When and how can you change your vote?

(c) Can Stock Photo / iqoncept

A reader contacted us with some concern because a member of her local government body had changed their vote in order to be able to move reconsideration at the next meeting. Was this legitimate?

A note about “reconsideration”

First off, readers should know that ordinarily, the motion “to reconsider” can be made only during the meeting at which the original motion was made. Robert’s Rules of Order says that you can move to reconsider on the same day, or on the next day if the meeting continues over, but that’s it.

Two chances to change your vote

A member may change their vote up until the chair announces the result. So if you’ve heard everyone else vote, and then decide to change your vote, you may do so if you are quick about it. Note that debate during voting is not allowed, so technically speaking, this member should not have said “I want to change my vote in order to be able to move reconsideration.”

A member may also change their vote after the chair announces the result by unanimous consent of the body. If someone makes that request, the chair should say, “Is there any objection to the member changing their vote?” If everyone remains silent, the change can be made. If a single person objects, however, no change is possible, and the member’s original vote stands.

Moving on means no change to your vote is possible

Once the chair announces the next item of business, it is not possible to change an individual vote. Occasionally it happens that later in the meeting, thinking back over events, someone decides that the chair made a mistake in calling a voice vote. Since nothing was said at the time, it’s just too bad.

However, if it turns out that the incorrect call has legal consequences, then you must talk with your attorney. For example, in Washington State, four members of a seven-member council must vote in favor for an ordinance to pass. In one instance, the mayor was at a police workshop and the deputy mayor was sick. There were five council members present. Three people voted in favor of the ordinance and two against. The chair declared that the ordinance had passed, but that was not correct. The attorney sorted them out.

How to change your vote?

As for “how” to change your vote, there is no special procedure for this.  Just seek recognition-raise your hand-and tell the chair what you would like to do.

Related articles:

Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised, 12th edition was published in September 2020. Our previously published materials refer to the 11th edition. In substance the two editions are the same. There are minor differences, textual changes, and a change in reference method. The new edition gives references by section number, not by pages.

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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.