Rules of procedure, in general. It is important to understand two core concepts. First, rules of procedure are not rules of law. Their purpose is to facilitate the conduct of the meeting, and courts will usually uphold a moderator’s decision and the actions of a meeting unless clear unfairness or error resulting in misunderstanding or confusion has actually affected the vote.

Second, questions about appropriate procedure or the outcome of a vote should be addressed in the meeting itself (see the discussion of “appeal” and “challenge,” below). If questionable decisions or determinations of the vote are not brought to the moderator’s attention and addressed on the spot, a court may decline to review the issue later, even where it would otherwise be appropriate for judicial review.

Distinguishing or Separating Voters and Non-Voters. Please respect any measures in effect for distinguishing or separating voters from non-voters.

Unanimous Consent. To expedite procedure, the moderator may from time to time invite or suggest that the meeting give “unanimous consent” to proceeding in a certain way. Cooperation where you can freely give it will usually save time and avoid unnecessary complication, but if you do not wish to give consent simply call out “Objection” or “I object” when the moderator asks for unanimous consent. The moderator may then suggest or invite a motion and vote on procedure and you will then have the opportunity to speak in opposition to the procedure.

Rules of Debate. Maine law makes three rules: (1) a person may not speak without being recognized by the moderator; (2) everyone shall be silent at the moderator’s command; and (3) a person who is not a town voter may not speak without the consent of two-thirds of the voters present. In addition, the moderator may ask that one or more of the following rules be observed, and may invoke others to maintain good order and decorum. Raise your hand or stand, as directed by the moderator, to be recognized, and then state your name and what you would like to do.

Stand while speaking unless otherwise directed or authorized by the moderator. Refrain from making negative motions (“I move that Article 16 be defeated”). After a motion has been made and seconded, the moderator will open the floor for discussion. The moderator may call on the Selectmen or other sponsors of an article to speak first on a main motion (a motion to approve an article as printed, for example). Thereafter, the affirmative side speaks. A person who makes a motion is entitled but not required to be the first speaker on the motion and may not vote against the motion but may seek consent to withdraw it. A person seconding a motion may both speak against it and vote against it. Do not make a speech and conclude it with a motion: rather, make the motion and then speak to it after it has been seconded and put to floor debate by the moderator. Address all remarks and all questions to the moderator alone. Remarks must be relevant to the motion. Debate will generally alternate between those in favor and those opposed. No one should address the same subject more than twice without the express permission of the moderator.

The meeting may establish a time limit per speaker per question and an overall time limit on a motion. No one may speak a second time until all who wish to speak a first time have done so. Speak to the issue, not to the person, and do not question motives or speak ill of another. Profanity is out of order. Do not read from any document except the warrant without first obtaining the moderator’s consent. Listen attentively, do not whisper in the seats, and do not interrupt a speaker. Take conversation outside, and mute all but emergency workers’ cell phones.

Nominations and Elections. No second is required for a nomination, but the moderator may request or require a candidate’s consent to run (and if elected to serve), as a safeguard not only against the possibility that a nominee who is present will decide not to accept an office once won, but also as a safeguard against election of an absent person who when notified declines the office.

Written Ballot. State law requires the moderator, selectmen, and school committee members to be elected by written ballot, even if there is only one nominee. On motion and a majority of votes cast, or by unanimous consent, the meeting can determine to require written ballot voting on other offices or on any business or other article on the warrant. Do not fold, and do not allow another to fold, your ballot with another, or they may both be invalidated.

Appeal. A voter who thinks it appropriate to follow a procedure other than one announced by the moderator may seek to be recognized and then move a procedure the voter believes more appropriate.

Methods of Voting. These are, in increasing order of certainty (and, for most, of the time required): voice vote, show of hands, rising (or standing) vote, division of the house, and written ballot vote.

Challenge. A voter who thinks the moderator has not correctly determined the outcome of a voice or other vote short of an actual count and who wishes to challenge the moderator’s determination should immediately seek to be recognized, and when recognized, say “I doubt it.” The moderator will then determine whether at least six other voters agree. If so, the moderator will make the determination more certain by using a designated other method of voting

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