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Di from country New South Wales, Australia has asked a question about rescission of motions.

Rescission motions are always tricky – not in procedure but usually because of the “people aspect”.


Firstly, you need to check the constitution and by-laws of your organisation – they may have specific rules regarding rescission motions. If they do, you need to follow them of course.


If they don’t have specific rules for rescission, then the following applies.


1. If the action that the original motion required has already been taken, then it is pointless for the rescission motion to be moved or contemplated – basically the action is done, no motion will fix it.

2. If the action has been partially taken, then it is best to simply move that no further action be taken.

3. If no action has been taken, then anyone can move the rescission motion. The correct wording is: “That the motion to do XYZ, be rescinded”, or, “That the motion carried at the Marsh 24th meeting requiring XYZ, be rescinded.” or, if you give motions numbers or references, “That motion number F456, moved and carried on March 24th, be rescinded.

4. The motion can be moved and seconded by anyone.

5. If your rules do not state otherwise, it can be carried by a simple majority – 51%

Here’s an extract from my book Meeting Procedure Made Easy which goes into a little more detail:


A rescission motion is a motion to reverse a previous decision. There are lots of weird and wonderful rules that organisations have written into their by-laws about rescission. There is more “meet­ing folklore” about rescission than any other aspect of meeting procedure.

Some organisations’ rules say that the only way a motion can be rescinded is that if everyone who was present at the original meeting is present when it is rescinded. This is clearly ridiculous for if a meeting has become aware of certain information which makes it unwise for them to proceed in a particular course of action.

If everyone at the original meeting is not present at the meeting where the motion is to be rescinded, then the meeting in fact is bound to go on with some action which they agree is unwise.

Some organisations have rules which say that a rescission motion cannot be moved at the same meeting at which the original decision was made. This is also ridiculous because a meeting may become aware of information which makes a course of action decided upon earlier in the meeting, unwise to take. It is silly to go ahead with that action just because rules say that you cannot re­scind at the same meeting.


Some organisations say that a rescission motion can only be moved by the person who moved the original motion and even that it must be seconded by the person who seconded the original motion. This clearly is ridiculous. The original motion, once carried is the property of the meeting, not the person who moved it and any member has the right to move the rescission motion.

Some organisations also say that rescission motions cannot be dealt with within a certain time period such as three months or three meetings of the original motion. By now you will have realised that this is also totally ridiculous. There is no intelligent reason for this.

So how have these silly rules been written into organisations’, by­laws and standing orders? They usually come about when someone has moved a motion which has been carried and did not want it to be changed and they had enough power in the organisation to be able to change the rules of rescission to make change difficult or impossible. Then the normal course of action for a new organisation is that they copy another organisation’s rules which then become the draft of the new one. In this way these strange and unusual practices about rescission have been written into rules and by-laws of organisations everywhere.

So what do you do? You need to understand what rescission is all about. Rescission is simply reversing a decision which has previ­ously been made. The first test is if action resulting from the decision which has already occurred then there is no point in rescinding it. It doesn’t matter whether the meeting wants to rescind, if the action has already been taken it is pointless to rescind the motion.

For instance, I have been involved with an organisation who chose to write to a particular person expressing their displeasure about a particular course of action which that person had taken in the community. The letter was written, sent and delivered but at the next meeting, it was announced that the person who had received the letter was in fact not responsible for the course of action for which he had been accused so the meeting then thought the way to deal with this was to rescind the motion. This was the incorrect way to deal with it because the motion had already been carried and the action had been carried out.

Rescission was not the tool to draw out of the tool box in this case. The tool to draw out was in fact not a procedural motion but a substantive motion which would have been along the lines “that a letter of apology be written to the individual concerned”.

You cannot rescind a motion where the action resulting from it has already occurred. It makes no sense!

Rescission is about changing courses of action. Let’s look at that in logical terms and commonsense. Providing that the majority of people agree that a decision should be changed then it is reasonable that is should be done. However it depends on the definition of the term majority in this instance.

If we have a simple majority, that is one more than half, it is possible that certain groups can manipulate the meeting and wait for certain people not to be present and then move rescission motions so that courses of action that may have been won narrowly can be changed later.

The way around this is to build into your rules a sensible majority. That may be an absolute majority, that is one more than half of the total number who could be present regardless of the number who actually are present. It could be a 60% majority of the people present before a decision can be carried. Doing away with all the other silly rules. Anyone can move rescission at any time but for it to be carried it must achieve a 60% majority or it must receive an absolute majority. It will depend on your organisation as to which of these is the best course of action.

