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.
Does Robert’s Rules support quorum busting?
Dear Dinosaur: Recently, two board members walked out during a roll call vote knowing that they were going to lose on the vote. Their departure ended the meeting because there was no longer a quorum. At the next meeting, they cited “Roberts Rules” that said they had a “right” to walk out as a filibuster and compared themselves to the U.S. Senate filibuster. Can you please tell me whether Roberts Rules suggests walking out if you disagree/will lose an active vote?
Answer: NO, there is no authorization in Robert’s Rules to walk out when you think you’re going to lose.
Because a body cannot act without a quorum, this action is called “quorum busting.” It is completely contrary to the theory and foundations of Robert’s Rules of Order. Robert’s Rules of Order is founded on the commitment that the decision of the majority of a group, voting at a properly called meeting, is the decision of the body as a whole. The minority must make it their own – or, at a minimum, not seek to undermine the majority decision.
Here is an interesting article on this topic from the office of the Senate historian. Note the phrase, “It has always been supposed that a Senator acting upon his honor would report himself when his attendance would be requested.” Leaving a meeting because you think you’re going to lose goes against this principle, and the basic understanding of how our society’s governance works.
See also these posts about quorum:
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 issues, seek a qualified authority.