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Our board is allowed to vote on issues via email per our bylaws. We have a controversial matter that is being voted on presently. The vote has started. However, two members of the board had expressed concerns but their emails to the board were delayed and arrived after the vote had been called. As they are valid concerns, is there a way to stop the vote to allow more discussion prior to calling for the vote again?

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You will need to follow the rules your board uses to govern voting by email.  Ordinarily, voting is limited to those who are actually present at a meeting, RONR (11th ed.), p. 423.

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I guess what my question is, what can be done. The voting has started, but it was actually called too soon. Is there a way to cancel the voting until the board has time to hear the valid points and discuss? 

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I understood your question, and gave what little information there is to give.  Now that your organization has authorized email voting,  the organization must adopt rules of order that deal with the procedural aspects of voting.  The common parliamentary law prohibits absentee voting.

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In other words, RONR has no rules on what to do in this situation because it says not to get into this situation in the first place (it does not allow email voting). So, when you have a rule to allow voting by email, you should also have adopted rules on what to do in the various situations that may arise. Since there are no rules for this particular situation, then you are on your own. Perhaps your presiding officer could make a decision one way or another, which would be subject to review at the next meeting.

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8 hours ago, Deb Parm said:

I guess what my question is, what can be done. The voting has started, but it was actually called too soon. Is there a way to cancel the voting until the board has time to hear the valid points and discuss? 

Do your rules not specify how long a vote remains open until it is closed? If not, how do you determine when the vote ends?

I would think that if the members who claim they voted in time but that their emails were not received timely can provide proof of when they sent the emails, their votes  should count. However, that is one of the hazards of email voting. This is one your organization or probably have to figure out for itself.

Edited by Richard Brown
Deleted a paragraph that appeared twice

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@Deb Parm most organizations that permit email voting specify the exact time when voting closes. Usually they specify that voting stays open for a certain number of days or until all members have voted, which ever occurs first.
 

One organization with which I am familiar specifies that unless terminated sooner by all members having voted, voting ends after a specified number of days at 11:59:59 PM Pacific time, being one second before midnight. The rules specify how many days voting remains open and all members know exactly when voting will end.   Because of occasional glitches with email, it is dangerous to wait too long and  not vote until just seconds or minutes before voting ends. 

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22 hours ago, Deb Parm said:

Our board is allowed to vote on issues via email per our bylaws. We have a controversial matter that is being voted on presently. The vote has started. However, two members of the board had expressed concerns but their emails to the board were delayed and arrived after the vote had been called. As they are valid concerns, is there a way to stop the vote to allow more discussion prior to calling for the vote again?

In state statute, many states restrict voting by email by providing for taking action outside of a meeting through Unanimous Written Consent. You should contact a lawyer whether email voting is permitted in your jurisdiction.

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17 hours ago, Richard Brown said:

Do your rules not specify how long a vote remains open until it is closed? If not, how do you determine when the vote ends?

I would think that if the members who claim they voted in time but that their emails were not received timely can provide proof of when they sent the emails, their votes  should count. However, that is one of the hazards of email voting. This is one your organization or probably have to figure out for itself.

My understanding is that the issue is not whether particular members' votes will count, but that some directors believe that more discussion should have been permitted prior to the vote.

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As I take it, the order of events is as follows:

1)  The board adopts a rule permitting email voting.

2) A motion has been made, and "discussions" relating to it, have occurred.

3) The voting opened.

4) Some votes have been cast.

5) Email sent prior to the opening of balloting arrived.  (This can generally be verified by checking the headers of the email which has been received.)

6) At some point, the balloting will close.

 

This conundrum is inherent to attempting to conduct business via email.  The lack of physical presence, and of immediate voting, means that situations of this sort are the norm.  Moreover, email voting is fundamentally different than any of the forms of voting contemplated by RONR.  If anything, it is closest to the "lightboard" voting common in the US congress and many state legislatures.

1) I can think of no meaningful way to stop email between members while a vote is ongoing.  Any rule supposing to do so is really attempting to legislate the impossible.

2) Ongoing discussions, by their very nature, have the ability to change people's minds.  I personally have seen a vote flip from unanimously for to unanimously against when a person who had been offline weighed in during an email vote.

3) The natural solution seems to be to allow members to change their vote at any time prior to the close of polling.  I must stress that nothing in RONR requires that this be the practice.  Note that if this IS the rule, there remains the problem that email is by design not an immediate form of communication.  In general, it is immediate enough to be effective, in my view.

