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.

However, in our experience local government bodies sometimes have a provision in their rules of order that allows a member to move reconsideration at the next meeting. If that is the case for you, then of course it is legitimate. Your particular bylaws or rules of procedure have more authority than Robert’s Rules of Order.

A common instance where reconsideration is used is when new information arises that changes the circumstances for considering the vote. Swaying with the political winds and changing your vote so you are in a position to move reconsideration seems a little expedient, but it is allowed.  See our article, Reconsider, Rescind, or Amend previous decision

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:

How to call the vote at meetings

Point of Order and Appeal are the heart of democracy

Unanimous consent will slash your meeting time

Unraveling the mysteries of “Second the Motion!”

You must call for the negative vote


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.

Never miss an article!
Sign up today and get our blog articles right in your inbox.