Dear Dinosaur Advice Column

Got questions about Robert's Rules of Order? Ann Macfarlane is a dinosaur who knows her stuff. She explains the complexity of Robert's Rules so it makes sense. She loves hearing from readers with their questions about Robert's Rules of Order.

Can committees take official votes? Is a “straw poll” allowed?

Dear Dinosaur: A secretary forwarded a board member’s question: “I have always been told that we could not take an official vote in committee. Can you find anything about this?” This came up in a governance committee where members were “voting” to move a policy change to the whole board for vote. Is this straw poll voting allowed? Is it considered official “voting”?

Answer: Yes, committees can vote. Robert’s Rules assumes that they will vote and prepares its guidance accordingly.

The example you give is not a “straw poll,” it is voting on matters that fall within their jurisdiction. In a local government, usually the committee does not have the responsibility of making a final decision. But it may well vote to approve forwarding an item to the council and recommending that it be approved.

Same thing for “committee of the whole” or “work sessions.” Boards meeting in such a format usually can’t take final action, but they can forward something to the board (which is themselves) for approval at a business meeting.

I haven’t heard the term “official vote.” It’s just a vote, or not. As you know, Robert’s Rules does not approve of straw polls (votes taken just to find out what people think about a proposal, but not resulting in action).

For more on committees, see our article Committees in Robert’s Rules.

Dear Dinosaur provides simple, practical answers to questions about Robert’s Rules and parliamentary procedure. Send your questions to Dear Dinosaur here. Our answers are based on Robert’s Rules of Order, Newly Revised, 12th edition. As always, nothing in this post constitutes legal or business advice. Seek a qualified authority for your specific issues.

Never miss an article!
Sign up today and get our blog articles right in your inbox.

Ann Macfarlane

Ann G. Macfarlane is a Professional Registered Parliamentarian. She offers an interactive and user-friendly way to master the key points for effective, efficient and fair meetings. Her background as a diplomat and Russian translator enables her to connect with elected officials and nonprofit board directors and give them the tools they need for success. She is the author of Mastering Council Meetings: A guidebook for elected officials and local governments.


  1. Julia Bortle City of Waynesboro on July 1, 2021 at 7:50 am

    I’ve been asked to join the Lions Club as their secretary. As City Clerk for a Waynesboro VA city, I’m not sure if the same rules apply. Are there any Jurassic Parliament articles you suggest I refer to that would help prepare me? Thank you for any guidance.

    • Ann Macfarlane on July 1, 2021 at 9:11 am

      Hi Julia, congratulations! I will send you an email with some thoughts.