Your organization needs officers, maybe committee members, and other positions decided by a vote of the membership. Robert's Rules sets out several methods of making nominations for positions:
An organization can nominate candidates in several ways:
By the chair
From the floor
By a nominating committee
This method is used whenever the membership wants to rely on the presiding officer to recommend candidates but also wants to reserve for itself (or its designee, such as the board of directors) the approval of the nominee. This method is applicable when
Appointing members to committees, if specified in the motion creating the committee, or if prescribed in the bylaws
Electing a presiding officer in a mass meeting
Sometimes called open nominations, this method is probably the most familiar. It's used in the vast majority of situations in which members elect their officers at a meeting. Your group's rules and customs determine when floor nominations are accepted. Sometimes nominations aren't taken until the election is pending, and sometimes they're taken at other times, such as at a meeting before the election meeting.
The process of making floor nominations is subject to the following rules:
Recognition by the chair is not required to make a nomination. However, calling nominations from your seat is often impractical, so you may want to adopt a more formal nomination process.
Nominations don't have to be seconded, but it's not out of order for members to second a nomination to signal their endorsement.
A person can nominate himself or herself.
A member shouldn't offer more than one nomination to a position if there are several seats for the same office — such as for nominees to a board or a committee — until all other members have had the opportunity to make nominations.
If the bylaws don't prohibit it, a person can be nominated for more than one office and can even serve in more than one office if elected.
Nominees do not have to leave the room during the nominations, when the vote is taken, or when the vote is counted.
The presiding officer can continue presiding, even if he or she is one of the nominees for the office.
A member can rise and decline the nomination during the nominating process.
After each nomination, the president repeats the name to the assembly.
Nominations are taken for successive offices in the order they're listed in the bylaws.
Motions to close nominations are usually unnecessary because the nomination process simply continues until no one wishes to make further nominations. When the nominations stop, the chair just declares nominations closed after making sure that no more nominations are forthcoming. Customarily (although it's not required), the chair accomplishes this by calling three times for more nominations.
According to Robert's Rules, a motion to close nominations is out of order as long as any member wishes to make a nomination.
A motion to close nominations is usually not necessary unless it is apparent that members are nominating people just to honor them, and that the nominees have no intention of serving.
Usually the president closes nominations when no further nominations come forward from the assembly.
Using a nominating committee to assemble a list of willing and qualified candidates for office can greatly benefit members when the time comes to select their leaders. If the committee does its job well, the membership can enjoy some basic assurance that the candidates nominated have at least expressed interest in the job, have agreed to serve, and are qualified for the offices for which they're nominated.
The duty of a nominating committee is to find the best candidate for each office. The bylaws should not tie the hands of the committee to find more than one person to fill each slot; the committee should find the best candidate for each office. Persons serving on the committee can be nominated for office.
The secretary should give the committee a copy of the membership list, the bylaws, a description of the duties of each office, and the eligibility requirements. The committee must carefully review the eligibility requirements for each office and see that the nominees meet these requirements. If anyone is elected, and it is discovered after the election that the person is not eligible, the election of that officer is null and void. The committee then has to find a new nominee, and the members have to vote again.
The committee should meet, carefully review the membership list, and select the people who they think will do the best job in each office. A member of the committee should then be designated to call each nominee to see if he or she is willing to serve if elected. If someone is not willing to serve, the committee needs to meet again and find another candidate.
If no candidate is found, the committee can leave that slot open for nominations from the floor. Or, they can tell members publicly that they do not have a nominee for a certain office; this allows members to volunteer. No one should be nominated without his or her consent because, if elected, the person may decline to serve and members will have to hold another election.
The report of the nominating committee is usually given under "special orders." When called on to give the report, the chairman of the nominating committee states the nominations for each office.
Chairman of Nominating Committee: Madam President, the nominating committee submits the following nominations: for president, Alex Shaw; for vice president, Bianca Fernandez; for secretary, Raymond Platt; and for treasurer, Donna Agnese.
Sometimes there is a split in the nominating committee over who to nominate. If a minority of the committee wishes to nominate someone else, the members in the minority can make the nomination when nominations are taken from the floor.
As soon as the committee reports, it is discharged from its duties. Sometimes the committee is revived to make nominations to fill vacancies. After the committee reports, the chair states:
President: The nominating committee nominates Alex Shaw for president, Bianca Fernandez for vice president, Raymond Platt for secretary, and Donna Agnese for treasurer. Nominations are now open from the floor. Are there any further nominations for president?
