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Guest Jane

Confusion in a vote after "calling the question"

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Guest Jane

If someone calls the question, and this is seconded, and then a group votes on the motion to close debate, but the group members are unclear on what they have voted on, and later wish to rescind that vote - should one go back to debate. In this case, we just had a 2/3 majority to close debate, and we immediately moved to vote, but confusion continued. A number of the group members declared they thought that they had voted to CONTINUE debate to the next meeting, not close it and vote on the question at hand.

One additional wrinkle is that while we had a quorum to discuss, we did not get a vote that would allow us to accept the question - and our bylaws call for us to obtain ballots from those not in the meeting. We have yet to do this, and instead, I have called a new meeting to continue discussion.

How do we act at this point?

1) Do we start from considering the mistaken nature of the vote to call the question, and then come back to reopen debate, and continue as appropriate from that point forward?; or

2) Do we have to conclude the vote on the question (which requires the collection of the votes from those not present at the meeting), and then discuss whether to rescind that vote, which would require a motion, a second, and a positive vote for rescinding, and then new debate on the question?

I would appreciate advice!

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If someone calls the question, and this is seconded, and then a group votes on the motion to close debate, but the group members are unclear on what they have voted on, and later wish to rescind that vote - should one go back to debate. In this case, we just had a 2/3 majority to close debate, and we immediately moved to vote, but confusion continued. A number of the group members declared they thought that they had voted to CONTINUE debate to the next meeting, not close it and vote on the question at hand.

One additional wrinkle is that while we had a quorum to discuss, we did not get a vote that would allow us to accept the question - and our bylaws call for us to obtain ballots from those not in the meeting. We have yet to do this, and instead, I have called a new meeting to continue discussion.

How do we act at this point?

1) Do we start from considering the mistaken nature of the vote to call the question, and then come back to reopen debate, and continue as appropriate from that point forward?; or

Mebers should educate themselves on the effect of adopting a motion. A Parliamentary Inquiy would have compelled the chair to explain the effect of the Previous Question.

2) Do we have to conclude the vote on the question (which requires the collection of the votes from those not present at the meeting), and then discuss whether to rescind that vote, which would require a motion, a second, and a positive vote for rescinding, and then new debate on the question?

I would appreciate advice!

The Previou Question cannot be rescinded (because it is not a main motion) and cannot be reconsidered once a vote is taken under the order (p. 201, ll. 3-8).

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Confusion, indeed.

If someone calls the question, and this is seconded, and then a group votes on the motion to close debate, but the group members are unclear on what they have voted on, and later wish to rescind that vote - should one go back to debate. In this case, we just had a 2/3 majority to close debate, and we immediately moved to vote, but confusion continued. A number of the group members declared they thought that they had voted to CONTINUE debate to the next meeting, not close it and vote on the question at hand.

O Jane. And the more mess-ups I see, the more convinces I am that George is right: far and away the most important thing a presiding officer does is always make sure that all the members know exactly what they are voting on, every time. I'll offer that if the chair doesn't often get complaints from *some" of the members that he's being tiresomely repetitive about it, then he's not doing it enough. (If that was you in the chair, Jane, then "he" would be "she." But then, it's hard to imagine this going on if Jane were chairing....)

All right. If it can be shown that --

-- Nuts, I don't know where to begin.

... If it can be demonstrated that the main motion was not sanely voted on, then at the next meeting, the chair should rule that ...

-- (Okay, smart guy, you danced out on that limb: no go ahead and tell poor Jane what to rule next time!)

-- (And stop talking to yourself, Jane is looking at you funny already.)

*Sigh* The chair should rule -- All right! I have no idea what he (or Jane) should rule!

-- Tell him to rule that the motion is null and void because it was in Lithuanian.

One additional wrinkle is that while we had a quorum to discuss, we did not get a vote that would allow us to accept the question -

O Jane, -- what in heaven's name does this mean?

...and our bylaws call for us to obtain ballots from those not in the meeting...

Jane, are you telling us that your meetings never simply decide anything? Are you saying that after the meetings, all absentees get told what came up, and they then all mail back their ballots on all the issues, to be added to the in-meeting votes? Where does it stop? However do you get anything done??

