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A play to force a motion to pass when a certain member is not present

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Guest Jack

I attended a meeting and this is what happened. Please excuse my English and I hope my description is clear.

It was a 7 member council. The chair can only vote in the event of a tie vote. 6 members attended the meeting.
Member A made a motion.
Chair decided that the motion was not on the agenda.
Member A insisted that the motion was related to an item on the agenda.
Member A knew that Member B was against her motion but not present at the meeting, if they were to vote, the motion would pass with a 3 to 2 vote. And indeed this was what happened.
However, if Member B was present, the motion would not pass because Member B would have voted against the motion, and the chair was also against the motion, the result would have been 4 to 3, and motion would not have passed.

My questions are:
1. Was there anything that could have been done to prevent the vote from happening? Knowing the intention of Member A.
2. Now that the motion carried. What is the best way to fix this?

Thank you in advance for reading and answering the questions.


 

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1 hour ago, Guest Jack said:

The chair can only vote in the event of a tie vote.

Do your rules specify this? That is not the rule in RONR.

1 hour ago, Guest Jack said:

Chair decided that the motion was not on the agenda.

Do your rules grant the chair the authority to do this? So far as RONR is concerned, the council would decide what is on the agenda.

I would also add that, unless the council's rules provide otherwise, the fact that a motion is not on the agenda doesn't prevent the council from acting on it.

1 hour ago, Guest Jack said:

Member A insisted that the motion was related to an item on the agenda.

I have no idea of knowing whether or not it is correct that the motion was related to an item on the agenda, since I don't know what the motion was or what was on the agenda, but I note again that unless the council's rules restrict it to only considering items on the agenda, it doesn't matter.

1 hour ago, Guest Jack said:

1. Was there anything that could have been done to prevent the vote from happening? Knowing the intention of Member A.

Yes, there is a little-known motion called Reconsider and Enter on the Minutes. What would need to happen is that one of the members who opposed the motion would actually vote in favor of it. After the motion passes, the member would then move to Reconsider and Enter on the Minutes. (It can only be moved by a member on the prevailing side, which is why the member voted for the main motion.) This suspends the effect of the motion. Unlike an ordinary motion to Reconsider, this motion cannot be "called up" until a later meeting - and presumable Member B would be present at that meeting.

1 hour ago, Guest Jack said:

2. Now that the motion carried. What is the best way to fix this?

A member would move to Rescind the motion. This requires a majority vote with notice, or a 2/3 vote or a vote of a majority of the entire membership without notice. Since your council seems to have high attendance, there might not be much difference between a majority vote and a vote of a majority of the entire membership.

I would suggest you also check the council's own rules (and possibly applicable law, since it sounds like this might be a public body), as such rules take precedence over RONR.

Edited by Josh Martin

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Any member of the council could (with a couple of exceptions) have moved that the main motion be postponed to the next meeting. This motion is debatable as to the advisability of the postponement. It would have been worthwhile, I think, for the council to have had a full debate on the postponement, even if the council had ultimately rejected it.

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I concur with both of my colleagues' responses, except for one quibble regarding Mr. Martin's discussion of Reconsider and Enter on the Minutes. That motion would have to be seconded by another member before it would have the effect of suspending action on the adopted main motion. Unlike the maker, however, the seconder need not have voted on the prevailing side.

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I concur with my colleagues but note that this sounds like it is a public body which is likely subject to the state open meetings or sunshine laws. Those laws quite frequently require the items be posted on the agenda a certain number of days prior to the meeting in order to be taken up. If this is indeed a public body, the original poster should check applicable law.

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16 hours ago, Rob Elsman said:

Any member of the council could (with a couple of exceptions) have moved that the main motion be postponed to the next meeting. This motion is debatable as to the advisability of the postponement. It would have been worthwhile, I think, for the council to have had a full debate on the postponement, even if the council had ultimately rejected it.

The challenge with this strategy is that, as there was enough support at the meeting to adopt the motion, it seems very unlikely that the same group would adopt a motion to postpone to a time when it would likely be defeated. One could still try it if one wished.

16 hours ago, Josh Martin said:

Yes, there is a little-known motion called Reconsider and Enter on the Minutes. What would need to happen is that one of the members who opposed the motion would actually vote in favor of it. After the motion passes, the member would then move to Reconsider and Enter on the Minutes. (It can only be moved by a member on the prevailing side, which is why the member voted for the main motion.) This suspends the effect of the motion. Unlike an ordinary motion to Reconsider, this motion cannot be "called up" until a later meeting - and presumable Member B would be present at that meeting.

