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pwilson

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Everything posted by pwilson

  1. 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?
  2. 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)?
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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?
  6. 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.
  7. 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?
  8. 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.
  9. Apropos of Question (1) above, here’s the sort of case I have in mind: A special rule of order requires a three-fourths vote on a given motion. The immediately pending motion is to suspend that rule. A ballot vote on suspending the rule is ordered, with the following results: Number of votes cast.................................100 Necessary for adoption..................................? Votes for motion..........................................74 Votes against...............................................25 Illegal Votes One ballot containing two votes, rejected.......1 The motion to suspend the rule is adopted, because there are two thirds in the affirmative, and because the negative vote is not as large as the minority protected by the rule (a minority of 26 in this case). Given that a three-fourths vote is not in fact necessary to suspend the rule, what is the number of votes “necessary for adoption”? The illegal vote does in fact have the same effect as an affirmative vote, because the motion to suspend the rule would have been adopted with a vote of 75-25 but not with a vote of 74-26.
  10. The requirement for suspending the rules can be greater than the usual two-thirds vote if the rule to be suspended protects a minority of one third or fewer: “no rule protecting a minority of a particular size can be suspended in the face of a negative vote as large as the minority protected by the rule” (RONR [10th ed.], p. 253, l. 8-10). An important example of a rule that protects a minority of one third or fewer is a requirement, which would usually be defined in the bylaws or a special rule of order (p. 391, l. 20-25), of a greater than two-thirds vote for the adoption of a given motion. A rule requiring a three-fourths vote, for example, protects a minority of slightly more than one fourth by giving that minority the power to defeat the motion. A negative vote of more than one fourth is therefore sufficient to keep such a rule from being suspended. But the converse—that a three-fourths vote is necessary to suspend the rule—does not follow. The reason is that, in a ballot vote on the suspension of such a rule, illegal votes have the same effect as affirmative votes (provided there are at least two thirds in the affirmative). The motion to suspend the rules is adopted if and only if the sum of the affirmative and illegal votes is greater than or equal to three times the number of negative votes, regardless of how many affirmative votes there are (provided there are at least two thirds in the affirmative). Question (1): What is the best way to specify the number of votes necessary to suspend a rule requiring a three-fourths vote, whether or not the vote on suspending the rule is by ballot? In addition to “the proportion that must concur” (p. 389, l. 24), a voting basis includes “the set of members to which the proportion applies” (p. 389, l. 25-26). A requirement of a vote of three fourths of the members present for the adoption of a given motion gives slightly more than one fourth of the members present the power to defeat the motion and, with their negative vote, to keep the voting requirement from being suspended. It does not follow, however, that a vote of three fourths of the members present is necessary to suspend such a rule. The reason is that both abstentions and (in a ballot vote) illegal votes have the same effect as affirmative votes in such a case (provided there are at least two thirds in the affirmative). Question (2): What is the best way to specify the number of votes necessary to suspend a rule requiring a vote of three fourths of the members present, whether or not the vote on suspending the rule is by ballot? If the rule to be suspended embodies an unusually low voting threshold, e.g., “a vote of one fifth of the members present” (p. 43, l. 22-23), the underlying situation is the same. Even though the power of the minority in such a case involves adopting rather than defeating a motion, the protection of a small minority is still at issue. (The protection of any group greater than one third is ensured by the minimum requirement of a two-thirds vote to suspend the rules.) A different kind of question, however, arises in the case of a motion to suspend a rule requiring a majority vote and to require instead a vote of, say, one fifth of the members present. Because the rule being suspended protects no minority of one third or fewer, its suspension presumably requires a two-thirds vote. But the unusual leniency of the new voting basis raises a paradox of sovereignty regarding a large majority: Question (3): Do two thirds of the members present and voting have the power to tie their own hands, so to speak, and prevent even four fifths of the members present from defeating a motion?
