What does Present mean when voting in the Senate?

Voting "Present" in a vote in the Senate means that that Senator is making no vote on the issue, either for or against. He or she is registering on the record that he or she was there when the vote was taken. a 'present' vote is not 'maybe,' says Tribune columnist Eric Zorn, after consulting Democratic and Republican state legislators.

Because bills need "yes" votes to pass, "present" translates to "a soft no," as Deputy Republican Senate Leader Christine Radogno of Lemont put it. "One use for it is when you favor an idea, but you think the bill has a fatal flaw of some sort," she said. "Another is when you have a conflict of interest. And another is when you want to play both sides of the fence . . . or to avoid casting a vote that your next opponent will try to take out of context." Across the aisle, Sen. John Cullerton, a Chicago Democrat, defined "present" as "no with an explanation." Cullerton said another use of the seemingly squirrelly vote is to "signify displeasure with the process, but not the concept." He added that you'd be hard-pressed to find members of the General Assembly--including key allies of John McCain--who don't use it from time to time for various reasons.