General Assembly (GA) Manual

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Some more details on the GA, mainly of use to the ExCo, Election Committee, Chairman and Parliamentarian.

General Assembly Procedures

The SG shall be the Secretary to the GA. If not present, the ExCo shall nominate another member of the ExCo (or Secretariat) or a delegate to fulfil this role, subject to GA approval.

At the beginning of the first session of the GA there will be a roll call of all MOs carried out by the Secretary General or their replacement. They shall note the names of the present delegates and ExCo members.

A Steering Meeting will be held by the ExCo at the start of the first session of each GA to explain the rights of the delegates and the formal procedures, including:

  • A brief explanation of the ExCo, Secretariat and Trust (IVSA Governance Manual)
  • A brief explanation of GAs (GA Manual for the Members - "What a GA is", "What is done in a GA")
  • A brief introduction to Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised (RONR) (GA Manual for the Members - "Motions", "Guide to Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised" (probably just introductory and commonly used rules sections)
  • A brief explanation of our voting system, and the different methods of voting on motions (GA Manual - "Voting", GA Manual for the Members - "Voting")

The Chairman and Parliamentarian shall be elected in the first GA session and will carry through to the last unless a motion is passed by a majority vote to elect a new Official.

The Chairman shall be responsible for maintaining order according to RONR and shall have no vote.

The Parliamentarian shall be responsible for ensuring that the GA is run according to the Constitution and Bylaws, and may be called upon by the GA to clarify parliamentary inquiries. They should be provided with the most recent copy of the IVSA Constitution and Bylaws.

The Secretary to the GA shall be responsible for the official roll call of voting entities (countries and supernational organizations) present at the start of each session of the GA. Roll call is done for the purpose of calculating if quorum is present. Should countries join the GA partway through the GA session, they may still vote.

When nominations for the Election Committee occur, the GA should be reminded that nobody who is considering being nominated for a position on the ExCo, Secretariat or Trust should be on the Election Committee.

While it may technically be allowed, as a “best governance practice”, the ExCo should not be making or seconding motions, but rather informing the GA about administrational issues and developments. Then the Chair can entertain a motion from the floor, and it would be seconded and discussed before a vote. Sometimes, if a motion follows from a report or simply because it makes more sense within the structure of our GAs, the content of the motion is explained by an ExCo member before the Chair entertains an exact motion (which the Chair should state) from the floor.

Trustees may make motions as long as they are IVSA members. All Trustees should either be student members of MOs, automatic Individual Supportive Members (ISMs) for the first 2 years after graduation, or fee-paying ISMs after this.


If a voting entity is represented only by a member of the ExCo, that country is not technically represented (members of ExCo do not have the right to vote) and thus cannot vote.

The vote system used by IVSA is the two (2) vote system, in which all MOs from a single voting entity must come to an agreement between themselves as to how they want to cast their two votes. It is left to the MOs of the voting entity to decide exactly how to do this, but each MO represented should have an equal say. If a voting entity had two (2) MOs present, one of which had three (3) delegates and one of which had one (1), the MO with three (3) delegates should have one (1) vote and the MO with one (1) delegate should also have one (1) vote. In more complex situations (e.g. with 3 or more MOs from one voting entity represented), it is up to the MOs to decide between themselves what to do, but ensuring each MO has an equal say should be the top priority.

If an abstain vote is cast, it means that a "non-vote" is given - that vote is subtracted from the total number of votes in order to calculate the result (thus it does NOT mean the same as a "no" vote), but does still count towards quorum. For simplicity, it can be explained as "halfway between for and against", and should be given when the delegates of the voting entity do not feel they know or understand enough about the issue to cast their vote, or when they do not have any feelings either for or against the issue.

For each of their two (2) votes they can either vote for, against or abstain, on a particular issue/motion. So they can either:

  • give two (2) votes for,
  • give one (1) vote for, and one (1) abstain vote,
  • give two (2) abstain votes,
  • give one (1) vote for, and one (1) against vote,
  • give one (1) vote against, and one (1) abstain vote,
  • give two (2) votes against.