While this has a higher likelihood of happening, as it only requires two members, it strikes me as a misuse of the rules to vote in opposition to one's true feelings I don't like the fact that one is required to vote insincerely

So I much prefer the strategy of moving to Rescind. It also has the virtue of not requiring a time machine, as the first meeting is now complete.

Edited by Atul Kapur
Mr. Merritt (3 posts down) gave me the word I was looking for

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1 hour ago, Atul Kapur said:

While this has a higher likelihood of happening, as it only requires two members, it strikes me as a misuse of the rules to vote in opposition to one's true feelings.

I was under the impression that voting in opposition to one's true feelings for the specific purpose of moving to reconsider was considered to be acceptable. See RONR (11th ed.), p. 334, ll. 24–35, especially "To be in a position to [move to reconsider and enter on the minutes], [a member in opposition]—detecting the hopelessness of preventing an affirmative result on the vote—should vote in the affirmative himself." on ll. 32–35.

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8 hours ago, Atul Kapur said:

As I said, I personally don't like it as a tactic.

I personally don't like that the mover has to have voted on the prevailing side. Not only does it encourage insincere voting, but depending on how the original vote was taken, it may be impossible to verify whether the mover did, indeed, vote on the prevailing side. I understand the reasoning for the requirement, but I still don't like it. Nevertheless, that's the rule. 

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A number of very fine parliamentarians, over many years, have shared the view that our (American) invention of the motion to Reconsider was, and has proven itself to be, a complete disaster. They very much wish (or wished) to see it just go away, but I'm afraid it is highly unlikely that this will happen any time soon.  🙂

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7 minutes ago, Daniel H. Honemann said:

A number of very fine parliamentarians, over many years, have shared the view that our (American) invention of the motion to Reconsider was, and has proven itself to be, a complete disaster. They very much wish (or wished) to see it just go away, but I'm afraid it is highly unlikely that this will happen any time soon.  🙂

I don't object to the motion itself, as it can be very useful at times. I just don't care for the requirement that the mover must have voted on the prevailing side.

Of course, an organization is free to adopt a special rule of order to eliminate that requirement. Or a member who did not vote on the prevailing side could move to suspend the rules in order to make the motion, which I have seen successfully done on one occasion (although the circumstances were pretty unusual, and the ploy probably would be unlikely to succeed in most instances). 

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21 minutes ago, Daniel H. Honemann said:

A number of very fine parliamentarians, over many years, have shared the view that our (American) invention of the motion to Reconsider was, and has proven itself to be, a complete disaster. They very much wish (or wished) to see it just go away, but I'm afraid it is highly unlikely that this will happen any time soon.  🙂

So you're saying you won't reconsider it? 😉

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If find the form that is used in the US House to be...interesting.  "It-appears-the-ayes-have-it-The-ayes-have-it.-Without-objection-the-motion-to-reconsider-is-laid-upon-the-table."

It's the sort of thing that makes one wish to run for congress solely for the joy of playing merry havoc with the thing...

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Nathan Zook, I wonder what the authors of RONR would think if the chair in an ordinary society were to rule that the motion to Reconsider, in your example, was not in order on account that the motion was being misused for a purpose other than what the motion is properly used for, RONR (11th ed.), p. 315?

It is my own personal opinion that the chair should ask the maker for what purpose the motion is being made, and the motion should, indeed, be ruled to be not in order if the maker is unable to give a reason conforming to the purpose of the motion given on page 315.

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Just now, Rob Elsman said:

Nathan Zook, I wonder what the authors of RONR would think if the chair in an ordinary society were to rule that the motion to Reconsider, in your example, was not in order on account that the motion was being misused for a purpose other than what the motion is properly used for, RONR (11th ed.), p. 315?

It is my own personal opinion that the chair should ask the maker for what purpose the motion is being made, and the motion should, indeed, be ruled to be not in order if the maker is unable to give a reason conforming to the purpose of the motion given on page 315.

My example is a quote from the form which I have observed the Speaker of the House use.  It's entirely unrelated to bodies using RONR, particularly since "laying upon the table" means something very, very different.  :D

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Oh, I realize that.  But, in ordinary societies, it is not uncommon for the chair to entertain a motion to Reconsider very quickly after the the chair has announced the result of the vote on a motion.  The motion Reconsider is made just to prevent a temporary majority from reversing the result on reconsideration later on in the meeting if a number of members on the winning side have left the meeting early.  In my opinion, this is a misuse of the motion to Reconsider that is not in order.

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27 minutes ago, Rob Elsman said:

But, in ordinary societies, it is not uncommon for the chair to entertain a motion to Reconsider very quickly after the the chair has announced the result of the vote on a motion.  The motion Reconsider is made just to prevent a temporary majority from reversing the result on reconsideration later on in the meeting if a number of members on the winning side have left the meeting early.  In my opinion, this is a misuse of the motion to Reconsider that is not in order.

