It’s a legit question: Should you ask everyone to “say ‘aye’”? Or use paper ballots? Or just have people to raise their hands? Within parliamentary procedure, what are your options for taking a vote?
1. Vote by Voice
A voice vote allows members to state verbally whether they are for or against a motion. The result of the vote is determined by listening for which side of the issue has more votes.
- The Chair says, “All those in favor of the motion to…, say ‘aye.’” Members respond verbally.
- Then the Chair says, “All those opposed to the motion to…, say ‘no.’” Members respond verbally.
- A voice vote is the simplest type of vote—no prep of ballots required.
- A voice vote is not a counted vote. So, if your bylaws require a counted vote, one of the other methods must be used.
- In a large group (or if the vote is close), a voice vote might be unclear—to either the Chair or the members. A Chair can clarify members’ votes by repeating the questions and asking people to stand or raise a hand in response instead of voting verbally.
- If a member is unsure about the result of the vote, he/she may say, “Division,” to request that the Chair repeat the vote using an alternate method (raising hands, standing).
2. Vote by Hand-Raising or Standing
A second voting method option is a little more physical—the Chair asks members to show their preference by raising a hand or standing up.
- To use a raising-of-hands voting method, the Chair says, “All those in favor of the motion to…, please raise your hand.” Members raise a hand to vote. The Chair notifies members that they may lower their hands. Then the Chair says, “All those opposed to the motion to…, please raise your hand.” Members raise a hand to vote. And then the Chair notifies members that they may lower their hands.
- To use a standing vote method, the Chair says, “All those in favor of the motion to…, please stand.” Members stand to vote. The Chair notifies members that they may sit. Then the Chair says, “All those opposed to the motion to…, please stand.” Members stand to vote. And then the Chair notifies members that they may sit.
- The raising hands or standing vote methods are simple and very visible.
- Some bylaws require a counted vote in some circumstances. If a counted vote is required, a hand-raising or standing vote is a good option. However, unless the bylaws require a counted vote, votes should not be counted. No one member may demand a counted vote, but the entire group present can make a decision to count a particular vote.
- If a counted vote is required by the bylaws, here is a quick “how-to” on vote-counting: after each vote (in favor of/opposed to), the Chair should ask the participants to count off. A member who is standing or who has a hand raised and is in the first row should start the process by saying, “One,” and then should sit or lower his/her hand. Each person casting a vote at that time should continue to count off in an orderly fashion through the room until all have voiced a number.
3. Vote by Ballot
A third method of voting is a ballot vote, often used for elections or votes on very important issues. The Chair takes this type of vote by inviting all members to mark votes simultaneously on a piece of paper or via an electronic ballot method.
- Ballot voting is secret unless specified otherwise in the organization’s bylaws.
- Ballots should be counted by a team of at least two tellers.
- The vote results should be reported to and announced by the Chair, including total ballots cast, required vote threshold (for the motion to pass or for election, e.g., majority or 2/3), and number of votes for/against the motion or received per candidate.
4. Vote by Unanimous or General Consent
A final method—unanimous or general consent—allows a quick vote on noncontroversial matters—like approving the agenda, approving the minutes, or voting on an inconsequential motion where the board anticipates that everyone will agree. Instead of inviting discussion or asking for individual approval or disapproval, the Chair just briefly checks for any opposition.
- The Chair asks, “Are there any objections to…?”
- The Chair pauses to wait for any objections and if there are none, announces that the item is approved or the motion has passed.
- If there are objections, the Chair follows the traditional motion process of discussion and vote.
Your Bylaws Rule
Some groups have specified in their bylaws that a ballot vote or counted vote must be used in certain situations. Be sure to check your organization’s rules on this. No one can demand a secret ballot or counted vote unless the bylaws require it or unless the group makes a decision to count that particular vote.
The details of voting methods and calculation change a good deal if your group decides to take a vote during a virtual meeting. Additional considerations are involved if the meeting is held in a hybrid format—including both in-person attendees and virtual attendees.
- Voice votes are the least clear and therefore not recommended for use in a virtual meeting.
- Within many virtual meeting software options, members may vote by responding to a poll, by clicking a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” button, or by selecting a green checkmark or red X.
- Voters who are participating online will need clear instructions in order to vote at the proper time and in the designated way.