We have yet to do this, and instead, I have called a new meeting to continue discussion.

A minor quibble at this point: Do your bylaws, or anything, give you the authority to call a new meeting? (Robert's Rules does not. But at this point, I, for one, am not going to fuss about it, or tell anyone.) But ... my heart in my mouth ... Jane, please: what do you mean "to continue discussion"?

How do we act at this point?

Calmly, I hope, so it's a good thing I won't be there.

1) Do we start from considering the mistaken nature of the vote to call the question,...

I would say just drop the call the question business. You all need to focus on the mangled, shredded, torturously twisted main motion. Remember the part about calling it Lithuanian.

and then come back to reopen debate, and continue as appropriate ...

But Jane, I don't have a clue as to appropriate. Do you?

2) Do we have to conclude the vote on the question (which requires the collection of the votes from those not present at the meeting), and then discuss whether to rescind that vote, which would require a motion, a second, and a positive vote for rescinding, and then new debate on the question?

Jane I can't begin to follow this. I'd say rule the motion swept under the rug, or Lithuanian, or eaten by crocodiles.

And as for rescinding, well, I just don't understand. If your members want to rescind the motion, then they are against what that motion proposes. In which case, why bring it up again at all? (Jane, is it that you don't know how the vote will go finally?)

I would appreciate advice!

Jane, O Jane, get yourself a RONR - In Brief! At once! Read it now! Before going home! (After you buy it. Barely.)

-- Ask questions here! And sooner!

-- If the chairman (-woman) doesn't ALWAYS announce what the assembly is about to vote on, throw something at him (- her)(yourself)!. Why do you think God gave you spike-heeled shoes?

Arrghh!

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We have yet to do this, and instead, I have called a new meeting to continue discussion.

So, who are you that you have this power? Are you the President? Were you presiding at the meeting?

If someone calls the question, and this is seconded, and then a group votes on the motion to close debate, but the group members are unclear on what they have voted on, and later wish to rescind that vote - should one go back to debate.

"When there is any possibility of confusion, the chair, before calling for the vote, should make sure that the members understand the effect of an 'aye' vote and of a 'no' vote." (RONR 11th Ed. p. 44 ll. 24-27) Whether the Chair sensed any confusion before putting the Previous Question question is unclear. In my opinion, there are certain cases where the Chair should offer this explanation regardless of any perceived (or lack of) confusion, and putting the Previous Question is one of them. It just can't hurt.

One additional wrinkle is that while we had a quorum to discuss, we did not get a vote that would allow us to accept the question - and our bylaws call for us to obtain ballots from those not in the meeting.

Oh my, what does this mean? It reads as if the motion that was voted on, after the Previous Question was adopted (by a 2/3 majority, you say), did not receive enough of an affirmative vote to adopt it. So, now you're going to let absentee members vote (by mail in ballot?) to see if you can get enough votes to pass the motion? Assuming that's what you mean, let me ask you: what if the motion had passed, but barely. Would that be the end of it, or would you also send out ballots to absentees to see if enough of them would vote to defeat the motion? What exactly was the voting threshold required for the (main) motion that you did not "get?"

Edited by David A Foulkes

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Guest Jane

Thanks to all those who replied. Let me clarify, as I'd still like more feedback, if you will!

I was presiding at the meeting - a first for me - in the staid of the chair of the group.

When the request to call the question was made, and seconded, I DID explain what this meant - that we would close debate and move to vote on a committee recommendation (the main motion). I reiterated what that would imply given the main motion as well. However a small subgroup was talking while I spoke and did not hear - asked someone else, and they falsely said the vote was to continue debate to the next meeting (that I had already proposed that we could have if needed, with prior authorization from the chair, and our group practice over many years). Further, there was one individual new to the group who just did not understand or know the rules. We are all expected to know these rules.

I believe 3-4 people voted for the motion to close debate, which means we did not have the 2/3 majority required to do so. I did NOT understand that there was confusion around the point.

I stated that we just had the votes to close debate, and then moved on to the voting, passing paper ballots and explained that what this vote meant given the terms of the recommendation (the main motion). Then a senior colleague told me that there was confusion. I stopped everyone and reviewed what had just happened (what it meant to close debate, and what it now meant to vote on this main motion) and asked if we should proceed. There I could see there was confusion, but people did not speak out, and began to get up to leave. We collected the ballots and tallied them. There were not enough votes to carry the motion.

