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Roll Call Voting


swagaman
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I belong to an organization that is made up of 26 member organizations.  Each member organization sends a delegate to an annual meeting.  One delegate serves as the chairman of the annual meeting.  At the upcoming meeting there is going to be a vote that will most likely be a roll call vote based on the member organizations desire to document in the minutes how each organization’s delegate votes.  I understand from RONR that the chairman’s name/organization will be called last, and only if her vote will make a difference to the outcome.  At that point she may decide whether or not to vote.  Her organization would like to have their vote documented in the minutes, whether or not her vote makes a difference in the outcome.  May she vote even if her vote does not make a difference in the outcome?

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23 minutes ago, swagaman said:

I belong to an organization that is made up of 26 member organizations.  Each member organization sends a delegate to an annual meeting.  One delegate serves as the chairman of the annual meeting.  At the upcoming meeting there is going to be a vote that will most likely be a roll call vote based on the member organizations desire to document in the minutes how each organization’s delegate votes.  I understand from RONR that the chairman’s name/organization will be called last, and only if her vote will make a difference to the outcome.  At that point she may decide whether or not to vote.  Her organization would like to have their vote documented in the minutes, whether or not her vote makes a difference in the outcome.  May she vote even if her vote does not make a difference in the outcome?

Yes. While the chair should not vote except when her vote would make a difference, the chair (if a member) ultimately has the right to vote.

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Just now, Greg Goodwiller, PRP said:

Since that would be an exception to the rule in your parliamentary authority (assuming RONR is your adopted authority), it would require the adoption of a special rule of order. 

Well, I suppose it would require a special rule of order if it was the organization’s desire to make clear that the chair is always free to vote by roll call. It seems to me, however, that while the chair should not vote unless her vote would affect the result, the chair may not actually be prevented from voting - even if the vote is taken by roll call.

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I'm happy to be "schooled" by my colleagues in the forum on this, but I have always understood, taught, and advised that a special rule would be required to allow the chair to vote when it does not affect the outcome. I hope others will chime in with their views and justification for advising otherwise. Thanks.

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Guest Who's Coming to Dinner

Page 53 (RONR 11th ed.) says that the chair "has the same voting right as any other member." [emphasis original] Then it says that chair does not exercise that right except when the vote is secret or her vote could affect the outcome. It is difficult to tell if this use of the present tense is prescriptive or merely descriptive of what a good chair should do.

Page 405 (ibid.) uses permissive language to say that the chair "can vote as any other member when the vote is by ballot" and "can (but is not obliged to) vote whenever his vote will affect the result...." If there is a rule that the chair may not vote otherwise, why does the text not say so?

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2 hours ago, Greg Goodwiller, PRP said:

I'm happy to be "schooled" by my colleagues in the forum on this, but I have always understood, taught, and advised that a special rule would be required to allow the chair to vote when it does not affect the outcome. I hope others will chime in with their views and justification for advising otherwise. Thanks.

I would have to agree with this position, but would note that in an individual case, the rules could be suspended to permit it. 

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And again we return to the question of definitions: Is there a difference between having a right one is not allowed to exercise and not having that right?

It seems pretty clear to me that the chair is permitted to vote on any question, even though the best practice is for the chair to refrain from doing so.

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Isn't this a question of a delegate representing a constituent body voting at a convention p. 605, lines 26-29

A delegate isfree to vote as he sees fit on questions at the convention, except as his constituent unit may haveinstructed him in regard to particular matters scheduled for consideration. 

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

Page 53 (RONR 11th ed.) says that the chair "has the same voting right as any other member." [emphasis original] Then it says that chair does not exercise that right except when the vote is secret or her vote could affect the outcome. It is difficult to tell if this use of the present tense is prescriptive or merely descriptive of what a good chair should do.

Page 405 (ibid.) uses permissive language to say that the chair "can vote as any other member when the vote is by ballot" and "can (but is not obliged to) vote whenever his vote will affect the result...." If there is a rule that the chair may not vote otherwise, why does the text not say so?

I think the answer to this point is interpretive rule #4 (pg. 589).

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15 hours ago, Greg Goodwiller, PRP said:

Yes. While the chair should not vote except when her vote would make a difference, the chair (if a member) ultimately has the right to vote.