31 thoughts on “Rescission of motions

  1. Can a local council bylaw overrule the right to common justice? ie

    Can an executive officer of a council tell a councillor his notice to rescind is invalid , because the person involved was in the public gallery . And had received notice or it had been acted upon.
    If this is right, the moment the motion was passed it would deny natural justice of appeal

    • Thankyou for your question Bill.
      Rescission is always tricky in local government because there are so many local laws or rules or standing orders, some of which are illogical or not in keeping with “standard practice” regarding rescission.

      So, my answer can only be general in nature since I don’t know the specific rules the council operates under.
      If the executive officer of a council has said that a notice to rescind is invalid, then it is reasonable for you to ask under which rule or by-law or standing order he or she makes that ruling.

      If the person involved was in the public gallery, that should make no difference but local government is full of strange rules.
      You are quite right in your comment about denying a rescission motion as soon as a motion is passed. If action has already been taken, then the rescission is superfluous, but if the action resulting from the original motion has not been taken, then a rescission motion should be in order.

      There was a time in some local government when rescission motions were not allowed. This is because the process was abused and every single decision had a rescission motion moved against it – this just stopped the whole council actually doing anything. Removing the right to rescind however was going too far the other way.

      Rescission is always tricky in local government however because you can and do get people who give notice of rescission for every motion they opposed and that is not fair or reasonable in anyone’s view – except their own.

  2. in some cases, recission motions are not valid for a period of time after the substantive motion has passed (eg for the rest of the same meeting; for the remainder of the day; etc).
    also, in some cases, a recission motion is not in order until a motion to reconsider the substantive motion has been proposed and carried.

  3. If a motion is moved at an AGM to change the way a competition is conducted is this motion seen as a recommendation to the incoming committee to discuss before the start of the new season and decide if the change is warranted for the good of the competition OR does it immediately become a by law for the new sporting season.

    If a bylaw to change a competition is voted on and passed at one meeting. Then changes are made to the nomination form but it has not been released. Another general meeting is called in the course of getting ready for the new season and a person who was not at the previous meeting moves a motion to change the by-law passed at the previous meeting. Is the good meeting procedure?

  4. if a motion was put up to a agm not the way it was proposed and voted on what has to be done to rectify it.ex,! not read as 10-14 daywith the decision left to the organiser,printed in minutes as 2weeks instead of eight days, which was not the proposal do you recind or get it worded right way

  5. My question is: “In the absence of a constitution, can a motion passed at an AGM be rescinded 18 years later by a committee meeting with a 100% vote?”

    • Technically yes. but if any action was taken as a result of the motion 18 years ago, then it is illogical to rescind the motion.
      A new motion should be moved.
      The absence of a constitution is not the issue at all.

      I have written a full response as a post on the blog

  6. Dear David, If there has been a suspension which is carried for the purpose of information to be given to the new members in order for them to make a decision on a particular project and the full information was denied them is it correct that the board pass a motion without rescinding the suspenion to carry out the previous status quo before the suspension. This came about because one member was absent and status quo was able to win their motion to reverse the suspension. I apologise if this is not a comment. I have recently used your comments on rescission motions but the legal advice given that because the proponent was was absent another member could not move the rescission. There were no rules in place but another related body’s rules suggested that any other member may move the rescission motion. However the CEO said she had taken legal advice that the proponent must move the motion. In the event the rescission lapsed.
    I am referring to a council where there are guidelines provided to Councillors to suggest the above action.

  7. Hi,
    Hoping you can help. A motion (not sure if it is actually a motion as the constitution was not changed) was passed barring dogs from our Golf Club at our AGM under general business. General business in itself suggests that no notice of motion was required to pass this ban. A lot of the members were not forewarned about this matter being raised and, in fact, were told it was not going to be raised at all. I would like to amend the motion to ban dogs from competition but still allow them on course during other hours. Can the Committe vote on this without calling an AGM and, if so, how do I go about changing this motion.

  8. Dose the people proposing and seconding the resision motion, have to be present at the special general meeting?

  9. I am a member of a not for profit organisation seeking reform of governanance, and do not wish to be identified and certainly not the organisation.

    I believe that the Board is acting contrary to democratic principles in endeavouring to create new teams, whose representatives on the Council can then be voted onto the board.

    There is no provision in the Constitution or policies for a rescission motion and believe that the Board may deny the presentation of the motion on the basis there is no provision.