  11. Thanks to all of you for your insightful replies. I see now that the concept of a voting basis applies, strictly speaking, only to the adoption of a motion, whereas provisions relating to when or whether a motion takes effect may, by majority vote, be incorporated into provisos or other amendments. The issue of the vote required to suspend the rules related to voting is complex enough that I’ll pursue it under a new topic.
  12. When RONR discusses modification of a voting basis, it refers to rules defining the modification ([10th ed.], p. 98, l. 28; p. 387, l. 6-7, 23; p. 389, l. 22, 29; p. 391, l. 23-25), to categories of questions to which such rules apply (p. 98, l. 31-32; p. 387, l. 24-25), and to increasing the proportion of votes required for adoption (p. 98, l. 28-29). On the matter of rules, the following passage is particularly clear: “Whenever it is desired that the basis for decision be other than a majority vote . . . the desired basis should be precisely defined in the bylaws or in a special rule of order” (p. 391, l. 20-25) Is an original main motion that incorporates a modified voting basis ever in order in the absence of such a higher-level rule? If, for example, a motion “that $50 be donated to Charity X if at least two thirds of the members present and voting vote for the adoption of this motion” receives at least two thirds of the votes, it would at least satisfy the rule that any motion whose adoption has the effect of suspending a rule of order requires a two-thirds vote (p. 98, l. 33 - p. 99, l. 1). If such a motion is in order, does it require a two-thirds vote for its adoption or only for it to take effect? A similar modification of the usual voting basis would be achieved by adopting an incidental motion that requires a particular main motion to receive a two-thirds vote for its adoption. General Robert explains that such an incidental motion is in order and that it requires a two-thirds vote because it “practically suspends the rules related to voting” (PL, p. 518, answer to question 323). A similar modification would also be achieved by means of amending the motion to Adopt (i.e., amending the enacting words) by adding a proviso that a main motion not take effect unless it receives a two-thirds vote. The only provisos that RONR discusses involve what happens after a motion is adopted—i.e., the mechanics of transition to an amended bylaw article on officers (p. 579, l. 11-18), printing and distribution (p. 119, l. 6-7), an effective date (p. 119, l. 8-9; 578, l. 23-25), or “anything of a similar nature” (p. 119, l. 9)—and require only a majority vote (p. 578, l. 34-35). Is the addition of a proviso modifying the voting basis for a main motion in order? If so, does the addition of the proviso itself require a two-thirds vote? Does the proviso cause the main motion to require a two-thirds vote for its adoption or only for it to take effect? Finally, is a motion in order that has the effect of decreasing the usual proportion of votes required for the adoption of a particular main motion? If so, does the motion that has this effect require a two-thirds vote?
  13. A brief recapitulation: The motions that require a vote of a majority of the entire membership (MEM) for their adoption may be categorized as follows: 1. Rescind and expunge from the minutes 2. Adopt or amend special rules of order, or amend bylaws that do not require notice for their amendment—in cases in which A. no notice has been given B. notice has been given but amendment has gone beyond the scope of notice The passages quoted from p. 297 and p. 576 suggest that a subsidiary motion to amend that would put an incidental main motion into category 2B is out of order if MEM is not present. The reason such a subsidiary motion is out of order is the “practical matter” that an incidental main motion in 2B cannot be adopted in the absence of MEM. A motion to amend beyond the scope of notice in such cases amounts to a motion to postpone indefinitely. Problematic issues: (1) The number of members present when the subsidiary motion to amend is made might be significantly different from the number of members present when the incidental main motion is voted on, which might be much later and in a different session. (2) Although the chair has the duty of determining whether the subsidiary motion is in order before he states it, it is unreasonable to require the chair to determine whether MEM is present at that time, and it is impossible for him to know whether MEM will be present when the vote is taken on the incidental main motion. (3) The same practical matter that makes the subsidiary motion out of order presumably applies also to motions in categories 1 and 2A if they themselves are made in the absence of MEM, yet nothing in RONR makes their being in order dependent in any way on attendance. (4) This practical matter also besets motions in categories 1 and 2A that come up as unfinished business (and the like) in the absence of MEM. (5) It is unclear why an amendment that would have the effect of killing a main motion if that main motion were voted on immediately—and that is in a limited sense is equivalent to postponing indefinitely—is out of order on those grounds. Amending beyond the scope of notice does not make adoption of the amended question equivalent to rejection of the original motion; indeed, it would make adoption of the amended question equivalent to adoption of a motion broader in scope than the original motion.
