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Dear Parliamentarian Vol. 31 September '98

Dear Parliamentarian Vol. 31  September '98
Answers to your Parliamentary Questions

"Dear Parlimentarian" is written by the author of Parliamentary Procedures Made Simple: The Basics, an 80 minute video that tells how to have better meetings.

Editor’s Note:

The following is an exchange between a e-mail writer and the Parliamentarian, whose comments are in italics.

Dear Parliamentarian:

At a recent meeting in a guild I am in, a committee brought a procedural document for us to approve. A motion was made to accept the document and was seconded.

If it was seconded, the motion is properly before the assembly for a vote.

During the debate it became clear that there was some division in the committee and it was not even clear if a vote had taken place by the committee to recommend this procedure. A member incorrectly called for the question.

At this point, the assembly should have voted whether of not to close debate. This is information you could share with them for the future.

There where members who had not spoken yet and objected to the vote being taken.

When they objected did they raise a point of order? If so, the chair should have ruled on the point of order. At this point, the chair should have allowed those who had not spoken a chance to speak on the main motion. After all had spoken, then he could have entertained a motion to close debate. Or he could have closed debate by saying, "If there is no objection, we will close debate now. (pause) Hearing no objection, debate is now closed." Then it would be time to vote on the main motion.

The 2/3 vote to suspend the debate was not taken and the vote on the main motion was taken. My question is does the vote stand?

It stands because no one apparently raised a point of order at the time the breach in the rules was made.

And if the vote does stand is there anything that can be done at the next meeting to change it such as a revote of the issue?

Thank you


Yes, you can "rescind" the action taken or you can "amend the action previously adopted."

To "rescind" means you just erase the action. Then you can start over with a new motion.

To "amend something previously adopted" means you take the action and change it so it is acceptable to the membership. This is done by the normal amending process. Your group can decide which procedure is appropriate and go forward from there.

Both "rescind" and "amend something previously adopted" require a 2/3 vote without previous notice or a majority vote with previous notice. All this would normally be done at the next meeting.

By making the motion to "rescind" or "amend", it opens up the whole question for debate again and maybe some of those who didn’t get to speak on the motion the first time could now express their views.

However, it may be that on further reflection, the measure passed was not so bad after all and the members want to keep most or all of it. That is for the members to decide.

The Parliamentarian



I am on a community organization's bylaws committee. We are having a lively discussion of the proper way in which to show bylaw amendments when notifying our Board as well as the community! Any help would be appreciated. Thank you!


Dear Diane,

I'm glad to hear that you are on your bylaws committee. May I suggest that if you are amending your bylaws that you amend the one about how the chairman of the board is selected. First put it in regular English so that all can understand it. I am referring to the word "penultimate"!

If you are having a hard time with getting "past Presidents" to serve, have you thought about having the board itself elect its own chairman? If you still want the past president to be a board member, then that person could still be elected to be chairman. It just might simplify matters.

To answer your question: Since the current chairman now become the "penultimate" Past President, it looks like that person has the job again.

Now about giving notice. It should be in writing with the current bylaw stated and then the proposed change under it and giving any reasons for the change helps the board and members understand why you are doing this. Look at the July 1997 Parliamentary Internet Newsletter. It gives the entire process for proposing amendments.

For your information, I've been writing a book for Webster’s New World Dictionary, entitled ROBERTS RULES OF ORDER SIMPLIFIED AND APPLIED. It will be released sometime in October. I am currently reading and correcting the last proof. Watch our WEB SITE for release date and time. We will be selling it here.

The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian:

If you have teller instructions (the vote counters) for a formal meeting, would you please copy them to my e-mail address: <>. This information will sure help to run a smoother meeting this year as we have a lot of issues to vote on. Your parliamentarian web site has been very helpful. Thank you.



Dear Susan,

I hope you had a happy Labor Day weekend. I would be more than happy to give you general rules for tellers but if you could tell me some specific problems that you are having in counting the ballots, then I could be more specific.

We have just finished writing a new book for Webster's New World Dictionary, entitled ROBERT'S RULES OF ORDER, SIMPLIFIED AND APPLIED. It has a very detailed description of counting ballots and the way it should be done for the election of officer procedure.

