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Bryce Frederick

Elections by ballot: suspending the rules, majority vs. plurality

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Our assembly is electing members to a committee. There are 11 open positions on the committee, and it is expected that perhaps 20, 30, or more individuals will be nominated (nominations must be submitted before the election meeting). Our bylaws state: "The vote of a majority of the members present in person at any annual or special meeting and entitled to vote thereat shall decide any question brought before such meeting . . ." So our bylaws require a majority vote. There is no allowance in the bylaws for preferential voting.
Question #1: Can this "majority vote" rule in the bylaws be waived or suspended by a 2/3 vote of the assembly? I see in RONR (p. 260) it says about Suspending the Rules: "Can be applied to any rule of the assembly except bylaws." So perhaps I've answered by own question. 
Question #2: What is the simplest way to get 11 people elected with so many nominees? It is likely about 300 members will be present and will participate in the voting. I imagine this would take many rounds of ballots to reach a majority for all 11 slots. Even imagining the mechanics or revoting on multiple ballots seems challenging. Is a vote by a plurality acceptable (RONR pp. 404-405)?
Any ideas on this would be appreciated!

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First, to be clear, you cannot elect with less with a majority vote unless your bylaws provide otherwise, and yours don't.  However, keep in mind what the majority is taken of.  There's a difference of opinion on this board, but to give the majority view (with which I happen to disagree), each person may vote for up to 11 people, assuming the positions are all identical (if not, they'll need to be elected separately).  In general, write-ins are allowed, but perhaps your rules do not permit them.  However, each ballot (with at least one candidate selected) counts as only one vote towards majority, whether 1 candidate or 11 are selected.  So getting a majority may not be as difficult as you envision.

However, I'm more concerned about this bylaw provision, which seems like it would cause all sorts of problems.  For one thing, a majority will be based on those present, not those voting as RONR would have it.  More worrisome - suppose you did want to suspend some suspendable rule.  It seems to me that, arguably at least, in your organization it could be done by only a majority vote, not a 2/3 vote, since the rule you cite might be interpreted as requiring a majority vote (of those present) for everything, including parliamentary motions, unless your rules prescribe otherwise (which they likely do, for example, when it comes to amending the bylaws).  

The easiest way, for which it is probably too late, would be for your bylaws to authorize electronic voting, using clickers, or an app available on phones.  The NAP does this, and it works rather well.  

So far as I can tell, though (unless it's somewhere not quoted) your bylaws do not require a ballot vote at all.  RONR contains some other methods of voting which your assembly could choose to use.

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Thanks. Yes, clicker voting would speed things up--by our assembly isn't quite that sophisticated. Our bylaws are a mess, but we are currently stuck with what we have. I don't really understand this statement you made:

 However, each ballot (with at least one candidate selected) counts as only one vote towards majority, whether 1 candidate or 11 are selected.  So getting a majority may not be as difficult as you envision.

Each member can vote for 11 candidates, but if there were 300 voting members present, each candidate would need 151 votes. Correct. It seems like with perhaps 300 nominees, it might take a fair number of ballots to get a majority for all 11 candidates. 

 

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6 minutes ago, Bryce Frederick said:

Each member can vote for 11 candidates, but if there were 300 voting members present, each candidate would need 151 votes. Correct. It seems like with perhaps 300 nominees, it might take a fair number of ballots to get a majority for all 11 candidates. 

 

That sounds right, yes.  I thought you were imagining each person voting for only one candidate, making a majority much harder to attain.  I also didn't realize you had 300 nominees, which will make things a bit more difficult - you might be better off, in that case, with blank papers and having people write the 1-11 they wish to vote for, because it would take a lot of paper to print 300 names.

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Doing some of your math and answering question 2  (you are right about #1) (and I see in your follow-up you have done most of the math!  --  151 votes are indeed required to be elected (or more than half of however many members are in the room -- count them and lock the doors)).

Be of good cheer:  "simply" (yeah, right... with 300 or so voters you have better go rent voting machines) count how many votes each candidate gets.  If that is more than 150, he/she is elected.  If any ballot has more than 11 votes, throw it away.

Suppose 5 of the eleven positions are filled with majority winners on the first round.

Remove those 5 names from the ballot, and do another round but with a vote for no more than 6 requirement.  And so forth.  Each round will be easier than the previous one, presuming that someone gets a majority.

Allow lots of time for the process  --  even with voting machines.

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7 minutes ago, Joshua Katz said:

That sounds right, yes.  I thought you were imagining each person voting for only one candidate, making a majority much harder to attain.  I also didn't realize you had 300 nominees, which will make things a bit more difficult - you might be better off, in that case, with blank papers and having people write the 1-11 they wish to vote for, because it would take a lot of paper to print 300 names.

Not 300 nominees, an estimated 300 voting members. I'm guessing there will be 30 nominees. 

