Table of Contents, Robert's Rules of Order Resources Page Previous Section, Robert's Rules of Order Next Section, Robert's Rules of Order

Article 8. Voting. - Westside Toastmasters is located in Los Angeles and Santa Monica, California

46. Voting

(a) Announcing the Vote.

(b) Voting by Ballot.

(c) Roll Call Voting.

(d) Rising Vote.

(e) General Consent.

(f) Absentee Voting.

(g) Voting By Mail.

(h) Voting by E-mail.

(i) Proxy Voting.

47. Votes That Are Null And Void Even If Unanimous

48. Determing Voting Results By Majority And Other Measures.

(a) Crossing Voting Thresholds.

(b) Modifications To Majority Vote Rules.

(c) Handling Tie Votes.

(d) General Consent or Unanimous Vote.

(e) Two-Thirds Vote.

(f) Challenging A Vote.

46. Voting.

In democratic societies, citizens have the right to assemble, the right to speak, and the right to vote. The right to assemble allows people of common interests to join together to accomplish a goal or common purpose. The right to speak allows members of that assembly to voice their opinions and concerns and to persuade others that their opinions and concerns are valid and to take action. The right to vote is the assembly's way of allowing all members to decide an issue, in a democratic manner, after they have assembled and heard their fellow members' opinions and concerns.

The right to vote is essential in preserving democracy in organizations and elected bodies. There are three principles that require consideration when a vote is taken:

These principles underlie the parliamentary procedures for voting; indeed, the specific rules of voting are designed to uphold them. This section explains these voting rules and the situations in which they are violated. Beyond the guidelines defined in this section here are answers to frequently asked questions concerning the voting process.

If the question is undebatable, or debate has been closed by order of the assembly, the chair, immediately after stating the question, puts it to vote as described under Putting the Question [9], only allowing time for members to rise if they wish to make a motion of higher rank.

If the question is debatable and no one rises to claim the floor, after the question is stated by the chair, he should inquire, "Are you ready for the question?" After a moment's pause, if no one rises, he should put the question to vote. If the question is debated or motions are made, the chair should wait until the debate has apparently ceased, when he should again inquire, "Are you ready for the question?" Having given ample time for any one to rise and claim the floor, and no one having done so, he should put the question to vote and announce the result.

The usual method of taking a vote is viva voce (by the voice). The rules require this method to be used in Congress. In small assemblies the vote is often taken by "show of hands," or by "raising the right hand" as it is also called. The other methods of voting are by rising; by ballot; by roll call, or "yeas and nays," as it is also called; by general consent; and by mail. In voting by any of the first three methods, the affirmative answer aye, or raise the right hand, or rise, as the case may be: then the negative answer no, or raise the right hand, or rise.

The responsibility of announcing, or declaring, the vote rests upon the chair, and he, therefore, has the right to have the vote taken again, by rising, if he is in doubt as to the result, and even to have the vote counted, if necessary. He cannot have the vote taken by ballot or by yeas and nays (roll call) unless it is required by the rules or by a vote of the assembly. But if the viva voce vote does not make him positive as to the result he may at once say, "Those in favor of the motion will rise;" and when they are seated he will continue, "Those opposed will rise." If this does not enable him to determine the vote, he should say, "Those in favor of the motion [or, Those in the affirmative] will rise and stand until counted." He then counts those standing, or directs the secretary to do so, and then says, "Be seated. Those opposed [or, Those in the negative] rise and stand until counted." After both sides are counted the chair announces the result as shown below. In a very large assembly the chair may find it necessary to appoint vote counters to count the vote and report to him the numbers. In small assemblies a show of hands may be substituted for a rising vote.

When the vote is taken by voice or show of hands any member has a right to require a division of the assembly [25] by having the affirmative rise and then the negative, so that all may see how members vote. Either before or after a decision any member may call for, or demand, a count, and, if seconded, the chair must put the question on ordering a count. In organizations where it is desired to allow less than a majority vote to order a count or vote counters, a special rule should be adopted specifying the necessary vote. Where no rule has been adopted a majority vote is required to order a count, or that the vote be taken by ballot or by yeas and nays (roll call).

Announcing the Vote.

