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Modified Voting Basis

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When RONR discusses modification of a voting basis, it refers to rules defining the modification ([10th ed.], p. 98, l. 28; p. 387, l. 6-7, 23; p. 389, l. 22, 29; p. 391, l. 23-25), to categories of questions to which such rules apply (p. 98, l. 31-32; p. 387, l. 24-25), and to increasing the proportion of votes required for adoption (p. 98, l. 28-29). On the matter of rules, the following passage is particularly clear: “Whenever it is desired that the basis for decision be other than a majority vote . . . the desired basis should be precisely defined in the bylaws or in a special rule of order” (p. 391, l. 20-25)

Is an original main motion that incorporates a modified voting basis ever in order in the absence of such a higher-level rule? If, for example, a motion “that $50 be donated to Charity X if at least two thirds of the members present and voting vote for the adoption of this motion” receives at least two thirds of the votes, it would at least satisfy the rule that any motion whose adoption has the effect of suspending a rule of order requires a two-thirds vote (p. 98, l. 33 - p. 99, l. 1). If such a motion is in order, does it require a two-thirds vote for its adoption or only for it to take effect?

A similar modification of the usual voting basis would be achieved by adopting an incidental motion that requires a particular main motion to receive a two-thirds vote for its adoption. General Robert explains that such an incidental motion is in order and that it requires a two-thirds vote because it “practically suspends the rules related to voting” (PL, p. 518, answer to question 323).

A similar modification would also be achieved by means of amending the motion to Adopt (i.e., amending the enacting words) by adding a proviso that a main motion not take effect unless it receives a two-thirds vote. The only provisos that RONR discusses involve what happens after a motion is adopted—i.e., the mechanics of transition to an amended bylaw article on officers (p. 579, l. 11-18), printing and distribution (p. 119, l. 6-7), an effective date (p. 119, l. 8-9; 578, l. 23-25), or “anything of a similar nature” (p. 119, l. 9)—and require only a majority vote (p. 578, l. 34-35). Is the addition of a proviso modifying the voting basis for a main motion in order? If so, does the addition of the proviso itself require a two-thirds vote? Does the proviso cause the main motion to require a two-thirds vote for its adoption or only for it to take effect?

Finally, is a motion in order that has the effect of decreasing the usual proportion of votes required for the adoption of a particular main motion? If so, does the motion that has this effect require a two-thirds vote?

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Is an original main motion that incorporates a modified voting basis ever in order in the absence of such a higher-level rule?

...

for example, a motion “that $50 be donated to Charity X if at least two thirds of the members present and voting vote for the adoption of this motion” ...

As Gomer Pyle used to say, "Surprise, surprise, surprise!" :)

The answer is YES.

A main motion can indeed have embedded within it its own vote threshold.

Is the addition of a proviso modifying the voting basis for a main motion in order?

Yes.

If so, does the addition of the proviso itself require a two-thirds vote?

Surprise, again!

"No." -- The proviso itself is treated as an amendment, (i.e., adoptable by majority vote) and is not treated as a suspension of the rules, surprisingly.

Finally, is a motion in order that has the effect of decreasing the usual proportion of votes required for the adoption of a particular main motion?

I myself am surprised -- no one has ever asked that question in the opposite direction, i.e., to LOWER the threshold DOWN below a majority vote.

I suppose, in theory, the answer is YES.

But my mind boggles at the application.

And I wouldn't be surprised if someone could come up with a contrary answer.

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When RONR discusses modification of a voting basis, it refers to rules defining the modification ([10th ed.], p. 98, l. 28; p. 387, l. 6-7, 23; p. 389, l. 22, 29; p. 391, l. 23-25), to categories of questions to which such rules apply (p. 98, l. 31-32; p. 387, l. 24-25), and to increasing the proportion of votes required for adoption (p. 98, l. 28-29). On the matter of rules, the following passage is particularly clear: “Whenever it is desired that the basis for decision be other than a majority vote . . . the desired basis should be precisely defined in the bylaws or in a special rule of order” (p. 391, l. 20-25)

Is an original main motion that incorporates a modified voting basis ever in order in the absence of such a higher-level rule? If, for example, a motion “that $50 be donated to Charity X if at least two thirds of the members present and voting vote for the adoption of this motion” receives at least two thirds of the votes, it would at least satisfy the rule that any motion whose adoption has the effect of suspending a rule of order requires a two-thirds vote (p. 98, l. 33 - p. 99, l. 1). If such a motion is in order, does it require a two-thirds vote for its adoption or only for it to take effect?

