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Seating of Alternates at State Convention


Kathryn Young
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At our annual state convention,  we are allowed to have alternate delegates "to fill a vacancy," per our rules.  The rules are silent on what happens if, after the alternate is seated, the delegate appears and wants to claim his seat. But at that point, there is no vacancy. Also, there is no provision for a delegate to assume an alternate role or fill a vacancy. Is the alternate obliged to surrender his seat to the delegate?

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" If an alternate is to replace a delegate who has registered, proper evidence of that delegate's withdrawal from such status must be presented to the Credentials Committee, and the alternate must be reregistered as the new delegate before he can sit or vote as a member of the convention. It is the duty of any registered delegate who ends his presence at the convention to see that his departure is promptly reported to the Credentials Committee, and to whatever authority is concerned with locating the proper accredited alternate if one is available. Unless the rules of the body provide otherwise, no alternate or other person can "substitute" for a delegate who remains registered. In other words, a delegate's temporary absence from the convention hall does not entitle an alternate to make motions, speak in debate, or cast the delegate's vote—even with the delegate's authorization—unless a rule of the body permits this procedure. "  RONR (11th ed.), p. 605 (emphasis added by me)

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2 hours ago, George Mervosh said:

" If an alternate is to replace a delegate who has registered, proper evidence of that delegate's withdrawal from such status must be presented to the Credentials Committee, and the alternate must be reregistered as the new delegate before he can sit or vote as a member of the convention. It is the duty of any registered delegate who ends his presence at the convention to see that his departure is promptly reported to the Credentials Committee, and to whatever authority is concerned with locating the proper accredited alternate if one is available. Unless the rules of the body provide otherwise, no alternate or other person can "substitute" for a delegate who remains registered. In other words, a delegate's temporary absence from the convention hall does not entitle an alternate to make motions, speak in debate, or cast the delegate's vote—even with the delegate's authorization—unless a rule of the body permits this procedure. "  RONR (11th ed.), p. 605 (emphasis added by me)

That citation seems to address a situation where a delegate is already registered, and it is desired for the alternate to “temporarily” replace him. As the text notes, this is not permitted.

The situation here appears to be that the delegate was not registered at the start of the convention, and an alternate was therefore registered to fill the vacancy. The delegate then subsequently arrived. It seems that in this case, the delegate takes his seat (although I wish the text was clearer on this point).

”Although this motion might appear to be one to amend something previously adopted (35), it requires only a majority vote for its adoption, since it is always understood that the roll will be added to and subtracted from as delegates arrive late or leave early, and alternates may thereby be shifted in status.” (RONR, 11th ed., pg. 617)

Edited by Josh Martin
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And I'd bet cash money that that rule is among the least observed in all the convention rules.  I have seen more than one example of a convention where alternates and delegates swapped in and out of their seat on a minute-by-minute bases, as one or the other went out for a hot dog, and not a rule to be found on the matter.  And no, I did not raise a point of order, as I placed a higher value on my hide.

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It seems to me, in the absence of a rule to the contrary, that a delegate who arrives after an alternate has checked in and been seated is entitled to claim the seat. To hold otherwise could open the door to alternates making it a point to arrive early and to be the first to "check in" at the registration desk, thereby depriving the duly elected delegates of the right to serve as delegates.

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14 hours ago, Josh Martin said:

That citation seems to address a situation where a delegate is already registered, and it is desired for the alternate to “temporarily” replace him. As the text notes, this is not permitted.

The situation here appears to be that the delegate was not registered at the start of the convention, and an alternate was therefore registered to fill the vacancy. The delegate then subsequently arrived. It seems that in this case, the delegate takes his seat (although I wish the text was clearer on this point).

”Although this motion might appear to be one to amend something previously adopted (35), it requires only a majority vote for its adoption, since it is always understood that the roll will be added to and subtracted from as delegates arrive late or leave early, and alternates may thereby be shifted in status.” (RONR, 11th ed., pg. 617)

Yes, I misunderstood the facts here.  Thanks

Edited by George Mervosh
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9 hours ago, Richard Brown said:

It seems to me, in the absence of a rule to the contrary, that a delegate who arrives after an alternate has checked in and been seated is entitled to claim the seat. To hold otherwise could open the door to alternates making it a point to arrive early and to be the first to "check in" at the registration desk, thereby depriving the duly elected delegates of the right to serve as delegates.

Well, I don’t know that checking in early would be an issue. The credentials committee could prudently avoid that issue by not upgrading delegates until after the convention actually starts.

Edited by Josh Martin
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What I have seen is that if, at the time the convention is called to order, there are vacant delegate seats -- whether a delegate did not appear and is not registered, or is registered but is not present on the floor for whatever reason, an alternate will be seated. If the delegate decides to make an appearance later in the day (or next day!), the alternate who is asked to relinquish his seat can feel abused. Yes, there can be abuse on either side. I don't know what the rule should be, but it should be very clear. You can lose a lot of floor time deciding who has the greater right to that seat.

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31 minutes ago, Kathryn Young said:

What I have seen is that if, at the time the convention is called to order, there are vacant delegate seats -- whether a delegate did not appear and is not registered, or is registered but is not present on the floor for whatever reason, an alternate will be seated. If the delegate decides to make an appearance later in the day (or next day!), the alternate who is asked to relinquish his seat can feel abused. Yes, there can be abuse on either side. I don't know what the rule should be, but it should be very clear. You can lose a lot of floor time deciding who has the greater right to that seat.

The elected delegate is THE delegate and has a right to the floor whenever he or she wants it.  An  alternate delegate is just that:  An ALTERNATE.  A Stand-by.  A person who fills in whenever the actual delegate isn't present.  The Alternate should be aware of that basic fact from the get-go.  The elected DELEGATE has the right to be on the floor and to exercise his privileges as a delegate any time he wants to.  A person should not ask to be or agree to be an alternate if he isn't willing to acknowledge and abide by that simple fact.

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2 hours ago, Kathryn Young said:

What I have seen is that if, at the time the convention is called to order, there are vacant delegate seats -- whether a delegate did not appear and is not registered, or is registered but is not present on the floor for whatever reason, an alternate will be seated. If the delegate decides to make an appearance later in the day (or next day!), the alternate who is asked to relinquish his seat can feel abused. Yes, there can be abuse on either side. I don't know what the rule should be, but it should be very clear. You can lose a lot of floor time deciding who has the greater right to that seat.

I agree that greater clarity on the matter of late registered delegates would be desirable, but in my view, the rule of pg. 617 provides that if a delegate registers late, he is entitled to take his seat, and that the lowest-ranking alternate who has been promoted to delegate status is demoted back to alternate status in the event this occurs.

If a delegate is registered, but is not present on the floor for whatever reason, the alternate should not be upgraded in the first place, as is quite clearly stated in the rule on pg. 605. There is no ambiguity on this point. The term “vacancy” in the context of delegates, at least so far as the rules in RONR are concerned, refers to a situation in which fewer delegates are registered than the particular unit is entitled to, either because some delegates did not register to begin with or because they have subsequently withdrawn their registrations. It does not refer to a situation in which a registered delegate is not currently on the floor.

The organization is free to adopt its own rules on this matter if it wishes.

Edited by Josh Martin
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