What Is a Majority Vote?

Jim Slaughter

Like many things association related, the answer can vary by state and by association. That’s because some state statutes or governing documents define majority differently (“a majority of the entire membership” or “a majority of members present”).

But if you’re just talking about “majority,” then under Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised (12th Edition) that is “more than half” (NOT “half plus one” or some other language that can give you the wrong number). When used without qualification, a majority vote means “more than half of the votes cast by persons entitled to vote, excluding blanks or abstentions, at a regular or properly called meeting.” RONR (12th ed.) 44:1. I quote Robert’s Rules 12th Edition because most statutes and governing documents refer to the “newest” or “latest” edition of Robert’s, and referring to an earlier edition could get you a different or incomplete answer.

So, the way this would play out in an association membership meeting that just has to worry about Robert’s and not different language–

  • 150 member association 
  • 100 members present at a meeting (have to have a quorum present to be voting, but this almost certainly would be)
  • 10 members vote on a motion requiring a majority vote, and the rest don’t care
  • 6 vote in favor
  • 4 vote against
  • Motion is adopted.

(For that matter, if one person had voted in favor and 99 abstained, the motion passed)

To abstain means not to vote at all, and abstentions in a normal vote are not asked for and do not affect the outcome. Again, this will be different if the vote is based on something else, like “two-thirds of all lot owners.” In that case, an abstention is like a “no,” in that it is one more person not voting in favor to get you to the two-thirds.

Unless a count or roll call has been ordered, or the vote is by ballot, or state statute or the governing documents require a count or listing by member, minutes just normally show whether a motion was adopted or defeated. From a political perspective, listing votes individually is usually a bad idea unless you are required to do so, as it separates the board out as individuals on issues, rather than a collective whole.

For general information on parliamentary procedure and voting, I’ll recommend this free CAI manuscript from a past Law Seminar, Running a Darn Good Meeting: What You Need to Know About Parliamentary Procedure. I’ll also share share information on my two books on Robert’s Rules of Order. The books have a different purpose and different audiences (and the links that follow will take you to reviews of the books).  

  • The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Parliamentary Procedure Fast-Track is a quick go-to guide and provides details on the most used motions, appropriate informal procedures for smaller boards, and general advice for shortening meetings.   
  •  Notes and Comments on Robert’s Rules, Fourth Edition is a user’s guide to Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised and uses a question-and-answer format to cover the most misused and asked-about provisions, including those that apply to larger membership meetings.  Notes and Comments received the 2013 Phifer Award from the National Communication Association.

Both books are available from Amazon (here’s a link) as well as traditional and online bookstores, and both are available electronically for the Kindle, Nook and iPad.

There are also many parliamentary procedure posts at our firm’s blog site as well as free charts and articles on Robert’s and meeting procedure at my parliamentary procedure Website, www.jimslaughter.com.


For any questions about North or South Carolina associations or meeting procedure , contact one of the attorneys at any of our five Law Firm Carolinas offices.