Rescission of motions

Di from country New South Wales, Australia has asked a question about rescission of motions.

Rescission motions are always tricky – not in procedure but usually because of the “people aspect”.


Firstly, you need to check the constitution and by-laws of your organisation – they may have specific rules regarding rescission motions. If they do, you need to follow them of course.


If they don’t have specific rules for rescission, then the following applies.


1. If the action that the original motion required has already been taken, then it is pointless for the rescission motion to be moved or contemplated – basically the action is done, no motion will fix it.

2. If the action has been partially taken, then it is best to simply move that no further action be taken.

3. If no action has been taken, then anyone can move the rescission motion. The correct wording is: “That the motion to do XYZ, be rescinded”, or, “That the motion carried at the Marsh 24th meeting requiring XYZ, be rescinded.” or, if you give motions numbers or references, “That motion number F456, moved and carried on March 24th, be rescinded.

4. The motion can be moved and seconded by anyone.

5. If your rules do not state otherwise, it can be carried by a simple majority – 51%

Here’s an extract from my book Meeting Procedure Made Easy which goes into a little more detail:


A rescission motion is a motion to reverse a previous decision. There are lots of weird and wonderful rules that organisations have written into their by-laws about rescission. There is more “meet­ing folklore” about rescission than any other aspect of meeting procedure.

Some organisations’ rules say that the only way a motion can be rescinded is that if everyone who was present at the original meeting is present when it is rescinded. This is clearly ridiculous for if a meeting has become aware of certain information which makes it unwise for them to proceed in a particular course of action.

If everyone at the original meeting is not present at the meeting where the motion is to be rescinded, then the meeting in fact is bound to go on with some action which they agree is unwise.

Some organisations have rules which say that a rescission motion cannot be moved at the same meeting at which the original decision was made. This is also ridiculous because a meeting may become aware of information which makes a course of action decided upon earlier in the meeting, unwise to take. It is silly to go ahead with that action just because rules say that you cannot re­scind at the same meeting.


Some organisations say that a rescission motion can only be moved by the person who moved the original motion and even that it must be seconded by the person who seconded the original motion. This clearly is ridiculous. The original motion, once carried is the property of the meeting, not the person who moved it and any member has the right to move the rescission motion.

Some organisations also say that rescission motions cannot be dealt with within a certain time period such as three months or three meetings of the original motion. By now you will have realised that this is also totally ridiculous. There is no intelligent reason for this.

So how have these silly rules been written into organisations’, by­laws and standing orders? They usually come about when someone has moved a motion which has been carried and did not want it to be changed and they had enough power in the organisation to be able to change the rules of rescission to make change difficult or impossible. Then the normal course of action for a new organisation is that they copy another organisation’s rules which then become the draft of the new one. In this way these strange and unusual practices about rescission have been written into rules and by-laws of organisations everywhere.

So what do you do? You need to understand what rescission is all about. Rescission is simply reversing a decision which has previ­ously been made. The first test is if action resulting from the decision which has already occurred then there is no point in rescinding it. It doesn’t matter whether the meeting wants to rescind, if the action has already been taken it is pointless to rescind the motion.

For instance, I have been involved with an organisation who chose to write to a particular person expressing their displeasure about a particular course of action which that person had taken in the community. The letter was written, sent and delivered but at the next meeting, it was announced that the person who had received the letter was in fact not responsible for the course of action for which he had been accused so the meeting then thought the way to deal with this was to rescind the motion. This was the incorrect way to deal with it because the motion had already been carried and the action had been carried out.

Rescission was not the tool to draw out of the tool box in this case. The tool to draw out was in fact not a procedural motion but a substantive motion which would have been along the lines “that a letter of apology be written to the individual concerned”.

You cannot rescind a motion where the action resulting from it has already occurred. It makes no sense!

Rescission is about changing courses of action. Let’s look at that in logical terms and commonsense. Providing that the majority of people agree that a decision should be changed then it is reasonable that is should be done. However it depends on the definition of the term majority in this instance.

If we have a simple majority, that is one more than half, it is possible that certain groups can manipulate the meeting and wait for certain people not to be present and then move rescission motions so that courses of action that may have been won narrowly can be changed later.

The way around this is to build into your rules a sensible majority. That may be an absolute majority, that is one more than half of the total number who could be present regardless of the number who actually are present. It could be a 60% majority of the people present before a decision can be carried. Doing away with all the other silly rules. Anyone can move rescission at any time but for it to be carried it must achieve a 60% majority or it must receive an absolute majority. It will depend on your organisation as to which of these is the best course of action.


  1. avatar bill collier Says:

    Can a local council bylaw overrule the right to common justice? ie

    Can an executive officer of a council tell a councillor his notice to rescind is invalid , because the person involved was in the public gallery . And had received notice or it had been acted upon.
    If this is right, the moment the motion was passed it would deny natural justice of appeal

  2. avatar The Master of Meetings - David Price Says:

    Thankyou for your question Bill.
    Rescission is always tricky in local government because there are so many local laws or rules or standing orders, some of which are illogical or not in keeping with “standard practice” regarding rescission.

    So, my answer can only be general in nature since I don’t know the specific rules the council operates under.
    If the executive officer of a council has said that a notice to rescind is invalid, then it is reasonable for you to ask under which rule or by-law or standing order he or she makes that ruling.

    If the person involved was in the public gallery, that should make no difference but local government is full of strange rules.
    You are quite right in your comment about denying a rescission motion as soon as a motion is passed. If action has already been taken, then the rescission is superfluous, but if the action resulting from the original motion has not been taken, then a rescission motion should be in order.

