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The Ethics Committee of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives is planning to investigate Rep. William Rieger (D-Phila.), for rigging his voting machine to vote for him while he was not present.

Rieger, 81, vice chairman of the Ethics Committee, admitted to rigging his voting machine to cast a vote for him in Harrisburg, Pa., during session while he was actually in Philadelphia.

Rieger said that he traveled to the Capitol on Feb. 3, fell sick and returned home, but not before jamming paper into the electronic "yea" button at his desk on the House floor, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

The representative originally received a $126-per-diem stipend in compensation for travel expenses. He later returned the money and blamed his secretary for incorrectly submitting reimbursement forms for the day.

Pennsylvania law requires that members vote on bills from the House floor in Harrisburg.

Rieger's actions serve as one example of what some are calling "ghost voting," the growing practice of House members voting while not present on the floor and sometimes not even in the Capitol at all.

Rieger did not return calls for comment.

Rep. Thomas Stevenson (R-Allegheny), chairman of the Ethics Committee, refused to comment on the status of the investigation. He cited House Rule 47, which states that "all testimony, documents, records, data, statements or information received by the committee in the course of any investigation shall be private and confidential except in the case of public hearings or in a report to the House."

Stevenson said that though this might make the accused look guilty, that is not the case.

"Any unfounded allegations tend to look like they are true," Stevenson said. "Rest assured that the House Ethics Committee is doing its job."

Sandra Major (R-Montrose), secretary of the committee, echoed these sentiments

"Due to Rule 47, the members of the Ethics Committee are not able to respond," she said.

In addition to his duties on the Ethics Committee, Rieger serves as the Democratic ward leader for the 43rd District of Pennsylvania.

Jose Hernandez, the Republican ward leader of the same district, said he was not surprised by the allegations. He said that Rieger has a history of poorly representing his community, and that the city's Democrats keep propping him up year after year.

The "Democratic machine is telling the people that they have to deliver this man to Harrisburg, and every person who has run against him can't compete."

Hernandez also made reference to a charge that was filed against Rieger in 2000, which alleged that the representative was registered from a false address and does not actually live in his district.

These allegations come as Rieger faces re-election this year. He has been a member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives since 1967.

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