Deliberative Assemblies

In this Section:
6. Stating the Question
7. Debate
8. Secondary Motions
9. Putting the Question and Announcing the Vote

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 section 9, Putting the Question. 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.


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 Section 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 [Principles of 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 and Decorum in Debate]

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 Proper Motions to Use.

Putting the Question and Announcing the Vote

Note 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 Section 46. Under each motion is given the form of putting the question whenever the form is peculiar.


1. H. R. Rule 1, ยง5, 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."

Additional Secions Relating to Robert's Rules for Deliberative Assemblies:
Introduction of Business, What Precedes Debate, Obtaining the Floor, Motions and Resolutions, Seconding a Motion
Proper Motions to Use to Obtain Certain Objects
Obtaining the Floor
Or visit Roberts Rules for a listing of all sections related to meeting conduct and procedure.