Paul McClintock
Professional Registered Parliamentarian

In My Opinion...

General Q&A forums for parliamentary procedure:
•  RONR Message Board
•  Yahoo Group ParliPro
   

Index of Questions

  1. When the chair votes, should it be recorded in the board minutes?
  2. How do minutes reflect a point of order raised during debate?
  3. Do ex officio members have all of the rights and none of the duties of regular members?
  4. Can an election be held by plurality vote when the bylaws are silent of the matter?
  5. Is "majority" the same as "50% + 1"? 
  6. Can you suspend the rules regarding notice if all the members of the organization are present?

Note:  Abbreviations are used below as follows--
RONR - Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised,
10th edition, 2000
TSC - The Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure,
4th edition, 2000
DM - Demeter's Manual of Parliamentary Law and Procedure,
Blue Book edition, 1969
MP - Meeting Procedures,
James Lochrie, 2003
PL
- Parliamentary Law,
by Henry M. Robert

Questions and Answers

Question 1:  When the chair votes, should it be recorded in the board minutes?

Answer: "In a board meeting where there are not more than about a dozen members present" [RONR p.470, l. 17-19, "The chairman...usually votes on all questions" [p. 471, l. 7-11]. Thus, the chair votes anytime he/she so desires (no ballot or tie-making or -breaking criteria needed), and the vote totals reflect the vote.  The minutes generally do not need to record vote totals, but if they do, the minutes need not mention whether or not the chair voted.

Question 2:  How do minutes reflect a point of order raised during debate?

Answer:  The point of order does not go in a separate paragraph; RONR p. 452, l. 17-18: "minutes should contain a separate paragraph for each subject matter." This statement ends in a colon, preceding numbered items 6) through 9), which include both the main motion and the points of order. Thus, the point of order should be covered in the same paragraph.

The minutes could read something like: "John Doe moved that.... During debate a point of order was raised that.... The point was well taken by the chair, who agreed that.... The motion was adopted."

Note that the reason for the ruling on the point of order is also to be given and recorded in the minutes [RONR p. 245, l. 16-17].

Question 3:  Do ex officio members have all of the rights and none of the duties of regular members?

AnswerRONR distinguishes between ex-officio board members who are under the control of the society (members, officers, employees), and those who are not (e.g., a parent organization's officer), p. 466. The latter have "all of the rights but none of the duties"; not the former.  RONR also distinguishes between ex-officio members of boards vs. committees. The president as ex-officio member of a committee has "all of the rights but none of the duties" (see p. 440), but as ex-officio member of a board, the president also has all of the duties.

Question 4Can an election be held by plurality vote when the bylaws are silent of the matter?

Answer:  If RONR is the parliamentary authority (PA), no.  "A plurality that is not a majority never chooses a proposition or elects anyone to office except by virtue of a special rule previously adopted. If such a rule is to apply to the election of officers, it must be prescribed in the bylaws."  RONR p.392, l.2-6.

If TSC is the PA, no.  "A plurality vote does not elect a candidate or carry an alternative measure except when the bylaws provide for decision by plurality vote."  TSC p.135.

If DM is the PA, no.  "It is an established rule of parliamentary law that elections shall be decided by a majority vote....  This is true even if the bylaws are silent, because a majority is always understood.  A majority vote means more than half of the votes cast at a legal meeting with quorum." And, "the bylaws can be amended to specify or provide for a plurality vote instead of a majority...."  DM p.246.

If MP is the PA, no.  "The vote-counting protocol should be included in the documents of authority; if the documents of authority are silent, the vote-counting protocol is a majority of the votes cast.  The vote-counting protocol may not be suspended." MP p.133.

Question 5Is "majority" the same as "50% + 1"?

Answer:  Common faulty definitions of "majority" are "50% + 1" and "51%."  A majority is simply "more than half" (RONR p.4).

With 5 voting, 2.5 is half; 3 is a majority, more than half.  But 50% + 1 is 2.5 + 1 = 3.5, and with the usual whole number voting, you'd have to have 4 to have 3.5, so 50% + 1 incorrectly says 3 is not a majority of 5.  For every odd total, the "50% plus one" formula produces exactly one more than the true majority.  And if a motion received one "aye" and zero "noes," it would receive 100%, but not 50% plus one (0.5 + 1 = 1.5), so the motion would fail receiving a majority using this faulty definition!

The "51%" formula is faulty if the total is 51,53,55,...,99,101,102,103,104,....  (Every odd total from 51 to 99; every total over 100.)
A 50.1% formula is faulty if the total is 501,503,505,...,999,1001,1002,1003,1004,....

One more nuance that makes "more than half" correct and the others wrong:  Suppose 8 people vote.  Half (50%) of 8 is 4.  "More than half" includes 5, 6, 7 and 8.  "50% + 1" is 5, but not 6, 7 or 8.  "51%" is 4.08 but not 5, 6, 7 or 8.  To include the number above the problematic formulas you would have to add "or more" (e.g., "50% + 1 or more").

Question 6:  Can you suspend the rules regarding notice if all the members of the organization are present?

Answer:  RONR is silent on this issue, but Demeter says: "Where the required notice of a meeting has not been given or the notice given was insufficient or defective in any essential respect, if all the members appear at the meeting and participate without objection, it will be deemed a waiver by each member of any defect in or failure of notice, and hence acts done at such meeting would then be valid" (DM p.203). Court case cited.

 

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Last updated 2005-12-07