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Secretary casting vote in uncontested election


TraderFred
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There exists a dispute in our club regarding the validity of 'having the secretary cast a vote' to elect a person in an uncontested election. My understanding being that the proper procedure would be to elect the person by affirmation or even by a show of hands or viva voce vote, but not by the 'secretary casting a vote'.  Assume that our By-laws are silent on the issue and an election by ballot is not stipulated.

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There exists a dispute in our club regarding the validity of 'having the secretary cast a vote' to elect a person in an uncontested election. My understanding being that the proper procedure would be to elect the person by affirmation or even by a show of hands or viva voce vote, but not by the 'secretary casting a vote'.  Assume that our By-laws are silent on the issue and an election by ballot is not stipulated.

 

If the bylaws do not require an election by ballot, having the Secretary cast the vote is not prohibited, but it is an archaic and pointless procedure. The proper procedure is to declare the person elected by acclamation.

Edited by Josh Martin
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The proper procedure is "If only one person is nominated and the bylaws do not require that a ballot vote be taken, the chair, after ensuring that, in fact, no members present wish to make further nominations, simply declares that the nominee is elected, thus effecting the election by unanimous consent or "acclamation.""  RONR (11th ed.), p. 443

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If the bylaws do not require an election by ballot, having the Secretary cast the vote is not prohibited, but it is an archaic and pointless procedure. The proper procedure is to declare the person elected by acclamation.

In my opinion, it is prohibited.  The procedure referenced by George in post #3 is followed, and the individual is declared elected.  Any nonsense about the secretary casting a vote to elect the office that was already elected would be out of order.  If the chair does not declare the unopposed nominee elected, a member could make a point of order that the chair is to do so.  This point should be ruled "well taken."  

 

 

Apart from all that, the concept of the secretary casting "a single vote" to elect an unopposed nominee apparently springs from the idea that a vote must be taken in order to elect.  However, holding an election in which the secretary is the only one voting and is instructed how to vote breaks about as many parliamentary principles as you can throw a stick at.  

 

The secretary, if a member of the assembly, is free to vote as he pleases; he also has the right to abstain.  If not a member, he cannot be allowed to vote.  An election cannot be held in which members are prevented from voting, even by unanimous consent.  This means that it would have to be a genuine election in which all members present are allowed to vote but in which all members abstain, except the secretary.  If, for some strange reason, a ballot vote was conducted in this situation, no motion would be in order that would force the disclosure of a member's vote.  A motion to instruct the secretary how to vote would certainly fall into that category.  Violations of these rights and rules would nullify the election.   

 

In summary, it appears that this strange mechanism of having the secretary cast a vote is not a vote at all.  It is merely a ceremony that decides nothing.  

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Exactly. Therefore, I maintain that it is in order - but pointless.

 

Sure, it's no more out of order than the chair responding to a solicitation for unanimous consent "to donate $100 to the ABC Foundation" by saying, "since there is no objection, the secretary will cast a vote for the motion that $100 be donated to the ABC Foundation . . . All secretaries in favor, say aye . . . The aye has it.  The motion is adopted."
 
I maintain that it's out of order.   ;)
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Sure, it's no more out of order than the chair responding to a solicitation for unanimous consent "to donate $100 to the ABC Foundation" by saying, "since there is no objection, the secretary will cast a vote for the motion that $100 be donated to the ABC Foundation . . . All secretaries in favor, say aye . . . The aye has it.  The motion is adopted."

 
I maintain that it's out of order.   ;)

 

 

I find some basis for the argument that it is out of order for the chair, on his own initiative, to order the Secretary to cast the vote of the assembly rather than following the appropriate procedure.

 

I see no reason why it would be out of order for the assembly to adopt a motion ordering the Secretary to cast the vote of the assembly in an election (assuming a ballot vote is not required) or for any other motion.

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I see no reason why it would be out of order for the assembly to adopt a motion ordering the Secretary to cast the vote of the assembly in an election (assuming a ballot vote is not required) or for any other motion.

 

Doesn't this imply that the assembly is thus denying the secretary his individual rights as a member to abstain and to vote for any eligible candidate? I agree with Tim that such actions would be out of order even if a ballot vote is not required.

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Doesn't this imply that the assembly is thus denying the secretary his individual rights as a member to abstain and to vote for any eligible candidate? I agree with Tim that such actions would be out of order even if a ballot vote is not required.

 

Oh, I think Josh has this right.

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Doesn't this imply that the assembly is thus denying the secretary his individual rights as a member to abstain and to vote for any eligible candidate?

 

No. Tim correctly pointed out that "having the secretary cast a vote is not a vote at all.  It is merely a ceremony that decides nothing."

 

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Well, OK. Then if the secretary declines to cast that vote which isn't really a vote, there can be no repercussions against the secretary?

 

No, I wouldn't say that. If the Secretary refuses to follow the legitimate orders of the assembly (no matter how silly those orders might be), the assembly would be within its rights to discipline the Secretary.

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I see no reason why it would be out of order for the assembly to adopt a motion ordering the Secretary to cast the vote of the assembly in an election (assuming a ballot vote is not required) or for any other motion.

Without suspending the rules?  :huh:

 

Would this be an incidental motion, covered under section 30?  To vote by instructing the secretary to vote?  :mellow: 

 

I thought you concurred that this was a ceremony that decides nothing.   

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Without suspending the rules?  :huh:

 

Would this be an incidental motion, covered under section 30?  To vote by instructing the secretary to vote?  :mellow:

 

I think it would be an incidental motion, yes, and I don't believe it would require suspending the rules.

 

I thought you concurred that this was a ceremony that decides nothing.   

 

Yes. Which is why my position is that it should not be done, but there is no rule which prohibits it (assuming a ballot vote is not required).

