Josh Martin

Debate in an Election - Repeated Balloting

57 posts in this topic

May I go back to the original issue?

 On any question, it may be possible to retake a vote. RONR (11th ed.) p. 285. For example, after after a vote has been taken by voice, it would be in order to move that it be taken by a counted vote. Would anyone suppose that, without suspending the rules, debate could be re-opened on the question after the body had voted to take a counted vote but before the counted voting had actually begun?

 

It seems to me that the answer to this should be no different in a situation in which, after taking a voice vote, a motion is adopted to take a ballot vote. 

 

Now, in the case of a ballot that fails to decide an issue (which could be an election or could be a vote on some other motion, such as selecting a city for a convention), another ballot is required to follow.  What would be the basis for assuming that debate on the question could be resumed between ballots?  The book is clear that between ballots a candidate may withdraw.  RONR (11th ed.), p. 441, ll. 5-8.  Similarly, it states, "When for any reason it is desired to reopen nominations, this can be done by majority vote". Id. p. 289, ll. 7-8.  Presumably privileged motions, such as to Recess, could be made and voted on. 

 

But I can see no other basis, without suspending the rules, for a motion to re-open debate between ballots, any more than to re-open debate between a voice vote and a counted vote.

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May I go back to the original issue?

 On any question, it may be possible to retake a vote. RONR (11th ed.) p. 285. For example, after after a vote has been taken by voice, it would be in order to move that it be taken by a counted vote. Would anyone suppose that, without suspending the rules, debate could be re-opened on the question after the body had voted to take a counted vote but before the counted voting had actually begun?

 

It seems to me that the answer to this should be no different in a situation in which, after taking a voice vote, a motion is adopted to take a ballot vote. 

 

Now, in the case of a ballot that fails to decide an issue (which could be an election or could be a vote on some other motion, such as selecting a city for a convention), another ballot is required to follow.  What would be the basis for assuming that debate on the question could be resumed between ballots?  The book is clear that between ballots a candidate may withdraw.  RONR (11th ed.), p. 441, ll. 5-8.  Similarly, it states, "When for any reason it is desired to reopen nominations, this can be done by majority vote". Id. p. 289, ll. 7-8.  Presumably privileged motions, such as to Recess, could be made and voted on. 

 

But I can see no other basis, without suspending the rules, for a motion to re-open debate between ballots, any more than to re-open debate between a voice vote and a counted vote.

 

Is retaking a ballot vote because no candidate achieved a majority really comparable to retaking the vote by another method, though? It seems to me that the reasons to retake a vote by another method would be to verify that the result is accurate (such as when retaking the vote by a counted vote or counted rising vote), to ensure that members can express their true opinions without fear of reprisal (in the case of a ballot vote), or to ensure that members are held accountable to an interested constituency (in the case of a roll call vote). It would seem that there is not generally an expectation that further debate is necessary (or even desirable) in such cases, and so it seems reasonable that a suspension of the rules would be required to reopen debate.

 

Conversely, in the case of a ballot vote where no candidate or proposition receives a majority, the vote is retaken not because the assembly wishes to verify exactly what decision was made, or to (hopefully) modify the basis on which members cast their votes (potentially altering that decision), but because the assembly has yet to make a decision at all. In such cases, it seems apparent that some members will need to change their minds in order for the assembly to make a decision.

 

There are a number of ways in which this might be accomplished, and RONR addresses a few of them, but further debate seems like another logical method for the assembly to attempt to reach a decision. If a suspension of the rules is always required to reopen debate in such cases (meaning that a 2/3 vote is always required), this would permit a minority of greater than one-third to block this method. Granted, there are other methods the assembly could use, such as reopening nominations, or adopting a motion to Recess so that members can discuss these issues outside the formal context of the meeting (which seems to be a common strategy in conventions), but limiting the application of another avenue the assembly could use to address the issue seems unwise.

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May I go back to the original issue?

 On any question, it may be possible to retake a vote. RONR (11th ed.) p. 285. For example, after after a vote has been taken by voice, it would be in order to move that it be taken by a counted vote. Would anyone suppose that, without suspending the rules, debate could be re-opened on the question after the body had voted to take a counted vote but before the counted voting had actually begun?

 

It seems to me that the answer to this should be no different in a situation in which, after taking a voice vote, a motion is adopted to take a ballot vote. 

 

Now, in the case of a ballot that fails to decide an issue (which could be an election or could be a vote on some other motion, such as selecting a city for a convention), another ballot is required to follow.  What would be the basis for assuming that debate on the question could be resumed between ballots?  The book is clear that between ballots a candidate may withdraw.  RONR (11th ed.), p. 441, ll. 5-8.  Similarly, it states, "When for any reason it is desired to reopen nominations, this can be done by majority vote". Id. p. 289, ll. 7-8.  Presumably privileged motions, such as to Recess, could be made and voted on. 

