The members of the Bessemer City Council selected a new municipal judge today.
See Update at end of post.
The method they used was bizarre, or unconventional, to say the least.
Here is what happened. the clerk read the item: Appointment of Municipal Judges. Council vote necessary.
Three or four council members simultaneously shouted, "Mr. President."
The president then chose one of them and allowed them to make a motion. That person nominated one of the candidates. It was seconded. the council voted 3 - 2, for this candidate, with 2 abstentions.
The council proclaimed that candidate did not win, stating that a majority of the members present needed to vote yes for the candidate to win.
Let me quote from Robert's Rules of Order (9th edition) right here.
*43. BASES FOR DETERMINING A VOTING RESULT
Majority Vote - the Basic Requirement
As stated on page 4, the basic requirement for approval of an action or choice by a deliberative assembly...is a majority vote. The word majority means "more than half"; and when the term majority vote is used without qualification - as in the case of the basic requirement - it means more than half of the votes cast by persons legally entitled to vote, excluding blanks or abstentions, at a regular or properly called meeting at which a quorum is present.
So, the first candidate that was voted on did win.
But the council then entertained another nomination, under the assumption that the first nominee had not won the appointment.
This candidate received 4 votes, so she also won.
The council had appointed 2 persons to the Municipal Judge 1 place.
To further complicate the matter the method of voting was wrong.
According to Robert's Rules of Order, when multiple candidates are being voted on, all the candidates should be put into nomination and the council vote.
Then if no candidate gets a majority of the votes, then they vote again, with all candidates names still on the ballot, to see if the results will be different. The lowest vote getter name is never removed from the ballot unless required by law or unless he or she drops out.
Using the method that the council used, there was no requirement that a council member who voted yes for one candidate could not vote yes on another candidate. So even though the second candidate got 4 votes, who's to say that the third candidate, whose name was never mentioned, would not also have gotten 4 or maybe more votes? We will never know, will we.
I recommend that the council revisit this matter at the next meeting, and re-vote using proper procedures.
Update: I was told by the city attorney that by Alabama Law, election of municipal judges by city council requires a majority of the council. It does not specify anything about abstentions. Alas, this is Alabama. We have so many faults in our constitution and laws that it is not even funny. Oh well.
The new municipal judge is Lynneice Washington. Scott Roebuck retains the other position.