Daniel H. Honemann

What Constitutes a Ballot Vote?

64 posts in this topic

I respectfully disagree with the opinion expressed in Q&A 47, which appears on page 38 of the most recent edition of the NP (Vol. 78, No. 3).

Suppose an organization’s bylaws require that officers be elected by ballot, but the organization wants to adopt a special rule of order providing that, when announcing the results of an election, the number of votes each candidate received is not to be announced, nor entered in the minutes. Will such a special rule of order be valid? I think not.

The answer to this question turns upon an understanding of what are (and what are not) essential elements of a ballot vote. I respectfully submit that, in an election, announcement of the number of votes cast and the number of votes received by each candidate is an essential element of such a vote, and that, absent such an announcement, a bylaws requirement that officers be elected by ballot will not have been complied with. In short, it seems rather clear to me that no requirement that a vote be counted can be complied with absent an announcement of the count.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Personally, I think I would accept that such a special rule of order is in the power of the assembly. The most important aspect of a ballot vote, and the main reason to impose such a vote as a requirement in the bylaws, is the secrecy. While I would be personally opposed to such a rule, I don't personally see it as being in conflict with the bylaw's requirement that the vote be by ballot. I think, ultimately, it is a question of bylaws interpretation, so the answer may vary from assembly to assembly.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

No, this isn't a bylaws interpretation question, it's an RONR interpretation question.

Assume that the bylaws are identical to those on pages 583-588.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, Daniel H. Honemann said:

No, this isn't a bylaws interpretation question, it's an RONR interpretation question.

Assume that the bylaws are identical to those on pages 583-588.

Same  answer, except  I do not believe that it is a matter bylaw interpretation.. 

Simply put, it becomes a question of if the assembly trusts the tellers and the chair sufficiently to rely on their count.  Would that trust, including a trust that all tellers and chairs in the future were not going to make honest mistakes, be misplaced?  I would say so and certainly would not recommend this rule.

There are many rights associated with balloting, but a right to know how the assembly voted collectively does not appear to be one of them.  Even if it were assumed to be a basic right of an individual member, I do not see anything that even suggests that such a right could only be curtailed by a bylaw provision. 

As you are aware, some organization use black and white balls in voting; some of those provide that a lower number of votes are needed to reject the proposal, or the candidate.  For example, three "black balls" are needed to deny admission to a proposed member.  In that case, the chair could simply announce that there are sufficient black balls to defeat the question.

I would add that I am a proponent of the adage of "trust, but verify," and, as such would neither recommend of vote for  such a rule.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 minutes ago, J. J. said:

There are many rights associated with balloting, but a right to know how the assembly voted collectively does not appear to be one of them.  Even if it were assumed to be a basic right of an individual member, I do not see anything that even suggests that such a right could only be curtailed by a bylaw provision.

I don't think the specific rights of the members has anything to do with it. The question is whether the bylaws have been complied with. A requirement of a "ballot vote" has a very specific meaning; it doesn't just mean that ballots were employed in the vote somehow or another.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 minutes ago, Shmuel Gerber said:

I don't think the specific rights of the members has anything to do with it. The question is whether the bylaws have been complied with. A requirement of a "ballot vote" has a very specific meaning; it doesn't just mean that ballots were employed in the vote somehow or another.

I'm not sure, in that case, that the requirement for a ballot vote can be stretched into an announcement of the vote totals, or for the vote totals to be included in the minutes.  I think that both the announcement and placing those results in the minutes would be rule in the nature of a rule of order as they relate “to the orderly transaction of business in meetings and to the duties of the officers in that connection (p. 15, ll. 9-11).” 

Also, those same requirements would occur if the vote was taken by roll call.  I would not have a problem with the assembly adopting a rule that the results would not have to be announced or placed in the minutes in the case of a roll call vote (providing this was not a representative assembly), even if the bylaws provided for a roll call vote.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The most-essential element of a ballot vote is secrecy -- anonynimity of the voter.

