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Voice, but no vote


Guest Charles Chapman
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Guest Charles Chapman

Two members of a professional education Board of Directors are appointed, not elected, and long-term, on-going members of the body. The constitution/by-laws designate both these positions as "having voice, but no vote." May a member with voice, but no vote submit motions to the board, or must the motion be placed by a voting member?

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May a member with voice, but no vote submit motions to the board, or must the motion be placed by a voting member?

Our standard reply is: you have to figure out what your bylaws mean.

But most here think that, if one right of membership (e.g the right vote) is removed, all other rights (e.g. the right to attend meetings, make motions, and speak in debate) remain.

Once you figure out what your bylaws mean, they should be amended so the same question won't come up again.

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Two members of a professional education Board of Directors are appointed, not elected, and long-term, on-going members of the body. The constitution/by-laws designate both these positions as "having voice, but no vote." May a member with voice, but no vote submit motions to the board, or must the motion be placed by a voting member?

If you're unclear on what your bylaws mean, why should anyone else understand them? (In other words, I concur with Mr. Mountcastle.)

In the fragment of bylaw that you've paraphrased, it appears that your rules don't merely remove a right; they also state a right. This may add complications for interpreting. For principles of interpretation, RONR(10th ed.), p. 570-573.

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Two members of a professional education Board of Directors are appointed, not elected, and long-term, on-going members of the body. The constitution/by-laws designate both these positions as "having voice, but no vote." May a member with voice, but no vote submit motions to the board, or must the motion be placed by a voting member?

I would say yes, for a several reasons, but I would also note that it is subject to interpretation.

The ability to make a motion implies "voice," since motions are normally spoken by the maker.

A main motion made by a nonmember would only be subject to a timely point of order, while a nonmember voting would be a continuing breach (though not necessarily invalidating the motion).

RONR, does permit some situations where a a nonmember presiding office can make motions (i.e. setting aside the orders of the day, Objection To the Consideration of the Question).

I think p. 572 #6 would apply, but it would still be a question of interpretation.

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I am told that in the Czech language, "voice" and "vote" are the same word.

In English, the phrase "voice and vote" usually implies that one has the right to speak in debate, and to express a choice on the outcome. The right to make motions would be more in the nature of "voice" than of "vote". By default, all members have the rights of "voice and vote".

But what precise meaning your bylaws are meant to convey is up to you to decide. They seem clear to me, but I'm not a member; they need to be clear to your society. If they are, then you're fine as things stand. If they're not, then you should perfect them.

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But what precise meaning your bylaws are meant to convey is up to you to decide. They seem clear to me, but I'm not a member; they need to be clear to your society. If they are, then you're fine as things stand. If they're not, then you should perfect them.

Most documents are clear, before one has had a chance to read them. :P

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I think p. 572 #6 would apply, but it would still be a question of interpretation.

I think p. 571 #4 might apply as well, depending on the interpretation, which is of course the responsibility of our Guest's organization. If they were to decide that "voice" meant strictly the ability to engage in debate, and not to make motions nor second them, then the granting of the right to enter into debate, enumerated as such in the bylaws, would seem to restrict from the member the rights (of the "same class") to make and second motions.

The best option here, it seems to me, is to amend the bylaws to state explicitly what the intent is, which I suspect is merely to restrict the member from voting, which is easily done by stating that mere fact alone, and leaving out any qualification.

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  • 10 years later...
Guest Gary Leach, RP

I was looking into this issue on behalf of a statewide organization of which I am a member and decided to check this forum for opinions. The “ voice but no vote” appears in the organization’s bylaws with reference to past presidents as members of the Executive Committee. As of this date, RONR, 12th Edition applies. It’s my opinion that the answer to the question is “yes”, a member with voice but no vote does have the right to make motions. I assume the above reference to p. 572, #6 is comparable to paragraph 56:68, #6 of the 12th Edition, which states, in part, “...permits things of the same class that are not mentioned in the prohibition...” Since the right, “to make motions,...” is not mentioned in the prohibition, I am reporting that the rights to attend meetings, make motions, and take part in debate are all permitted, since they are not mentioned in the prohibition. The use of “voice” in this application is nothing but a ”red herring”.

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