Recognized Voting Methods under Robert’s Rules
Robert’s Rules offers quite a selection of voting methods, whether you’re voting on motions or having elections. The methods range from asking for unanimous agreement to showing how you vote by voice or other physical action to voting by secret ballot. The voting methods recognized by Robert’s Rules include
Quite possibly the most efficient way of conducting a vote, unanimous consent is the voting method of choice because it saves so much time. The process involves simply asking the members if there’s any objection to adopting the motion. If no one objects, then the motion is adopted.
If even one member objects, then you proceed to take a vote.
Voice vote (or viva voce, pronounced “VEE-vah VOE-see”) is the customary method for voting on motions requiring a majority vote for adoption, a voice vote entails the presiding officer saying, “All those in favor say ‘Aye,’” [pause] then, “All those opposed, say ‘No.’” This method handles votes effectively because it’s efficient and because determining whether a motion carries or not isn’t difficult unless the vote is close. When the vote is close, your presiding officer can re-take the vote as a rising or counted vote on his own initiative.
The presiding officer should always call for the negative vote as well as the positive one. This rule doesn’t apply to courtesy resolutions expressing appreciation, thanks, and so on, but it does to every other vote.
When a motion is to be decided by a two-thirds vote or some other proportion greater than a majority, or when a voice vote is too close to call, you can use a rising vote, which is just what the name implies. The chair says, “All those in favor rise. [pause] Be seated.” Then, “All those opposed rise. [pause] Be seated.”
The rising vote has some variations that generally depend on the size of the group.
Voting by show of hands: A vote by show of hands can be used instead of a rising vote when you’re in a small group.
Voting by voting cards: In some assemblies (usually very large ones), members are given colored voting cards to hold up appropriately signifying their vote. In very large assemblies, voting cards are probably the most efficient means for deciding most questions because large groups require large rooms, making it all the more difficult for a presiding officer to discern the result of a voice vote or to tell who’s standing and who is not.
If the chair decides that the rising vote isn’t conclusive enough, then he should retake the vote as a counted vote to ascertain the result. However, if the chair is comfortable with his call, he’s not required to take a counted vote unless the membership adopts a motion to order a counted vote. Such a motion requires a second and is adopted by majority vote.
The procedure for taking a counted vote is the same as for a rising vote, except that you ask the members to remain standing (or keep their hands or voting cards raised) until they can be counted. And, you need to appoint someone, the teller, to do the counting. In a small meeting, the secretary usually handles the count. In a larger meeting, trusted members should be appointed as tellers by the chair with the consent of the members.
This method is used mostly in representative assemblies in which the members represent constituencies and it’s important for constituents to know how their representatives vote on particular issues. The record of how each member votes is recorded in the minutes.
If your group is a representative assembly, your bylaws should provide details for how and when roll-call votes are ordered.
Voting by ballot is used whenever you don’t want members’ individual views disclosed. Ballots, the slips of paper on which voters indicate their preferences, are understood to be secret ballots unless otherwise specified, such as with signed ballots, which may be used in voting by mail when secrecy is not required.
If your bylaws provide for ballot votes on any matter, it’s to protect you, as an individual member, from having to disclose your vote. Because the rule protects the rights of an individual, it’s a rule that can’t be suspended (even by a unanimous vote), and no vote that would force you to disclose your views in order to protect that right is ever in order.