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July 1, 2003

Counting Heads at a Public Meeting: How Many Officials are Needed for a Quorum?

Iowa law requires a "quorum" to be present before official action can be taken by a governmental body, such as a board, commission or council. But, how many officials must be present to make up a quorum?

A "quorum" is the number of members entitled to vote who must be present in order for business to be transacted legally. The number is set by law, but different public bodies have different quorum requirements.

Here are some rules of thumb for counting a quorum:

  • State boards, commissions and councils: The Iowa Administrative Procedure Act requires no less than two-thirds of the eligible voting members be present to constitute a quorum, unless a specific statute sets a different quorum requirement. (Iowa Code §17A.2(1)) Some statutes lower the requirement to a simple majority of voting members.
  • County, city or school governmental bodies: A quorum is a majority of the number of members fixed by statute. (See Iowa Code sections 331.302(13), 363.6, and 279.4.)

Keep in mind that a "quorum" only relates to how many voting members must be present to conduct business. Different public bodies have different rules on how many of the members present must vote for a particular action for the body to take official action. A majority vote of those present and voting (not counting, for example, those who don't vote because of a conflict of interest) will commonly, but not always, be sufficient.

Quorum and voting requirements can be confusing, but it is imperative that all public officials know what is required for their own boards, commissions or councils before they vote at a public meeting. If there is a question about quorum requirements, public officials or citizens should ask the lawyer who represents the public body.

Sunshine advisories are a general resource for government officials and citizens on Iowa's public records and open meetings laws – our "sunshine” laws.  Local officials should obtain legal advice from their counsel, such as the city or county attorney.

The Iowa Public Information Board (IPIB) is an independent board that the Iowa Legislature established specifically to address open meetings and open records-related matters.  The IPIB provides information to the public and governmental entities on "sunshine" issues.

The IPIB, which has jurisdiction and authority to investigate and enforce Iowa's open meetings and open records laws, enables citizens to file a complaint if they believe that someone is violating these laws.

Citizens who have inquiries or complaints about public records or open meetings should contact the Iowa Public Information Board. Iowa Public Information Board.

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Des Moines, IA 50319


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Updated December 1, 2014

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