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Rick Stahl

Changing by law

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We voted to change the by laws to allow mail in ballots for dues increases. The original By laws standardized a 2/3 majority vote for all votes. A member with EXTENSIVE experience with Roberts Rules wrote the amendment, which at first glance follows the rules. BUT, instead of just validating the provision to allow mail in ballots, he also changed the vote tallying to 1/2 simple majority. There was NO DISCUSSION of this change and it was basically attached the amended By Laws. It was overlooked by most of the members ( although it was a strike out which many members thought nothing of. Is this proper to attach a rider without discussion or mention? Attached is a copy of the ORIGINAL by law and the proposed changes. We feel that the change to 1/2 simple majority, without discussion was deceitful and intentionally written in without discussion. Many feel we were duped into approving TWO changes when the premise was to JUST ALLOW ALL MEMBERS to vote via MAIL IN BALLOT.

Annoucement of proposed changes to bylaws.docx By laws as stated BEFORE amendment.docx

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If people are against the change, they should have read the motion and voted against it (or to amend it). Whatever was moved is now the bylaw. But all is not lost - just amend it again if there is overwhelming opposition. 

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Just to verify, you have already adopted the amendment providing for mail-in ballots for dues with a lowering to a majority vote?  If that is the case then while I understand you feel like this member pulled a fast one on the members the change was pretty clear.  I hate to say it but even if the member was trying to sneak it in the fault ultimately falls on the members for not catching it.  It would have just taken one member to notice the change and moved to strike "a simple majority (more than half)" and insert "two-thirds" and then argue for the amendment in debate and the issue would have been resolved one way or another.

Also, the member was incorrect in that a mail-in ballot cannot be secret.  There are ways to keep the votes secret while ensuring only members voted.  See RONR pp. 424-425.

Edited by Chris Harrison

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The provision supposedly quoted from Robert’s Rules of Order in the explanation of the proposed amendment is not from the current edition or even any recent edition of RONR.  I don’t know what book it comes from. As Chris Harrison said, RONR does clearly provide a method for ensuring the secrecy of ballots by mail.  The quoted language is most certainly not in the current 11th edition. 

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The language supposedly from RONR quoted in the explanation of the amendment is from the outdated 4th edition of Robert's Rules of Order Revised.  It was published over 100 years ago in 1915.  The current official version is the 11th edition, titled "Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised, 11th edition", abbreviated "RONR".  It was published in 2010.  See pages 424-425 for the provisions for voting by mail with secret ballots.  It is absolutely possible to maintain the secrecy of a ballot when voting by mail.

Edited to add:  Your resident "expert" in Robert's Rules should get himself a copy of the current edition and brush up on the changes.  Here is a link to the correct book.  You can get it from Amazon  for around $11 or so:  http://www.robertsrules.com/book.html

Edited again to add:  Here is the language from pages 424-425 of the 11th edition regarding voting by secret ballot using email. 

If the vote is to be secret, an inner return envelope—with a space for the voter's signature placed on its face instead of [page 425] on the ballot—should be sent to the voter with the ballot, in addition to the self-addressed outer return envelope described above. The ballot sent to the voter should be prefolded a sufficient number of times so that—when returned marked and refolded in the same manner and sealed in the inner envelope—there will be no chance of accidental observance of the member's vote by the teller who removes the ballot from the inner envelope. The person designated as addressee for the returned ballots should hold them in the outer envelopes for delivery, unopened, at the meeting of the tellers where the votes are to be counted. At that meeting all inner envelopes are first removed from the outer envelopes. In the procedure by which the tellers remove the ballots from the inner envelopes, each envelope and ballot is handled in the following manner: (1) the signature on the envelope is checked against the list of qualified voters; (2) the voter is checked off on the list as having voted; and (3) the envelope is opened and the ballot is removed and placed, still folded, into a receptacle. When all inner envelopes have thus been processed, the ballots are taken from the receptacle and the votes are counted. In order to ensure the accuracy and the secrecy of such a vote by mail, special care should be taken in all phases of handling the ballots. The chairman of tellers or other person responsible must be able to certify the results from both of these standpoints. Should the recipient of the ballots receive two evidently sent in by the same voter, the above procedure permits the voter to be contacted for a determination of which is the voter's true vote and, if both are, which (the most recent) is to be counted. As with respect to nonsecret ballots, e-mail and other means of electronic communication may be able to be tailored to comply with the above requirements for secret mail balloting.

There have been many changes in Robert's Rules of Order since the publication of the 4th edition.  Please get a copy of the current 11th edition.

Edited by Richard Brown
Added last three paragraphs

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5 hours ago, Rick Stahl said:

We voted to change the by laws to allow mail in ballots for dues increases. The original By laws standardized a 2/3 majority vote for all votes. A member with EXTENSIVE experience with Roberts Rules wrote the amendment, which at first glance follows the rules. BUT, instead of just validating the provision to allow mail in ballots, he also changed the vote tallying to 1/2 simple majority. There was NO DISCUSSION of this change and it was basically attached the amended By Laws. It was overlooked by most of the members ( although it was a strike out which many members thought nothing of. Is this proper to attach a rider without discussion or mention? Attached is a copy of the ORIGINAL by law and the proposed changes. We feel that the change to 1/2 simple majority, without discussion was deceitful and intentionally written in without discussion. Many feel we were duped into approving TWO changes when the premise was to JUST ALLOW ALL MEMBERS to vote via MAIL IN BALLOT.

Annoucement of proposed changes to bylaws.docx 14.17 kB · 7 downloads By laws as stated BEFORE amendment.docx 12.85 kB · 5 downloads

As long as the appropriate notice was given, nothing was done wrong.  Presuming prior notice was required, and if the notice did not mention any change in voting threshold, it would not be proper to add something at the meeting that goes beyond the scope of the notice.

But if the proposed changes included this change and members just didn't pay attention, that's too bad.  If they vote for a change without reading it, they have nobody to blame but themselves.   The can work to re-amend the bylaws, and hope people read their proposal this time.

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