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Re: [council] Abstentions

  • To: Council GNSO <council@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Subject: Re: [council] Abstentions
  • From: Avri Doria <avri@xxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 24 Sep 2009 07:38:26 -0400
  • In-reply-to: <7FE3E31C8BFD4A819D406DD664A58CAD@PSEVO>
  • List-id: council@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • References: <7FE3E31C8BFD4A819D406DD664A58CAD@PSEVO>
  • Sender: owner-council@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx


It seems the question before the council really boils down to:

Is the default vote:

- majority of house members
- majortiy of votes cast.



In the usual situation, where either a majority vote or a two-thirds vote is required, abstentions have absolutely no effect on the outcome of the vote since what is required is either a majority or two thirds of the votes cast. On the other hand, if the vote required is a majority or two thirds of the members present, or a majority or two thirds of the entire membership, an abstention will have the same effect as a "no" vote. Even in such a case, however, an abstention is not a vote. [RONR (10th ed.), p. 387, l. 7-13; p. 388, l. 3-6; p. 390, l. 13-24; see also p.66 of RONR In Brief.]

It seems that either way of going is ok to the RONR. And it is not really a matter of what 'to abstain ' means. You are right about this. The same reference says:

The phrase "abstention votes" is an oxymoron, an abstention being a refusal to vote. To abstain means to refrain from voting, and, as a consequence, there can be no such thing as an "abstention vote."

As I understand the UN charter, some votes are defined as votes cast and some have a standard threshold. (coincidentally was just reviewing it yesterday because of a statement I heard while listening to the Libyan speech)

The recently approved ByLaws contains: GNSO Council motion or other voting action requires a simple majority vote of each House. The Operating Procedures contains and instance of: a motion must attain a majority of the votes cast
   and 2 instances of: majority vote of each house

Chuck's proposed amendment seems to seek bring that one instance in the Operating Procedures into line with the ByLaws.

If the council votes against the amendment and therefore leave the Operating Procedures in disagreement with the ByLaws, I think we will then need to request a further change of the ByLaws from the board in this matter.


On 24 Sep 2009, at 06:15, Philip Sheppard wrote:

In case of interest (and sorry to be posting so much on this) the point about abstentions not counting as a vote is standard practise in all other international organisations.

The definitive rules of procedure in international relations are those of the UN General Assembly; these rules date back in their original version to a codification of customary Rules of Procedure which was made for the Congress of Vienna early in the 19th century. The Rules have been continually amended and improved ever since. Robert's Rules of Order and all other recognised rules of procedure are all derived from the UN General Assembly Rules.



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