This method of nominations is based on the principle of allowing all voters to make nominations for all offices by completing a nominating ballot. The ballots are tallied very much like an election ballot, and the report becomes the list of nominees for each office. This method gives voters an idea of the group's preferences without holding an actual election.
Taking nominations by mail is basically the same as taking nominations by ballot. Take security measures to protect the privacy of the nominating ballot; each member is instructed to fold his or her ballot inside a signed envelope and mail it back in an outer envelope. When the nominating ballot is received, the signed inner envelope containing the ballot is logged in against a list of voting members, and the ballot is deposited in a receptacle for tallying like an election ballot.
Some organizations add nominees to the ballot only if the name is submitted on a petition signed by some minimum number of members. Nomination by petition is another method of nomination by mail; provisions must be made for it in the bylaws, and standard forms must be provided to candidates and electors upon request.
Whenever you need to specify a way to come up with nominees, as you probably will for situations your bylaws don’t cover, you use a motion related to the method of nominations. And whenever you want to specify when nominations can be made, you use a motion to open or close nominations. Collectively, these motions are known as motions related to nominations.
A motion relating to nominations
Can’t interrupt a speaker who has the floor or a member making a nomination
Must be seconded
Can be amended
Requires a majority vote (except the motion to close nominations, which requires a two-thirds vote)
Can be reconsidered if it’s a negative vote to reopen nominations
This example is based on moving to have nominations by committee, but the form is essentially the same for any of the methods.
You simply say, Mr. Chairman, I move that the chair appoint a committee of three to consider and make recommendations on the replacement of Mr. Exeter, who has resigned as chairman of the membership committee. Whatever nomination method you propose, be specific.
A motion to open nominations, when made by a member, is usually a motion to reopen nominations after they have been closed. (The chair usually just announces the opening of nominations at the appointed time when they are in order.)
Members rarely make a motion to close nominations because it’s never in order to make this motion as long as anyone wants to make a nomination. Also, members rarely move to close nominations because, whenever no further nominations are offered, the chair usually just declares, Hearing no further nominations, nominations for the office of [name the office] are closed.
The secretary places all nominations in the minutes. If the organization uses a nominating committee and then takes nominations from the floor, the secretary records the nominating committee's report first and then lists nominations for each office in the order they are presented as given by the members from the floor.
The election process may be the easiest part of deciding who handles a particular job in the organization. Robert's Rules on elections are very straightforward after what is often a politically charged prequel of nominating and campaigning.
An election is really nothing more than the handling of an assumed motion, with the question being on whom to elect to fill a position. Like any incidental main motion, an election can be decided by voice vote or by ballot.
Ballot voting is by far the surest way to allow for the free expression of the will of the membership. When holding ballot elections, you have two procedural options:
Nominations for all offices conclude before any balloting begins. This saves time and allows for polling at a time and place other than a meeting. However, it disadvantages candidates who lose an election for a position decided earlier and then can't serve a different position.
When using this procedure, make it clear that a person can be nominated for and elected to more than one office. If a person is elected to two different positions, she can either choose which office to accept or serve in more than one position, if that's allowed.
Nominations for each office are followed by the election for that office. The main advantage here is that it allows members to consider the election results of one office before proceeding to the election of another office. You take nominations from the floor for one office, and when no further nominations are forthcoming, you proceed to the balloting for that office. This method requires more time for the election process, making it probably best limited to smaller groups.
No matter which procedure you use, the order in which you take up each election is the order in which the offices are listed in your bylaws.
Voting by ballot enables a member to vote for a candidate not formally nominated by writing in a name — a write-in vote. A write-in vote is a legal vote unless it's unintelligible or cast for an unidentifiable or ineligible person or for a fictitious character, in which case it's counted as an illegal vote.
Ballot voting is the preferred voting method in situations in which knowing how all the members voted isn't desirable. You can use a ballot vote to decide either a motion or an election:
If the ballot vote decides a motion, the question is clearly stated by the chair, and you're instructed to mark your ballot Yes or No (or For or Against).
If the ballot vote decides an election, you're instructed to write the name of the nominee of your choice on your ballot.
It's never in order to vote Yes or No (or For or Against) a candidate when electing persons to office. The only way you can vote against a candidate is to vote for another person.
Depending on your organization and the decisions being made, balloting may take place during a meeting, or polls may be open during polling periods including times when no meeting is in progress. In either case, you need to appoint reliable ballot counters to hand out and collect ballots and to count the votes.
Only members entitled to vote are given ballots or are allowed to deposit ballots with a ballot counter or place them in the ballot receptacle. If polling is conducted outside of a meeting, members should verify their credentials with election officials when casting their votes at the polls, and members' names should be checked on a list showing who has voted.
