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Gary R Jones

Calculating majority required for vote

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Our Bylaws specify for certain motions "a 2/3 absolute majority of the seated (members), present and voting, shall be required for approval ."   

My understanding is that, for the purpose of abstentions, the three terms here are at odds.  

"Absolute" would normally refer to the total membership, thus watering down the vote if abstaining.  

"Seated" would refer to only those in attendance, cancelling out "absolute."  

And then, "and voting" would once again exclude abstentions. 

So you could say the same thing simply by saying "a 2/3 majority of members voting," is that correct?

Many thanks. 

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It is ultimately up to each organization to interpret its own bylaws. We cannot do that for you here. However, Robert's Rules does have very clear guidance as to the well established meaning of different voting terms.

It is incorrect to refer to a two-thirds majority. The terms are contradictory. A majority means, simply, more than half. Two thirds means, well, two thirds - not a two-thirds majority. Referring to a two-thirds vote as a two-thirds majority is a mistake frequently made by laymen.

Unless the bylaws or a Special Rule of Order clearly provide otherwise, a majority vote or a two-thirds vote means a majority or two-thirds of those members present and voting. Abstentions are not counted and do not affect the result in such a vote.

If the vote threshold is to be a majority or two-thirds of the members present or of the entire membership, the bylaws or a Special Rule of Order must Clearly say so.

Because you're rule uses so many contradictory and non-standard terms, it is impossible for me to know exactly what it means. However, since your rule does not clearly provide a standard other than that specified in RONR, I personally interpret it to mean an ordinary two-thirds vote of those members present and voting.

Ultimately, however, it is up to your organization to determine what that provision means.


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