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Two thirds of those present


Guest Denise
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Our local little league board of directors recently held a vote to terminate a fellow board member. The constitution reads you need “two thirds vote of those present” to pass the motion. There were 8 board members present. 5 voted yes to terminate, 1 voted no, and 2 abstained. Our president stated the motion passed and the board member was terminated.

 

With the wording in our constitution being “two thirds vote of those present” instead of “two thirds vote of those present and voting” is the president right in only counting the 6 votes or did the motion actually fail due to needing to count all 8 votes?

 

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12 minutes ago, Guest Denise said:

Our local little league board of directors recently held a vote to terminate a fellow board member. The constitution reads you need “two thirds vote of those present” to pass the motion. There were 8 board members present. 5 voted yes to terminate, 1 voted no, and 2 abstained. Our president stated the motion passed and the board member was terminated.

 

With the wording in our constitution being “two thirds vote of those present” instead of “two thirds vote of those present and voting” is the president right in only counting the 6 votes or did the motion actually fail due to needing to count all 8 votes?

 

The motion did not achieve the required vote to pass:

"Voting requirements based on the number of members present—a majority of those present, two thirds of those present, etc.—while possible, are generally undesirable. Since an abstention in such cases has the same effect as a negative vote, these bases deny members the right to maintain a neutral position by abstaining. For the same reason, members present who fail to vote through indifference rather than through deliberate neutrality may affect the result negatively. When such a vote is required, however, the chair must count those present immediately after the affirmative vote is taken, before any change can take place in attendance. (See p. 45, ll. 4–18.)"  RONR (11th ed.), p. 403

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1 hour ago, Guest Denise said:

With the wording in our constitution being “two thirds vote of those present” instead of “two thirds vote of those present and voting” is the president right in only counting the 6 votes or did the motion actually fail due to needing to count all 8 votes?

 

47 minutes ago, George Mervosh said:

The motion did not achieve the required vote to pass:

My take on this is a bit different (but not totally different!) from that of Mr. Mervosh for the following reasons:

First, the vote requirement in the bylaws is poorly worded and must be interpreted... something only the organization itself can do.  If the intent is to require the affirmative vote of two thirds of the members present, it should say exactly that:  "A vote of two thirds of the members present".  That is the suggested wording in RONR when a vote based on the number of members present is required.  The wording "two thirds vote of those present" is ambiguous.  It could be interpreted to mean an ordinary two thirds vote rather than "the vote of two thirds of the members present".  There is a difference.  The phrase (clause?) "of those present" could be a poorly worded means of identifying the body authorized to expel a member".... in this case, the members present at a meeting as opposed to, say,  the board or the entire membership or the votes of those who vote by mail, email or proxy.  So, although in my opinion the most likely intent of the provision is to require "the vote of two thirds of the members present", it is not clear, it is not the wording suggested by RONR,  it creates an ambiguity, and is therefore in need of interpretation by the society itself.   I don't think any of us non-members on this forum can say conclusively what the wording used means.  See pages 402-404 of RONR for suggested wording for variations of the vote required.  It is my opinion that a deviation from the standard "two thirds vote" requirement is not clearly stated as required by RONR.  It is ambiguous and susceptible of two interpretations.  From page 404:

Whenever it is desired that the basis for decision be other than a majority vote or (where the normal rules of parliamentary law require it) a two-thirds vote or a vote of a majority of the entire membership, the desired basis should be precisely defined in the bylaws or in a special rule of order.

My second "disagreement" with Mr. Mervosh is that even if the required vote threshold was not reached, it is too late to complain about it now.  It would have required a timely point of order when the chair declared that the motion was adopted.  No point of order was raised, so the termination of membership stands.  

Edited to add:  See Official Interpretation 2006-18:  http://www.robertsrules.com/interp_list.html#2006_18

Edited by Richard Brown
Added citation to Official Interpretation 2006-18 at end of post
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7 minutes ago, Richard Brown said:

The wording "two thirds vote of those present" is ambiguous.

Maybe, but the previously cited passage uses that exact phrase.

9 minutes ago, Richard Brown said:

My second "disagreement" with Mr. Mervosh is that even if the required vote threshold was not reached, it is too late to complain about it now.  It would have required a timely point of order when the chair declared that the motion was adopted.  No point of order was raised, so the termination of membership stands.  

Edited to add:  See Official Interpretation 2006-18:  http://www.robertsrules.com/interp_list.html#2006_18

I omitted that part completely and Dr. Kapur already followed up and I agree with him, so you're not disagreeing with me at all, unless you think I'm wrong in saying "The motion did not achieve the required vote to pass".

Maybe you're just trying to be disagreeable today.  :)

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15 minutes ago, George Mervosh said:

Maybe, but the previously cited passage uses that exact phrase.

I omitted that part completely and Dr. Kapur already followed up and I agree with him, so you're not disagreeing with me at all, unless you think I'm wrong in saying "The motion did not achieve the required vote to pass".

Maybe you're just trying to be disagreeable today.  :)

I was well into typing my rather lengthy two part response when Dr. Kapur posted his response.  Note that the very beginning of my post begins with the statement that I was disagreeing in a couple of respects and I commenced to number them.   That was the second point.   I had already typed my full response when Dr. Kapur posted his response.  I saw the notification that he had posted a response while I was proofreading mine but did not read it until after I posted mine.   I'm sorry if you think I'm just being disagreeable today.  :) That will come later this afternoon when our state legislature (well, the House of Representatives) passes a bad bill on reconsideration after properly rejecting it two days ago. :(

Edited to add:  If it makes you feel better, I do agree with your statement that "The motion did not receive the required vote to pass".  :)

Edited again to add:  On second thought, no, I do not necessarily agree with you that the motion did not receive the vote required to pass.  That would be the case only if the vote threshold is actually "the vote of two thirds of the members present".  As I said in my post, I'm not convinced that the wording used in the bylaws is clear enough to definitively say that is what it means and it must be interpreted by the society.   