    There was a time in some local government when rescission motions were not allowed. This is because the process was abused and every single decision had a rescission motion moved against it – this just stopped the whole council actually doing anything. Removing the right to rescind however was going too far the other way.

    Rescission is always tricky in local government however because you can and do get people who give notice of rescission for every motion they opposed and that is not fair or reasonable in anyone’s view – except their own.

  3. avatar jason Says:

    in some cases, recission motions are not valid for a period of time after the substantive motion has passed (eg for the rest of the same meeting; for the remainder of the day; etc).
    also, in some cases, a recission motion is not in order until a motion to reconsider the substantive motion has been proposed and carried.

  4. avatar carole kjellgren Says:

    If a motion is moved at an AGM to change the way a competition is conducted is this motion seen as a recommendation to the incoming committee to discuss before the start of the new season and decide if the change is warranted for the good of the competition OR does it immediately become a by law for the new sporting season.

    If a bylaw to change a competition is voted on and passed at one meeting. Then changes are made to the nomination form but it has not been released. Another general meeting is called in the course of getting ready for the new season and a person who was not at the previous meeting moves a motion to change the by-law passed at the previous meeting. Is the good meeting procedure?

  5. avatar verna greensborough Says:

    if a motion was put up to a agm not the way it was proposed and voted on what has to be done to rectify it.ex,! not read as 10-14 daywith the decision left to the organiser,printed in minutes as 2weeks instead of eight days, which was not the proposal do you recind or get it worded right way

  6. avatar Cameron Foster Says:

    My question is: “In the absence of a constitution, can a motion passed at an AGM be rescinded 18 years later by a committee meeting with a 100% vote?”

  7. avatar walktall Says:

    Technically yes. but if any action was taken as a result of the motion 18 years ago, then it is illogical to rescind the motion.
    A new motion should be moved.
    The absence of a constitution is not the issue at all.

    I have written a full response as a post on the blog

  8. avatar Shirley Knight Says:

    Dear David, If there has been a suspension which is carried for the purpose of information to be given to the new members in order for them to make a decision on a particular project and the full information was denied them is it correct that the board pass a motion without rescinding the suspenion to carry out the previous status quo before the suspension. This came about because one member was absent and status quo was able to win their motion to reverse the suspension. I apologise if this is not a comment. I have recently used your comments on rescission motions but the legal advice given that because the proponent was was absent another member could not move the rescission. There were no rules in place but another related body’s rules suggested that any other member may move the rescission motion. However the CEO said she had taken legal advice that the proponent must move the motion. In the event the rescission lapsed.
    I am referring to a council where there are guidelines provided to Councillors to suggest the above action.

  9. avatar Shelley Says:

    Hoping you can help. A motion (not sure if it is actually a motion as the constitution was not changed) was passed barring dogs from our Golf Club at our AGM under general business. General business in itself suggests that no notice of motion was required to pass this ban. A lot of the members were not forewarned about this matter being raised and, in fact, were told it was not going to be raised at all. I would like to amend the motion to ban dogs from competition but still allow them on course during other hours. Can the Committe vote on this without calling an AGM and, if so, how do I go about changing this motion.

  10. avatar Joanne Witchard Says:

    Dose the people proposing and seconding the resision motion, have to be present at the special general meeting?

  11. avatar Ray Steen Says:

    Good afternoon
    Our mens bowls recently held a special general meeting to merge with the ladies club. Motion “endorse the continuation of investigations into amalgamation of mens & ladies bowls clubs” Motion defeated. 44 members present out of 180.Do we have to have a recession of motion or may we move a new motion to amalgamate with ladies club? Members have required a revote on the issue.

    Which of your books is suitable for our club?

    Thank you.



  12. avatar Carol Says:


    At our last HOA board meeting a motion was made to accept a bid on replacing the Retaining Wall on the Club House. Three bids were submitted and was reviewed by a 5 person board. The project was voted on 4-1 in favor of the Retaining Wall.
    Now, the person who voted against it wants to put it on the agenda to re-visit the project at the next meeting. I feel that this would be pointless, and I say no.
    How do I handle this? I am president of the association

  13. avatar annst Says:

    Can a motion be rescinded and a new motion put up immediately

  14. avatar Zama Says:

    Good day

    I would like to know whether a descision taken in one meeting can be rescinded in another meeting. The meeting where the decision was taken is the Safety meeting and we want to rescind that decision in the Management meeting. Not all participants are members of these meeting.

  15. avatar Dave Says:

    My Council recently defeated a by-law to rezone a piece of property but it only passed because one member was not able to vote and another member was absent. Can a mtion to rescind be brought before the meeting and if passed the identical motion to approve the by-law brought back as new business?

  16. avatar sandra capewell Says:

    can a director of a propriety ltd company sack another director. It was signed off by ASIC as ligitimite but later terminated not by the accountant that the motion be rescinded

  17. avatar Julie Says:

    Hi recently at a meeting a committee member put in a rescind of motion. I tried to put forward another motion and discussion on the matter and was told I couldn’t had to put in an email after meeting.
    Some of the money has been spent already but at the meeting member rescinded this decision.
    So why can’t the motion I had be forward at the meeting rather than wait til afterwards. I find this all strange and having problems understanding why after all it was a discussion I started in first place before other members rescind motion got voted on. Can you help me understand this. Thanks

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