  14. Thanks, Mr. Honemann, for encouraging this new member.
  15. The sort of motion I have in mind is indeed a subsidiary motion to amend a bylaw amendment (in the particular circumstances described). Given the passage quoted (p. 576), the making of such a motion is out of order unless a majority of the entire membership is present. Whether the making of an original or incidental main motion is ever out of order because too few members are present is evidently harder to document.
  16. The single reference in RONR to notice that has been given but was not required also implies that there is at least one sort of motion whose introduction is out of order if a majority of the entire membership is not present—and does so without using the puzzling phrase “at the time the vote is taken”: “If [the bylaws] do not [require previous notice] but notice has been given and a majority of the entire membership is not present, no amendment to a bylaw amendment is in order that increases the modification of the article or provision to be amended” (RONR [10th ed.], p. 576, l. 23-27). Although the parliamentary situation at issue is unusual, the language quoted is unambiguous.
  17. Is a motion that requires a vote of the majority of the entire membership—i.e., to rescind and expunge from the minutes, to adopt or amend special rules of order without notice, and (unless otherwise provided in the bylaws) to amend or revise bylaws without notice—out of order when fewer than a majority of the entire membership are present? Specifically, is the introduction of such a motion out of order when fewer than a majority of the entire membership are present? Does continued debate on such a motion become out of order when enough members leave that a majority of the entire membership ceases to be present? Does the possibility of additional members showing up later make any difference? So far as I know, the only requirement for the adoption of a motion that is also a requirement for its introduction is a requirement of previous notice (see topic 8919 on this forum). Am I missing a rule to the effect that having an impossibly high voting threshold causes a motion to be out of order?
  18. Thanks for the helpful replies (as well as the typographical banter). I'll post on a separate thread a related question about how an impossibly high voting threshold might also prevent the introduction of a motion.
  19. (1) Although I realize that RONR doesn’t use this language, is there a meaningful distinction between motions that require notice conditionally and those that require notice unconditionally? Motions to rescind, amend something previously adopted, discharge a committee, postpone an event previously scheduled, adopt or amend special rules of order, and (unless otherwise provided in the bylaws) amend or revise bylaws require notice if the voting threshold for their adoption is to be lowered (to a majority or to two thirds, as the case may be). Other motions require notice, period: to elect a chairman pro tem for more than one session (RONR [10th ed.], p. 87, l. 7-10); to fill a vacancy in an office vacated by a resignation accepted by the assembly (p. 279, l. 27-30); and, if stated in the bylaws, to adopt an original main motion concerning a subject such as admission to membership or a real-estate transaction (p. 98, l. 27-32; p. 116, l. 32-35). (2) Are motions that unconditionally require notice out of order if no notice has been given? If so, why aren’t they listed among the main motions that are not in order (pp. 106-8) or the improper motions (pp. 332-33)? Or is notice required only for the adoption, not the introduction, of such motions?
  20. Thanks for the helpful responses. I understand the distinction among the concepts of notice, motions, and orders of the day but should have clarified the differences in my earlier posts. The heart of my question concerns where in the order of business an item for which notice has been given may be brought before the assembly in the form of a motion. I take it that a committee report may include a motion for which notice has been given (presumably by the same committee in its previous report) and that under new business a member may make a motion for which he or another member has given previous notice. My original concern stemmed from the passage I first quoted, about notice of a bylaw amendment making that amendment a general order (p. 578, l. 8-10), which seems to be the only case in which notice automatically creates a general order (even if the notice was given by a committee).
