ASK THE PARLIAMENTARIAN
FREQUENTLY ASKED PARLIAMENTARY QUESTIONS:
Page and line numbers are from
Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised 11th Edition
001 Should we count abstentions when taking a vote? Page 45, line 14.
A. The chair should not call for abstentions in taking a vote, since the number of members who respond to such a call is meaningless. To "abstain" means not to vote at all, and a member who makes no response if "abstentions" are called for abstains just as much as one who responds to that effect.
002 Why do some members say an amendment must be read three times before it can be adopted? No citations in Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised.
A. Some members heard an amendment must be read three times before it can be adopted. They did not read that in Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised. Mason's Manual of Legislative Procedure, pages 503–507 sections 731–736 address the issue and requirements of three readings used by various legislatures assemblies. Legislative assemblies and deliberative assemblies use different types of rules. Legislative assemblies use Mason's, Cushing's, and Jefferson's manuals, while deliberative assemblies use Robert's, Demeter's, and the AIP Standard Code.
003 Certain members frequently move to table motions. When should we table a motion? Page 209, line 26 and page 215, line 13.
A. The motion to Table enables us to lay the main motion aside temporarily when something else of immediate urgency arises. Table is commonly misused in place of the motion to Postpone Indefinitely, and to Postpone to a Certain Time.
It is out of order to Table a motion if there is no matter urgently requiring immediate attention. Table is incorrectly used and wrongly admitted as in order with the intention of either killing a motion without a direct vote, or of suppressing a motion without debate. This is in violation of a basic principle of general parliamentary law that only a two-thirds vote can rightfully suppress a main motion without debate.
004 Can one member yield his or her speaking time to another member? Page 388,line 12.
A. Rights in regard to debate are not transferable. Unless the organization has a special rule on the subject, a member cannot yield any unexpired portion of his time to another member, or reserve any portion of his time for a later time—that is, if a member yields the floor before speaking his full ten minutes, he is presumed to have waived his right to the remaining time. If a speaker yields to another member for a question, the time consumed by the question is charged to the speaker.
005 Can an office, such as one of the vice presidents, be eliminated while a member is in office? Page 598, line 3.
A. A society can amend its bylaws so as to… abolish an office; and if it is desired that the amendment should not affect officers already elected, a motion so specifying should be adopted before voting on the amendment… …although the time when a bylaw amendment takes effect can be delayed by the assembly, the amendment becomes part of the bylaws immediately upon adoption.
006 Is a motion adopted by a committee valid if an advisor proposed it? Page 4, line 3.
A. The basic principle of decision… is that, to become the act or choice of the body, a proposition must be adopted by a majority vote; that is, direct approval… must be registered by more than half of the members present and voting on the particular matter, in a regular or properly called meeting.
007 Sometimes I hear a member say they want to make a friendly amendment. Then they say if the maker and seconder accept the amendment it is adopted. Is this correct? Page 162, line 15.
A. No. Regardless of whether or not the maker of the main motion "accepts" the amendment, it must be opened to debate and voted on formally and is handled under the same rules as amendments generally.
008 Someone told me a motion couldn't be referred to a committee until it is perfected. How much has to be done to a motion before it can be referred to a committee? Page 168, line 3.
A. The subsidiary motion to Commit or Refer is generally used to send a pending question to a relatively small group of selected persons, a committee, so that the question may be carefully investigated and put into better condition for the assembly to consider.
009 Should the quorum be a percentage of the members or a certain number of members? Why do some chapters and state councils make the quorum a very high percentage of the members? Page 346, line 15.
A. Chapters need a provision in their bylaws establishing a relatively small quorum, considerably less than a majority of the members. Sometimes the specification of a quorum is based on a percentage of the membership; but such a method has the disadvantage of requiring re-computation and may lead to confusion when the secretary, or other officer who is in a position to certify as to the current number of members for purposes of the percentage calculation, is absent. The quorum should be as large a number of members as can reasonably be depended on to be present at any meeting, except in very bad weather.
