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Dear Parliamentarian Vol. 41 July '99

Dear Parliamentarian Vol. 41  July '99
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.

Dear Parliamentarian:

I hope you can help our board with these questions: Can a vote taken at an improperly called executive board meeting be binding when there was lack of proper notification of the executive board members? Are the notes at this meeting considered minutes subject to publication or informal notes useful as fact-finding only?

Scenario: The president of a non profit 501 c 3 youth sports organization with a 10 member voting board sensed that fellow board members were unhappy with the performance of a key employee. The president wanting to determine the degree of board dissatisfaction with the employee called a meeting of the executive board. One board member was on vacation, the others were told informally by word of mouth about the meeting. The president wanting to participate in the meeting acquired a facilitator to run the meeting. The president met with the facilitator prior to the meeting to relay the purpose and intent of the meeting. The facilitator, very familiar with parliamentary procedure, led the meeting skillfully leading to a vote regarding a specific action on the employee. The president, being a fledgling parliamentarian, did not realize that the outcome of the meeting would lead to vote as she was only seeking a direction or a polling of feelings. The vote left people unsettled and after the meeting concerns were expressed by some executive members that they did not having enough information to make a decision and that they currently feel uncomfortable with how they cast their vote and having the vote on record in the minutes. One member who did not attend, though notified of the meeting was extremely unhappy with the protocol, the outcome and the fact that the minutes will reflect the vote. This member states that the meeting was invalid due to improper protocol in the calling of the meeting and as such the vote is not binding and minutes are just notes and should not be part of the permanent board. We have since had a "social" gathering of just the executive board and realized now that we have made a mistake and agree with this board member that the notes from the meeting should not be published and the we should view the vote only as a guideline reflecting the board's feelings on the employee's performance at that moment in time. Since this is related to an employment issue we do not want the notes from this meeting to be subject to subpoena as now board members are feeling differently.

Hope you can help us.

Gayle Crawford


 Dear Gayle,

Before I can answer your question, you need to look in your bylaws to see who can call a special meeting and what determines the call to the meeting. Please give me this information from your bylaws. Please e-mail what your bylaws say about this.

The Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian,

Here is the article from our by laws on meetings. The meeting was only called by the president. Though this was a meeting on a regularly scheduled board meeting day it was best defined as a special executive meeting, as the intent was to not involve one employee whose performance was to be discussed who is a regular board meeting attendee.

Thanks for any help you can give us.



Article V


Section 1. The annual meeting of the corporation shall be no later than May 15, to elect officers and transact other business as may come before the membership.

Section 2. The fall membership meeting shall be no later than October 15.

Section 3. Board of Director meetings are held monthly and are open to the generalmembership unless designated as an executive meeting.

Section 4. If the Chairperson fails to call regular meetings, or should a special meeting be required, meetings may be called upon request by any three members of the Board of Directors.

Section 5. Not less than fifteen (15) days notice must be given by the Secretary for any annual or special meeting of the general membership and the board of directors. A. Information - The notice shall contain the time, date and location of the meeting. For special meetings the purpose shall be given.


B. Location - The board of directors will designate a meeting place. If no designation is made, the meeting place shall be:

Mariner High School

200-120th St. SW

Everett, WA 98204

Section 6. A quorum at general membership meetings shall consist of those present andqualified to vote. A quorum at board of director meetings shall be a majority of the board, six (6).

Section 7. At all meetings, the current Robert's Rules of Order are the procedural rules.

Section 8. Voting by proxy is prohibited. All voting must be done in person by a qualified member of the corporation.


Dear Gayle,

After reading the bylaws that you sent me, this is my opinion.

1. It says for your organization to have a special meeting the secretary must mail the board members notification fifteen days prior to the meeting. Now I suppose you could say the meeting was invalid because this was not followed. However, someone could argue that everyone was notified not just by mail.

2. I think the easiest way to handle this is this way. Your bylaws say that any "executive meeting" is not an open meeting. This means it was held in executive session. That means that all that was said or done is secret and confidential only to the members of the board. That means that the minutes taken, and the vote taken, is secret and can’t be divulged to the general membership. The minutes taken in executive session are approved in executive session. So none of this should get out to the membership.

Now if you want to again consider what was done at this meeting, you can move to rescind the motion. I assume the employee was not informed of this and neither has the membership been informed of this. If this is the case, just go back and rescind the motion that was adopted and start all over again. If you organization wants to talk to me about how to proceed, they can call me at 253-265-3499.


Dear Parliamentarian,

I belong to a non-profit, charitable and educational organization called the Eastern Chapter of the Historical Miniatures Gaming Society (HMGS East). The Chapter is the senior and founding Chapter of a nationwide society dedicated to promoting historical miniature wargaming as both a legitimate adult hobby and as an alternative means for the study of military history. Our Chapter is incorporated in the State of Maryland.