 

But I can see no other basis, without suspending the rules, for a motion to re-open debate between ballots, any more than to re-open debate between a voice vote and a counted vote.

 

 

I think I agree with this.

 

After the results of the first round of voting is announced, without an election, the chair should open the polls, or the assembly should otherwise dispose of that motion to fill the blank in the motion "that ___ be elected."  In the case of suggestion to fill a blank in a main motion, wouldn't it work the same way, in regard to debate?

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Is retaking a ballot vote because no candidate achieved a majority really comparable to retaking the vote by another method, though? It seems to me that the reasons to retake a vote by another method would be to verify that the result is accurate (such as when retaking the vote by a counted vote or counted rising vote), to ensure that members can express their true opinions without fear of reprisal (in the case of a ballot vote), or to ensure that members are held accountable to an interested constituency (in the case of a roll call vote). It would seem that there is not generally an expectation that further debate is necessary (or even desirable) in such cases, and so it seems reasonable that a suspension of the rules would be required to reopen debate.

 

Conversely, in the case of a ballot vote where no candidate or proposition receives a majority, the vote is retaken not because the assembly wishes to verify exactly what decision was made, or to (hopefully) modify the basis on which members cast their votes (potentially altering that decision), but because the assembly has yet to make a decision at all. In such cases, it seems apparent that some members will need to change their minds in order for the assembly to make a decision.

 

There are a number of ways in which this might be accomplished, and RONR addresses a few of them, but further debate seems like another logical method for the assembly to attempt to reach a decision. If a suspension of the rules is always required to reopen debate in such cases (meaning that a 2/3 vote is always required), this would permit a minority of greater than one-third to block this method. Granted, there are other methods the assembly could use, such as reopening nominations, or adopting a motion to Recess so that members can discuss these issues outside the formal context of the meeting (which seems to be a common strategy in conventions), but limiting the application of another avenue the assembly could use to address the issue seems unwise.

 

I'm at a bit of a loss as to where we are in all of this.

 

If, after the first round of balloting in an election, no one is elected because no candidate receives a majority vote, as best I can determine no one is asserting that it would not then be in order to move to reopen nominations. If such a motion is adopted, it will then be in order for any member to make a nomination and to speak in debate in support of that nominee. It will also be in order for any member to speak in debate in support of any other nominee (provided, of course, that he has not exhausted his right to speak in behalf of that nominee).

 

If all of this is so, why is it necessary or desirable that there be some sort of "motion to reopen debate"?

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I'm at a bit of a loss as to where we are in all of this.

 

If, after the first round of balloting in an election, no one is elected because no candidate receives a majority vote, as best I can determine no one is asserting that it would not then be in order to move to reopen nominations. If such a motion is adopted, it will then be in order for any member to make a nomination and to speak in debate in support of that nominee. It will also be in order for any member to speak in debate in support of any other nominee (provided, of course, that he has not exhausted his right to speak in behalf of that nominee).

 

If all of this is so, why is it necessary or desirable that there be some sort of "motion to reopen debate"?

 

I think the scenario being given is that no member wishes to make an additional nomination.  The majority may wish to continue debating the merits of the existing nominees.  I would agree that the only way to do this is to supend the rules.

 

[i could construct a scenario where everyone eligible for the position has been nominated and it would be dilatory to reopen nominations.]

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I think the scenario being given is that no member wishes to make an additional nomination.  The majority may wish to continue debating the merits of the existing nominees.  I would agree that the only way to do this is to supend the rules.

 

[i could construct a scenario where everyone eligible for the position has been nominated and it would be dilatory to reopen nominations.]

 

I suppose we can all dream up unusual situations in which various motions would be dilatory, but this is not of much value.

 

The question originally asked was, if an assembly conducts a ballot vote for an election and no one is elected after the first round of balloting because no candidate receives a majority vote, is debate automatically reopened or, if not, is a motion to reopen debate in order and if so, what vote is required.

 

In Q&A 176 on pages 474-75 of PL, reference is made to a situation in which the meeting was adjourned after the first round of balloting had been completed and while the tellers were counting the ballots. When the counting was completed, the tellers determined that no one had received a majority vote for the office of vice-president. General Robert said that, when the election comes up as unfinished business at the next meeting, nominations from the floor will automatically be in order, but this appears to be based primarily on the fact that the election is being resumed at a different meeting.