010 Last year the chapter adopted a motion to limit charitable donations to $50 a year to any organization. Does this stop the chapter from adopting a motion to contribute $100 to an organization this year? Page 306, line 24.
A. No it does not stop the chapter but it requires the chapter to adopt the motion to rescind or to amend something previously adopted. Both require (a) a two-thirds vote, (b) a majority vote when notice of intent to make the motion, stating the complete substance of the proposed change, has been given at the previous meeting or in the call of the present meeting, or (c) a vote of a majority of the entire membership—any one of which will suffice.
011 Can the member who made the motion withdraw it after the members have been discussing it? Page 296, line 21.
A. After the chair has stated a motion it belongs to the chapter, and the maker must request the chapter's permission to withdraw or modify his own motion.
012 Does the Nominating Committee constitute a Special Committee? Page 490, line 32.
A. Standing committees are constituted to perform a continuing function and members serve for a term corresponding to that of the officers. A standing committee must be constituted by name by a specific provision of the bylaws or by a special rule of order requiring notice and a two-thirds vote for adoption.
013 Is the order of business subject to approval by the members and, if so, where is the order of business in the order of business? Page 372, line 11.
A. This is done at the outset of a session and the agenda is intended to cover the entire session. At a session having no prescribed or adopted order of business, such an agenda is followed as a guide by the chair pending its formal adoption and can be adopted by majority vote, even if it contains special orders; it is then the order of business for that session. At a session that already has an order of business, an agenda can be adopted by a majority vote only if it does not create any special orders and does not conflict with the existing order of business; otherwise, a two-thirds vote is required.
014 Where are elections in the order of business? Page 357, line 27.
A. Matters that the bylaws require to be considered at a particular meeting, such as the nominations and elections, may be considered under the heading of Special Orders in the order of business.
015 Can the Chair, while presiding, make a motion to take action on something? Page 394, line 26; page 54, line 13; and, page 487, line 27.
A. If the presiding officer is a member of the society, he has—as an individual—the same rights in debate as any other member; but the impartiality required of the chair in an assembly precludes his exercising these rights while he is presiding. Normally, especially in a large body, he should have nothing to say on the merits of pending questions. On certain occasions—which should be extremely rare—the presiding officer may believe that a crucial factor relating to such a question has been overlooked and that his obligation as a member to call attention to the point outweighs his duty to preside at that time. To participate in debate, he must relinquish the chair.
In cases where there seems to be no opposition in routine business or on questions of little importance, time can often be saved by the procedure of unanimous consent. The method of can be used either to adopt a motion without the steps of stating the question and putting the motion to a formal vote, or it can be used to take action without even the formality of a motion. The chair states that "Without objection ..." the action that he mentions will be taken. The chair then pauses, and if no member calls out, "I object," the chair announces that, "Since there is no objection ...," the action is decided upon. If any member objects, the chair must state the question on the motion, allow any appropriate debate, and take the vote in the regular manner. Or—if no motion has been made—the chair must first ask, "Is there a motion to ... [stating the proposed action]"
In small boards, twelve or less, the chair can speak in discussion without rising or leaving the chair; can make motions and votes on all questions.
016 When you assign a parliamentarian at a chapter/state/whatever, does he or she have to be a member? Page 465, line 13.
A. No, the parliamentarian does not have to be a member. The parliamentarian's role during a meeting is purely an advisory and consultative one since parliamentary law gives to the chair alone the power to rule on questions of order or to answer parliamentary inquiries. Robert's page 449, line 7.
017 When members are elected, when do they take office? Page 444, line 18.
A. An election to an office becomes final immediately. If a formal installation ceremony is prescribed, failure to hold it does not affect the time at which the new officers assume office.
018 How should a convention or state council delegate vote? Page 605, line 18.
A. The delegate has the duty to be present at the business meetings, and to be prepared on returning to present to his or her chapter an information report of what transpired. A delegate is free to vote as he or she sees fit on questions at the convention, except as the chapter may have instructed him or her in regard to particular matters scheduled for consideration.
