Robert’s Rules for Nominations from the Floor

By C. Alan Jennings, PRP

Sometimes called open nominations, this method is probably the most familiar of Robert’s Rules. It’s used in the vast majority of situations when members elect their officers at a meeting. Even if a nominating committee is in place, under Robert’s Rules, nominations from the floor are in order at some point before the election is pending.

Opening the floor for nominations

Your group’s rules and customs determine the time at which floor nominations are accepted. Sometimes nominations aren’t taken until the election is pending; sometimes they’re taken at other times, such as at a meeting before the election meeting.

Unless the bylaws contain a specific rule about nominations, the privilege to deal with floor nomination procedures is reserved for the assembly. The assembly may tailor its nomination procedures to any particular situation it encounters by using the procedures for handling incidental motions related to nominations. The assembly’s privilege to determine its nomination procedure is important, and you need to keep that privilege in mind when a question comes up about whether nominations can or should be made.

Depending on your organization’s bylaws, special rules of order, and the rules you decide on during any pending election, nominations from the floor may be taken either for each office just before the election for that office, or for all offices before any elections take place. In either case, the default order for taking nominations is the order in which your bylaws list the offices.

To open nominations from the floor, the chair declares, “Nominations are now in order for the office of Top Banana. Are there nominations for Top Banana?”

Handling nominations from the floor

After each nomination, the chair repeats the name as having been nominated. For example, he may say, “Cletus Potzbius has been nominated. Are there further nominations?”

The process of making floor nominations is subject to the following rules:

  • Recognition by the chair isn’t required to make a nomination. A member may call out a nomination while remaining seated. However, in larger organizations, calling nominations from your seat is usually impractical. In such cases, members may adopt a more formal nomination process either by rule or by the adoption of an incidental motion for that particular meeting or election.
  • Nominations don’t have to be seconded, but it’s not out of order for members to second a nomination to signal their endorsements.
  • A member shouldn’t offer more than one nomination to a position if there are several seats for the same office — such as for nominees to a board or a committee — until all other members have had the opportunity to make nominations. However, if a member does make more nominations before others have had their chance, his additional nominations aren’t out of order unless someone objects to his actions. Additionally, it is not in order under any circumstances for a member to nominate more persons than there are seats available. For example, if an election is to fill three seats on a board, a member cannot nominate four people.
  • If the bylaws don’t prohibit it, a person can be nominated for more than one office and can even serve in more than one office, if elected. However, if the bylaws do prohibit it, then either the nominee or the electors must choose one office among multiple nominations.
  • Nominations are taken for successive offices in the order the bylaws list them.

Closing nominations

According to Robert’s Rules, motions to close nominations are usually unnecessary because the nomination process simply continues until no one wants to make further nominations. When the nominations stop, the chair just declares nominations closed.

But before he makes such a declaration, he’s obligated to be sure no more nominations are forthcoming. This obligation may be the source of another misunderstanding that many people have about closing nominations: All too often, presiding officers think they must call for nominations three times before declaring nominations closed. To set the record straight, no such rule exists, but the practice isn’t completely unreasonable because it establishes a good way to make sure that no further nominations are forthcoming.

Still, some presiding officers think there’s some magic to uttering the call three times, and in their partisan haste to shut down nominations for political reasons, they babble out the phrase three times and declare nominations closed all in one breath. When you hear that happening, you can be sure that the presiding officer either doesn’t know the rules or is using his position to thwart the nomination process.

From a practical standpoint, attempting to declare nominations closed if members want to continue making nominations serves no purpose. After all, nominations don’t elect! So why would any self-respecting presiding officer give up his appearance of impartiality by trying to suppress nominations? Perhaps he just wants to make points with a large faction. But by pushing to close nominations, he reveals that he’s unable to discharge his duties with impartiality, which is a serious breach of duty.

It’s perfectly permissible, according to Robert’s Rules, to offer a motion to close nominations if an election is being delayed because nominations are being offered to honor people who are no more likely to be elected than they are to win the catch-the-greased-pig contest at the county fair.

According to Robert’s Rules, a motion to close nominations is out of order as long as any member is attempting to make a nomination.