Attend a meeting or read an organization’s rules, and you’re likely to encounter a variety of voting terms. Parliamentary procedure (e.g., the rules of Robert’s Rules and other parliamentary procedure guidebooks) helps us out with the voting process.
Though some concepts may seem familiar, even well-known terms like “majority” have nuanced meaning. Here’s a quick guide (and some bonus tips) to common voting terms whose definitions and usage may not always be readily apparent:
to not vote at all
Bonus Tip: Except in public bodies, a presiding officer should not ask members to identify whether they are abstaining from a vote.
|ballot vote||a written, secret vote on a slip of paper; allowed only when required by the bylaws or ordered by a majority vote|
|counted vote||a method of vote verification whereby each vote is individually tallied; occurs on the chair’s initiative alone or via passage of a motion by majority vote; one member cannot demand it|
|division of assembly||a method of vote verification demanded by one member, whereby an inconclusive voice vote or show of hands vote is retaken as a rising vote; the demand is made by calling out, “Division!”; not a method by which one member can demand a counted vote|
a vote taken informally on noncontroversial matters
Bonus Tip: To take a vote using this method, say, “If there is no objection, we will . . . .” If any member objects, simply put the motion to a more formal vote by saying, “All those in favor of . . . say, ‘aye.’ All those opposed, say, ‘no.’”
more than half of the members in good standing that are both present and voting
Bonus Tip: This is the default definition of “majority” if used without qualification in an organization’s governing documents.
|majority of a quorum||more than half of the number of members needed for a quorum|
|majority of the entire membership||more than half of all the members in good standing, regardless of whether they are present|
|majority of the members present||more than half of the members in good standing that are present at a meeting|
|plurality||the largest number of votes among three or more candidates or proposals; not necessarily a majority|
|proxy||a “power of attorney” given by one member to another member to vote in his place|
every member present casts the same vote on a motion
Bonus Tip: This is the weakest type of vote because it allows one disagreeable member to control the entire group. Use judiciously.
|vote by acclamation||
a declaration by the chair that a member nominated for an office is elected; no vote is taken
Bonus Tip: Used only when only one person is nominated for an office and the bylaws do not require a ballot vote.