Put into practice, to announce a vote of 45-1, for example, risks exposing the negative voter's identity.

Therefore, all parliamentary steps which sustain the most-essential element of a ballot vote -- anonymity -- would probably be in-order.

***

Who would know the true numbers?

The tellers committee knows the true count. -- So it isn't the case that (a.) "nobody knows the true numbers", and that (b.) "nobody is in a position to challenge an erroneous announcement of the chair."

The assembly either (a.)  created the tellers committee directly, or (b.) via a motion, had the opportunity to modify the composition (e.g., who sits, and how many sit), on the tellers committee.

So the assembly has, in effect ultimate control on "how many people know (and can confirm) the true number tally."

So the deliberative body which did the actually casting-of-ballots is still in ultimate control.

***

For a special rule of order, the rule of order is suspendable. -- While you cannot violate anonymity of the ballot, you can violate the special rule of order which "prohibits the oral announcement of the tally numbers."

So, the assembly retains 100% control of the special rule of order's application, and duration. -- The assembly is free to release the data to the members present, or even release the data to the general public.

The assembly isn't being deprived of anything. -- They merely weighed the sanctity of (a.) something else, over (b.) the tally numbers.

So:

Q. Must the assembly suffer the oral announcement of the tally numbers?

If the assembly wished to hear such data, all they need to do is adopt a resolution, "Resolved, That the tellers committee give a full reporting of the election results."

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

One of my problems with extending the definition of ballot into announcing the results is found on p. 585, ll. 22-24. 

If that line were not in these set of bylaws, RONR (p. 435, ll. 19-23) would require nominations from the floor for the organization using the sample bylaws.  Putting that line in there doesn't make any sense, unless it was to prevent a special rule from superseding the requirement to permit floor nominations in RONR.  Just saying "nominations" in the bylaws is not enough to prevent a special rule for modifying that requirement to take nominations from the floor.

Another problem that I have is that the rule is a modification to the rules in RONR about what the chair announces and what is recorded in the minutes.  It does not change the rule that "officers shall be elected by ballot."

To perhaps give the converse, suppose that another assembly adopted a special rule "that the number of blank ballots be included in the tellers' report, announced by the chair, and recorded in the minutes."  That would vary from the RONR, but only those rules relating to the tellers' report, what the chair announces, and what is recorded in the minutes.  Would that rule then be superseded by the "officers shall be elected by ballot" clause in the bylaws?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
9 hours ago, Shmuel Gerber said:

I don't think the specific rights of the members has anything to do with it. The question is whether the bylaws have been complied with. A requirement of a "ballot vote" has a very specific meaning; it doesn't just mean that ballots were employed in the vote somehow or another.

 

9 hours ago, J. J. said:

I'm not sure, in that case, that the requirement for a ballot vote can be stretched into an announcement of the vote totals, or for the vote totals to be included in the minutes.  I think that both the announcement and placing those results in the minutes would be rule in the nature of a rule of order as they relate “to the orderly transaction of business in meetings and to the duties of the officers in that connection (p. 15, ll. 9-11).” 

A bylaw provision requiring that officers be elected by ballot is itself a rule of order, but this does not change the fact that any special rule of order conflicting with such a bylaw provision has no validity.

The question then, as Shmuel has noted, is one of understanding what, exactly, constitutes a "ballot vote". In my opinion, whenever a rule requires that a vote be counted (such as a rule requiring a ballot vote), the reporting of that count is an essential element of such a vote, and an integral part of the chair's announcement of the result of such a vote. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This member of the Q&A research team has no doubt that reporting the count is an essential element of a ballot vote.  But what I did believe is, that particular element of a ballot vote could be superseded by a special rule of order rather than a bylaw level rule, and I did not believe that an assembly violating the rule regarding the report of the count would be non-compliant with a rule in the bylaws requiring a vote by ballot for an election.