The key thing is to have the same tellers throughout the meeting and to train them before hand.

For most issues there should be three tellers to count the ballots. The Chairman of the Committee should be responsible for opening and counting the number of ballots, and for filling out a tellers report, and giving it orally to the assembly.

The teller's report should state at the top what the motion being balloted on is, or what the election of officers is.

For example, if the membership takes a ballot vote on a motion to spend two thousand dollars for buying a new computer. This should be at the top of the teller's report.

A basic form for a teller's report should look like this:

Number of Votes Cast_____________

Number Necessary for Adoption_____________

Votes for the motion________________

Votes Against____________________

Illegal Votes__________________

When opening the ballots, only ballots marked "Yes" and "No" are counted. Any blank ballots are not counted as a vote. An illegal ballot might be two ballots folded together both marked "no" or one marked "yes" and one marked "no". If two ballots are together with one marked "yes" and one blank, then this is not considered an illegal ballot because blanks aren't counted. Illegal ballots should be set aside so that they don't get confused with the legal ballots in case there needs to be a recount.

Illegal ballots are counted in figuring the majority vote.

So the first thing that the Chairman of the Teller's Committee does is open the votes and count how many votes there are. That figure is written on the first line. If there is an illegal ballot then that is recorded on the illegal ballot line. From the total vote a majority of two thirds or whatever the vote requirement is figured out and recorded on the line "necessary for adoption".

Then the chairman reads aloud each vote and the other two tellers mark a tally by yes or no for each of the votes cast. The second teller of the committee calls out "tally" when either a "yes" or "no" receives five votes. The third teller then sees if his recording of the votes are the same as teller #2. If not, then they should immediately stop and recount the votes. When the votes are finished both tellers two and three add of the numbers and see if they match, if they do then those votes are recorded on the lines "yes" and "no".

The chairman of the teller's committee reads the report to the assembly, but does not say which side wins. He gives the report to the president, who then repeats the report and announces if the motion is adopted or lost.

A similar procedure is followed for electing officers. ROBERT'S RULES OF ORDER NEWLY REVISED, 1990 edition pages 409 to 412 has a description of this procedure. Paper back cost $15.00 plus S& H.

The most important thing is for you to get a procedure, train the tellers in the procedure and then you will have a better committee.

If you have further questions, please let me know.

The Parliamentarian



One of my students, who is visually handicapped, asked if there was a large print edition of Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised. Have you seen one? It isn't available through Amazon's website. I will go to the university bookstore tomorrow, but thought you might know of one. Thanks.

John Cagle, California State University, Fresno


Dear John:

I don't know of any such edition. Perhaps the NAP or the AIP would know of such a book. Maybe one of our videos would help this student. He might find them in the local library. If not, have him send us his name and address and we will send a brochure. He can take it to the library and often they will buy it on one request.

Robert McConnell

John A. Cagle wrote:

Thanks. Right now RRONR is in limbo. I called Addison Wesley publishing (which bought Scott Foresman) and found out that Addison Wesley still owns it, but doesn't seem to have plans to do a new edition of it. Egad. Also, there is no large print edition they know of. The student needs something he can take into meetings with him. My department bought one of the videos a while ago (lots of whiles ago, actually). Best wishes, and thanks again.


 Dear John:

Here's an idea: Have your student hire a typist and type into a computer word processing program the parts of "Robert's Rules" he wants to take to a meeting. This is legal as long as it is only for his own use. Then he can make the type larger with the type-sizing option and print out his own custom made edition for his own use. As long as he doesn't sell it, he can use it all he wants.



Editor’s Note:

The following is an exchange between a e-mail writer and the Parliamentarian, whose comments are in italics.

 Dear Parliamentarian:

This question concerns the correct way to transcribe the minutes when a given motion has had one or more amendments offered. For example, a motion is presented and seconded. A first amendment is moved and seconded, and then a second amendment is also moved and seconded. I know that the order of voting in such a case is second amendment, first amendment, original motion as amended (or, if the amendments have been rejected, as originally presented). However, when transcribing the minutes of this example, what is the correct order? I have used the following:

However, I have heard it argued that the results of each vote should be presented immediately after the appropriate motion/amendment.

