What Is “Call the Question”?

Call the Question

“Call the question” is a subsidiary motion used to end the current discussion and bring the motion on the floor to a vote. It is considered a vote to start a vote. Any member, who has not spoken on the matter, can raise this motion at any time during the discussion. It has to be seconded for the chair to consider it and needs a two-thirds vote to pass. Once the motion is adopted, it is prioritised over all other procedures, excluding points of order and privilege. Then the motion on the floor is immediately brought to a vote.

Other terms for “call the question”

“Call the question” is given several other names in board meetings, including "call for the question", "call for a vote", "vote now", "previous question", and "close the debate".

Purpose of calling the question

Calling the question is not a method to end the debate immediately on the say of one person, as it requires a second and then a two-thirds vote to pass. It simply implies that the person raising the motion feels that there has been enough discussion on the pending motion. If at least two-thirds of other attendees agree, only then can it be brought to a vote without further discussion. 

The chairperson may also move to end the discussion if they feel that enough viewpoints have been shared.

Procedure for calling the question

The board meeting protocol to call the question as per Robert’s Rules of Order is as follows:

  • A member raises their hand
  • The chair recognises the member and gives them the nod to speak
  • The member makes the motion to call the question by saying, "I call the question" or "I move the previous question"
  • Another member, without being recognised, seconds the motion by saying, "I second"
  • The chair, without any debate, asks for a vote to call the question by a show of hands
  • If two-thirds of the board members agree, the motion passes and the chair says, "There are two-thirds in favour, so we will vote on the pending motion"
  • If there is not a two-thirds decision, the chair will say “There are not two-thirds in favour so the discussion will continue”

It should be noted that calling the question is not applicable in committee meetings.

Calling the question on all remaining motions

Although unorthodox, a motion to call the question can also be used to vote on all pending meeting motions before the board. The member must say, "I call the question on all pending motions" or "I move the previous question on all remaining motions". If this passes with a two-thirds majority, the chair takes individual votes on each remaining motion.  

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