    Could you please advise the procedure which I should follow at the meeting to move the Notice and advise whether there is any procedural problem.

    Many thanks.

    The Notice of Motion provides for the following (with the name of the organisation deleted):
    I am lodging a motion to rescind the motion passed at the last meeting to create 8 Management teams, including a new Governance Team and down grading of the …….. Team to be dealt with at the next State Council meeting on ……2011

    My reasons for the rescission motion are based on the following:
    . The proposal was not included as an agenda item for this meeting and members of Council therefore were not given any notice of the proposal. Members thus were taken by surprise and not given any opportunity to consider the implications of the proposal before the meeting. The Board would have decided to propose the Motion some time before the Council meeting and no reason was given for the failure to give the members of Council notice by including it on the agenda for the meeting.
    1. Councillors were pressured to vote without adequate time for debate and consideration of the merits/detriments by a statement by a member of the board that “the time frame was too short as they needed nominations in by 24 August, to the Board 27 Aug, to Council 1 Sept to decide at Council meeting on …..”.
    2. No Budgets or estimate of costs for the new teams were provided for consideration so the Council did not have relevant material before the debate and vote
    3. No detailed analysis from existing teams was available to show what is working and what is not,
    4. The proposed nomination process and the makeup of the new teams are not clear. Questions such as the qualifications required to be considered to be appointed a member of the Governance and Finance Team, bearing in mind those persons without legal or financial qualifications would be unable to give legal/financial advice, have not been provided, let alone discussed. Who will deal with the nominations and make the selection and is the process ensuring an independent assessment, not influenced by friendships and personal issues? If the Board or Council is to make the appointments, what process will be followed if the applicant is a member of that body or close friend of a person on that body? There is a need to discuss these points to ensure a fair and independent selection process.
    5. The creation of an additional management team which, it is assumed, will provide another representative on Council, who will be entitled to stand for election to the Board, will further weaken the possibility of Branch representatives to be elected to the Board. This will result in a reduction of the mandate of the general membership . These are major governance considerations and it would be fair on all volunteer members of to be asked for their comments before asking Council to vote on a motion that will affect their democratic rights..
    6. There is also a need for the Council to discuss the problem that, if the Board is involved in the selection of members of management committees, and those selected persons can, as the Council representative of the committee, stand for election to the Board (i.e. without in any way being elected by his/her branch or the general membership), then the Board in effect has a power to choose a restricted group of members who are entitled to stand for the Board. Apart from issues of gerrymander and a failure of democratic process, this situation also creates a potential for favouritism and corruption and would not have been envisaged by the makers of the current Constitution.
    7. The haste in implementing the policy, presumably to be in place and have team Council representatives elected before the AGM, has meant that all members were not properly notified of the calling for nominations as the usual practice of notifying all members direct by the General Manager or the Secretary was not followed and instead it was left to individual Council representatives of a Branch to notify its members. As a result it is understood that there are many members who have been deprived of the opportunity to nominate for selection and have been treated unfairly.
    9. The concern that the notice given by email on 3 August requiring nominations to be emailed back by 24 August (21days) was insufficient time as it assumed the notice would have been sent out to branch members on 3 August when it was received by the Council representative and that each Branch would have held its monthly meeting between 3 and 24 August to approve the nomination and this may not have been the case. It also provides little time to prepare an application by those members who received notice.
    11. The proposed process for combining of 2 teams in 12 months time was not clear.
    12. Information given was incomplete and spread between 4 separate papers i.e. 5.5 Standard Team Policy, Standard Team Hand book and new papers at meeting and email on 2 August.
    13. The current 5.5 Standard team policy has not been updated to reflect the new team name, structures and guidelines.
    14. The adoption of Policy 7.3 Creation and Alterations of lices has not been completed i.e. placed on the intranet for members comment and then ratified by Council.
    15. The Standard Team handbook Dec 2010 version and the new Management Teams handbook July 2011 have not been discussed and voted on within Council and yet these are being used as current policies.
    16. The ….. Team was not given notice of the proposal to downgrade its standing and therefore did not have the opportunity to make a response.

    If the rescission motion is passed then I will be moving a motion that the proposal not be voted on until the following takes place:
    1. Clear proposals are provided to members of Council, at least 7 days before the proposal is voted on, as to how these teams will operate, qualifications required, he process for nomination and the process for selection
    2. The 5.5 Standard Team Policy is updated after taking into account material following consultation, the provisions of the Constitution and the handbook, and all submissions.
    3. The amended Standard Team Policy is placed on the intranet for 40 days for members comment and then ratified at Council.
    4. That proxy votes from all Branches be allowed at the council meeting when the vote is taken as the proposal, if approved, with have a significant structural implication on . That an explanation on why these teams are needed with listed pros and cons.
    5. Standard Teams remain the same until this has been resolved.
    6. Adequate notice is given to the …… Team and time allowed for the Team to give its response.

