6. Stating the Question. When a motion has been made and seconded, it is the duty of the chair, unless he rules it out of order, immediately to state the question -- that is, state the exact question that is before the assembly for its consideration and action. This he may do in various ways, depending somewhat on the nature of the question, as illustrated by the following examples: "It is moved and seconded that the following resolution be adopted [reading the resolution];" or "It is moved and seconded to adopt the following resolution;" "Mr. A offers the following resolution [read]: the question is on its adoption;" "It is moved and seconded to amend the resolution by striking out the word 'very' before the word 'good';" "The previous question has been demanded [or, moved and seconded] on the amendment;" "It is moved and seconded that the question be laid on the table;" "It is moved and seconded that we adjourn." [Under each motion is shown the form of stating the question if there is any peculiarity in the form.] If the question is debatable or amendable, the chair should immediately ask, "Are you ready for the question?" If no one then rises he should put the question as described in 9. If the question cannot be debated or amended, he does not ask, "Are you ready for the question?" but immediately puts the question after stating it.
7. Debate. After a question has been stated by the chair, it is before the assembly for consideration and action. All resolutions, reports of committees, communications to the assembly, and all amendments proposed to them, and all other motions except the Undebatable Motions mentioned in 45, may be debated before final action is taken on them, unless by a two-thirds vote the assembly decides to dispose of them without debate. By a two-thirds vote is meant two-thirds of the votes cast, a quorum being present. In the debate each member has the right to speak twice on the same question on the same day (except on an appeal), but cannot make a second speech on the same question as long as any member who has not spoken on that question desires the floor. No one can speak longer than ten minutes at a time without permission of the assembly.
Debate must be limited to the merits of the immediately pending question -- that is, the last question stated by the chair that is still pending; except that in a few cases the main question is also open to debate . Speakers must address their remarks to the presiding officer, be courteous in their language and deportment, and avoid all personalities, never alluding to the officers or other members by name, where possible to avoid it, nor to the motives of members. [For further information on this subject see Debate, 42, and Decorum in Debate, 43.]
8. Secondary Motions. To assist in the proper disposal of the question various subsidiary motions are used, such as to amend, to commit, etc., and for the time being the subsidiary motion replaces the resolution, or motion, and becomes the immediately pending question. While these are pending, a question incidental to the business may arise, as a question of order, and this incidental question interrupts the business and, until disposed of, becomes the immediately pending question. And all of these may be superseded by certain motions, called privileged motions, as to adjourn, of such supreme importance as to justify their interrupting all other questions. All of these motions that may be made while the original motion is pending are sometimes referred to as secondary motions. The proper use of many of these is shown in 10.
9. Putting the Question and Announcing the Vote.1 When the debate appears to have closed, the chair asks again, "Are you ready for the question?" If no one rises he proceeds to put the question -- that is, to take the vote on the question, first calling for the affirmative and then for the negative vote. In putting the question the chair should make perfectly clear what the question is that the assembly is to decide. If the question is on the adoption of a resolution, unless it has been read very recently, it should be read again, the question being put in a way similar to this: "The question is on the adoption of the resolution [which the chair reads]; those in favor of the resolution say aye; those opposed say no. The ayes have it, and the resolution is adopted;" or, "The noes have it, and the resolution is lost." Or, thus: "The question is on agreeing to the following resolution," which the chair reads, and then he continues, "As many as are in favor of agreeing to the resolution say aye;" after the ayes have responded he continues, "As many as are opposed say no. The ayes have it," etc. Or, "It is moved and seconded that an invitation be extended to Mr. Jones to address our club at its next meeting. Those in favor of the motion will rise; be seated; those opposed will rise. The affirmative has it and the motion is adopted [or carried]." Or, if the vote is by "show of hands," the question is put and the vote announced in a form similar to this; "It has been moved and seconded to lay the resolution on the table. Those in favor of the motion will raise the right hand; those opposed will signify [or manifest] it in the same way [or manner]. The affirmative has it [or, The motion is adopted, or carried] and the resolution is laid on the table." The vote should always be announced, as it is a necessary part of putting the question. The assembly is assumed not to know the result of the vote until announced by the chair, and the vote does not go into effect until announced. As soon as the result of the vote is announced the chair should state the next business in order, as in the following example of putting the question on an amendment: "The question is on amending the resolution by inserting the word 'oak' before the word 'desk.' Those in favor of the amendment say aye; those opposed say no. The ayes have it and the amendment is adopted. The question is now [or recurs] on the resolution as amended, which is as follows: [read the resolution as amended]. Are you ready for the question?" The chair should never neglect to state what is the business next in order after every vote is announced, nor to state the exact question before the assembly whenever a motion is made. Much confusion is avoided thereby. The vote should always be taken first by the voice (viva voce) or by show of hands (the latter method being often used in small assemblies), except in the case of motions requiring a two-thirds vote, when a rising vote should be taken at first. When a division is demanded a rising vote is taken. For further information on voting see 46. Under each motion is given the form of putting the question whenever the form is peculiar.