Why do I think this is going to be a bad day??!!  :unsure:

 

Edited by Richard Brown
Added last three paragraphs
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1 hour ago, Atul Kapur said:

Mr. Mervosh is correct, however I think it's important to note that a point of order challenging the chair's announcement would have had to be made at the time of the announcement to be timely. That is, it is too late to change the result now.

 

1 hour ago, J. J. said:

What if this was by ballot? 

I don't think that this would change my answer.

I assume that you are asking because with a ballot vote there is the possibility of a recount. There have been other threads on this forum dissecting errors by the chair  (whether error of fact or of parliamentary law) but I don't have time to review them and decide how they would affect this situation.

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44 minutes ago, Atul Kapur said:

 

I don't think that this would change my answer.

I assume that you are asking because with a ballot vote there is the possibility of a recount. There have been other threads on this forum dissecting errors by the chair  (whether error of fact or of parliamentary law) but I don't have time to review them and decide how they would affect this situation.

If there was a ballot, especially if it was required in the bylaws, it could violate the basic right of an individual member to secrecy in voting when the vote is by ballot. Someone who voted on the losing side may not wish to call there attention to the fact by raising a timely point of order. 

The analogy is found in the first paragraph of p. 413 (see also pp. 441-2).  Is gives a scenario where a member objects to a voice vote to make a ballot vote unanimous.  It indicates that the objection would reveal how the member voted.  The same principle should apply in this case.

Obviously, someone who objects to making a ballot vote unanimous in this circumstances might have voted on the prevailing side, but objects for some other reason.  RONR makes no exception for that.  Likewise, someone raising a point of order may have voted on the prevailing side, but still objects.  RONR currently makes no exception for that either. 

There has some discussion on if p. 413 is the optimal wording on the subject. 

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I respectfully disagree. Raising a point of order that a motion did not receive the requisite number of votes for its adoption does not reveal in any way ones views concerning the merits of the matter which was voted on. The member is simply doing what he ought to do, without indicating his views on the matter which was voted on one way or the other.

Being required to openly vote on a motion to make unanimous a vote previously taken by ballot requires disclosure of ones views on the matter being voted on.

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29 minutes ago, Daniel H. Honemann said:

I respectfully disagree. Raising a point of order that a motion did not receive the requisite number of votes for its adoption does not reveal in any way ones views concerning the merits of the matter which was voted on. The member is simply doing what he ought to do, without indicating his views on the matter which was voted on one way or the other.

Being required to openly vote on a motion to make unanimous a vote previously taken by ballot requires disclosure of ones views on the matter being voted on.

I disagree with your last line.  The member objecting may simply that each member's views should be individually expressed, and may object to any attempt for making a non unanimous vote unanimous, because he feels that it is coercive to other members.  He may object no matter what form the vote takes.  It may not have anything to do with the merits.  

 

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1 hour ago, Daniel H. Honemann said:

I respectfully disagree. Raising a point of order that a motion did not receive the requisite number of votes for its adoption does not reveal in any way ones views concerning the merits of the matter which was voted on. The member is simply doing what he ought to do, without indicating his views on the matter which was voted on one way or the other.

Being required to openly vote on a motion to make unanimous a vote previously taken by ballot requires disclosure of ones views on the matter being voted on.

 

31 minutes ago, J. J. said:

I disagree with your last line.  The member objecting may simply that each member's views should be individually expressed, and may object to any attempt for making a non unanimous vote unanimous, because he feels that it is coercive to other members.  He may object no matter what form the vote takes.  It may not have anything to do with the merits.  

 

Neither I nor RONR have said that objecting to a motion to make unanimous a ballot vote that was not unanimous (which is done by raising a point of order pointing out that such a motion is not in order) requires a disclosure of one's views on the matter that was voted on. What I and RONR both say is that being required to vote on such a motion does require a disclosure of one's views on the matter being voted on, which is the reason why such a motion is not in order.

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29 minutes ago, Daniel H. Honemann said:

 

Neither I nor RONR have said that objecting to a motion to make unanimous a ballot vote that was not unanimous (which is done by raising a point of order pointing out that such a motion is not in order) requires a disclosure of one's views on the matter that was voted on. What I and RONR both say is that being required to vote on such a motion does require a disclosure of one's views on the matter being voted on, which is the reason why such a motion is not in order.

 

I think that raising a point of order fall under the same violation of secrecy in voting as would asking to make a ballot unanimous.

This comes down to a questions of if the rule that X amount of votes is needed when the vote is by ballot, can be suspended and would that suspension require a ballot vote.  The answer to both is yes.  Once you have had a ballot, the motion to permit another vote amount to be used would require a ballot.  What is the difference between requiring some other vote total and a unanimous vote total? 

A member could abstain when someone offers to make a ballot vote unanimous by voice vote, so I am not seeing it as being "required."  By saying silent, any member or members would not have to reveal their views on the matter. 

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Perhaps this would be the best way to phrase the question:

1.  A vote is taken that requires a majority and is required to be taken by ballot, Motion A.  The result is that 20 people voted yes, 10 vote, 5 do not vote.  A member moves "That the vote on Motion A be made unanimous."  The vote is taken by voice and there is no objection.  Was the motion adopted by a unanimous vote?

2.  A vote is taken that requires vote of two thirds of the members present and is required to be taken by ballot, Motion B.  The result is that 20 people voted yes, 10 vote, 5 do not vote. A member moves "That the vote on Motion B be made a two-thirds vote of the members present."  The vote is taken by voice and there is no objection.  Was the motion adopted by a two thirds vote of the members present?

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