Robert's Rules from Delta Sigma
Questions and Answers
Robert's Rules can be scary. Here are some common questions with answers. If you have a question not answered below, ask it by making a new question. Someone will come along shortly to fill in an answer.
Ordinarily, most motions can be adopted with a majority vote. However, in cases where someone's rights might be stepped on, Robert's Rules prefers a more qualified vote. Qualifications make it more difficult to adopt a motion by adding more hurdles. Examples of qualifications on voting include: making it a 2/3 majority instead of a simple majority, requiring a majority of those present instead of a majority of those voting, or requiring a majority of all members instead of a majority of those voting.
What are the different kinds of voting?
Unless otherwise specified, a "vote" refers to a simple majority vote of those present and voting at a meeting with quorum. However, since no business can be conducted without quorum anyway, the "of those present and voting at a meeting with quorum" part is usually dropped.
- Majority: More than half of those voting must vote yes. If you abstain, you simply lower the number of "yes" votes needed to adopt the motion.
- Majority of those present: More than half of the members present must vote yes, regardless of how many people voted. If you abstain, you do not change the number of "yes" votes needed to adopt the motion. Sometimes it is said that an abstention is the same as a no vote, but this is not true: an abstention is a refusal to vote at all.
- 2/3 Majority: More than 2/3 of those voting must vote yes.
- 2/3 Majority of those present: More than 2/3 of those at a meeting must vote yes, regardless of how many people vote.
- Majority of the Active Membership: No matter how many people are present or how many people vote, at least half of the active membership must vote yes.
- 2/3 Majority of the Active Membership: No matter how many people are present or how many people vote, at least 2/3 of the active membership must vote yes.
How do I make amendments?
That depends on the kind of thing you want to amend.
Motions and Minutes
To amend a motion, say, "I move to amend the motion under consideration by..." and state the changes you wish to make. It requires a second, and passes with a majority vote. It may be amended, but only to one level. You can't move to amend the amendment to the amendment.
- The motion on the floor is, "That Delta Sigma purchase a new racecar for no more than $50,000." You want to limit the money to $40,000, so you say, "I move to amend the motion to read, '$40,000' instead of '$50,000.'"
Some other things may be amended with a majority vote. Minutes that have already been approved, the agenda, and (unless stated otherwise) the Standard Operating Procedures. Things that have already been adopted use the phrase, "I move to amend as previously adopted..."
To amend the bylaws, you must follow the directions for amendment in the bylaws, or, if none are provided, Robert's Rules of Order. In Delta Sigma, all purposed amendments must be sent to the parliamentarian at (or before) the previous meeting. They require two-thirds of the active members (not active members present) to amend.
Bylaw amendments are stated, in writing, including the article, section number, and paragraph (and beyond). They indicate the text to be changed and the action to be taken. For example:
- Section 1
- Everyone must
quack like a duckwhen I say, "cheeto."
- Strike "quack like a duck" and insert "bark like a dog."
There are three basic types of bylaw amendments: 'insert,' 'strike,' and 'strike and insert.' They do what they sound like. The only important thing to note is that 'strike and insert' is a single unit; you can't amend the amendment to remove the inserted text (for some reason).
Bylaw amendments may be amended before they are voted on. This takes a simple majority.
What is the difference between "point of order" and "point of information"?
Both a point of order and a point of information are addressed to the chair, not to another member. The chair may then redirect the question as needed (for example, to the Parliamentarian or the Treasurer).
A point of order is used to inform the chair and the assembly that Robert's Rules (or whatever rules of order you might be using) are not being followed.
- The motion on the floor is to drive to Canada with the chapter's travelling bus during Spring Break, and the floor is open for debate. The chair says, "Well, I think that it's a horrible idea, so I'm going to veto this motion right now." You can then raise a point of order, and say, "Point of Order! Mr. Chair, while your opinion is valued in the assembly, Robert's Rules says that, once a motion is on the table, it can only be disposed of with a vote. Therefore, I call the question on this motion." The chair may then take your point, or the chair may rule that the action was in order. At this point you may challenge the opinion of the chair, but that's for another section.
A point of information is used to obtain more information about:
- The motion on the floor
- Robert's Rules
- Anything germane to the topic at hand
- You wish to amend a motion, but are unsure of how to do so. You say, "Point of Information! I want us to (whatever it is you want to do). How do I do that?"
- You wish to know how much money is in the bank account before voting on a motion to spend chapter money to fix the travelling bus. You say, "Point of Information! How much money do we have in the bank account?" The chair would likely redirect the question to the treasurer.
- You wish to know what the motion currently being discussed is. You say, "Point of Information! What is the motion on the floor?" The chair might respond, "The motion on the floor is to amend the main motion, which is to take the bus to Canada, to read, 'Mexico' instead of 'Canada.'"
What the h is quorum and why do we care anyway?
Quorum is defined as the minimum number of members needed to conduct business at a meeting. Any less, and no action taken in the meeting is valid.
What is an abstention vote and why would I use it?
An abstention vote is the same as not voting at all; your vote is neither yes nor no, and you are not counted in the vote total to determine whether the motion passed or not. There are certain exceptions, however. If, for example, a vote requires a majority of the members, then an abstention is essentially a 'no' vote.
Sometimes, people wish to have it known that they abstained from the vote, and request that it be put in the minutes. This typically happens at meetings with delegates who are instucted to vote a certain way on a resolution, but cannot because the resolution has been drastically changed since their chapter gave them instructions. This allows the chapter to know that they acted in good faith.
Why do I feel like Robert's Rules prevent us from getting things done sometimes?
Usually, it's because people don't know them as well as they should (or as well as the think they do), and they either get confused -- and frustrated -- or they try to use them incorrectly.
Remember, Robert's Rules, like any set of rules, are there to facilitate discussion and decision making by ensuring that everyone has a voice and everyone can understand what's going on. So, if you don't know what's going on, ask. And be sure to review the basics every once in a while; it'll help everything go more smoothly.
- Ex Officio
- Ex Officio means by virtue of the office or position. For example, if the Treasurer is an ex officio member of the fundraising committee, then the Treasurer is on the committee by default, no matter who the Treasurer is.
- Standing Motion
- A standing motion is any motion which affects the future beyond a single meeting. Standing motions can have "expiration dates" (eg, a motion to set dues to $80 for the semester expires when the semester is over), or they can have indefinite scope (eg, a motion to set dues to $80 would apply to all future semesters until the motion is reconsidered). A motion also expires when its action is complete: a motion to buy a printer stands until the printer is bought.
For more information about parliamentary procedure see: Parliamentarian