In the case of a voting to elect a person, no matter how many people in the list, they can either pick a person to vote for, or abstain. We do not allow voting against a person. Again, this goes for each of their two (2) votes - they can either:

  • pick one (1) person to vote for twice,
  • pick two (2) different people to vote for once,
  • pick one (1) person to vote for once, and give one (1) abstain vote,
  • give two (2) abstain votes.

Motions and Debate

Only IVSA members who are members of the General Assembly may make motions (including ex officio members, but not guests as they are not IVSA members so cannot be members of the General Assembly). Only full Member Organizations may vote on motions.

Main motions should be written down and sent to the SG in advance of the GA, preferably before the agenda is circulated not less than 30 days before the first GA.

Changes to the Constitution need to be sent to the SG in advance of 60 days before the first GA session, so the SG can circulate them to the MOs not less than 60 days before the first GA session.

Changes to the Bylaws need to be sent to the SG in advance of 30 days before the first GA session, so the SG can circulate them to the MOs not less than 30 days before the first GA session.

Once a motion has been made and seconded, it is open for discussion. The maker of the motion has first priority at the start of debate to speak to their motion. When no further debate, the chair asks the question and a vote is taken.

Voting on Motions

Voting can be by general consent if the chair thinks a motion unlikely to be opposed. The chair says "Any objections? ... Hearing none, <the motion passes / X is elected / ... >". If one member says "I object", the motion must be put to a vote.

The most commonly used type of voting in parliamentary assemblies is a simple voice vote, but IVSA does not use this as it cannot accurately represent our voting system.

The Chairman asks those in favour to say "aye", and those opposed to say "nay" (those abstaining remain silent). As this represents the views of the individual delegates instead of the votes present in the GA, and there is no way of fairly showing two votes per country using this system, especially as some countries will be represented by one delegate, the Chairman should not attempt to use this method of voting.

Any member may call for a card raising vote but can't order a count or call for a roll call vote without a second. The chair may order a count or call for a roll call vote.

The most commonly used type of voting in IVSA is the card raising vote (equivalent to the hand raising vote in RONR). In this type of vote, each voting entity shall appoint one person to show their votes. The Chairman asks those in favour to raise their voting cards, and then those opposed to raise their voting cards. The appointed person raises 1 card for 1 vote and 2 cards for 2 votes. Each voting entity may only cast a maximum of 2 votes. If they vote less than twice, they are abstaining from casting the remaining vote(s).

A more formal type of voting, which is significantly more time consuming, is a roll call vote. In this type of vote, the Secretary to the GA shall call out the names of all the voting entities present. Each voting entity shall appoint one person to call out their votes in response. They may call out any of the combinations of votes listed under "Voting".

The most time consuming method of voting, which is used in situations when it is thought that a secret vote is appropriate (most commonly in IVSA for voting to elect a person), is a written ballot vote. In this type of vote, ballots shall be handed out and each country shall write down their vote, before folding the ballots so the vote cannot be seen, and handing them in for counting.

These different voting methods must be clearly explained to delegates and sufficient time must be allowed for voting. When a voting method is used where not much time will be allowed for discussion before voting and moving on (e.g. any objections?), it must be made clear to delegates that if they wish for extra time to discuss matters before a vote, they should say so.


A nominee does not need to be physically present to run for a position. It is preferred that if not physically present, the nominees be available via video conference, phone or other voice communication. The presentation can be given by the nominator.

A nominee holds a presentation for the GA that is no more than 5 minutes long. This time can be reduced depending on what the nomination is for and time constraints on the GA in session.

The election system used for electing the ExCo (except for special cases, e.g. voting between members of a country when more than 2 have been provisionally elected to the ExCo) is simple majority. This means that more than 50% of the votes cast must be for one nominee. If this is not the case, revoting occurs as described in the Bylaws. This applies for Member of ExCo positions too, meaning that, for example:

If there are 2 positions as Member of ExCo available, and 5 nominees, and only 1 of the nominees obtains >50% of the available votes for a position, only this 1 is elected to the ExCo in the first round of voting. The person with the least number of votes resigns their nomination and voting is held between the remaining 3 nominees for the remaining position. And so on.

