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  1. If a member proposes that the minutes be corrected (at the time of their approval) by striking out the tellers’ report from an election, and another member objects, does the correction require a two-thirds vote? PL says that “anything that the rules require to be in the minutes cannot be struck out, except by a two-thirds vote” (q. 248, p. 499), but RONR includes all corrections under the usual rules for amendment, i.e., majority vote ([11th ed.], p. 354, ll. 30-33). If a two-thirds vote is required to strike a tellers’ report, would it also be required to strike something more mundane, such as the name of the maker of a main motion? Similarly, what vote is required to correct the minutes by inserting something that RONR says should never be in the minutes, such as the secretary’s opinion, or something more mundane, such as a brief summary of a guest speaker’s remarks?
  2. I'm satisfied with this answer, which seems the safest option. Ideally, such rules would be unnecessary because of clear guidance on how authoritative the secretary's written draft is and how much discretion she has in correcting her private typographical errors. But perhaps actual parliamentary practice isn't (yet) consistent enough for such guidance to be warranted. I appreciate all of the above posts, which have helped me clarify my understanding of this topic.
  3. I doubt any assembly would want the secretary's verbal stumbling when reading the minutes to be taken literally. The reason she's reading the text is to put it before the assembly for approval. The text in such a case shouldn't be altered because of a careless or unintentional deviation while reading it. The problem I've been grappling with is different and derives from the fact that written documents contain information (spelling, punctuation, etc.) that oral statements of them normally do not. In the case under discussion ("Hers is the first written record. . . ."), I don't see how the spirit or the letter of the rules would be violated if the secretary silently corrects an obvious typo that she introduced and that she alone has seen, that the assembly has not seen (let alone explicitly approved), that does not change the reading or inaccurately alter the meaning, and that is caught in a timely manner (when she "is placing the approved minutes in her substantial binder"). I'm thinking of the really obvious cases here (two periods together, the spelling of someone's name) and wonder if the assembly's best interests are being served if their only options are keeping the secretary's errors in the minutes or going to the trouble of ASPA.
  4. Thanks. I had missed the distinction between "too trivial to bother with ASPA" (which others were presumably thinking) and "so trivial that the secretary may correct it" (which I was thinking). I understand that any written motion or report must be reproduced exactly in the minutes, but I'm still uncertain about the sort of case I raised above: In what meaningful sense has an assembly, in approving such minutes as read, approved typographical errors that only the secretary has seen and that have no effect on the wording as read aloud, the meaning of any statement, or the action taken by the assembly at the meeting in question?
  5. I can't think of a compelling reason either, yet the earlier posts emphasize that the secretary has no unilateral authority to make corrections to approved minutes--which is why I asked about the trivial extra period. Am I missing another way to correct approved minutes besides ASPA?
  6. Thanks for the helpful suggestions of remedies in cases in which the assembly suspects a problem and asks for written copies of a motion or the minutes. If no one suspects a problem, however, the secretary’s choice of punctuation may alter the meaning of a motion in a way that causes problems only much later. But perhaps that’s a reasonable price to pay for having written records of oral/aural meetings. Two follow-up questions: (1) Am I understanding correctly that the written version of a motion, if there is one, is definitive with respect to punctuation and the like, including obvious typographical errors? Am I missing a passage in RONR to that effect? (2) A totally different scenario: suppose the secretary is placing the approved minutes in her substantial binder when she notices an obvious typo, e.g., two periods at the end of a sentence instead of one. Hers is the first written record of the motion containing the typo, and the minutes were approved as read, without written copies having been distributed and without anyone knowing about the typo. Is the only recourse to Amend Something Previously Adopted?
  7. I’m concerned about features of a motion other than its exact wording that are recorded in the minutes and that might affect its meaning, e.g., punctuation, capitalization, italics used for emphasis, and the spelling of homophones. The secretary, when recording a motion in her written draft of the minutes, reproduces the exact spoken words used by the chair when putting the question but often has no guidance regarding the exclusively written features listed above. Similarly, the assembly, when approving the official written minutes, normally has to go on only what it hears when the minutes are read and may be unaware of these written features. Hence, features of a motion that could be significant or controversial may become part of the official record without anyone but the secretary having seen them. Am I missing some precaution in RONR that guards against this possibility? Written text is associated with some motions—e.g., in the written notice of the exact wording of a bylaw amendment; in copies of a resolution or complex motion given to the chair, secretary, and/or assembly; and in a written committee report than contains a motion. In such cases, what authority does such text (i.e., those parts of it that were not amended during debate) carry regarding the exclusively written features listed above? In preparing a draft of the minutes, for example, may the secretary correct typographical errors that have no effect on the wording in which the chair put the question and that the secretary believes have no effect on meaning? Indeed, may the secretary make such corrections after the minutes have been approved by the assembly as read (in cases in which no written draft has been distributed)?
