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The key points of 'Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised By Henry M. Robert III

Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised, authored by Henry M. Robert III, serves as the definitive guide for conducting meetings and making decisions in a democratic and orderly fashion. The book provides a comprehensive framework for parliamentary procedure, which is essential for organizations to operate efficiently and fairly. It outlines the roles of members, the structure of meetings, and the intricacies of motions, ensuring that every voice has the opportunity to be heard and that the decision-making process is transparent and equitable.

Key Takeaways

  • Robert's Rules offers a structured approach to parliamentary procedure, ensuring meetings are conducted with fairness and efficiency.

  • Understanding the key terms and roles, such as the powers of the chair, is crucial for effective participation in meetings.

  • The book outlines specific processes for handling motions, debates, and voting, which are central to decision-making in meetings.

  • Members have defined rights and responsibilities, including ethical considerations and the management of conflicts of interest.

  • The rules are not static; they allow for amendments and account for the role of custom and precedent in guiding group decisions.

Understanding the Basics of Robert's Rules

The Purpose and Principles of Parliamentary Procedure

Parliamentary procedure, at its core, is designed to facilitate the decision-making process of an assembly. It ensures that meetings are conducted in an orderly, fair, and efficient manner, allowing every member the opportunity to participate. The principles of parliamentary procedure are grounded in the values of democracy and equal rights for all members.

Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised serves as a comprehensive guide for implementing these principles. It provides a structured framework for debate and decision-making, which is essential for maintaining decorum and respect among members. The rules are adaptable to the needs of various organizations, from small boards to large conventions.

  • Respect for every member's right to speak

  • Equality of voice and vote

  • Majority rule with minority rights protected

  • Orderly consideration of all business

Understanding and adhering to these principles is crucial for the effective governance of any deliberative body. Members are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the key terminology and rules to fully engage in the democratic process.

Key Terminology and Definitions

Understanding the language of Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised is crucial for effective participation in meetings governed by these rules. Key terms such as 'motion', 'quorum', and 'adjournment' form the foundation of parliamentary procedure.

  • Motion: A formal proposal by a member that the assembly take certain action.

  • Quorum: The minimum number of members who must be present for business to be legally transacted.

  • Adjournment: The act of ending a meeting.

It is also important to understand the distinction between 'majority' and 'two-thirds vote'. A majority vote is more than half of the votes cast by persons entitled to vote, excluding blanks or abstentions. In contrast, a two-thirds vote means at least two-thirds of the votes cast by persons entitled to vote, again excluding blanks or abstentions.

The Role and Powers of the Chair

The chairperson plays a crucial role in facilitating meetings and ensuring the smooth application of parliamentary procedure. The chair has the authority to open and close meetings, guide the flow of discussion, and enforce the rules of order. This position requires a balance between impartiality and decisiveness to maintain order and facilitate effective decision-making.

  • Call to order and adjourn the meeting

  • Recognize members to speak

  • Guide the voting process

  • Rule on points of order and questions of procedure

The chair also has the power to moderate debate, limit speaking times, and ensure that all members have an opportunity to contribute. In cases of disruptive behavior, the chair can call for order and, if necessary, take disciplinary action to preserve the decorum of the meeting.

The Structure of Meetings and Motions

Standard Order of Business

The Standard Order of Business outlines the sequence of events that occur during a meeting. It is essential for maintaining order and ensuring that all necessary topics are addressed. The order typically follows a set pattern, beginning with the call to order and ending with adjournment.

  • Call to Order

  • Reading and Approval of Minutes

  • Reports of Officers, Boards, and Committees

  • Special Orders

  • Unfinished Business and General Orders

  • New Business

  • Announcements

  • Adjournment

Each item on the agenda represents a step in the meeting's progression, allowing members to prepare and focus on the matters at hand. The chair plays a crucial role in guiding the meeting through this order, ensuring that each item is given appropriate attention and that the meeting flows smoothly.

Types of Motions and Their Precedence

In the realm of parliamentary procedure, understanding the hierarchy of motions is crucial for efficient and orderly meetings. Main motions are the foundation, as they introduce new business to the assembly. However, they are often superseded by subsidiary motions, which modify or affect how a main motion is handled.

Subsidiary motions have their own order of precedence, which determines the sequence in which they can be introduced and considered. For example, a motion to amend takes precedence over a motion to postpone indefinitely. This hierarchy ensures that more urgent or important matters are addressed first.

