Q: Should we count abstentions when taking a vote?
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. Robert's page 42, line 25.
Since we do business by majority vote, consider this. If 15 members vote yes, 9 members vote no, and 5 members abstain, the motion is adopted. If 15 members vote yes, 9 members vote no, and 17 members abstain, the motion is still adopted. The number of votes cast is 24 (15 + 9 = 24) and a majority, more than half, of 24 is 13 or more.
Q: Why do some members say an amendment must be read three times before it can be adopted?
A: Some members heard an amendment must be read three times before it can be adopted. They did not read that in Robert's. 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 Sturgis' manuals.
Q: Certain members frequently move to table motions. When should we table a motion?
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. Robert's page 201, line 29 and page 207, line 15.
I have attended VVA meetings at all levels and have yet to witness another matter urgently requiring immediate attention. Usually the member moving to Table is not aware of the characteristics of the motion and the restriction it places on the members. Table is only one of seven subsidiary motions that we can use to process a main motion.
Q: A member at last month's meeting tried to yield his speaking time to another member. The Chair would not allow it and we had a lot of contentious discussion over it. Can one member yield his or her speaking time to another member?
A: Unless the organization has a special rule on the subject, a member cannot yield any unexpired portion of time to another member. If a member yields the floor before speaking the full ten minutes, it waives the 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. Robert's page 376, line 4.
Q: Can an office, such as one of the vice presidents, be eliminated while a member is in office?
A: By amending the bylaws, an office can be eliminated provided the method of amendment prescribed in the bylaws is followed. An amendment to the bylaws goes into effect immediately upon its adoption, but while the amendment is pending, an incidental motion can be adopted that it shall not take effect until the completion of the current term. Robert's page 579, line 23.
Q: Is a motion adopted by a committee valid if an advisor proposed it?
A: In committees, motions need not be seconded and sometimes, when a proposal is perfectly clear to all present, a vote can be taken without a motion's having been introduced. This Is addressed by Robert's, page 483, line 10 referring to page 470, line 17.
Q: 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?
A: 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. Robert's, page 154, line 30.
Q: 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?
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. Robert's, page 160, line 14. The motion to commit usually should include all necessary details about the committee. Robert's, page 163, line 31.
Q: 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?
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. Robert's, page 335, line 15.
Q: 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?
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 - whichever is most practical to obtain. Robert's, page 295, line 25.
Q: Can the member who made the motion withdraw it after the members have been discussing it?
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. Robert's, page 284, line 25.
Q: Does the Nominating Committee constitute a Special Committee?
A: In the VVA the Nominating Committee is a Standing Committee because the VVA Constitution prescribes it. 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. Robert's page 473, line 18.
Q: 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?
A: Usually an agenda covers an entire session, in which case it is the order of business for that session and is adopted by a majority vote, even if it contains special orders. If a series of orders of the day that contains one or more special orders is made by a single vote during the course of a session that already has an order of business a two-thirds vote is required. After an agenda or program has been adopted by the assembly, no change can be made in it except by a two-thirds vote, a vote of a majority of the entire membership, or unanimous consent. The order of business is subject to approval by the members and is one of the initial items in the order of business. Once an order of business has been adopted, it can be amended by a two-thirds and is frequently amended by unanimous consent. Robert's page 360, line 18.
Q: Where are elections in the order of business?
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. Robert's page 346, line 17.
Q: Can the Chair, while presiding, make a motion to take action on something?
A: An office does not deprive a member of his or her rights as a member. Robert's page 432, line 10. Customs of formality followed by the presiding officer serve to maintain the chair's necessary position of impartiality and to preserve an objective and impersonal approach. Robert's page 21, line 31. 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. Robert's page 470, line 17.
Q: When you assign a parliamentarian at a chapter/state/whatever, does he or she have to be a member?
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.
Q: When members are elected, when do they take office?
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. Robert's pare 430, line 6.
