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Chapter 12 - Nominations and Elections

In every organization, the process of nominating and electing officers and board members is very important, and the bylaws should clearly state the procedure. If the procedure is not stated in the bylaws, a member of the assembly can make a motion explaining the procedure to follow. The assembly then decides by a majority vote whether to follow the proposed procedure.

This chapter explains the nominating and election process from start to finish. It discusses the various ways organizations nominate a candidate and take votes. The chapter also describes the duties of the tellers' committee - those members appointed to count the vote. Likewise, the chapter takes you step by step through the teller's sheet and report.


An organization can nominate candidates in several ways:

Most often, a nominating committee presents nominations, and the assembly has the opportunity to present additional nominations from the floor. The nominating process should not be confused with the election to office. Robert's Rules of Order states that a person does not have to be nominated to be elected to office. If the vote is taken by ballot, there is always the opportunity to write in a name. In this case, a person can win as a write-in candidate without ever being nominated.

Nominations by Committee

Many organizations have a nominating committee. The bylaws should specify the composition of this committee and how it is selected. The nominating committee is the one committee a president should not be a member of or help to select. If at all possible, the board or the membership should elect the nominating committee.

Duties of a nominating committee

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.

Report of the nominating committee

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, Judy Smith; for vice president, Dave Jones; for secretary, Ricky Shores; and for treasurer, Sarah Thomas. [hands the nominations written on a sheet of paper to the president and sits down]

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 Judy Smith for president, Dave Jones for vice president, Ricky Shores for secretary, and Sarah Thomas for treasurer. Nominations are now open from the floor. Are there any further nominations for president?

Nominations from the Floor

As soon as the president opens nominations from the floor, any member can bring forth a nomination. However, the rules for a member nominating a candidate are the same as for the nominating committee. A member should know beforehand if the person he or she wishes to nominate is both eligible and willing to serve.

When the nomination is from the floor:

President: Denise Harmon, for president. Are there further nominations for president?

  • 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.

  • If at any time during the nominating process a member realizes that he or she will be unable to serve if elected, the member should stand and request that his or her name be removed from nomination. Removing your name during the nomination process is better than waiting until after you are elected.

    Nominations by Ballot

    Instead of taking nominations from the floor, an organization may take nominations by ballot. In this process, each member is given a nominating ballot and writes the name(s) of one or more candidates on it. The tellers' committee counts the ballots and writes a list of the nominees to give to the president to announce. A vote is then taken for election. The nominating ballot should never become the electing ballot.

    Nominations by Mail

    When members are widely scattered, taking nominations by mail may be helpful. The secretary is responsible for mailing a nominating ballot to each member, with instructions on how to fill it out. After the members mail back the nominations, the secretary composes the ballot from which the members vote.

    Nominations by Petition

    Sometimes an organization's bylaws provide for nominations by petition. In this case, a nominee must be nominated by a signed petition of members before the nomination is put on the ballot. The nominating petition may be enclosed with a newsletter or mailed to the members.

    Other Nominating Procedures

    If the bylaws do not state how to conduct nominations, any member can make a motion proposing a nominating process. This motion is an incidental main motion. It needs a second and is not debatable but is amendable. It requires a majority vote to adopt. The best practice, however, is for the bylaws to state the procedure.

    Nominations and the Minutes

    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.


    When nominations are taken from the floor, usually the president closes the nominations by unanimous consent. However, there may be times when members nominate people just to honor them or to delay the election. In this case, it is appropriate for a member to make a motion to close the nominations. After the nominations are closed, a member can make a motion to reopen them. The following sections discuss these two motions.

    Close the Nominations

    This motion requires a two-thirds vote because it takes away the members' right to nominate. A two-thirds vote also protects the assembly from an abuse of power from a temporary majority who would like to stop the nominating process. A member must make the motion to close the nominations when no one has the floor. A rising vote is always taken on this motion.

    Member: Madam President, I move to close the nominations.

    Member 2: Second.

