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Motion on the table


Guest Selectman
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Correct me if I am wrong:

There is a main motion on the table; it is seconded; discussion is held; the vote is taken.

Out of 8 people ... 4 accepted the motion, 2 opposed the motion and 2 abstained.

The 2 that opposed and the 2 who abstained = no votes  ... 4 accepted, 4 no votes.

Question: does this mean the motion is not carried?  If it is, what happens next?

Thank you.

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First, the motion wasn't on the table.  To lay a motion on the table (which is generally out of order) means to set it aside temporarily.  It sounds like you're describing a motion that was voted on, not one that was set aside.  In any case, it sounds like it was made, seconded, debated, and the chair then put the question, there were 8 present, 4 voted yes, 2 voted no, and 2 did not vote.  Do I have that right?  If so, then no, the motion carried - there were 4 voting yes and 2 voting no.  Assuming it's an ordinary original main motion, requiring a majority for its adoption, it carried because it received more votes in favor than against.  Even if it required a 2/3 vote, there were 6 cast, 4 in favor, which is 2/3, so either way, it carried.

You also asked, it seems, what happens if a motion does fail to be adopted?  If that happened, you'd move on to the next item of business.

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Agreeing with Mr.Katz, you might find FAQ # 4 helpful as to what constitutes a majority vote:  http://www.robertsrules.com/faq.html#4

After reading FAQ # 4, scroll down two questions to FAQ # 6 regarding abstentions.

btw, I think you meant to say a motion was on the floor, not on the table.  As Mr. katz pointed out, a motion which is on the table has been temporarily set aside... it has been laid on the table.

Edited to add:  As the answer to FAQ # 6 points out, abstentions don't count.  They are ignored.  They are not votes.

Edited by Richard Brown
Added last paragraph and made other changes
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Guest Who's Coming to Dinner

in British English, to table means to submit a question for consideration. In American usage, we say that a motion has been put on the floor. Perhaps we have lower standards.

If the requirement was a majority vote, which is the usual case, then a tie is a loss. What happens next is that the assembly moves on to the next item of business.

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25 minutes ago, Guest Who's Coming to Dinner said:

in British English, to table means to submit a question for consideration. In American usage, we say that a motion has been put on the floor. Perhaps we have lower standards.

If the requirement was a majority vote, which is the usual case, then a tie is a loss. What happens next is that the assembly moves on to the next item of business.

Sure, a tie is a loss.  But do you think there was a tie here, assuming the requirement was a majority vote?

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3 hours ago, Guest Who's Coming to Dinner said:

in British English, to table means to submit a question for consideration. In American usage, we say that a motion has been put on the floor. Perhaps we have lower standards.

If the requirement was a majority vote, which is the usual case, then a tie is a loss. What happens next is that the assembly moves on to the next item of business.

Agreed, but this wasn't a tie, it was 4-2 in favor.

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4 hours ago, Guest Selectman said:

Correct me if I am wrong:

There is a main motion on the table; it is seconded; discussion is held; the vote is taken.

Out of 8 people ... 4 accepted the motion, 2 opposed the motion and 2 abstained.

The 2 that opposed and the 2 who abstained = no votes  ... 4 accepted, 4 no votes.

Question: does this mean the motion is not carried?  If it is, what happens next?

Thank you.

An abstention is not a No vote.  In fact, it is not a vote at all.  When you abstain, voting is what you are abstaining from.

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4 hours ago, alanh49 said:

But, if you need a majority of the members present to adopt the motion an abstention will have the same effect as voting no

True, but absent such a rule, the presumption is that a majority vote is required to pass a main motion.  And even when abstention would have the same effect on passage as a No vote, it would not give the abstainer the right to move for reconsideration, should the motion fail.

Edited by Gary Novosielski
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4 hours ago, alanh49 said:

But, if you need a majority of the members present to adopt the motion an abstention will have the same effect as voting no

You DEFINITELY want to check the rules of the group that you are a selectman of to see if "majority of those present" is indeed the correct requirement to adopt something. Or is it just the default: "majority of those present and voting"

Consider this:  if those two abstainers you mentioned both went to the bathroom (at the same time) then there would only be 6 "present" at the meeting and 4 "Yes" votes would be sufficient. Or even just one of them stepped out.

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The original poster used the name "Selectman".  That tells me that he is perhaps talking about a public body, such as a city council.  It is quite common for such public bodies to require the affirmative votes of a "majority of the full membership" in order to adopt substantive legislation.  It's true not just for small bodies like city councils, but also for state legislatures.  Procedural motions might require only a regular majority vote, but the higher threshold might be required for substantive legislation.  If that is the case here, the abstentions might have the effect of a no vote, but they still are not votes.  If it is a body of seven members, and a majority of the entire membership is required to adopt legislation, the body would  need four Yes votes in order to adopt legislation.... regardless of how many members are present.

However, as others have pointed out, the presumption, unless we are told otherwise, is that a regular majority vote is what is needed. 

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58 minutes ago, jstackpo said:

You DEFINITELY want to check the rules of the group that you are a selectman of to see if "majority of those present" is indeed the correct requirement to adopt something. Or is it just the default: "majority of those present and voting"

Consider this:  if those two abstainers you mentioned both went to the bathroom (at the same time) then there would only be 6 "present" at the meeting and 4 "Yes" votes would be sufficient. Or even just one of them stepped out.

An interesting method of "abstaining" in the face of such a rule.  

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