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Guest Tom McHugh

Is a call for nominations from the floor always required?

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Guest Tom McHugh

When the bylaws specify that nominations are made by a Nominating Committee, does RONR (11th ed.) require the chair to call for nominations from the floor, even when the bylaws are silent on that particular option? It would appear so from p. 435, l. 9-12, “After the nominating committee has presented its report and before voting for the different offices takes place, the chair must call for further nominations from the floor.”

 

However, under “Some Principles of Interpretation”, p. 589, l. 33-34, RONR states, “If the bylaws authorize certain things specifically, other things of the same class are thereby prohibited.” In our case, our bylaws do authorize nominations by the Nominating Committee specifically. Therefore, one might conclude from RONR’s Principles of Interpretation that other forms of nominations (e.g. from the floor) are thereby prohibited. Also supporting this position is the fact that in RONR’s sample bylaws, p.585, l. 22-24, words are included specifically to permit nominations from the floor after nominations are made by a Nominating Committee.

 

If such a call for nominations from the floor were already mandated by RONR, it would seem that words in the sample bylaws “permitting” such nominations are superfluous.

 

Can anyone please offer a definitive answer to my original question in light of this possible ambiguity in RONR? Thanks.

 

Tom

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You were sharp to pick up on what might appear as a conflict, or rather a lack of clarity in RONR.  It is my opinion, and i believe the opinion of most other regular contributors to the forum, that nominations from the floor must be permitted unless your bylaws specifically prohibit them.  Even if the bylaws  prohibit nominations from  the floor, that bylaw provision is in the nature of a rule of order and could  be suspended by a two thirds vote unless the bylaw provision itself says that it may not be suspended.  See pages13,17, 263.

 

Stay tuned in case others disagree.

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When the bylaws specify that nominations are made by a Nominating Committee, does RONR (11th ed.) require the chair to call for nominations from the floor, even when the bylaws are silent on that particular option?

 

Yes.

 

However, under “Some Principles of Interpretation”, p. 589, l. 33-34, RONR states, “If the bylaws authorize certain things specifically, other things of the same class are thereby prohibited.” In our case, our bylaws do authorize nominations by the Nominating Committee specifically. Therefore, one might conclude from RONR’s Principles of Interpretation that other forms of nominations (e.g. from the floor) are thereby prohibited. Also supporting this position is the fact that in RONR’s sample bylaws, p.585, l. 22-24, words are included specifically to permit nominations from the floor after nominations are made by a Nominating Committee.

 

If such a call for nominations from the floor were already mandated by RONR, it would seem that words in the sample bylaws “permitting” such nominations are superfluous.

 

It will ultimately be up to your organization to interpret its own bylaws, but I don't believe the principle in question means that nominations from the floor are prohibited. The existence of a committee which makes nominations and the ability of other members to make nominations are not, in my opinion, "things of the same class." With that said, I'm not sure the wording in the sample bylaws is superfluous. It serves to clarify the rule in the bylaws so that there cannot possibly be any doubt on that point.

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When the bylaws specify that nominations are made by a Nominating Committee, does RONR (11th ed.) require the chair to call for nominations from the floor, even when the bylaws are silent on that particular option? It would appear so from p. 435, l. 9-12, “After the nominating committee has presented its report and before voting for the different offices takes place, the chair must call for further nominations from the floor.”

 

However, under “Some Principles of Interpretation”, p. 589, l. 33-34, RONR states, “If the bylaws authorize certain things specifically, other things of the same class are thereby prohibited.” In our case, our bylaws do authorize nominations by the Nominating Committee specifically. Therefore, one might conclude from RONR’s Principles of Interpretation that other forms of nominations (e.g. from the floor) are thereby prohibited. Also supporting this position is the fact that in RONR’s sample bylaws, p.585, l. 22-24, words are included specifically to permit nominations from the floor after nominations are made by a Nominating Committee.

 

If such a call for nominations from the floor were already mandated by RONR, it would seem that words in the sample bylaws “permitting” such nominations are superfluous.

 

Can anyone please offer a definitive answer to my original question in light of this possible ambiguity in RONR? Thanks.

 

Tom

 

There is also a principle of interpretation that a specific rule takes precedence over a general one.  

 

And “After the nominating committee has presented its report and before voting for the different offices takes place, the chair must call for further nominations from the floor.” is pretty specific.  It presumes that you have established a nominating committee, so no ambiguity exists.

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There is also a principle of interpretation that a specific rule takes precedence over a general one.  

 

And “After the nominating committee has presented its report and before voting for the different offices takes place, the chair must call for further nominations from the floor.” is pretty specific.  It presumes that you have established a nominating committee, so no ambiguity exists.

