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Changing Your Mind Gracefully: Reconsider and Rescind
Part One

It is not unusual for a group to change its mind – circumstances change, information changes, the politics of the situation causes a change.  Whatever the reason, a decision-making group can, and frequently does, change its mind.  Robert’s gives us several ways to change our minds.  But they are so complicated that people frequently get them mixed up and misuse them.  At a very high level, let’s look at how a group of people can change their minds, either right away, or at a later date.  The motions are Reconsider and Rescind.  Actually, there are three motions.  The third is to Amend Something Previously Adopted but the rules for that motion are so similar to the motion to Rescind that they are frequently treated as one, and we will do that here.

Reconsider
If someone in the group changes their mind on a motion voted on at the current meeting (whether the motion passed or failed) that member can move to Reconsider the motion.  The effect of this motion is to erase the original vote on the motion and put the assembly in exactly the place it was right before that vote occurred.  Key to this motion is that it must be made at the same meeting as the original motion (with a few exceptions) and it can only be made by a member who voted on the prevailing side (if the motion passed, the member had to vote in favor of the motion; if the motion failed, the member had to vote against the motion).  The principle is that someone in the group has to have changed their mind before the entire group has to consider it again.

warningWarning:  This motion is extremely complicated!  It is clearly the most difficult motion to master and understand.  It has some very unusual rules and applications that make it both challenging and extremely useful.  In my book The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Robert’s Rules I point out:  The motion to reconsider is recognized as a uniquely American motion.  Actually, it is the only motion of American origin.  But, when you realize how complicated it is, it may be something we don’t want to put the “Made in USA” brand on!

Rescind
This motion is used at a later meeting and has the purpose of canceling the action the group took at a previous meeting.  If the group wants to simply change a part of the action they took at a previous meeting, then the motion is to Amend Something Previously Adopted, but the rules are the same.

Unlike the motion to Reconsider, the motion to Rescind has no time limit and can be made by any member, no matter how they voted on the original motion that you are proposing to rescind.  There are some restrictions on what can be Rescinded, e.g. when something has been done as a result of the vote that can’t be undone.  The restrictions are clearly stated in Robert’s on pages 297-8.

Another restriction is the vote required.  It would not be fair to go to a later meeting, look around, see that most of the people who supported the motion last meeting when it passed are not at this meeting and then make the motion to Rescind that motion!  Therefore, if you give notice that you are going to make the motion, it only takes a majority vote.  But without notice, it takes a two-thirds vote or a majority of the entire membership.  This vote requirement is another example of the fairness built into Robert’s.

An important point to remember about Rescind is that you can not Rescind something that was never done!  So if a motion was made at a previous meeting and the motion failed, the group took no action.  Therefore there is nothing to Rescind.  If the group would like to take an action on that issue, instead of Reconsider or Rescind the previous action, Robert’s says that you simply renew the motion.  That is, you make it as a new motion.  The only restrictions are that you can not make it at the same meeting that the original motion was made and failed, and any additional restrictions that are added by the groups own rules. 

If you are interested in more complete information on these motions as well as a table that compares these motions, please go to the article Reconsider & Rescind Part 2. There you will find this article followed by a much more detailed analysis of these motions.  The information included in that expanded article is:

  • Purpose
    • Reconsider
    • Rescind
  • Strategic Uses – Typical & Atypical
    • Reconsider
    • Rescind
  • Confusion between Reconsider and Rescind
  • Script: Motion to Reconsider
  • Script: Motion to Rescind

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