    President: It is moved and seconded to close the nominations. All those in favor, please rise. Be seated. Those opposed please rise. Be seated.

    If the affirmative has the vote, the president states:

    President: There is a two-thirds vote in the affirmative. The motion is carried and nominations are now closed. We will now take the vote for . . . [state the office].

    If the negative has it, the president states:

    President: There is less than a two-thirds vote in the affirmative. The motion is lost and nominations are still open. Are there further nominations?

    The president continues with the nominations until members are ready to vote. After progress in the meeting, members can make the motion to close nominations again.

    Reopen the Nominations

    The time at which nominations are to be closed or reopened can be stated in the motion or added by amendment.

    Because members' rights are not infringed upon by reopening the nominations, this motion requires only a majority vote, and a voice vote is taken. To reopen the nominations, a member can make the motion when no one has the floor. The member states:

    Member: Madam President, I move to reopen the nominations.

    Member 2: I second it.

    President: It is moved and seconded to reopen the nominations. All those in favor say "Aye." Those opposed say "No."

    The president then announces the vote. If the ayes have it, the president says:

    President: The ayes have it and the motion is carried. We will reopen the floor for nominations. Are there further nominations?

    If the noes have it, the president says:

    President: The noes have it and the motion is lost. Nominations are closed and we will take the vote.


    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.


    After the nominating process is finished, the members must vote on the proposed candidates. If the bylaws do not state how the vote is to be taken, a member can make an incidental motion regarding how to take the vote.

    If the bylaws state that the vote must be taken by ballot, even if there is only one candidate for each office, members must nevertheless vote by ballot. A ballot vote allows members to write in a candidate's name. Asking one person (for example, the secretary) to cast the electing ballot for the entire assembly is out of order. Such a motion takes away members' rights to write in a candidate.

    Members can take the vote for election by

    Election by Voice Vote

    When there is only one candidate for office, election by voice vote is a good method to use if the bylaws do not stipulate how the election should take place. However, any time an election occurs by voice vote, members forfeit their right to write in a candidate.

    When more than one person has been nominated and the election is by voice vote, the chair takes the vote on the candidates in the order in which they were nominated. Members must remember to vote yes for the candidate that they want and vote no for the other candidates. The first candidate to receive a majority vote wins.

    The presiding officer takes the vote this way:

    President: All those in favor of Member G for president, say "Aye." Those opposed say "No."

    The president then announces the vote:

    President: The ayes have it, and Member G is elected president.

    If Member G loses, the chair announces the result this way:

    President: The noes have it, and Member G is not elected. All those in favor of Member X for president say "Aye." Those opposed say "No."

    The president then announces the results of this vote. The procedure continues until someone receives a majority vote. When electing officers, if there is a tie vote or no one receives a majority vote, members keep voting until someone is elected.

    When more than one candidate is nominated, the problem with a voice vote is that those nominated first are more likely to get elected. If there is a motion to make an election by voice vote unanimous, that vote must be by ballot. If there is one "no" vote, the election is not unanimous.

    Election by Ballot Vote

    Organizations can take a ballot vote two ways:

    Slated ballots

    Large organizations, such as conventions, usually prepare a printed ballot listing the names of all the candidates, with room for further nominations or write-ins from the membership.

    Members go to the polls once. When no candidate receives a majority vote for a particular office or for several offices, members must continue to vote on those offices until someone is elected. With this kind of ballot, having the election early in the meeting is best. In the event that another vote is needed, members can vote again before the convention or meeting adjourns.

    Individual ballots

    In the second way of taking a ballot vote, the tellers' committee gives members a blank piece of paper after nominations have been closed for an office. The members write the name of the person they wish to see elected for that office on the blank piece of paper. The tellers then collect the ballots and count them, and the chair of the tellers' committee reads the report. The president declares who is elected and proceeds to take nominations for the next office. After nominations are closed, the tellers again give members blank ballots to write the candidate of their choice. They collect the ballots and count them, and the chairman reads the report. This goes on until the members elect someone to each office.