 

I can find nothing in Robert's Rules to support the notion that either nominations or debate are automatically reopened between rounds of balloting during the same meeting (although it might be nice if there were).

 

To the best of my knowledge, there is no such thing in RONR as a motion to reopen debate. There is such a thing as a motion to reopen nominations, which takes precedence over the pending election and requires only a majority vote for its adoption. I think it is entirely in order to make such a motion between rounds of balloting, and if such a motion is adopted, members who have not exhausted their right to speak in favor of a nominee may do so (or, with the assembly's permission, may speak again even if they have). As a consequence, under normal circumstances there should be no reason whatsoever to need to resort to a motion to suspend the rules in order to reopen debate.

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Dan, I agree with you that nominations can be reopened by majority vote, and would open all nominations up for debate.  I also agree that there is no motion to reopen debate.  The question that have been raised is if the motion nay be made even though no member wishes to offer a nomination.  Your answer is apparently, yes.

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I think it is entirely in order to make such a motion between rounds of balloting, and if such a motion is adopted, members who have not exhausted their right to speak in favor of a nominee may do so (or, with the assembly's permission, may speak again even if they have).

 

 

Dan, I agree with you that nominations can be reopened by majority vote, and would open all nominations up for debate.  I also agree that there is no motion to reopen debate.  The question that have been raised is if the motion nay be made even though no member wishes to offer a nomination.  Your answer is apparently, yes.

 

 

It seems so and I appreciate the additional clarification.

 

In the last sentence of post #18, I forgot that RONR states "When for any reason it is desired to reopen nominations, this can be done by a majority vote."  (p. 288 emphasis added by me).  Any apparently does mean any

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Although, there is no motion in RONR to reopen debate, could such a motion be considered to be an unlisted incidental motion?

 

Sure, because it's not listed. :)

 

Just for the fun of it, let's note that on page 387, RONR says, "When a vote is taken a second time for purposes of verification—as when a Division (29) is demanded—debate cannot be resumed except by unanimous consent."

 

So, take your pick as to the proper inference:

1) By analogy, when a vote is taken a second time for other purposes, debate also cannot be resumed except by unanimous consent.

2) By exclusionary inference, when a vote is taken a second time for purposes other than verification, debate can be resumed except by unanimous consent.

 

Think about it (but not much) and get back to me whenever. ;)

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Dan, I agree with you that nominations can be reopened by majority vote, and would open all nominations up for debate.  I also agree that there is no motion to reopen debate.  The question that have been raised is if the motion nay be made even though no member wishes to offer a nomination.  Your answer is apparently, yes.

That's not how I interpreted what Dan said.

 

And as for me, I believe that if no member wishes to offer an additional nomination, then there is nothing more to debate.

 

I think the best course of action when a ballot is inconclusive is simply to have another ballot.  Debate at that point is unlikely to be useful.  Voters in subsequent rounds are far more likely to be swayed by knowing the results of the ballot before than they are by listening (again) to the opinions of other voters.  The latter can only persuade us how the speakers wish we would vote, which we likely already know..  The results of the last ballot tell us how the entire assembly of people actually did vote.  And the results of the second ballot, even if still inconclusive, is likely to be more informative than the first.

 

Only by offering additional nominations does the question before the voters actually change.

 

So I favor the strictest interpretation consistent with RONR, that the reopening of debate (but not nominations) ought to require unanimous consent.  I fear the wrath when I say "ought to", because one's role here is not to suggest what RONR ought to say, but to discern what it does say.  In this case, it doesn't quite say.

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I'm not sure I agree. One of the defenses of repeated balloting is that if there are strongly opposed candidates, neither of whom can get a majority, a compromise candidate can be elected. It seems like it would be awfully difficult to convince a majority to even consider the compromise candidate without debate. I suppose it could happen, but more likely, at some point somebody is going to say "Maybe we should just agree to elect Mr. C" whether or not it's in order.

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That's not how I interpreted what Dan said.

 

And as for me, I believe that if no member wishes to offer an additional nomination, then there is nothing more to debate.

 

RONR states that, "When for any reason it is desired to reopen nominations, this can be done by a majority vote." (p. 288) In the absence of anything in the text which states otherwise, it would seem reasonable to conclude that this means exactly what it says. So I believe it would be in order to make a motion to reopen nominations even if the motion maker's intent behind this motion is to permit further speeches on existing nominees. Whether doing so would be a good idea is a very different question.

 

So I favor the strictest interpretation consistent with RONR, that the reopening of debate (but not nominations) ought to require unanimous consent.  I fear the wrath when I say "ought to", because one's role here is not to suggest what RONR ought to say, but to discern what it does say.  In this case, it doesn't quite say.