  21. 1. Thanks for clarifying the history of the rule on p. 578. I might add that the index entry “Previous Notice, of motions . . . makes motion a general order” (pp. 688-89) is a bit confusing in its generality. 2. Do noticed items (other than bylaw amendments) therefore come up under new business, despite the fact that new business generally involves “matters initiated in the present meeting” (p. 25, l. 18-19)? 3. If notice can be given when it’s not required, does giving such notice entitle a member to the same privileges as giving notice in general, i.e., priority in recognition, ability if necessary to interrupt pending business or to interrupt another member who has been assigned the floor but has not begun to speak, or the right to speak after the assembly has voted to adjourn? The passages on p. 372, l. 21-22 and p. 231, l. 3-6 restrict these last two privileges to notice of motions requiring notice. 4. I may be missing something about committees that give notice of motions they intend to include in a future report. The rule on p. 578 about noticed bylaw amendments becoming general orders seems to apply explicitly to notice given by bylaw committees, which are mentioned two sentences before the rule (p. 578, l. 3-5).
  22. “When notice has been given of a bylaw amendment, it becomes a general order for the meeting at which it is to be considered” (RONR [10th ed.], p. 578, l. 8-10). 1. Why isn’t this way of making an item a general order included in the list on p. 354? 2. If notice has been given of an item other than a bylaw amendment, does that item also become a general order? 3. Can notice be given of motions that don’t require notice at all, in addition to motions that require notice for a specified voting basis (e.g., Rescind, Adopt Special Rules of Order)? It is clear that notice can be given of a bylaw amendment that doesn’t require notice (p. 576, l. 23-24). 4. Does it matter for the subsequent order of business whether an individual or a committee (other than a bylaws revision committee) gives notice of a motion? E.g., can a committee in its report at one meeting give notice of a motion it intends to make in its report at the next meeting (under committee reports rather than general orders)?
  23. Thank you for the helpful responses. If I understand correctly, a “decision” by the chair regarding something like assignment of the floor may have a point of order raised against it, which in turn may usually be appealed. But only an official “ruling” by the chair is subject to direct appeal, and the only such rulings are (1) on a point of order, (2) that something is out of order, and (3) that something is a question of privilege and, if so, that it is urgent enough to interrupt business. Probably what confused me is that p. 248, l. 21 limits appeals to “rulings,” whereas on p. 247, l. 20-22 the terms “decision” and “ruling” are used almost interchangeably.
  24. Regarding assignment of the floor, the relevant passage is on p. 370: “If at any time the chair makes a mistake and assigns the floor to the wrong person when more than one member rose and addressed the chair promptly, a Point of Order can be raised. Except in a mass meeting, the decision of the chair in assigning the floor can be appealed from by any two members—one making the appeal and the other seconding it” (RONR, [10th ed.], p. 370, l. 23-29). The passage raises several questions: (A) May a Point of Order concerning assignment of the floor be raised only when more than one person was trying to obtain the floor? ( If the chair makes a mistake in assigning the floor when only one person was trying to obtain it, e.g., when the chair assigns the floor to a person who has already spoken twice to a question, is the only recourse a direct appeal from the chair’s decision? © Is the decision of the chair in assigning the floor in either or both of the above cases considered a “ruling” of the chair that should be added to the list of rulings subject to appeal in the original posting? (D) In general, are “decisions of the chair” the same as “rulings by the chair”? Points of Order and Appeals obviously differ in important respects. I’m trying to get clear on exactly when each is allowed.
  25. Thanks for the response and for focusing on the heart of the original question, namely, is my list comprehensive? I find no references in RONR to additional types of ruling by the chair, but perhaps others will. As for rulings that something IS in order, (1) and (3) in the above list cover the only cases I can think of in which the chair actually makes a ruling. In cases in which the chair deems something to be in order without explicitly ruling on the matter, the proper recourse for a member who disagrees is to raise a Point of Order rather than to Appeal.
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