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 member explain vote against consent agenda?

Dear Dinosaur:  During our consent agenda vote, we have a board member who often votes nay. After their vote, they always feel the need to interrupt our process to give an explanation as to why they voted against the agenda Item. My question is, does a board member have a right to explain their vote or does the chair have a right to cut off the conversation and move on to the next agenda item?

Answer: No, a member does not have the right to explain their vote after it is taken. Robert’s Rules of Order says that “debate must be confined to the merits of the pending question,” meaning that you are only supposed to discuss something while you are considering whether to adopt it. And since the consent agenda is not discussed, you can’t explain that either!

If the member wants to debate something on the consent agenda, they can request that it be removed from the consent agenda, which should be done on request, and discuss it then.

There is also a rule that members may not criticize past actions of the group during a meeting. So this is not allowed on several counts. The chair should stop the member and move on.

See these articles for more information:

Consent agenda in Robert’s Rules

Inappropriate remarks on local government councils

Inappropriate remarks on nonprofit boards

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. For specific questions, seek a qualified authority.

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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.