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Abstaining


Guest Bill De WItt

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Guest Bill De WItt

Last night at our city council meeting, a councilman opted to abstain from a vote. The net result was that he quashed the motion, but could then say he didn't vote against it. It is my understanding that when someone abstains, they must give a brief reason, ie; I have a conflict of intrerest. This council member refused to give a reason. Does RRoO address this?

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Last night at our city council meeting, a councilman opted to abstain from a vote. The net result was that he quashed the motion, but could then say he didn't vote against it. It is my understanding that when someone abstains, they must give a brief reason, ie; I have a conflict of intrerest. This council member refused to give a reason. Does RRoO address this?

RONR requires no one to explain their vote (or absence thereof, as an abstention is not a vote), and even prohibits it at the time of voting. I also question how someone who did not vote had such an effect on the motion (quashing it). Seems like maybe it was all those "no" votes that did that.

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It was a tie, 2-2, he was the deciding vote.

Well, for one thing, he didn't vote so he couldn't be the deciding vote. For another thing, you could just as easily argue that either of the two "no" votes were the deciding votes. But the only time it makes sense to speak of a "deciding vote" is when the president exercises his privilege of voting when his vote could affect the outcome (see FAQ #1).

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Last night at our city council meeting, a councilman opted to abstain from a vote. The net result was that he quashed the motion, but could then say he didn't vote against it. It is my understanding that when someone abstains, they must give a brief reason, ie; I have a conflict of intrerest. This council member refused to give a reason. Does RRoO address this?

Yes, it says that no one may be compelled to vote (i.e., everyone has the right to abstain) and that is is prohibited to explain one's vote (or lack thereof) at the time of voting. It is allowable to explain one's intentions during debate, but certainly not compulsory.

Furthermore, since he abstained, it's not at all clear how he could possibly have affected the outcome of the vote. Can you explain that, and tell us where your "understanding" came from?

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It was a tie, 2-2, he was the deciding vote.

Only those who vote have any direct influence in deciding the vote. Unlike in most sports, where a tie score cannot be left to stand, in parliamentary procedure a tie vote validly defeats the motion. So, a 2-2 vote defeats as much as a 1-3 vote or 0-4 vote. Indeed, if this member had voted in the affirmative, the result would have been different, the motion being adopted rather than defeated. But if he had voted in the negative, it would have made no difference since a tie vote defeats as equally as a vote of 2-3 would have. I suppose if you wanted to get picky here, whoever cast the second no vote was the deciding vote.

Edited by David A Foulkes
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Unless he debated, I would assume no motive.

It is just as plausible he didn't care about the outcome.

And even debate will not always tell you how you will vote.

I have on occasion being a strong advocate for the opposite side of an issue to my vote(Debate yeah and vote No).

Doing so to insure that a motions defeat will not be because of poor presentation but because the body truly felt it was right thing to do to defeat it.

On this you could easily lay blame with those who voted yes for not being persuasive enough in their debate.

Or you could lay blame on the first no vote, for without the first no vote, there could be no second no vote.

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