Handling Negative Votes

Richard Wilhelm


Regulations Provide Guidance

Understanding the Regulations Governing ASTM Technical Committees (once known as "the Green Book") and Form and Style for ASTM Standards (formerly known as "the Blue Book") is necessary for anyone developing ASTM International standards. Rules&Regs explains some of the key points of these documents.

Reviewing and successfully resolving negative votes is one of the most crucial aspects of the ASTM International ballot process. All negative votes must be considered and acted upon before a document moves forward. Fortunately, rules included in the Regulations Governing ASTM Technical Committees provide guidance for dealing with negatives at both the subcommittee and main committee level.

Sections 11 and 12 of the Regulations describe subcommittee and main committee balloting procedures, including the handling of negatives. Section notes that all negative votes need to be accompanied by a written statement that explains the negative. Many times negative voters will offer alternative language to satisfy their concerns. The negative can be withdrawn by the voter at any time, with the withdrawn negative then being counted as an affirmative, unless specified by the voter as an abstention.

A negative that is not withdrawn by the voter prior to a meeting is acted upon either at a meeting of the subcommittee or by ballot of the subcommittee. After this consideration of the negative, one of six possible resolutions will occur:

  • Based on meeting discussion, the voter may decide to withdraw the negative.
  • The negative vote could be withdrawn for an editorial change, if language can be added that clarifies a point without changing the technical content of the document.
  • The negative vote could be found persuasive, which will withdraw the item from ballot for future consideration by the task group.
  • The negative vote could be found not persuasive, in which case the subcommittee needs to specifically address the points raised by the negative. A two-thirds affirmative vote of the combined affirmative and negative votes cast (not including abstentions) by voting members of the subcommittee is necessary for a not-persuasive motion to pass.
  • A negative vote could be found not related, in cases in which the voter raises an issue about a section of the standard that is not currently on ballot. A not-related decision also requires a two-thirds affirmative vote and the issue raised by the negative voter needs to be made an item of new business.
  • A negative vote can be found to be previously considered, if there is documentation that an identical negative from a previous ballot has been addressed.

Documentation is an important part of the negative resolution process. A negative vote resolution form, which can be found on the "My Committees" Web page in the "Ballot Negatives and Comments" section of the "My Tools" area, needs to be completed and an accurate record of the action taken on the negative, including the resolution form, must be incorporated in the subcommittee meeting minutes. The negative voter also needs to be notified of subcommittee actions regarding the negative.

In addition to Sections 11 and 12 of the Regulations, the EnRoute column, "Getting Positive Results From Negative Votes," in the March/April 2008 issue of SN (available by clicking here), provides further details on the important issue of negatives and how to handle them.

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