HMGS East over the past several years has used a successful election procedure designed to give the maximum opportunity for voting in our Board of Director's election to our 1965 members in over 20+ states. This involves two types of ballots, the first a mail in ballot contained in our April Newsletter to an appointed Teller who must, by written Policy, NOT be a member of HMGS East and NOT have been the appointed Teller in the last election. The other ballot is available by a Ballot Box maintained at the

Registration Desk for Historicon (22-25 Jul 99), our annual Convention where the votes are counted by the appointed Teller and the results announced. Members who for whatever reason have not sent in their ballot by mail, may go to the Ballot Box, fill in the ballot, fold it in half and deposit it in the receptacle which is constructed in such a way as to preclude tampering or visual inspection of the ballots inside. The member does sign his ballot in both instances and his name is compared to the official Membership Database provided by the Chapter Secretary to the appointed Teller. Ideally, only the appointed Teller, again who is not a member of our Chapter nor has served in this capacity the previous election, will ever see the names of the individuals voting.

However, the election just held was voided because of the following incident. On Friday, 23 Jul 99, one of our members began a write-in candidacy for he and his fiancé. The ballots were due to be counted the next day, 1200 hours. So far as anyone can tell, there is no problem with this action and a space for write-in votes is always provided on our official ballots. He then began his campaign by retrieving a blank ballot, and then eventually altering it to where his name and that of his fiancé were typed in the space for write-ins. The ballot was then modified by adding a large right pointing arrow (with words similar to "Vote for Two") pointing to the space where the "X" should be placed.

The candidate then Xeroxed over 100 ballots and began to solicit votes personally. Eyewitnesses on at least three occasions indicated that he would approach a prospective voter, confirm his eligibility to vote, explain his write-in candidacy and platform, and then request the voter vote for him and his fiancé by filling out the ballot in his presence. The voter would be handed a ballot and writing instrument, completing the ballot while the candidate watched. The candidate would then collect the ballot and move on.

Later, the candidate was seen on more than one occasion by Registration Desk personnel depositing handfuls of ballots into the Ballot Box, opening and examining each one before placing it into the receptacle. We do not know specifically how many ballots were Xeroxed, how many of the same were distributed, how many filled out were collected and how many of these actually made it back to Ballot Box.

I was the Secretary of the Chapter and as such was personally responsible for insuring the proper appointment of the Teller and the fair and impartial completion of the election process. The Teller was already aware of the situation and indicated he would be very reluctant to count the ballots and certify the election as fair, impartial and without coercion under such circumstances.

At our Chapter's Annual Membership Meeting held the morning of 24 Jul 99, some four hours prior to counting the ballots, the situation was addressed as the final item of New Business. The candidate in question did not attend though as a member he had every right to do so. There were concerns about tampering with ballots and secrecy and whether those actions by the candidate were consistent with our Bylaws or Roberts Rules of Order. After some debate the membership present agreed unanimously (save one abstention) that the election should be invalidated and a new election held with mail ballot only, to an independently contracted, Certified Public Accountant (CPA) not associated with HMGS and paid for by Chapter funds. The cost is expected to be at least $ 300 and all current ballots, both mail and those in the Ballot Box, were ordered destroyed. The consensus seemed to be that regardless of intent, to allow the election to stand would forever taint the process. The candidate mentioned above and his fiancé are expected to be listed on the ballot and have the opportunity to present their platform though they have not been formally nominated.

Obviously, the candidate noted above is very upset, indicating he did not understand why anything he did could be considered less than fair and impartial.

The question is then, is this candidate correct? Was the decision by the Board and Membership an over reaction to something perhaps out of the ordinary, but not improper? If not, on what basis was the Board and Membership correct? We know that had the election been allowed to stand several of the other candidates planned to lodge formal protests and request corrective action.

I can find nothing specific in our Bylaws that says the activity of the candidate in question was not allowable. Our Bylaws do state, however, that unless covered within the Bylaws, we will conduct business according to Robert's Rules of Order (I use the 1915 edition). Obviously, we are also governed by the laws of the State of Maryland.

Thank you in advance for your time and I look forward to your helping us solve this problem so as to prevent similar situations in the future.


Colonel, US Army

Alexandria, VA


PS: I am no longer Secretary as after seven years I had previously declined to run for reelection and also declined the extension given the present Board until the new election process was complete. To be perfectly blunt and honest, that seems to have been a wise decision.


