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directors who refuse to vote on issues


Guest LInda

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We have several elderly directors who are hard of hearing. At a recent meeting one refused to vote saying that he couldn't hear a thing. [We generally vote by raising our hands, then a count is taken & confirmed.] If our minutes show that 17 directors were present, but vote counts only add up to 16, do we have to explain his refusal to vote in the minutes or can we count his 'non-vote' as an automatic abstention & record it as such in the minutes?

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. . . do we have to explain his refusal to vote in the minutes . . .

No. Neither do you record abstentions. Or, in most cases, the vote count. It's usually enough just to record whether the motion was adopted or lost.

But, of course, every reasonable effort should be made to ensure that all members can hear what's going on.

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He abstained - which is perfectly acceptable according to RONR. And it doesn't count as a vote as it isn't voting. But if this gentleman needs assistance with hearing what is being discussed (and ultimately voted on), every 'reasonable' effort should be made to ensure he (and everyone else) can hear what is being said. Perhaps, with 17 directors, a microphone system could be installed - two or three microphones and a speaker is sufficient.

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RONR does make mention that, when putting the question, the chair should "project his voice to be sure that all aware that the vote is being taken." (RONR 11, p. 44 ll. 27-30) Also, he must be sure that all members understand the effect of their vote. (p. 44 ll. 24-27) Otherwise, in order to ensure that a member's right to participate in deliberations are fully realized, I think the responsibility lies with the member. If there is any rule in RONR with regard to handling a member who is hard of hearing, I can't put my finger on it in the book.

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He abstained - which is perfectly acceptable according to RONR. And it doesn't count as a vote as it isn't voting. But if this gentleman needs assistance with hearing what is being discussed (and ultimately voted on), every 'reasonable' effort should be made to ensure he (and everyone else) can hear what is being said. Perhaps, with 17 directors, a microphone system could be installed - two or three microphones and a speaker is sufficient.

I concur that the board should probably look into something to deal with this issue, since the board apparently has several directors who are hard of hearing. I'll leave it to the board to determine the specifics of that plan.

If a board member, for just about whatever reason, can not understand the issues on a motion, then how can such a board member fulfill the duties of the office?

Yes, and the board may want to look into some methods for more of their directors to hear what is going on.

If there is any rule in RONR with regard to handling a member who is hard of hearing, I can't put my finger on it in the book.

I concur that RONR does not require a board to make accommodations for hearing-impaired members, but it still seems like a good idea, especially considering that the board apparently has several directors who are hard of hearing.

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Let's also bear in mind that contemporary parliamentary procedure, having recently let go of references to archaic technologies like the telegraph so as to acknowledge our entry into the new shining 20th Century, evolved from the practices of the medieval English Parliament, which courteously disregarded infeasibilities of members of the assembly such as deafness or hereditary imbecility or occasional coma.

Which reminds me, Reved's ...

Of course, someone might want to talk to this member to see if there are any simple ways (such as re-arranging the seating for meetings) which might assist this director in hearing what is being spoken.

... makes a lot of sense.

(Of course Josh Martin's do. But that doesn't need mentioning.)

CT 4

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We have several elderly directors who are hard of hearing. At a recent meeting one refused to vote saying that he couldn't hear a thing.

In case you're wondering, a member has a right to abstain. Also, a defining element of a deliberative assembly is simultaneous aural communication among all participants ( which hopefully doesn't mean everyone talking at once :) ). See RONR (11th ed.), p. 1.

[We generally vote by raising our hands, then a count is taken & confirmed.]

Confirmed? How does that work?

If our minutes show that 17 directors were present, but vote counts only add up to 16, do we have to explain his refusal to vote in the minutes or can we count his 'non-vote' as an automatic abstention & record it as such in the minutes?

When a count is taken, the number of votes on each side should be entered into the minutes. There is no requirement to explain abstentions or to record them. See RONR (11th ed.), p. 470, ll. 29-30.

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When a count is taken, the number of votes on each side should be entered into the minutes.

Well, there are counted votes and then there are counted votes. At a meeting with 17 members present, with several abstentions, the chair (and everyone else) might make an informal (i.e. mental) count of a vote taken by a show of hands but this would not necessarily make it a counted vote that requires the count be entered into the minutes. See p. 50 ll. 7-15.

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Doesn't Linda's post lead you believe that this is a case of counted votes, though?

I think many people simply assume that a vote taken by a show of hands should be counted. Heck, if I were the chair and the assembly was small I suspect I'd count hands too. Or know the count without counting, if you know what I mean. When four members raise their hands you know the count is four without counting.

My point is that just because you may know the count, you don't necessarily need to record it in the minutes.

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I concur that RONR does not require a board to make accommodations for hearing-impaired members, but it still seems like a good idea, especially considering that the board apparently has several directors who are hard of hearing.

Agreed, although it's not so much a parliamentary issue as it is a social issue. Still, the chair may have no idea a member can't hear well enough unless the member brings that point to light. The chair may think the member is just sitting quietly by, letting everyone else kvetch away, and then abstains because he just doesn't care about the pending motion. It starts with the member raising a Question of Privilege, perhaps.

Doesn't Linda's post lead you believe that this is a case of counted votes, though? :)

My point is that just because you may know the count, you don't necessarily need to record it in the minutes.

I think I'm with Tim on this one. While the posters here may not employ the "proper" RONR terminology but rather couch it in their own colloquial manner, or even handle the process with a variation of what RONR describes for it, there's truth in what actually happens. It sounds like a counted vote.

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It sounds like a counted vote.

I agree that it sounds like a counted vote. I'm just not sure it is a counted vote.

But my reply was not to Linda but rather to Mr. Wynn's statement that "when a count is taken, the number of votes on each side should be entered into the minutes". My point was that the mere fact that a count is taken doesn't automatically turn the vote into a "counted vote". But I think it's a point not worth belaboring.

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