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.
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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.