 

So what is your opinion of what the rules in RONR actually do require? I'm warming to the views that they require a suspension of the rules (and therefore a 2/3 vote), but I think suggesting that unanimous consent is required to reopen debate on a question which is not yet decided goes too far. When RONR requires unanimous consent for an action, it is generally in order to protect the rights of individual members (such as, for example, suspending the rules to waive the reading of a document before the assembly for action). I'm not sure that there is a right to be protected from prolonged (or even futile) debate on elections. (RONR does require unanimous consent to reopen debate when a vote is retaken for the purpose of verifying the result, but I think that is a very different situation from reopening debate when there is no result.)

 

I won't weigh in on what RONR ought to say, but it is certainly clear to me that in assemblies where the sorts of issues we are discussing are likely to arise (the best example I can think of is political conventions), it would be highly advisable for the assembly to adopt its own rules on these subjects... and such assemblies generally do so.

 

I'm not sure I agree. One of the defenses of repeated balloting is that if there are strongly opposed candidates, neither of whom can get a majority, a compromise candidate can be elected. It seems like it would be awfully difficult to convince a majority to even consider the compromise candidate without debate. I suppose it could happen, but more likely, at some point somebody is going to say "Maybe we should just agree to elect Mr. C" whether or not it's in order.

 

I think we can all agree that, if the assembly reopens nominations, nominating and seconding speeches in favor of new nominees are perfectly in order and appropriate. I don't believe anyone has suggested otherwise, even Mr. Novosielski. As he notes in his first sentence, it is his opinion that "if no member wishes to offer an additional nomination, then there is nothing more to debate." Presumably, then, this means that there is something to debate if members offer additional nominations.

 

I don't agree with this position, but let's not recast his position as going even further than it actually does. :)

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Dan, I agree with you that nominations can be reopened by majority vote, and would open all nominations up for debate.  I also agree that there is no motion to reopen debate.  The question that have been raised is if the motion nay be made even though no member wishes to offer a nomination.  Your answer is apparently, yes.

 

Yes, my view of it is that any member may move to reopen nominations, and if this undebatable motion is agreed to by a majority vote, any member who has not exhausted his right to speak in favor of a previously nominated person may do so (or, with the assembly's permission, may do so even if he has), and this will be the case regardless of whether or not anyone nominates someone new.

 

And I'm still clinging to my assumption that debate is in order only while nominations are in order (as I said all the way back in post #2).  :)

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And I'm still clinging to my assumption that debate is in order only while nominations are in order (as I said all the way back in post #2).  :)

 

So I guess the debaters are out of luck when nominations are taken by ballot. :)

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Yes, my view of it is that any member may move to reopen nominations, and if this undebatable motion is agreed to by a majority vote, any member who has not exhausted his right to speak in favor of a previously nominated person may do so (or, with the assembly's permission, may do so even if he has), and this will be the case regardless of whether or not anyone nominates someone new.

 

And I'm still clinging to my assumption that debate is in order only while nominations are in order (as I said all the way back in post #2).  :)

 

 

And I am not exactly sure that is a wrong assumption.  :)

 

I would take it that it would not dilatory for me to move to reopen nominations to provide another member a chance to make a nomination.  There would be no need for me even to have an intent to nominate someone else, correct?  I could just think someone else may wish to make an additional nomination, couldn't I?

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So I guess the debaters are out of luck when nominations are taken by ballot. :)

 

Why, if the balloting is conducted within a meeting?  Can't the polls be reopened? 

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So I guess the debaters are out of luck when nominations are taken by ballot. :)

 

Well, the assembly, by majority vote, can authorize the making of nominations from the floor even after they have already been made by ballot (p. 437, ll, 3-7). Pretty much like a motion to reopen nominations, I suppose.

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And I'm still clinging to my assumption that debate is in order only while nominations are in order (as I said all the way back in post #2).  :)

 

So I guess the debaters are out of luck when nominations are taken by ballot. :)

 

Why, if the balloting is conducted within a meeting?  Can't the polls be reopened? 

 

My point was that when nominations are taken by ballot, nominations are not normally taken from the floor at all. So there would never be a time at which nominations are in order in such a way that a member would obtain the floor for the purpose of either making or speaking in favor of a nomination -- unless, as Dan suggests, the assembly authorizes additional nominations from the floor.

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Well, the assembly, by majority vote, can authorize the making of nominations from the floor even after they have already been made by ballot (p. 437, ll, 3-7). Pretty much like a motion to reopen nominations, I suppose.

