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Good morning.

 

Our organization nominates candidates to serve on a board/committee by means of a paper balloting process over the course of 3 weeks. Members sign their ballots and write-in their selections. The current board is to collect the ballots and take those selections and tally them. Those candidates with the highest votes are then to be looked at to see if they are quaified and then if they are williing to serve.  Then those who have the highest votes and are qualified and willing are brought before the full membership for election. 

 

In the most recent of these processes a list of the nominees was brought before the membership and voted upon. Subsequently, out of the meeting, a member asked a specific question of the board concerning candidate "Mr. X" whom they were surprised did not make the list for election: did "Mr. X" receive more votes than the candidates brought up for election? The head of the board replied that such information is not to be given out to others but kept within the board's records.  The member was not satisfied with this reply.

 

Does the membership have the right to ask for a report or summary with the numbers of ballots/votes that were submitted in a nomination process and the number of votes that the candidates received? 

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Assuming that this process that they're using is at least outlined in the bylaws, and assuming that the bylaws don't address this already (I'll ask OP Debbie to please look again), and assuming that nothing that the bylaws says about the board covers this, then I'll say the board is simply acting as a tellers' committee for the electorate (the membership, yes?), and that the complete tellers' report belongs to the electorate. Not the board.

(And leave "asking" out of it. The membership has the right to ask for the keys to my silver Porsche, too -- but guess what? It is in no way impolite for the membership to tell its subordinate board what to do. -- except in matters completely, exclusively, under the board's authority; that's when the membership should ask.

(Not all of that is from RONR.)

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RONR has a section on nomination by ballot on pages 436-438. It notes that "the nominating ballot is conducted in the same manner as an ordinary electing ballot except that everyone receiving a vote is nominated; the tellers' report, therefore, does not state the number of votes necessary for nomination."

 

The tellers' report is on page 417, and says it should follow the form of number of votes cast, necessary for election, # received by each person, and illegal votes. 

 

I would therefore conclude that there should be a tellers' report showing the number of votes received by each nominee. Of course, your own bylaws may state something different - I expect (or perhaps hope) they do, actually, as apparently not everyone nominated actually becomes an official nominee. 

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Our organization nominates candidates to serve on a board/committee by means of a paper balloting process over the course of 3 weeks. Members sign their ballots and write-in their selections. The current board is to collect the ballots and take those selections and tally them. Those candidates with the highest votes are then to be looked at to see if they are quaified and then if they are williing to serve.  Then those who have the highest votes and are qualified and willing are brought before the full membership for election. 

 

In the most recent of these processes a list of the nominees was brought before the membership and voted upon.

 

This procedure is not consistent with RONR, so I hope it is outlined in your rules. While I suppose the nominating procedure could be viewed as a nominating committee which seeks input beforehand, in such a case, the chair should take nominations from the floor. On the other hand, if it's viewed as nominations by ballot and the board simply acts as the tellers' committee, the board should simply report the totals for all nominations they receive. In either event, the membership should not be voting on a list of nominees. Rather, they should vote for each office, and they are free to vote for any eligible person for each office.

 

Assuming that this process that they're using is at least outlined in the bylaws, and assuming that the bylaws don't address this already (I'll ask OP Debbie to please look again), and assuming that nothing that the bylaws says about the board covers this, then I'll say the board is simply acting as a tellers' committee for the electorate (the membership, yes?), and that the complete tellers' report belongs to the electorate. Not the board.

I would therefore conclude that there should be a tellers' report showing the number of votes received by each nominee. Of course, your own bylaws may state something different - I expect (or perhaps hope) they do, actually, as apparently not everyone nominated actually becomes an official nominee. 

 

I agree with the above responses if the assembly is taking nominations by ballot and the board is simply acting as the tellers' committee. Given that the board vets the candidates and checks to see if they are willing to serve, however, it seems to me that the board is serving more in the nature of a nominating committee. In that case, the board is not normally required to share this information with the membership, although the membership could order it to do so.

