Dear Parliamentarian Vol. 15 March '97
Dear Parliamentarian Vol. 15 March '97
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In this month’s column we have the following questions:
Does a committee have the right to present a series of resolutions to an assembly without the assembly have the right to make changes?
How does lack of a quorum affect an election by mail ballot and installation of officers?
Proxy voting and Robert’s view about it.
Boards who redo committee reports
Trial of a member
Rescinding a motion
Misuse of parliamentary procedure
President overstepping authority in meetings
What goes in the minutes
Assessment of late fees
I'm don't quite understand RR feelings regarding proxies and community organizations. Would you please clarify. Our next bylaws revision meeting with the entire association is Wednesday, March 18. Thank you for any help you can give us. firstname.lastname@example.org
The basic reason Robert’s Rules does not allow for proxy votes in organizations is because he feels strongly that all members who vote should be present to hear the discussion. (p.421 “...the personal presence and participation by members in meetings is a fundamental principle in parliamentary procedure....”) The principle being that a member who comes to the meeting has the opportunity to hear all the discussion, participate in the debate, and make a reasonable decision from participating in the meeting. For example, a member may come to a meeting with his/her mind already made up, but after hearing the discussion changes his/her mind because other members have presented information that the member hadn’t previously considered. However, a person sending in a proxy vote does not hear the discussion at the meeting and does not have the opportunity to change his/her mind. The proxy holder must vote the way the proxy giver has instructed the proxy holder to vote. I am surmising that another reason Robert’s Rules is opposed to this is because one member could collect a lot of proxies from members who were apathetic and didn’t care, and have a great influence on deciding the outcome of a proposal. He may also feel that proxies discourage active participation in meetings because someone can just send his proxy without taking the time to participate in the democratic process of discussion and reasoning through problems.
I know that many homeowners associations use this method of voting. Of course he also says if state law requires it, or allows for it, and it is in the bylaws, then the organization can do this.
Here is something to consider: He does allow for a “mail ballot” and goes into great detail on how to conduct this ballot. This may be a good way for an organization to reach the entire membership on important issues. If not all attend the meetings, newsletters could convey the information -- both pros and cons-- of an issue to the members or it could be sent to the members with the ballot. That way if the members took the time to read all the information they could cast an “informed” ballot.
This is an important issue for each organization to consider. In deciding which way to go, the membership needs to seriously discuss the democratic process and how to get more of the membership involved in this process.
Hope this helps. If I can be of further assistance let me know. I will be out of town and not looking at my e-mail from March 17th through March 26th.
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