Rule of Thumb: MEPs indicate their approval or rejection Hundreds of hands go up, then back down. Fingers press and then release buttons. Some thumbs turn up and others turn down. That’s how MEPs vote – it’s a kind of sign language. And here’s the low down on what it all means. If we believe the statistics, since the start of their electoral term in July 2004, MEPs have voted more 12,000 times in 33 plenary sessions. European Parliament voting is mainly via a show of hands, like the Greek assembly under Pericles. The session president casts an eye over the raised hands and judges where the majority lies, without counting the exact number for or against. When a simple majority is required (a majority of the members present) it is generally quick and simple. But sometimes the vote is tight and the decision of the president might be contested by MEPs who raise their hands and call out “check, check!” The President may decide to hold the vote again using the electronic system. MEPs no longer raise their hands, instead they press a button (for, against or abstaining) in the special box on their desks. Each MEP must identify themselves by sliding an electronic card into the box.