We have a large group and have explicit provisions in our by laws that the next step is to provide an opportunity for those missing the meeting to vote by email within 24 hrs despite missing the debate in the room - it is a practice we feel is between two evils of having too few people in the room commonly to make major decisions while some members very legitimately must be away, yet are educated on the decision and wish to weigh in - and of course the problem that the debate changes decisions to be made.

However, before I made the call to do so, I was approached by those who had been confused in the vote to close debate and I thought I ought to act then to recall the group.

My question now is whether despite having voted in favor of closing debate, enough people did not mean to do so, that the vote should not stand?

If it must stand, despite their mistake in not asking for clarification from me rather than a neighbor, do I need to get the rest of the vote on the main motion?

The main motion required 50% +1 person of the TOTAL group (those in and out of the room) to pass, and was 5 votes short of that margin. We began with barely a quorum.

Enough to make one glad one does NOT run this stuff on a regular basis!!!

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Congratulations on your first meeting in the chair. Sometimes things happen in a meeting. We all start somewhere.

Once you announced that there was an affirmative vote on the order to end debate (or, "a vote on the question is "ordered"), it was a member of the assembly's obligation or duty to call for a "division"; or, to raise a Point of Order that a 2/3rds vote should be put as a "rising vote;" at the time this all occurred." Yes, the chair did make an error, but so did the individuals that remained silent at the time. The error doesn't constitute a continuing breach.

Disgruntled members bringing this up at the parking lot meeting, after the real meeting, is too late.

If you have a provision for required "email absentee voting" in your bylaws, then I would suggest that you read and follow the provision.

However, absentee voting, according to Robert's is not recommended and is prohibited unless specified for in the bylaws.

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Guest Jane

So, who are you that you have this power? Are you the President? Were you presiding at the meeting?

"When there is any possibility of confusion, the chair, before calling for the vote, should make sure that the members understand the effect of an 'aye' vote and of a 'no' vote." (RONR 11th Ed. p. 44 ll. 24-27) Whether the Chair sensed any confusion before putting the Previous Question question is unclear. In my opinion, there are certain cases where the Chair should offer this explanation regardless of any perceived (or lack of) confusion, and putting the Previous Question is one of them. It just can't hurt.

Oh my, what does this mean? It reads as if the motion that was voted on, after the Previous Question was adopted (by a 2/3 majority, you say), did not receive enough of an affirmative vote to adopt it. So, now you're going to let absentee members vote (by mail in ballot?) to see if you can get enough votes to pass the motion? Assuming that's what you mean, let me ask you: what if the motion had passed, but barely. Would that be the end of it, or would you also send out ballots to absentees to see if enough of them would vote to defeat the motion? What exactly was the voting threshold required for the (main) motion that you did not "get?"

Hi again - To clarify further - yes, it is our practice to ALWAYS let the entire group vote on this type of main motion, with those in the room voting then by paper ballot, and those not by email. If there is an amendment of the motion, this amended version is what those voting by email must vote on, rather than the original recommendation.

And, to answer Steven, yes email absentee voting is in our bylaws for this type of vote only. We had a long debate, and are aware of the evils of it, but felt those outweighed the evils of using absentee votes - hence our practice of about 3 years standing.

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Hi again - To clarify further - yes, it is our practice to ALWAYS let the entire group vote on this type of main motion, with those in the room voting then by paper ballot, and those not by email. If there is an amendment of the motion, this amended version is what those voting by email must vote on, rather than the original recommendation.

And, to answer Steven, yes email absentee voting is in our bylaws for this type of vote only. We had a long debate, and are aware of the evils of it, but felt those outweighed the evils of using absentee votes - hence our practice of about 3 years standing.

My question, what system do you have in place that helps insure that no one votes twice, once at the meeting and once by email?

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Guest Jane

My question, what system do you have in place that helps insure that no one votes twice, once at the meeting and once by email?

We take roll and the email ballot only goes to those not present. It works!