If applied to Secretariat and Trust, this could potentially result in a lot of time-consuming revoting, so to streamline the elections, plurality-at-large is used, whereby the nominees with the highest numbers of votes are elected to fill the available positions whether or not they have a majority (they have a relative majority, also known as a plurality).

The same person can be nominated for more than one ExCo position. If elected to more than one position, the member may choose the position they prefer, after which (a) new election(s) shall be held for the other position(s). The person may be elected to more than one position by such (a) subsequent election(s). If the member is absent the group will decide by vote which position the absent member shall have. If there is more than one other nominee for the position the member does not choose, there will be another vote between the remaining nominees for that position.

In the Case of too few Nominees during Symposium or Congress

If there are no nominees for President-Elect at Symposium, the President may be elected during Congress.

If there are no nominees for President during Congress or if there are not even 6 nominees for the ExCo, the Secretariat will assume governance of IVSA until a Special Session of the General Assembly can be assembled during which the GA will decide on the election of a new ExCo.

Two Member per Country Limit

While situations may arise where it would seem sensible to exceed this limit, it is not possible to do so, as a rule for eligibility for office is not in the nature of a rule of order and so cannot be suspended (under RONR, suspension of the Bylaws is allowed only for Bylaws that are in the nature of rules of order, and for RONR, with a ⅔ majority).

The Event of a Tie

In the event of a tie for a position in the ExCo, Secretariat, Trust, or any other position (or the host of a Congress or Symposium), revoting will take place until one nominee has a majority or the result of a round of voting remains identical to the previous round in which case it is suggested that the rules be suspended so that the person to be elected will be chosen by the toss of a coin.

Nominations for the Trust

In the following paragraphs:

"If there are more than six (6) nominees for the Trust, but less than six (6) nominees who have held a position in the ExCo, those nominees who have held a position in the ExCo will be elected without a vote.

If six (6) or more members who have held a position in the ExCo are nominated for a Trustee position, the nominations of all nominees who have not held a position in the ExCo are invalidated.",

the "nominees" referred to are those nominees whose nomination is still valid at the time of the election of the Trust (i.e. after the elections of the ExCo and the Secretariat) - so no nominations should be invalidated until after these elections, when it is known for certain which nominations are still valid.

Chairman Manual

Ideally, the President of IVSA would act as the Chairman. However, in GAs, there are often members who are more knowledgeable/experienced about Robert's Rules than the President.

The ExCo should have a Chairman in mind before Congress or Symposium. This can be an ExCo member, or any delegate. It is recommended that he/she has attended at least one IVSA Congress or Symposium before. The Chairman should be familiar with "Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised In Brief". The Chairman should also ensure they are very familiar with the GA Manual for the Members, and the GA Manual (especially the "Voting on Motions" section!). Ideally they would be familiar with the Constitution and Bylaws of IVSA too, though the Parliamentarian should know the most about such matters. The Chairman should ensure that he has suitable reference material to hand, e.g. this Manual, and the "Guide to Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised (RONR)" in the GA Manual for the Members.

At the beginning of each GA session, the Chairman calls the GA to order (says "The GA will come to order"). The President of IVSA (if present) shall call the first GA to order as an "acting Chairman" before one is officially elected.

Agenda: This must be changed if necessary then approved (majority vote). Amending it later requires a 2/3 vote (or unanimous consent of course).

Minutes: "The minutes of the previous GA have been distributed. Are there any corrections to the minutes?". Corrections are normally made without objection (but corrections can be discussed and voted on if necessary). When there are no corrections left: "If there are no further corrections, the minutes are approved."

Reports: Those of the ExCo, Secretariat, Trust and Committee Chairs are normally within the proceedings/programme booklet of the Symposium or Congress. If any of these, or any other reports, are required to be given verbally, the Chair can recognise positions or committees to deliver a report. If a report contains recommendations for action by the GA, such items may be debated and voted on at the end of the report containing them (if given verbally). At the end of the reports, if there are no corrections to the reports to be discussed, they shall be approved if necessary (ExCo, Secretariat and Trust reports require approval).