A similar modification of the usual voting basis would be achieved by adopting an incidental motion that requires a particular main motion to receive a two-thirds vote for its adoption. General Robert explains that such an incidental motion is in order and that it requires a two-thirds vote because it “practically suspends the rules related to voting” (PL, p. 518, answer to question 323).

A similar modification would also be achieved by means of amending the motion to Adopt (i.e., amending the enacting words) by adding a proviso that a main motion not take effect unless it receives a two-thirds vote. The only provisos that RONR discusses involve what happens after a motion is adopted—i.e., the mechanics of transition to an amended bylaw article on officers (p. 579, l. 11-18), printing and distribution (p. 119, l. 6-7), an effective date (p. 119, l. 8-9; 578, l. 23-25), or “anything of a similar nature” (p. 119, l. 9)—and require only a majority vote (p. 578, l. 34-35). Is the addition of a proviso modifying the voting basis for a main motion in order? If so, does the addition of the proviso itself require a two-thirds vote? Does the proviso cause the main motion to require a two-thirds vote for its adoption or only for it to take effect?

Finally, is a motion in order that has the effect of decreasing the usual proportion of votes required for the adoption of a particular main motion? If so, does the motion that has this effect require a two-thirds vote?

Although I understand the gist of what you're getting at, I would remind you that motions to Amend and Reconsider only require a majority vote, regardless of the vote required to adopt the main motion. This means that, in the final analysis, a slim majority will always have the sufficient power to adopt a main motion, unless the bylaws prescribe a higher requirement for that class of motions.

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Is an original main motion that incorporates a modified voting basis ever in order in the absence of such a higher-level rule? If, for example, a motion “that $50 be donated to Charity X if at least two thirds of the members present and voting vote for the adoption of this motion” receives at least two thirds of the votes, it would at least satisfy the rule that any motion whose adoption has the effect of suspending a rule of order requires a two-thirds vote (p. 98, l. 33 - p. 99, l. 1). If such a motion is in order, does it require a two-thirds vote for its adoption or only for it to take effect?

The motion would only require a majority vote to be adopted but the authorized action would not occur unless the higher voting threshold was reached. And no rules need to be suspended so the actionable threshold needn't be two-thirds.

Of course it would only take a majority vote to remove the actionable threshold.

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Finally, is a motion in order that has the effect of decreasing the usual proportion of votes required for the adoption of a particular main motion? If so, does the motion that has this effect require a two-thirds vote?

RONR states "The basic principle of decision in a deliberative assembly is that, to become the act or choice of the body, a proposition must be adopted by a majority vote.." (p.4, l.5-7). Is there any credence to the view that, in light of this statement, adoption of any proposition by at least a majority vote might be considered very close to being a fundamental principle of parliamentary law? If that were the case, then trying to set a voting threshold of less than a majority would be a continuing breach as per p.244,sec.d.

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RONR states "The basic principle of decision in a deliberative assembly is that, to become the act or choice of the body, a proposition must be adopted by a majority vote.." (p.4, l.5-7). Is there any credence to the view that, in light of this statement, adoption of any proposition by at least a majority vote might be considered very close to being a fundamental principle of parliamentary law? If that were the case, then trying to set a voting threshold of less than a majority would be a continuing breach as per p.244,sec.d.

You got me thinking on this, and I was almost to the point of saying (to myself) "Oh, yes and......" and then that pesky example on page 43 popped into mind. You know, the one where RONR (l. 20ff) talks about "a vote of one fifth of the members present....". Yeah, that one. So, since RONR seems to think that's okay, I don't see that p.4 ll.5-7 sets any sort of FPPL out of a majority vote. My two cents is all......

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RONR states "The basic principle of decision in a deliberative assembly is that, to become the act or choice of the body, a proposition must be adopted by a majority vote.." (p.4, l.5-7). Is there any credence to the view that, in light of this statement, adoption of any proposition by at least a majority vote might be considered very close to being a fundamental principle of parliamentary law? If that were the case, then trying to set a voting threshold of less than a majority would be a continuing breach as per p.244,sec.d.