Dear Colonel Gray,

First, let’s look at some basic principles about voting:

1. "Ballot vote is used when secrecy of the members’ votes is desired". ROBERT’S RULES OF ORDER NEWLY REVISED 1990 ED. p. 405 (Please get this book and work with this edition for your organization. This is now the official book and not the 1915 edition.)

2. "An organization should never adopt a bylaw permitting a question to be decided by a voting procedure in which the votes of person who attend a meeting are counted together with ballots mailed in by absentees, since in practice such a procedure is likely to be unfair." p. 415 And in the case of this vote very confusing.

3. It is the secretary that makes up the ballots and the tellers distribute the ballots, collects them, and count them. It is not democratic for those running for office to distribute, collect and count the ballots. (Perhaps in a dictatorship this is a good procedure, but not in democratic organizations.) If this were allowed, where would be the impartiality and fairness in it?

The idea of having a mail in ballot is to give all the members the opportunity to vote even though they might not be able to attend the meeting. Since all members have received a ballot in the mail and have the same opportunity to return the ballot by mail, then there really isn’t a need for your organization to have both a mail ballot and then the opportunity to vote at the meeting. Perhaps combining these two methods of voting has gone smoothly until now, but you can see why Robert’s insists on one method of voting on an issue. I think it is good that the organization is only going to do a mail ballot the second time around. This will be easier to count and oversee.

Now about the candidate.

1. A ballot vote means secrecy. This candidate violated this rule by handing people ballots, showing them how to vote, and then watching how they voted.

2. Only the secretary is to make copies of the ballots and give them to the tellers to give to the members. If this candidate could go out and photocopy a 100 ballots why couldn’t other candidates do the same? In what local, state or national election do candidates do this? There is no parliamentary tradition for this!

3. By this candidate going out and soliciting votes and then delivering them to the voting box is breaking the fundamental principle of one man one vote. Where does one member hand in another’s ballot--except by proxy. This is what RONR 1990 edition says about collecting the ballots by the tellers:(p.408) "In collecting the ballots, it is the teller’s responsibility to see that no member votes more than once -- for the assurance of which the assembly should adopt some reasonable and orderly method. For example: (a) In meetings where only voters are present, members can remain in their seats and drop their ballots into a receptacle passed by a teller, accompanied by another teller as watcher and checker; (b) they can go to a central ballot box in charge of at least two tellers and deposit their ballots; or (c) they can had their ballots to a teller -- who judges by the thickness and feel of the paper that only one ballot is being cast, and deposits them in a central ballot box. Whatever method of collecting the ballots is followed, it -- like other details relating to voting--should be fixed by rule or custom in the organization and should not be subject to haphazard variation from occasion to occasion." ( This certainly was a haphazard variation.)

Now about the candidate not understanding why the board thought he did anything wrong is absurd. He either doesn’t have all his marbles or he is extremely ignorant. An election for officers in organizations is just like electing public officials.

In an election for public officials what do we do. We go to the polls, and sign in. We can’t vote until we sign in. We can’t vote for another person. After we sign in we are given the ballot. We go to our own booth and mark the ballot. When we are done we put the ballot in the box ourselves while two tellers watch this process. No candidate is allowed to print ballots, solicit votes in the polling area let alone watch another mark his ballot. Stay the course and don’t give into this person. In fact, I rather doubt his ability to serve your organization wisely.

Because of his tampering with ballots and with the voting process, it is my opinion that this member has opened himself up for disciplinary action. What he did was wrong, unethical and very undemocratic! The others running for office have a right to be upset.

Please get the current edition of Robert’s Rules and have the board members read the chapter on Voting. They have done the right thing by declaring this election null and void.

The Registered Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian,

Can a vote in progress on a motion be suspended by a motion to defer (to the next meeting)? Here is the scenario recently encountered at our town meeting.

Motion was made and seconded on an issue. After discussion a vote was called (roll call). There are 5 council members (alderman) and 1 mayor. The mayor can vote, but often does not. During the roll call vote, it was 2-2 and I abstained on the grounds that critical legal information was not available.

After stating my objection, the town attorney said that he would need some time to research the issue and did not have an answer. The city manager then called upon the mayor to break the tie or abstain (killing the motion). The mayor asked about deferring it, at which time I made a motion to defer the item until next meeting. It was seconded and approved.

Now we are wondering if a motion can be made while a vote is in progress. If not, how could we have "nulled" the vote so we could defer the issue? Did it have to be voted (one way or the other), then moved to reconsider?

Your help would be appreciated, as it comes back before us on Monday, July 26th. Town legal is as perplexed as I am, and we don't find anything in the Rules of Order.



Monty Lee


Dear Monty,

You have an asked a very interesting question. Now I need to know some more information.

