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Inquiry on the term "majority of members present and voting"

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Guest Bilal_N

Is there a difference between the terms "majority of members present and voting" and "majority of members present" in Robert's Rules of Order?

Shall appreciate to receive a reply with examples, as I think the difference between these two terms is not clearly stated in the Robert's Rules of Order, specially as regards to whether abstentions will have the same effect as the a "no" vote. I shall also greatly appreciate if the difference between these two terms, if actually exists, is added in the Frequently Asked Questions or Official Interpretations of the official website as the chair of our committee is stating that both terms have the same meaning unless there is an official explanation on the difference.

Thanks in advance,

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With 10 members present and 2 abstaining, those present and voting is 8, and a majority (of those present and voting) would be 5. A majority of members present would be 6. Abstentions have the same effect as a "no" vote only when the vote is of the members present, or of the entire membership. Also, see FAQ #6 and the page citations there.

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Yes, there is big difference.

In addition to suggesting that you read, carefully, pages 400 ff. of "The Book", here's a (simple) answer.

There are 100 members in the room - all "present". What is a majority of those present? Clearly more than half of those present, or 51.

Now suppose on a particular issue 45 of the members chose to vote -- the remaining 55 either don't care how things turn out, or they just have no clue. Those 45 are the members who are "present and voting".

And a majority (more than half) of 45? 23.

Now if your rules require that something has to get a majority of those present and voting to pass, any number of "Yes" votes from 23 on up to 45 (that's all who are voting, remember) will adopt the motion. It doesn't matter how many folks abstain -- don't vote at all -- 55 in the example. Their abstentions have absolutely no effect on the outcome of the vote.

Now suppose you have a different rule that adoption of a motion requires a majority of those present. Well, in the example, even if all 45 voters vote "Yes" the motion will fail because the number of "yes" votes does not reach the threshold of 51. In this case the abstentions do matter, not (exactly) because they voted "no" -- remember the 55 didn't vote at all -- but because there were so many abstentions that there weren't enough "Yes" votes to reach the 51 vote threshold. The abstainers "caused" the motion to be defeated not because they voted "no", but because they didn't vote at all.

Another (extreme) example: Assume "majority of those present and voting" is the adoption threshold. Even if just ONE person votes "Yes" and everybody else sits on their hands and abstains, the motion is carried. There was one vote cast, and a "majority of one" is indeed one.

Does all that help?

The chair of your committee is dead wrong!

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The chair is misinformed, or uninformed.

A person who is in the room and votes is present and voting.

A person who is in the room and abstains from voting is present, but not voting.

The term "majority vote" in RONR means "a majority of those present and voting". Unless qualified in some way, that is the normal requirement for passing an ordinary main motion and most other matters to be decided. Requiring a "majority of those present" is a much more stringent requirement, and in such a case, an abstention, although it is still not a vote, would have the same effect as a No vote. This is not the recommended case, according to RONR.

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