Rules of Order

Chinese American Librarians Association
Excerpt from Robert's Rules of Order


  1. The principles of parliamentary law are: (a) the principle of rights: the right of the majority ultimately to rule, the right of the minority to be heard, and the right of the individual to participate in the decision-making process. (b) The principle of one thing at a time. (c) The principle of balance between affirmative and negative. (d) the sense of parliamentary courtesy: one must debate measures, not persons.




  1. Quorum: Unless there is a rule to the contrary, a quorum is a majority of the members. It is usual, however, to adopt a much smaller number, the quorum often being less than one-twentieth of the members. In any committee or in a board, the quorum is a majority, unless specified otherwise.
  2. Order of business at a meeting: (1) reading and approval of minutes, (2) reports, (3) unfinished business, (4) new business.
  3. Unfinished business involves three possible items: (1) any motion actually pending (e.g. half way through debate) when the previous meeting adjourned, (2) any motions that were not reached at the previous meeting before adjournment [unfinished items], (3) motions set as general order (e.g. by definite postponement) from previous meeting [e.g. a motion that was postponed to the next meeting].
  4. It is permissible if an organization meets less often than quarterly, to authorize (by motion) a committee to approve the minutes on behalf of the members. It would be futile to get a meaningful approval of the minutes one year after the meeting that they recorded, and it would also be imprudent to fail to act on the minutes for an entire year.


Actions at a meeting


  1. At a meeting, actions are determined by one of the two methods: general consent, and motion.

General consent method:

  1. the procedure for deciding on an action without a motion processed all the way through a vote. This method requires no raised objection.


Motion method


  1. The normal life cycle of a motion: It is (1) offered by a legitimate member, (2) seconded by another, (3) stated as to exact wording by the chair, (4) debated, (5) voted, and (6) pronounced by the chair as to its decision.
  2. Withdrawing a motion: When a motion has been made but not yet stated by the chair, the mover can withdraw or modify it. After it is stated by the chair, the mover must make a motion to ask permission to withdraw or modify it. Only the mover can withdraw or modify a motion.
  3. Amending a motion: A motion can be amended by any member other than the mover. The amendment can be amended, but the amendment to an amendment is not amendable. A amendment must be germane to the pending motion, otherwise it is ruled out of order.
  4. A motion to raise a question of privilege is a motion relating to the rights and benefits of the members, e.g., comfort of the room, ability to hear or see the speakers, conduct of persons present at the meeting, or the accuracy of written documents.
  5. A motion to call for the orders of the day is a request for compliance with timing and order of an item on the agenda.
  6. A point of order is an assertion by a member at the meeting that a rule is being violated and a request that the rule be enforced by the Chair.
  7. Order of precedence of motions from the lowest to the highest: (1) main motion, (2) postpone indefinitely, (3) amend, (4) refer to committee, (5) postpone definitely, (6) limit debate, (7) close debate, (8) lay on the table, (9) call for the orders of the day, (10) raise a question of privilege, (11) recess, (12) adjourn.
  8. Motions that can interrupt the pending matter on the floor and do not need second are (1) call for the orders of the day, (2) make a parliamentary inquiry, (3) point of order, (4) close debate, (5) raise a question of privilege, (6) give permission to withdraw a motion. Motions that do not need second, but cannot interrupt the pending matter on the floor also include those referred to the floor by a committee.
  9. Motions that require 2/3 of present voting members to approve include (1) amend by-laws, (2) close debate, (3) limit debate, (4) suspend rules of order, (5) adopt special rules of order, (6) amend rules of order. [In other words, motions that are related to the conducts of the meeting and the by-laws can only be approved by 2/3 majority.]




  1. Majority approval means half of the present voting members plus one. Two third approval means the number of yea's must be one more than twice of the number of nay's. Only those who vote are considered "present voting members," thus the calculation excludes those who choose to abstain. Abstentions have no effect on calculation of votes, but illegal votes made by eligible voting members are included in the calculation.
  2. An unanimous vote is a vote in which no present voting member votes contrary to the others, even if only a few member choose to vote. [Thus, a motion may be approved or rejected unanimously.]
  3. A member has the right to change his/her vote up to the moment when the decision is pronounced by the chair.
  4. The chair can vote if the vote is by all members via ballot or when his/her vote would change the outcome (e.g. to break the tie or to make a tie so that the motion is defeated).