What would have happened if the motion was defeated because it was a tie vote? Could the motion have been brought up again at the next meeting? Or if the Mayor voted "no", could it have been brought up at the next meeting?

Also why did you wait to raise the question about legal grounds at the time of the vote and not ask it during the discussion?

I will have to do some serious research on this question, but I will have an answer for you before Monday.

If you would like to give more information about the motion -- for example in some cities certain items must be posted for several weeks or if voted down it must wait six months. Do any restrictions like this apply to this motion.

Thank you,

The Registered Parliamentarian


Monty Lee wrote:


Thank you for your help. Here are the answers to your questions:


Dear Monty,


You have an asked a very interesting question. Now I need to know some more information.


What would have happened if the motion was defeated because it was a tie vote? Could the motion have been brought up again at the next meeting? Or if the Mayor voted "no", could it have been brought up at the next meeting?

If the motion was defeated, then the applicant cannot bring up the same proposal (building on a parcel of land) for a year. So he could not have brought it up at the next meeting.

Also why did you wait to raise the question about legal grounds at the time of the vote and not ask it during the discussion?

During the discussion, a resident said that building on the property would result in the removal of Collierville from the Historic Register (the property is in the historic area). Right after this was said, a vote was called. When it got to me, I decided I was unable to vote because the impact of removal from the Registry is crucial.

I will have to do some serious research on this question, but I will have an answer for you before Monday.

If you would like to give more information about the motion -- for example in some cities certain items must be posted for several weeks or, if voted down, it must wait six months. Do any restrictions like this apply to this motion.

Public notice was properly given (10 days in Tennessee). The project has met (and been approved by) all other required boards (Zoning, Historic, and Planning). It is at the final stage.

I am just trying to do what is right here. When it comes up on Monday, I've been told that someone may try to immediately kill it by stating that the motion to defer was out of order, and the motion to approve the project failed, thus the project is dead. I want additional discussion because I have further information.

Thanks for your time.



Dear Monty,

Look on page 415 of ROBERT'S RULES OF ORDER NEWLY REVISED, 1990edition. It states that a vote can not be interrupted. Once members start voting it has to be completed. The only motion that is in order after a vote has been taken is to doubt the result of the vote. But no one can doubt the result of the vote in a roll call vote because everyone knows how everyone else vote, and it's considered a counted vote.

There is no such thing as a motion "to defer the vote". So the motion is lost because it is a tie vote and neither you nor the Mayor voted.

Now I wasn't there at your meeting, so I don't know what you mean by "a vote was called". Did this mean someone moved to stop debate and vote immediately? And if they made this motion did the presiding officer take a vote on closing debate. If this wasn't done, you could have raised a point of order explaining that to end debate it takes a motion and two thirds vote. Then you could have stated that you think with the information just presented the motion should be postponed to the next meeting to give the attorney time to look into the matter about being removed from the historic register if the motion was adopted.

Next time in a case like this, you could have voted to break the tie, and then move to reconsider the vote. Then after the council members voted to reconsider the vote (and hopefully they would) then you could move to postpone the motion until the next meeting.

Right now if someone challenges the "deferring the vote" at the next meeting you don't have a parliamentary leg to stand on. And if the council allowed the vote to be deferred and breaks the tie vote at this meeting, someone could bring a law suit against you because you have not followed the correct procedure.

We have a book of court cases about how Robert's Rules is used in court cases. It's called ROBERT'S RULES OF ORDER IN THE COURT. You can find it in our bookstore on the Web at <

Also remember that if this happens again, make a motion to recess. It is of higher rank than to "call for the vote". This would give you time to convince other members of the council to vote against closing debate and vote for postponing it to the next meeting.

The Registered Parliamentarian


The Parliamentarian:

Thank you for your reply. Two points of clarification, if it makes any difference. First, the subsidiary motion was to defer the item (not the vote) until the next meeting. It did interrupt the vote. Second, no one moved to end debate. There was a lull in discussion and the Mayor then said: "We have a motion to approve. All those in favor say "Aye." I was not prepared to vote but had not been able to say anything prior to the call to vote.

According to the reference, I believe it also says the vote is not final until announced, allowing members the right to change their vote at any time.

So, if at our next meeting when this comes up, it depends on how the chair (Mayor) proceeds, I think. If the Mayor says the motion to defer the item was out of order and the vote on the item will stand, can't I change my vote prior to the announcement ("The motion has failed.")? If the Mayor does say immediately that the motion failed at the previous meeting and so the agenda item is moot, I agree I don't have a leg to stand on.

I am 99.99% certain that the way this was handled will not be brought to court. The town attorney and myself are just trying to figure out a way out of the mess I created. I was thinking that if I can indeed change my vote, I would vote against the project and it dies. Then immediate move to reconsider. That way I could let the legal opinion that I wanted to defer for be included in the record.

