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.

Mischievous troublemaker vs. pedantic stickler

Dear Dinosaur: At our church council meetings, the chair calls for the vote by saying, “All those in favor, please raise your right hand.” One of our members raises his left hand, upon which the chair refuses to count his vote. Is this correct?

Answer: It seems as if your chair is a pedantic stickler for details, and your member is a mischievous troublemaker. It is not within the chair’s prerogative to rule a vote invalid on a technicality like this. On the other hand, the member is creating friction where it isn’t necessary or helpful. Perhaps he is trying to assert his individuality, but the result is to throw sand in the wheels. He should save his individuality for his arguments.

My advice would be to ignore it. However, if the chair wants to make an issue of it, the chair can say, “Members who raise their left hand instead of their right will not have their votes counted.” The mischievous member could appeal the chair’s ruling. If there is a second, then the council will decide the matter. The chair could also turn directly to the council to ask, “Shall a left-handed vote be counted? All those in favor say ‘aye,’ all those opposed say ‘no.’” Then the chair must abide by the outcome.

See these articles for more information:

The chair is not in charge of your meeting

Keep the chair in line using Appeal

Point of Order and Appeal are the heart of democracy

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.

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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.