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Guest Puzzled Parliamentarian

Voting abstentions as Nays for these bylaws

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Guest Puzzled Parliamentarian

My question is regarding the count for voting abstentions under these bylaws: "with a 2/3 majority of voting members present at a meeting at which a quorum is present, shall effect such changes."  It is my understanding that by principle, an abstention vote is used only for the quorum count, and should not be counted as yay or nay.  However, for this policy, is that clear?  I am getting hung up on the phrases voting members present and meeting at which a quorum is present (defined elsewhere as a simple majority) and wondering if that can (and more important, should) be interpreted as voting abstentions counting as nay votes. 

Any assistance will be appreciated! 

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Help us (and Chris) out by quoting the entire section of your bylaws that includes the fragment ("with a 2/3 majority...") that you did quote.   What you did cite doesn't make much sense  --  I too am confused.

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Guest Puzzled Parliamentarian

Here is the full text: 

"Any voting member or committee of the Assembly may propose changes to the Assembly Bylaws to the Executive Committee of the Assembly. The Executive Committee of the Assembly will present them to the Assembly who, with a 2/3 majority of voting members present at a meeting of the Assembly at which a quorum is present, shall effect such changes."

---  my leaning is that the spirit of the bylaw is 2/3 majority of votes cast (abstentions not counting as nays), when a quorum is present, would mean that the amendment passes.  But I can see an argument for abstentions (which is unfortunately too common), because of the phrase voting members present counting as nays.  Just asking for extra eyes, and greater expertise!

Thank you!

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Is the term "voting members" defined anywhere in your bylaws? That Is, is it a specific category or classification of membership? If so, that would tend to go against your leanings. Either way, I agree that this is ambiguous. The best thing to do is, before it becomes an issue, amend it so that the wording is more clear. My suggestion would be, "... with a 2/3 vote of members present and voting at a meeting of ..."

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Guest Zev
17 minutes ago, Atul Kapur said:

My suggestion would be, "... with a 2/3 vote of members present and voting at a meeting of ..."

Are you sure about this? Look at the original language again.

1 hour ago, Guest Puzzled Parliamentarian said:

...with a 2/3 majority of voting members present at a meeting of the Assembly...

What I saw is that it did not actually say anything about the voting requirement but rather said what the attendance requirement was. Or am I seeing things? If they embrace Dr. Kapur's suggestion then they will exchange one requirement for a different one. Perhaps a better one? I do not know.

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Guest Puzzled Parliamentarian

Voting membership is defined elsewhere in the bylaws (divided by full-time, part-time, etc.), and the ability to cast votes changes according to what section of the bylaws are being amended.  The bylaw referenced above allows for the largest voting membership (amendments requiring only a simply majority have more restrictive voting memberships). 

I agree that the wording should be changed.  But this issue could come up before any bylaw changes can be implemented.

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1 hour ago, Guest Zev said:

What I saw is that it did not actually say anything about the voting requirement but rather said what the attendance requirement was.

In the bylaw it referred to a "voting member" who may propose changes to the bylaws, and "voting members" in the section that is causing this thread. So this suggested that it was a specific term (rather than "voting" being a superfluous adjective), which Guest PP has confirmed above.

My suggested wording resolves the ambiguity by making the bylaws clearly reflect Guest PP's leaning:

2 hours ago, Guest Puzzled Parliamentarian said:

my leaning is that the spirit of the bylaw is 2/3 majority of votes cast (abstentions not counting as nays), when a quorum is present, would mean that the amendment passes.

If the intent was to have it the other way (that is, if abstentions were meant to have the same affect as Nays), my suggested wording would be, " ... by a vote of 2/3 of the members present at a meeting of ..."

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The conflict described by Guest Zef points to the interpretation of the written words, while Mr. Kapur addresses a conflict regarding interpretation of intent.

"with a 2/3 majority of voting members present at a meeting of the Assembly at which a quorum is present"

"At which a Quorum is present" implies that quorum requirements have already been established in the bylaws.

"With a 2/3 majority of voting members present at a meeting" would create a separate quorum requirement rather than a voting requirement for the action.

The organization will have to interpret their own bylaws, but whether you agree with the points of Guest Zev or Mr. Kapur the bylaws should be amended so the language is clear and leaves no room for debate.

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The question is whether members present and voting means the same thing as voting members present.  

In this context, it appears that the phrase "voting members" may be intended to refer to a type of member the way some organizations might use "members in good standing", rather than meaning a member who has actually cast a vote on a given question.   

I think the phrase must be interpreted by the organization itself.  One important question might be, does the organization have any other kind of members, apart from "voting members"?  If so then I'd lean toward the first interpretation--if not, then the latter one. 

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