Thanks!

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Perhaps this passage may be of help:

"A plurality vote is the largest number of votes to be given any candidate or proposition when three or more choices are possible; the candidate or proposition receiving the largest number of votes has a plurality. A plurality that is not a majority never chooses a proposition or elects anyone to office except by virtue of a special rule previously adopted. If such a rule is to apply to the election of officers, it must be prescribed in the bylaws. A rule that a plurality shall elect is unlikely to be in the best interests of the average organization. In an international or national society where the election is conducted by mail ballot, a plurality is sometimes allowed to elect officers, with a view to avoiding the delay and extra expense that would result from additional balloting under these conditions. A better method in such cases is for the bylaws to prescribe some form of preferential voting (see pp. 425–28).   RONR (11th ed.), pp 405-406 emphasis added by me.

By your facts, you are not electing officers.

 

Edited by George Mervosh

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10 minutes ago, George Mervosh said:

Perhaps this passage may be of help:

"A plurality vote is the largest number of votes to be given any candidate or proposition when three or more choices are possible; the candidate or proposition receiving the largest number of votes has a plurality. A plurality that is not a majority never chooses a proposition or elects anyone to office except by virtue of a special rule previously adopted. If such a rule is to apply to the election of officers, it must be prescribed in the bylaws. A rule that a plurality shall elect is unlikely to be in the best interests of the average organization. In an international or national society where the election is conducted by mail ballot, a plurality is sometimes allowed to elect officers, with a view to avoiding the delay and extra expense that would result from additional balloting under these conditions. A better method in such cases is for the bylaws to prescribe some form of preferential voting (see pp. 425–28).   RONR (11th ed.), pp 405-406 emphasis added by me.

By your facts, you are not electing officers.

 

Yes. You are right, we aren't electing officers, only members of a committee. But since our bylaws say "The vote of a majority of the members present in person at any annual or special meeting and entitled to vote thereat shall decide any question brought before such meeting . . .", I think we are aren't able to use plurality voting. 

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3 minutes ago, Bryce Frederick said:

Yes. You are right, we aren't electing officers, only members of a committee. But since our bylaws say "The vote of a majority of the members present in person at any annual or special meeting and entitled to vote thereat shall decide any question brought before such meeting . . .", I think we are aren't able to use plurality voting. 

I think this rule can be suspended. (p. 263, ll. 1-7)

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I'd say so, too.   If you can amend that bylaw rule requiring majority for everything, and also the basis of the majority calculation, you would be wise to do so.

Is it a legal requirement?  The "thereat" sounds frightfully lawyerly.

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1 minute ago, Daniel H. Honemann said:

I think this rule can be suspended. (p. 263, ll. 1-7)

I do too, but will a  2/3 vote cut it or will it be the same vote that is required to adopt a special rule of order?  I only ask because p. 406 mentions "by virtue of a special rule previously adopted"?

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1 minute ago, George Mervosh said:

I do too, but will a  2/3 vote cut it or will it be the same vote that is required to adopt a special rule of order?  I only ask because p. 406 mentions "by virtue of a special rule previously adopted"?

Why wouldn't it take a majority of those present, given that their bylaws say they can do everything with a majority of those present?

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1 minute ago, Joshua Katz said:

Why wouldn't it take a majority of those present, given that their bylaws say they can do everything with a majority of those present?

I don't know, I didn't notice that, but my question was more generic even though helping Mr. Frederick is what the point of this thread is.  :)

Edited by George Mervosh

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9 minutes ago, Daniel H. Honemann said:

I think this rule can be suspended. (p. 263, ll. 1-7)

Thanks. On p. 263, ll. 4-7 it states "unless the particular rule specifically provides for its own suspension, or unless the rule properly is in the nature of a rule of order as described on page 17, lines 22–25." In my example, the rule doesn't provide for its own suspension in the bylaws.

On page 17, ll. 22-25, it states: "Rules of order—whether contained in the parliamentary authority or adopted as special rules of order—can be suspended by a two-thirds vote as explained in 25 (with the exceptions there specified). Rules clearly identifiable as in the nature of rules of order that are placed within the bylaws can (with the same exceptions) also be suspended by a two-thirds vote; but, except for such rules and for clauses that provide for their own suspension, as stated above, rules in the bylaws cannot be suspended." 

I'm still unclear. Page 17 says "Rules clearly identifiable as in the nature of rules of order that are placed within the bylaws can . . . be suspended" but then is says, "rules in the bylaws cannot be suspended." Those statements seem contradictory. 

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2 minutes ago, Bryce Frederick said:

Thanks. On p. 263, ll. 4-7 it states "unless the particular rule specifically provides for its own suspension, or unless the rule properly is in the nature of a rule of order as described on page 17, lines 22–25." In my example, the rule doesn't provide for its own suspension in the bylaws.