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Guest Jane

Thanks for all the replies. I am convinced by your statements and reading the rules that the vote to close debate must stand, despite the misunderstandings that made some vote erroneously.

Here is my next question:

I have received the formal request to reconsider the vote on the main motion, as well as many less formal such requests. I believe those should be honored. My reading of the rules is that this should suspend our voting process, and that we would begin our next meeting by discussing the motion to reconsider - vote on that - and depending on the outcome we either re-open debate on the main motion, or return to complete the vote on the main motion, soliciting votes only from those who had not yet voted (this is not hard to accomplish in our group, as we have a roll call that I can use to prevent any of those who were already present from voting).

Is my reading of the rules correct?

The only other alternative I see is that we conclude the vote (by email, in our case), and then the motion to reconsider is given as a notice before the next meeting, and we open the meeting with discussion on this new motion to reconsider, etc., as I describe above.

I'd appreciate more wise council! Thank you, Jane

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Thanks for all the replies. I am convinced by your statements and reading the rules that the vote to close debate must stand, despite the misunderstandings that made some vote erroneously.

Here is my next question:

I have received the formal request to reconsider the vote on the main motion, as well as many less formal such requests. I believe those should be honored. My reading of the rules is that this should suspend our voting process, and that we would begin our next meeting by discussing the motion to reconsider - vote on that - and depending on the outcome we either re-open debate on the main motion, or return to complete the vote on the main motion, soliciting votes only from those who had not yet voted (this is not hard to accomplish in our group, as we have a roll call that I can use to prevent any of those who were already present from voting).

Is my reading of the rules correct?

The only other alternative I see is that we conclude the vote (by email, in our case), and then the motion to reconsider is given as a notice before the next meeting, and we open the meeting with discussion on this new motion to reconsider, etc., as I describe above.

I'd appreciate more wise council! Thank you, Jane

First, I haven't seen your bylaws, and really can't offer you an interpretation of them, in this forum.

Generally and in this case, the motion to Reconsider, may only be applied to a something that has been acted upon at a meeting; at that same meeting (or the next day's meeting in a two or more day session). A time limitation is normally involved.

Absent any rules that would modify the application of the motion to Reconsider being specified in your bylaws, then I would believe the motion to Reconsider this vote is currently unavailable.

A motion to Rescind the vote might be considered at your next meeting; but, waiting on the email absentees votes will give you a clearer idea of your assembly's next course of action.

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;;;

Generally and in this case, the motion to Reconsider, may only be applied to a something that has been acted upon at a meeting; at that same meeting (or the next day's meeting in a two or more day session). A time limitation is normally involved.

Absent any rules that would modify the application of the motion to Reconsider being specified in your bylaws, then I would believe the motion to Reconsider this vote is currently unavailable.

...

But, aren't they still in the middle of acting on the motion (i.e. voting on it)? Since there is this odd requirement of soliciting absentee votes for 24 hours after the meeting (if I understood correctly), then the vote is still underway until the absentee voting portion of the ceremony has been completed.

I don't see how the motion to Reconsider could be applicable at all in the middle of a voting process which hasn't yet been concluded, and whose result has not been announced.

Thanks for all the replies. I am convinced by your statements and reading the rules that the vote to close debate must stand, despite the misunderstandings that made some vote erroneously.

Here is my next question:

I have received the formal request to reconsider the vote on the main motion, as well as many less formal such requests. I believe those should be honored. My reading of the rules is that this should suspend our voting process, and that we would begin our next meeting by discussing the motion to reconsider - vote on that - and depending on the outcome we either re-open debate on the main motion, or return to complete the vote on the main motion, soliciting votes only from those who had not yet voted (this is not hard to accomplish in our group, as we have a roll call that I can use to prevent any of those who were already present from voting).

...

What rules are you reading that suggest the voting process should be suspended under such circumstances? Are there specialized rules in your bylaws suggesting such suspension?

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In this case, we just had a 2/3 majority to close debate, and we immediately moved to vote, but confusion continued.

I believe 3-4 people voted for the motion to close debate, which means we did not have the 2/3 majority required to do so. I did NOT understand that there was confusion around the point.