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I think it would be an incidental motion, yes, and I don't believe it would require suspending the rules.

 

I must learn more about this fascinating incidental motion.  

 

What vote is required for its adoption?  Is it a majority vote, just like other motions relating to methods of voting?  Is it a majority vote even if the question to which it applies requires a higher vote?

 

With you indicating that it's out of order if the bylaws require a ballot vote, we know that it is actually deciding the question, not just a ceremonial gesture.  However, you indicated (by quoting a starship captain) that it's merely a ceremony that decides nothing.  Which is it?

 

What if the secretary were not a member of the assembly, would the motion to allow him to cast the vote be in order?

 

Who can move to reconsider the vote cast by the secretary (in situations where it can be reconsidered)?

 

Would a motion to not allow negative votes on a main motion be in order and require a majority vote? 

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I must learn more about this fascinating incidental motion.  

 

What vote is required for its adoption?  Is it a majority vote, just like other motions relating to methods of voting?  Is it a majority vote even if the question to which it applies requires a higher vote?

 

With you indicating that it's out of order if the bylaws require a ballot vote, we know that it is actually deciding the question, not just a ceremonial gesture.  However, you indicated (by quoting a starship captain) that it's merely a ceremony that decides nothing.  Which is it?

 

What if the secretary were not a member of the assembly, would the motion to allow him to cast the vote be in order?

 

Who can move to reconsider the vote cast by the secretary (in situations where it can be reconsidered)?

 

Would a motion to not allow negative votes on a main motion be in order and require a majority vote? 

 

I think General Robert may have answered some of your questions in Q&A #186 on page 477 of PL. Actually, I suppose I should refer to Q&A Nos 184 through 189 on pages 476-78, since they all appear to relate to this question.

Edited by Daniel H. Honemann
Added the last sentence.
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Is it a majority vote, just like other motions relating to methods of voting?  Is it a majority vote even if the question to which it applies requires a higher vote?

 

Yes to both questions.

 

With you indicating that it's out of order if the bylaws require a ballot vote, we know that it is actually deciding the question, not just a ceremonial gesture.  However, you indicated (by quoting a starship captain) that it's merely a ceremony that decides nothing.  Which is it?

 

The assembly's vote to order the Secretary to cast the ballot is what decides the question. The act of the Secretary casting the ballot is a ceremonial gesture.

 

What if the secretary were not a member of the assembly, would the motion to allow him to cast the vote be in order?

 

Yes.

 

Who can move to reconsider the vote cast by the secretary (in situations where it can be reconsidered)?

 

As we've just discussed, the "vote" cast by the Secretary isn't a real vote, so there is nothing to reconsider. The usual rules for the motion to Reconsider apply to the motion to order the Secretary to cast the "vote" - it must be made by a member who voted on the prevailing side.

 

Would a motion to not allow negative votes on a main motion be in order and require a majority vote? 

 

No.

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I think General Robert may have answered some of your questions in Q&A #186 on page 477 of PL. Actually, I suppose I should refer to Q&A Nos 184 through 189 on pages 476-78, since they all appear to relate to this question.

Thanks for the reference.  

 

 
I have a few follow up questions buried in the paragraphs below.  Some of them even end with questions marks. 
 
1. Where page 477 of PL states, "This is not a vote by ballot, but is a viva voce vote, and cannot be done legally if the by-laws require the election to be by ballot," is it your opinion that General Robert is referring to the order, the vote cast as a result of the order, or both of these things together as an inseparable unit?  It seems to me that he could be treating them as a single act for the purpose of deciding the question on the motion. 
 
 
2. RONR (11th ed.), p. 283, ll. 4-5, states, "The object of these motions is to obtain a vote on a question in some form other than by voice . . ."  Section 30 doesn't provide for changing TO a voice vote by majority vote.  PL states that the process of electing by ordering the secretary to cast the ballot of the club is, at least in some part, definitely a viva voce vote.  RONR (11th ed.), p. 44, ll. 30-33, states, "The vote on a motion is normally taken by voice, unless, under certain conditions, it is taken by rising or . . . by a show of hands."   p. 45, ll. 23-26, states, "Other methods of taking a formal vote are used only when expressly ordered by the assembly or prescribed by its rules."  p. 443, ll. 7-12, states, "if only one person is nominated and the bylaws do not require that a ballot vote be taken, the chair, after ensuring that, in fact, no members present wish to make further nominations, simply declares the nominee elected . . ."  
 
It seems to me that the rule that provides for the chair to simply declare the nominee elected is a rule of order that would require a two-thirds vote for its suspension.  Clearly, another method of voting could be ordered by the assembly, by majority vote.  But this doesn't appear to be a case of changing the method; it appears to be a case of changing the RULES for a particular method.  
 
Here's a fun example:
 
Motion to vote by ballot = majority vote
 
Motion to vote by ballot with the nominee with the fewest votes dropped from the list of nominees for succeeding ballots = two-thirds vote
 
Motion to skip declaring the lone nominee elected until after the secretary has pretended to vote = two-thirds vote
 
3. Let's say an organization has adopted a rule that, in the case of an office having only one nominee, the secretary shall cast the vote of the assembly for that nominee.  If, during the election, a motion is made to skip this step and have the chair simply declare the nominee elected, wouldn't this require a suspension of the rules by a two-thirds vote?  
 
4. Isn't the rule governing an election by voice vote in which there is only one nominee strikingly similar to the rule for the approval of the minutes when no (further) corrections are offered?  While the minutes were being considered, would it be in order for a member to move that the secretary cast the vote of the assembly to approve the minutes?  If so, what vote would be required to adopt such a motion?   
 
 
Thanks
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