Thanks so much for your help, and I'd appreciate any further insight.


Monty Lee


Dear Monty

Another parliamentarian and I have been discussing your problem back and forth and this is what we’ve come up with.

On page 337 of ROBERT’S RULES OF ORDER NEWLY REVISED, 1990 ED. under "Improper Motions" it states in the first sentence "Motions that conflict with the corporate charter, constitution, bylaws, or other rules of the society, with the Constitution of the United States, with the State Constitution, or with national, state or local law, are out of order....If a motion of this kind is adopted it is null and void."

We have already agreed that the motion to defer is out of order and therefore null and void. Now what has that done to the motion being voted on. Again we have agreed that the Robert’s states that the voting on a motion can not be interrupted, (p. 415) The chair must announce the result of the vote. In one of Henry Robert’s books on parliamentary Law he states that the vote is not complete until it is announced by the chair. Also on page 234 it states that the motion to adjourn is not in order when taking or verifying a vote (except a ballot vote when all the votes have been collected.) So your meeting should not have adjourned before you decided how the vote was to go. Therefore, since the vote was interrupted, the chair did not announce the vote, and it was deferred to the next meeting, and the meeting adjourned before finishing the vote, in essence this motion has not yet been decided. Now it should come before the assembly again under unfinished business and the chair should ask for discussion and take the vote. The vote that was taken is null and void.

Now what should happen is that this issue should be put on the agenda under unfinished business. When the Mayor comes to this agenda item, he needs to make a ruling that the vote taken at the last meeting was not complete and therefor not a valid vote. He should then re-state the motion and ask for discussion. At this time you can rise and present your information and ask permission from the assembly that your remarks be recorded in the minutes. (see page 289) He then needs to take the vote again and follow correct procedures.

If you need further clarification please let me know.

The Registered Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian,

The Homeowner's Association Board of Directors that I am on is having a horrible time with homeowners who are not on the board wanting to attend the board meetings. The board does not have a problem with them being silent observers or calling ahead and getting on the agenda to speak, but our meetings are not always at a set time each month and it is hard to notify all the homeowners of each meeting. One homeowner says in Robert's Rules of Order, it states that we must notify all the general membership of the

meeting. I only find a reference to notifying "members" of the board meeting which I understand to mean board members. What is the correct answer? Your help would be greatly appreciated!

Stacey wrote:


Dear Janet, this is just in case you couldn't open the attachment on my previous e-mail.


Dear Parliamentarian,

OK, I want to be as fair as possible, so this might get a little lengthily, please bear with me. Also take note that all my interlinear notes are referenced to RONR as stipulated in our By-laws, to govern the Presiding Chair. Although I'm sure its not needed, I can relate these references to Alice Sturgis's Standard Code Of Parliamentary Procedure if requested.

Let me start by stating that in February, the month preceding the Nominations, The President and Second Vice President tried to pass a motion to change the voting process from a closed ballot vote [as stated in our By-laws] to a Mail-In type vote. This motion was argued to be unethical, due to its timing, and voted down by the majority membership at the general meeting.

In March, a Nominating/Election Committee of five members, including one Chairman, was chosen by the President and approved by the membership. At the April meeting, competition for the Second VP was nominated, as anticipated, along with Treasurer and Sergeant At Arms positions; all other spots ran unopposed. All candidates were approved by the committee and cleared to run for election with no objections. So far so good.

Come the May meeting its election night, and the hall was mobbed and each candidate was given the opportunity to speak. As emotions rose for all, our President capped off the politicking with what turned into an emphatic rally cry for the incumbent Second VP. In fact he was as far to sway the membership to say that he would be "NO PART" of an Executive Board without him. At this point even the casual observer could see that he was not an impartial participant in this election.

