View Question
Q: Robert's Rules on Abstaining ( Answered ,   1 Comment )
 Question
 Subject: Robert's Rules on Abstaining Category: Reference, Education and News > General Reference Asked by: gizmogal-ga List Price: \$2.00 Posted: 21 Feb 2004 12:35 PST Expires: 22 Mar 2004 12:35 PST Question ID: 309253
 ```At a recent meeting of a governing body of a club I belong to, a motion was made and properly seconded. Three people voted in favor. 7 people voted as abstained. No one voted against the motion. Yet the motion was considered carried, in spite of a 3-0-7 yea vote. My Q: Should the motion have passed? I believe Roberts Rules says an abstention is a NO and counts as such. Yet the Chair ruled in this case that the majority (in favor) won as he counted all the abstentions as agreeing with the actual "yeas". What if the vote was 3 in favor, 3 opposed and 5 abstained. Is this really a tie, that the chair would have to resolve with his/her vote? Can you find the citation for Robert's that will help me see how abstentions? work? thanks Wendy```
 ```Hello Wendy, Thank you for your question. Searching for your answer I first came across a page at Washington University that notes: http://cialab.ee.washington.edu/Marks/P/IEEE/RobertsRules/RobertsRules/Majority.htm "A Majority Vote consists of over 50% YES's of all the YES and NO ballots counted. EXAMPLE: A tie is not a majority. EXAMPLE: 23 votes are yes, 21 votes are NO and 345 votes are ABSTAIN. This is a majority and the motion passes." So, it would seem that the abstained votes are not counted at all and a 3-3-5 vote as you asked would indeed, be a tie. The College of Denver notes on a page on Robert's Rules: http://studentactivities.mscd.edu/org/resources/13.html "...Abstentions do not count in tallying the vote; when members abstain, they are in effect only attending the meeting to aid in constituting a quorum..." Interestingly, a discussion at the IEEE Organization addresses your point of view in this message, but even agrees that Robert's does not consider Abstains when deciding a vote: http://suo.ieee.org/email/msg09267.html "...That ruling stated that a majority of all ballots (including ABSTAINS) must vote YES for a motion to pass. For example, 3 YES, 2 NO, and 2 ABSTAIN would not pass, because out of 7 total votes, 4 must be YES for it to pass. This directive applied only to the SUMO vote. There was talk and perhaps intention to change IEEE voting rules, but no such announcements or changes in policies & procedures came down. To my knowledge, none of the other ~400 IEEE standards groups are following that ruling. It remains common practice by IEEE groups to follow the Roberts Rules of Order rule that ABSTAINS are not counted in the ballot tally (i.e. 3 YES, 2 NO, 2 ABSTAIN would pass). Based on this, I believe the proper rules to follow are that of Roberts Rules of Order..." And finally, at a page by the Municpal Technical Advisory Service: http://www.mtas.utk.edu/KnowledgeBase.nsf/0/28DA234685E2A44D85256BE30047CEA6?OpenDocument "...Clearly, under Roberts? Rules of Order Newly Revised, section 4, (page 44 in my version) a failure to cast a vote on a question is an abstention: The chair should not ask for abstentions in taking a vote, since the number of members who respond to such a call are meaningless. To ?abstain? means not to vote at all, and a member who makes no response if ?abstentions? are called for abstains just as much as one who responds to that effect..." In fact, every page I could find that addresses this agrees that this is standard procedure unless otherwise stated and agreed. A page showing the original Robert's Rules from 1915 does say the following which may be the cause of confusion: http://www.constitution.org/rror/rror-08.htm#46 "...While it is the duty of every member who has an opinion on the question to express it by his vote, yet he cannot be compelled to do so. He may prefer to abstain from voting, though he knows the effect is the same as if he voted on the prevailing side..." This is NOT saying that the vote is counted as an affirmative (nor a negative), but that by abstaining, it is aiding the cause of the prevailing vote. Finally, at this page on Survival Tips of Roberts' Rules: http://www.roberts-rules.com/parl17.htm "...The basic requirement for adoption of a motion by any assembly with a quorum is a Majority Vote, except for certain motions as listed below. A Majority is 'more than half' of the votes cast by persons legally entitled to vote, excluding blank votes and abstentions. Majority does not mean 51%. In a situation with 1000 votes, Majority = 501 votes; but 51% = 510 votes. Let's see an example: The chair instructed the members, at a meeting with a quorum, to vote by writing 'Yes' or 'No' on a piece of paper. Of the members present, 100 were entitled to vote, but 15 did not cast a ballot. Of the 85 votes cast: 75 were legal; 10 were illegal (the members wrote 'Maybe'); and 4 were turned in blank (abstained). The Majority is any number larger than one half of the total of ... (legal votes cast) - (blank votes cast) + (illegal votes cast). Of the 85 Votes Cast by members entitled to vote ... (75 were valid) - (4 were blank) + (10 were illegal) = 81 Votes Cast. One half of 81 Votes Cast is 40 1/2. Majority was 41 votes...." I hope this fully answers your question. Search Strategy: "roberts rules" +abstain "roberts rules of order" +vote OR abstain If a link above should fail to work or anything require further explanation or research, please do post a Request for Clarification prior to rating the answer and closing the question and I will be pleased to assist further. Regards, -=clouseau=-```
 gizmogal-ga rated this answer: and gave an additional tip of: \$2.00 ```Call that a 7 star answer, though I'm only allowed to award 5 stars. OK, so abstentions are not NO's but they aren't a Yes. either. they don't count and therefor the majority has to be considered in order for a vote to crry or be defeated. Wow. I thank you loads. Tip added.```
 ```My pleasure, Wendy. Thank you for the rating and tip! Regards, -=clouseau=-```