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Thank you for your reply.

The bylaws do not directly address what shold be done with the nomination ballots and the tally. The exact wording is this:

                          "Those qualified receving the highest number of votes shall be personally contacted and interviewed by the board as to their fitness

                                and willingness to serve."

 

The board does have the duty to determine a "qualified" nominee from a published reference.  The member's request was a very specific one, to know the number of votes that "Mr. X" received vs. the candidates who were brought for election, not the discussion of qualification of a candidate, which has been customarily deemed to be confidential within the board.  

 

From the replies I've seen here it seems that nomination talies are treated as other ballots and the summary or "tellers' report" is public info since it is not otherwise specified as private in the bylaws?

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The bylaws do not directly address what shold be done with the nomination ballots and the tally. The exact wording is this:

"Those qualified receving the highest number of votes shall be personally contacted and interviewed by the board as to their fitness and willingness to serve."

 

Okay, so the nominating procedure is supported by your bylaws, at least, and I think this suggests that the board is serving more in the nature of a nominating committee, as that would be well beyond the duties of a tellers' committee.

 

This still doesn't clear up whether the voting procedure you're using is supported by your bylaws, or if your assembly is just doing it wrong.

 

From the replies I've seen here it seems that nomination talies are treated as other ballots and the summary or "tellers' report" is public info since it is not otherwise specified as private in the bylaws?

 

Yes, but it's not clear to me that what you're describing is in the nature of a nominating ballot. If it was a nominating ballot and the board was serving as a tellers' committee, the board would simply count up the number of nominations each candidate had received. They might mark down that certain candidates were ineligible based on the requirements for office in the bylaws, but they certainly wouldn't interview anyone about their fitness or willingness to serve. That's a duty normally associated with a nominating committee, and the nominating committee would not generally release its documents to the assembly.

 

In any event, the membership may adopt a motion ordering the board to release the totals. Better yet, the membership could adopt a rule on the subject so it's clear what to do in the future.

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The bylaws do not directly address what shold be done with the nomination ballots and the tally. The exact wording is this:

                          "Those qualified receving the highest number of votes shall be personally contacted and interviewed by the board as to their fitness

                                and willingness to serve."

Those candidates with the highest votes are then to be looked at to see if they are quaified and then if they are williing to serve.  Then those who have the highest votes and are qualified and willing are brought before the full membership for election.

Something that I'm confused about - when you say "those who have the highest votes...are brought before the full membership for election", do you mean that the board would present the top 5 candidates, for example, for a 5 position board, and then the members vote for the people presented? Is it by position? I'm not sure where that cut off line would be for "the highest votes", as presumably it's possible that one person would receive the highest number of votes.

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Something that I'm confused about - when you say "those who have the highest votes...are brought before the full membership for election", do you mean that the board would present the top 5 candidates, for example, for a 5 position board, and then the members vote for the people presented? Is it by position? I'm not sure where that cut off line would be for "the highest votes", as presumably it's possible that one person would receive the highest number of votes.

 

Each year the membership is told how many positions need to be filled for the board, which is filled in 3-year rotation terms. SO this year they needed to fill 3 positions.  The membership is to "vote" or nominate 3 candidates. to fill them. The current board is to take the highest votes, ensuring that they are candidates who meet the basic criteria, then proceed to interview them personally to ensure that they are indeed eligible and willing to serve.

 

I can see how the board could be seen as serving as a simple nominating committee. However the clause that requires that those with the highest votes be considered indicates the membership's expectation that upon tallying the ballots, barring any disqualification, the candidates with the highest votes, in this case the top three, would be presented to them for final election.  In a nominating committee process names can be suggested and no specific weight is given to one name versus another. 