019 Can the new administration rescind a motion that was made at a board meeting before the elections? Page 305, line 4; and, page 306,line 24
A. By means of the motions to Rescind the assembly can change an action previously taken or ordered.
Except when applied to a constitution, bylaws, or special rules of order, rescind requires (a) a two-thirds vote, (b) a majority vote when notice of intent to make the motion, stating the complete substance of the proposed change, has been given at the previous meeting within a quarterly time interval or in the call of the present meeting, or (c) a vote of a majority of the entire membership—any one of which will suffice.
020 Can I move to divide the question if I only want to adopt part of what the motion says? Page 270, line 30; and, page 272, line 19.
A. When a motion relating to a single subject contains several parts, each of which can stand as a proposition if the others are removed, the parts can be separated, considered and voted on as if they were distinct questions - by adopting the motion Division of a Question.
A motion cannot be divided unless each part presents a proper question for the assembly to act upon if none of the other parts is adopted, and unless the effect of adopting all of the parts will be exactly the same as adopting the compound main question.
021 Is a board required to grant permission to non-board members who demand attendance at board meetings? If so, can their attendance be limited by the board? Page 644, line 29.
A. A nonmembers or group of nonmembers can be excluded at any time from part or all of a meeting of the board or chapter. Such exclusion can be effected by a ruling of the chair in cases of disorder, or by the adoption of a rule on the subject, or by an appropriate motion as the need arises
022 How long after a vote is taken can someone raise a point of order contesting the vote? Page 250, line 30; and, page 408, line 29.
A. Points of order regarding the conduct of a vote must be raised immediately following the announcement of the voting result
After the result of a vote has been announced, members can still propose or demand certain actions that may change the result. A member may raise a point of order regarding the conduct of the vote, demand a division of the assembly, move to retake the vote under another method, move for a recapitulation of a roll-call vote, or request unanimous consent to change his vote. With the exception of a point of order raised against a breach of a continuing nature, if any of these actions is to apply to a vote after the result has been announced, it must be taken immediately after the chair's announcement, before any debate or business has intervened.
023 Can one veterans' organization adopt a motion ordering another veterans' organization to take certain action? No citations in Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised.
A. Veterans' organizations are usually incorporated, which makes them legal entities of their particular state, and as a matter of parliamentary procedure no corporation can order another corporation to take a certain action. If two corporations intend to work together, it is not a question of parliamentary procedure, and they should seek the advice of their legal counsels.
024 Can a member have his or her statements recorded in the minutes? Page 468, line 16; page 4, line 3; and, the Parliamentary Journal
A. In an ordinary society, the minutes should contain mainly a record of what was done at the meeting, not what was said by the members.
The basic principle of decision in a deliberative assembly is that, to become the act or choice of the body, a proposition must be adopted by a majority vote.
A more detailed article from the Parliamentary Journal published by the American institute of Parliamentarians is available at www.parligroup.com, click on "document."
025 Can members who did not attend a committee-meeting vote on the motion to approve the minutes of that meeting? Page 3, line 1.
A. A member… is a person entitled to full participation in its proceedings, that is, the right to attend meetings, to make motions, to speak in debate, and to vote. No member can be individually deprived of these basic rights of membership…
026 What are the options available after someone submits their resignation and it has been accepted? Can it be "unaccepted" or withdrawn? Page 308, line 24.
A. When a resignation has been acted upon, or a person has been elected to or expelled from membership or office, and the person was present or has been officially notified of the action. The only way to reverse an expulsion is to follow whatever procedure is prescribed by the bylaws for admission or reinstatement.
027 If a member submits his or her resignation can it be rejected or denied? Page 291, line 1.
A. If a member who has accepted an office, committee assignment is unable to perform it, he should submit his resignation. A resignation is submitted in writing, to the secretary or appointing power; it may be submitted during a meeting either orally or in writing. The member is requesting to be excused from a duty. The chair, on announcing the resignation, can assume a motion "that the resignation be accepted."
The duties of a position must not be abandoned until a resignation has been accepted and becomes effective, or at least until there has been a reasonable opportunity for it to be accepted.