When the vote has been taken so that the chair has no doubt as to the result, and no division is called for, or, if so, the assembly has divided, the chair proceeds to announce, or declare the vote thus: "The ayes have it and the resolution is adopted." If he is not very positive, he may say, "The ayes seem to have it," and, if no one says he doubts the vote or calls for a division, after a slight pause he adds, "The ayes have it," etc. If the vote was by show of hands or by rising, it would be announced thus: "The affirmative has it (or, the motion is carried) and the question is laid on the table;" or if there was a count, the vote would be announced thus: "There are 95 votes in the affirmative, and 99 in the negative, so the amendment is lost, and the question is now on the resolution; are you ready for the question?" In announcing a vote the chair should state first whether the motion is carried or lost; second, what is the effect, or result, of the vote; and third, what is the immediately pending question or business, if there is any. If there is none, he should ask, "What is the further pleasure of the assembly?" One of the most prolific causes of confusion in deliberative assemblies is the neglect of the chair to keep the assembly well informed as to what is the pending business. The habit of announcing the vote by simply saying that the "motion is carried" and then sitting down, cannot be too strongly condemned. Many members may not know what is the effect of the vote, and it is the chair's duty to inform the assembly what is the result of the motion's being carried or lost, and what business comes next before the assembly.

When a quorum [64] is present, a majority vote, that is a majority of the votes cast, ignoring blanks, is sufficient for the adoption of any motion that is in order, except those mentioned in 48, which require a two-thirds vote. A plurality never adopts a motion nor elects any one to office, unless by virtue of a special rule previously adopted. On a tie vote the motion is lost, and the chair, if a member of the assembly, may vote to make it a tie unless the vote is by ballot. The chair cannot, however, vote twice, first to make a tie and then give the casting vote. In case of an appeal [21], though the question is, "Shall the decision of the chair stand as the judgment of the assembly?" a tie vote, even though his vote made it a tie, sustains the chair, upon the principle that the decision of the chair can be reversed only by a majority, including the chair if a member of the assembly.

It is a general rule that no one can vote on a question in which he has a direct personal or financial interest. Yet this does not prevent a member from voting for himself for any office or other position, as voting for a delegate or for a member of a committee; nor from voting when other members are included with him in the motion, even though he has a personal or financial interest in the result, as voting on charges preferred against more than one person at a time, or on a resolution to increase the salaries of all the members. If a member could in no case vote on a question affecting himself, it would be impossible for an organization to vote to hold a banquet, or for a legislature to vote salaries to members, or for the majority to prevent a small minority from preferring charges against them and suspending or expelling them. By simply including the names of all the members, except those of their own faction, in a resolution preferring charges against them, the minority could get all the power in their own hands, were it not for the fact that in such a case all the members are entitled to vote regardless of their personal interest. A sense of delicacy usually prevents a member from exercising this right of voting in matters affecting himself except where his vote might affect the result. After charges are preferred against a member, and the assembly has ordered him to appear for trial, he is theoretically under arrest, and is deprived of all rights of membership and therefore cannot vote until his case is disposed of.

A member has the right to change his vote up to the time the vote is finally announced. After that, he can make the change only by permission of the assembly, which may be given by general consent; that is, by no member's objecting when the chair inquires if any one objects. If objection is made, a motion may be made to grant the permission, which motion is undebatable.

While it is the duty of every member who has an opinion on the question to express it by his vote, yet he cannot be compelled to do so. He may prefer to abstain from voting, though he knows the effect is the same as if he voted on the prevailing side.

Voting by Ballot.

The main object of this form of voting is secrecy, and it is resorted to when the question is of such a nature that some members might hesitate to vote publicly their true sentiments. Its special use is in the reception of members, elections, and trials of members and officers, as well as in the preliminary steps in both cases, and the by-laws should require the vote to be by ballot in such cases. Where the by-laws do not require the vote to be by ballot, it can be so ordered by a majority vote, or by general consent. Such motions are undebatable. Voting by ballot is rarely, if ever, used in legislative bodies, but in regular organizations, especially secret ones, it is habitually used in connection with elections and trials, and sometimes for the selection of the next place for the meeting of a convention. As the usual object of the ballot is secrecy, where the by-laws require the vote to be taken by ballot any motion is out of order which members cannot oppose without exposing their views on the question to be decided by ballot. Thus, it is out of order to move that one person cast the ballot of the assembly for a certain person when the by-laws require the vote to be by ballot. So, when the ballot is not unanimous it is out of order to move to make the vote unanimous, unless the motion is voted on by ballot so as to allow members to vote against it in secrecy.

