Roberts Rules of Order – Brief Summary

Robert’s Rules of Order do not seem “Renaissance”-like to you?  Perhaps you will be more willing to participate in community work, and therefore have the opportunity to advance positive, constructive changes for your community, if you are more familiar with the “lingua franca” of public meetings!

And, you may have the opportunity to find how often those who are supposed to run public meetings under “Roberts Rules of Order” Based on Robert’s Rules of Order, compiled by Mrs. Arthur Wilkinson, Registered Parliamentarian, Chicago, Ill., circa 1970″ actually make it up as they go along (I always personally preferred “Randy’s Rules of Order”!)!  The following “Paliamentary Pointers and Ready Reference Chart” was based on Robert’s Rules of Order, compiled by Mrs. Arthur Wilkinson, Registered Parliamentarian, Chicago, Ill., circa 1970.  Check out later editions for updates, but this will get you close enough to plunge into public meeting debate!

Print, and take it with you!



PARLIAMENTARY LAW         —-             “Common Sense Codified”

(Based on Robert’s Rules of Order, compiled by Mrs. Arthur Wilkinson, Registered Parliamentarian, Chicago, Ill., circa 1970)

When in doubt, use your good common sense, keeping in mind THE FOUR UNDERLYING PRINCIPLES on which all the rules are based:

  1. Courtesy and Justice to all
  2. Rights of the Minority
  3. Will of the Majority
  4. One thing at a time.

The right of each member to an equal opportunity to express his opinion must be recognized, while the whole group must be protected from the overly zealous member who may forget that he is one of many.


(see explanations included after the chart)

A MAIN MOTION at the bottom of the list is of lowest rank, and can be made only when no other business is pending.  When any motion on the list is “immediately pending”, those above it are “in order”, those below it are “out of order”.

The Privileged Five:

I               UNDEBATABLE:

I               1.  fix the time to which to adjourn         (may be amended)

I              2.  adjourn

I               3.  recess                                                    (may be amended)

I               4.  question of privilege

I               5.  call for orders of the day

The Seven Subsidiaries:

I               1.  lay on the table  (disposes of the motion without discussion or acting on it)

I               2.  previous question                                (requires 2/3 vote)

I               3.  limit or extend debate                         (requires 2/3 vote)(may be amended)




I    I  Five Debatable:

I    I     4.  postpone to a definite time                     (may be amended)

I    I     5.  commit or refer, recommit                     (may be amended)

I    I     6.  amend                                                         (may be amended)

I    I     7.  postpone indefinitely      (disposes of the motion without discussion or acting on it)


     I     MAIN MOTION                                                (may be amended)

MAIN MOTION:  BUSINESS IS INTRODUCED BY A MAIN MOTION.  Only ONE Main Motion may be pending at one time, though other motions may be used to dispose of the MAIN MOTION either temporarily or finally.



  1. rises and addresses the Chair
  2. receives recognition by the Chair
  3. states the motion
  4. motion seconded (by other members)


  1. states the motion
  2. calls for any discussion
  3. takes the vote
  4. announces the result of the vote.


SECONDARY MOTIONS are those that can be made when a main motion is pending and for the time being superseded it.  They are divided into three classes:  Subsidiary, Privileged, Incidental.

SUBSIDIARY MOTIONS are used to properly dispose of the main motion, e.g. amend (change the wording), refer to a committee, postpone action.  There are seven (see chart above).

PRIVILEGED MOTIONS are of such importance that they may be made when another motion is pending.  They are “privileged” to interrupt other business.  There are five (see chart above).

There is a definite order of rank and precedence among subsidiary and privileged motions (See the “Ready Reference Chart”).

INCIDENTAL MOTIONS arise from the pending question and so must be decided before the pending question, or arise from business that has just been pending and should be decided before going on to other matters.

Incidental Motions:

  1. have no particular rank among themselves.
  2. are not debatable.
  3. can be amended as to time or method only.



1.             object to consideration of the question      (2/3 negative vote required)

2.             suspend the rules                                         (requires 2/3 vote)

3.             close nominations or polls                           (requires 2/3 vote)

4.             division of the assembly                              (no second required)

5.             divide the question                                       (can be amended)

6.             consider seriatim (in series)                        (can be amended)

7.             withdraw a motion                                        (no second required)

8.             reopen nominations.

Business may be expedited by use of the COMMON CONSENT MOTION when the Chair states, “if there is no objection —–“.

The maker of a motion has the right to speak to it in discussion (if it is a debatable motion).

He may NOT speak against his own motion, but he MAY vote against it.

When a motion has been stated by the Chair it is said to belong to the assembly, and can be withdrawn only with the consent of the assembly.

A motion may be withdrawn at any time before the vote is taken, even though it has been amended.

“I so move” is NOT a proper motion.

If the vote is a tie, the motion is lost.

In calling for the vote the Chair says “all in favor say aye, — those opposed say “no”.

The vote is not completed until the Chair announces the result of the vote.

If the Chair says “Are you ready for the question?”, do NOT call out “question” or “call the question”.  Silence gives consent.

The calling of “Question” or “Call the Question” NEVER stops debate.

Most motions require a majority vote to pass (more than half). 

Those motions  which deny a member a privilege require a 2/3 vote.

When there are more than two candidates or propositions, the one with the largest number of votes is said to have a plurality.


  1. To change the wording:

move to amend by

(a)    striking out a word or group of words

(b)    insert a word or group of words

(c)     strike out a word or group of words and insert another word or group in place thereof

(d)    add at the end

(e)    substitute a new paragraph.

  1. To stop debate:   (requires 2/3 vote)(Not debatable)

“Move the Previous Question” – which says close debate and vote now.

  1. To get a rising vote:  (No second required)(Not debatable)(Not amendable)

Call out “Division”.  Any member may call for a standing vote.

  1. To further discuss a question on which the vote has been taken:

“Move to reconsider”.  This motion MUST be made by one who voted on the prevailing side when the vote was taken, and must be made on the same day or next day.

  1. To change the vote when it is too late to reconsider:

Move to rescind the action.   This motion requires a 2/3 vote unless previous notice has been given of the intention to move to rescind.  Then, a majority vote is sufficient.

  1. To delay action:

Move to postpone until a future time or move to refer the question to a committee.


                                                             Check out the most recent edition for “updates”!  


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