    If the rescission motion is not passed then I will be moving the following motion:

    That the calling for nominations for the management teams be re notified by the Secretary by sending an email of notice with the nomination form to each member and allowing 28 days to make an application.

  10. Good afternoon
    Our mens bowls recently held a special general meeting to merge with the ladies club. Motion “endorse the continuation of investigations into amalgamation of mens & ladies bowls clubs” Motion defeated. 44 members present out of 180.Do we have to have a recession of motion or may we move a new motion to amalgamate with ladies club? Members have required a revote on the issue.

    Which of your books is suitable for our club?

    Thank you.



  11. Hi,

    At our last HOA board meeting a motion was made to accept a bid on replacing the Retaining Wall on the Club House. Three bids were submitted and was reviewed by a 5 person board. The project was voted on 4-1 in favor of the Retaining Wall.
    Now, the person who voted against it wants to put it on the agenda to re-visit the project at the next meeting. I feel that this would be pointless, and I say no.
    How do I handle this? I am president of the association

  12. Good day

    I would like to know whether a descision taken in one meeting can be rescinded in another meeting. The meeting where the decision was taken is the Safety meeting and we want to rescind that decision in the Management meeting. Not all participants are members of these meeting.

  13. My Council recently defeated a by-law to rezone a piece of property but it only passed because one member was not able to vote and another member was absent. Can a mtion to rescind be brought before the meeting and if passed the identical motion to approve the by-law brought back as new business?

  14. can a director of a propriety ltd company sack another director. It was signed off by ASIC as ligitimite but later terminated not by the accountant that the motion be rescinded

  15. Hi recently at a meeting a committee member put in a rescind of motion. I tried to put forward another motion and discussion on the matter and was told I couldn’t had to put in an email after meeting.
    Some of the money has been spent already but at the meeting member rescinded this decision.
    So why can’t the motion I had be forward at the meeting rather than wait til afterwards. I find this all strange and having problems understanding why after all it was a discussion I started in first place before other members rescind motion got voted on. Can you help me understand this. Thanks

  16. We passed a motion at our last P&C meeting to run our own fun run. It was carried and discussion was had about prizes. We talked about whether an iPad was appropriate for a prize and how we would hand said prize out. Eg: highest fundraiser wins or tickets for amounts raised go into a draw for winner. Next meeting we had a motion given to commitee to have highest fundraiser win, it was seconded and no one talked against the motion. Chairman called for votes and it was accepted by all. A member who was not at the meeting would like it done by tickets so would now like to recind the motion. We have already distributed fun run sheets and facts about highest fundraiser wins. Can the motion be rescinded???

  17. Hi,
    Board agreed to carry over last years referendum results. The agreement is to have all 3 organizations to vote YES to allow the referendum to move forward. We had 1 organization that voted NO last year. We are having another referendum with that organization. (the resolution is exactly the same) The other 2 organizations agreed to carry over the votes from last year.
    At the very end of the referendum (last day) one of the organizations decided to rescind their YES vote. We are 15 days into the referendum, the memberships believe the YES vote will stand.
    Can the organization rescind.

    • Hi April.
      I have to make a pile of assumptions in answering your question and it all depends on any rules that are laid down by the organisations or any statute you may operate under.
      Having said all that, it seems unreasonable for the organisation to rescind on the last day. That would, in my opinion, and I am not a lawyer, mean the whole process was flawed and would need to start again.

      In things like this, it’s always wise just to go back to good sense and reason and common sense. What you have described is not reasonable and a far thinking person would, I think, agree. So I think it is back to the drawing board for this one.

      No winners unfortunately!

  18. recently our town council in manitoba made a resolution in the absence of the mayor. when he returned he did not like the resolution and moved to have it rescinded without any real reason being given. can he do this?

    • Hi Rex,
      He sure can, but a wise chair would never do that. Firstly while is it generally “legal: for the chair to move a motion, a wise chairman rarely would except for motions of condolence or congratulations.
      But at the end of the day, the meeting actually decides whether to rescind the motion, not the mayor.