In some cases black balls and white ones and a ballot box are provided for voting, where the question can be answered yes or no. The white ball answers yes, and the black one no. But in ordinary deliberative assemblies the ballots are strips of paper upon which are printed, or written, yes or no, or the names of the candidates, as the case may be. These ballots are first distributed and are afterwards collected by ballot counters, either by being dropped into a hat or box by the members, who remain in their seats, or by the members coming to the ballot box and handing their folded ballot to a ballot counter, who deposits it in the ballot box. In the latter case it is necessary for the ballot counters to see that no member votes twice, which in large organizations can be best done by checking off the names from a list of members as the ballots are deposited. The ballots should usually be folded so that if more than one is voted by the same person the ballot counters will detect it in unfolding the ballot. In satisfying themselves that only one ballot is voted, the vote may be exposed if the ballot is not folded.

When every one appears to have voted, the chair inquires, "Have all voted who wish to?" and if there is no response he says, "The polls are closed," whereupon the ballot counters proceed to count the ballots. If in unfolding the ballots it is found that two have been folded together, both are rejected as fraudulent. A blank piece of paper is not counted as a ballot and would not cause the rejection of the ballot with which it was folded. All blanks are ignored as simply waste paper, and are not reported, the members who do not wish to vote adopting this method of concealing the fact. Small technical errors, like the misspelling of a word, should not be noticed if the meaning of the ballot is clear. For instance, if at the trial of a member a ballot was written "guilty," every one knows what was intended. In all cases where the name on the ballot sounds like the name of one of the candidates it should be so credited. If a ballot is written "Johnson," or "Johnston," or "Johnstone," it should be credited to the candidate whose name is one of these: but if there are two candidates with these names and no eligible member with the name on the ballot, it must be rejected as illegal, or reported to the chair, who will at once submit the question to the assembly as to whom the ballot should be credited. If these doubtful ballots will not affect the result, the ballot counters may make their full report without asking for instructions in regard to them, placing these doubtful votes opposite the exact name as written on the ballot. Votes for ineligible persons and fraudulent votes should be reported under the heading of "Illegal Votes," after the legal votes. When two or three filled-out ballots are folded together they are counted as one fraudulent vote. The names of the candidates should be arranged in order, the one receiving the highest number of legal votes being first. In reporting the number of votes cast and the number necessary for election, all votes except blanks must be counted. Suppose the ballot counters find 100 ballot papers, 4 of which are blank. 1 contains two filled-out ones folded together, and 50 are cast for a person who is ineligible because of having held the office as long as permitted by the constitution: the ballot counters' report should be in this form:

Number of votes cast...................... 96
Necessary for election.................... 49
Mr. A received............................ 37
Mr. B received............................. 8

Illegal Votes.

Mr. C (ineligible) received............... 50
One ballot containing two for Mr. D, folded
together, rejected as fraudulent........ 1

The ballot counter first named, standing, addresses the chair, reads the report and hands it to the chairman, and takes his seat, without saying who is elected. The chairman again reads the report of the ballot counters and declares who is elected. In the case just given he says there is no election, stating the reason. If no one is elected, it is necessary to ballot again, and to continue balloting until there is an election. The chairman should always vote in case of a ballot Should he fail to do so before the polls are closed. he cannot then do it without the permission of the assembly. When the ballot counters report, they should hand the ballots to the secretary, who should retain them until it is certain that the assembly will not order a recount which is within its power to do by a majority vote.

Roll Call Voting.

When a vote has been ordered to be taken by yeas and nays [see 25 for the motion] the chair puts the question in a form similar to this: "As many as are in favor of the adoption of these resolutions will, as their names are called, answer yes [or yea]; those opposed will answer no [or nay]." The chairman then directs the clerk to call the roll. The negative being put at the same time as the affirmative, it is too late, after one person has answered to the roll call, to renew the debate. The clerk calls the roll, and each member, as his name is called, rises and answers "yes" or "no," or "present" if he does not wish to vote, and the clerk notes the answers in separate columns. Upon the completion of the roll call the clerk reads the names of those who answered in the affirmative, and afterwards those in the negative, and then those who answered "present," that mistakes may be corrected; he then gives the number voting on each side to the chairman, who announces the result. An entry must be made in the minutes of the names of all voting in the affirmative, and also of those in the negative, and those who answered "present." A convenient method of noting the answers at the roll call is to write the figure 1 on the left of the name of the first member answering in the affirmative, the figure 2 to the left of the second name in the affirmative, and so on. The negative answers are treated similarly, being entered on the right of the names, and those answering "present" should be entered similarly in a third column. In this way the last figures on each side at any time show how the vote stands at that time. The yeas and nays cannot be ordered in committee of the whole.