Nominations: "Nominations are now in order for the office of <President>" ... Under RONR, nominations do not require seconding, but under our Bylaws they do! "Are there any further nominations?", when none "Nominations are closed".

The elections for Committee Chairs are held alongside those of the ExCo, Secretariat and Trust, although there is no prescribed method in our Bylaws for electing Committee Chairs at present. However, the same procedures as for a single ExCo position can be followed, and the vote for any contested positions should be by written ballot. If there is only one nominee for a position for which the vote is not required to be by written ballot, nominees running unopposed can be declared elected without a vote just like our Bylaws allow for ExCo officers.

When opening nominations for ExCo positions for the first time in a GA, the Chair should remind people that nominations for ExCo automatically count for Secretariat should they not be elected to the ExCo, unless they opt out.

Recess: Requires a majority vote (or of course unanimous consent). Instead of recessing for a specified period of time, the Chair can entertain a motion to recess until called to order by the Chair.

The Chair may also direct the GA to stand at ease, if nobody objects - members stay in their places, talking quietly, until again called to order. Appropriate if the Chair suspects some voting entities may wish to discuss before voting on something.

When a motion has been made and seconded, if in order, the Chair states the question ("It is moved and seconded that..."), then it is on the floor and open for debate. If not in order, the Chair states "The Chair rules that the motion is not in order because...".

The maker of the motion has priority to speak to their motion if they wish.

In debate, the Chair recognises the first person to rise after the floor has been yielded, with preference for someone who has not yet spoken, and ideally alternating between those in favour of and against the motion. Someone moving the previous question has preference for the floor.

The Chair does not participate in debate (unless they give up the Chair temporarily…)

When no further debate: "Are you ready for the question?" or "Is there any further debate?", if none: "The question is on the adoption of the motion that...". Then one of the voting methods described in "GA Manual - Voting on Motions" is used and the Chair declares the result:

  • "the ayes have it, and the motion is adopted. ... . The next item on the agenda is..."
  • "the noes have it, and the motion is lost. ... . The next item on the agenda is..."

In the case of a written ballot vote, if voting is occurring, sufficient time for consideration has been allowed, and some members still appear not to have voted, the Chair can state “Have all voted who wish to do so?”. If there is no response, the Chair says, “If no one else wishes to vote, [pause], the polls are closed” (by unanimous consent). If there is a response, the polls can be closed by a 2/3 majority vote (the Chair could entertain a motion to close the polls). RONR does state that it is usually best to rely on the Chair to close the polls, so simple coercion is recommended unless one MO is taking an exceptionally long time to cast their vote…

All votes for people should be by written ballot, as should a vote for the host of a Congress or Symposium.

If an uncontroversial motion (e.g. many secondary motions), a motion does not need to be formally stated - the Chair may say "Is there any objection to...", if none: "Hearing none, ...". Even for “friendly amendments” (there is no such thing really), the Chair should check if there is any objection.

RONR time limit for debate is 10 minutes per speech (we rarely get near that). Each person may speak only twice on any debatable motion on the same day. These limits can be limited or extended by a 2/3 vote (or unanimous consent). Such motions are undebatable but can be amended. They may include motions such as "I move that at 4pm debate be closed and the question on the motion put".

After the group has voted on an amendment, you cannot offer another amendment that raises the same question of content and effect. However, this principle may be applied with common sense!

Parliamentarian Manual

The ExCo should have a Parliamentarian in mind before Congress or Symposium. This can be an ExCo member, or any delegate. It is recommended that he/she has attended at least one IVSA Congress or Symposium before. The Parliamentarian should be very familiar with the Constitution and Bylaws of IVSA. Ideally they would be familiar with the Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised (RONR) too, though the Chairman should be the authority on such matters.

The Parliamentarian should sit beside the Chairman. The Parliamentarian has a purely advisory role under RONR - all rulings must come from the Chair, and only if something is very complex should the Chair ask the Parliamentarian to explain something to the GA directly. In practice, in IVSA GAs, the Parliamentarian often ends up addressing the GA.

The Parliamentarian should also be familiar with the Committees and Groups Manual, especially the Election Committee section, to ensure that procedures are followed with respect to these entities.

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