  19. I was hired in a board meeting of the corporation of which I was a member two years ago as President Emeritus. I have been working under an executed contract since then.

    Now, two years later, the Board met in Executive Session and voted to “rescind the honorary title”. I had no “honorary title”, no mention of it in original motion.

    What do I do now?

  20. At a resent HOA AGM a member made a motion to add a home owner to the Board. The Chairman inadvertently allowed the motion. It was voted on. After the fact the Bylaws were reviewed to find that adding a person contravened the bylaws, not to mention that the whole election of officers process was completely ignored. The Chair has discussed this with the elected person. That person has agreed that they will not sit on the Board. Can a simple solution be to ask the seconder to withdraw the second thus having the motion defeated? The seconder has agreed if this will work. Or does the Board at the next regular meeting put forth a motion to resind then include it in the AGM minutes to be approved in 2018.

  21. At a meeting a decision was made on a specific course of action, no action was yet taken on that decision. at a further meeting a decision was taken to rescind the previous decision and passed. The question is whether the decision to rescind is actually a “decision” for the purpose of a call-in, this is because technically the original decision has been rescinded and status quo remains, so there is no “decision” so to speak? or is the decision to rescind still a decision capable of call-in in its own right?

    • The rescission is still a decision in its own right.
      The term you use “call-in” which is unfanmiliar to me and can find no reference to it in any reference.
      What do you mean by “call-in”.

  22. Our nonprofit society’s Board created a committee and approved a motion that the committee negotiate an agreement with another nonprofit Board to fulfil a specific goal of our nonprofit. That motion having been approved, and delivered to the Board of the other nonprofit, the committee believed they had a mandate to negotiate that agreement, a mandate that was a Board Resolution, and thus binding on our Board. And the other Board believed they had a Board-approved decision on which to base their decision to go ahead and allocate necessary funds to begin the negotiation. Our committee raised funds, for the necessary professional fees entailed, including legal fees for advice. The other Board has paid both for staff time and its own legal assistance. The other Board began to sense that it would need assurance that our Board would not pull out of the agreement (our Board was being slow to retain our lawyer); grant funds the other Board was ready to allocate to the project were instead held, and the committee was advised not to pay yet for the services it had collected donations for in full, until assurance was given that our Board’s intentions were not to pull out of the process. The asked-for assurance was given, verbally, by both the President and Vice President of our Society. The collaboration between our Board’s committee and the other Board’s Executive Director was working to an implementation plan with successive Steps, with timeline and a time limit. However, our Board made a decision that they needed to “ on hold” their involvement in the project. After some time, during which the collaboration continued in hopes the timeline could still be met, despite our lawyer not being retained, our Board has now passed a motion to rescind the previous motion-to-negotiate. Our Board has also suspended the activities of the committee until further notice. The Committee is embarrassed by our Board pulling out of the agreement, after funds had already been expended by the other Board in direct consequence of the excellent wording of the first motion. The committee has to accept the approved motion to suspend its negotiations (actually completed: the collaboratively crafted agreement is ready for legal review). Presumably the committee must also accept the approved motion to rescind the previous motion-to-negotiate the agreement; because although the first motion was “acted upon”, there do remain a few Steps before completion. The committee is lucky to have expended only volunteer time and effort, and be able to return to the donors all the funds donated . But our committee is ashamed that our Board has occasioned expenditures for the other Board that cannot be recouped. My question is about how “legally binding on the Board” such a resolution as the first approved motion to negotiate should have been, and whether it should, ethically speaking, or legally speaking, be so simple for a Board to rescind a previous motion made and acted upon as it was.

    • Wow this sounds complex.
      The bottom line is that if action has already been taken it is completely illogical to rescind the motion. It does not really matter how much action has been taken.
      The correct procedure is to move a completely new motion to stop the project, or further work.
      It sounds very messy and you may have no choice but to seek legal advice.
      The other option is to get an external impartial mediator to sit down with all the parties and work out a solution.

      Please Note: The author accepts no responsibility for anything which occurs directly or indirectly as a result of using any of the suggestions or procedures detailed in this blog. This is not, and should not be taken as legal advice. All suggestions and procedures are provided in good faith as general guidelines only and should be used in conjunction with appropriate advice relevant legislation, constitutions, rules, laws, by-laws, and with reasonable judgement. If you are in any doubt, seek appropriate advice.

  23. How long does a motion moved at a committee meeting stay in place. If made in 2012 would it still be legal in 2020. It is in regard to sub-committees. Would it be best to just move another motion or would the original need to be rescinded

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