The Official Voice of Vietnam Veterans of America, Inc. ®
An organization chartered by the U.S. Congress

March/April 2006

VVA Rules


Got a question about rules? Ask Mike Swift. He’s VVA’s parliamentarian. Answers are based on VVA’s parliamentary authority, Robert’s Rules of Order, Newly Revised, 10th edition.

Q: Should we count abstentions when taking a vote?

A: The chair should not call for abstentions in taking a vote, since the number of members who respond to such a call is meaningless. To “abstain” means not to vote at all, and a member who makes no response if “abstentions” are called for abstains just as much as one who responds to that effect. Robert’s, page 42, line 25.  Since we do business by majority vote, consider this. If 15 members vote yes, 9 members vote no, and 5 members abstain, the motion is adopted. If 15 members vote yes, 9 members vote no, and 17 members abstain, the motion is still adopted. The number of votes cast is 24 and a majority—more than half—of 24 is 13 or more.

Q: Why do some members say an amendment must be read three times before it can be adopted?

A: Those members didn’t read that in Robert’s. Mason’s Manual of Legislative Procedure, pages 503-507, sections 731-736, addresses the issue and the requirements of three readings used by various legislature’s assemblies. Legislative assemblies and deliberative assemblies use different types of rules. Legislative assemblies use Mason’s, Cushing’s, and Jefferson’s manuals, while deliberative assemblies use Robert’s, Demeter’s, and Sturgis’ manuals.

Q: Certain members frequently move to table motions. When should we table a motion? 

A: The motion to Table enables us to lay the main motion aside temporarily when something else of immediate urgency arises. Table is commonly misused in place of the motion to Postpone Indefinitely, or to Postpone to a Certain Time. It is out of order to Table a motion if there is no matter urgently requiring immediate attention. Table is incorrectly used and wrongly admitted with the intention of either killing a motion without a direct vote or of suppressing a motion without debate. This is in violation of a basic principle of general parliamentary law that only a two-thirds vote can rightfully suppress a main motion without debate. Robert’s, page 201, line 29, and page 207, line 15.

I have attended VVA meetings at all levels and have yet to witness another matter urgently requiring immediate attention. Usually the member moving to table is not aware of the characteristics of the motion and the restriction it places on the members. Table is only one of seven subsidiary motions that we can use to process a main motion.

Q: A member at last month’s meeting tried to yield his speaking time to another member. The chair would not allow it, and we had a lot of contentious discussion over it. Can one member yield his or her speaking time to another member? 

A: Unless the organization has a special rule on the subject, a member cannot yield any unexpired portion of time to another member. If a member yields the floor before speaking the full ten minutes, he or she waives the right to the remaining time. If a speaker yields to another member for a question, the time consumed by the question is charged to the speaker. Robert’s, page 376, line 4.

If you have a question on parliamentary procedure, send it to Mike at



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