Parliamentary Procedure & Robert’s Rules

One of the best ways to keep your meeting on track is to use a meeting management tool such as parliamentary procedure.


  • Justice and courtesy are extended to each person.
  • Only one item of business is considered at a time.
  • The majority opinion is maintained.
  • The rights of the minority are respected.
  • This is the oldest and best-known technique for conducting business (a standardized code).


  • It can make meetings complicated—obstructs, restrains, or hinders group discussion or action.
  • It is not universally known or understood.
  • It may not be the best technique for securing ideas and suggestions regarding the problems involved.
  • It does not encourage creativity.


Student leaders have specific responsibilities when using parliamentary procedure.

Presiding officers: president and vice president

  • Call the meeting to order
  • Recognize members
  • Re-state questions
  • Announce results of voting
  • Decide on points of order


  • Records facts, decisions
  • Puts items of business considered in writing


  • Reports on financial condition of the council
  • Advises on the amount of funds available for specific projects

Committee chairmen

  • Responsible to council
  • Responsible for scheduling and running committee meetings
  • Responsible for reporting committee activities and status to the council
  • Responsible for taking action on assignments from council


  • Use the rules to the best advantage of the group
  • Are informed about the basic rules


  • Assists the officers with interpretation of the rules
  • Teaches rules to the group at the beginning of each year

How It Works

The Main Motion

Definition: The main motion is the major proposal or suggestion for action. It is the only way to bring business before the group.

Member: The Member rises, remains standing, waits for recognition, and addresses the chair. To make a motion, the member says, “Mr. President” or “Madam Chair,” I move that we…
Chairman: Recognize member. “The chair recognizes (member’s name if known).”
Member 2: “I second the motion.” Seconding member need not address the chair, be recognized, or rise.
Chairman: State the motion. “It is moved and seconded that … Is there any discussion?”
Members wishing to speak for or against the motion must rise, address the chair, and be recognized. Members generally speak only once, and limit their remarks to pertinent comments.

When there seems to be a lull in the discussion the chairman may ask, “Are you ready for the question?” or “Is there any further discussion?” If no one objects, the chairman puts the motion to vote.

Chairman: The chairman again repeats the motion. “It has been moved and seconded that . . . All in favor of the motion say ‘Aye.’ All those opposed say ‘No’.” The chairman then announces the results. “The motion is carried,” or “The motion is lost.” If the chairman is not sure of the vote, he may ask for a show of hands or a standing vote.

On some important matters there may be a need for a roll call vote.

Summary: Any member may make a motion after securing the floor and being recognized by the chairman. A motion is out of order if other business is on the floor. A second is needed. The motion is debatable, can be amended, and needs a majority to carry.

Subsidiary Motions

Definition: The subsidiary motions in some way alter or change the disposition of the main motion. They are always acted upon before the main motion.

Rank Order: Each subsidiary motion may be acted upon in the order listed below. The further down the list, the higher the priority.

  1. Postpone Indefinitely: “I move the matter be postponed indefinitely.” A second is required; it is debatable; a majority vote is needed. It is not amendable. This motion gives the opponents of a motion an opportunity to test their strength without risking a vote on the main motion. If they carry the motion, they can, in effect, kill the motion. If they lose, they still have a chance on the main motion.
  2. Amend Motion: An amendment to a motion may be made by deleting and/or adding to the main motion. It cannot be contrary to the spirit of the original motion. “I move to amend the motion by striking out the word(s) … and inserting the word(s) … .” A second is required, it is debatable, and can be amended. A majority vote is needed.
  3. Substitute Motion: A substitute motion ranks as an amendment to the main motion. Its purpose is to strike out the entire motion and insert in its place a more satisfactory motion. The procedure is the same as for an amendment. “I move the following substitute motion: (state the substitute motion).”
  4. Amend Amendment: In general the same procedure as for an amendment to the main motion; however, it is not amendable. It pertains only to the original amendment and cannot refer to any part of the main motion not included in the original amendment. There can only be one amendment to each amendment.
  5. Motion to Refer: Generally the motion to refer is made to a committee. “I move that this matter be referred to the (state name of the committee).” A second is required; it is debatable and amendable and requires a majority vote.
  6. Postpone to Set Time: “I move that we postpone consideration of this motion until (state time).” A second is required, it is debatable and amendable, and requires a majority vote.
  7. Previous Question: The purpose of this motion is to define the number and time of speeches or speakers. “I move that we limit debate on this question to (time).” A second is needed; it is not debatable, but may be amended and requires a two-thirds vote.
  8. Table: The purpose of this motion is to dispose of troublesome questions that will need long debate in order to deal with more important matters. “I move that we postpone consideration of this motion until (state time),” or “I move the question be laid on the table.” A second is required; it is not debatable or amendable and requires a majority vote.

Privileged Motions

Definition: Privileged motions are of such importance or urgency that they outrank all other motions.

Rank Order: The following rank order is suggested. The further down the list, the higher the priority. They are all not debatable.