Although the Election Committee tried their best to keep it organized many people there refused to cooperate and created great confusion. This complied with the fact that the present Executive Board failed to bring an updated member listing, and they supplied the committee with the Ballots and the Ballot Box, which arrived already locked and without inspection. We anticipated a tuff race but we also expected an Honest one. When the votes were tallied by the committee they arrived with a 90 - 90 dead lock for 2nd VP. 180 total votes, but only 147 people were registered for attendance! Neither of the other two races added up to 147 votes, both were also over! Now keep in mind that during the election process the President watched along with all the candidates and no grievance to the vote was made by any party. After a few hours of deliberation, the Committee called the election null and void due to some possible overstuffing of the ballot by one of the parties. With half the members departed and the half that was still present getting annoyed and hostile, the committee decided it wouldn't be fair to have a re-vote at that time. The meeting was adjourned with all the votes, sign-in logs and any relevant materials secured by the Committee. The point was made that if they added the three list together, they may get a total count of 180, which would make for a valid Election. It was left for them to weed through; check the lists and membership cards; and explore our options. [*The committee had the authority from the assembly to make the future decisions.] Within the next week, the Committee held a special meeting to derive how to proceed. It was agreed upon with the President that whatever they decided would be submitted to him in a letter that would be sent out to the entire membership. With that said, they met and made their decision that the last election was invalid (Incomplete) and another election would take place at the next general membership meeting, with better controls and restraints in place. They came to this conclusion after weighing the options of a mail in ballot. They said that they took in the factors of cost; the By-laws (remember the previous motion for a mail in ballot was defeated in February); and the presiding rules of order. Upon receipt of this letter the President had a Departmental teletype go out stating the Election would take place in two weeks on June 14. Also, with notification of the Committee's decision, Posters of the upcoming Election were distributed and posted in several different Jails/Facilities. Following that day the teletype was rescinded in its entirety. When questioned why, the President stated that he had met with his Board (just 4 of the 7, and two of that four were involved in the election controversy) and they decided that the Election process should not be decided by just 5 people (the Election Committee) and that he was sending out a letter to the membership giving them three choices; also, he was postponing the Election until September. [*The 4 who were there, had no business setting out to override the committee's conclusions.] Even though the President was told by the Election Committee Chairman that he felt it was not a proper decision and that he wasn't even sure if the President had the authority to do so, the president still attempted to cancel the election and mailed out his own letter, just days prior to the upcoming meeting date. Anticipating turmoil at the June 14 meeting, the election committee all agreed that the President was wrong in what he was doing and prepared themselves for a possible election on that night. As anticipated a motion was put on the floor and seconded, to hold the election that night as stipulated in Robert's Rules Of Order for an incomplete election (pg.436). After discussion, the assembly overwhelmingly voted to have the Election Committee make the decision based on all the evidence presented to them, by all participants. The committee listened to both parties and sided with the party that cited:

1) RONR pg. 436 [*An Incomplete Election-The Election is completed at the next regular meeting.]

2) the minutes of the last meeting/election (which stated as the last order of business was "The President now turns the Chair over to the Election Committee to preside over the election of the Executive Board.);

3) the existing by-laws; (ballot votes) [*RONR pg.406 - when the By-laws require a vote to be taken by ballot, this requirement cannot be suspended, even by a unanimous vote]

4) RONR pg.425 [*The President shall be ex officio a member of all committees except the Nominating/Election Committee.].

. The other parties main arguments were: 1) that RONR pg. 436 was not in effect because the previous Election was called "Invalid" and that was not the same as "incomplete". [* "Incomplete" means "Incomplete" = "not finished". That the election was "not finished" is a fact. The REASON why it was "incomplete" was because it was ruled to be invalid.]

2) They also argued that even though the President may have been wrong for putting out his letter, it was not fair to anyone who received the letter and opted not to attend that night, thinking the election would be held in September. [*With a "quorum" present, although unfortunate, those who stayed away have no reason to complain. The presidents letter was indeed improper and should not of gone out! But what can you do after the fact? Or was that his intention?]

With the Election Committee's decision to hold the vote that night, the President walked out of the meeting. The First Vice President assumed his duties and presided over the Election along with myself and the Election Committee. Upon completion of the election and the counting of the Ballots (they all added up)! The incumbents were all defeated by large margins. The tabulations were signed by all presiding and the winners were announced (they were all present) and finalized. [*RONR pg.436, An Election to an office becomes final immediately if the candidate is present and does not decline.] The meeting was then properly adjourned. To this date the President is refusing to accept the new members of the board and has refused to turn over any books or relevant materials. [*the election was proper, the assembly selected their candidates and the Election was finalized. The presidents only choices are to either learn to live with the will of the majority (that is called "Democracy") or resign. There are no other options!] The president and the defeated 2nd Vice president and Treasure, have been politicking a petition along with retaining letters from some members, questioning the election. [*RONR pg.436 After the Election has become Final as stated in this paragraph, it is to late to reconsider (36) the vote on the Election.] We have indeed made the best [*and even done so properly] of a messy situation, our remaining problem is one of personnel and not procedure. [*unless of course we're forced to invoke the last chapter of RONR, which we want to avoid at all cost, the effects could be devastating to our Association.] Several other Board members and myself are calling for a close to this madness. It is tearing our Association apart and must be called to an end. Thank you in advance for you anticipated assistance.


Mark C. Cancro

3rd Vice



Association .......Thanks


Dear Mark,

The first thing that I must tell you is that I have heard from the president and vice president of your association. Now I have heard from you.