Rising Vote.

When a motion is to be decided by a two-thirds vote or some other proportion greater than a majority, or when a voice vote is too close to call, you can use a rising vote, which is just what the name implies. The chair says, "All those in favor rise. [pause] Be seated." Then, "All those opposed rise. [pause] Be seated."

The rising vote has some variations that generally depend on the size of the group.

If the chair decides that the rising vote isn't conclusive enough, then he should retake the vote as a counted vote to ascertain the result. However, if the chair is comfortable with his call, he's not required to take a counted vote unless the membership adopts a motion to order a counted vote. Such a motion requires a second and is adopted by majority vote.

General Consent.

Business can be expedited greatly by avoiding the formality of motions and voting in routine business and on questions of little importance, the chair assuming general (unanimous) consent until some one objects. It does not necessarily mean that every member is in favor of the motion, but, that knowing it is useless to oppose it, or even to discuss it, the opposition simply acquiesces in the informality. Thus, in the case of approving the minutes, the chair inquires if there are any corrections, and, if one is suggested, it is made: when no correction [or no further correction] is suggested, the chair says: "There being no corrections [or no further corrections] the minutes stand approved." While routine and minor matters can be rapidly disposed of in this way, if at any time objection is made with reasonable promptness, the chair ignores what has been done in that case even if he has announced the result, and requires a regular vote. [See also 48.]

Absentee Voting.

In a strictly deliberative assembly no member can vote who is not present when the question is completely put. But in many organizations the membership is scattered all over a state, or even still wider, and it has been found expedient to provide a method of voting that will enable all the members to vote upon certain matters, as upon amendments to constitutions, by-laws, and in elections of officers. This provision, when it is deemed advisable to adopt it, should be placed in the constitution or by-laws, as otherwise, unless the charter or state laws authorize absentee voting, no member can vote except in person There are two forms of absentee voting -- by mail, and proxy voting.

Voting by Mail

In large international organizations or organizations whose members are not centrally located, a mail ballot is a common practice to elect officers and to amend the constitution or bylaws. An organization's bylaws must state that it can use a mail ballot. Likewise, the organization should adopt procedures on how to handle the mail ballot. If the secretary is not responsible for sending out the mail ballots, an accurate up-to-date membership list should be given to those responsible for mailing the ballot.

If the ballot is not secret, the organization may follow these procedures:

This envelope may be an unusual color or size so the organization knows that it is a ballot instead of regular mail.

If the mail ballot is secret, follow other procedures:

Record the vote in the minutes of the next meeting. If the association meets yearly but has quarterly or monthly board meetings, record the vote in the minutes of the next board meeting, and send an announcement of the election results to all members.

Voting by E-mail

The procedure for voting by mail can be adapted to e-mail voting in the following manner. The person who collects the ballots sends out the e-mail ballot to all eligible voters. The sender should use an e-mail program that requests a return receipt from the recipient. Doing so shows that members received the ballot and that the return ballot comes from the member to whom the e-mail was sent. Balloting instructions should tell how to fill out the ballot and how to return it to the organization. The first instruction on the ballot should say "hit 'reply'; this enables you to fill out the ballot." The instructions should also tell how to send the ballot back once it is filled out. (This is the instruction to click "send.") The person who originally sends it out receives the ballot.

The person collecting the ballots should have a "ballot box" folder in their e-mail software or online account. When ballots come in, put them in the ballot box folder. After all the ballots come in, save them on a suitable computer medium as a back-up. Then print out the ballots so a ballot counters' committee can count them. As additional back-up, you can also print out and put in a file each ballot as it comes in.

The drawback to e-mail voting is that members give up their right to have a secret vote. The ballot counters' committee will know how each member voted. It is also possible for hackers to break into e-mail systems.

Proxy Voting.

