If motion not to allow lemonade stand fails, is lemonade stand allowed?

Dear Dinosaur: A motion is made and seconded to not to allow Sally Sue to operate a lemonade stand at 123 Main St. Upon vote majority vote Nay… is the lemonade stand now allowed?

Answer: No, no action has been taken with regard to the lemonade stand. The fact that this motion was defeated says only that the motion “not to allow” was defeated. It doesn’t say anything about “to allow.”

It is a bad idea to make a motion “not to do something.” When a motion has the word “not” in it, substantial confusion can result, as seen in your question.

Robert’s Rules of Order strongly recommends that motions should be phrased in the positive, just to avoid issues of this type. The proper course would have been to make a motion to allow Sally Sue to operate the lemonade stand. If it passes, she has permission. If it fails, she does not have permission.

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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