Conducting Elections

Nominations have been made. Phone lines have been buzzing as members discuss candidates and urge each other to show up and vote. Finally, election time is here!

The voting process is a time-honored democratic tradition. It's important to the health and well-being of every group or organization to conduct elections with integrity and not rush the process. If there are opposing factions and controversial candidates, both sides should be invited to participate on the tellers' committee to make sure the election is not contested.

Follow the Bylaws

Do your organization's bylaws contain instructions on how the vote will be taken? Is it to be by voice? Ballot? Roll call?

Voice votes give a sense of immediacy. Members know fairly quickly who has won. However, voice votes don't allow for write-in candidates as a ballot does. Roll calls prevent confusion; maybe that loud member makes it sound like there are more votes for her candidate than others.

If there is nothing in the bylaws about voting, a member can make an incidental motion that specifies the methods of voting. This motion must be seconded, is not debatable, is amendable, and needs a majority vote.

Time for the Vote

The vote is about to be taken. Quick! Make sure there is a quorum! Remember, nothing can happen if there is no quorum. The election would be declared null and void if contested.


Is there no quorum?

Remember that a member can call for a recess. Members can then call others and see if they can attend the meeting right away. See Chapter 8 for information on how to do this.

Voice Votes

If your group is using a voice vote, the chair takes the vote by saying, “All those in favor of [John Smith] for president, say ‘aye.’” Then she says, “All those opposed, say ‘no.’” After the vote for each candidate, the chair announces the result, then proceeds to the next officer to be elected.

If one candidate immediately receives a majority vote, then the voting for that office can stop right there. Some parliamentarians feel that the first candidate voted on often gets the majority of the votes. This is why many suggest written ballots. Seeing all the candidates in print may cause members who vote to consider the other candidates for that office more seriously.

Was there a tie or did no one receive a majority vote? Then voting has to continue until a candidate is elected. Sometimes this can take a while. Your group or organization bylaws should be consulted regarding voting procedure here; some have found they need a special procedure to follow. If there isn't one established, a voice vote should be taken again for those offices for which there was a tie or a lack of a majority vote. Voting must continue until there is a majority vote for one candidate.

Ballot Votes

Ballot elections are addressed two different ways: One ballot can contain all of the candidates running for office, or different ballots can be used for each office once the membership has finished with nominations. If your group is large, preparing a printed ballot with all offices is a good idea. Most groups that meet in annual conventions and vote at that time definitely find it's best to use a printed ballot. Just as with voice votes, if there is a tie or a lack of majority vote, ballot elections must continue until a candidate is elected. Again, consult your bylaws for any special rules specific to your group or organization that may have been made. If there are none, then Robert's Rules state that a new ballot should be drawn up with those offices that need another election and the names of those who were listed for those offices (slips of paper are fine here). Then members vote again.


It's best to conduct elections at the beginning of a meeting. If there should be a problem with a tie vote or a lack of majority, voting may take a while. You don't want to risk losing a quorum if members have to leave.

Hopefully, this will produce a majority vote for a candidate. If it doesn't, the voting must take place again — and again — until a majority has been attained. If a mail ballot was used, another mailing of a new ballot must be done. Since this can become a tedious process, groups or organizations are advised to be specific about how to deal with this possibility before it becomes a reality. A new ballot should be made with those offices and the names of candidates for them. Voting continues until a majority vote elects a candidate.

Individual Ballots

Smaller groups and organizations sometimes use individual ballots. These are handed out by the tellers after nominations are closed. Members write down the name of the candidate they want elected to an office.

Tellers then collect the ballots, tabulate them, and report on the results to the chair, who announces the name of the member who has been elected. This step must be repeated with each office. If there are a number of directors who are being voted on at one time, the members receiving a majority are elected.

Roll Call Voting

Roll call voting isn't recommended for large groups, as it would take too much time. But for small groups, it can be a quick and easy voting procedure. The secretary calls out the member's name, and he or she can either vote for one candidate for an office, one at a time, or vote for the entire list of candidates for office. The secretary should record the vote and, for accuracy's sake, restate it. The downside of voting this way is that the voting is public, not private. Members should carefully consider this when deciding on the method of voting.

Mail Vote

Just as nominations can be taken by mail, and email, so, too, can votes. This is a real timesaver for a large group or one that covers a large area.

This is a time when a plurality vote is a good idea. If a candidate doesn't receive a majority vote, then the candidate who receives the most votes wins; this will eliminate any need for a new election. However, voting is not private in this method, since the secretary will know who sent which ballot.

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