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Changing a Vote by Ballot

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The right to change one’s vote is not restricted to the regular methods of voting (RONR [11th ed.], p. 408). In a vote taken by ballot, may a member who wants to change his vote thus unilaterally require the assembly to redo the balloting from scratch? That would seem to be the only way to preserve the integrity and secrecy of the balloting process but enables an individual to delay business.

There seem to be two cases with respect to timing: requesting to change a ballot vote either before or after the tellers’ report has been read (and before the result is announced, in each case). In the latter case, the chair may deem the request dilatory when the tellers’ report indicates a clear result. This case would be similar to a member’s demanding division when the result is clear (p. 342, ll. 24–25). In the former case, though, there doesn’t seem to be a clear reason to curtail a member’s right to change his vote. Is the matter simply up to the chair’s discretion, subject to appeal?

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37 minutes ago, pwilson said:

The right to change one’s vote is not restricted to the regular methods of voting (RONR [11th ed.], p. 408). In a vote taken by ballot, may a member who wants to change his vote thus unilaterally require the assembly to redo the balloting from scratch? That would seem to be the only way to preserve the integrity and secrecy of the balloting process but enables an individual to delay business.

There seem to be two cases with respect to timing: requesting to change a ballot vote either before or after the tellers’ report has been read (and before the result is announced, in each case). In the latter case, the chair may deem the request dilatory when the tellers’ report indicates a clear result. This case would be similar to a member’s demanding division when the result is clear (p. 342, ll. 24–25). In the former case, though, there doesn’t seem to be a clear reason to curtail a member’s right to change his vote. Is the matter simply up to the chair’s discretion, subject to appeal?

A member cannot change his vote in a ballot vote, since there is no reliable way to determine how the member originally voted. A member certainly cannot force the assembly to vote again.

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1 hour ago, Josh Martin said:

A member cannot change his vote in a ballot vote, since there is no reliable way to determine how the member originally voted. A member certainly cannot force the assembly to vote again.

Except to exempt a signed ballot, where the identity of the voter is known, I agree.

Once the ballot is cast, there is no way to know how the person voted.

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1 hour ago, Josh Martin said:

A member cannot change his vote in a ballot vote, since there is no reliable way to determine how the member originally voted. A member certainly cannot force the assembly to vote again.

Makes sense, although I'm struggling with the fact that p. 408 doesn't restrict the right to change one's vote to cases in which there's a reliable way to determine how one voted. Also, the passage appears before the various methods of voting are distinguished and appears to apply to all of them. The section on "Voting by Ballot" (pp. 412ff.) doesn't say anything to restrict the broad right to change one's vote on p. 408.

I'm probably missing a passage that would settle the question.

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3 minutes ago, pwilson said:

Makes sense, although I'm struggling with the fact that p. 408 doesn't restrict the right to change one's vote to cases in which there's a reliable way to determine how one voted. Also, the passage appears before the various methods of voting are distinguished and appears to apply to all of them. The section on "Voting by Ballot" (pp. 412ff.) doesn't say anything to restrict the broad right to change one's vote on p. 408.

I'm probably missing a passage that would settle the question.

I don't think you're missing anything. I think it just never occurred to us that anyone would think that what is said on page 408, lines 21-26, would apply to a ballot vote. 

Perhaps we should fix it.  :)

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For what it’s worth, I had in mind the following sorts of cases in which a member may wish to change her ballot vote:

            • Immediately after casting her ballot, she regrets how she voted.

            • She wants the motion to pass only if it does so by an overwhelming majority, then learns when the tellers’ report is first read that the vote is 51-50.

            • After hearing (when the tellers’ report is first read) that there was only one vote against the motion—hers—she wishes to make the vote unanimous.

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If the member in question voted on the prevailing side, she could move to reconsider the vote, assuming she's willing to waive the secrecy of her vote and advise the chair she did vote with the prevailing side.  If it's adopted you'll get the chance to change your vote, and so will everyone else voting.

Edited by George Mervosh

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I am of the opinion that what is said in RONR (11th ed.), p. 408, ll. 21-26, does, indeed, apply to votes taken by the ballot method, as well as any other method of voting. I was questioned about this matter during the preparation of the 11th ed. (having to do with the parenthetical reference to p. 22 in the 10th ed.). My response then, and now, is that the referenced rule applies to any method of voting, including any method of secret voting.

It is a matter of honor that the member wishing to change his vote accurately and truthfully reports how he voted.

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1 hour ago, reelsman said:

I am of the opinion that what is said in RONR (11th ed.), p. 408, ll. 21-26, does, indeed, apply to votes taken by the ballot method, as well as any other method of voting. I was questioned about this matter during the preparation of the 11th ed. (having to do with the parenthetical reference to p. 22 in the 10th ed.). My response then, and now, is that the referenced rule applies to any method of voting, including any method of secret voting.

It is a matter of honor that the member wishing to change his vote accurately and truthfully reports how he voted.

I must respectfully disagree. This seems to be far too much to trust to a member’s honor, especially if the change in the vote would affect the result.

Additionally, welcome back, Mr. Elsman.

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5 hours ago, Josh Martin said:

I must respectfully disagree. This seems to be far too much to trust to a member’s honor, especially if the change in the vote would affect the result.

Additionally, welcome back, Mr. Elsman.

I must agree with your disagreement.  It is best not to strain people's honor to the breaking point.  

For this reason, I think when conditions exist that would justify granting a member's request for a vote change on a secret ballot, the entire ballot should be repeated.

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