Robert's Rules for Incidental Motions - dummies

Robert’s Rules for Incidental Motions

By C. Alan Jennings, PRP, PRP

Robert’s Rules takes into account the need for members to make decisions — to insist on strictly following the rules, to relax the rules for a special reason, or to decide to handle something in a particular way. These decisions are made by the introduction and consideration of what are called incidental motions.

These motions help your group (or your presiding officer) decide a question about whether something is being done correctly, whether to get more information, or how to handle some aspect of the pending business.

The term incidental motion refers to any motion when made in direct connection with a motion to be introduced, a pending motion, or a motion that has just been pending. But when a motion is made as a main motion, it’s called an incidental main motion, and even though the purpose is pretty much the same as described, the rules for using them are a little different.

The incidental motions in Robert’s Rules cover most anything that can come up when you’re in your meeting. They’re listed here:

  • Point of Order

  • Appeal the Ruling (decision) of the Chair

  • Suspend the Rules

  • Object to Consideration of the Question

  • Division of the Question

  • Consider Seriatim (by paragraph)

  • Division of the Assembly

  • Motions Related to Method of Voting and the Polls

  • Motions Related to Nominations

  • Request to Be Excused from a Duty

  • Parliamentary Inquiry

  • Request for Information

  • Request for Permission to Withdraw or Modify a Motion

  • Request to Read Papers

  • Other Requests and Inquiries

This table lays out exactly which motions you use, depending on what you’re trying to accomplish in your meeting.

Common Uses for Incidental Motions
If You Want To . . . Then Use . . .
Enforce the rules Point of Order
Overrule a decision of the chair Appeal
Do something that violates a rule Suspend the Rules
Avoid any consideration of a main motion Object to the Consideration of the Question
Divide a motion into separate parts for debate and vote Division of the Question
Discuss a long motion part by part before voting on the
Consideration by Paragraph (Seriatim)
Question the result of a voice vote Division of the Assembly
Take a vote other than by voice, or open or close the
Motions Related to Method of Voting and the Polls
Designate a method for taking nominations, or open or close
Motions Related to Nominations
Avoid a compulsory obligation of membership or office Request to Be Excused from a Duty
Ask a question about procedure Parliamentary Inquiry
Ask for information pertaining to a motion on the floor Request for Information
Withdraw or change a motion already stated by the chair Request for Permission to Withdraw or Modify a Motion
Read something to the assembly Request to Read Papers
Speak or make remarks when no business is pending Request for Other Privilege