    Individual balloting works well in small organizations where members can pause briefly to count the ballots without taking a recess or proceeding with other business.

    Members do not proceed to the next office until they elect someone for the unelected office. For example, if no one receives a majority vote for the office of president, the members keep voting until they elect someone. They proceed to vote on the office of vice president only after they have elected a president.

    In cases where members are voting on several directors at one time, those receiving a majority are elected to office. If any positions are not elected on the first ballot, the members keep voting on the rest of the candidates until the positions are filled. If more candidates receive a majority vote than there are positions available, those candidates receiving the highest votes are considered elected. For example, the Soccer Club has an executive board of five people. Seven people are nominated, and the members are instructed to vote for five candidates on the same ballot. There are 20 people present and voting. It takes 11 votes to elect. The following candidates received this number of votes:

    Candidate Smith, 14 votes

    Candidate Jones, 15 votes

    Candidate Baker, 19 votes

    Candidate Torry, 16 votes

    Candidate Green, 13 votes

    Candidate Frank, 12 votes

    Candidate Bates, 11 votes

    Although all candidates received a majority, only five can be elected to the board. In this case, the five candidates who received the most votes are the winners:

    Select Top Vote Getters

    If three candidates had received the same vote - for example, if Smith, Green, and Frank had each received 13 votes - the membership would have to hold another election. Even though Candidate Bates received the lowest vote, his name would remain on the ballot. No one is removed from the ballot unless the bylaws state that the member with the fewest votes should be removed, because that person may end up being the compromise candidate.

    The tellers' committee (members who are appointed to count the vote during a meeting) counts and records the ballots. For information on this aspect of the voting process, see "Counting and Recording the Ballots by Tellers' Committee," later in this chapter.

    Election by Roll Call Vote

    If members take the vote by roll call, the organization can follow the same methods used for a ballot vote - either voting for all candidates at once or voting for one at a time. The presiding officer should explain the procedure. Each member states who he or she is voting for as the secretary calls the roll. The secretary records the vote and repeats it to make sure that it is accurate.

    Election by Cumulative Voting

    When an organization has elections for positions in which more than one candidate is elected (for example, the Soccer Club), the bylaws may provide for cumulative voting. (Note that cumulative voting cannot take place unless it is stated in the bylaws.) Cumulative voting is the ability to cast all your votes for one candidate or to weight your vote in some way. In the earlier example of electing the five board members, the membership voted for five different candidates. In cumulative voting, a member can give two votes to Mr. Smith and three votes to Mrs. Baker. This allows a minority group to get together and elect one of their candidates. However, this practice is not in accord with the parliamentary principle of one person, one vote.

    Election by Other Types of Voting

    If an organization's membership is spread over a large distance, the bylaws can provide for a vote by mail ballot. In this case, it is wise for the bylaws to allow candidates to be elected by a plurality vote because, if no one receives a majority vote, the vote is difficult to retake.

    In a plurality vote, the winning candidate must receive the most votes but not necessarily a majority of those cast. For example, let's say an organization has 500 members, and three candidates run for president. Of the 500 ballots sent to the members, 375 ballots are returned in the mail. Electing by majority vote takes 188.

    Candidate A receives 180.

    Candidate B receives 125.

    Candidate C receives 70.

    No one receives a majority vote, but Candidate A received a plurality (the most votes) and is therefore elected president.


    When taking the vote by ballot, the president usually declares that the polls are closed after asking the members if everyone who wants to vote has voted. This means that no one else can vote and the tellers can count the votes. A member can also make a motion to close the polls, which requires a second and a two-thirds vote to adopt, or the motion can be adopted by unanimous consent. The president should not admit a member's motion to close the polls if people are still voting.