The presiding officer votes along with all the other members, although she is never allowed to cast a tie-breaker in a ballot vote.
A member has the right to vote until the polls are closed. A late-arriving member can vote only with other members' consent by majority vote.
When counting ballots, ballot counters need to keep a few key points in mind:
Blank votes are treated as scrap paper and don't count at all.
Illegal votes cast by legal voters count toward the total votes cast, but they don't count for any individual choice or candidate. Illegal votes are
Ballots cast for a fictional character
Ballots cast for an ineligible candidate
Two or more marked ballots folded together (together they count as only one illegal vote)
If a marked ballot is folded together with a blank ballot, the marked ballot counts as one legal vote, and the blank ballot is considered scrap paper.
Each question on a multipart ballot is counted as a separate ballot. If a member leaves one part blank, the votes entered on the other questions still count.
If a member votes for more choices than positions to be elected, the vote is considered illegal.
If a member votes for fewer choices than positions to be elected, the vote is legal and those votes count.
Small technical errors, such as spelling mistakes or marking an X when a checkmark is called for, don't make a vote illegal as long as the voter's intent is discernible.
Votes cast by illegal voters must not be counted at all, not even included in the number of total votes cast. If it's determined that enough illegal votes were cast by illegal voters to affect the result, and these votes can't be identified and removed from the count, then the vote is deemed null and must be retaken.
After the votes are counted, the lead ballot counter reads aloud to the membership the complete report of the vote counts but doesn't declare the result. That job belongs to the presiding officer, who reads the report again to the members, concluding with a formal declaration of the result. The entire ballot counters' report should be included in the minutes of the meeting.
In determining how long to hold the ballots before destroying them, your main consideration is the possibility of needing a recount. After the period during which a recount can be conducted has passed, you don't need to keep the ballots. A decision on how long to keep them can be made at the meeting when the vote takes place, or a short retention period for ballots can be adopted as a standing rule.
If your bylaws don't require you to conduct an election by ballot, and if candidates are unopposed or there's no major contest for an office, you can save time with a simple voice vote (or viva voce). After nominations are closed, the vote is taken on each nominee in the order in which they were nominated.
Because this form of voting favors one candidate over another based on the order of nomination, you should avoid using it except in mass meetings or when there's no serious contest for the office and a ballot is not required. If members don't understand exactly how it works, the ones whose preferred candidate doesn't get voted on are likely to think something is amiss.
If your assembly's members are accountable to a constituency, your rules may require you to conduct your elections by roll-call vote. You follow the same procedures for elections by ballot, as far as arriving at the point of the election is concerned, but instead of casting your vote by ballot, each member announces his vote when the secretary calls that person's name. The secretary repeats the vote after recording it, to ensure accuracy.
Elections are decided by majority vote unless your bylaws provide differently. In a voice vote, the winner is easy to determine and the vote is over when someone wins the election. When it comes to ballot elections, your election isn't complete until a position is filled, and a position is never filled until a candidate receives the threshold number of votes required for election. In most cases, the threshold is a majority of the votes cast. If you have only two candidates and the vote is a tie, you repeat the balloting until one candidate receives a majority.
Balloting must continue until a candidate receives a majority. It's never proper to drop the candidates receiving the lowest vote totals from a ballot unless they withdraw voluntarily. That means run-offs are just plain out of order. The requirement for election by ballot is a majority, and a candidate has no obligation to withdraw just because he polls low numbers. Your members may wind up voting for Mr. Low as the compromise candidate.
Here are some other things to consider during the election process:
A quorum needs to be present throughout the election meeting. If members leave during the meeting so that a quorum is not present, those offices not yet elected must be put off until an adjourned meeting or until the next meeting.
Ballot counters should cast their ballots at the same time that the assembly votes.
If a member is elected and not present and has not previously said that if elected he or she will serve, someone should call the member to see if he or she will accept the office. If not, the members can vote again during that meeting for another candidate.
If an elected candidate declines the office after he or she is elected and after the meeting has adjourned, another election needs to take place, if at all possible. If the bylaws specifically address this situation, members should follow the bylaws.
If it is discovered after an election that the person elected does not meet the eligibility requirements, and even if the person has begun to serve, the election is void. The organization must have another election.
A member can't make the motion to adjourn while the assembly is occupied with taking a vote, verifying a vote, or announcing a vote, except when the vote is by ballot. In a ballot vote, after the ballot counters have collected all the ballots, a member can make the motion to adjourn. If the motion is adopted, the assembly can adjourn before the vote is announced if it has another meeting scheduled. The balloting committee can still count the ballots. When the next meeting begins, the first order of business is to hear the report of the balloting committee and for the presiding officer to announce the vote that was taken at the previous meeting.
