Parliamentary procedure is generally applied to the meetings of a deliberative assembly, which has the following characteristics:
- An independent or autonomous group meeting to determine, in full and free discussion, courses of action to be taken in the name of the entire group.
- The group is large enough—usually more than a dozen people—that a degree of formality is needed to make decisions efficiently.
- Members of the assembly are generally free to act within the assembly according to their own judgment.
- The opinion of each member has equal weight when voting. When a member votes, he or she joins others in assuming direct personal responsibility for the decision when voting on the prevailing side.
- If a member does not agree with the decision of the body, this does not constitute withdrawal from the body.
- If there are absentee members—as there usually are—the members present at a regular or properly called meeting act on behalf of the entire membership, subject only to whatever limitations are established in the body’s governing rules.
The deliberative assembly may exist in many forms. Principal types include:
- mass meeting
- local assembly of an organized society
- legislative body
For more information on the specific characteristics of each of these assemblies, consult Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised.