A common misunderstanding about defeated motions


© Can Stock Photo/roxanabalint

The History City News in Missouri published an account of a commission meeting that got Robert’s Rules of Order wrong:

Under Roberts Rules of Order, Commissioner Henry Dean could not offer a motion during the County Commission meeting yesterday to mandate the wearing of face masks in the county since it failed last week. So, Historic City News watched as Dean asked fellow commissioners if they would offer a motion.  However, when no commissioner responded, the mask issue died.

This is wrong! It’s correct that during a meeting, if a motion has failed, only a member who voted with the prevailing side has the right to move to reconsider.

The “prevailing side” means the winning side. So if the motion passed, the prevailing side is those who voted “yes.” If the motion failed, or was tied, the prevailing side is those who voted “no.” In this case, Commissioner Dean had apparently voted in favor of the motion, but the motion was defeated. So he did not vote “with the prevailing side.” Read about reconsider here.

However, once that meeting is over, and another meeting takes place, any member can offer the defeated motion again. This is technically called “renewing the motion.” Colleagues might be impatient, but you can do it. Read about renewal here.

As Josh Billings said, “It’s not what you don’t know that’s the problem, it’s what you know that ain’t so.”

Is your group clear about defeated motions? Let us know your experience!

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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.