The roll-call vote: Part 1

Ordering a roll-call vote. A look at when the roll-call vote is used by government and representative bodies.

This is one in a series of articles on parliamentary procedure and how to conduct more effective organizational meetings. For a complete list in this series go to the Parliamentary Procedure resource.

Questions about parliamentary procedure are directed to Michigan State University Extension on a regular basis. The roll-call vote method is used mostly in representative assemblies when the members represent constituencies, and it’s important for constituents to know how their representatives vote on particular issues. The record of each member’s vote is recorded in the minutes. 

In Michigan, the County Boards of Commissioners Act 156 of 1851 explains voting by county commissioners as, “The names and votes of members shall be recorded on an action taken by the board of county commissioners or by a committee of the board of county commissioners if the action is on an ordinance or the appointment or election of an officer, except the vote for chairperson may be by secret ballot. The vote and the name of the member voting on other questions or motions shall be recorded at the request of 1/5 of the members present if the question or motion is before the board, or 1/3 of the members present if the question or motion is before a committee of the board. A record that is made pursuant to this section shall be available for public inspection.”

If the group is a representative assembly, bylaws should provide details for how and when roll-call votes are ordered. 

In a representative body, if there is no legal or constitutional provision specifying the size of the minority that can order a roll-call vote, the body should adopt a rule fixing the size of such a minority. One fifth of those present is what is used in Congress, or some other portion of those present that is less than a majority should be considered. In the absence of such a rule, a majority vote is required to order a roll-call vote. 

When a vote is taken by roll call, the chair states the following:

CHAIR: As many as are in favor of the adoption of the resolution will, as their names are called, answer Aye [or “yes” or “yea”]; those opposed will answer no [or “nay”]. The secretary [or “the Clerk”] will call the roll.   

The roll is called in alphabetical order, except that the presiding officer’s name is called last, and only when their name will affect the result.                            

The MSU Extension Government and Public Policy team offers training for elected and appointed officials for improved effectiveness in several areas, including various public policy issues and effects of government programs, regulation, incentives, strategies and more. By working together with local elected and appointed officials and interested citizens, MSU Extension is able to provide education on critical local and state issues. The MSU Extension Government and Public Policy team also offers professional training in parliamentary procedure.  To contact an expert in your area, visit MSU Extension’s expert search system or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464). 

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