But if the setting the voting threshold to less than a majority were done by a two-thirds vote, then it could presumably become an act or choice of the body without conflict, could it not? It rubs me the wrong way too, but it would seem to be allowed.

* * *

It might be interesting to look at this in terms of the principle that suspending a rule cannot succeed in the face of a negative vote as large as the minority protected by the rule. If the voting threshold were reduced below a majority, then who is the "minority"?

Clearly, in the standard requirement, the minority being protected is actually a majority, i.e., more than one-half those voting. Would that switch, if the Aye votes could constitute the minority--yet prevailing--opinion? The case might be made (not by me) that reducing the requirement to, say, one quarter, actually "protects" a larger fraction (3/4) of the members.

But in fact it actually infringes on the rights of the majority to carry out their deliberate will. Who protects them, if a minority can pass motions? Surely a temporary rule to allow a motion to pass by 1/4 should require a 3/4 affirmative vote to adopt it.

Or perhaps not? For example, if it were included in the bylaws before general adoption.

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Is an original main motion that incorporates a modified voting basis ever in order in the absence of such a higher-level rule?

It is possible to include a proviso in a main motion that the motion shall not take effect unless a certain threshold is reached, but the threshold for adoption would remain unchanged. Such a proviso may be included in the original motion, or it may be added or removed by use of the subsidiary motion to Amend prior to adoption, or by use of the incidental main motion to Amend Something Previously Adopted after adoption. Since this does not affect the threshold for adoption, as a practical matter this strategy may only be used to raise the threshold for a motion to take effect.

Alternately, the motion to Suspend the Rules may be used to change the threshold for adoption itself. With this strategy, the threshold for adoption may be either raised or lowered, however, all the usual rules relating to Suspend the Rules apply. This means that such a motion must receive a 2/3 vote and meet the threshold required for adoption, under the rule of RONR, 10th ed., pg. 253, lines 8-10.

In my opinion, neither of these strategies is particularly useful.

If, for example, a motion “that $50 be donated to Charity X if at least two thirds of the members present and voting vote for the adoption of this motion” receives at least two thirds of the votes, it would at least satisfy the rule that any motion whose adoption has the effect of suspending a rule of order requires a two-thirds vote (p. 98, l. 33 - p. 99, l. 1). If such a motion is in order, does it require a two-thirds vote for its adoption or only for it to take effect?

The motion would require a majority vote for adoption and a 2/3 vote to take effect.

A similar modification of the usual voting basis would be achieved by adopting an incidental motion that requires a particular main motion to receive a two-thirds vote for its adoption. General Robert explains that such an incidental motion is in order and that it requires a two-thirds vote because it “practically suspends the rules related to voting” (PL, p. 518, answer to question 323).

Yes, this would be the incidental motion to Suspend the Rules.

Is the addition of a proviso modifying the voting basis for a main motion in order?

Yes.

If so, does the addition of the proviso itself require a two-thirds vote?

No. Adding a proviso to a pending motion is simply a particular usage of the subsidiary motion to Amend, and requires only a majority vote.

Does the proviso cause the main motion to require a two-thirds vote for its adoption or only for it to take effect?

The main motion would only require a 2/3 vote for it to take effect.

Finally, is a motion in order that has the effect of decreasing the usual proportion of votes required for the adoption of a particular main motion?

As an incidental motion to Suspend the Rules, yes. The other strategies would be ineffective, since the threshold for adoption remains unchanged.

If so, does the motion that has this effect require a two-thirds vote?

Yes, such a motion requires at least a 2/3 vote, and possibly higher, if the motion originally required a higher voting threshold.

But such a motion may not lower the threshold for adoption below a majority. (RONR, 10th ed., pg. 392, lines 2-6)

Is there any credence to the view that, in light of this statement, adoption of any proposition by at least a majority vote might be considered very close to being a fundamental principle of parliamentary law?

Yes. (RONR, 10th ed., pg. 392, lines 2-6)

Edited by Josh Martin

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Thanks to all of you for your insightful replies.

I see now that the concept of a voting basis applies, strictly speaking, only to the adoption of a motion, whereas provisions relating to when or whether a motion takes effect may, by majority vote, be incorporated into provisos or other amendments.

The issue of the vote required to suspend the rules related to voting is complex enough that I’ll pursue it under a new topic.

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