Robert's Rules of Order
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Part I: Parliamentary Procedure Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is Parliamentary Procedure?

A: It is a set of rules for conduct at meetings that allows everyone to be heard and to make decisions without confusion.

Q: Why is Parliamentary Procedure important?

A: It is a time-proven method of conducting business at meetings and public gatherings. It can be adapted to fit the needs of any organization. Today, Robert's Rules of Order (newly revised) is the basic handbook of operation for most clubs, organizations and other groups, so it is important that everyone know these basic rules.

Part II: Parliamentary Procedure Fixed Order of Business

Organizations using Parliamentary Procedure usually follow a fixed order of business. Below is a typical example:

  1. Call to order
  2. Roll call of members present
  3. Reading of minutes of last meeting
  4. Officers reports
  5. Committee reports
  6. Special orders: Important business previously designated for consideration at this meeting
  7. Unfinished business
  8. New business
  9. Announcements
  10. Adjournment

Part III: Parliamentary Procedure Methods of Motion

The method used by members to express themselves is in the form of making motions. A motion is a proposal on which the entire membership can take action. Individual members can:

  1. Call to order
  2. Second motions
  3. Debate motions
  4. Vote on motions

Part IV: Parliamentary Procedure Types of Motions

There are four basic types of motions:

  1. Main Motion: Introduces an item to the membership for their consideration. A main motion cannot be made when any other motion is on the floor, and it must yield to subsidiary, privileged, and incidental motions.
  2. Subsidiary Motion: Changes or affects how a main motion is handled. A vote must be taken on all subsidiary motions before a vote is finally taken on a main motion.
  3. Privileged Motion: Brings up items that are urgent about special or important matters unrelated to pending business.
  4. Incidental Motion: Provides a means of questioning procedure concerning other motions, and must be considered before those other motions.

Part V: Parliamentary Procedure for Making Motions

  1. Obtain the floor.
    1. Wait until the last speaker has finished.
    2. Rise and address the Chair by saying, for example, "Mr. Chair".
    3. Wait until the Chair recognizes you.
  2. Make your motion.
    1. Speak in a clear and concise manner.
    2. Always state a motion affirmatively. Say, "I move that we..." rather than "I move that we do not...".
    3. Avoid personalities and stay on your subject.
  3. Wait for someone to second your motion.
    1. Another member will second your motion or the Chair will call for a second.
    2. If there is no second to your motion, it is lost.
  4. The Chair states your motion.
    1. The Chair will say, "It has been moved and seconded that we ...", thus placing your motion before the membership for consideration and action.
    2. The membership then either debates your motion, or may move directly to a vote.
    3. Once your motion is presented to the membership by the Chair, it becomes "assembly property", and cannot be changed by you without the consent of the members.
  5. Expanding on your motion.
    1. The time for you to speak in favor of your motion is at this point in time, rather than at the time you present it.
    2. The mover is always allowed to speak first.
    3. All comments and debate must be directed to the Chair.
    4. Keep to the time limit for speaking that has been established.
    5. The mover may speak again only after other speakers are finished, unless called upon by the Chair.
  6. Putting the question to the membership.
    1. The Chair asks, "Are you ready to vote on the question?"
    2. If there is no more discussion, a vote is taken.
    3. On a motion, the previous question may be adapted.

Part VI: Parliamentary Procedure for Voting on Motions

The method of vote on any motion depends on the situation and the by-laws of policy of your organization. There are five methods used to vote by most organizations. They are:

  1. Voice: The Chair asks those in favor to say, "aye", those opposed to say "no". Any member may move for an exact count.
  2. Roll Call: Each member answers "yes" or "no" as his name is called. This method is used when a record of each person's vote is required.
  3. General Consent: When a motion is not likely to be opposed, the Chair says, "if there is no objection..." The membership shows agreement by their silence; however, if one member says, "I object," the item must be put to a vote.
  4. Division: This is a slight variation on the voice vote. It does not require a count unless the Chair so desires. Members raise their hands or stand.
  5. Ballot: Members write their vote on a slip of paper. This method is used when secrecy is desired.

Part VII: Parliamentary Procedure for Defeating Motions without a Vote

  1. Motion to Table: This motion is often used in the attempt to "kill" a motion. The option is always present, however, to "take from the table" for reconsideration by the membership.
  2. Motion to Postpone Indefinitely: This is often used as a means of parliamentary strategy and allows opponents of motion to test their strength without an actual vote being taken. Also, debate is once again open on the main motion.

Part VIII: Parliamentary Procedure Summary for Success

Parliamentary Procedure is the best way to get things done at your meetings, but it will only work if you use it properly.   Remember:

  1. Allow motions that are in order.
  2. Have members obtain the floor properly.
  3. Speak clearly and concisely.
  4. Obey the rules of debate.
  5. Most importantly, be courteous.


This page was last updated 07/02/00 01:51 PM