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Voting at two meetings

Guest Leland

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I attend a Baptist church where this past Sunday the church was going to vote on next year's budget. We have an early service and a late service. After each service the church was called into session, ballots distributed and collected without debate. Debate I assume was conducted last Wednesday night during the church's quarterly business conference with the vote postponed till Sunday so that more people could vote and the vote could appear more celebratory, democratic and unifying (this sort of thing happens quite a bit in Baptist churches when it comes to calling pastors and other high profile decisions). What bothers me is that there is some controversy about the budget (I only found out about it during the Sunday School hour between services). In looking at RR I see no awareness of one vote split over two meetings though the situation is a bit like a vote by mail. I think the votes yesterday were technically legal (previously debated, secret ballot) but unwise in that many people had not heard the debate nor could anyone ask questions. What is your opinion about the legality and wisdom of this? Is this a practice, voting at two meetings, that we should continue?

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RONR p. 425 hints at it being okay (not a form of absentee voting) for voting to take place at a "polling place" apart from the meeting.

"All nominations can be completed before any balloting takes place - in which case voting for all offices is commonly done by a single ballot. This method is suitable for use in conventions where voting takes place at a "polling place" apart from the convention meetings."

Presumably this is during a recess, or else it deprives the members from participation in the meeting while voting.

It appears your church had the meeting (where the motion to adopt the budget was made and debated) on Wednesday, and the polls open at two times on Sunday "apart from the meeting." Just as in the page 425 situation, you can't debate or amend the pending motion at the polls. You should have had that opportunity at the Wednesday meeting.

That you only found out about the budget on Sunday may suggest that notice to all members of the Wednesday meeting may have been lacking, which is a separate problem.

Your church's practice as presented differs from the page 425 materially in that the membership at the convention at the meeting and at the polling place apart from the meeting is essentially the same set of members, but not nearly so in your case. Your case approaches a form of absentee voting in character although not listed explicitly in RONR, and should likely have such a procedure both authorized in bylaws and detailed in special rules.

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