Thursday, May 22, 2014

10 Things You Know That Ain’t So About Parliamentary Procedure

1. Every motion requires a second

While most motions require a second, when a member of a committee makes a motion on the behalf of the committee, no second is required. Also, in a small committee, motions do not require a second.

2. The chair isn’t supposed to vote

As long as the chair is a member, the chair retains the right to vote.

3. The chair can break a tie vote

Because the chair must maintain an appearance of impartiality, it is advisable for the chair to refrain from voting. The exception is when his vote matters, such as when there is a tie vote. But he isn’t really breaking a tie. When the vote is even, there isn’t a majority, so the motion would fail if the chair doesn’t vote. If he votes in favor of the motion, a majority is achieved and the motion passes. But likewise, if the vote has one more in favor than against, the chair can exercise his right to vote against the motion, thereby creating a tie and causing the motion to fail.

4. A motion is required to adjourn

When the next meeting has already been scheduled and there is no pending business, the chair can say, “If there is no objection, the meeting will be adjourned,” thereby adjourning the meeting by unanimous consent without a formal motion. It is also the case that when a meeting has a fix time to adjourn that the chair can mention that the time has arrived and close the meeting without a motion.

5. To kill a motion you should move to table it

The purpose of tabling a motion is to lay it aside while other items of business are being handled. The body can remove the motion from the table. The correct motion to kill a motion is to postpone indefinitely. A significant difference is that the motion to table is not debateable, while the motion to postpone indefinitely is. It is important for the assembly to be able to discuss whether they want to kill the motion or not.

6. Calling out “Question!” means discussion must end immediately and the chair must put the motion to a vote

Calling out “Question!” is a shorthand of “I move the previous question.” Calling “Question!” is out of order. To be in order, the person would have to stand, be recognized by the chair to speak, and then say, “I move the previous question.” At which time, someone could say, “Second!” from a seated position. The chair would explain that this would end debate on the motion being discussed and then would take a vote on the call for previous question. Only if that motion succeeded with two thirds vote would discussion cease. If it failed, the chair would recognize the next person who rose to speak.

7. A motion can be quickly amended if the person who made the motion and the second agree

Once a motion has been stated by the chair (essentially, repeating what the maker of the motion said), the motion is the property of the body, not of the person who made the motion. So if during debate the person who made the motion sees how he could’ve worded it better and offers to change the motion, it is out of order to do so without an amendment. There is, however, a degree of leeway between the time the motion is made and the chair states the motion. It may take a little effort on the part of the person making the motion to get the wording to what he would like and that is in order. But once the motion is under consideration, it requires an action of the body to change the wording.

8. The highest number of votes wins the election

Yes and no. For a person to win the election, a majority is required. Suppose there are three nominees. One gets 40%, one gets 35%, and one gets 25%. Some believe that the first one would win, as would be the case for some political offices, under the concept of the majority rules, another vote would need to be taken. It could be that some of those who originally supported the first two guys might change their vote to the third guy and reach a compromise vote of 10% for one, 20% for one, and 70% for the last guy. So, yes, he is the guy with the highest number of votes, but he wasn’t originally.

9. A motion to elect the person with the second highest as alternate is in order

If people don’t truly care who is the alternate, the second highest may get the alternate position anyway, but there are a number of problems with this approach. In the example above, the second highest never had more than 35%. Assuming the same list of nominees, minus the winner, it may be that those who voted for the third guy will vote for the guy with the least since their favored candidate is out of it. And it may be that someone has someone else they’d like to nominate as an alternate that wasn’t in the original list.

10. A motion is valid as long as people understand what is intended

In a meeting, someone gets up and makes the some comment about something that he thinks the group ought to do. From the back of the room someone calls out, “So move!” The chair asks for discussion and then takes the vote. This scenario is not in order. To be in order, a motion must have precise word. If it doesn’t, the clerk doesn’t know what to record in the minutes and the people who are voting may not be voting on what they think they are voting on. In cases where the wording is lengthy, the person may be required by the chair to provide motion to the clerk in writing.