 

In this particular case, "Mr. X" had served in this position often and recently, ending his one year furlough between 3 yr terms, as required by the by-laws.  The member who asked the question therefore was curious as to how "Mr. X" was not on the list since his eligibility or willingness to serve was not in question nor the fact that he regularly is asked to serve.  So the question arose, did he not receive enough votes? 

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I can see how the board could be seen as serving as a simple nominating committee. However the clause that requires that those with the highest votes be considered indicates the membership's expectation that upon tallying the ballots, barring any disqualification, the candidates with the highest votes, in this case the top three, would be presented to them for final election.  In a nominating committee process names can be suggested and no specific weight is given to one name versus another. 

 

It's correct that the system you describe is not in the nature of a nominating committee, but it's certainly not in the nature of a tellers' committee either. Of course, it's not clear that the bylaws actually give the board such expansive authority.

 

Is this system of "upon tallying the ballots, barring any disqualification, the candidates with the highest votes, in this case the top three, would be presented to them for final election" actually supported by your bylaws? If not, it is not valid.

 

In this particular case, "Mr. X" had served in this position often and recently, ending his one year furlough between 3 yr terms, as required by the by-laws.  The member who asked the question therefore was curious as to how "Mr. X" was not on the list since his eligibility or willingness to serve was not in question nor the fact that he regularly is asked to serve.  So the question arose, did he not receive enough votes? 

 

Based upon the additional facts, my answer is still that an individual member does not have a right to this information, but the membership itself is free to order the board to provide this information, by majority vote. This may ultimately be a question of bylaws interpretation, however, since the provisions are unusual and don't quite match up with anything in RONR. See RONR, 11th ed., pgs. 588-591 for some Principles of Interpretation.

 

Personally, I would still recommend that the membership adopt a rule on the subject one way or the other, so that there isn't a question in the future.

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I will note that you are talking about "eligibility and willingness to serve", but your bylaws say "fitness and willingness to serve." It will be up to your organization to interpret your bylaws, and what scope for decision making the board has there under the word "fitness".

 

What did you mean by "final election", by the way? The board says: "these are the three people we have selected", and everyone votes aye?

 

Frankly, the best solution may be to change this rather strange nominating and election process to something more in keeping with RONR.

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I will note that you are talking about "eligibility and willingness to serve", but your bylaws say "fitness and willingness to serve." It will be up to your organization to interpret your bylaws, and what scope for decision making the board has there under the word "fitness".

 

Perhaps, but that's a question for another day. :)

 

To clarify, what sMargaret is getting at is it's unclear from the facts provided whether the board's job is to just check the nominees against a list of qualifications in the bylaws or to actually determine which candidates would be a good fit for office. In other words, if a candidate was in the top three and was eligible under the bylaws, could the board still reject him because they felt he was a poor choice?

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Perhaps, but that's a question for another day. :)

 

To clarify, what sMargaret is getting at is it's unclear from the facts provided whether the board's job is to just check the nominees against a list of qualifications in the bylaws or to actually determine which candidates would be a good fit for office. In other words, if a candidate was in the top three and was eligible under the bylaws, could the board still reject him because they felt he was a poor choice?

No, the board cannot reject a candidate based on anything other than the eligibility/qualification guidelines. They have a list of criteria such as "must be over 18 years of age" and they must check that criteria.  Those with the highest votes who meet this list then are asked to meet face to face to make sure there is no question about their qualification. Barring anything coming up, those candidates are presented to the membership who then have the option of accepting or rejecting their election to the position.

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No, the board cannot reject a candidate based on anything other than the eligibility/qualification guidelines. They have a list of criteria such as "must be over 18 years of age" and they must check that criteria.  Those with the highest votes who meet this list then are asked to meet face to face to make sure there is no question about their qualification. Barring anything coming up, those candidates are presented to the membership who then have the option of accepting or rejecting their election to the position.

 

These additional facts do not change my answer in Post #9 (although I will certainly second sMargaret's suggestion that "the best solution may be to change this rather strange nominating and election process to something more in keeping with RONR.")