  1. Orders of the Day: The purpose of this motion is to bring the group back to the agenda or planned program. “Mr. Chairman, I call for the order(s) of the day” or “I move the consideration of the item on the agenda, namely (state).” A second is not required; it is not debatable or amendable; a majority vote is needed.
  2. Questions of Privilege: This relates to the personal rights, privileges, and comfort of the members. Business must continue after the matter is cared for. A member may interrupt a speaker. He stands and says, “I rise to a question of privilege (states question).” The chairman generally decides whether to proceed as requested or declare suggestions out of order. It is not debatable, amendable, or voted upon.
  3. Recess: The purpose is to hold an intermission for meals, counting ballots, etc. If carried, the recess begins immediately. A second is required; it is not debatable, but is amendable only as to the length of time to recess. A majority vote is needed.
  4. Adjourn: The purpose is to adjourn to a fixed time or until the next regular or special meeting. “I move we adjourn until (state date, time, and place).” or “I move we adjourn.” A second is required; it is not debatable and is amendable only as to date, time, and place. A majority is needed.

Incidental Motions

Definition: Incidental motions concern matters of procedure arising out of business and must be settled at once.


  1. Point of Order: This means that there has been a breach of parliamentary rules, the constitution, bylaws, etc. It is in order at any time; member may interrupt speaker. The point of order is usually decided by the chair without discussion.
  2. Appeal from Decision of the Chair: Used when it is thought the chairman made a wrong decision. Must be made immediately after decision and settled by vote. “I appeal from the decision of the chair (state appeal).” This motion requires a second, is debatable, and needs a majority vote. It is not amendable.
  3. Suspend the Rules: An agreement to temporarily waive rules of order for a specific reason. “I move to suspend the rules in order to … .” A second is required and it requires a two-thirds vote. It is not debatable or amendable.
  4. Object: This is used to avoid consideration of an embarrassing, irrelevant, or contentious motion. Must be made before any debate. “I object to the consideration of this motion.” It is permissible to interrupt the speaker. A second is not required; it is not debatable and a two-thirds negative vote is needed.
  5. Division of the House: Verifies by a standing vote, one just taken by voice or hand. The speaker rises and says, “I call for a division of the house.” Chairman decides and proceeds. If abused, the chair may declare the speaker out of order. A second is not required; it is not amendable or debatable.
  6. Parliamentary Inquiry or Information: A request for information. “I rise to ask a question (states question).” The chairman may refer the question to the parliamentarian or answer it himself.
  7. Permission To Withdraw Motion: A request that a motion be withdrawn must be made by person making the motion. Presiding officer decides.
  8. Close Nominations: Purpose is to close nominations. It must be seconded, but cannot be discussed. A two-thirds vote is needed.

Unclassified Motions

Definition: Unclassified motions are those that are not classified above. These cannot be made if any other matter is pending.


  1. Take from the Table: This motion brings up for consideration a previously tabled motion. May be used after some other business has intervened, but not later than the next meeting. A second is required; it is not debatable or amendable and needs a majority vote.
  2. To Reconsider: This motion must be made by a person who voted with the prevailing side of the motion. “I move to reconsider the motion that … .” A second is required and a majority vote is needed. Generally it is done later in the meeting after new facts have been presented, or no later than the next regular meeting.


ADDRESS THE CHAIR means to speak to the presiding officer.

ADJOURN: to dismiss or end a meeting

AGENDA: a list of items to be done or dealt with at a meeting

AMEND: to change or modify a motion

BALLOT: to vote by the casting of a written ballot

CHAIR: the presiding officer of the meeting

DIVISION OF THE HOUSE: a standing vote called for by a member

EX OFFICIO: by virtue of office, as “The president is ‘ex officio’ member of that committee.”

HOUSE: the club or organization

LAY QUESTION ON THE TABLE: to put aside a motion for further consideration at another meeting

MAJORITY VOTE: the votes of more than half the members present voting at the meeting (unless otherwise stated)

MEETING: a gathering of the organization’s members

MINUTES: the record or report of work of each meeting kept by the secretary

MAKE A MOTION: to propose a certain project by done by the organization. Say “I move that we…”

NEW BUSINESS: business that has been brought up for the first time

NOMINATION: suggesting the name of a person for an office to be used at a time of election. It is not a motion and requires no second.

OBTAIN THE FLOOR: to obtain the right to speak, permission, and recognition being given by the chairperson. No one may speak unless recognized by the chairperson.

POINT OF ORDER: seeking to clarify or correct procedure or business.

PRO-TEM: for the time being, as “She/he is secretary pro-tem,” acting in place of the secretary who is absent.

THE QUESTION or CALL FOR THE QUESTION: the motion before the assembly. When members wish to close the discussion and put the matter to a vote they may “call the question.”

QUORUM: the number of members necessary to carry on the business. Refer to your organization’s constitution for number for majority.

REFER TO A COMMITTEE: to put certain work in the hands of a small group of people which is better able to consider the matter than the whole organization. The committee must report its results at a later meeting.

SECOND: an indication that at least a second person is in favor of discussing a motion. All motions must be “seconded.”

SPECIAL COMMITTEE: a committee appointed for some particular purpose.

STANDING COMMITTEE: a committee provided for in the constitution, usually appointed for one year

UNFINISHED BUSINESS: business that has been carried from a previous meeting

WITHDRAW A MOTION: a motion permitting a previous motion to be withdrawn. It is not debatable, and cannot be amended, but may be reconsidered.