 

On what do you base that? I don't see any "should" language in the rule on pp. 405-406.

 

“A member of an assembly, in the parliamentary sense, as mentioned above, is a person entitled to full participation in its proceedings, that is, as explained in 3 and 4, the right to attend meetings, to make motions, to speak in debate, and to vote. No member can be individually deprived of these basic rights of membership—or of any basic rights concomitant to them, such as the right to make nominations or to give previous notice of a motion—except through disciplinary proceedings.” (RONR, 11th ed., pg. 3)

A member who serves as chairman agrees not to exercise the right to vote except when his vote would affect the result or when the vote is taken by ballot. If the chairman insists on exercising his right to vote, however, he cannot be prevented from doing so, as electing a member of chairman does not actually deprive him of his rights as a member. He could be disciplined for this (up to and including removal from office), especially if it becomes a habit, as it will undermine his appearance of impartiality.

8 hours ago, Leo said:

Isn't this a question of a delegate representing a constituent body voting at a convention p. 605, lines 26-29

A delegate isfree to vote as he sees fit on questions at the convention, except as his constituent unit may haveinstructed him in regard to particular matters scheduled for consideration. 

Of course, but what does that have to do with the question that was asked? The rules regarding the chair’s participation are the same in a convention of delegates as in any other large assembly.

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9 hours ago, Benjamin Geiger said:

And again we return to the question of definitions: Is there a difference between having a right one is not allowed to exercise and not having that right?

It seems pretty clear to me that the chair is permitted to vote on any question, even though the best practice is for the chair to refrain from doing so.

I think that the rules of order dictate that it violates the rule that the presiding officer is impartial if he votes, except by ballot or if it effects the result.   A president* that votes would violate that rule.  After the vote is cast, a point of order could be raise that the president should not vote.  The point should be properly well taken that the president violated the rule that he be impartial, but that his vote was valid.

There are two substantive effects of this:

A.  The president could be subject to disciplinary action for violating the duty of office that he impartial.  Admittedly, that would be very unlikely.

B.  If the motion would be subject to reconsideration, a legitimate point of order could be raised that the president has shown partiality in regard to the question and should vacate the chair while the question is pending.

If the was a special rule permitting the president to vote in all, or some additional,  cases, or if the rule requiring impartiality to the extended to the president voting in this situation were suspended, there would no problem.

 

*Assuming that the president is a member and that this in small board in this example. 

Edited by J. J.
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46 minutes ago, J. J. said:

I think that the rules of order dictate that it violates the rule that the presiding officer is impartial if he votes, except by ballot or if it effects the result.   A president* that votes would violate that rule.  After the vote is cast, a point of order could be raise that the president should not vote.  The point should be properly well taken that the president violated the rule that he be impartial, but that his vote was valid.

There are two substantive effects of this:

A.  The president could be subject to disciplinary action for violating the duty of office that he impartial.  Admittedly, that would be very unlikely.

B.  If the motion would be subject to reconsideration, a legitimate point of order could be raised that the president has shown partiality in regard to the question and should vacate the chair while the question is pending.

If the was a special rule permitting the president to vote in all, or some additional,  cases, or if the rule requiring impartiality to the extended to the president voting in this situation were suspended, there would no problem.

 

*Assuming that the president is a member and that this in small board in this example. 

I agree with all of this. I can see how my earlier statement may have given the impression that the rules on this subject are mere “advice,” and this was not my intent.

46 minutes ago, Greg Goodwiller, PRP said:

And I think this is the best advice to give swagaman.

Yes, but if that was the only advice we gave to the OP, I expect the OP would walk away with the understanding that the chairman does not have the right to vote except when her vote would affect the result or when the vote is taken by ballot, unless a rule of order or motion to suspend the rules is adopted providing otherwise.

The actual answer is more nuanced than that. I appreciate the clarification from yourself and J.J. that it is, in fact, a rule that the chairman does not vote except when her vote would affect the result or when the vote is taken by ballot, and there may indeed be consequences for the chairman to violate this rule. Nonetheless, if the chairman insists on voting in other circumstances, she may not be prevented from doing so.