Here is a simplified list of motions ranked by their precedence:

  1. Privileged Motions

  2. Incidental Motions

  3. Subsidiary Motions

  4. Main Motions

  5. Motions that bring a question again before the assembly

Debate, Amendment, and Voting Procedures

The process of debate, amendment, and voting is central to the decision-making within any assembly operating under Robert's Rules. Debate is the formal discussion on the merits of a motion, allowing members to express their opinions and argue for or against the proposed action. Amendments are changes proposed to the original motion, which can alter its intent or provide clarity.

Amendments can be complex, and it's crucial to understand the hierarchy of motions to navigate this process effectively. The following list outlines the basic steps for handling amendments:

  • A member proposes an amendment.

  • The amendment is seconded by another member.

  • The assembly debates the amendment.

  • The chair puts the amendment to a vote.

  • If the amendment passes, the motion as amended is debated and voted on.

Voting procedures are the final step in the process, determining the outcome of the motion. It's important to note that the method of voting can vary, from a simple voice vote to a formal roll call vote.

Roles and Responsibilities of Members

Rights and Obligations of Membership

Members of an organization governed by Robert's Rules have both rights and obligations that are crucial for the group's functionality and success. Members have the right to attend meetings, speak on issues, and vote, which are fundamental to the democratic process within the organization. They also have the obligation to respect the rules, support decisions made by the group, and work towards the organization's objectives.

Accountability is a significant aspect of membership. Members should embrace their roles responsibly, contributing to the organization's goals and adhering to the agreed-upon rules. This includes being prepared for meetings, participating in discussions, and following through on commitments.

  • Respect the chair and other members

  • Maintain confidentiality when required

  • Support the organization's decisions

It is also important for members to celebrate the organization's successes, which fosters a positive and collaborative environment. Recognizing achievements can motivate members to remain engaged and contribute to future initiatives.

Participation in Debate and Decision-Making

Active participation in debate is a fundamental right of each member under Robert's Rules. It ensures a democratic process where all voices can be heard before a decision is reached. Members should be familiar with the rules of debate to effectively contribute to the discussion.

Speaking time is often limited to ensure equity among members. It's important to prepare remarks in advance to make concise and impactful contributions. Below is a guideline for participation in debate:

  • Obtain the floor legally by being recognized by the chair.

  • Address all comments to the chair.

  • Stay on topic and avoid personal attacks.

  • Respect time limits and yield the floor when required.

Understanding the motion at hand is crucial for meaningful participation. Members have the responsibility to inform themselves about the issues being debated and to consider the implications of their votes. Effective decision-making relies on the informed and active engagement of all members.

Ethical Conduct and Conflict of Interest

Members of an organization are expected to adhere to high standards of ethical conduct. Conflicts of interest should be disclosed promptly to maintain the integrity of the group's decision-making process. It is essential for members to avoid situations where personal interests could improperly influence their official duties.

Transparency is key in dealing with potential conflicts. Members must be vigilant in recognizing situations that may raise ethical concerns and take appropriate steps to address them. A clear understanding of what constitutes a conflict of interest is crucial for all members.

  • Recognize and disclose any conflicts of interest

  • Abstain from voting on matters where a conflict exists

  • Seek guidance when uncertain about ethical issues

The principles of ethical conduct and managing conflicts of interest are not only about adhering to the rules but also about the consequences of not doing so. As 'Business Adventures' suggests, the repercussions of unethical behavior can be far-reaching, affecting not just the individual but the organization as a whole.

Handling Complex Situations

Dealing with Objections and Points of Order

In the structured environment of a meeting governed by Robert's Rules, members have the right to object to procedural errors by raising a point of order. This ensures that the meeting adheres to the agreed-upon rules and maintains order. When an objection is raised, the chair must promptly address it, determining whether it is well-founded and what corrective action should be taken.

  • Raise the point of order immediately after the error is made.

  • Do not wait for the floor; state your point concisely.

  • The chair rules on the objection, subject to appeal by the assembly.

The process of dealing with objections is not just about following rules; it's about fostering an atmosphere of respect and trust building. By addressing concerns promptly and fairly, the chair demonstrates leadership and helps to maintain a positive and productive meeting environment.

Suspension of Rules and Special Motions

In the context of parliamentary procedure, there are instances where the established rules may need to be temporarily set aside. Suspension of rules is a special motion that allows a deliberative assembly to do just that, provided there is a sufficient majority in favor. This motion is often critical when time-sensitive issues arise that require immediate attention, bypassing the usual formalities.

Special motions are another category of motions that serve specific purposes outside the ordinary parliamentary process. These can include motions to reconsider, rescind, or expunge a previous action. Understanding when and how to properly use these motions is essential for maintaining the flexibility and efficiency of the assembly's operations.

