More About Voting

This next section goes into detail on each of the motions and rules listed here, and a few other that are used for nominating officers. Technical words used in this section are explained in the glossary.

1.         Main Motion:

When a motion has been made, seconded, and then stated by the chair, the Board cannot consider any other business until the motion has been disposed of. If the motion is long and involved, the Chair may ask the mover to submit it in writing to the secretary. The mover cannot withdraw his motion after a second and after the Chair has stated it, unless the seconder withdraws his second. Most motions should be seconded. This may be done without rising or addressing the Chair.

As a matter of practice, motions to adjourn do not need a second. There may be other exceptions, as when the overwhelming majority wants something done in a hurry. A common cause of confusion in meetings is when the Chair and the members forget that there is a motion on the floor that has not been acted upon, and they start discussing some other matter. This is something Chairs must carefully guard against, because members often try to bring up other matters as they come to their minds and before a motion has been handled.

2.         To Amend:

This is a motion to change, add, or omit words in the original main motion. It is a matter that can be debated and is decided by majority vote.  Amendments to motions must be relevant to the main motion. Any number of amendments may be suggested, but only one at a time. Amendments are usually offered to clarify or improve the wording of the main motion.

3.         To Amend an Amendment:

This is a motion to change, add, or omit words in the first amendment. It can be debated at once and is decided by a majority vote. The Chair should allow full discussion and then have a vote taken on the amendment, making sure that all members know what they are voting on. Sometimes members become confused about whether they are voting on the main motion or the amendment to it. When an amendment is lost, the discussion may then go on to the next amendment or it goes back to a discussion of the main motion.

Sometimes members are not satisfied with the amendment they have adopted, so they try to improve or change it by making a motion to amend the amendment. The Chair must be alert to the procedure: a vote is taken first on the amendment to the amendment. Then a vote is taken on the amendment. Finally, a vote is taken on the main motion.

4.         To Commit or Refer to a Committee:

When a motion becomes complex through amendments, or when it seems wise to investigate the question, someone may move to commit the motion to a committee for further consideration. The motion to commit or refer may be debated. It is decided by majority vote.

A motion to commit or refer usually clarifies a question, but it can be used to delay, for it postpones final action until a later time. The committee to which anything has been referred must make a report on the question.

5.         To Table:

The purpose of this motion is to postpone consideration of the subject so it can be taken up at a later time. A subject may be tabled and then taken up at the same meeting. This is used sometimes as a method to delay final action, but usually it is used to give members time to give the subject further thought. A Chairperson may sometimes prevent it from being used for obstruction purposes by refusing to recognize the mover.

Motions to table should be acted upon at once. Usually, they are considered not subject to debate, although in practice they often are. A motion to table cannot be amended. It is moved on, one way or the other, as quickly as possible and is decided by majority vote.

6.           To Postpone:

A motion to postpone action on the question before the Board to some future date can be made at any time except when a speaker has the floor. It can be debated and is decided by majority vote. To postpone action means to put it off until the next meeting. It differs from tabling a subject, because a subject that has been tabled can be taken up later in the same meeting.

When a motion to postpone is made, a definite time should be arranged for reopening the question. Usually it means that it is to be taken up at the next regular meeting. If the Board does not want to act then, the question can be postponed again.

7.         To Adjourn:

This is not debatable. It is in order except:

a. When a speaker has the floor;

b. When a vote is being taken;

c. After adjournment has been voted down; or

d. When the Board is in the midst of some business which cannot be stopped abruptly. (The Chair, who rules on whether the motion to adjourn is in order usually decides this)

When a motion is made to adjourn to a definite time and place, then the motion is debatable. The Chair should call attention to the Board any important business that has been overlooked before putting the question of adjournment to a vote. Usually the business, which was interrupted by the adjournment, is taken up at the next meeting as the first item of unfinished business.

8.         To Reconsider:

A motion to reconsider permits the Board to set aside a vote, which has been taken. The matter then can be taken up again as though no vote had been taken. It is regarded as a main motion, is debatable, and is decided by a majority vote.

Some rules of order say that a motion to reconsider must be made by someone who has voted with the majority on the question to be considered. However, modern practice permits any member to make a motion to reconsider.

The procedure is to take two votes: first on whether the matter should be reconsidered; and second, on the original motion that is to be reconsidered.

9.         The “Previous Question”:

This is a move to close debate on a question before the Board. It is usually made when the debate has been long and drawn out. It is simply a way of saying “Let’s stop talking and vote immediately.” Many rules of order state the form of a motion as “I move the previous question.” The Chair then says, “Shall debate be closed and question be put?” What he means is, “Shall we stop talking and vote?”

Some rules of order say the decision demands a two-thirds vote. Others permit this question to be decided by majority vote. A Board should make a choice on this matter when rules of order are adopted, so there will be no confusion when the situation arises.

10.       Point of Order:

A point of order is an attempt to call attention to a violation of the rules. It may also be raised when a member thinks a mistake has been made in procedure. The usual for is “I rise to a point of order.” The Chair says, “Please state your point of order.” After the member has stated his/her objection, the Chair answers, “Your point of order is sustained,” or, “Your point of order is denied.” If that does not satisfy the member, he/she then addresses the rest of the Board to appeal the decision of the Chair in this manner: “Shall the decision of the Chair be sustained?” This is a debatable question, and the presiding officer may discuss it without leaving the Chair. It is voted on like any other motion and is decided by majority vote.

Points of order should be made immediately after a mistake has occurred. For this reason, points of order can be raised while the speaker has the floor. It is used simply to harass a speaker; the Chair simply denies the point of order. It is a question a member can raise anytime and not a motion, so it requires no second. It is not debatable unless the Chair asks for a debate on it. It is not a matter that requires a vote; it merely requires a ruling from the Chair. Once it is settled, it cannot be renewed or repeated.

11.       Tie Votes;

On a tie vote, the motion is lost. (If there is a majority of one, the Chair may vote for the minority position, thus making it a tie.)