Q: How should a convention or state council delegate vote?
A: At the convention or council, the delegate has the duty to be present at the meetings, and to be prepared on returning to present to the chapter an information report of what transpired. A delegate is free to vote as he sees fit on questions except as his chapter may have instructed him in regard to particular matters scheduled for consideration. Robert's page 586, line 20.
Q: Can the new administration rescind a motion that was made at a board meeting before the elections?
A: Rescind is the motion by which a previous action or order can be canceled or countermanded. It is debatable, and debate can go into the merits of the question that it is proposed to rescind. It requires (a) a two-thirds vote, (b) a majority vote when notice of intent to make the motion 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. There is no time limit on making the motion after the adoption of the measure to which it is applied, and any member, regardless of how he voted on the original question, can move it. Robert's pages 293 – 299.
Q: Can I move to divide the question if I only want to adopt part of what the motion says?
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. The motion to divide must state the manner in which the question is to be divided. 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. Robert's pages 261 – 263.
Q: 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?
A: Non-board members can be excluded at any time from part or all of a meeting of a board, 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-board members is often referred to as a motion to "go into executive session." Robert's page 625, line 11 & line 19.
Q: How long after a vote is taken can someone raise a point of order contesting the vote?
A: Points of order regarding the conduct of a vote may be raised immediately following the announcement of the voting result up until another member has been recognized and has introduced another matter. Robert's, starting on page 233, line 32.
Q: Can one veterans' organization adopt a motion ordering another veterans' organization to take certain action?
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.
Q: Can a member have his or her statements recorded in the minutes?
A: In an ordinary society, unless the minutes are to be published, they should contain mainly a record of what was done at the meeting, not what was said by the members. Robert's page 451, line 25. For published minutes, "…the secretary's assistant should be a stenographic reporter or recording technician…" Robert's page 458, lines 18 – 36. A more detailed article from the Parliamentary Journal published by the American institute of Parliamentarians is available at www.parligroup.com, click on "document."
Q: Can members who did not attend a committee-meeting vote on the motion to approve the minutes of that meeting?
A: Minutes are usually approved by unanimous consent without taking a vote. If a vote is taken all members of the committee are entitled to vote on the motion to approve the minutes whether or not they attended the meeting at which the minutes were taken. If, however, it is the end of the term of the committee members and the entire committee is being replaced, they should approve the minutes of their last meeting at the close of that meeting.
Q: What are the options available after someone submits their resignation and it has been accepted? Can it be "un-accepted" or withdrawn?
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. Robert's page 298, line 1.
Q: If a member submits his or her resignation can it be rejected or denied?
A: 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 such as the VVA. 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.
Q: 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?
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. Robert's page 402, line 3.
Q: When voting, what is the difference between "a majority" and "a majority of those present"?
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.
Q: When a president has the option of appointing a committee chair does that make the committee a special committee instead of a standing committee?
A: … 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, if any of the following conditions are to apply:
- if the committee is to have standing authority to act for the society on matters of a certain class without specific instructions from the assembly;
- if all business of a certain class is to be automatically referred to the committee; or
- if some other rule of parliamentary procedure is affected by the committee's assigned function. Robert's page 473, line 18.
The position's being occupied or vacant and or the committee's being active or quiescent do not determine standing committee status.
Q: Can minutes be corrected after they have been approved?
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.
Q: How are the minutes of an annual meeting or an annual convention approved?
A: When the next session will not be held within a quarterly time interval, a committee appointed should be authorized to approve the minutes. The fact that the minutes are not then read for approval at the next meeting does not prevent a member from having a relevant excerpt read for information; nor does it prevent the assembly in such a case from making additional corrections, treating the minutes as having been previously approved. Robert's page 457, line 21.
Q: How is a vacancy in office filled if the bylaws do not say anything about filling a vacancy?
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. Robert's page 279, line 21.
Q: What do we do if the elected secretary does not come to the meeting?