  • Motion to Suspend Rules

  • Requires a two-thirds vote

  • Not debatable

  • Cannot infringe on members' rights

  • Motion to Reconsider

  • Can be made by a member who voted on the prevailing side

  • Debatable if the original motion was debatable

  • Majority vote required

Resolving Deadlocks and Tie Votes

In the event of a deadlock or tie vote, Robert's Rules of Order provides several methods to resolve the impasse. The chair may have the deciding vote, or the motion may be tabled for further discussion at a later time. In some cases, a re-vote may be conducted after additional debate.

Reconsideration of a motion is a key mechanism that allows members to request a new vote on an issue that was previously decided, provided that certain conditions are met. This can be particularly useful in resolving deadlocks.

The following steps are recommended for handling tie votes:

  • Confirm that all votes have been accurately counted.

  • Allow for a brief period of additional debate if necessary.

  • Explore the possibility of modifying the motion to gain broader support.

  • If the tie persists, consider the use of a secondary motion, such as a motion to table or postpone.

Amendments and Revisions of the Rules

The Process for Amending Bylaws

Amending bylaws is a critical process in any organization that operates under Robert's Rules. It ensures that the rules governing the group remain relevant and effective. The process typically requires a notice period and a supermajority vote for changes to be adopted.

To amend bylaws, members must follow these steps:

  1. Submit a written proposal of the amendment.

  2. Provide notice to all members within the stipulated time frame.

  3. Discuss and debate the proposed amendment at a meeting.

  4. Vote on the amendment; a supermajority is often required for passage.

Interpreting Ambiguous Rules

When members of an organization encounter ambiguous rules within their governing documents, interpreting these rules becomes a critical task. The intent behind the rule is often the guiding principle for interpretation. Members should consider the context in which the rule was written and how it aligns with the overall objectives of the organization.

Precedents set by previous interpretations can also provide clarity and consistency. However, when precedents are not available or applicable, members may need to rely on a majority vote to determine the interpretation. This democratic approach ensures that the interpretation aligns with the current members' views and the organization's needs.

Understanding the nuances of parliamentary procedure requires careful attention to the language used in the rules. Here is a simple list to follow when interpreting ambiguous rules:

  • Review the rule in the context of the entire document.

  • Consult any existing precedents or interpretations.

  • Consider the purpose and objectives of the organization.

  • Engage in a discussion among members to gather multiple perspectives.

  • If needed, vote on the interpretation to reach a consensus.

The Role of Custom and Precedent

In the context of parliamentary procedure, custom and precedent play a pivotal role in guiding the decision-making process. Customs are established practices that, while not formally codified, are followed as if they were rules. Precedents, on the other hand, are past decisions that set a standard for future actions.

  • Customs provide consistency in meetings, ensuring a familiar environment for members.

  • Precedents offer a framework for resolving new or ambiguous situations by referencing previous rulings.

It is important to note that customs and precedents should not contradict the written bylaws. If a conflict arises, the written rules take precedence. This ensures that the integrity of the organization's governance is maintained.


In summary, 'Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised' by Henry M. Robert III stands as a foundational text for conducting orderly and fair meetings. The key points discussed in this article highlight the importance of understanding the rules of parliamentary procedure to facilitate democratic decision-making. From the basics of motion handling to the nuances of debate and amendment, Robert's Rules provide a structured approach that can be adapted to a wide range of organizational contexts. By adhering to these guidelines, members can ensure that every voice is heard, and every decision is made with consideration and clarity. Whether you're a seasoned parliamentarian or new to the world of meetings, 'Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised' is an indispensable guide for fostering productive and respectful group interactions.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the purpose of Robert's Rules of Order?

Robert's Rules of Order provides a set of procedures for conducting meetings and making decisions as a group in a fair, efficient, and orderly manner.

Who is the chair and what is their role?

The chair is the presiding officer of a meeting, responsible for facilitating the discussion, maintaining order, and ensuring the rules are followed.

What is the standard order of business in a meeting?

The standard order of business typically includes calling the meeting to order, approving the minutes, reports from officers, committees, special orders, unfinished business, new business, and adjournment.

How are motions ranked in terms of precedence?

Motions are ranked based on their importance and impact on the meeting, with main motions being the lowest and motions like adjournment or to lay on the table being higher in precedence.

What is the process for amending bylaws under Robert's Rules?

Amending bylaws typically requires notice of the proposed amendment and a two-thirds vote, or a majority vote with previous notice, depending on the organization's rules.

How does one handle a tie vote according to Robert's Rules?

In the event of a tie vote, the motion fails, as it does not have the majority required to pass. The chair may have the casting vote if allowed by the organization's bylaws.

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