    If members come into the assembly and want to vote after the polls are closed, a member must make the motion to open the polls. This motion takes a majority vote to adopt. Members can reopen the polls until the tellers give their report and the presiding officer announces the results. Keep the ballots that come in during the reopening of the polls in a separate pile until the other ballots are counted. After the separate ballots are counted, add them to the tellers' report.


    A tellers' committee is a small group of members appointed to count the vote during a meeting involving a ballot vote or a rising counted vote. Depending on the size of the group, the committee is usually comprised of two to three people.

    In many small organizations, the presiding officer appoints several members to count ballots or to count a rising vote when the time comes. In a case such as this, where an organization does not have a tellers' committee, a secretary who is well versed in counting the ballots can be very helpful. The secretary can assist those appointed to act as tellers during the counting of the ballots.

    Tellers who are appointed at a meeting to count a ballot vote should be appointed because of their accuracy and dependability, not because they have something to gain from the outcome of a vote. They should have the confidence of the assembly. If the issue is a controversial one, the tellers should include members on each side of the issue and a neutral person to count the ballots. If a tellers' committee is needed to count ballots for an election of officers, the committee should be appointed before the meeting and trained in the correct procedure for counting the ballots.

    In larger organizations or at national conventions, a tellers' committee, which is usually large and headed by a chairman, is appointed for the entire convention or the entire year. The chairman is in charge of the ballots and ballot boxes and is responsible for training the tellers on the proper way to count the ballots and on the various methods of counting a rising vote. The tellers' committee is present during the entire session to count any doubted voice vote, when requested to do so by the presiding officer or the membership.

    Teller's Sheet and Report

    For each ballot vote taken, the tellers should have a sheet of paper that helps them tally the ballots. A teller's sheet may look like this:



    Number of votes cast_____________________________________

    Number of votes to elect__________________________________

    Number of illegal votes___________________________________







    Signed Tellers' Committee:





    Counting the Ballots

    Following are the procedures that the tellers' committee should follow to count ballots:

    1. When three tellers are appointed to count the ballots, Teller One should open each ballot and determine whether it is a legitimate ballot. All blank ballots are put aside because they are not counted in the total number of votes cast. Illegal ballots, those that have writing on them but are not readable or that contain the name of a person who is not eligible for election, or two ballots with names on them folded together, are put in another pile.

    2. Teller One counts the legal ballots and writes the total on the teller's sheet on the line "Number of votes cast." If there are illegal ballots, these are counted and the number put on the line "Number of illegal votes." The number of illegal and legal ballots is then totaled. This number is used to establish the number for the majority vote. The majority vote number is written on the line "Number of votes to elect."

    3. Teller One reads aloud the names on each ballot. The other two tellers each keep a separate teller's sheet, recording each candidate's name on the teller's sheet the first time it is read, and placing a tally mark next to a candidate's name each time Teller One reads that name aloud. So that there is no doubt who should receive the vote, Teller Two repeats each name as it is read by Teller One. When a candidate receives five votes, Teller Two calls out "tally." If Teller Three's report doesn't agree with Teller Two's, then the count stops at this point to see where the mistake was made in recording the vote.

    4. When all the ballots have been read aloud, the tellers' committee totals the votes for each candidate and writes the number of votes received by each name. The tellers' committee then writes the word "elected" by those receiving a majority vote. If no one receives a majority vote, the phrase "no election" is written on the teller's report or is written near any office for which no candidate has received a majority vote.

    5. Each member of the tellers' committee signs the teller's report, and the chairman of the committee (Teller One) reads the report to the assembly and gives it to the presiding officer.

      In the election of candidates for the Soccer Club board, there were no blank ballots, so the tellers write on their sheets "20" for the number of ballots cast. There were no illegal ballots, so they write "0" on that line. On the line that gives the number to elect, they write "11."

    Filling Out the Teller's Report


    Office: Executive Board

    Number of votes cast: 20

    Number of votes to elect: 11

    Number of illegal votes: 0

    The tellers' committee then fills in each name as the member opening the ballots called it.