 

I might also suggest that the society might want to review its criteria for eligibility if they're so complicated that a face-to-face meeting is necessary to verify whether a candidate is eligible.

Edited by Josh Martin

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 Barring anything coming up, those candidates are presented to the membership who then have the option of accepting or rejecting their election to the position.

 

This statement is particularly problematic since it sounds like the membership is being asked to vote 'yes' or 'no' on the candidates chosen by the board. Look at RONR, 11th. ed., p. 414, ll.1-5, and p. 430, ll. 4-16 for why this procedure is improper. Of course, you are free to put in place any election procedure you want in your bylaws, but with the procedure you now have, what happens if the membership rejects the selected candidates? Do you have to start the process all over again?

 

So I will also agree with the recomendations from both sMargaret and Josh Martin that you should seriously consider revising your election procedure to something in line with RONR's methods.

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Thank you to all who took the time to reply. I can see that this situation is open for interpretation so your advice is appreciated. Could I ask your specific, for lack of better word, criticism of the process itself and how you would revise it to make it more RONR compliant?

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Could I ask your specific, for lack of better word, criticism of the process itself and how you would revise it to make it more RONR compliant?

 

Well, for starters, the nominating process you have right now is sort of a hodgepodge between nominations by ballot, nominations by committee, and something else entirely. My main problem with the nominating process is the confusion arising from it. If you want a nominating ballot, then the role of a committee would simply be to tally up the votes for each nominee and report the results to the assembly. The committee might note in its report that particular candidates are ineligible, but it wouldn't do any more than that.

 

On the other hand, if you want a nominating committee, the role of the committee would be to recommend those who, in the committee's opinion, are the best choices for each office. The committee might solicit (but is not bound by) the opinions of the membership. The committee would make its recommendations at the election meeting, and further nominations from the floor would be in order.

 

If you want to continue this nominations hodgepodge, however, I suppose you could do that. I can see some advantages to it, since your organization apparently has elaborate procedures for eligibility. I'm more concerned about the election procedure. Normally, whatever process is used for nominations, the nominations are only recommendations - you don't take the top candidates and vote "yes/no" on those candidates as a group. This gives an inordinate amount of weight to the nominations. If you use a committee, then that's giving a lot of power to the nominating committee. If you use a nominating ballot, it kind of defeats the purpose of using a nominating ballot - you might as well just elect the positions without any nominations if you want that first ballot to elect the candidates.

 

Voting on the members as a block in a "yes/no" vote also deprives members of the right to vote for candidates of their choice. A member might support one of the candidates listed, but not the others. Or he might wish to vote for someone else. Lastly, the "yes/no" vote is problematic in an election. What happens if the assembly votes no?

 

As you noted earlier, this year there were three positions open. So under RONR, after nominations were concluded, members would vote for up to three candidates of their choice. The top three candidates who receive a majority of the ballots cast are elected (assuming they are eligible and willing to serve). If fewer than three candidates are elected, addiitonal rounds of balloting are held, until you've elected all three. If you only have two seats left, members would only vote for two candidates, and so on.

 

This is all detailed in RONR on pgs. 430-446, so there isn't any need to put all this in your bylaws.

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A couple of questions, to assist in any suggestions:

* is your membership geographically separated? Wondering about that "paper balloting process over the course of 3 weeks"

* how often does your general membership meet? and about how many members do you have?

​* just how complicated are those eligibility requirements? Specifics aren't required; just some idea. Again, wondering about the need to meet in person to verify eligibility.

* do you know the reasons why you have such an odd sort of election system? What its original purpose? There must have been some sort of reason for it, presumably.

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Guest Nancy N.

On the offchance that there aren't enough posts in this thread yet, what does a committee with oversight of the bylaws do?

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On the offchance that there aren't enough posts in this thread yet, what does a committee with oversight of the bylaws do?

Presumably, it oversees the bylaws.

(Now there are enough posts in this thread.)

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