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Guest Carrie Peters
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Our town had a special town meeting to discuss and vote on the town purchasing a property. We did a ballot vote and ended up in a tie. The moderator did NOT vote. Once the ballot clerks told him it was a tie, he announced it to the people and then said the moderator casts his vote to break the tie. He voted in favor of the purchase.  Now a few people are saying that that is not legal/proper way and that the vote should be cancelled because it was a tie and that the moderator can't break it because it was a ballot vote.  We are trying to find some clarity on this.

Thank you!

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Well, regardless of whether the chair should have voted after the others voted, what is done is done.  Apparently, the chair announced that the motion had failed.  Without a timely point of order, the pronouncement of the chair stands.  Someone would have to make a point of order at the time of the chair's vote in order to reverse his ruling/announcement of the vote results.

Should he have voted after the others voted when the vote was a ballot vote?  According to RONR, no, he should not have.  But, the statement in RONR isn't quite as explicit as it could be.  Here is the applicable language from page 53 of the 11th edition of RONR.  I bolded the key language:  "Chair's Vote As Part of the Announcement, Where It Affects the Result. If the presiding officer is a member of the assembly or voting body, he has the same voting right as any other member. Except in a small board or a committee, however—unless the vote is secret (that is, unless it is by ballot; 45)—the chair protects his impartial position by exercising his voting right only when his vote would affect the outcome, in which case he can either vote and thereby change the result, or he can abstain. If he abstains, he simply announces the result with no mention of his own vote."

As I said in the first paragraph, however, the issue is moot as nobody raised a point of order when the chair voted.  However, unless you have some customized rule that prohibits it, a new motion to purchase the property can be made at the next meeting or some other future meeting.

Edited to add:  As Mr. Huynh correctly points out below, the chair apparently announced that the motion had passed, not that it had failed.  And Mr. Huynh found the statement in RONR that when the vote is by ballot, the chair must vote with everyone else unless he receives the permission of the assembly to cast his vote after the others.

Edited by Richard Brown
Added last paragraph to correct my answer
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12 minutes ago, Richard Brown said:

... Apparently, the chair announced that the motion had failed...

Wouldn't the chair have announced that the motion was adopted if he voted in favor of it?

12 minutes ago, Richard Brown said:

... But, the statement in RONR isn't quite as explicit as it could be...

What about RONR 11th ed., p. 414, ll. 25-28?

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1 minute ago, Hieu H. Huynh said:

Wouldn't the chair have announced that the motion was adopted if he voted in favor of it?

What about RONR 11th ed., p. 414, ll. 25-28?

Ah, you are correct on both points!  For some reason, I thought the chair had declared that the motion failed.  He did indeed announce that it passed... so as far as RONR is concened, it was adopted notwithstanding the fact that the chair should have voted with everyone else in a ballot vote.

Thanks for finding the reference on page 414.  I thought it was in the book somewhere, but wasn't able to find it.

So, in conclusion, my opinion is still that the chair's pronouncement that the motion was adopted still stands, notwithstanding the fact that he shouldl not have been allowed to cast his vote after the others had voted without the permission of the assembly.  I believe that a violation of that rule would require a timely point of order at the time of the breach as I stated in my first post.

Note:  I am assuming that the moderator (the chair) did announce that the motion passed.  If he did not, then that presents a new problem.

Thanks, Hieu, for catching my two mistakes!

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Since it was a ballot vote the chair should have voted along with everyone else, presuming he is a member, and barring some oddball voting provision we're not aware of.  Whether he voted or abstained on the ballot vote, he does not get a second vote in the event of a tie; the motion simply fails.

I'm not as quick as some to declare that it is too late to raise a point of order.  

It seems to me that if someone who was not entitled to vote casts a vote, and this vote could have (and in this case demonstrably did) change the outcome, this could be seen as a continuing breach.

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12 minutes ago, Gary Novosielski said:

Since it was a ballot vote the chair should have voted along with everyone else, presuming he is a member, and barring some oddball voting provision we're not aware of.  Whether he voted or abstained on the ballot vote, he does not get a second vote in the event of a tie; the motion simply fails.

I'm not as quick as some to declare that it is too late to raise a point of order.  

It seems to me that if someone who was not entitled to vote casts a vote, and this vote could have (and in this case demonstrably did) change the outcome, this could be seen as a continuing breach.

Since no one raised a point of order when the moderator voted and declared the motion adopted, it would seem that the assembly gave its permission.

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7 minutes ago, Daniel H. Honemann said:

Since no one raised a point of order when the moderator voted and declared the motion adopted, it would seem that the assembly gave its permission.

I see your point, but how is that different from a case where a non-member votes and the membership status is not discovered until after the fact?  In this case, it seemed that there was no general understanding at the time about whether the chair had voted or should have voted by ballot.

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1 minute ago, Gary Novosielski said:

I see your point, but how is that different from a case where a non-member votes and the membership status is not discovered until after the fact?  In this case, it seemed that there was no general understanding at the time about whether the chair had voted or should have voted by ballot.

The difference lies in the fact that the chair is entitled to vote if the assembly permits it. 

 

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36 minutes ago, Daniel H. Honemann said:

The difference lies in the fact that the chair is entitled to vote if the assembly permits it. 

 

The assembly could, technically, reopen the polls, or suspend the rules, and permit a member (in this case the chair) to vote, provided the member is willing to reveal his vote.  A lot is going on in this with this single vote. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thank you everyone for your responses!! The chair is a member of the assembly and he felt the rules were that he does not vote at all unless there is a tie and then he votes to break the tie.  He announced that it was a tie and then said he is the one to break it and he said he votes to approve the purchase. Everyone just assumed this was correct procedure and went on with the meeting. There was talk about doing a petition within the 30 days to call for a new vote. 

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 10/18/2017 at 5:23 PM, Guest Carrie Peters said:

Lawyers decided it was an improper vote since it was a ballot vote the moderator can not break a tie with a voice vote.  Since it was a tie the article failed.  

Lawyers, with exceptions, are not known for their expertise with respect to parliamentary procedure.  According to RONR, it is the assembly itself, not a lawyer, and not even a real parliamentarian, that is the final authority on disputes about whose votes should or should not be counted.

For future reference, on a ballot vote, the presiding officer should vote along with everyone else.  And on counted votes, may vote not merely to "break" a tie, but to create a tie, or in any other situation where that one vote could be the deciding one, such as to make or deny a 2/3 vote or other threshold.

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