The situation is more complex here, as in addition to serving as chairman, the member is also an elected delegate of a constituent organization which wishes for the chairman (in her capacity as delegate) to cast a vote on an important issue where the vote is to be taken by roll call, in order that there is a record of the constituent organization’s position on this matter. (As I understand it, however, the constituent organization has not actually instructed the chairman in this matter - if it had, that would add another wrinkle.) So the Chairman may be in a position where she is in trouble with somebody regardless of what she does. The suggestion to Suspend the Rules and relieve the chairman of this dilemma is a good one, but even if such a motion fails, the Chairman still has the right to cast her vote.

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4 hours ago, Josh Martin said:

Of course, but what does that have to do with the question that was asked? The rules regarding the chair’s participation are the same in a convention of delegates as in any other large assembly.

I  was also about to point out that in an association of associations, the vote of the delegates is often based on instructions from the sending organization.  It does not change the answers given, except that the decision on whether to vote or not may not be up to the chair as an individual, but rather based on instructions.

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3 hours ago, Gary Novosielski said:

I  was also about to point out that in an association of associations, the vote of the delegates is often based on instructions from the sending organization.  It does not change the answers given, except that the decision on whether to vote or not may not be up to the chair as an individual, but rather based on instructions.

Yes, RONR has the following to say on that subject: “As in the case of any committee, in the absence of a superior rule to the contrary a constituent society or unit can instruct its delegation, although this is not always a good practice in ordinary societies. Such instructions are binding upon the delegation to the extent that the convention's presiding officer and other officials should enforce instructions of which they have been properly and officially notified. Such instructions, for example, frequently require a delegation to take a position for or against a measure expected to come before the convention, or to vote for certain candidates.” (RONR, 11th ed., pg. 606)

This leads to an even more interesting dilemma, in which one rule tells the chair not to vote and the other rule says she is to enforce the instructions, meaning that she must vote. I am inclined to think that the rule on pg. 606 is controlling in this case, but it is not entirely clear.

Most conventions have the Chairman of the convention be someone other than the elected delegates to avoid dilemmas like this. For instance, the President of a state or national association will generally serve ex officio as a delegate and as chairman, and the chairman is therefore not beholden to any of the constituent units and can maintain a position of impartiality - and, at the same time, no constituent unit is deprived of full participation.

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Thank you all for the detailed and nuanced analysis.  I don't feel badly that I couldn't figure this out by myself.

Since I posted the question, I found out that past chairmen (who were also delegates) always voted during a roll call vote.  While I haven't checked past minutes to verify this information, it would seem that if the current chairman votes without first having the rule suspended, the chance of someone raising a point of order is low.

Thank you again for your responses.

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15 hours ago, Josh Martin said:

Yes, RONR has the following to say on that subject: “As in the case of any committee, in the absence of a superior rule to the contrary a constituent society or unit can instruct its delegation, although this is not always a good practice in ordinary societies. Such instructions are binding upon the delegation to the extent that the convention's presiding officer and other officials should enforce instructions of which they have been properly and officially notified. Such instructions, for example, frequently require a delegation to take a position for or against a measure expected to come before the convention, or to vote for certain candidates.” (RONR, 11th ed., pg. 606)

This leads to an even more interesting dilemma, in which one rule tells the chair not to vote and the other rule says she is to enforce the instructions, meaning that she must vote. I am inclined to think that the rule on pg. 606 is controlling in this case, but it is not entirely clear.

I agree with your conclusion and would base it on the rules for interpretation #4, pp. 589-90.  These rules are stated to apply equally, in addition to the bylaws, to "other rules and documents adopted by the organization (p. 588, ll. 20-23)."

The general rule is that the chair will not vote in order preserve impartiality.  The specific rule is that the chair will enforce the instructions of a constituent body upon its delegates, if the chair has received official notice of those instructions (p. 606, ll. 18-21).

I will also note that the vote of a delegate, when properly instructed, does not necessarily represent the personal opinion of the delegate.  A delegate who is not an officer, may be instructed to vote "yes" on a motion.  He may be personally opposed to adopting the motion, and, assuming he didn't make the motion, but he could speak against it or offer hostile amendments.  Voting on the motion, when so instructed, would not indicate that the chair holds the same personal position as his vote would indicate.

I think there is a strong case for your position. 

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