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laniem

Are abstentions private?

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Hello.  Does anyone know if abstentions are private?  By that I mean is one required to declare why they are abstaining?

And can you point me to the Robert's Rules section that supports this?  Thank you!

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Unless your bylaws say otherwise, all you have to do to abstain is simply not vote. In fact, during or after the vote, there is no opportunity to demand or provide an explanation; the proper time to explain is during the debate (and explaining why you're abstaining is a bit odd to begin with).

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There is nothing in RONR that guarantees a member some sort of confidentiality with respect to an abstention, per se. Rather, if a method of secret voting is used, only the member who abstains will know. On the other hand, if a method of recorded voting is used, the abstention will be recorded in the minutes as either "abstain" or "not present".

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46 minutes ago, laniem said:

Hello.  Does anyone know if abstentions are private?  By that I mean is one required to declare why they are abstaining?

And can you point me to the Robert's Rules section that supports this?  Thank you!

"RULE AGAINST EXPLANATION BY MEMBERS DURING VOTING. A member has no right to "explain his vote" during voting, which would be the same as debate at such a time. "  RONR (11th ed.), p. 408   This would, of course, include explaining why you are abstaining.

Edited by George Mervosh

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Guest Zev

Is this a public body or a private society? In other words, is there a constituency involved?

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1 hour ago, Guest Zev said:

Is this a public body or a private society? In other words, is there a constituency involved?

I agree that it might be helpful  to know if this is a public body, but a public body isn't defined by having a "constituency".   Public bodies can be boards, committees, commissions, etc... with or without a constituency as such.  The key is more like whether the body serves a governmental  function or is created by a governmental body. 

To new member laniem, the reason this can be important is that if this is a public body, recorded votes might be required and a reason for abstaining might be required.  The rules in each state are different. 

If this is not a public body, then, as Mr. Mervosh explained, an explanation is not only not required, it is improper. 

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On 6/10/2019 at 10:09 AM, laniem said:

Hello.  Does anyone know if abstentions are private?  By that I mean is one required to declare why they are abstaining?

And can you point me to the Robert's Rules section that supports this?  Thank you!

It is not too difficult to hide the fact that one is abstaining.  On a voice vote, all that is required is not to answer when either the Ayes or the Noes are called for.  The chair must never call for Abstentions.  For a rising vote, do not stand for either affirmative or negative.  For a ballot vote, do not turn in a ballot, or turn in a blank ballot. For a roll-call vote, it's more difficult.  Normally you would answer Abstain or Present, but you could simply fail to respond when your name is called.

If a member wishes to make the reason known, the time to do that is during debate. But it is not required, and nobody should ever ask.  If anyone were to ask me, I would probably respond "Nunya bidniss" in a very slightly snippy tone.  Very slightly.

Edited by Gary Novosielski

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