On page 17, ll. 22-25, it states: "Rules of order—whether contained in the parliamentary authority or adopted as special rules of order—can be suspended by a two-thirds vote as explained in 25 (with the exceptions there specified). Rules clearly identifiable as in the nature of rules of order that are placed within the bylaws can (with the same exceptions) also be suspended by a two-thirds vote; but, except for such rules and for clauses that provide for their own suspension, as stated above, rules in the bylaws cannot be suspended." 

I'm still unclear. Page 17 says "Rules clearly identifiable as in the nature of rules of order that are placed within the bylaws can . . . be suspended" but then is says, "rules in the bylaws cannot be suspended." Those statements seem contradictory. 

Read what is said on page 17, lines 19-27, again (noting "except for such rules" on line 25).

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Is a "vote threshold"  (2/3, majority, whatever) really a rule of order, per the definition on p. 15, that it "relate to the orderly transaction of business".  A vote threshold seems a rather static rule.  "Orderly transaction" would not seem to be influenced by how many votes are cast, only the manner in which the election is run.  Doesn't seem (to me anyway) to be any "procedure" prescribing behavior about a number, or percentage (other, perhaps, than using standard arithmetic).

But what do I know?

I have no idea why my words are all struck through in the above and I can't make it go away.  Please ignore the strike throughs.

Edited by jstackpo
Strange strikethrough.

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1 hour ago, Bryce Frederick said:

Our assembly is electing members to a committee. There are 11 open positions on the committee, and it is expected that perhaps 20, 30, or more individuals will be nominated (nominations must be submitted before the election meeting). Our bylaws state: "The vote of a majority of the members present in person at any annual or special meeting and entitled to vote thereat shall decide any question brought before such meeting . . ." So our bylaws require a majority vote. . .  .   (Emphasis  added)

 

Addressing for now only the highlighted portion of your opening statement, your rule does not require a "majority vote" as such a vote is defined in RONR.  Your rule requires the vote of a "majority of the members present", which is not the same thing as a majority vote.  I believe, though, from reading your other comments, that you understand this.
 

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Guest Zev

Pardon me gentlemen, but did I miss something here? Did the bylaws of this organization in fact stipulate that this voting must be done by ballot? If not, why cant the voting be done viva voce?

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4 hours ago, Guest Zev said:

Pardon me gentlemen, but did I miss something here? Did the bylaws of this organization in fact stipulate that this voting must be done by ballot? If not, why cant the voting be done viva voce?

It can, unless a ballot is reequired, but with 11 candidates, a ballot might be easier.

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Or more exactly, 11 positions to fill, 30 (or more) candidates, and 300 (!) voters.  With those numbers, voice elections (unless there was overwhelming agreement on some candidates) would be dubious at best.

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16 hours ago, Bryce Frederick said:

Our assembly is electing members to a committee. There are 11 open positions on the committee, and it is expected that perhaps 20, 30, or more individuals will be nominated (nominations must be submitted before the election meeting). Our bylaws state: "The vote of a majority of the members present in person at any annual or special meeting and entitled to vote thereat shall decide any question brought before such meeting . . ." So our bylaws require a majority vote. There is no allowance in the bylaws for preferential voting.
Question #1: Can this "majority vote" rule in the bylaws be waived or suspended by a 2/3 vote of the assembly? I see in RONR (p. 260) it says about Suspending the Rules: "Can be applied to any rule of the assembly except bylaws." So perhaps I've answered by own question. 
Question #2: What is the simplest way to get 11 people elected with so many nominees? It is likely about 300 members will be present and will participate in the voting. I imagine this would take many rounds of ballots to reach a majority for all 11 slots. Even imagining the mechanics or revoting on multiple ballots seems challenging. Is a vote by a plurality acceptable (RONR pp. 404-405)?
Any ideas on this would be appreciated!

Returning to the questions originally asked:

1.  I think this rule requiring the vote of a majority of the members present to "decide any question" is a rule in the nature of a rule of order, and therefore (as far as the rules in RONR are concerned) is a rule which can be suspended by a two-thirds vote. Your association will have to decide for itself the question as to whether or not this rule in the bylaws applies to parliamentary motions such as a motion to Suspend the Rules.

2.  If only a majority vote was required to elect the 11 committee members, I don't think that there would necessarily be a problem. However, since your rule requires the vote of a majority of the members present, abstentions will make it more difficult. As previously noted, I think that, if the rules in RONR are controlling, this vote requirement in your bylaws can be suspended so as to allow for the election of committee members by either a majority or plurality vote. 

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23 hours ago, Daniel H. Honemann said:

As far as the rules in RONR are concerned, a special rule of order which is to be placed in effect only for the duration of the current session can be adopted by a two-thirds vote.

 

But according to their bylaws, wouldn't THAT vote only require a majority vote.

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