Now we all have more to think about.  I find this discussion extremely enlightening.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, Daniel H. Honemann said:

 

 

The question then, as Shmuel has noted, is one of understanding what, exactly, constitutes a "ballot vote". In my opinion, whenever a rule requires that a vote be counted (such as a rule requiring a ballot vote), the reporting of that count is an essential element of such a vote, and an integral part of the chair's announcement of the result of such a vote. 

I have to disagree, and would ask you his question.  If the bylaws specified a roll call vote, would it be an "essential element" that the vote total be read.   Assume that this group uses the bylaws in RONR, with the sole difference being that, instead of the word "ballot" on p. 585. ll. 26  is replaced with the word "roll call."   Would that, in your opinion, constitute a rule that could not be superseded by a special rule?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
29 minutes ago, J. J. said:

I have to disagree, and would ask you his question.  If the bylaws specified a roll call vote, would it be an "essential element" that the vote total be read.   Assume that this group uses the bylaws in RONR, with the sole difference being that, instead of the word "ballot" on p. 585. ll. 26  is replaced with the word "roll call."   Would that, in your opinion, constitute a rule that could not be superseded by a special rule?

Yes.

I thought I had made that clear when I said: 

"In my opinion, whenever a rule requires that a vote be counted (such as a rule requiring a ballot vote), the reporting of that count is an essential element of such a vote, and an integral part of the chair's announcement of the result of such a vote." 

A rule requiring a roll-call vote is certainly a rule requiring that the vote be counted.

And by the way, you can tell I'm in my office because my computer here always logs me in as Scorpion. Sorry about that. :)

Edited by Scorpion
Identity Disclosure

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
29 minutes ago, Scorpion said:

Yes.

I thought I had made that clear when I said: 

"In my opinion, whenever a rule requires that a vote be counted (such as a rule requiring a ballot vote), the reporting of that count is an essential element of such a vote, and an integral part of the chair's announcement of the result of such a vote." 

A rule requiring a roll-call vote is certainly a rule requiring that the vote be counted.

And by the way, you can tell I'm in my office because my computer here always logs me in as Scorpion. Sorry about that. :)

  It does require that the vote be counted; the rule does not prohibit counting, but it would prohibit announcing of the numbers of the result and putting the count into the minutes.   The count would be known by the chair, the tellers, and the secretary (the rule would not remove the requirement that the sheet, a report from a committee, be kept). 

I would go a bit further and suggest that a special rule could eliminate the requirement that the chair announce the result within a meeting (by having it take place outside of the meeting).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

While discussing a bylaw provision, PL notes that, "Your society has a right  to adopt a rule allowing the tellers nothing but the names of the successful candidates, though I have never before heard of any society taking such a step (p. 488, Q & A 212, emphasis added)."  He further notes the inadvisability of adopting such a rule (though I think both the current edition of RONR and Q & A 47 are even more stringent in that regard.).

The distinction that this  would be a special rule, as opposed to a bylaw, is made a he refers to something that, at the time, could done by a special rule, electing officers by plurality.

While I will note, as above, that there have been some changes since General Robert wrote PL, I still cannot find anything that could prohibit the a special rule from permitting the the chair to only state the result, but not the total. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, J. J. said:

While discussing a bylaw provision, PL notes that, "Your society has a right  to adopt a rule allowing the tellers nothing but the names of the successful candidates, though I have never before heard of any society taking such a step (p. 488, Q & A 212, emphasis added)."  He further notes the inadvisability of adopting such a rule (though I think both the current edition of RONR and Q & A 47 are even more stringent in that regard.).

The distinction that this  would be a special rule, as opposed to a bylaw, is made a he refers to something that, at the time, could done by a special rule, electing officers by plurality.

While I will note, as above, that there have been some changes since General Robert wrote PL, I still cannot find anything that could prohibit the a special rule from permitting the the chair to only state the result, but not the total. 

