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By simply including the names of all the members, except those of their own faction, in a resolution preferring charges against them, the minority could get all the power in their own hands, were it not for the fact that in such a case all the members are entitled to vote regardless of their personal interest. A sense of delicacy usually prevents a member from exercising this right of voting in matters affecting himself except where his vote might affect the result. After charges are preferred against a member, and the assembly has ordered him to appear for trial, he is theoretically under arrest, and is deprived of all rights of membership and therefore cannot vote until his case is disposed of.
A member has the right to change his vote up to the time the vote is finally announced. After that, he can make the change only by permission of the assembly, which may be given by general consent; that is, by no member's objecting when the chair inquires if any one objects. If objection is made, a motion may be made to grant the permission, which motion is undebatable.
While it is the duty of every member who has an opinion on the question to express it by his vote, yet he cannot be compelled to do so. He may prefer to abstain from voting, though he knows the effect is the same as if he voted on the prevailing side. Voting by Ballot. The main object of this form of voting is secrecy, and it is resorted to when the question is of such a nature that some members might hesitate to vote publicly their true sentiments. Its special use is in the reception of members, elections, and trials of members and officers, as well as in the preliminary steps in both cases, and the by-laws should require the vote to be by ballot in such cases.
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Where the by-laws do not require the vote to be by ballot, it can be so ordered by a majority vote, or by general consent. Such motions are undebatable. Voting by ballot is rarely, if ever, used in legislative bodies, but in ordinary societies, especially secret ones, it is habitually used in connection with elections and trials, and sometimes for the selection of the next place for the meeting of a convention.
As the usual object of the ballot is secrecy, where the by-laws require the vote to be taken by ballot any motion is out of order which members cannot oppose without exposing their views on the question to be decided by ballot. Thus, it is out of order to move that one person cast the ballot of the assembly for a certain person when the by-laws require the vote to be by ballot.
So, when the ballot is not unanimous it is out of order to move to make the vote unanimous, unless the motion is voted on by ballot so as to allow members to vote against it in secrecy. In some cases black balls and white ones and a ballot box are provided for voting, where the question can be answered yes or no. The white ball answers yes , and the black one no. But in ordinary deliberative assemblies the ballots are strips of paper upon which are printed, or written, yes or no , or the names of the candidates, as the case may be.
These ballots are first distributed and are afterwards collected by tellers, either by being dropped into a hat or box by the members, who remain in their seats, or by the members coming to the ballot box and handing their folded ballot to a teller, who deposits it in the ballot box.
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In the latter case it is necessary for the tellers to see that no member votes twice, which in large societies can be best done by checking off the names from a list of members as the ballots are deposited. The ballots should usually be folded so that if more than one is voted by the same person the tellers will detect it in unfolding the ballot. In satisfying themselves that only one ballot is voted, the vote may be exposed if the ballot is not folded. When every one appears to have voted, the chair inquires, "Have all voted who wish to?
If in unfolding the ballots it is found that two have been folded together, both are rejected as fraudulent. A blank piece of paper is not counted as a ballot and would not cause the rejection of the ballot with which it was folded. All blanks are ignored as simply waste paper, and are not reported, the members who do not wish to vote adopting this method of concealing the fact. Small technical errors, like the misspelling of a word, should not be noticed if the meaning of the ballot is clear. For instance, if at the trial of a member a ballot was written "guilty," every one knows what was intended.
In all cases where the name on the ballot sounds like the name of one of the candidates it should be so credited. If a ballot is written "Johnson," or "Johnston," or "Johnstone," it should be credited to the candidate whose name is one of these: but if there are two candidates with these names and no eligible member with the name on the ballot, it must be rejected as illegal, or reported to the chair, who will at once submit the question to the assembly as to whom the ballot should be credited.
If these doubtful ballots will not affect the result, the tellers may make their full report without asking for instructions in regard to them, placing these doubtful votes opposite the exact name as written on the ballot. Votes for ineligible persons and fraudulent votes should be reported under the heading of "Illegal Votes," after the legal votes. When two or three filled-out ballots are folded together they are counted as one fraudulent vote. The names of the candidates should be arranged in order, the one receiving the highest number of legal votes being first.
In reporting the number of votes cast and the number necessary for election, all votes except blanks must be counted. Suppose the tellers find ballot papers, 4 of which are blank. The teller first named, standing, addresses the chair, reads the report and hands it to the chairman, and takes his seat, without saying who is elected.
The chairman again reads the report of the tellers and declares who is elected. In the case just given he says there is no election, stating the reason. If no one is elected, it is necessary to ballot again, and to continue balloting until there is an election. The chairman should always vote in case of a ballot Should he fail to do so before the polls are closed. When the tellers report, they should hand the ballots to the secretary, who should retain them until it is certain that the assembly will not order a recount which is within its power to do by a majority vote.
Yeas and Nays , 1 or Roll Call. When a vote has been ordered to be taken by yeas and nays [see 25 for the motion] the chair puts the question in a form similar to this: "As many as are in favor of the adoption of these resolutions will, as their names are called, answer yes [or yea ]; those opposed will answer no [or nay ]. The negative being put at the same time as the affirmative, it is too late, after one person has answered to the roll call, to renew the debate. The clerk calls the roll, and each member, as his name is called, rises and answers "yes" or "no," or "present" if he does not wish to vote, and the clerk notes the answers in separate columns.
Upon the completion of the roll call the clerk reads the names of those who answered in the affirmative, and afterwards those in the negative, and then those who answered "present," that mistakes may be corrected; he then gives the number voting on each side to the chairman, who announces the result. An entry must be made in the minutes of the names of all voting in the affirmative, and also of those in the negative, and those who answered "present.
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The negative answers are treated similarly, being entered on the right of the names, and those answering "present" should be entered similarly in a third column. In this way the last figures on each side at any time show how the vote stands at that time. The yeas and nays cannot be ordered in committee of the whole. General Consent.
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Business can be expedited greatly by avoiding the formality of motions and voting in routine business and on questions of little importance, the chair assuming general unanimous consent until some one objects. We must respect that, even if no one can remember what they voted for.
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This article was first published in the November 17, issue of the New Zealand Listener. And it's only getting worse.
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