Is email voting in order?

Accepted methods for voting via email.

Many questions about parliamentary procedure are directed to Michigan State University Extension on a regular basis. Those individuals who help answer those questions often subscribe to resources to help keep their skills intact. One such resource is The National Association of Parliamentarians (NAP). The National Parliamentarian is NAP’s official publication. Published four times per year, each issue of the NP provides readers with insightful, up-to-date information on parliamentary procedure and how it is applied to a variety of situations and needs. Subscriptions are included in NAP membership. An annual subscription may also be purchased online, or by contacting NAP by e-mail at or phone at (888) 627-2929.

A question submitted to Volume 75, No 1 First Quarter 2014 page 40 asks, “Please provide the best accepted methods/process for email voting. Although not stated in the bylaws, the body agreed to use this method one time to complete a revision to the bylaws.”

This type of question is often asked.

The answer as written simply states, “RONR does not contain recommendations for a vote by email. The recommended practices for votes by mail are discussed in RONR (11th ed.) p. 424-425, and these could be used as a starting point for developing similar rules for a vote by email.

If the organizations bylaws do not authorize email voting then it cannot be used. Voting by email violates the fundamental principle of parliamentary law that the vote is limited to members who are actually present at the time of the vote.”

It’s important to remember that these rules do not apply to public meetings. John Amrhein reminds us in his article Michigan’s Open Meetings Act: An introduction that “The Open Meetings Act (OMA) was written in 1976, as was the Freedom of Information Act. These two laws, known as Michigan’s “sunshine laws,” are designed to make government processes and information more open to the public.

Many educators in Michigan State University Extension like to refer to the following general rule: ““Any person has a right to attend a meeting of any public body at any time unless the meeting is declared to fall under one of ten statutory exceptions.” It is a pretty good one-sentence guide to a sometimes complex combination of law, court interpretations and attorney general opinions relating to OMA.””

 The Michigan State University 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 Michigan State University 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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