Parliamentary Rules

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Tony's Rules of Order for Asynchronous Meetings ©Tony Rose 2007
Adopted by the GCD on January 31, 2007

An asynchronous meeting is one that is held through asynchronous communication such as an electronic bulletin board, an electron forum, or a series of e-mails. It is strongly recommended that for a group of three or more members that the formality of rules be adhered to both to ensure that the rights of the minority are protected and to minimize communication confusion.

When the organization is inaugurated, the chairman should call the meeting to order. The meeting continues until such time as the chairman declares it in recess. At that point further communication should be blocked by electronic means. When the chairman deems that the recess is ended, he makes an announcement to that effect and communication is again allowed. Adjournment should only occur when the organization becomes defunct. In summary, asynchronous meetings are always in session except under extraordinary circumstances resulting in the calling of a recess.

The rules of order for asynchronous meetings must, necessarily, differ from those of a physical meeting. There is no need for a "speaker" to be recognized by the chairman. Since the communication is occurring asynchronously, everyone has the floor and no one can be interrupted.

Clear subject heading must be adhered to. Members are strongly encourage to read the entirety of any message thread before responding to a message; the possibility that a question has been answered or information supplied later in the thread exists and efforts should be made to avoid repetition.

The Chairman

The chairman of an asynchronous meeting has the responsibility of reading the posted messages of the group at least daily. The volume of posted messages may dictate that he read them more often but it is essential that potential chairmen know that they will have to devote more time to chair the meeting than a regular member will have to devote to attending. When the chairman will not be able to read messages daily, he should pass the gavel to the vice-chairman or call for a recess.

It is the responsibility of the chairman to prepare an initial agenda and to modify that agenda as the meeting proceeds. The chairman may not make motions but can bring forward action items for consideration.

The Agenda

The chairman should bring forth an initial agenda of a few action items for consideration by the group. Items may be added to the agenda at the request of any member of the group but the chairman will determine the order in which the items are considered. The chairman determines how many items may be considered at one time; it is recommended that no more than three items be before the group at any one time. An appeal of a decision of the chairman can be made.

Frequently, the chairman should communicate the agenda to the group. This communication will indicate which matters are currently before the group and the order in which future items will be considered. The posting of the agenda will also be the mechanism by which the chairman requests reports from committees and/or staff. The format of the agenda may be determined by the chairman but should be clear and concise.

Main Motions

A main motion is one in which business is brought before the group with the expectation of action. The chairman may not make a main motion but he is allowed to bring forward an "action item" requesting a motion on a particular matter. In the interests of keeping group action timely, multiple main motions may be before the group at the same time but the chairman will see to it that each is given final attention in the order in which they were received.

The subject heading of a main motion should begin with "MOTION: xxx" where "xxx" is a short title for the motion that gives a sense of the motion. Unlike in a physical meeting, there may be multiple motions before the group at one time so it is essential that subject headings be clear. The text of main motions should be made in the form of "I move that we... ." Main motions are in the positive: never "I move that we not... ." The motion itself should be clear and concise. Do not include reasons for making the motion or arguments about why it should be passed.

A main motion must be seconded. A second indicates that there is at least one other member who would like to see the matter of the motion brought to a vote. A second to a motion should be made in the form of "I second John's motion" with the text of the motion following. Due to asychronicity, there may be multiple seconds to a motion. This presents no parliamentary difficulty.

The chairman must acknowledge that he has received a second for a motion. Until that acknowledgement is made, there can be no discussion and no further communication regarding the motion is allowed, pending the chairman's acknowledgement. If the chairman receives no second on the motion within a reasonable time, he announces that the motion has failed due to a lack of a second and not discussion of the motion is allowed. Once the acknowledgement of a second is made, discussion of the motion begins.

It only stands to reason that courtesy is to be observed during discussion. Questions may be asked of members and/or of staff. All questions must be answered, to the satisfaction of the chairman, before a vote can be taken. EXCEPTION: the question before the group may be called. Calling the question is a request for an end to discussion and an immediate vote; this is an incidental motion and will be discussed shortly.

Privileged Motion

A privileged motion is one that deals with the rules of the meeting -- calls for an appeal of a decision of the chair, calls for a re-ordering of the agenda, calls for recess -- and must be dealt with before any further business can be conducted.

A privileged motion takes precedence over whatever is before the group at the moment and cannot be discussed after the second. The chairman calls immediately for the vote.

Incidental Motion

An incidental motion is one that is incidental to the question before the group. Incidental motions are dealt with as they arise. They include motions to amend, motions to bring a question to vote, motions to refer to committee, motions to table, and motions to postpone.

The motion to bring a question to vote is a request to conclude debate and requires a 2/3 majority for approval. Following approval the chair calls immediately for a vote on the question.

Committees can be standing or ad hoc. While creation of committees is by vote of the group, committees are appointed by the chairman. The chairman names the initial chair of the committee but the committee may select another member to serve as chair as desired. Membership in the group is not required in order to be named to a committee. When questions are referred to a committee, the chairman will give the committee a reasonable deadline to return a recommendation to the group.

A motion to table a question removes it from consideration by the group until such a time as a member moves that the matter be taken up again.

A motion to postpone consideration either states a time at which the matter will be resumed or can ask that the matter be postponed indefinitely, in effect killing the motion without calling for an actual vote on the matter.

Appeal of Decision

This is a privileged motion that allows the group to overrule the chairman by 2/3 vote. An appeal of a decision is a privileged motion and must be considered without debate following a second.

Voting

Once a vote has been called for by the chairman, the secretary initiates a vote. The subject heading for a vote message should be "CALL FOR VOTE on MOTION..." with the short title of the motion following. The text of the call for vote will re-state the motion, as made. There will be a mechanism by which the group members' votes can be clearly indicated and an opportunity for abstention will be available. A reasonable deadline for completion of the vote will be included.

After the deadline for voting has passed, the secretary will announce the results, concluding with "Motion passed" or "Motion failed" as appropriate. Only a member who voted on the prevailing side may move that a matter be reconsidered after a vote has concluded.