1. H. R. Rule 1, §5, is as follows: "5, He shall rise to put a question, but may state it sitting; and shall put questions in this form, to wit: 'As many as are in favor (as the question may be), say Aye;' and after the affirmative voice is expressed, "As many as are opposed, say No;' if he doubts, or a division is called for, the House shall divide; those in the affirmative of the question shall first rise from their seats, and then those in the negative; if he still doubts, or a count is required by at least one-fifth of a quorum, he shall name one from each side of the question to tell the members in the affirmative and negative; which being reported, he shall rise and state the decision."
10. Proper Motions to Use to Accomplish Certain Objects. To enable any one to ascertain what motion to use in order to accomplish what is desired, the common motions are arranged in the table below according to the objects to be attained by their use. Immediately after the table is a brief statement of the differences between the motions placed under each object, and of the circumstances under which each should be used. They include all of the Subsidiary Motions , which are designed for properly disposing of a question pending before the assembly; and the three motions designed to again bring before the assembly a question that has been acted upon or laid aside temporarily; and the motion designed to bring before another meeting of the assembly a main question which has been voted on in an unusually small or unrepresentative meeting. Motions, as a general rule, require for their adoption only a majority vote -- that is, a majority of the votes cast, a quorum being present; but motions to suppress or limit debate, or to prevent the consideration of a question, or, without notice to rescind action previously taken, require a two-thirds vote. The figures and letters on the left in the list below correspond to similar figures and letters in the statement of differences further on. The figures to the right in the list refer to the sections where the motions are fully treated.
The Common Motions Classified According to Their Objects.
- (1) To Modify or Amend.
- (a) Amend ..............................33
- (b) Commit or Refer ....................32
- (2) To Defer Action.
- (a) Postpone to a Certain Time .........31
- (b) Make a Special Order (2/3 Vote) ....20
- (c) Lay on the Table ...................28
- (3) To Suppress or Limit Debate (2/3 Vote).
- (a) Previous Question (to close debate
now) (2/3 Vote)
- (b) Limit Debate (2/3 Vote) ............30
- (a) Previous Question (to close debate
- (4) To Suppress the Question.
- (a) Objection to Its Consideration
- (b) Previous Question and Reject
- (c) Postpone Indefinitely ..............34
- (d) Lay on the Table ...................28
- (a) Objection to Its Consideration
- (5) To Consider a Question a Second Time.
- (a) Take from the Table ................35
- (b) Reconsider .........................36
- (c) Rescind ............................37
- (6) To Prevent Final Action on a Question in an Unusually Small or Unrepresentative Meeting.
- (a) Reconsider and have Entered onthe Minutes ............................36
(1) To Modify or Amend. (a) When a resolution or motion is not worded properly, or requires any modification to meet the approval of the assembly, if the changes required can be made in the assembly, the proper motion to make is to amend by "inserting," or "adding," or by "striking out," or by "striking out and inserting," or by "substituting" one or more
paragraphs for those in the resolution. (b) But if much time will be required, or if the changes required are numerous, or if additional information is required to enable the assembly to act intelligently, then it is usually better to refer the question to a committee.
(2) To Defer Action. (a) If it is desired to put off the further consideration of a question to a certain hour, so that when that time arrives, as soon as the pending business is disposed of, it shall have the right of consideration over all questions except special orders and a reconsideration, then the proper motion to make is, to postpone to that certain time. This is also the proper motion to make if it is desired to defer action simply to another day. As the motion if adopted cannot interrupt the pending question when the appointed time arrives, nor can it suspend any rule, it requires only a majority vote for its adoption. A question postponed to a certain time cannot be taken up before the appointed time except by suspending the rules, which requires a two-thirds vote.(b) If it is desired to appoint for the consideration of a question a certain time when it may interrupt any pending question except one relating to adjournment or recess, or a question of privilege or a specified order that was made before it was, then the proper course is to move "that the question be made a special order for," etc., specifying the day or hour. As this motion, if adopted, suspends all rules that interfere with the consideration of the question at the appointed time, it requires a two-thirds vote for its adoption. A special order cannot be considered before the appointed time except by suspending the rules, which requires a two-thirds vote. (c) If, however, it is desired to lay the question aside temporarily with the right to take it up at any moment when business of this class, or unfinished or new business, is in order and no other question is before the assembly, the proper motion to use is to lay the question on the table. When laid upon the table a majority vote may take it up at the same or the next session, as described in 35.
