Our board voted down a motion because we felt the timing of the discussion was poor. The public is upset because they think we don't support the topic. Is there a better way to handle this situation?

Yes! Robert’s Rules provides a remedy for this situation. A motion to "postpone indefinitely" the item on the floor is a subsidiary motion. A subsidiary motion is one that is made while another "main" motion is being discussed. If passed the motion to "postpone indefinitely" makes the main motion on the floor go away without anyone on the board having to take a position either for or against it. A motion to "postpone indefinitely" requires 2/3 of the board members to vote in the affirmative to pass. This is 4 yes votes out of 5 or 5 yes votes out of 7. Once the subsidiary motion to postpone has passed the original motion only comes up again at a future meeting if someone makes the motion again.

There are several other alternatives available: 

  • If the board wants to postpone the item to a specific future meeting, the motion should be made to "postpone definitely, to the meeting on XYZ date." This requires only a majority vote of the board to pass.
  • An incidental motion which kills the one on the floor without any discussion of the merits of the motion is a motion to "Object to Consideration." It requires 2/3 to pass. This motion must be brought before any discussion begins.
  • If the other members of the board are determined to vote on the motion at this time, but you feel that you can not vote to support it and you do not want to send a message of being against the motion then your only alternative is to abstain from voting.

"No" votes always send the message that the voter, or the board as a whole if the motion fails, disapprove of the proposal that has been brought for approval. If you want to send a different message you need to use a different motion.

For more information on this question, Ask Betsy's Team.