Point of Order – what, why, when and how

A point of order is a tool, which is used to draw attention to a breach in rules, an irregularity in procedure, the irrelevance or continued repetition of a speaker or the breaching of established practices or contradiction of a previous decision.

It can be used at any time during a meeting including interrupting a speaker, but it must be valid. A point of order is not raised because you disagree with or do not like what is being said.

How do you raise a point of order?
You do not move a point of order, you raise it or take it. The method is to say the words “point of order”, wait for the chair to acknowledge the point of order and then state it clearly. Whether you normally stand to speak in your meetings or not, it is wise to stand when raising a point of order so that it is perfectly clear that a) there is a serious point of order being raised, and b) to identify the person raising the point.

Caution
Do not use points of order too much. Many people use them to disagree with the speakers’s opinion. When they are used either incorrectly, or too much, the other people in the meeting frequently tire of the person raising them and he or she loses support.

Examples of correct “Points of Order”

… point of order Mr Chairperson,… the speaker is not speaking to the motion.
… point of order, …. allowing this person to move this motion contravenes standing order number 34, that the mover of the substantive motion cannot move a procedural motion which closes debate.
… point of order, …. the speaker is repeating the same points he has already made.
… point of order, …. the motion contravenes our by-laws.
… point of order, …. the specific facts the speaker is giving are incorrect. (Note: this is not a statement of opinion, but of fact and assumes the person raising the point of order can validate the point)
… point of order, …. the speaker’s time limit has expired.
… point of order, …. the language the speaker is using is offensive.
… point of order, …. the meeting no longer has a quorum.

Examples which are not valid points of order

… point of order, …. that’s not true.
… point of order, …. I disagree with that.
… point of order, …. I want to explain why I said that.
… point of order, …. the speaker shouldn’t be allowed to say that.
… point of order, …. how long do we have to listen to this?
… point of order, …. I can’t hear what the speaker is saying

When must the Point of Order be Raised?
The point of order must be raised immediately the alleged breach or irregularity occurs – that is why it can interrupt a speaker or the chair.

What must the chair do when a point of order is raised?
Immediately a point of order is raised the chair must stop the speaker or stop the process of the meeting and deal with the point of order.

The chair should ask the speaker to resume his or her seat and then list to the point of order. Having heart the point, the chair must rule immediately subject to conferring with relevant authorities about the validity of the issue raised in the point of order.

There are three possible statements a chairperson can make:

1. “That is not a point of order”.
This is made when the point of order which has been raised is not a point of order. It is most likely a statement of opinion or similar and should be dealt with quickly.

2. I will accept your point of order and therefore …” In this instance the chair will continue the meeting according to the correct procedure, having had attention drawn to a breach or irregularity.

3. “I do not accept your point or order”
In this case the chair will continue with the meeting as if there had been no interruption.

Can a Point of Order be Debated?

No debate is permitted on a point of order beyond fair reasonable clarification of procedures or rules.

Can a Point of Order be Challenged?

Yes, but this should be done with great caution. If a person in a meeting believes that the ruling given by the chair in response to a point of order is incorrect, then the procedural motion “dissenting from the chair’s ruling” should be moved immediately.

This motion disagreeing with the ruling of the chair should be seconded and put to the vote without debate. The result of the vote will determine whether the ruling is upheld or reversed.

Special Note: There are some legal technicalities here, which should be considered if your meetings are likely to have legal significance. There is not a clear-cut legal ruling. There are legal precedents, which say the ruling by the chair on a point of order cannot be challenged, and others which say it can. The wisest way to deal with this is before the event, by including a specific clause in your constitution or standard orders, which either allows a challenge or denies it. (It would be wise to allow challenges.)

Can there be more than one point of order at the same time?

Technically, yes, but it is very rare. A point of order having been raised, may itself be dealt with incorrectly in which case it would be valid for a second point of order to be raised about the irregularity of dealing with the first point of order.

In this case, the second point of order would be dealt with first, and then the original point of order. As a general rule however, there can only be one point of order being considered.

If the chair is competent and deals with points of order correctly, there should never be two points of order before the chair.

Should Points of Order be Recorded in the Minutes?

Generally no, unless the rules of the organisation state that they should (and this is extremely rare and unnecessary). In most organizations, points of order are not recorded.