(3) To Suppress Debate. (a) If it is desired to close debate now and bring the assembly at once to a vote on the pending question, or questions, the proper course is to move, or demand, or call for, the previous question on the motions upon which it is desired to close
debate. The motion, or demand, for the previous question should always specify the motions upon which it is desired to order the previous question. If no motions are specified, the previous question applies only to the immediately pending question. It requires a two-thirds vote for its adoption. After it has been adopted, privileged and incidental motions may be made, or the pending questions may be laid on the table, but no other subsidiary motion can be made nor is any debate allowed. If it is lost the debate is resumed. (b) If it is desired to limit the number or length of speeches, or the time allowed for debate, the proper course is to move that the speeches or debate be limited as desired, or that the debate be closed and the vote be taken at a specified time. These motions to limit or close debate require a two-thirds vote for their adoption, and are in order, like the previous question, when any debatable question is immediately pending.
(4) To Suppress the Question. A legitimate question cannot be suppressed in a deliberative assembly without free debate, except by a two-thirds vote. If two-thirds of the assembly are opposed to the consideration of the question then it can be suppressed by the following methods: (a) If it is desired to prevent any consideration of the question, the proper course to pursue is to object to its consideration before it has been discussed or any other motion stated, and, therefore, it may interrupt a member who has the floor before the debate has begun. It requires no second. On the question of consideration there must be a two-thirds negative vote to prevent the consideration. (b) After the question has been considered the proper way to immediately suppress it is to close debate by ordering the previous
question, which requires a two-thirds vote, and then to vote down the question. Another method of suppressing a question is to postpone it indefinitely (equivalent to rejecting it), which, however, being debatable and opening the main question to debate, is only of service in giving another opportunity to defeat the resolution should this one fail. For, if the motion to postpone indefinitely is adopted, the main question is dead for that session, and if it is lost, the main question is still pending and its enemies have another opportunity to kill it. When the motion to postpone indefinitely is pending and immediate action is desired, it is necessary to move the previous question as in case (b) above. (d) A fourth method frequently used for suppressing a question is to lay it on the table, though this is an unfair use of the motion, except in bodies like Congress where the majority must have the power to suppress any motion immediately, as otherwise they could not transact business. But in ordinary societies, where the pressure of business is not so great, it is better policy for the majority to be fair and courteous to the minority and use the proper motions for suppressing a question without allowing full debate, all of which require a two-thirds vote. Unless the enemies of a motion have a large majority, laying it on the table is not a safe way of suppressing it, because its friends, by watching their opportunity, may find themselves in a majority and take it from the table and adopt it, as shown in the next paragraph.
To Consider a Question a Second Time. When a question has not been voted on, but has been laid on the table, a majority may take it from the table and consider it at any time when no other question is before the assembly and when business of that class, or unfinished or new business, is in order during the same session; or at the next session in ordinary societies having regular meetings as often as quarterly.(b) If a motion has been adopted, or rejected, or postponed indefinitely, and afterwards one or more members have changed their views from the prevailing to the losing side, and it is thought that by further discussion the assembly may modify or reverse its action, the proper course is for one who voted with the prevailing side to move to reconsider the vote on the question. This can be done on the day the vote to be reconsidered is taken, or on the next succeeding day of the same session.(c) If a main motion, including questions of privilege and orders of the day, has been adopted or rejected or postponed indefinitely, and no one is both able and willing to move to reconsider the vote, the question can be brought up again during the same session only by moving to rescind the motion. To rescind may be moved by any member, but, if notice of it was not given at a previous meeting, it requires a two-thirds vote or a vote of a majority of the enrolled membership. At any future session, the resolution, or other main motion, may be rescinded in the same way if it had been adopted; or it may be introduced anew if it had been rejected or postponed indefinitely; provided the question cannot be reached by calling up the motion to reconsider which had been made at the previous session. A by-law, or anything else that requires a definite notice and vote for its amendment, requires the same notice and vote to rescind it.
(6) To Prevent Final Action on a Question in an Unusually Small or Unrepresentative Meeting. If an important main motion should be adopted, lost, or postponed indefinitely, at a small or unrepresentative meeting of the society when it was apparent that the action is in opposition to the views of the majority of the members, the proper course to pursue is for a member to vote with the prevailing side and then move to reconsider the vote and have it entered on the minutes. The motion to reconsider, in this form, can be made only on the day the vote was taken which it is proposed to reconsider, and the reconsideration cannot be called up on that day; thus an opportunity is given to notify absent members. The motion to reconsider is fully explained in.