True, but that principle is not fully applicable when one rule is on a higher level than the other, and RONR does not explicitly state that the rule in question applies even if the nominating committee is in the bylaws and the bylaws are silent on other nominations (although in my opinion, it does).

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It will ultimately be up to your organization to interpret its own bylaws, but I don't believe the principle in question means that nominations from the floor are prohibited. The existence of a committee which makes nominations and the ability of other members to make nominations are not, in my opinion, "things of the same class." With that said, I'm not sure the wording in the sample bylaws is superfluous. It serves to clarify the rule in the bylaws so that there cannot possibly be any doubt on that point.

 

I agree with this response, and would point out that the provision in the sample bylaws is included to ensure that nominations from the floor will also be permitted at the election meeting following the meeting at which the nominating committee submits its report.

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I see the wording in the sample bylaws as being there for completeness concerning the Nomination Procedure, which is what the paragraph is talking about. It think it would be poor wording in the bylaws to call a committee a nominating committee if the intent is for it to nominate people for positions without there being an opportunity for other individuals to be nominated by some other means. That would be an "appointment committee" not a nominating committee.

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True, but that principle is not fully applicable when one rule is on a higher level than the other, and RONR does not explicitly state that the rule in question applies even if the nominating committee is in the bylaws and the bylaws are silent on other nominations (although in my opinion, it does).

 

That's my opinion as well.  In fact, if there were no nominating committee, or if the bylaws had provisions covering other nominations, the rule in question would be superfluous.

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I see the wording in the sample bylaws as being there for completeness concerning the Nomination Procedure, which is what the paragraph is talking about. It think it would be poor wording in the bylaws to call a committee a nominating committee if the intent is for it to nominate people for positions without there being an opportunity for other individuals to be nominated by some other means. That would be an "appointment committee" not a nominating committee.

You're presuming that the nominating committee would be presenting only one candidate for each seat, and presuming further that write-ins would not be allowed.  

 

Also, as Dan pointed out, the default rule in RONR only requires nominations from the floor be allowed at the meeting at which the nominating committee reports, while the sample bylaws extend that opportunity to the next meeting as well.  So, it's not just a restatement of the rule, it's a substantial expansion of it.

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Guest Tom McHugh

Good points – thanks to all who chimed in! 

 

We had a situation in which the Nominating Committee seemed prepared to insist that they had the final say on whose names appeared on the election ballot. Since the nominating procedure in the bylaws was clear, and that procedure did not explicitly include a call for nominations from the floor, the Committee could presumably argue that a discussion or vote purporting to “interpret” an unambiguous bylaw was not in order.

 

Agreed, if our bylaws had only included the statement, “nominations from the floor shall be permitted”, the situation described above would have been averted. Here’s how it ultimately played out. Rather than risk a contentious debate at the Annual Meeting, the Nominating Committee narrowly agreed to add to the slate one more person, namely, the person who would certainly have been nominated from the floor. That person was subsequently elected, to the obvious displeasure of several members of the Nominating Committee.

 

Gary’s reminder that a specific rule takes precedence over a general one was particularly helpful. Nevertheless, since RONR appears to give a strong-minded Nominating Committee plausible arguments for blocking nominations from the floor, a future edition of RONR might consider including a clarifying statement to the effect that the right of individual members to participate in the nominating process is a fundamental one, absent an explicit, contrary provision in the bylaws. Thanks again.

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Gary’s reminder that a specific rule takes precedence over a general one was particularly helpful. Nevertheless, since RONR appears to give a strong-minded Nominating Committee plausible arguments for blocking nominations from the floor, a future edition of RONR might consider including a clarifying statement to the effect that the right of individual members to participate in the nominating process is a fundamental one, absent an explicit, contrary provision in the bylaws. Thanks again.

Based on the number of inquiries we get here as to whether nominations from the floor must be permitted, I agree.  Some of those discussions get rather involved.

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We had a situation in which the Nominating Committee seemed prepared to insist that they had the final say on whose names appeared on the election ballot. Since the nominating procedure in the bylaws was clear, and that procedure did not explicitly include a call for nominations from the floor, the Committee could presumably argue that a discussion or vote purporting to “interpret” an unambiguous bylaw was not in order.

 

Agreed, if our bylaws had only included the statement, “nominations from the floor shall be permitted”, the situation described above would have been averted. Here’s how it ultimately played out. Rather than risk a contentious debate at the Annual Meeting, the Nominating Committee narrowly agreed to add to the slate one more person, namely, the person who would certainly have been nominated from the floor. That person was subsequently elected, to the obvious displeasure of several members of the Nominating Committee.

