Parliamentary Procedure

Cumulative Voting

Some community association bylaws or articles of incorporation authorize the use of cumulative voting for the election of directors.  Under this type of voting, owners may cast multiple votes for a single candidate. Under standard voting procedures, each owner is allocated one vote per lot or unit.  So, if there are 3 positions open on the board of directors, with 5 candidates running, the owner is entitled to cast votes for 3 of the 5 candidates.  The ballot would look something like this:

 Jane Anderson  1
 Jack Smith
 Henry Talmage
 Cindy Almberg  1
 Kevin Harker  1

But under a cumulative voting arrangement, I may allocate all three of my votes to a single candidate, like this:

 Jane Anderson
 Jack Smith
 Henry Talmage
 Cindy Almberg
 Kevin Harker  3


Oregon law authorizes cumulative voting only if provided for in the articles of incorporation or bylaws:

If the articles or bylaws provide for cumulative voting by members, members may so vote, by multiplying the number of votes the members are entitled to cast by the number of directors for whom they are entitled to vote, and cast the product for a single candidate or distribute the product among two or more candidates. (ORS 65.247).

The Washington Nonprofit Corporation Act contains a similar requirement:

The articles of incorporation or the bylaws may provide that in all elections for directors every member entitled to vote shall have the right to cumulate his [or her] vote and to give one candidate a number of votes equal to his [or her] vote multiplied by the number of directors to be elected, or by distributing such votes on the same principle among any number of such candidates. (RCW 24.03.085(4)).

Using cumulative voting, a small group of owners who coordinate their voting efforts may be able to secure the election of a candidate as a minority member of the board.  Robert's Rules of Order, however, advises against the use of cumulative voting since

it violates the fundamental principle of parliamentary law that each member is entitled to one and only one vote on a question. (RRO, 11th Ed., Section 46).

Methods of Voting

There are numerous methods of taking a vote in community associations.  For issues which may be challenged, it’s wise to use a written paper ballot.  For other non-controversial matters, associations may choose from a variety of voting methods.

Robert’s Rules of Order describes several ways to take a vote. Here’s an overview:

1. Voice

Often referred to as “viva voce”, this is a common method of voting. The chair would say, “The question is on the adoption of the motion to approve the special assessment.  Those in favor say ‘aye’, those opposed say ‘no’.  In larger assemblies where the vote is close, this may not be the most effective voting method.

2. Rising

This method is used to verify a voice vote which is inconclusive. The chair asks those in favor to stand up and a count is taken of the standing members.

3. Show of Hands

Typically used in smaller associations, this method may be used in place of a rising vote or a voice vote.

4. Ballot

For any issue which may be contested, a written ballot should be used. Written ballots allow for easy recounting and verification after the meeting. Ballots should be considered association records, i.e. owners may review and inspect the ballots.

5. Voting Cards

Some organizations, if authorized by the governing documents, use voting cards.  Voting cards are distributed to members at the start of the meeting. This method is typically used in lieu of rising or show of hands voting.

6. Electronic Voting

Technology has changed the way many associations operate. Some large associations have adopted electronic voting at annual meetings. Several services allow owners at a physical meeting to use their cell phones, tablets, or computers to cast votes.  The results are instantly counted and displayed.  One such service is:

7. Roll Call Vote

This is an alternative method of voting which also creates a written record of the vote. The secretary or other individual appointed by the chair reads the names of each member of the association, asking if they vote yes or no on the issue.  The vote is then recorded next to the member’s name.

8. Absentee Voting

Robert’s Rules of Order discourages absentee voting: “It is a fundamental principle of parliamentary law that the right to vote is limited to the members of an organization who are actually present at the time the vote is taken at a regular or property called meeting[.]”  The point of debating a motion is that members may change their mind on an issue. If the vote is cast prior to the meeting via an absentee ballot, the debate/discussion portion of a motion is circumvented.

Robert's Rules & Small Boards

Robert’s Rules of Order is designed to keep control of large groups or assemblies.  Members must stand and be recognized by the chair, motions must be seconded,  and members may not speak out of turn.  However, sometimes that level of formality isn’t needed, especially when the assembly is a small number of board members. RRO contains special procedures that small boards may utilize. (Robert’s Rules of Order, Newly Revised, 11th Edition, Section 49)  A “small” board is 12 or fewer members.  Here are some of the informal procedures for small boards:

- Board members do not have to stand or be recognized by the chair in order to speak or make motions;

-Motions need not be seconded;

-A board member may speak any number of times on a question (not just two) and motions to close or limit debate are generally not permitted;

-A motion does not have to be pending in order to discuss a subject informally;

-Votes can be taken by a show of hands;

-If a proposal is perfectly clear to everyone it may be voted on even though no formal motion has been made;

-In putting a question to a vote, the chairman need not stand.

An additional exception to the formal rules is that “the chairman can participate and vote.”  However, in most community associations, the chairperson (an officer position) is also a member of the board of directors.  When a vote is taken all board members in a community association should vote—in fact, there is a fiduciary obligation to vote.  Thus, when the chairperson votes on an issue, he or she is voting in their capacity as a board member, not as an officer.

If your board desires to use the procedures for small boards, adopt a policy stating that board meetings will be conducted in accordance with Robert's Rules for small boards.

Robert's Rules for Small Boards

Robert’s Rules of Order is the most effective tool to ensure efficient, civil, and effective meetings. However, sometimes the formality of Robert’s Rules isn’t necessary. For small board meetings it may not make sense to follow (the sometimes tedious) formal parliamentary procedure. Under Robert’s Rules a “small” board is 12 individuals or less. Robert’s Rules recognizes that small boards may want to operate in a more relaxed and informal setting. Small boards may opt to use the “Informal Procedure for Small Boards” described in Robert’s Rules, 10th Ed., p. 469-71. Here are the key differences between the formal and informal procedures:

1. Board members do not have to stand or be recognized by the chair in order to speak or make motions.

2. Motions need not be seconded.

3. A board member may speak any number of times on a question, and motions to close or limit debate are generally not permitted.

4. A motion does not have to be pending in order to discuss a subject informally.

5. Votes can be taken initially by a show of hands.

6. If a proposal is perfectly clear to everyone it may be voted on even though no formal motion has been made.

7. In putting questions to a vote, the chairman need not stand.

8. The chairman can participate in debate just as any other board member.

So, for small and informal board meetings it may make sense to use the informal procedures. If a majority of the board agrees to “opt-in” to the small board procedures, reflect that in the minutes and proceed under the informal procedures.