This Q&A refers to an instance in which the bylaws provided not only that the officers shall be elected by ballot, but also that a plurality vote shall elect, and that the tellers shall report to the chair only the names of the persons receiving the highest number of votes. The response indicates nothing other than the fact that the society involved had the right to do what it did, and I agree that this is so.

There is absolutely nothing in this Q&A which would lead one to believe that General Robert was saying that, if the bylaws did nothing but provide that the officers shall be elected by ballot, a special rule of order could be adopted providing that the tellers shall report to the chair only the names of the persons receiving the highest number of votes. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
36 minutes ago, Daniel H. Honemann said:

This Q&A refers to an instance in which the bylaws provided not only that the officers shall be elected by ballot, but also that a plurality vote shall elect, and that the tellers shall report to the chair only the names of the persons receiving the highest number of votes. The response indicates nothing other than the fact that the society involved had the right to do what it did, and I agree that this is so.

There is absolutely nothing in this Q&A which would lead one to believe that General Robert was saying that, if the bylaws did nothing but provide that the officers shall be elected by ballot, a special rule of order could be adopted providing that the tellers shall report to the chair only the names of the persons receiving the highest number of votes. 

The word "rule," as opposed to a bylaw.   At least in that section, the General would make that distinction between a rule and a provision of the constitution.  He did not say that the "bylaw" could do it.  He  also referred to a rule as something that could, at the time be accomplished by a special rule of order.  I will note the  General made the distinction in Questions 189, 192,  198, 177, 178.    When he notes that something must be in the bylaws, he does not refer to that as being a rule.   When he refers to something that does not have to be in the bylaws, he  says rules (e.g. Q. 198).

It is subtle, but it is there. 

I would also note Question 195, where the General  states that the report of the tellers should account for every vote, "unless the assembly decides otherwise."  As special rule would be the assembly deciding otherwise.

Again, that is 1923, and things change,  but I see nothing in thecurrent text that would suggest the assembly could not suppress vote totals.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
29 minutes ago, Daniel H. Honemann said:

Oh, for heavens sake J.J., even in Q&A 212, General Robert refers to the bylaw in question as a "rule". 

Because it could have been adopted as a rule.   As I said, it is subtle.   He referred to things that had to be in the bylaws as a bylaw (or a provision of a constitution).   He referred to things that could have been established by a lesser source as a rule.   I have not looked through the other sections, but it is this section.

If there is a desire to identify a requirement that the totals of a ballot (or roll call) election must be in the bylaws, I think it would have to be address as an election by plurality was, starting in the 7th edition. 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It may be worth remembering that we are here concerned solely with the question as to whether or not, in instances where the bylaws require that a ballot vote be taken (without qualification, as in the sample bylaws in RONR), a special rule of order can be validly adopted providing that the number of votes each candidate receives is not to be announced nor entered in the minutes. We are not concerned simply with a question as to whether or not adoption of a special rule of order will ever suffice for the imposition of such a rule.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think there is no correlation.

If a ballot vote is required via one's bylaws, then you are still free to control you minutes' content. -- Numbers or no numbers.

I do not see a relationship between

a.) imposing anonymity; vs.

(b.) imposing compulsory numeric reporting.

The tellers committee may be ordered (a.) to report more data, or (b.) to report less data. -- The assembly retains 100% control of what they want their minutes to contain, and what they want their collective ears to hear.

(If there existed a stickler for the awkward interpretation that there is a relationship between one and the other, then the assembly could, theoretically, appoint 100% of the membership present to sit on the tellers committee, retroactively, and thus allow the numeric data to be re-counted, or otherwise orally communicated, without violating the bylaw-level rule directly. -- And that would be an absurd accommodation.)

