Robert's Rules on Seconds and Amendments

So you’ve made a motion, or actually someone else has, since you can’t second your own motion, although depending on the situation it is totally legit to amend your own motion. A motion has been made, what next? Second.

You can second a motion by saying “Second“, “I second the motion“, “I second it“. If you are in a large meeting you should stand and say “Mr/s Chairperson/President/Grand Pubah [use their honorary title here], I second the motion.
If you don’t get a second on a motion that needs a second then that motion cannot be discussed. This is why you always need a buddy. Get a buddy, smile, shakes hands, make small talk, make a friend. It’ll help so much. If you can bring a friend that works great too. Just cause you chat with someone at a meeting doesn’t mean you are suddenly blood bound, it just means you have someone to chat with. If you go to a meeting enough times people will know you well enough to know if you are or are not a trouble maker. You may need to bring in new blood if you are known as a trouble maker.
Seconding a motion does NOT mean that you support it. Occasionally a motion will get seconded because someone wants the organization to go on record -not- supporting that particular position. You can use this trick to make a lot of hell for someone too. A motion is brought up, doesn’t pass and then next time something similar is raised that you don’t want pass you can point out that the organization has already said no. (Yet another good reason to keep meeting minutes and notes, if you are (or convincingly enough look) know what you are talking about people sit down and shut up really fast.) Seconding a motion just means that you want discussion on the motion go ahead and second everything, you can make lots of friends that way. I highly recommend being the Scruffy of your meeting.
If a motion is put forth by a committee or a report comes from a committee that has more than two board members on it, that report or motion doesn’t need a second. (Since a committee has at least 2 people from the board that’s saying that there are people to move and second it.)
Basic purpose of the second is to make it so that one person can’t hold up meetings endlessly. The chair can go ahead and state the question if he feels there is enough support and doesn’t hear a second right away. You can call a “Point of order.” from the floor immediately. Once discussion has started you can’t go back. A motion can be passed without a second and it will NOT make the motion invalid. It’s still good. The book actually says that you shouldn’t call for a point of order on a second just for formality sake. If you are looking to stall, kill time or the like it is an acceptable strategy, and they might even need to call on the parliamentarian.

You do not need a second for the following:
Call for Division of Assembly
Call for Orders of the Day
Point of Order
Question of Privilege
Parliamentary Inquiry
Point of Information
Nominations (this rule is often ignored, especially at conventions where the whole process ends up long and yawn…if you need to slip out for a bathroom break or food this is the time to do it.)
There are a couple others but these are ones that are most likely to be used.


Robert’s Rules-Amending

So a motion has been made, and someone seconded it.
Now what? Well you change it to suit you of course! What fun would it be if it was simple.
Amending is actually a complex process. First thing that happens after a motion is made and seconded is that the chair of the meeting restates the question. Then it’s open for debate, and amendment.

I like lists so here are the rules on what you can and cannot do: (it’s not complete but it should get you a long way)
1. You can only amend something that is
germane to the original motion. Basically, nothing way off topic. No new topics can be slid in as amendments.
2. You can’t just amend all willynilly, you must have the floor, you need to be recognized by the chair, and you can’t speak while someone else is talking or you are out of turn. So be recognized, stand up, go to the microphone, raise your hand; whatever is appropriate for your meeting. Once you are recognized, then you can make the amendment. It is a good idea to have a solid grasp of what you are going to say before you say it. Write it down if you have time.
3. You need to have a second. All amendments must have second’s. No exceptions, sorry.
4. You can amend an amendment to the motion, but you can’t amend an amendment to an amendment. You can only go 2 degrees.
5. However, once an amendment is adopted then that amended motion can be amended. Yes, you could make this go on forever; you may find a need to make this go on forever in some cases. Again caution about pissing people off, they can change the rules or call for a vote. But make it subtle and if possible have a couple people in different parts of the room.

6. All amendments are adopted by a majority vote, even when the original motion requires 2/3rds or other type of vote. This can be fun and often used to mess with the motion.
7. Once an amendment has been made that amendment is the only thing on the floor. You can’t talk about the original motion, only the amendment.

Motion: I move that we change the meeting date.

Amendment: I would amend the motion to insert “to later in the month” after “date”.

Now you can only talk about if later in the month is acceptable, you can’t talk about if changing the meeting date at all is a good idea.
8. You can’t make an amendment that will change the meaning of the motion. (No inserting, “don’t” or “not” or such.)

9. In an informal meeting (and some more formal meetings) you can accept the motion as a friendly amendment; this is generally only ok with clarifying things.
Person A: I move this organization meet every Wednesday.
Scruffy: Second.
Person B: I’d like to amend the motion to say the organization meet every Wednesday at 2 pm.
Person A: I’ll accept that as a friendly amendment.
This isn’t a real rule but if it is a more informal meeting and it’s not a contentious thing they’ll often let you get away with this. This will just automatically change the main motion. It’s essentially saying “Yeah that’s what I meant to say!”
If you are the Person A who made the motion and someone makes and amendment that is really what you wanted feel free to just say “I’ll accept that as a friendly amendment.” If they aren’t going to let you do it, well then they won’t let you do it. It doesn’t hurt to try.

If you need to stretch out a meeting, amendments are one of the best ways to do it. Of course the rules can be changed to make, well to make you shut up, but changing rules like that takes a 2/3rds majority.

I will also talk about how to make meetings shorter and not quite so horrible. There are a lot more details about amendments and seconding. I can always go into further detail in a future column if that is requested so don’t be afraid to e-mail me and ask for something or more detail in a certain area.

Next time? Suspending the rules! This can be one of the most horrible things, or one of the best things to happen to a meeting. Depends on what you want and if you are the suspender.

Join our newsletter

never miss the latest news, reviews, live event coverage, audio podcasts, exclusive interviews and commentary for Movies, TV, Music, Sports, Comics, Video Games!