  8. The serious point underlying this discussion is that members have a right to have ballot votes accurately recorded in the tellers’ report and in the minutes. But members who wish to abstain or to cast an illegal vote don’t always know the proper way to express their intentions. A member, for example, who would “rather vote for Micawber than for any of these candidates” may not know that it makes a difference whether he actually writes “Micawber” on his ballot (illegal vote) or simply writes “None of the above” (abstention). Similarly, a member may explicitly wish to cast an illegal vote (to make it harder for any candidate to win, to prevent a unanimous vote, or for whatever reason) but may not know that writing “Illegal vote” on his ballot is (presumably) the same as abstaining altogether. Given that a ballot with a misspelled name but clear meaning gets credited according to its meaning, why doesn’t a similar principle govern this latter case, in which the voter clearly intends to cast an illegal vote, even though he did not know that to do so he had to vote for an ineligible or unidentifiable candidate, write illegibly, vote for too many candidates, or fold multiple filled-out ballots together?
  9. In an election at a recent meeting, one ballot read “Illegal Vote.” How should such a ballot be counted? As an abstention, because it doesn’t indicate a preference for a position or candidate? Or as an illegal vote, either because it indicates a preference that it be counted as such or because its meaning is unclear (in which case the default is to count it as illegal, provided it won’t affect the outcome)?
  10. It seems as if the salient feature of the exception involving one fifth of the members present is the low threshold, not the fact that the voting basis is defined in terms of the members present. If the threshold is low enough and the ayes numerous enough, it will be extremely obvious that the ayes have it. No matter what the voting basis, it’s possible to have enough ayes to make it mathematically impossible for the motion to be lost—but that’s different from making it obvious that the ayes have it. If mathematical possibility were the relevant criterion, then there would be virtually no limit to exceptions for requiring the negative vote.
  11. RONR says that the chair need not call for the negative vote when it is intrinsically irrelevant—when the voting basis is one fifth of the members present, for example, and more than that number have clearly voted in the affirmative ([10th ed.], p. 43, l. 20-25). May the negative vote be omitted whenever the set of members to which the voting proportion applies is other than the set of members present and voting, and enough members have clearly voted in the affirmative? In particular, does the exception to calling for the negative vote apply to cases in which the voting basis is a majority of the entire membership? Part of my motivation for asking is that I’m unsure whether the rationale behind almost always calling for the negative vote is to avoid inaccurate results or to give members a chance to express their disapproval by vote.
  12. RONR says that appeals and rulings on points of order create precedents that can later be rescinded or amended ([10th ed], p. 294, l. 28-30). Three questions: (1) If the chair disagrees with the ruling of a previous chair on a point of order that was not appealed, must the precedent be rescinded before the chair can make his ruling? (2) Can an appeal effectively rescind a precedent set by an earlier appeal on the same issue? (3) What sort of precedent is set by an appeal that clearly conflicts with a bylaw or rule or order?
  13. Thanks for the guidance. Part of my concern is practical: as the secretary for an organization, I want my draft of the minutes to go by the book as much as possible, especially in the only cases in which the minutes are supposed to include things said, i.e., reasons for rulings on points of order. Although p. 245, l. 15-17 clearly states that the minutes include the brief reasons stated by the chair at the time of his ruling, p. 453, l. 18-20 appears less restrictive, mentioning appeals also in the context of reasons for ruling. The difference seems to me significant, given how much opportunity the chair has to elaborate on his reasons during an appeal, including the occasion to “give additional reasons” (p. 250, l. 2) during debate and the chance, even in the case of an undebatable appeal, to “give the reasons for his decision” (p. 250, l. 6-7)—presumably reasons more detailed than the brief ones he gave immediately prior to the appeal. Another reason it’s important to have the right reasons on record is that appeals set a precedent for a society’s interpretation of its own rules. In the interest both of clarity and of fairness to the chair (especially if his ruling is overturned), it seems prudent to err on the side of inclusiveness regarding the chair’s reasoning. A final reason for including more rather less of the chair’s reasoning is that, when it comes time to approve the minutes, it will be easier for the assembly to strike out material it considers extraneous than to reconstruct missing details of the chair’s original reasoning. Although I usually cringe at the thought of minutes containing needless words, in this particular case, thoroughness seems justified.
  14. When RONR says that the minutes should include the reasons for the chair’s ruling on all points of order ([10th ed.], p. 245, l. 16-17; p. 453, l. 19-20), does that requirement apply even to minor infractions and to cases so unambiguous that an appeal would be dilatory (p. 248, l. 28-30)? If the chair gives no reason for a ruling, and/or declines a request to give a reason, should the minutes include such facts? If the chair not only gives his reasons at the time of ruling but also elaborates on those reasons during debate on an appeal, which reasons go in the minutes?
  15. Most importantly: thanks to all of you for helping me work through these questions. I appreciate your volunteered time and expert assistance. I’m unsure, though, why a rule that requires a three-fourths vote for the adoption of a given motion would require a three-fourths vote for its own suspension. The only cases I know of in which the suspension of a rule requires more than a two-thirds vote are cases in which the rule protects a minority of one third or less. When a rule requires a three-fourths vote for the adoption of a given motion and 100 votes are cast, the protected minority, i.e., the minority with the power to defeat the motion, is 26 rather than 25. The rule cannot be suspended, therefore, in the face of a negative vote of 26. With 25 or fewer in the negative, the minority-protection clause on p. 253, l. 8-10 doesn’t apply, and the usual requirement of a two-thirds vote to suspend the rules remains in force. A vote of 74-25 easily meets this latter requirement.