 

There now appears to be more in your bylaws relating to your questions than has heretofore been disclosed. Nothing in RONR gives any authority to a Nominating Committee to prepare an election ballot and the power to determine whose names will or will not appear on it.

 

It also appears that, at your Annual Meeting, nominations from the floor were not called for following the report of the Nominating Committee, as is so very clearly required by the rules in RONR. There apparently is more in your bylaws which conflicts with the procedures clearly outlined in RONR on pages 433-36 than we have been made aware of.

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You're presuming that the nominating committee would be presenting only one candidate for each seat, and presuming further that write-ins would not be allowed.  

 

Also, as Dan pointed out, the default rule in RONR only requires nominations from the floor be allowed at the meeting at which the nominating committee reports, while the sample bylaws extend that opportunity to the next meeting as well.  So, it's not just a restatement of the rule, it's a substantial expansion of it.

 

Well, yes, I am presuming that (well, not the write-ins would not be allowed part, but the rest of it). That is basically how RONR recommends that a nominating committee should function. It isn't prohibited from nominating more than one person, but it typically won't and RONR warns against requiring the nominating committee to nominate more than one person.

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Guest Tom McHugh

Daniel,

Actually, additional nominations were solicited from the floor - there were none. And the Nominating Committee didn't prepare the election ballot, they only presented their nominations to the assembly. The actual ballot was prepared at the Annual Meeting at the chair's direction.

My reason for posting here wasn't to solicit a critique of our procedure, least of all one based on incomplete or presumed information. It was solely to ask for help because the requirement to call for nominations from the floor simply wasn't "so very clear" to everyone. To reiterate, some people (i.e., those favoring a "powerful" Nominating Committee) were prepared to argue that:

- The bylaws specifically authorize nominations from the Nominating Committee, but not from the floor. Under RONR's principles of interpretation, "If the bylaws authorize certain things specifically, other things of the same class are thereby prohibited." (Obviously, opinions can even differ as to what is meant by "things of the same class".)

- The bylaws (which do not call for nominations from the floor) trump Robert's Rules (which does, but, presumably, to no effect, since a more detailed procedure exists in the bylaws.)

- The bylaws are unambiguous on the nominating process, therefore, a vote by the assembly on their "interpretation" is unwarranted.

- Even if nominations were previously taken from the floor by custom, custom "falls to the floor" in the face of a written rule.

- If the society wanted nominations to be taken from the floor, it would have said so in its bylaws, as do RONR's sample bylaws.

Please don't misunderstand, while I don't agree with these arguments, neither are they entirely frivolous. That's why I'm suggesting that, in the next edition of RONR, what is so very clear to professional parliamentarians such as yourself, be made "clear beyond any conceivable doubt" to the struggling rest of us!

Thanks again to all for a profitable discussion.

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Daniel,

Actually, additional nominations were solicited from the floor - there were none. And the Nominating Committee didn't prepare the election ballot, they only presented their nominations to the assembly. The actual ballot was prepared at the Annual Meeting at the chair's direction.

My reason for posting here wasn't to solicit a critique of our procedure, least of all one based on incomplete or presumed information. It was solely to ask for help because the requirement to call for nominations from the floor simply wasn't "so very clear" to everyone. To reiterate, some people (i.e., those favoring a "powerful" Nominating Committee) were prepared to argue that:

- The bylaws specifically authorize nominations from the Nominating Committee, but not from the floor. Under RONR's principles of interpretation, "If the bylaws authorize certain things specifically, other things of the same class are thereby prohibited." (Obviously, opinions can even differ as to what is meant by "things of the same class".)

- The bylaws (which do not call for nominations from the floor) trump Robert's Rules (which does, but, presumably, to no effect, since a more detailed procedure exists in the bylaws.)

- The bylaws are unambiguous on the nominating process, therefore, a vote by the assembly on their "interpretation" is unwarranted.

- Even if nominations were previously taken from the floor by custom, custom "falls to the floor" in the face of a written rule.

- If the society wanted nominations to be taken from the floor, it would have said so in its bylaws, as do RONR's sample bylaws.

Please don't misunderstand, while I don't agree with these arguments, neither are they entirely frivolous. That's why I'm suggesting that, in the next edition of RONR, what is so very clear to professional parliamentarians such as yourself, be made "clear beyond any conceivable doubt" to the struggling rest of us!

Thanks again to all for a profitable discussion.

 

The arguments you mention are entirely frivolous unless you have something in your bylaws which you haven't mentioned that would change this assessment.

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Not to disagree, but I would note that nominations are rules "in the nature of a rule of order," and that either they may be suspended and that their violation would not create a breach of a continuing nature. 

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