mike Fasano said over his career, he had witnessed lawmakers casting votes on numerous occasions for others without permission.

By phone today, state Senator Kelli Stargel said she was the one who voted for Benacquisto while she was gone. She said she inadvertently pushed her button.

The Senate has since changed the voting record to reflect Benacquisto's absence.

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