Second, as you know and I believe your president knows that many mistakes were made because the officers and members are not educated in parliamentary procedure.

Third, in looking at this problem it must be looked at from principles as well as individual rules. There are certain basic parliamentary principles that underlie the rules. If you don’t know these principles rules can be mis-interpreted and mis-applied even though as a rule in a general sense it is correct. The first and most important principle of democratic organizations and parliamentary law is that the members have the right to be informed. In your organization you have the custom (if it is not written in your bylaws) that members shall receive written notice of all elections. What notice does is : 1. inform the members that there is going to be an election 2. protects the rights of the absent members.

In this particular case, it is my opinion that the last previous notice sent by the president takes precedence over the rule in Robert’s Rules to have the election at the next meeting.

Even though the members voted to have the election committee decide what was the best policy, the president sent out a final notice that let the members know that the election would be held in September. Whether this was right or wrong is not the point. The point is that in parliamentary law the absent members have a right to protection. In this case, perhaps people stayed away from the meeting because they thought the election would not be until September. They had every right to think that way because the president (an official of the organization) sent them a final previous notice that stated this.

So for members to come to the June meeting and have an election was incorrect -- it violated the principle of protecting the rights of the absent members and that the members should receive notification of an election meeting.

There are certainly many things that need correcting as far as the chair is concerned, but I think now the most important thing is to think of all the members and not just a few.

If you begin again and have an election following correct procedures, you do not have to fear the consequences of a right and principled action. The same people at the June meeting could be elected.

I realize that you have been consulting other parliamentarians about this issue, but think about all the members and not just a few.

If the president is politicking then raise a point of order and remind the chair that he should not be taking sides. He is to remain impartial and if he can’t remain impartial then he should step down from the chair and let someone else preside during that portion of the meeting.

The Registered Parliamentarian,


Dear Parliamentarian,

How does a point of order work?  How does a appeal of the chair's decision work



Dear Rocco,

A point of order is made only when there is a serious breach in the rules, or to question something that the chair has done that is a breach of the rules. Read pages 122 to 126 in ROBERT'S RULES OF ORDER SIMPLIFIED AND APPLIED.

For example, if someone made the motion to "lay on the table" when they really meant to Postpone it to the next meeting. IF the chair didn't correct it, then a member could raise a point of order.

Another example might be: You have made a main motion. When the chair asks, "is there any discussion?" he recognizes someone else to speak first instead of you. (Let's say you and another both stand at the same time). In this case you could raise a point of order because Robert's states that the person who makes the motion has the first right to speak to the motion.

An appeal is made after the chair makes a ruling. Let's say in the first example, the chair rules that the motion to lay on the table is correct. Then you could appeal his decision. You are asking the assembly to decide which procedure is correct.

PS. What did the parliamentarian recommend that you do concerning this entire procedure with elections?


The Registered Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian







Dear Rocco,

If a point of order is made after the president states that the election is null and void the chair should state that the point is not well taken and then state that the election shall proceed. If the member appeals from the decision of the chair, then the chair should rule the appeal out of order and this is why.

On page 255 of ROBERT’S RULES OF ORDER NEWLY REVISED, 1990 EDITION, it states: "when the chair rules on a question about which there cannot possibly be two reasonable opinions, an appeal would be dilatory and is not allowed." Make sure the president has this book and the page marked to read to the members.

Now this is why it is not appealable. It is your custom (or hopefully it is in your bylaws) that members are given written notice of elections. Since there was no written previous notice for the election it is null and void. It is also a general parliamentary law that the rights of the absent members are protected by previous notice and since this was violated then the election is null and void.

If there is an uproar then allow member to ask questions and speak but do not take a vote on the appeal.

Hopefully you will have your parliamentarian there to help.

The Registered Parliamentarian


Dear Parliamentarian,

Thank you very much for your replies to both emails and the complicated questions I asked. Regarding the question about the committee chair making the report without consulting the committee: this is the second time in 4 years that this has happened. The first time was by a different individual. The present chair introduced a bylaw amendment last year that would have permitted a chair to essentially serve as a committee of one. This was soundly defeated. The present status of the matter is that the proposed action will be decided by the membership at its annual convention in August. The chair's report has already been circulated to the membership, however. My personal interest is that the chair is opposed to a bylaw amendment that I am introducing and made what I consider to be inappropriate and poorly thought out remarks in his "report".

Again, thank you very much for your help.

- Allen Alexander


Dear Allen,

If committee chairmen persist in writing the report and have no input from other members, it is because they are uninformed in parliamentary procedure. Perhaps you could encourage the board members or whomever is responsible for appointing committees to give some basic parliamentary information to committees so that they know what is expected of them.

