Casting Votes – when and how to use them

Casting votes is an issue that has come up recently with a client. They sound simple but there is a little bit behind them.

Firstly, casting votes are sometimes called second votes. They occur when a vote is taken in a meeting and there is an equal number of votes in favour as there is against.

Does you constitution allow a casting vote?

The first thing you must know is whether your constitution allows a casting vote to be exercised by the person in the chair. You MUST find that out before anything.

Many organisations allow their chairman, president, presiding officer to have a deliberative vote – that’s the vote they get because they are a member, as well as a casting vote to be used when there is “an equality of votes” or a tie.

Here are the important issues.

1. The casting vote can only be used if the person presiding has already cast their deliberative vote.  So if the chair puts the issue to the vote, but does not vote him or herself and there is a tie, then the casting vote does not apply because they have not yet exercised their deliberative vote. (The deliberative vote should be used at the same time as everyone else votes – see the post on deliberative voting)

If, after they have exercise their deliberative vote there is a tie, then the casting vote can be exercised.

2.  This is the really tricky bit for some people. A wise chair will nearly always exercise their casting vote to “preserve the status quo“. That means they will vote so the situation does NOT change. In most circumstances, that means that they will vote against the proposal although some proposals are worded so that a vote in favour preserves the status quo.

I can almost hear some people saying WHY????

The answer is that by preserving the status quo, the issue is free to be raised again at a later meeting when there is more support. But the reason wise people vote this way is that if the casting vote is used to change something, then the decision has in reality been made by one person – the person in the chair. As many people are in favour as are against and it is not a sound decision.

I have read research that shows that decisions that are made upon a casting vote nearly always get reversed at a following meeting and the people who regularly use their casting votes to make changes, are often challenged for their position when they come up for election.

Now there will be times when the chair will use their casting vote to make a change. These are things where there has been considerable debate over many meetings and a decision simply has to be made.  These situations are rare but they do occur.

Bottom line is – use casting votes with great care.








  1. avatar Deliberative votes | Master Of Meetings Says:

    […] Also see the post on casting votes […]

  2. avatar Bob Kirchner Says:

    My understanding of casting votes is that they were purely a mechanism to break a deadlock and whether or not a chairman had vast his or her deliberative vote was irrelevant.

    Certainly the custom is for a casting vote to be cast “to retain the status quo” but, although I do not disagree with stated reasons as to “why” my understanding was that the custom related to the fact that in common law, casting votes do not exist and that if a vote is tied then a motion is automatically deemed to be lost.

    The concept of a casting vote, then, is to assist “mere mortal” entities to actually come to a decision, even to allow for a change if, in the probably one out of 10 cases where a change may be warranted, that can be done.

  3. avatar Lee Says:

    What happens when the ‘status quo’ is ambiguous? In this example half of a committee thinks a comittee member is not eligable (to attend) while half think they are.

    This was in the case of a ambiguous resignation statement that was later rescinded by that member.

  4. avatar Jean Kennedy Says:

    Please could you tell me what is the position if a chairman
    Will not leave his chairman position and uses his casting vote
    All the time on important issues that might benefit him or another
    Company that he is involved with?

  5. avatar Jeffrey Negra Says:

    In recent meeting of two Directors of a Super Fund,the Wife chaired the meeting to pass a resolution to sell a property Husband voted not to sell and Wife to sell.
    Then the Wife used the casting vote to get things her way. Is this in order.

  6. avatar David Price Says:

    It depends entirely on the constitution of your Super fund.
    If the rules give the chair a casting vote, then Yes, she can do what she did.
    If the rules are silent, which they quite likely are, then custom dictates that the chair has a casting vote and so, yes she can.

    Probably not the answer you want. It may be wise to seek legal advice – I am not a lawyer.

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