4) If a body follows my suggestion to allow votes to be changed, then I strongly recommend that polling be held open for a set time, and not just until everyone has voted.  That way, any late-arriving information has a clearly delimited time for arrival and effect.

Note that I am implying that emails are being sent to all members, and not solely to the chairman. From the standpoint of the security of the vote, I do not see any other way to handle voting.  For the purposes of smoothing the process, I would recommend that members make a practice of explicitly abstaining.  Again, there is no way to make an effective rule requiring them to do so.

 

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26 minutes ago, Nathan Zook said:

I must stress that nothing in RONR requires that this be the practice.

RONR actually does provide that a member has the right to change their vote at any time until the result is announced.

"In voting by any of these methods (including a counted rising vote), a member has the right to change his vote up to the time the result is announced." (RONR, 11th ed., pg. 48)

"A member has a right to change his vote up to the time the result is announced" (RONR, 11th ed., pg. 408)

Of course, RONR also essentially says that all bets are off if an assembly attempts to conduct the deliberative process by email, so it is not clear whether this is applicable here.

"A group that attempts to conduct the deliberative process in writing—such as by postal mail, electronic mail (e-mail), or facsimile transmission (fax)—does not constitute a deliberative assembly. When making decisions by such means, many situations unprecedented in parliamentary law will arise, and many of its rules and customs will not be applicable (see also pp. 97–99)." (RONR, 11th ed., pg. 1, footnote)

On 7/26/2020 at 7:58 AM, Deb Parm said:

As they are valid concerns, is there a way to stop the vote to allow more discussion prior to calling for the vote again?

So far as RONR is concerned, after a vote has begun and any member has actually voted, no interruption of the voting process is in order, except that other business may be conducted during a ballot vote.

"Interruptions during the taking of a vote are permitted only before any member has actually voted, unless, as sometimes occurs in ballot voting, other business is being transacted during voting or tabulating." (RONR, 11th ed., pg. 408)

As with almost all rules in RONR, however, this rule assumes that the assembly "meets in a single room or area or under equivalent conditions of opportunity for simultaneous aural communication among all participants." (RONR, 11th ed., pg. 1) As a result, it is not clear whether this rule is applicable here.

As Mr. Zook notes, however, it is not clear that there is anything, as a practical matter, which actually prevents board members from continuing to send emails even although a vote is underway. In a similar manner, although an assembly meeting in person could not choose to formally reopen debate in the middle of a vote, there is nothing preventing members from continuing to chat with others on the merits of the proposal, so long as their discussion is not a distraction to the assembly.

Edited by Josh Martin

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24 minutes ago, Josh Martin said:

As Mr. Zook notes, however, it is not clear that there is anything, as a practical matter, which actually prevents board members from continuing to send emails even although a vote is underway. In a similar manner, although an assembly meeting in person could not choose to formally reopen debate in the middle of a vote, there is nothing preventing members from continuing to chat with others on the merits of the proposal, so long as their discussion is not a distraction to the assembly.

To elaborate on this paragraph by Mr.Martin, it is common in organizations and boards that permit voting by email to continue the "debate" via email while the vote is in progress.  The most common method, in my experience, is for a motion to be proposed, that it be distributed to the members of the body via email, for the  vote to be held open for a fixed number of days (such as seven days or until all members have voted) and for the "debate" to actually take place via email while the voting is ongoing.   In those situations, "debate" (email discussion) can continue until the last vote is cast, whether because the cutoff time was reached or because all members have voted.

I'm sure there are other methods, such as not permitting any votes to be cast until after a period of "debate", but in my experience the method I described above is the most common method.

Edited to add:  In one organization with a board of over a dozen members which conducts a significant number of email votes, a motion can be proposed either by the chair alone or by a minimum of four or five members "co-sponsoring" the motion.  In the process of seeking co-sponsors, there is usually "wordsmithing" and fine tuning of the motion and discussion before the motion is perfected and formally put out for discussion and voting.  Sometimes, when someone is asking for co-sponsors for a proposed motion,  the member is made to realize the "folly" of his proposal by other members and is convinced to drop it.   For those motions which do become "perfected" and formally put out for vote with the required co-sponsors, there has often already been several days of discussion and fine-tuning of the motion prior to the seven days that voting and discussion is formally open.  Once the perfected motion is formally out for voting, amendments are not permitted, but members can argue that if the  motion is voted down, a member will propose a different version of it which might be more acceptable.

Edited by Richard Brown
First added last paragraph and then added last sentence to the last paragraph

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