 

So by majority vote, the assembly can adopt the undebatable incidental motion to reopen nominations in order to get to where they want to go, which is simply reopening debate. Why not just allow an undebatable incidental motion to reopen debate and avoid something that appears to be "game playing"? That seems more straight-forward to me despite the fact that a motion to reopen debate is not listed in RONR. In such a case, I think most assemblies would understand much better what they were really voting on.

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So by majority vote, the assembly can adopt the undebatable incidental motion to reopen nominations in order to get to where they want to go, which is simply reopening debate. Why not just allow an undebatable incidental motion to reopen debate and avoid something that appears to be "game playing"? That seems more straight-forward to me despite the fact that a motion to reopen debate is not listed in RONR. In such a case, I think most assemblies would understand much better what they were really voting on.

 

Game playing?

 

In the usual case an assembly has no way of knowing, before it has adopted a motion authorizing the making of additional nominations, that not a single member will want to make one, and that the only thing that anyone wants to do is engage in further debate. To the best of my knowledge, the rules do not require that in order to make a motion to reopen nominations, the member making the motion must intend to make one himself. Perhaps he hopes that simply providing an opportunity to other members to make a nomination may prompt someone to do so. Who knows? In any event, I don't think it matters. I think he is entitled to make a motion to reopen nominations, and the assembly is entitled to decide for itself, by majority vote, whether or not it wishes to do so.

 

"Why not just allow an undebatable incidental motion to reopen debate ... ?" Well, I suppose if I'm the presiding officer I wouldn't like it because I don't know much about such a motion. In post #1, Josh asks what vote is required to adopt a motion to reopen debate if it is in order. I don't know the answer. In post #38 he says he's warming to the idea that it will require a two-thirds vote. If such a motion is adopted, will it be in order to make another nomination, or will the adoption of a motion to reopen nominations still be required in order to do so? I don't know, but I would assume so. On the other hand, I have a set of rules to look to in Section 31 which relate to motions to reopen nominations, so, as the presiding officer, I probably would suggest to the member that he move to reopen nominations rather than to reopen debate. That would do a lot for my comfort level.  :)

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Ann, short of suspending the rules to permit debate in between rounds of voting, do  you agree with the statement Dan made in post #2?  If so, does that not limit us to one incidental motion that already exists?  I'm confused how the non-existent incidental motion would get us there.  Instead of viewing it as game playing let's view it as a usage no one thought of, until now.  :)

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I made a 200 mile drive today and that gave me time to think about this some more - when I wasn't looking at the cows, horses, green grass, etc, as well as the highway. I decided it would be better to use the motion to reopen nominations since that might provoke more nominations to resolve the deadlock and at the same time allow for more debate. However, in my experience, I see little debate in regard to nominations. I see speeches by candidates and speeches, sometimes, by the members to make the nominations. And of course, I agree with Dan in Post #2 and in other posts, too, George. :)

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I'm not sure I agree. One of the defenses of repeated balloting is that if there are strongly opposed candidates, neither of whom can get a majority, a compromise candidate can be elected. It seems like it would be awfully difficult to convince a majority to even consider the compromise candidate without debate. I suppose it could happen, but more likely, at some point somebody is going to say "Maybe we should just agree to elect Mr. C" whether or not it's in order.

 

I don't think I was clear, then.  If nominations are reopened, which would require only a majority vote, debate on the nominees would certainly be in order. 

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So what is your opinion of what the rules in RONR actually do require? I'm warming to the views that they require a suspension of the rules (and therefore a 2/3 vote), but I think suggesting that unanimous consent is required to reopen debate on a question which is not yet decided goes too far. When RONR requires unanimous consent for an action, it is generally in order to protect the rights of individual members (such as, for example, suspending the rules to waive the reading of a document before the assembly for action). I'm not sure that there is a right to be protected from prolonged (or even futile) debate on elections. (RONR does require unanimous consent to reopen debate when a vote is retaken for the purpose of verifying the result, but I think that is a very different situation from reopening debate when there is no result.)

 

Well, I suppose a rule that debate cannot (normally) be reopened could be considered in the nature of a suspendable rule of order.  But whether it requires unanimous consent, or a 2/3 vote, or is in order at all, even with a unanimous vote is difficult to determine, since such a motion is not among those listed in the Work.

 

In any case, since the motion to reopen nominations is clearly available, and by a mere majority vote at that, it would seem to be the preferred path to reach a parliamentary situation where debate is in order.  While I still question whether debate could commence in the absence of any additional nominations, I would expect that once debate begins, there is no reason to limit it to discussion of the new nominees, since comparisons to earlier nominees would certainly be germane.

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