A: The minimum officers for a meeting are a presiding officer and a secretary. Robert's page 21, line 5. In the absence of the secretary, a secretary pro tem [temporary] should be elected. Robert's page 443, line 27.
Q: What is the difference between a motion and a resolution?
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. Robert's page 100, line 35. 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. Robert's page 102, line 12.
Q: Can a member at large attend any chapter meeting?
A: The chapter meetings I have attended have been open meetings with guests, non-members, observing but not participating in the procedure unless specifically invited to do so. A chapter has the right to determine who may be present at its meetings and to control its hall while meetings are in progress… Robert's page 625, line 10. 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." Robert's page 625, line 11 & line 19.
Q: What can I do if a member speaking starts calling another member names?
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. Robert's page 625, line 21.
Q: Does a member have to put a motion in writing?
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. Robert's page 38, line 7.
Q: Can a member serve in two elected offices at the same time?
A: A member may hold more than one elected office at a time because the Constitution of the VVA does not prohibit it. And, Robert's, starting on page 425, line 33, states "… there is no prohibition against a person's holding more than one office, it is understood in most societies that a member can serve in only one such capacity at a time, and sometimes the bylaws so provide." This means the bylaws may prescribe the prohibition but if they are silent there is not a prohibition.
Q: Can an elected officer of a chapter also be a state council delegate?
A: 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.
Although, strictly speaking, there is no prohibition against a person's holding more than one office, it is understood in most societies that a member can serve in only one such capacity at a time, and sometimes the bylaws so provide. In such a case, if the person elected to two or more offices is present, he can choose which of the offices he will accept. If he is absent, the assembly should decide by vote the office to be assigned to him, and then should elect a person to fill the other office. Robert's page 425, line 33.
According to the Constitution of the VVA and Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised, a member may serve more than one office at a time. That is a member may serve as a chapter president and as a state delegate.
Q: If someone call for an executive session, who is entitled to remain in the room?
A: A motion to go into executive session is a question of privilege, and therefore is adopted by a majority vote. Only members, special invitees, and such employees or staff members as the assembly or its rules may determine to be necessary are allowed to remain in the hall. Robert's page 93, line 8.
Q: Is it necessary to adopt a motion to uphold a previously adopted motion?
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. Robert's page 100, line 10.
Q: Can a chapter's or a state council's bylaws prescribe requirements for national office in addition to those in the VVA Constitution?
A: No. The VVA Constitution is higher-ranking document than the state council or chapter bylaws. A lower ranking document cannot abrogate a rule prescribed by a higher-ranking document. In Robert's on page 550, starting on line 28 points out "The bylaws of a subordinate unit need to conform to those of a superior body…"
Q: If the bylaws prohibit a member from holding two offices at the same time, can a member run for more that one office?
A: Yes. A member can run for more than one office. Robert's on page 426, starting on line 2, states, "…if a person has been nominated for a number of offices, it may happen that the same person is elected to more than one office. Although, strictly speaking, there is no prohibition against a person's holding more than one office, it is understood in most societies that a member can serve in only one such capacity at a time, and sometimes the bylaws so provide. In such a case, if the person elected to two or more offices is present, he can choose which of the offices he will accept. If he is absent, the assembly should decide by vote the office to be assigned to him, and then should elect persons to fill the other offices.
Q: What defines if a president is counted in a quorum?
A: There are two conditions for determining a quorum when a president is involved. Robert's on page 440, line 31, states, "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." As an ex-officio committee member the president is not counted in the quorum. On page 334, starting on line 2, Robert's states, "A quorum in an assembly is the number of voting members who must be present in order that business can be legally transacted." In the board or chapter meeting, the president, as a voting member, is counted in determining the quorum.
Q: What are the circumstances in which ex-officio members cannot vote, and when they can?
A: Robert's on page 432, line 12, states, "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."
Robert's on page 466, line 27, "…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."