A proxy is a power of attorney given by one person to another to vote in his stead and it is also used to designate the person who holds the power of attorney. It is unknown to a strictly deliberative assembly, and is in conflict with the idea of the equality of members, which is a fundamental principle of deliberative assemblies. There can be but little use for debate where one member has more votes than another, possibly more than all the others combined. If the proxy voting is limited to the election of a board of directors, as it is practically in stock corporations, and if, also, the proxies must be given to members of the corporation in all cases where it requires an election to become a member -- with these two limitations proxy voting would be useful and do no harm. In stock companies the members meet only annually to elect directors, who elect the officers and transact the business of the corporation. Though the directors are elected largely by proxies, their own meetings, where all the business is done, are as secret as they choose to make them, no proxies being allowed in them, and therefore proxy voting does not interfere with their business. As any one can dispose of his stock to any one else, there is no objection to his appointing any one as his proxy.

The case is very different with many incorporated organizations of a social, benevolent, or religious character, whose business meetings are sometimes secret. Their membership cannot be transferred by the members like stock, and therefore they should not be allowed to appoint any proxies who are not members of the organization. The state law is above the by-laws of the organization, and if the state law empowers members of all corporations to appoint proxies to vote at all business meetings, no by-laws of an incorporated secret organization could prevent non-members holding proxies from attending and voting at all business meetings of the organization. This should not be the case. With stock corporations it does no harm, because all the business is done by directors, and no proxies are allowed in their meetings, and no one can be present without their consent. But in many organizations of the kind mentioned the business is transacted in meetings attended by none but members, and unlimited proxies would be a serious interference with their work. If the state law requires proxy voting in all corporations, it should be limited to the election of officers, including directors, and also the proxies should be required to be held by members of the corporation in all organizations whose primary object is not financial profit.

47. Votes That Are Null And Void Even If Unanimous.

No motion is in order that conflicts with the laws of the nation, or state, or with the assembly's constitution or by-laws, and if such a motion is adopted, even by a unanimous vote, it is null and void. No rule that conflicts with a rule of a higher order is of any authority; thus, a by-law providing for the suspension by general consent of an article of the constitution would be null and void; so, the general parliamentary rule allowing a two-thirds vote to amend the by-laws after due notice, is only in force when the by-laws are silent on the subject. Rules that protect absentees cannot be suspended informally by general consent, or formally by a unanimous vote, as the absentees have not given their consent. For instance, a rule requiring the giving of a specified notice of certain motions, as an amendment of the by-laws, cannot be suspended by general consent or by a unanimous vote. When a vote is required to be taken by ballot, the object is to enable members to conceal their votes, and any motion that defeats this object is out of order. Thus, when the rules require the vote to be by ballot, as is usual in elections to office or membership, this rule cannot be suspended even by general consent, because no one can object without exposing his vote, which he cannot be compelled to do. When the election must be by ballot, a motion to have the ballot cast by one person is out of order. So, when the rules require the vote to be by ballot, a motion to make unanimous a vote that was not unanimous, must be voted on by ballot, as otherwise the vote would not be secret.

48. Determing Voting Results By Majority And Other Measures.

A fundamental principle in democratic societies is that the majority rules, but the rights of the minority and individual members are also protected. Most business is adopted by a majority vote of members who are voting at a meeting where a quorum is present. However, to protect the rights of the minority and absent members, some motions require a two-thirds vote. The principle used to determine when to take a two-thirds vote is based on the rights of the members or the assembly. When a proposed action takes away members' rights, a two-thirds vote is necessary. Motions to limit or extend debate, to close debate, to make a motion a special order, to rescind an action when no previous notice is given, and to suspend the rules are some of the motions that require a two-thirds vote. Some actions are so important (for example, amending the bylaws and other governing documents, or removing a member from office or membership) that they require both previous notice and a two-thirds vote.

If an organization wants the vote on certain issues to be greater than a majority or two-thirds vote, or it wants to require that previous notice of a vote be given, the bylaws should clearly state and define these qualifications. However, requiring a vote higher than a majority or two-thirds vote can allow a minority to rule instead of the majority, and a unanimous vote may end up allowing one person to rule. A vote requiring more than a majority should not be stated in terms of a "super majority" (because that term is not specific) but should specify, for example, 80% of the members, three-fourths of the members, or a majority of the entire membership.

