More parliamentary procedure basics for use in youth clubs and meetings

When using parliamentary procedure with groups of youth, adult leaders may wane in their confidence. Review these tips to build your confidence in teaching youth.

Using parliamentary procedure in settings with youth allows them to practice skills they need for running effective meetings in their future. Michigan 4-H clubs offer a safe, educational setting for youth to practice the language and skills associated with proper parliamentary procedure.

 Another Michigan State University Extension article covers “Five Simple Steps to Making a Parliamentary Motion;” this article examines some additional parliamentary procedure basics.

Most motions pass with a simple majority vote. Majority is defined as one over half. In a room with 20 voting members, majority is 11. Those who abstain are not counted as part of the total number when calculating majority. For example, if there are 20 members present, six vote in favor, five vote against, and nine abstain, the motion passes.

Most motions can easily be voted on using a voice vote (“aye” or “nay”), however, when the president is unclear of the result of the vote or expects the group to be divided in their decision, it is appropriate to ask members to raise their hands in order to indicate their vote. Secret ballot is used rarely in settings with youth, but is appropriate when electing officers. Secret ballot prevents members from being persuaded by their peers.

Occasionally, an amendment is added to a motion to further clarify its intent. Amendments can be in the form of adding words, striking words or replacing words from the original motion. Like all motions, amendments must be seconded and discussed before voting. When voting occurs, the president first calls for a vote on the amendment, then on the motion as amended. The process of amendments can be confusing, especially for younger youth. It’s important that the president or club leader explains the process so members are clear on what they are voting.

Call the question
This motion can be made when a member of the group thinks that discussion should be closed and the main motion should be voted on. In order to make this motion, a member would state, “I move to call the question.” This must also be seconded; however, it is not discussed. The president would immediately call for a vote to end discussion on the main motion. A motion to call the question must be passed by a 2/3 majority, rather than a simple majority. If the 2/3 majority is obtained, a vote takes place immediately on the main motion. If the 2/3 majority is not obtained, discussion continues on the main motion.

MSU Extension’s publication “Helping You Help Officers and Committees” outlines more of the basics of parliamentary procedure. Another helpful resource is Roberts Rules of Order.

MSU Extension educators who focus on leadership and civic engagement are happy to offer training to 4-H and other community groups. Contact them directly at or locate an MSU Extension expert near you for more information.

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