I stated that we just had the votes to close debate, and then moved on to the voting, passing paper ballots and explained that what this vote meant given the terms of the recommendation (the main motion). Then a senior colleague told me that there was confusion. I stopped everyone and reviewed what had just happened (what it meant to close debate, and what it now meant to vote on this main motion) and asked if we should proceed. There I could see there was confusion

Well, of course there was confusion. Were there or weren't there two-thirds in favor of closing debate?

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Guest Jane

Hello and thanks to all those who replied to my queries. your responses, questions for clarification, and references were all very helpful to me. I think I have sorted out what is correct, and how to proceed.

We did get a 2/3 vote (exactly) on the motion to close debate. It was confusing to then learn that almost half of those votes were inadvertent because people believed that the motion they were voting on was to CONTINUE debate, not close it, despite my having stated it (i thought) clearly. This has not happened before, and I attribute it to a number of very new members in our community, and to a side conversation and someone asking their neighbor, rather than me as chair, what the vote was about. Nonetheless, what you all showed me is that this vote stands - the discussion was closed. Definitely a learning opportunity for all of us!

The immediate result of this decision is that we vote on the main motion. All made more confusing by the fact that our vote is both in the room and by email, and by a site I had misinterpreted in speaking about reconsidering a motion that is in process. All of you are quite right - we cannot do that if the vote has been initiated, nor if the meeting had been adjourned and was not explicitly a meeting across days. So now I know that no one may move to reconsider (because we do not meet any other time limits).

However, to me, the will of the group was, in fact, to continue discussion. That leaves the only option being that someone may move to rescind the motion on the table or amend the motion. I believe that will come up in our next meeting. The majority of those in this group have talked with me over the past 24 hrs and are in favor of reopening discussion, because the goal is to reach a consensus decision as far as that is possible. I believe there may be one or more who may not be, although they have not spoken to me. IN any case, I think it is my job to make the opportunity available by using time we had reserved in case we were not able to complete our deliberations within the time allotted yesterday. So I have called the meeting, providing notice that a motion to rescind or amend may be forthcoming from members of the group. What happens after that will follow the rules.

I see the silver lining of this to be that all of us - not just me - will learn more about proper procedures, and be better able to operate in these weighty discussions. I hope that it also helps empower those who are worried about offending more senior people to feel they can make amendments, etc., without this showing disrespect for a motion on the table.

This was all new territory for me - I have participated in such meetings for years, but never run one. So while I understand how to respond, I had not been coached in how to lead, and did the best I could from what I knew. unfortunately, I had little time to prepare, and some of what came up was wholly unknown to me. I made several mistakes, so did my colleagues. I think we all own our mistakes, and can hope to both do better in future, and in the specifics of completing discussion to reach the best conclusion we can.

Again, thanks to all of you for your responses!

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One way to (almost) assure that the members will understand the "Motion for the Previous question" is to tell them it means:

"(To) Shut up and Vote".

Thats not quite correct but close enough for government work.

Feel free to add your favorite expletive phrase after "Shut".

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The majority of those in this group have talked with me over the past 24 hrs and are in favor of reopening discussion, because the goal is to reach a consensus decision as far as that is possible. I believe there may be one or more who may not be, although they have not spoken to me. IN any case, I think it is my job to make the opportunity available by using time we had reserved in case we were not able to complete our deliberations within the time allotted yesterday. So I have called the meeting, providing notice that a motion to rescind or amend may be forthcoming from members of the group. What happens after that will follow the rules.

I have received the formal request to reconsider the vote on the main motion, as well as many less formal such requests. I believe those should be honored.

Just an observation/opinion, but from the selected quotes of yours, I am of the mind that y'all pay FAR too much attention to discussion that goes on outside meetings. "less formal requests" to reconsider? There's either a motion to reconsider or there isn't....at a meeting. Those that have spoken to you over the past 24 hrs, and those that haven't...., not to mention the way the e-mail votes cloud the issue. Stick to business and comments and discussion at a meeting.

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Guest Edgar

I am of the mind that y'all pay FAR too much attention to discussion that goes on outside meetings.

On the other hand, the more that can be discussed and resolved before a meeting, the more efficient the meeting can be. And everyone gets to go home at a reasonable hour. Letting committees hash out the details is another way to get things resolved before the general membership meets.

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