Q. Where is the evidence that "a paper ballot rule" or "a secrecy rule", is related to a minutes rule?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
8 hours ago, Kim Goldsworthy said:

Q. Where is the evidence that "a paper ballot rule" or "a secrecy rule", is related to a minutes rule?

RONR, 11th ed., p. 418, lines 26-31: The tellers' report is entered in full in the minutes, becoming a part of the official records of the organization. Under no circumstances should this be omitted in an election or in a vote on a critical motion out of a mistaken deference to the feelings of unsuccessful candidates or members of the losing side. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Ann Rempel said:

RONR, 11th ed., p. 418, lines 26-31: The tellers' report is entered in full in the minutes, becoming a part of the official records of the organization. Under no circumstances should this be omitted in an election or in a vote on a critical motion out of a mistaken deference to the feelings of unsuccessful candidates or members of the losing side. 

While I think all parties agree that this is the rule.  The question is if a special rule of order, properly adopted by the assembly, can supersede this.

I would suggest that this opinion be read in light of what was listed as Q & A 26, in 1st Quarter, 2003, National Parliamentarian (pp 5-7).   That opinion dealt with the ability of a special rule to prohibit "bullet" voting, when a ballot was required for election for multiple positions, e.g. several board positions.  I believe there was an intervening opinion to the same effect.  

[Shmuel, many years ago, we had a discussion of if a quorum could be established by a special rule; you may not remember it.  My conclusion is, and was, that, if RONR is the parliamentary authority, the quorum requirement can only be placed in the bylaws.  My answer here is based on the same principle.]

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Having read the National Parliamentarian Q & A at issue (in volume 78, No. 3) and having followed this thread since Mr. Honemann's first post, I agree with the answer in the National Parliamentarian.  My reasoning is essentially the same as that of J.J., Kim Goldsworthy, George Mervosh and Alexis Hunt.  I simply do not see the requirement of announcing the vote totals and publishing them in the minutes as being an inseparable part of a ballot vote.  Perhaps it should be (although I don't think so) and perhaps the authorship team intends that it be, but I don't think the case has been made that RONR actually says that they are inseparable parts. I think that the ballot vote is one thing and reporting the results (and publishing them in the minutes) are two (or three) separate things and that the manner of reporting the results and of publishing them in the minutes can be established by a special rule of order.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, Richard Brown said:

Having read the National Parliamentarian Q & A at issue (in volume 78, No. 3) and having followed this thread since Mr. Honemann's first post, I agree with the answer in the National Parliamentarian.  My reasoning is essentially the same as that of J.J., Kim Goldsworthy, George Mervosh and Alexis Hunt.  I simply do not see the requirement of announcing the vote totals and publishing them in the minutes as being an inseparable part of a ballot vote.  Perhaps it should be (although I don't think so) and perhaps the authorship team intends that it be, but I don't think the case has been made that RONR actually says that they are inseparable parts. I think that the ballot vote is one thing and reporting the results (and publishing them in the minutes) are two (or three) separate things and that the manner of reporting the results and of publishing them in the minutes can be established by a special rule of order.

Oh, I suppose one might reasonably conclude that the manner of reporting how many votes were cast and how many votes each candidate received may be established by a special rule of order, but the response in the Q&A goes much further by asserting that a special rule of order may be adopted providing that the vote totals are not to be announced at all. I respectfully disagree. It think it is self-evident that reporting vote totals is an essential element of any requirement that a vote be counted.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Does a ballot vote fundamentally require an exact count, however? Although this is not the procedure outlined in RONR, what if the ballots are sorted into piles based on who they voted for, and then if one pile is clearly larger than the others put together, that candidate is declared the winner?

In a large enough assembly, this method could save a lot of time. It is obviously susceptible to misjudgment on the part of the tellers, and again I would definitely not recommend it, but I think that the requirement that the vote be taken by ballot would be satisfied if this evaluation method were used.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest
You are commenting as a guest. If you have an account, please sign in.
Reply to this topic...

×   You have pasted content with formatting.   Remove formatting

  Only 75 emoticons maximum are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

Loading...