It is sad that the chairman said inappropriate remarks in his report. However, you can still discuss the amendment and bring forward the facts of the matter. Keep your remarks to the issue and keep the high road in discussion. The membership will see the truth.

It is very common for bylaw committees in large organizations to say that they either recommend the proposed amendment or they don't.

In our national organization, members can submit proposed bylaw amendments but the committee can tell whether they recommend it. Then it is up to the membership to decide.

The Registered Parliamentarian,


Dear Parliamentarian,

In our small community, our water association is operated by a board of 7 elected board members, an elected president and an appointed secretary/treasurer.

e husband of our secretary/treasurer has filed to run for a board seat in our upcoming election.

In the past, as members arrive to vote, our secretary/treasurer asks the member for their name then checks her records for payment or non-payment. Non payment excludes that member from voting.

Our question, should the secretary/treasurer be at the voting place with her husband in the running for a position on the board? Should someone be appointed to take care of her duties at the voting place? We need help.

Thanking you I am

Jannie Manning

PS: Please email me as soon as possible


Dear Jannie,

I believe you are confusing this situation with a member who should abstain from voting if it is of direct personal interest.

There is nothing in Robert’s Rules that says in this situation someone should take the woman’s place. If you replaced her during this election, you would be saying to her that you don’t trust her because her husband is running for office.

` If you are concerned about her integrity then perhaps she should not be your secretary/treasurer.

My answer is that she should fulfill her duties as secretary/treasurer.


The Registered Parliamentarian


To Whom It May Concern,

Today I bought the Robert's Rules of Order to find the answer to a question and cannot find it. Hoping you can help.

At our monthly church meetings, if a vote is to be taken by ballot, the Pastor will let church members vote who are not in the meeting, but are tending to other duties in other parts of the church. Someone will find them out, tell them what we're voting on and hand them a ballot. Am I correct to assume voting can only be given by either a church wide vote or those present at the meetings only? I would need direction to this answer in writing as I don't want to offend my Pastor if I am incorrect. Thank you for your help.

Susan in FL


Dear Susan,

You have asked a very good question.

The first thing you need to do is to ask for a copy of the churches bylaws to see if it says anything about voting on issues at meetings. The other thing that you need to know is how long has this practice been going on.

I understand that the minister does not want to exclude anyone and especially those in the building who are members doing other things.

But it is also a parliamentary principle that those who are present and hearing the discussion usually are those that vote unless the organization has some rule to the contrary.

But if this has become a custom of the organization (something that has gone on for several years) then to change it, you will have to make a motion that only those present at the meeting can vote. This would be a Rule of Order or bylaw amendment.

But first check your governing documents and then get back to me and I will give you some ideas on how to proceed.

The Registered Parliamentarian,


Dear Parliamentarian,,

Thank you so much for your prompt reply.

Our church by laws concerning voting are very generic and this is why I consulted Roberts Rules of Order. There is only one sentence regarding voting and that is "Every member of the church is entitled to vote in all elections and on all questions submitted to the church conference, provided the church member is present". As you can see, it can be interpreted in different ways. This particular ballot voting procedure has been going on for 7 years, since this Pastor has been at the church. It just seems so unfair. But then, a lot of motions are questionable. Last week, a motion was made for a vote on a subject that clearly was against church policy as outlined in the by laws, so someone made a motion to temporarily suspend the by laws in order to vote on the particular motion, which passed unanimously. Well, I think the best thing to do at this point is to just count my blessings and not to question anything.

With kindest regards,



Dear Susan,

Thank you for filling in the details. There is something that you can do.

First, it sounds like the new pastor by himself decided to change the procedure for voting which is undemocratic. By trying to be democratic by including all in the vote, he was undemocratic if he didn’t allow the members to decide. He changed the bylaws himself instead of going through the proper procedures for changing them. I’m sure your bylaws state what that is.

Now about the motion just adopted. It is null and void. Members can not suspend the bylaws unless the bylaws provide for it. In ROBERT’S RULES OF ORDER NEWLY REVISED, 1990 ED. P. 108, it states: "No main motion is in order which conflicts with national, state, or local law, or with the bylaws (or constitution) or rules of the organization or assembly. If such a motion is adopted, even by a unanimous vote, it is null and void."

I would recommend that you go and talk to your pastor about both of these issues. I am sure that much of this is done out of ignorance. The members too don’t understand the necessity of following their governing documents. If the members truly want to be democratic in their decisions they will follow their own rules. By adopting something contrary to the bylaws and not amending the bylaws first, they have broken a basic principle of protecting the rights of the absent members. And the other principle that the members have the right know by previous notice.

The Registered Parliamentarian

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