Although the assembly can by a vote reject a resignation or the individual appointing authority can reject a resignation, it serves no practical purpose in a volunteer organization. If a member decides a resignation is in everyone's best interest, it should be accepted by unanimous consent, and an offer of gratitude for service rendered should be offered to the member.
028 A chapter is electing four directors and there are six names on the ballot. If a member votes for only two of the candidates is his ballot void and not counted? Page 417, line 7.
A. No, the ballot is not void and it is counted. If a member leaves one or more of the choices blank on a ballot containing more than one office to be filled, the blank spaces in no way affect the validity of the spaces the member filled, and for each of these votes the member should be given credit for one legal vote.
029 When voting, what is the difference between "a majority" and "a majority of those present"? Page 402, line 23.
A. A majority means a majority of the votes cast with no consideration of those present, and a majority of those present means the number of affirmative votes must be a majority of those members attending the meeting. By modifying the concepts of a majority vote other bases for determining a voting result are sometimes prescribed by rule. Two elements enter into the definition of such bases for decision: (1) the proportion that must concur - as a majority, two thirds, three fourths, etc.; and (2) the set of members to which the proportion applies - which (a) when not stated, is always the number of members present and voting, but (b) can be specified by rule as the number of members present, the total membership, or some other grouping. Robert's page 389, line 20.
030 When a president has the option of appointing a committee chair does that make the committee a special committee instead of a standing committee? Page 491, line 6.
A. No, the president’s appointing a committee chair doe not determine the type of committee.
A standing committee must be constituted by name (a) by a specific provision of the bylaws or (b) by a resolution which is in effect a special rule of order and therefore requires notice and a two-thirds vote for adoption.
031 Can minutes be corrected after they have been approved? Page 475, line 18.
A. If the existence of an error or material omission in the minutes becomes reasonably established after their approval, even many years later, the minutes can then be corrected by means of the motion to Amend Something Previously Adopted, which requires a two-thirds vote, or a majority vote with notice, or the vote of a majority of the entire membership, or unanimous consent. Robert's page 458, line 10. When the minutes are approved, the word Approved, with the secretary's initials and the date, should be written below them. Robert's page 458, line 7.
032 How are the minutes of an annual meeting or an annual convention approved? Page 474, line 31.
A. When the next session will not be held within a quarterly time interval, a committee appointed should be authorized to approve the minutes.
033 How is a vacancy in office filled if the bylaws do not say anything about filling a vacancy? Page 291, line 14.
A. The filling of a vacancy essential to the functioning of a society or assembly is a question of privilege affecting the organization of the assembly. In such cases, the assembly can proceed immediately to fill the vacancy, unless notice is required or other provision for filling vacancies is made in the bylaws. In the case of a resignation from office, unless the bylaws provide otherwise, the assembly cannot proceed to fill the vacancy immediately since notice is a requirement.
034 What do we do if the elected secretary does not come to the meeting? Page 22, line 1; and, page 459, line 34
A. The minimum officers for a meeting are a presiding officer and a secretary.
In the absence of the secretary, a secretary pro tem should be elected.
035 What is the difference between a motion and a resolution? Page 105, line 26; and, page 197,
A. The difference is the formality with which a resolution is written. A main motion is frequently offered as a resolution, either because of its importance or because of its length or complexity.
When special circumstances make it desirable to include a brief statement of background, the motion should be cast in the form of a resolution, with the background or reasons incorporated in a preamble that is placed before the resolving clauses.
036 Can a member at large attend any chapter meeting? Page 644, line 22 & 29.
A. A chapter has the right to determine who may be present at its meetings and to control its hall while meetings are in progress…
Non-chapter members can be excluded at any time from part or all of a meeting of a chapter, or from all of its meetings. Such exclusion can be effected by a ruling of the chair in cases of disorder, or by the adoption of a rule on the subject, or by an appropriate motion as the need arises. A motion to exclude all non-chapter members is often referred to as a motion to "go into executive session."