I agree that this use of Reconsider should be ruled out of order. However, this tactic only affects the rights of those who voted on the prevailing side (in an assembly). If the chair does allow it, any such member who objects can move to Reconsider and Enter on the Minutes. If the motion is seconded, this will not only prevent the assembly from forestalling a later reconsideration, but will prevent the main motion from going into effect at all.

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On 7/28/2020 at 3:06 PM, Nathan Zook said:

My example is a quote from the form which I have observed the Speaker of the House use.  It's entirely unrelated to bodies using RONR, particularly since "laying upon the table" means something very, very different.  :D

@Nathan Zook You might try:

The Ayes appear to have it; the Ayes have it and the motion is adopted. Without objection the motion to reconsider is postponed indefinitely.

Of course in ordinary societies, the motion to Reconsider is not the problem that it could become in Congress, if not quickly disposed of.

I've only actually seen it used once, in the Senate, on some bill regarding health care, I believe, when John McCain was alive and kicking.  Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was caught with his whip count off by a little, and the motion (which McConnell opposed) was about to pass.  When the roll call reached him, he voted Aye so as to be on the prevailing side, and when the motion passed, he immediately moved to reconsider.   Or perhaps the reverse if I'm remembering sideways.  I think the ultimate outcome went against him, but I'm not sure.  I also don't recall if he had to object to tabling the motion to reconsider in order to make the motion anew.  Does the Senate use that same boilerplate script?  I sometimes watch House proceedings, but the Senate is almost always a good nap, spoiled.

Edited by Gary Novosielski

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1 hour ago, Gary Novosielski said:

Of course in ordinary societies, the motion to Reconsider is not the problem that it could become in Congress, if not quickly disposed of.

What are some of the distinctions?

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19 hours ago, Alex Meed said:

What are some of the distinctions?

There's no long list.  It's just a matter of the sheer volume of motions (bills) that come before congress.  The rules concerning the motion to Lay on the Table and the routine disposal of a possible motion to Reconsider are designed to support the assumption that when something is passed, (or killed) it will stay passed (or dead) and not soon be revisited.

Edited by Gary Novosielski

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1 hour ago, Gary Novosielski said:

There's no long list.  It's just a matter of the sheer volume of motions (bills) that come before congress.  The rules concerning the motion to Lay on the Table and the routine disposal of a possible motion to Reconsider are designed to support the assumption that when something is passed, (or killed) it will stay passed (or dead) and not soon be revisited.

I think some state legislatures have similar practices. I recall that when I used to observe the New Mexico legislature (which I haven't done for many years), Reconsider was used most often for a bill that had just been defeated. The move was  colloquially referred to as "driving the nail into the coffin." 

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3 hours ago, Gary Novosielski said:

There's no long list.  It's just a matter of the sheer volume of motions (bills) that come before congress.  The rules concerning the motion to Lay on the Table and the routine disposal of a possible motion to Reconsider are designed to support the assumption that when something is passed, (or killed) it will stay passed (or dead) and not soon be revisited.

Right, I was just wondering if that difference in practice between legislative and ordinary societies was a matter of rules or simply of practice.

1 hour ago, Weldon Merritt said:

I think some state legislatures have similar practices. I recall that when I used to observe the New Mexico legislature (which I haven't done for many years), Reconsider was used most often for a bill that had just been defeated. The move was  colloquially referred to as "driving the nail into the coffin." 

Texas doesn't use it that way. Very occasionally members will make motions to reconsider for the actual purpose of reconsidering a question (usually to add a late amendment to a bill but sometimes to try to change a voting result). But it doesn't surprise me that other states have adopted the congressional practice.

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On 7/28/2020 at 3:48 PM, Shmuel Gerber said:

I agree that this use of Reconsider should be ruled out of order. However, this tactic only affects the rights of those who voted on the prevailing side (in an assembly). If the chair does allow it, any such member who objects can move to Reconsider and Enter on the Minutes. If the motion is seconded, this will not only prevent the assembly from forestalling a later reconsideration, but will prevent the main motion from going into effect at all.

I'm not sure how Reconsider and Enter on the Minutes helps the member who objects in the case of a motion that was adopted. In this situation, the chair has (improperly, you would say) accepted a motion to Reconsider immediately after the motion was adopted. In this case Reconsider and Enter on the Minutes would have the result of frustrating the prevailing side because it suspends the motion that was adopted.

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8 hours ago, Alex Meed said:

Right, I was just wondering if that difference in practice between legislative and ordinary societies was a matter of rules or simply of practice.

I believe that it is the rules themselves which are very different. Practice too, probably, but on a foundation of different rules.

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