Quakerism: a view from the back benches
Copyright 1966 The Back Benches
Friends might well re-consider use of voting in business sessions, particularly for routine items or matters of simple preference. When aesthetics only are involved, a vote may be more honest than the clerks guess. Voting is only an evil in those matters where consensus is important, where conciliation of opposing points of viewpoints is necessary to maintain love and unity. To have a vote, a member or the clerk could suggest that the item under discussion (a) is not related to our ancient testimonies, (b) needs an answer certain and clear, and (c) is a matter of creaturely convenience or preference, not principle. If the Meeting united with the Friend so characterizing the item, a vote would be taken and its result would be the decision of the Meeting. If Friends did not agree to the vote, our usual procedures would be used for the item. If only one Friend objected to voting, on the ground that the necessary decision was a matter of principle, he would be asked to decide the matter, and his decision would be the decision of the Meeting because he is the only Friends with light on the subject.
Polling the Meeting may be a technique where disunity is felt, but not expressed. A minority in the Meeting should not remain silent and subsequently disclaim involvement or responsibility for the Meeting‘s decision. If such a minority is sensed, the clerk should call on each Friend present to express opinion. But the Meeting using such a poll would have to accept the long search for unity which disclosed differences would demand. Our procedures should be able to bring us to unity in fact, not only in appearance.
(to be continued)