A majority vote simply means that more than half of those voting approve a motion. More specifically, it means that more than half of the votes cast by persons legally entitled to vote at a properly called meeting with a quorum present approve a motion. Blank ballots or abstentions do not count. By this definition, those voting - not necessarily those present - determine the majority. Here is an example:

If 20 people are present at the meeting and 15 members vote, the majority is 8, because the majority is determined by the number voting, not by the number present.

Crossing Voting Thresholds

Voting results can also be determined according to a number of different variations on the basic majority and two-thirds votes. These variations relate not only to the threshold numbers required, but also to the number of members to be counted in determining that threshold.

Modifications To Majority Vote Rules

Organizations can qualify a majority vote by adding these phrases to the word "voting" in their bylaws:

These phrases change how the organization figures the majority. The more qualified the bylaws make a majority vote, the more difficult it is to adopt motions. Except for important issues and amending the bylaws, a simple, unqualified majority vote should adopt all actions.

A majority of those present

If an organization's bylaws state that a majority of those present must adopt a motion, the majority is figured by the number of members present, not by the number of those voting. Here is an example:

A meeting has 20 members present.

A majority of those present is 11 votes. This number does not change, no matter how many members present vote. If 15 people vote, and the following occurs,

10 members vote in the affirmative

5 members vote in the negative

5 members do not vote (abstain),

the motion fails because 11 people must vote in favor of the motion to sustain a majority of those present and adopt the motion.

In this example, those not voting are said to support the negative rather than remain neutral. For that reason, this qualification is not recommended.

A majority of the entire membership

If the bylaws state that a majority of the entire membership must adopt a motion, the number of the entire membership determines the majority, not the number of members who are present or the number of members who vote. Here are some examples:

The membership of the organization is 50.

The majority is always 26 votes in the affirmative.

At a meeting, 26 members attend. All would have to vote in favor of a motion in order for it to be adopted.

If only 25 attend the meeting, no motions can be adopted because it takes 26 votes to adopt.

If 35 members attend the meeting, and the votes are

25 votes in the affirmative

7 in the negative

3 abstentions,

the motion is lost because it takes 26 votes to adopt.

Requiring a majority of the entire membership is a helpful and useful qualification in one case: when the board is very small. Suppose an organization has an executive board of five members and the quorum is three members. If the bylaws state that a majority vote must adopt all action, and if only three members come to a meeting, two members are the majority and can make a decision. In this case, it is appropriate for the bylaws to require a majority vote of the entire membership of the board. Doing so ensures that if only three members attend a meeting, all three have to agree before any action is adopted.

Note: When the bylaws state "a majority of the entire membership," this means a majority of the members who are qualified to vote. Some organizations have a provision in the bylaws that states, "Members who have not paid their dues or are on probation cannot vote." Members who are not eligible to vote are not counted when figuring the number of votes required to get a "majority of the entire membership."

A majority of the fixed membership

If the governing documents state "a majority of the fixed membership," a majority is based on the total number of members, whether they are eligible to vote or not. For example, in condominium or homeowner associations, the majority is often based upon the number of lots or units in the association. This is considered a majority of the fixed membership. In this case, if the owner of a lot or unit does not pay the assessment, it does not affect the number of votes required to achieve the majority of the fixed membership. The number of votes required for a majority doesn't change unless more units are built or more lots are made available for sale.

The requirement to have a majority of the fixed membership can affect boards of directors if there are unfilled vacancies on the board. A majority of the fixed membership is based on the total number of the board positions, not the total number of persons serving in them. In contrast, if the majority is of the entire membership of the board, vacancies don't count. Only those positions in which there are directors serving are considered in the total number of board members. For example, if a board has 12 positions and three positions are vacant, and the basis is a majority of the entire membership, the count is based on the nine positions that are filled. The majority of the entire membership is five. However, a majority vote of the fixed membership is seven because it is based upon all 12 directors' positions, whether or not they are filled. When establishing the vote in the bylaws, take special care with how qualifications for the majority are worded. The more stringent you make the majority, the more difficult it is to obtain the majority and get things done.

To set the majority of the entire membership, the bylaws can state: "All motions shall be adopted by a majority of the entire board (not counting vacancies)."

To set the majority of the fixed membership, the bylaws may state: "All motions shall be adopted by a majority of the entire 12 directors of the board."

Handling Tie Votes

A tie vote is not a majority, consequently if your motion requires a majority vote, the motion is lost if it receives a tie vote. Therefore, a tie vote is as much of a decision as a majority vote in opposition.

