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.

When asked to vote, director does nothing

Dear Dinosaur:  When calling for the vote with our 3-person county board, two directors vote “aye” and the third director does not vote. The director doesn’t vote aye, nay or with an abstention when asked. Just simply, no action. How is that vote then recorded?

Answer: Under Robert’s Rules of Order, “to abstain” is to do nothing, and the chair does not call for abstentions. If you call for the vote and one director remains silent, that director is abstaining.

You could record the vote like this:

The motion passed with two votes in favor.


The motion passed with Director Smith and Director Jones voting in favor, Director Robinson abstaining.

We have found that many local governments do call for abstentions, and if that is your custom, that is fine. Just know that an abstention is not a vote.

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.

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

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.