037 What can I do if a member speaking starts calling another member names? Page 645, line 30.
A. When a member repeatedly questions the motives of other members whom he mentions by name, or persists in speaking on completely irrelevant matters in debate, the chair or any other member can "call the member to order." If the chair says, "The member is out of order and will be seated." Another member making the call rises and, without waiting to be recognized, says, "Mr. President, I call the member to order," then resumes his seat.
038 Does a member have to put a motion in writing? Page 39, line 33.
A. If a motion is offered in a wording that is not clear or that requires smoothing before it can be recorded in the minutes, it is the duty of the chair to see that the motion is put into suitable form preserving the content to the satisfaction of the mover before the question is stated. The chair should not admit a motion that the secretary would have to paraphrase for the record. The chair, either on his own initiative or at the secretary's request, can require any main motion, amendment, or instructions to a committee to be in writing before he states the question.
039 Can a member serve in two elected offices at the same time? Page 440, line 5.
A. When voting for multiple offices by a single ballot, the members are not able to take the result for one office into account when voting for another office. For this reason, a candidate is never deemed elected to more than one office by a single ballot unless the motion or rules governing the election specifically provide for such simultaneous election. When there is no such provision, a candidate who receives a majority for more than one office on a single ballot must, if present, choose which one of the offices he will accept; if he is absent, the assembly decides by vote the office to be assigned to him. The assembly then ballots again to fill the other office. The assembly is free, however, to elect the same person to another office on a subsequent ballot, unless the bylaws prohibit a person from holding both offices simultaneously.
040 Can an elected officer of a chapter also be a state council delegate? Page 440, line 14.
A. The assembly is free to elect the same person to another office… unless the bylaws prohibit a person from holding both offices simultaneously.
The Constitution of Vietnam Veterans of America, Inc. Article III Chapter Provisions, §4 Meetings of Chapters, paragraph B, does not provide that a member is limited to serving only one office at a time.
041 If someone calls for an executive session, who is entitled to remain in the room? Page 95, line 31.
A. A meeting enters into executive session only when required by rule or established custom, or upon the adoption of a motion to do so. A motion to go into executive session is a question of privilege, and therefore is adopted by a majority vote. Whenever a meeting is being held in executive session, only members of the body that is meeting, special invitees, and such employees or staff members as the body or its rules may determine to be necessary are allowed to remain in the hall.
042 Is it necessary to adopt a motion to uphold a previously adopted motion? Page 104, line 24.
A. Motions to "reaffirm" a position previously taken by adopting a motion are not in order. Such a motion serves no useful purpose because the original motion is still in effect; also, possible attempts to amend a motion to reaffirm would come into conflict with the rules for the motion to Amend Something Previously Adopted; and if such a motion to reaffirm failed, it would create an ambiguous situation.
043 Can a chapter's or a state council's bylaws prescribe requirements for national office in addition to those in the constitution? Page 567, line 29.
A. The bylaws of a subordinate unit need to conform to those of a superior body…"
044 What defines if a president is counted in a quorum? Page 345, line 3; and, page 457, line 1.
A. If the president is a member of the assembly, he or she is counted in the quorum. A quorum in an assembly is the number of members who must be present in order that business can be validly transacted.
As an ex-officio member of a committee, the president has the same rights as the other committee members, but is not obligated to attend meetings of the committee and is not counted in determining the number required for a quorum or whether a quorum is present.
045 What are the circumstances in which ex-officio members cannot vote, and when they can? Page 448, line 5; and, page 483, line 25
A. If a person holds an office in a society of which he is not a member and the bylaws make that officer an ex-officio member of the board, the nonmember is thereby a full-fledged board member with all the accompanying rights; but this does not make him a member of the society."
If the ex-officio member of the board is under the authority of the society there is no distinction between him and the other board members. If the ex-officio member is not under the authority of the society, he has all the privileges of board membership, including the right to make motions and to vote, but none of the obligations… The latter class of ex-officio board member, who has no obligation to participate, should not be counted in determining the number required for a quorum or whether a quorum is present at a meeting.