There is no rule that says you can't record this information in the minutes as you have outlined it. However, "Robert's Rules of Order" says that all you have to record in the minutes is the motion in its original form and then the motion in its final amended form. You also need to record the results of the vote on the amended motion.

Also, which terminology is correct, that a given motion or amendment has been approved or that it has been carried.

The word should be "adopted" not "approved. "Either "adopted" or "carried" is correct.

In particular, does the terminology differ depending upon the circumstance? For example, if one motion is in regard to an organization's policy, and one involves the by-laws, is there a difference in terminology?

There is no difference in terminology depending on the circumstance. If it is a vote on the bylaws, the vote must be counted and recorded in the minutes.

The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian:

I don't know if you can answer this question or where I can find the answer. Our Constitution calls for our club to have elections in November and states "The bylaws shall provide for regular and special meetings. At regular meetings a minimum of 1/5 of the membership constitute a quorum for the transaction of business." Our Bylaws state "The regular meeting in December of each year shall be held for election of officers and members of the Board of Directors and for receiving the annual reports of officers, directors, and committees, and the transaction of other business". For bylaws definition of a Quorum states "The presence in person of 1/3 of the members of the Corporation entitled to vote shall be necessary to constitute a quorum for the transaction of business. There are no specific election rules or procedures written. It is too late to correct these discrepancies before our election, so which rules take precedence. I was lead to believe the Constitution always prevailed, but was told only if the number is greater than the by-laws. I can't find an answer. I need something documented to answer this question. I have gone through Roberts Rules, our Constitution and bylaws. We have numerous contradictions in our rules which need to be dealt with.



Dear Mary,

This is why Robert's Rules recommends that you have only one document--not two. In this case the Constitution is the higher ranking document and takes precedence over the bylaws. Look at our WEB SITE < Parliamentary Internet Newsletter, first issue. It explains the ranking of documents. Do you have the 1990 edition of ROBERT'S RULES OF ORDER published by Scott Foresman? See chapter I, Rules of the Assembly. This also explains the order of documents.

I'd highly recommend that you get a bylaws committee appointed ASAP and revised the constitution and bylaws -- make them one document. Robert's has a chapter on bylaws. Our WEB SITE <> has several newsletters about the subject. You may print these off and give them to your members.

Robert McConnell Productions


Dear Parliamentarian:

I didn't see a place for questions on your web page, so if this is inappropriate, I understand... At a recent city council here in our small town, a citizen signed up to speak during the "public forum" portion of the meeting. He wanted to speak out against some recent behavior of the mayor that he found objectionable.

He began his address stating "Mayor Watts, assembled councilmen, I'd like to say that the recent behavior of the Mayor..."

At that point the Mayor cut off the speaker on a point of order, stating that Robert's Rules of Order prohibit addressing the chair "by name".

I took a course in parliamentary procedure, I have read through Robert's and can find no such indication. Does Robert's prohibit addressing the chair by name?

Dr. Kenneth Wood


Dear Dr. Wood,

This is the place to write us for parliamentary help.

There is nothing in Robert's Rules about addressing the Mayor by name, but there is something about pointing out the alleged mis-behavior without substantiated facts. From what you have told me, the citizen's remarks were out of order because he was accusing the Mayor or verbally attacking the Mayor-- or "naming" the Mayor which in effect is pressing charges against the Mayor without following the proper procedures. And

I suspect that one citizen can't do this. It probably must come from the council or a group of citizens. I'm sure there are state statues for removing or censuring an elected official.

Robert's Rules states that we keep our remarks to issues not to people. When there is a people problem, there are specific procedures to handle this. ROBERT'S RULES OF ORDER NEWLY REVISED, 1990 edition devotes the last chapter of the book to these issues.

If this member of the community is upset with the mayor's behavior then there must be another approach that he can take. Perhaps he can bring it to the attention of a councilman.

If the council member agrees with the citizen, then he could have it investigated and propose to censure the Mayor.

This is what is being talked about on Capitol Hill. At first the Congress was talking about censure, and now impeachment.  The reason we have procedures for handling this kind of matter is to protect the innocent.  I hope this helps you. I know this is very vague because I don't have all the facts.

The Parliamentarian

Copyright 1998 Robert McConnell Productions, all rights reserved.