If the vote is by ballot, the presiding officer votes with everybody else, and a tie vote is either a lost motion or a failed election. If you are electing an officer, you must reballot until someone receives a majority.

However, if the vote is by voice, by rising, or by counted vote, the presiding officer properly casts a vote only after the results are known and if he wants his vote to affect the outcome. However, if he does not want to change the outcome, the presiding officer should not vote at all; by reserving his vote, he preserves the appearance of impartiality while presiding.

General Consent or Unanimous Vote.

By general, or unanimous, or silent, consent the assembly can do business with little regard for the rules of procedure, as they are made for the protection of the minority, and when there is no minority to protect, there is little use for the restraint of the rules, except such as protect the rights of absent members, or the right to a secret vote. In the former case the consent of the absentees cannot be given, and in the latter case the consent cannot be withheld by the minority without exposing their votes, which they cannot be compelled to do. When the election is not by ballot and there are several candidates one of whom receives a majority vote, sometimes a motion is made to make the vote unanimous. It should never be made except by the candidate with the largest number of votes after the successful one, or his representative, and even then its propriety is doubtful. One negative vote defeats a motion to make a vote unanimous, as a single objection defeats a request for general consent.

By the legitimate use of the principle that the rules are designed for the protection of the minority, and generally need not be strictly enforced when there is no minority to protect, business may be greatly expedited. When there is evidently no opposition, the formality of voting can be avoided by the chair's asking if there is any objection to the proposed action, and if there is none, announcing the result. The action thus taken is said to be done by general consent, or unanimous or silent consent. Thus, after an order has been adopted limiting the speeches to two minutes each, if a speaker is so interesting that when his time has expired there is a general demand for him to go on, the chair, instead of waiting for a motion and taking a vote, could accept it as the will of the assembly that the speaker's time be extended, and would direct him to proceed. Or, he might say that if there is no objection the member's time will be extended two minutes, or some other time. [See also 46:16]

Two-Thirds Vote.

A two-thirds vote means two-thirds of the votes cast, ignoring blanks which should never be counted. This must not be confused with a vote of two-thirds of the members present, or two-thirds of the members, terms sometimes used in by-laws. To illustrate the difference: Suppose 14 members vote on a question in a meeting of an organization where 20 are present out of a total membership of 70, a two-thirds vote would be 10; a two-thirds vote of the members present would be 14; and a vote of two-thirds of the members would be 47.

There has been established as a compromise between the rights of the individual and the rights of the assembly the principle that a two-thirds vote is required to adopt any motion that suspends or modifies a rule of order previously adopted; or prevents the introduction of a question for consideration; or closes, or limits, or extends the limits of debate; or limits the freedom of nomination or voting; or closes nominations or the polls; or deprives one of membership or office. It will be found that every motion in the following list belongs to one of the classes just mentioned.

Motions Requiring a Two-thirds Vote.

Amend (Annul, Repeal, or Rescind) any part of the Constitution, By-laws, or Rules of Order, previously adopted; it also requires previous notice 68
Amend or Rescind a Standing Rule, a Program or Order of Business, or a Resolution, previously adopted, without notice being given at a previous meeting or in the call for the meeting 37
Take up a Question out of its Proper Order 22
Suspend the Rules 22
Make a Special Order 20
Discharge an Order of the Day before it is pending 20
Refuse to Proceed to the Orders of the Day 20
Sustain an Objection to the Consideration of a Question 23
Previous Question 29
Limit, or Extend the Limits, of Debate 30
Extend the Time Appointed for Adjournment or for Taking a Recess 20
Close Nominations [26] or the Polls 25
Limit the Names to be Voted for
Expel from Membership: it also requires previous notice and trial 75
Depose from Office: it also requires previous notice
Discharge a Committee when previous notice has not been given 32
Reconsider in Committee when a member of the majority is absent and has not been notified of the proposed reconsideration 36

Challenging A Vote

If you want to challenge a vote (not the same as challenging the action you voted on), you generally have to be fast. Any motion to challenge the conduct of the vote has to be initiated before any debate on business has started. Several options are available when the time is right.

Table of Contents, Robert's Rules of Order Resources Page Previous Section, Robert's Rules of Order Next Section, Robert's Rules of Order

Westside Toastmasters is located in Santa Monica and Los Angeles, California