If counting ballots takes some time, it is best for the assembly to take a recess instead of adjourn.
In counting the votes, the balloting committee must not confuse a majority vote with the highest number of votes. The person who gets the most votes may not have a majority of the votes. In this case, the members must vote again until one candidate receives a majority vote.
If there is a question about the way a ballot is marked, the ballot counters should take it to the presiding officer. He or she should present it to the assembly to decide what to do with the vote - whether to count it and toward what name to credit the vote.
When presenting the nominations or taking the vote for a list of offices, the president should follow the order of offices that appears in the bylaws.
If a person has been nominated to more than one office and is elected to two offices, he or she can choose which office he or she wants. The assembly then votes again on the other office.
If a member is not present to choose which office he or she wants to serve, the members vote on which office they want him or her to serve. Members then vote on a candidate to fill the remaining office.
If members adjourn before an election is complete, they should set the time for an adjourned meeting to finish the election. If they don't set a time for an adjourned meeting, they can call a special meeting (if the bylaws allow this). Or, members can also finish the election at the next regular meeting if the meeting falls within a quarterly time period.
If members are voting for offices that have staggered terms or that last more than a year, the secretary should include in the minutes when the term expires. The minutes may say, for example, "Eric Olson was elected to the board for two years. His term expires July, 2014."
If electronic machines are used for voting, they should be programmed so that each segment of the ballot is treated as if it were a separate ballot. Ballot counters present during the voting should be carefully instructed in their duties and should be able to explain to other members how to use the machine. If members haven't used the machine before, it may be wise to show them how to use it the day before the election.
During an election, especially when ballot counters are not trained or when candidates are running in opposition, members may become aware of mistakes or illegal procedures in collecting or counting the ballots. If a member notices a mistake in procedure, he or she should immediately make the chair and assembly aware of his concerns.
The best thing an organization can do is adopt rules that tell how to proceed if a member challenges an election or if a person is illegally elected to office and has begun to serve. Rules may include how long the organization saves ballots and how long members can wait to challenge an election. These rules supersede the adopted parliamentary authority. It is important to remember that once someone is elected, the election can't be rescinded unless there is some provision for it in the bylaws. It is possible that because of a mistake in counting the ballots, or another procedural mistake, someone can be declared elected to office when he or she did not receive the majority votes. Organizations can create and write election rules to correct this mistake.
A common mistake in elections is having too many ballots cast for the number of members present. If this occurs and it does not affect the outcome of the vote, the election is still valid. Often the extra ballot comes from someone who has entered the assembly but has not signed in to the meeting.
Because fraud does happen in the election process, members need to be alert and watchful of the election process. Some practices to watch out for include:
Ballot boxes being stuffed or written ballots being changed.
Mail or absentee ballots not arriving on time or mysteriously disappearing when the time comes to count them.
Voting machines having wedges inserted to prevent the lever from going down all the way.
Polls closing or opening at times different than the times posted.
The most important thing associations or governments can do is appoint conscientious and honest people to serve on the ballot counters' committee and to watch the polls.
If members question the validity of an election or the procedure in taking the vote, a member should make a motion to recount the votes within a reasonably brief time after the president announces the election outcome. The motion to have a vote for a particular office recounted needs a second, is not debatable, and takes a majority vote to adopt.
After the person elected to office assumes the position, it is too late to nullify an illegal election. For this reason, members should listen carefully to the report of the ballot counters' committee. If something doesn't quite add up, a member should question it during the meeting. If officers assume their duties immediately after the meeting is adjourned, it is then too late to question the election.
Members should be alert to some undemocratic political practices in organizations. One example occurs if a person is elected and then resigns, the office is considered vacant, and the president or board fills it by appointment instead of having another election. Doing this may allow an unpopular or hand-picked candidate to get the office even though he or she was not elected.
In writing the nomination, election, and vacancy conditions in the bylaws, the organization should make sure that if a vacancy is created early in the term of office, the vacancy is filled by election instead of by appointment, whenever possible. However, in some national organizations that meet yearly or biennially (every two years), this is difficult.
Another problematic practice to watch out for is nominating someone for office who is not eligible. When nominations are taken from the floor or when a nominating ballot is used, a good practice is to provide the members with an eligibility list so that they are not nominating people who will not be able to serve. When the secretary mails the members a notice about the nomination and election meeting, the letter can include a request that members who do not wish to be considered for office notify the secretary in writing. When the secretary prepares the eligibility list for the meeting, only those members who are willing to serve are on the list.