New board presidents often find it awkward to handle that common situation where a vote is required on an issue everybody appears to agree on. It seems a bit silly to go through the whole formal “all in favor say aye” rigmarole when there’s no contest. But how can you document a valid vote, particularly in a large meeting, if you don’t use a formal process?
Parliamentary Tip: Know your methods of voting. The first, simplest, and fastest way to take a vote on an agreed issue is by unanimous consent. Here’s the script:
- Chair: “The question is on the motion to approve the items on the consent agenda. Is there any objection to approving the consent agenda?”
- PAUSE. If after a moment no one speaks up, then the chair may say,
- Chair: “Hearing none, the motion is approved.”
This method works even for big items, such as when you have an uncontested slate of board candidates.
But what if someone says, “Yes, I object”? That’s only one person – the majority didn’t say anything. Can the chair interpret that outcome to mean “majority rules” so the motion is approved?
No. If you do not have unanimous consent, then the chair must go on to a more formal method of voting. Which method is appropriate depends on the issue and the size of the meeting. For example, CCIOA Section 38-33.3-310(b) requires contested board elections and certain contested votes to be made by secret ballot.
In a smaller meeting such as a board meeting, a voice vote or show of hands may work (don’t forget to call for both the “ayes” and the “nays”). In a larger meeting, you may ask people to stand, or show their voting cards.
The key to taking a valid vote is that if, after any vote, the chair is in doubt of the outcome, then he or she should retake the vote immediately, and if necessary, go on to a more accurate (and usually more time-consuming) method of voting, such as making an exact count.