We often here a question of quorum in meetings and in other legislative votes, but what does it truly mean and what happens if you don’t meet the threshold? The joint session rules identify a quorum as a majority of members. A quorum is sometimes called into question during long debate or during debates occurring late into the night to ensure members are paying attention.
If a member of the Chamber questions whether a quorum is present, they should rise to make a point of order. The presiding officer has two alternatives when a point of order is raised. The officer may count the members present or he may rule on presence or absences without a formal count but that would be subject to appeal (Frankel, April 27, 1982). Quorum does not affect the passage of a resolution or bill. For a proposal to pass it simply must have a majority vote of the members present (State Constitution, Art. III, Sec. 2; CGS § 2 – 6).
There are instances where quorum is not so cut and dry. In 1965 a question of quorum was raised because there were 18 members in the Chamber, one of which was acting as President and not voting. The President ruled his physical presence was enough to constitute a quorum. (Doocy, February 1965).
The question of quorum is also considered when session adjourns for the day. There can be a question of what adjournment truly means, but in Mason it stated adjournment does not mean sine die or that session has been dissolved. Mason further states adjournment can be used to question whether a quorum was present.
So what happens if quorum is not meet? There is an instance in 1986 for a special session where the House was five votes short of quorum. There was some back and forth on whether they should dissolve the session, but ultimately they decided to utilize Capitol Police to compel attendance (Van Norstrand, June 11, 1986).
Quorum is used as a point of order on occasion but rarely does it alter the legislature’s course of action.