Understanding How to Record Votes in Council Meeting Minutes

Lena Eisenstein
5 min read

Procedure is vitally important in how to record votes in meeting minutes. Councils will want to ensure that their votes are legal. They’ll also want to avoid having their votes challenged due to incorrect procedure. All council meeting votes should take place at a public meeting where a quorum is present. For a 7-member council, 4 members constitute a quorum. For a 5-member council, 3 members constitute a quorum.

Proxy voting is rarely, if ever permitted. There should never be secret meetings where voting is held

and there shouldn’t be any voting in executive sessions. Some councils may allow remote voting where meetings are being taken place via remote video participation.

There are various options for how to record votes in council meeting minutes. It’s less important how they’re documented than it is to ensure there’s a quorum, that votes get counted properly, that votes are recorded consistently, and that votes are legal.

How to Record Votes in Council Meeting Minutes

It’s of primary importance to review any legal requirements in the state of incorporation. For example, in California, public bodies must record how each board director cast their vote by listing their names in the council meeting minutes.

It’s also important to record any municipal requirements for recording council meeting votes. If the state or municipal government doesn’t specify voting requirements, Robert’s Rules of Order states that the council can merely say, “The motion was adopted.”

There are four different ways to record votes for council meeting minutes:

  1. Pass or fail.

Record votes simply as the motion passed, the motion passed as amended, the motion passed unanimously, or the motion failed.

  1. Pass or fail with numbers.

Record votes as the motion passed with 5 votes in favor and 2 against or the motion failed with 1 vote in favor and 13 against.

  1. Pass or fail with names.

Record votes as the motion passed with council members Smith, Jones, and Miller voting in favor, and council member Samuels and Jackson voting against.

  1. Roll call vote.

Record as:






The motion passed.

How to Record Abstentions in Council Meeting Minutes

According to Robert’s Rules of Order, to abstain is to do nothing. Abstentions are counted as votes, and they should always be recorded. Depending on the council’s rules, council members may have to state their reasons for abstaining. There are also several ways to record votes with abstentions:

  1. Pass or fail with names of abstainers.

Record votes as the motion passed with council members Smith, Jones, and Miller voting in favor. Council members Samuels and Jackson voted against. Council member Hill abstained due to a conflict of interest.

  1. Pass or fail with numbers.

The motion passed with 5 votes in favor and 2 against and 2 abstentions.

  1. Roll call vote:






Hill-abstain due to conflict of interest.

The motion passed.

How to Handle Votes for Remote Meetings

Technology makes it possible for council members to participate in meetings remotely. Remote meeting voting and participation may be possible as long as it’s approved by the governing body. Generally, where councils permit remote participation, the council adopts the guidelines and procedures that outline the circumstances by which they allow it.

Council members that choose to attend meetings remotely via teleconferencing or video conferencing are considered to be in attendance. Their numbers count towards the quorum for business and they have the power to vote on business during the council meeting. Once again, council members should check to ensure that state laws and the Open Meetings Act don’t limit or prohibit remote meeting participation. In most states, remote participation is acceptable as long as the council member can hear the meeting, others in the meeting can hear the council member, and council members can participate actively in the meeting.

Tips for Recording Votes in Meeting Minutes

Consistency is the key in recording council meeting votes. Votes should be recorded in exactly the same way for every meeting. If you choose to record names, record all the names. It should be clear to anyone reading council meeting minutes what the outcome was. A bad example is something like all council members were in favor except Samuels, Jackson, and Hill. Anyone reading the meeting minutes shouldn’t have to look up how many council members there are and do any adding or subtracting.

Also, be aware that the rules are different based on the type of government structure the municipality has. For example, in a mayor-council government structure, the mayor only votes in the case of a council tie. As another example, in the council manager structure of government, the mayor is only eligible to vote in the capacity of a council member and has no veto power.

Digital Meeting Management Solutions Provide Consistency for Council Meeting Voting

Community by Diligent provides powerful transparency tools for council meeting management. The platform uses automation to streamline council meeting agendas, voting, and preparing meeting minutes.

The platform offers a mobile-friendly web portal where citizens can review agenda packets and search for other documents and information using an online search box. The records center stores all documents securely using cloud-based technology. Staff and citizens can get access to all agendas, reports, voting records, and meeting minutes that are approved for public use by doing a simple search. Also, the system saves and posts all audio and video recordings within the same platform.

Voting is especially easy with Community by Diligent. Council members can instantly submit their vote on a motion and have the results displayed in real-time in the council chambers. The results of voting will automatically be recorded in the meeting minutes.

Community by Diligent ensures that votes are recorded legally, appropriately, and without confusion.