VOTING PROCESS IN A BUSINESS MEETING – How are Abstentions Counted?

The comments below were given by various members of the Conference Steps, Traditions, and Concepts Committee and do not represent a group conscience of the entire committee. The opinions expressed here are solely that of the person giving them. Take what you like and leave the rest.

The Question:
I have a question about voting in a Business Meeting. We had a motion that was seconded and we voted with the following results:
4 For
1 Against
3 Abstained
The group interpreted this as a NO because they counted the abstained with the total so it was a tie. What are the exact rules of the voting process and are there any documents available?


Response #1:
This vote is contradictory to our basic principles. We are democratic, both our Fellowship and our Service Structure.

But we do not have any rules. We do follow the principles of our program. That is, we follow the Steps, the Traditions, and the Concepts.  Also, there is a process for voting at the Annual Business Meeting that is consistent with the Concepts and is expected to be used by any Business Meeting in our Fellowship. It may be that the business meeting in question is confused by the three-vote process at the ABM. That process is described in the Conference Service Manual (available on our website: https://slaafws.org/Conference/CSM.pdf) on pages 39 through 45. It is clear in the
CSM that “abstentions don’t count.”

I suspect that a meeting or two of this BM focused on reviewing the Twelve Concepts and even reviewing the CSM would be beneficial. It would be worthwhile specially to review Concept Five and the idea of minority opinion and the Right of Appeal. It sounds like the business meeting in question needs to be open to an appeal.

Response #2:
Tradition Four states that each group is autonomous, so each one can decide how to vote in
accordance with their own group conscience.  The Twelve Concepts, while written for World Service, can also provide guidance on this issue.  The Sixth Warranty of Concept Twelve states: “…like the Fellowship it serves, it will always remain democratic in thought and action.”

In my experience of voting in a democratic fashion, abstentions do not count as “no” votes. The individual’s abstaining are specifically not choosing for or against, so including them in the against column would appear to be counter to their intention and the generally accepted practice of democratic voting.


What do you think?
The CSTCC is a group of volunteers, some of whom were ABM delegates, and others who volunteered out of interest. We do not represent a group conscience of S.L.A.A., but are committed to bringing thoughtful discussion and study of 12 Step Fellowship literature and experience to the questions that are brought to us. We offer this summary as the results of our discussions. We present the major points of concern in the hopes that wider discussion in the Fellowship will help us evolve our customs and practice of the S.L.A.A. program of recovery to better represent the loving guidance of a Higher Power. Always, we affirm the autonomy of each group and the need for each individual to follow her/his own conscience. No decision of this group, or any other, is ever forced upon another, even when we believe a practice is clearly in conflict with the Steps, Traditions, or Concepts.