    For example, Teller One reads off the names on the first ballot:

    Teller One: Smith, Jones, Baker, Torry, Green.

    Teller Two repeats the names. Then Tellers Two and Three write those names in the blanks under "Candidates" and make a tally mark after each name.


    nterim Ballot Count 1

    The next ballot is opened. This ballot has two names that were not on the first ballot. On this ballot, Teller One reads the following names:

    Teller One: Frank, Bates, Smith, Baker, Torry.

    Teller Two repeats the names. Then Tellers Two and Three add the two new names, Frank and Bates, to the bottom of the list, and make a tally mark by each candidate. The teller's sheet now looks like this:


    Interim Ballot Count 2

    This process goes on until all the ballots are cast and recorded by the two other tellers. As soon as one candidate receives five votes, Teller Two calls out "tally." Teller Three then checks to see if his or her sheet matches Teller Two's. If it doesn't, the committee should immediately stop and recount the ballots to see where they made the mistake.

    When the count is finished, the report should look like this, with the word "elected" written by those who received a majority vote.


    Candidate Final Count

    Giving the Tellers' Committee Report

    The chairman of the tellers' committee rises, addresses the chair, is recognized, and reads the teller's report. The chairman reads the entire report including the number of votes cast, number to elect, any illegal votes, and all names and the vote totals for each candidate who received votes (even those who are not elected). The members have the right to know who received what number of votes. The report does not include the number of eligible voters (only the officer responsible for the membership roll is able to give this number if needed).

    The teller reading the report does not indicate who has been elected. Instead, after the tellers' committee report, the presiding officer announces those people elected.

    Tellers' Committee Chairman: The Tellers' Committee Report for Election of Board Members:

    Number of votes cast were 20.

    Number to elect is 11.

    Mr. Smith received 14 votes. (elected)

    Mrs. Jones received 15 votes. (elected)

    Mrs. Baker received 19 votes. (elected)

    Mr. Torry received 16 votes. (elected)

    Mr. Green received 13 votes. (elected)

    Mrs. Frank received 12 votes.

    Mr. Bates received 11 votes.

    Joyce Bell


    Note: The words in parentheses are written on the report but not read aloud. The committee chairman then gives the report to the presiding officer and sits down.

    The presiding officer repeats the report and announces the election of each candidate:

    President: The Tellers' Committee Report reads:

    Number of votes cast were 20.

    Number to elect is 11.

    Mr. Smith received 14 votes. (elected)

    Mrs. Jones received 15 votes. (elected)

    Mrs. Baker received 19 votes. (elected)

    Mr. Torry received 16 votes. (elected)

    Mr. Green received 13 votes. (elected)

    Mrs. Frank received 12 votes.

    Mr. Bates received 11 votes.

    Note: The words in parentheses are written on the report but not read aloud.

    President: The members have elected Mr. Smith, Mrs. Jones, Mrs. Baker, Mr. Torry, and Mr. Green to the executive board. Do these members accept the position? [All members nod yes; no one rises to reject election.]

    The presiding officer states when the election is effective, according to the bylaws:

    President: Thank you. You will take office at the close of our annual meeting. [as stated in the Soccer Club's bylaws]

    Those elected take office immediately unless the bylaws state differently. In this organization, the newly elected board members take their places at the close of the annual meeting.

    If an organization usually has an installation of officers but fails to hold it, those elected still take office unless the bylaws provide that those elected take office when installed. An installation is only a ceremony and is not the activity that enables those elected to take office. Also, because an installation is considered a ceremony, a quorum is not needed to conduct the installation.

    The complete teller's report is then entered into the minutes. If a recount isn't necessary or requested, the ballots can be destroyed or filed with the secretary for a certain number of days and then destroyed.


    Here are some other things to consider during the election process:


    During an election, especially when tellers 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:

    The most important thing associations or governments can do is appoint conscientious and honest people to serve on the tellers' 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 tellers' 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.

    Westside Toastmasters is located in Los Angeles and Santa Monica, California

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