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Previous Question

Rod G Davidson, Professional Registered Parliamentarian www.parlipro.org


Parliamentary Procedure: What does it mean and why is it important?

Puzzled by the motion Previous Question? After you complete this online module and take the short quiz to test your understanding and refresh your memory, you will feel more confident about this parliamentary puzzler. Here’s a chance to learn a thing or two about Previous Question, courtesy of the public domain version of Robert's Rules of Order Revised, Fourth Edition.

The object of moving the Previous Question is to bring the assembly at once to a vote on the immediately pending question and on such other pending questions as may be specified in the demand. It is the proper motion to use for this purpose, whether the object is to adopt or to kill the proposition on which it is ordered, without further debate or motions to amend.

The effect of adopting and thereby ordering the Previous Question is to close debate immediately, to prevent the moving of amendments or any other subsidiary motions except to lay on the table, and to bring the assembly at once to a vote on the immediately pending question, and such other pending questions as were specified in the demand, or motion. If the Previous Question is ordered on more than one question, then its effect extends to those questions and is not exhausted until they are voted on, or otherwise disposed of.

If the Previous Question is voted down, the discussion continues as if this motion had not been made. The effect of the Previous Question does not extend beyond the session in which it was adopted. Should any of the questions upon which it was ordered come before the assembly at a future session, they are divested of the Previous Question and are open to debate and amendment.

The Previous Question takes precedence of all subsidiary motions except to lay on the table, and yields to privileged and incidental motions, and to the motion to lay on the table. It is undebatable, and cannot be amended or have any other subsidiary motion applied to it.

It may be applied to any debatable or amendable motion or motions, and if unqualified it applies only to the immediately pending motion. It may be qualified so as to apply to a series of pending questions, or to a consecutive part of a series beginning with the immediately pending question. It requires a two-thirds vote for its adoption. If lost, the Previous Question may be renewed after sufficient progress in debate to make it a new question.

The Form of this motion is,

"I move [or demand, or call for] the Previous Question on [here specify the motions on which it is desired to be ordered]."

As it cannot be debated or amended, it must be voted on immediately. The form of putting the question is,

"The Previous Question is moved [or demanded, or called for] on [specify the motions on which the Previous Question is demanded]. As many as are in favor of ordering the Previous Question on [repeat the motions] will rise . . . Be seated."

When the members are seated the chairman continues,

"Those opposed will rise. Be seated. There being two-thirds in favor of the motion, the affirmative has it and the Previous Question is ordered on [repeat the motions upon which it is ordered]. The question is on [state the immediately pending question]. Those in favor of" . . .

If the Previous Question is ordered, the chair immediately proceeds to put to vote the questions on which it was ordered until all the votes are taken, or there is an affirmative vote on postponing definitely or indefinitely, or committing, either of which exhausts the Previous Question. If there can be the slightest doubt as to the vote the chair should take it again immediately, counting each side. If less than two-thirds vote in the affirmative, the chair announces the vote thus:

"There not being two-thirds in favor of the motion, the negative has it and the motion is lost. The question is on," . . .

The chair states the immediately pending question, which is again open to debate and amendment, the same as if the Previous Question had not been demanded.

The Previous Question is Exhausted during the session as follows:

  1. When the Previous Question is unqualified, its effect terminates as soon as the vote is taken on the immediately pending question.

  2. If the Previous Question is ordered on more than one of the pending questions its effect is not exhausted until all of the questions upon which it has been ordered have been voted on, or else the effect of those that have been voted on has been to commit the main question, or to postpone it definitely or indefinitely.

If, before the exhaustion of the Previous Question, the questions on which it has been ordered that have not been voted on are laid on the table, the Previous Question is not exhausted thereby, so that when they are taken from the table during the same session, they are still under the Previous Question and cannot be debated or amended or have any other subsidiary motion applied to them.

Now, test your understanding of Previous Question.  Answer the questions below and then click the button underneath to see your results. Good luck!

1.

The object of moving the Previous Question is to __________ .



a)

kill the pending motion


b)

ask a question of the previous speaker


c)

bring the assembly at once to a vote on the pending question(s)

 

2. If Previous Question is ordered on more than one question, __________ .


a)

the chair declares the motion out of order


b)

debate is allowed on each question except the immediately pending question


c)

the order is not exhausted until each question has been voted on

 

3. If Previous Question is voted down, __________ .


a)

a recess should be taken immediately to gather support for the motion


b)

discussion continues as if the motion for Previous Question had not been made


c)

another member may immediately renew the motion

 

4. The adoption of Previous Question requires __________ .


a)

a majority vote


b)

a vote of a majority of the entire membership


c)

a two-thirds vote

 

5. If Previous Question is ordered on a series of motions and they are laid on the table, ___________ .


a)

when taken from the table later in the session, these motions may be debated or amended


b)
the effect of laying all pending motions on the table kills the order for Previous Question


c)

when taken from the table during the same session, they are still under the order of Previous Question

 

   

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